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Sunburn for 9/17 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

By on September 17, 2012

A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

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MITT ROMNEY REFOCUSES ON 5-POINT ECONOMIC PLAN

Mitt Romney’s campaign speeches “now center on his five-point economic plan that, he says, will create 12 million jobs over the next four years,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

The current plan boils down Romney’s 59-point primary season proposal on jobs and the economy.

“It’s surprisingly difficult to find substantive, independent analysis of the plan… The bottom line seems to be that few people are certain that the plan would work because aspects of it remain vague. Still, it includes some of the most specific policies that Romney has described for how he proposes to jump-start the economy. And its importance has only been underscored in recent days by polls showing that President Obama has drawn even with Romney on the question of who is better equipped to manage the economy.”

5 FLORIDA-STYLE ECONOMIC ISSUES THAT OBAMA & ROMNEY SHOULD PONDER by Jeff Harrington of the Tampa Bay Times

1. The jobs quandary, quantity versus quality; 2. Charting an energy policy that works; 3. Fixing the safety net; 4. Propping up Florida’s shaky property insurance market; 5. Finding palatable ways to boost international trade.

STAT OF THE DAY: More Americans think Obama is telling the truth than Romney

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds voters in are divided on whether President Obama and Mitt Romney’s campaigns are telling the truth or purposely misleading the public.

By 49% to 42%, slightly more voters believe the Obama campaign is “saying things it believes to be true” rather than “intentionally misleading people.” For Romney’s team the numbers are roughly flipped: 43% say they are telling the truth, 48% not.

OBAMA’S HUG, MITT’S WHIFF by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

The performance of the Democratic and Republican candidates in Florida last week told the tale of two campaigns. One feels a surge. The other looks troubled.

That’s not just a matter of appearance. Polls show Obama clinging to an inside-the-error-margin lead in Florida. The polls really start to matter now as undecided voters focus on the race and upcoming debates.

Public opinion will certainly change in these final two months. But the performances of the two campaigns last week in Florida give an indication of what could be in store.

BARACK, MICHELLE & MITT ALL IN FLORIDA THIS WEEK by Nora McAlvanah of FLDemocracy2012.com

Mitt Romney will spend two days in Florida next week, crisscrossing the state for four major fundraising events.

Romney will kick-off his trip Wednesday evening with a $50,000-per-couple reception at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. The next day he is scheduled to attend a $2,500-per-person fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota.

Later Thursday, Romney will attend a VIP reception for his campaign at the North Palm Beach home of Chris Cline. Also that evening, Romney will be the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Al and Dawn Hoffman in North Palm Beach.

On Thursday, September 20, President Obama will return to  Florida for campaign events in Miami and Tampa.

First lady Michelle Obama will also travel to state on Monday for grassroots events in Gainesville and Tallahassee.

She will speak at 3:30 p.m. in Gainesville at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at the University of Florida and at 6:55 p.m. at the Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center, according to the campaign. 

PAUL RYAN CRITICIZES FED PLAN AT TAMPA BAY RALLY by Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

Ryan criticized the Federal Reserve’s newly announced plan to prop up the economy, telling a Tampa Bay crowd Saturday that “sugar high economics” won’t help people.

Ryan said the plan to spend $40 billion a month to buy mortgage bonds in an effort to keep interest rates low will fail to jump-start the economy, just as President Barack Obama’s $787 billion federal stimulus fell short.

“When they do this to our money it undermines the credibility of our money,” said Ryan, “This may help big banks, it may help Wall Street, but it doesn’t help the rest of us who worry about what it’s going to cost to fill the gas tank, to cool the house in the summer and heat it in the winter, to buy food.”

$120 MILLION SPENT IN FLORIDA SO FAR ON PRESIDENTIAL POLITICAL ADS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

NBC News has this eye-popping rundown of how much has been spent in ads in Florida since March 19, as tabulated by ad tracker SMG Delta (here is the full post with other states). The Obama campaign has far outspent Romney but when outside groups are included, Romney has a slight edge.

Team Romney $60,327,832 – Romney $16,471,243, Am Crossroads $12,509,348, Crossroads GPS $12,293,037, AFP $9,014,582, Restore $7,819,601, Am Future Fund $1,359,061, Am Energy All $854,325, RNC $6,635.

Team Obama $59,328,859 – Obama $44,610,509, Priorities $12,713,685, SEIU $1,475,589, Planned Parenthood $447,657, MoveOn $64,359, ACLU $17,060

POLL: STRONG SUPPORT FOR CAMPAIGN SPENDING LIMITS

mericans don’t like all the cash that’s going to super political action committees and other outside groups that are pouring millions of dollars into races for president and Congress.

More than 8 in 10 Americans in a poll by The Associated Press and the National Constitution Center support limits on the amount of money given to groups that are trying to influence U.S. elections.

But they might have to change the Constitution first. The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case removed limits on independent campaign spending by businesses and labor unions, calling it a constitutionally protected form of political speech.

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WHICH FLORIDA DEMOGRAPHIC IS MOST CRITICAL TO 2012 ELECTION?

The News-Press believes Southwest Florida undecided voters may be crucial factor in election.

The Sun-Sentinel explains how young voters face conflicting visions of Social Security’s future.

The Times says Volusia County may predict the future for Obama and Romney.

RASMUSSEN POLL: BILL NELSON 47%, CONNIE MACK 40%

Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson still leads Republican Connie Mack in Florida’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Sunshine State finds Nelson with 47% support to Mack’s 40%. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, while eight percent (8%) are undecided.

Nelson is viewed favorably by 51% of Florida voters and unfavorably by 38%. This includes 21% with a very favorable opinion and 20% with a very unfavorable one.

For Mack, favorables are 40% and unfavorables 48%, including 17% with a very favorable view of him and 24% with a very unfavorable one.

NELSON, MACK STILL WORKING OUT DEBATE DETAILS via William March of the Tampa Tribune

Bill Nelson and Connie Mack will have at least one and possibly two televised debates before Election Day.

The Mack campaign says he’s happy to meet Nelson in a debate, and says it has accepted six debate invitations.

But one potential debate was modified, and may or may not happen, because Mack objected to sponsorship by a newspaper he contends has been biased against him in its coverage.

After initially agreeing to it, however, Mack changed his mind because of what he called biased coverage of his campaign by the newspaper. With the Times no longer sponsoring, Mack says he’s willing to participate subject to final details being decided.

Nelson backers, however, note that the date for the event is only a few days before the Nov. 6 election, after many Florida voters will already have cast ballots in absentee and early voting.

Nelson spokesman Paul Kincaid suggested that Mack was reluctant to debate Nelson, noting that Mack declined to debate opponents during the Republican primary campaign.

>>>Adam Smith named Mack his “Loser of the Week in Florida politics.”

FLA. DEMS BEAT REPUBLICANS IN AUGUST VOTER REGISTRATION

The Florida Democratic Party today released state August voter registration data showing that, for the seventh consecutive month, Democrats out-registered Republicans — again by nearly 10-points. Over the past seven months, Democrats have steadily increased monthly gains over the GOP from a 3-point advantage in February to roughly 10-points in April, May, June, July and August.

“Democrats have consistently out registered Republicans in Florida for seven consecutive months and that’s a trend that should make Republicans very nervous heading into the fall,” said Scott Arceneaux, Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party. “Further troubling for the GOP are the demographic breakdowns which show solid registration advantages among growing important groups like women and Hispanics. With almost 50 days to go and over 88 offices, Democrats are committed to building the strongest, largest ground game this state has ever seen — and delivering Florida’s prized 29 electoral votes for President Obama.”

UPDATED CONGRESSIONAL RANKINGS via Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Political Hurricane

Two significant changes this week to the ratings.

The 2nd Congressional District race between Steve Southerland and Al Lawson moves to “Likely Republican” based on public polling in the region regarding the Presidential, US Senate and State House races that overlap the district. Lawson should outperform Alan Boyd’s poor 41% here in 2010 and but probably won’t be close enough to seriously threaten Southerland.

The other change is moving CD-9 from “Likely Democrat” to “Leans Democrat.” The prevailing wisdom when Todd Long won the GOP Primary five weeks ago was that Alan Grayson was home free in this heavily Democratic and largely Hispanic district. But recent polling indicates otherwise.

ALAN GRAYSON AND TODD LONG AT TIGER BAY IN ORLANDO via The News Service of Florida

The Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida hosts Democrat Alan Grayson and Republican Todd Long, candidates for Congress in District 9, which covers part of Orange and Polk counties and all of Osceola County.

>>>More Tiger Bay:  James Carville will speak at the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida at the Hyatt Regency in Bonita Springs beginning at 7 p.m.

MAJOR TEXAS CONSERVATIVE DONOR BOB PERRY CONTRIBUTES $250K TO WILL WEATHERFORD’S COMMITTEE

The donation is the single largest contribution that the Committee for a Conservative House has received since being founded by Weatherford last year, though Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida has given a series of donations totaling $375,000, the website and state election records show.

Perry, a Houston builder, has contributed millions of dollars nationally to conservative political committees such as American Crossroads and Restore Our Future, which backs Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The Committee for a Conservative House has funneled money this year to state and local Republican candidates and to other political committees.

RECOUNT TODAY IN BERNARD VS. CLEMENS SD 27 RACE

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will take a look at 42 questionable ballots to determine if they were properly rejected last month in the Senate District 27 Democratic primary pitting Jeff Clemens against Mack Bernard, who has contested his 17-vote loss to Clemens. Lewis has ordered the questionable ballots to be transported from Palm Beach County to his office for the review.

MYSTERY GROUP ACCUSES DEMOCRAT MARIA SACHS OF SUPPORTING GEORGE W. BUSH by George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

A mystery group with a liberal-sounding name and a GOP-connected address is taking aim at Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs in Florida’s biggest state Senate race.

… The committee was formed Aug. 27, so it hasn’t filed reports yet listing donors. Its address is the same Tallahassee office suite as the law firm of Richard Coates, who is general counsel to the Republican Party of Florida.

… Two mailings accuse Sachs of supporting George W. Bush in the 2000 election. … Contribution records list Sachs as giving $500 to Bush in June 1999 and $500 again in March 2000.

But Sachs insists she never contributed. She says her Republican husband, attorney Peter Sachs, wrote checks to the Bush campaign from a joint checking account.

MORE “PROGRESSIVE” SIGHTINGS: “A pair of mail pieces that hit some Jacksonville mailboxes in recent weeks claim that Democrats want one of their own — state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville — out of the party,” reports Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union.

FORMER BACKER OF REP. JIMMIE SMITH SAYS HE WAS ASKED TO RUN TO STEAL VOTES FROM NANCY ARGENZIANO by Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times

A Citrus County man is alleging that Republican incumbent Rep. Jimmie T. Smith was complicit in a scheme to place a Democrat on the ballot to take votes away from independent candidate Nancy Argenziano.

Jim Brunswick, a Floral City Democrat, claims Inverness attorney Bill Grant asked him to run for the House 34 seat solely to help Smith win a second two-year term by splitting the vote with Argenziano. Grant implied Brunswick would be personally compensated for running, Brunswick, 58, said.

Grant denied the allegations through his attorney. Smith issued a brief statement Thursday afternoon.

“At no time have I, or my campaign, interfered with the Democrats’ selection of a candidate in the race for the State House,” Smith said. “Nor have I asked anyone, at any time, to interfere with the Democrats’ primary.”

Assistant State Attorney Mark Simpson said he is investigating, though he said encouraging someone to run as a foil is not in itself illegal.

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STATE ‘SURPLUS’ NOT ENOUGH TO OFFSET PREVIOUS BUDGET CUTS by Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

The state’s top economist told a budget-oversight panel last week that Florida’s long-range financial picture had brightened to the point that “fiscal measures” — cutting budgets or raising taxes — likely wouldn’t be needed through 2016 to bring the state budget into balance, as the constitution requires. In fact, the state is projected to have $2.7 billion in its three main reserve funds this year.

That brightening fiscal picture could fuel debates over whether to restore education spending to pre-2011 levels, phase in the federal Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid or make good on some of Gov.Rick Scott’s campaign pledges to cut corporate taxes.

But lawmakers are tempering expectations and focusing on a smaller number: $71.3 million — the difference between general tax collections that can be spent next year and the anticipated growth in costs of government.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is not a time of milk and honey. It is one more year of blood, toil, sweat and tears.” — incoming Senate President Don Gaetz.

AFTER MEETING WITH TEACHERS UNIONS, SCOTT SAYS HE WILL AVOID CUTS TO EDUCATION BUDGET via Tia Mitchell of the Times/Herald

Minutes after meeting with teachers union representatives for the first time since taking office, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday night that he will not support any cuts in education funding in the next budget.

Scott’s office issued a press release that included the new edict shortly after he finished a press conference standing side-by-side with Florida Education Association president Andy Ford.

“In our dinner tonight, I told the FEA that as we continue to develop our education agenda we are going to at a minimum sustain current state funding for education in the next budget and depending on the state’s economic outlook, aim to increase education funding where we can improve student outcomes,” the governor said in the news release.

EDITORIAL: IMPACT OF NEW PIP LAW REMAINS A MYSTERY

Whether the state’s new PIP coverage has the teeth to cut into the rampant abuse remains to be seen. A report by the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation also indicates the impact of this new law could be minimal — at least early on.

Many experts, both in the legal and insurance fields, say the required reductions in PIP will be shifted to increases to other costs of an insurance policy. That new law will not start to have impact until last next year — or at least when policy renewals come around.

ALL 12 FLORIDA UNIVERSITIES SEEK NEW TRUSTEES by Jeff Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times

Want to help govern Florida’s higher education system as the state heads toward a year of change in funding, accountability and other key issues?

Each of the state’s 12 universities has an opening on its board of trustees, with a term to expire in 2018.

“The Board of Governors is looking for dynamic and diverse individuals who are interested in higher education, passionate about assisting our institutions and committed to working toward the goals of the State University System,” Morteza “Mori” Hosseini, chair of the Board of Governors’ Trustee Nominating Committee, said in a news release.

Interested applicants must submit all the necessary documentation so that it is received no later than Oct. 4. The application is here. More information about the process is on the system website. Applicants need not live in Florida.

DCF SCUTTLES CHANGE THAT WOULD HAVE HALTED BENEFITS

The Florida Department of Children and Families on Friday scrapped a controversial change that would have halted public-assistance benefits for people whose mail is returned to the agency as undeliverable, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

DCF will go back to its former policy of allowing those people to continue receiving benefits until they need to reapply for assistance, agency spokesman Joe Follick said. The change took effect Sept. 1, but Follick said it had not caused anyone to lose benefits.

“We remain committed to pursuing the most efficient process of ensuring that qualified Floridians receive the short-term assistance they need,” Follick said in a prepared statement. “Many of our partners around the state had expressed concerns about unintended consequences, and we will continue to work with them toward improving our system and reducing the amount of ‘undeliverable’ mail that is returned to our offices.”

UNIONS SUE TO BLOCK PRIVATIZATION

A pair of unions went to court late Friday in an effort to block plans to privatize inmate health-care services in state prisons, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Federation of Physicians and Dentists/Alliance of Healthcare and Professional Employees filed suit in the 1st District Court of Appeal against Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker, saying he doesn’t have authority on his own to allow private companies to handle health-care services.

The action comes two days after the Legislative Budget Commission passed an amendment to the state spending plan that shifts money around to allow DOC to continue its privatization push. Opponents say the full Legislature would have to approve the decision to contract out the services.

“Nothing in the LBC’s amendment purports to, or lawfully could, create a specific appropriation contrary to the intent of the Legislature itself as expressed in the 2012 [budget],” the filing says.

It also takes aim at the argument by corrections officials that they are authorized to contract with the two companies — Corizon, Inc., and Wexford Health Sources, Inc., — because of a provision of state law allowing the department to farm some jobs out to “counties, municipalities, nonprofit corporations, and other entities capable of providing needed services.”

AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY HIRES HEATHER WILDERMUTH AS DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS via The Florida Current

Heather Wildermuth, former senior legislative advocate for health and human services at the Florida Association of Counties, has become the Florida director of government relations at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and will be based in Tallahassee. As of Sept. 1, the American Cancer Society’s advocacy operations nationwide are now conducted through its 501(c)4 organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The five advocacy employees in the Florida organization are now ACS CAN employees, and will continue to advocate on behalf of cancer research, tobacco control, breast cancer screening and other health issues.

***Are you tired of getting your ASSETS TAXED OFF? Amendment 4 can help. Join the movement at TaxYourAssetsOff.com or check us out on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.***

CAN’T WAIT TO READThe Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: “L’Shanah Tovah” from congressional candidate Lois Frankel.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to St. Petersburg City Councilman Charlie Gerdes. A belated happy birthday to Pasco County Commission candidate Kathryn Starkey and Pinellas County Commissioner Nancy Bostock.

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