Florida Primary News
First, the big story - Charlie jumps on the bandwagon
McCain appears to be sewing up Florida: "Ending months of speculation about whether he would wade into Florida's Republican presidential primary, Gov. Charlie Crist tonight gave his endorsement to John McCain." "Crist ends speculation, endorses McCain".
With McCain and Romney neck and neck, this could make a huge difference. Moreover, "Crist's endorsement came a day after McCain was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez."
"Support from Crist, a popular centrist, could be crucial with polls showing McCain locked in a tight race with Mitt Romney and Tuesday's winner-take-all contest for the state's 57 Republican convention delegates still too close to call." "Gov. Crist endorses John McCain".
"Crist, along with still-neutral former Gov. Jeb Bush, was the most sought-after endorsement in Florida, and for months candidates have been paying homage to the popular governor of America's biggest battleground state."
Crist's reputation for moderate bipartisanship won't necessarily help McCain win voters skeptical of his conservative credentials, but the governor's backing is a big boost any candidate would relish."Crist: McCain is your best choice". See also "Florida governor to endorse McCain ahead of GOP primary".
A sense of inevitability is setting in:
Also speaking at the dinner is state House Speaker Marco Rubio, a supporter of Mike Huckabee."Crist Endorses McCain".
“Nobody’s going to be broken-hearted if John McCain is our nominee,” Rubio said.
Mitt, Rudy, and Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, among others, ain't happy with this: "Crist steals spotlight from Speaker Rubio", "Reaction to Crist" and "Crist's cancelled date with Rudy".
On to the rest of today's Florida primary news
Here's a surprise of a different sort - there's been a spine siting in Tallahassee: "Florida Democrats were a little stronger [upon learning of the endorsement], sending out an e-mail with the subject 'Crist: Screw You, Florida.'"
"For the first time in 32 years, Florida's presidential primary really matters this week — despite the best political efforts of both parties." "This primary is pertinent". More: "Republicans and Democrats in the growing, demographically diverse Sunshine State had grown tired of being irrelevant in presidential primaries." "Florida's self-esteem".
"On Tuesday, Florida holds its presidential primaries, which will put on display this state's uniquely beautiful political crucible. There is no other state that more closely reflects America. We have it all, and we have it all in big quantities: rural, urban and suburban voters; coastal and interior residents; good ol' boys and Yankees; blacks, Hispanics and, increasingly, Asians; young and old; social conservatives and ardent liberals; the mega-rich and the impoverished. And a nearly equal number of Republicans and Democrats, about 4-million each. " "Into the crucible".
The Miami Herald editors: "On Tuesday, Florida's voters should resist the temptation to ignore the presidential primaries. Both major parties are penalizing Florida for violating the national-electoral calendar: On the Republican side, by slashing the size of delegations to the national convention; and on the Democratic side by eliminating the Florida delegates. Blame the national parties and the Legislature for this debacle -- but don't lose sight of the stakes. The country desperately needs competent new leadership. Florida voters would be wrong to give up their role in selecting the next president." "Voters challenged to pick an agent for change".
Raw political courage: "Tax reform on Tuesday's ballot is not just for the state of Florida. Presidential candidates are promising a range of changes to the national tax system, from abolishing the Internal Revenue Service to raising the tax rate on top earners to its highest point in almost a decade. While tax reform is a perennial campaign issue, the range of ideas -- and the novelty of some -- is unique this year." "The rivals all pledge tax reform, but reform can have many faces".
The debate: To the extent you care, David Broder penned this: "Florida's GOP debate brought out weaknesses of campaigns" ("debate was bland to the point of apathy.")
More McCain: Johnny gets an endorsement from the Sun-Sentinel: "McCain the GOP choice in Florida's presidential preference primary".
Edwards: The Miami Herald editorial board has these kind words for Edwards this morning:
Of the three leading Democratic candidates, former Sen. John Edwards offers the most consistent economic message. He is both the underdog in the race and the champion of the underdogs -- those who believe that a combination of Wall Street, Washington lobbyists and powerful corporations have led an assault on the economic well-being of the middle class. Despite the populist tone of his message -- or maybe because of it -- his campaign has failed to catch fire.Unfortunately for Edwards, it seems to be "a matter of timing. Mr. Edwards is running against the first black and the first woman with a realistic chance of winning the White House."
But she says she won't be campaigning: "Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton will return to Florida [Sunday], Monday and Tuesday, Florida CFO Alex Sink said today in an interview with The Palm Beach Post." "Hillary Clinton to visit Fla., state CFO says".
The Latino vote
"Latinos are the fastest-growing group of voters in the United States. But in Florida, where many Hispanics aren't wed to one party or the other, their support has even more weight — a swing vote in a swing state."
One of the reasons Florida's Latino vote is so difficult to peg is that the community is so diverse. Unlike other parts of the country, where Mexicans dominate, Hispanic voters in Florida have ties throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. For candidates used to courting Latino voters over a plate of tacos, this might mean an Argentine steak and a Colombian three-potato soup to boot."Primary results to help gauge Hispanic voters' strength".
Add to the mix an old guard of Cuban exiles who arrived in the 1960s and stand as a durable Republican core.
"Cuban-Americans are the largest Hispanic group in Florida, but they are no longer a majority of the vote," said Democratic strategist Joe Garcia, a former director for the Cuban-American National Foundation. Diluting their GOP support further, younger Cubans tend to take a less strident anti-communist line.
"The Cuban-American influence has diminished," Garcia said.
Amendment 1: "tax revolt is far from over"
"Regardless of how Amendment 1 fares on Tuesday this much is certain: Florida's latest property tax revolt is far from over." "Property-tax battle will rage on". More: "Amendment 1: What it would do".
"The property-tax amendment would fail if the vote were today, but a push by the governor may save it." "Crist blitz could save tax amendment". See also: "60 percent OK seen as biggest hurdle for tax amendment" and "'Yes on 1' supporters optomistic despite low numbers in polls".
"The campaign for the largest property tax cut in Florida history could easily be mistaken as an election bid for Gov. Charlie Crist." "Governor's image is on the line with tax vote".
"Crist is in political heaven. His face adorns dozens of billboards along Florida's highways. His tax-cut rallies make for lively TV ads. Riding on high poll numbers a year after taking office, he's returned to his favorite job, campaigning, to plug a Republican politician's favorite cause, tax cuts." "Tuesday vote on amendment a win-win for Crist".
Mary Ann Lindley, the Tallahassee Democrat Editorial Page Editor gives Charlie the usual pass, even though he's pushing "the grand scheme to make voters think there really can be a free or at least very cheap lunch." "Crist's legacy: A lot rides on Amendment 1".
And ain't this a delightful tactic: "'If Florida voters reject the constitutional amendment on the Jan. 29 ballot, lawmakers might interpret that as a sign people aren't interested in such tax cuts,' ..." "Vote nears on property-tax amendment, Floridians still want answers" ("Crist ... has cautioned that the Legislature might not have the willpower for another time-consuming do-over if Amendment 1 is defeated.")
Meanwhile, out on the fringe: "House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, who last year led the failed charge to replace the property tax on homes with a higher sales tax. ... and some House Republicans have been working on a ballot initiative that would limit property taxes to 1.35 percent of a property's taxable value. And though they won't have enough signatures by this week's deadline to make the November ballot, the idea could materialize in the Legislature this spring." "GOP leaders' big ideas".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Amendment 1 certainly isn't perfect. It won't resolve the inequities in Florida's property tax system. But don't believe much of what opponents [including those icky unions] are saying. Amendment 1 would cut property taxes. It would cap tax increases on businesses, rental property and second homes. And it would make it easier for thousands of families to sell their homes and buy new ones." "Our position: Amendment 1 would help residents buy another home". Oh, really?
Even Mike Thomas gets it: "Amendment 1 appeals to our primitive urge to stick somebody else with the taxes. It creates even greater inequities in a tax system distorted by Save Our Homes." "Tax reform? Don't look for it in amendment".
"Does anyone see something wrong with this picture?"
The Tampa Trib editors: "Florida universities are considering layoffs, tightening admissions and raising tuition because of the state's budget crisis. "
Meanwhile, state leaders are giddy about their $118 million incentive package that lured an outpost lab from the Oregon Health & Science University to Port St. Lucie."Florida Bets House On Oregon While Short-Changing Its Own".
Does anyone see something wrong with this picture?
It's unconscionable that at the same time Florida's universities are facing the worst fiscal crisis in a generation that taxpayers' dollars would go to another state's public university.
The prestigious journal "Nature" declared the arrangement an "unprecedented move" and noted it is believed to be the first time a state has financed a research facility for another state's university.
Certainly, that's not a distinction for which state leaders should be proud.
But as it turns out, this unprecedented deal is far more complex and muddy than what it might seem. And the clumsy nature in which key information is being disclosed to the public that's footing the bill speaks volumes about the willy-nilly nature of Florida's biotech investment.
Open government and all that
"Openness a treasured state principle" and "Access to records critical to democracy".
"Voters in Florida's largest county will reconsider Tuesday whether they want slot machines installed at three pari-mutuel facilities, with tax dollars from the new gambling attraction bolstering a state education fund.." "Miami-Dade County voters to decide on pari-mutuel slot machines".
"Faced with paying upfront for improvements, as much as $5,000, then waiting for a state [My Safe Florida Home grant program] reimbursement, low-income residents are finding the program is out of their financial reach. It wasn't supposed to be this way." "Many Low-Income Floridians Can't Afford Hurricane Grants".
"Marissa Amora greeted the important men from the state as she does everyone - with a smile and a hug, offered from her wheelchair."
the state's treatment of Marissa Amora, who was beaten nearly to death in 2001 after DCF workers refused to investigate her Lake Worth home, has been unacceptable. It was so unacceptable that a jury in 2005 ordered DCF to pay Marissa more than $26 million for a lifetime of medical care."'This is unacceptable'".
Yet two weeks after special masters for the Legislature heard testimony in November about Medicaid's failures, Medicaid rejected medicine that helps Marissa breathe. Medicaid had refused to pay for a wheelchair and stroller for Marissa. Cramped in the wheelchair she'd long ago outgrown, Marissa must endure surgery next month to put rods in her spine, which has curved so much that her lung capacity, a doctor told Dawn Amora, has diminished by 30 percent. The resultant pressure on Marissa's intestines has harmed her digestive system.
Medicaid wouldn't pay extra hours for nurses to help Marissa when school was closed for three weeks during the winter break. Will Medicaid also refuse to pay for around-the-clock nurses when Marissa returns home from surgery?Medicaid has refused for three years to pay for Marissa's physical, occupational and speech therapy. Medicaid has paid only a fourth of what the state agreed Marissa needs each month for nurses, and only two-thirds of what it was billed by doctors and pharmacists.Senate Bill 46 and House Bill 443 would free Marissa - finally - from the uncaring, unreliable Medicaid system that has shortchanged her too much already. Legislators unwilling to support the claims bills should ask themselves, as Ms. Amora asked of Dr. Agwunobi: Would you - as a working parent of a girl with injuries so severe that no insurer will cover them - want Medicaid for your child?