"The battle for Florida has begun. 'We're right in the middle of it now - this is what we've been waiting for,' Rudy Giuliani told a shouting, chanting crowd here Sunday. As the other GOP candidates began arriving in Florida to join him, the nation's eyes turned to the Jan. 29 Sunshine State primary." "Florida's In Political Limelight". See also "Chaotic and contentious GOP presidential race turns to Fla.", "GOP Field Readies for True Test In Florida", "Big tests ahead", "Delegate rules in Super Tuesday states might not produce clear front-runners" and "Test awaits GOP hopefuls".
Turnout: "Broward County voters have requested almost three times as many absentee ballots for the Jan. 29 primary compared to 2004, as an increasing number of people choose the convenience of leisurely casting their ballots and avoiding Election Day lines and touch-screen voting machines." "Absentee ballot requests in Broward three times higher than 2004".
Florida a mere "subplot": "The next key test for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards takes place Saturday, when Democrats go to the polls in South Carolina. Three days later, Florida holds its primary, and Rudy Giuliani finds out whether he has any hope of revitalizing his campaign or even slowing John McCain's momentum from his victory in South Carolina on Saturday. But those are just subplots leading up to Feb. 5 -- the biggest presidential-primary day in American history." "Delegate rules in Super Tuesday states might not produce clear front-runners". See also "How can Florida not count?".
Rudy: "With Democrats ignoring the state and other leading Republican contenders taking Sunday off, Rudy Giuliani had Florida to himself for one last day, hoping to make a last stand to salvage his hopes for the presidency." "It's Giuliani's state, for a day". "To shore up support, Giuliani continued Sunday to unleash star power in his push across Central Florida, relying on movie star Jon Voight to loosen up the crowd before the former mayor spoke. Former FBI director Louis Freeh also participated." "Giuliani tells Florida: 'We need more votes'". See also "For Rudy Giuliani, ex-New Yorkers' support may not be enough".
More Rudy: "whose message over the weekend focused on taxes as much as on his signature terrorism theme, moved across Central Florida by bus on Sunday. It was his 48th day of campaigning in the state where Giuliani aides say his political future is on the line; his candidacy has barely registered in the four nominating contests so far." See also "Giuliani reception quiet in rural Polk City", "Giuliani switches campaign focus from 9/11 leadership to economy" and "Giuliani ramps up star power in Central Florida".
Obama: "Like other leading Democratic presidential candidates, Obama has refused to campaign here. His staff ignores the grass-roots Florida organizations backing him. And his campaign recently declared that Florida's voters "have no bearing on the Democratic nomination contest." Yet, less than two weeks before the primary, Obama boasts one of the largest and most passionate grass-roots organizations in the state." "Floridians organized for Obama".
McCain: The NY Times: "Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., after shutting down his operation here during his campaign's funding crisis in the fall, opened six offices in Florida on Sunday, and aides said he would begin advertising today. McCain plans a series of bus trips across the state, starting this morning in Central Florida."
Romney: The NY Times: "Romney is returning to the airwaves on Wednesday; his commercials will include advertisements on Spanish-language television emphasizing how different this state is from those in which the candidates have campaigned before. Romney's aides said Sunday he would spend every day in Florida from now to Jan. 29, when the state holds its presidential primary."
Huck: The NY Times: "Mike Huckabee, is arriving here later this week -- stood as evidence of a rare moment of consensus among the top Republican candidates. All see this culturally and geographically diverse state, the fourth-most-populous in the nation, as the most critical contest to date."
Endorsements: "3 Fla. papers endorse McCain, split on Clinton and Obama".
More: "Early voting continues on 2 big items" and "Students at UCF, other Florida schools more fired up than in earlier elections".
A bit much ...
"Hailed as the 'first African-American governor of Florida,' by black lawmakers, Gov. Charlie Crist honors the memory of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. today at a series of events in South Florida and Tallahassee." "Crist to celebrate MLK day".
Orlando Sentinel editors: "In their haste to deal with the growing water crisis in Central Florida, regional water managers and county officials appear eager to make a bad situation worse." "Our position: Governments haven't done near enough yet to conserve water".
"When Miami-Dade County voters decide Jan. 29 whether to join Broward voters in allowing Las Vegas-style slot machines into their three ailing pari-mutuels, they may be the last Floridians to have that choice." "Miami-Dade slots vote could spread gambling beyond S. Florida".
"A magnitude 10 to Amendment 1's comparative jostle"
"Lost in the debate and looming larger on the horizon is another constitutional proposal that would jolt Florida's property tax structure to its foundation, a magnitude 10 to Amendment 1's comparative jostle. Leaders of the citizen-driven tax revolt promise to return $8 billion in property taxes in the first year alone, if the 'flat-tax' were adopted. The average taxpayer would see a 26 percent cut. It would slash one county's tax revenue almost in half and another half-dozen counties by more than a third." "Second tax plan evokes praise, fear".
Bill Cotterell: "This national holiday honoring America's premier civil-rights leader seems like an appropriate time to review the record of state government's progress in employment fairness." "Minorites make gains however small in government".
"FBI agents who moved from Miami to Palm Beach County last fall are investigating a range of crimes, including public corruption, land deals, health-care fraud and the trafficking of young women from South and Central America to work in the sex industry." "FBI agents investigating trafficking, land deals in S. Florida".
"Obsessed with money"
"With reminders of the good life all around, it's no wonder, local financial professionals say, that South Floridians are obsessed with money: making it fast and spending it faster." "Quest for wealth can lead to ruin in South Florida".
Clichés from Florida's cheerleader-in-chief
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Crist wants to sell the property-tax amendment with a cliché. That's because he can't sell Amendment 1 on its merits."
Last Monday before the Forum Club in West Palm Beach, the governor said Amendment 1 is about "freedom.""Selective tax 'freedom'" See also: Tax plan's worth faces test at polls"" ("supporters, led by cheerleader-in-chief Gov. Charlie Crist and an assortment of legislators, business groups and tax-cut activists, say that even though it's an incomplete solution, it's a tax cut that people should welcome.")
More on amendment 1: "Amid the debate around Amendment 1 on property taxes, at least six Broward cities are using taxpayer money to send out mailers about the Jan. 29 property tax referendum." "Broward cities pay for mailings on property tax plan, but try to stay neutral".
The Sun-Sentinel editors want to slide on class size: "Florida's class-size amendment was a feel-good idea that was misguided from the time it was placed on the ballot. Now, there might be a chance to tweak it, making it more affordable and effective." "Time to adjust class size restrictions".
"what will it be like to live in the Sunshine State?"
"Fifty years from now, what will it be like to live in the Sunshine State? To help make the answer to that question a positive one - where there's enough land, energy and water for future generations - the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida set to work in 2005 at the behest of the state Legislature." "Where will we be in 50 years?"
Florida's Dixville Notch
"In this bellwether county, absentee balloting is one signal the political season has picked up steam."
In Pasco, a bellwether county where Republicans outnumber Democrats, the Democratic Party has so far marshaled more voters to cast absentee ballots, 835 to 721."Where will we be in 50 years?".
"In most any other context, a state education commissioner's willingness to consider new ways to judge school performance would seem routine, even mundane. But in Florida, where a standardized test has been treated for nearly a decade as the only barometer of success, a simple declaration by new state Education Commissioner Eric Smith made news." "A challenge to FCAT monopoly".
"It costs taxpayers less than $200 per case to have criminal defendants represented. Unfortunately, the Florida Public Defender Association says public defender offices around the state are facing budget shortfalls." "State can't scrimp on public defenders".
"A Miami area state senator said she will request an audit of the South Florida Water Management District's use of its aircraft to ferry board members to meetings and other events between cities as close as West Palm Beach and Miami and for trips with only one passenger." "Legislator wants review of water officials' flights".