Florida primary news
"Among Florida voters likely to vote in Tuesday's primary, 25 percent were backing John McCain and 23 percent Mitt Romney, a statistical tie, while Giuliani and Mike Huckabee were tied for third place with 15 percent each." "McCain, Romney are neck and neck". More: "Graphic: See the poll results" and "Strategists say McCain, Romney running neck and neck in Fla.".
See also "Poll: McCain rising, Giuliani fading", "Campaign styles shed light on candidates' images" and "Voters, candidates stress economy" ("The presidential election in Florida isn't about the war, guns, abortion or healthcare.") More: "Republican candidates criss-cross Florida in advance of primary".
No paper trail: "Despite election reforms that state officials approved last year, most Florida voters will rely this month on the same touch-screen machines that have come under fire nationwide. That's because election supervisors are still working to implement the 2007 paper-trail legislation, which won't take effect until summer." "Votes Won't Have Paper Trail".
Florida won't decide it, neither will Super Tuesday?: "Don't look to crown any presidential nominees on Super Tuesday. The race for delegates is so close in both parties that it is mathematically impossible for any candidate to lock up the nomination on Feb. 5, according to an Associated Press analysis of the states in play that day." "Super Tuesday Won't Decide Nominations". Nevertheless, "Florida could sort out muddled GOP presidential race". Nationally, it was "a Big Day for Endorsements".
Tonight's debate: "Proving they are presidential material will be no small task for the five Republican candidates facing off in tonight's Florida Atlantic University debate." ""Debate pivots on image, issues". See also "FAU students' time to shine" and "Florida issues figure strongly in pivotal Boca Raton debate". The Palm Beach Post editors write "Give Floridians answers".
Blogging the debate: Resident Orlando Sentinel wise guy will give us the traditional media's take on the debate tonight: he writes that he will be "blogging the debate live tonight on OrlandoSentinel.com from 9 to 11 and declaring some winners and losers as soon as the thing winds down."
McCain: "Romney, Giuliani Target McCain In Florida Race". See also "McCain's task: Win over GOP base in Florida primary" and "Democrat Klein lashes McCain on cat fund".
More McCain: The knuckle-draggers don't think much of Johnnie: " In John McCain's America, any politician who accepts a large contribution or gift from a donor, and then takes steps consistent with the donor's interests — even though there is no legal quid pro quo — is corrupt. Well, then, by his own standard, McCain is corrupt." "Remember the Keating Five?" Slate has a more ore balanced take on the issue in "Is John McCain a Crook?" ("he and his family made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, three of which were to Keating's Bahamas retreat. McCain did not disclose the trips (as he was required to under House rules) until the scandal broke in 1989. At that point, he paid Keating $13,433 for the flights. And in April 1986, one year before the meeting with the regulators, McCain's wife, Cindy, and her father invested $359,100 in a Keating strip mall.)
Using the GOPer standard of electability, McCain is the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with, especially a Bud. After all, "The candidate's spouse runs an investment portfolio of an estimated $36.6 million to $53.4 million and chairs one of the nation's largest beer [Anheuser-Busch] distributorships."
Rudy: "Standing drops as Giuliani spends money, time in must-win Florida". See also "Sunshine State Warm to Giuliani, But His Poll Position Falls Sharply" and "Giuliani, sinking in Florida polls, remains buoyant".
Huck: "Earlier this week, Huckabee suggested he might pull back in Florida to focus on the Feb. 5 primary states. He cut some staff, although many continue to work without pay. He continues to rely on a vast grass roots network that is making hundreds of phone calls and canvassing neighborhoods in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, said Rodney Rogers, Miami-Dade County volunteer chief. Experts agree Huckabee is not necessarily done if he loses here, especially if he can capture Florida's evangelical vote and beat Giuliani." "Slowly, Huckabee draws supporters". See also "Huckabee says he won't pull out of Florida race".
Mitt: "Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney sparred over tax cuts Wednesday as polls showed the two pulling ahead of rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee. ... McCain began the day Wednesday by releasing his second television ad in Florida. In it, he tells voters that he is the best candidate to 'protect their pocketbooks' by making permanent President Bush's tax cuts. Romney's campaign quickly pounced, pointing out that McCain voted against the cuts in 2001 and 2003." "McCain took 'detour,' Romney campaign says". How might one put that?: something like "he was against the tax cuts before he was for the tax cuts" might work.
More Mitt: "Romney has been airing a Spanish-language ad in the Miami market to try to woo the Hispanic vote -- prompting an inquiry from the media Wednesday about the former Massachusetts governor's belief that immigrants should learn English." "Romney ad in Spanish raises some questions". See also "Romney touts business skills", "Romney seen as party outcast" and "Romney leads in ill will among GOP candidates".
The Dems: "Warning that Republicans are gaining a big advantage, Florida Democratic leaders urged their national party Wednesday to lift the ban on presidential campaigning in the state." "Lawmakers to Dems: Campaign here".
See also "Clinton or Obama? Question divides Orlando-area black voters". The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida Atlantic University and debate organizers still are hoping that the Democrats will show up Sunday night, with the South Carolina primary safely over and the silly pledge kept. An appearance might show Floridians that adults are running for president." "Show up, Democrats".
Military vote: "The posters proclaim, 'Be Smart. Do your Part. Vote.' Found on bases and buildings here and abroad, the signs are one of the ways the Department of Defense reminds its military and civilian personnel of the importance of their vote, no matter their location." "Airmen are urged to vote".
Voter suppression, Florida style
"Six days before Florida's statewide presidential preference primary, the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday approved three recent changes to state election laws and took no action on a fourth because it is the subject of a federal lawsuit."
Despite the federal approval that the state sought, the changes will not be put into effect at the polls because the decision came so close to the Jan. 29 primary."Feds approve state election law changes".
In a letter to state officials, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division approved legislative changes  excluding employer IDs or buyer club IDs as acceptable forms of identification at the polls;  reducing from three days to two the period a voter who casts a provisional ballot can provide supporting documentation; and  increasing penalties for third-party groups that violate the law in conducting voter registration drives.
The fourth change under review would require that before a voter can vote, the voter's driver's license number or last four digits of a Social Security number must be verified as accurate. The feds did not take action on the so-called matching provision because it is the subject of a federal lawsuit by voting rights groups.
"It is simply all about Jeb! It always is."
Jac Wilder VerSteeg: Think tanks pushing ideology can skew statistics to "show" that vouchers are good or bad, that charter schools are engines of innovation or dens of financial mismanagement and that high-stakes testing is the downfall or salvation of public schools."The perils of education studies".
Speaking of ideology - to wit, Jebbie's - Daniel Ruth has this to say in a column we missed the other day: "When Gov. Jeb Bush left office a year ago, Florida public schools ranked somewhere between the Bermuda Triangle and Petticoat Junction."
And now the former governor, who was the Benazir Bhutto security detail of Florida classrooms, wants to start a foundation to advance his education policies, which is a bit like Jack Kevorkian opening a wellness clinic.More:
The Foundation For Excellence In Education, or as it should more properly be known, Jeb's Shtick To Keep His Mug In The Public Eye, is not to be confused with His Lordship's Foundation For Florida's Future, which should more properly be known as People Paying Tribute To Jeb Until He Deigns To Run For Office Again.
Nothing helps a stalled public trough career more than setting up some sham foundation masquerading as a political machine, which allows the exiled philosopher king to sit around rubbing his chin until the first viable election cycle becomes available.
And now Jeb! thinks getting a bunch of right-wing ideologues together to rue what a lousy job he did in the first place is going to make things better?!?!? Cue the "Rut-Ro."And more:
During the parallel universe of the Bush Junta era, the Florida Supreme Court found his cockamamie voucher program unconstitutional while various studies put graduation rates anywhere from 48th to 50th nationally, with only about 55 percent of the state's high school students earning their diplomas on time.
While Jeb Bush used the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test as a weapon against teachers, students and schools, the state failed abysmally in national rankings to properly fund teacher salaries, as educators were lured to better-paying states."Jeb! Unveils His Latest Bright Ambition". The most honest assessment of "Jeb!" we've read since "Jeb Bush And His Amen Chorus Of Goose-Stepping Legislators".
And indeed, even though the Eddie Haskell of the Apalachee Parkway tried to cook the books more than a Corleone Olive Oil Co. accountant to claim the state's students were veritable Rhodes Scholars (Dusty, perhaps?), at the time he skulked out of Tallahassee, U.S. Department of Education statistics noted 72 percent of Florida students failed to meet national academic standards.
It takes either an awful lot of chutzpah and/or a staggering hubris-fueled indifference to reality for a pol whose education policies were the academic equivalent of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction to now form a foundation in tribute to his own failures.
But this really isn't about schools, or students, or teachers, or "excellence."
It is simply all about Jeb! It always is.
The RPOF base
"A growing number of North Florida superintendents and school boards are objecting to the state's proposed new science standards, saying the standards give too much credence to evolution and leave no room for alternative theories [sic]."
At least seven of Florida's 67 school boards - all north of Ocala - have passed opposition resolutions, according to the Florida Citizens for Science, a group that supports the standards and has been methodically searching board minutes."Dominated by Baptist churches and dotted with military bases, most of North Florida makes no bones about its political and cultural conservatism."
Most of the resolutions have nearly identical wording. Some object to the characterization of evolution as something other than a "theory." Others ask that alternative theories be included."North Florida weighing in against evolution".
"I'm a Christian. And I believe I was created by God, and that I didn't come from an amoeba or a monkey," said Ken Hall, a School Board member in Madison County, east of Tallahassee.
"The state's top law enforcement official got a response Tuesday to a request for access to disgraced Congressman Mark Foley's computers: The answer is still no." "FDLE request to examine Foley computers again denied".
Wouldn't want to spend any money, now would we ...
"Republican state legislators Wednesday presented a bill aimed at fighting gang violence in Florida, but it did not include a key proposal recommended recently by a statewide grand jury that would establish special prosecutors and add investigators throughout the state. ... the first recommendation made by the statewide grand jury investigating gang violence when it released its initial report last week was the need for more gang prosecutors, the retention of veteran prosecutors through more competitive salaries and the addition of gang investigators." "GOP gang bill targets kingpins, Internet".
Out here in the fields
"Attorneys for farmworkers rights groups have lost their second challenge to the way the Federal Emergency Management Agency handled the workers after Hurricane Wilma. FEMA rejected a civil rights complaint filed in May 2006 by the Farm Workers Association of Florida." "FEMA rejects complaint by farmworkers".
"Florida's 21st congressional district" Yesterday's piece on in the Herald: "Martinez, Díaz-Balart congressional race turns nasty".
The News-Journal editors explain "Why Florida voters should reject Amendment 1".
Yawn: "Gov. Charlie Crist talks of preserving Save Our Homes". See also "Education official: Amendment 1 'wrong for Florida'", "Maitland business owner sees little benefit from property-tax amendment" and "First-time home buyers in Lake Mary on the fence about tax vote".
"Police and fire chiefs, once solid allies of Charlie Crist's, decry the state tax-cut proposal." "Amendment 1 creates a rift". See also ""Florida's police chiefs oppose property tax amendment"".
The Tampa Trib editors: "Taxpayers debating Amendment One in public forums, including responses to a Tribune editorial last week advising voters to reject it, express an astonishing range of justifications for positions both pro and con." See what they are here: "Uncertainties Of Tax Question Turning Voters Upside Down". More: "Charlie Crist doesn't have much time to rally support for Florida's Amendment 1".
The Orlando Sentinel editors smack the League of Cities: "Florida's cities aren't telling the truth about proposed property-tax cut". That's what the League gets for aligning itself with those icky public employee unions.they get for
Leonard Pitts answers a question
"Why do African Americans not support conservatism? Then the answer becomes simple: At no point in history when black folks were beset, bedraggled and fighting for their very existence have conservatives -- whether you're talking Democrats of the 19th and early 20th centuries or Republicans now -- been caught taking our side. From the abolition of slavery through Jim Crow through anti-lynching legislation through integration, through voting rights through civil rights through affirmative action, conservatives have always stood in opposition." "Why many blacks vote Democrat".
"An ongoing crime"
"Allstate Insurance Co. and its affiliates are committing 'an ongoing crime' by failing to submit all documents the state demanded as part of an investigation of homeowner insurance prices, according to a legal response state officials filed to an appeals court Wednesday." "State accuses secretive Allstate of 'ongoing crime'". More from the Sun-Sentinel editors: "Allstate, Florida insurance commissioner get a chance to re-think ultimatum".
Florida's booming economy
"The housing market's continued slump drove Lennar Corp. to report a $1.25 billion fourth-quarter loss on Thursday - the biggest in the homebuilder's history - as lower sale prices were compounded by hefty charges to write down land values." "Lennar 4Q loss balloons to $1.25 billion on land write-downs".
"Hopes are high for passage of a sensible bill by state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, who wants to bolster the state's ability to get concealed weapons permits — and the guns — out of the hands of permit holders who are found to be mentally ill." "Florida lawmakers should try to tighten concealed weapons permitting process".
"Going out for the evening with a man who has no money."
The Tallahassee Democrat editors on unfunded mandates: "Fair play".
Scott Maxwell writes this morning that
this month, the $4,100-a-year raise kicked in, making the salaries of our distinguished ladies and gentlemen now $169,300. Just so you know, Central Florida's congressional delegation was split on this one. Voting to let the raise sail through were Democrat Corrine Brown and Republicans Tom Feeney, Adam Putnam and Dave Weldon. Voting to block the automatic raise were Republicans Ginny Brown-Waite, Ric Keller, John Mica and Cliff Stearns."Salaries, scrutiny, silence . . . and more".
"Crist on Wednesday threw his support behind Pasco County's efforts to acquire the 12,500-acre Cross Bar Ranch and preserve it for future generations." "Crist backs Cross Bar plan".
Scott Maxwell has a point:
the U.S. Justice Department has been investigating disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff for years. And the FBI started asking questions about his ties to Tom Feeney early last year. Good for them for doing so. But it's now time for the Justice Department to do something one way or the other. After all, Feeney's up for re-election this year. And the qualifying period for his seat is just a few months away. So, if Feeney isn't going to be charged, Justice owes it to him to announce that its investigation is complete -- as they did recently in clearing former U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana -- so that Feeney can run without that cloud over his head. And if they are going to charge him, well, voters deserve to know that even more."Indict him or clear him".
"With a week to go before election day, the West Pasco Board of Realtors filed an electioneering complaint Tuesday against Pasco school superintendent Heather Fiorentino regarding her information campaign on Amendment 1. The organization contends that Fiorentino's use of district e-mail to inform employees about the ramifications of the referendum, which would change the property tax system, violated the law that forbids governments from soliciting votes. " "Realtors say DVD violates election rule".