"Set aside the soaring speeches and rock-star rallies, and Sen. Barack Obama's future in Florida depends on a fragile proposition."
To win the Sunshine State, the Democrat needs a massive turnout among two fickle voting blocs: young people and blacks. "Overall, the state's long been more Republican than the rest of the country," he says. "I think the Gore-Bush race in 2000 created a false impression about how even it was." "Campaign 2008: Winning strategies for Obama, McCain in Florida".
By contrast, his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, sees a state of tailor-made constituencies: military types and conservative whites, especially in North Florida; wealthy Republicans in southwest Florida; Cubans in southeast Florida, along with lots of other right-of-center Floridians.
Add in the GOP's famous turnout machine -- Republicans carried Florida in eight of the past 11 presidential elections -- and you reach the same conclusion as pollster Brad Coker.
"The Florida Obama campaign has already surpassed many others in terms of laying infrastructure more than four months before the general election. Obama's staff won't reveal exact numbers, but Bubriski said it plans to hire "a lot more than 100" paid staffers. Last month, the campaign employed 20. ... political veterans say they hear the campaign plans to open between 30 and 50 offices". "Obama campaign hits the streets of Florida". See also "Obama backers go door-to-door in Daytona".
No manual recounts
"As the state heads into what is expected to be a record-setting year for voter turnout, Florida law does not allow for every ballot to be counted in case of a close election." The explanation is here: "Manual recounts remain elusive".
"It's a story neither he nor his campaign wants to revisit. McCain's former [Orange Park] neighbors remember it well."
Like her husband, Carol McCain was not the same person after the war. McCain came home to find her with a permanent limp from a near-fatal car accident. She was no longer the tall beauty he fell in love with. McCain sued for divorce in 1980 and married a woman 18 years younger. "From Florida to White House?".
McCain has admitted his failings. His former wife told Timberg she did not think her accident or the war was to blame.
"I attribute it more to John turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again," Carol McCain said. She did not respond to three attempts to reach her for this story. The McCain campaign did not make his children available for comment.
"Lieberman to stump for McCain today, Monday".
McCain's Florida cash registers
The names in McCain's $50,000-$100,000 list include former GOP state chairman Al Cardenas, current GOP chief Jim Greer, Crist adviser Chris Kise, lobbyist and former Jeb Bush aide David Rancourt, state House Speaker Marco Rubio and part-time Floridian Donald Trump."Floridians help fill McCain's coffers".
In the $100,000-$250,000 range, Gary Morse makes an appearance, along with former Jeb staffer and Crist transition co-chair Kathleen Shanahan.
Moving on to the big dogs who raised more than $500,000: there's Tallahassee lobbyist (and McCain's Florida finance chairman) Brian Ballard and Fort Myers megafinancier Al Hoffman.
"State Sen. Jeff Atwater is as entrenched an incumbent as there is, a prodigious fundraiser and the Senate president designate."
But in his re-election campaign, he is attaching himself to the Barack Obama banner of "change." A new campaign mailer uses that word several times and it also makes no reference to the fact that the North Palm Beach Republican is an incumbent, first elected in 2000."GOP state Sen. Jeff Atwater takes page from Obama playbook".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Old hands will be tempted to dismiss the latest Florida obituary in Time as media hyperbole. Our paradise has been declared ''lost'' so many times before that we've stopped paying attention. Think again."
It doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to see that a low-wage state with a high cost of living (due in part to the insurance crisis and high property taxes) is woefully unprepared for these challenges. Nor does it give the next generation the tools it will need to come up with solutions."The vision and imaginative leadership required to pull Florida out of this mess is as scarce as the nearly extinct Florida panther. As Time puts it,"
Florida already is No. 50 among the states in spending per pupil in public schools. Still, the state has cut funding by $75 million to the Miami-Dade school district because of falling tax revenues. That leaves administrators and unions to fight over the scraps, and forces cuts at every level. Next year could be worse.
Florida's failure to manage growth lies at the heart of this problem. If times were good, the basic flaws in Florida's economic structure would remain hidden, but they would still pose a threat to the state's future. More and more newcomers enter Florida every year but state leaders don't seem up to the job of updating and overhauling physical and economic infrastructures that were never designed to cope with the needs of a population that has ballooned to 18 million people. ...
The question not only is what we will do about it, but who will lead us.
a Legislature that prefers ''protracted arguments about evolution and other Terri Schiavo-style social issues as well as legislation proposing crackdowns on bikers who pop wheelies'' while slashing $5 billion from an already inadequate budget, will never be mistaken for a repository of political wisdom"Growth outpaces our capacity to meet demands".
Hiaasen: "Only a sucker would believe otherwise"
Carl Hiaasen: "Last week, President Bush strode [sic] into the White House Rose Garden and announced he was nullifying the moratorium on offshore oil drilling that his father initiated 18 years ago following the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska."
"The time for action is now,'' proclaimed the younger Bush, though of course the gesture was largely symbolic. The moratorium stays in place until Congress decides not to renew it."Those companies, by the way, currently lease more than 90 million acres of public land for exploration. According to a House report, only about one-quarter of that leased acreage is being used."
And Congress, declared our fearless leader, is "the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources.''
Wow. And we thought the gas crisis was more complicated. Apparently it's the fault of those knuckleheads on Capitol Hill who continue to persecute the poor energy companies.
Naturally, some ''obstructionist'' Democrats want the oil companies to explain why they aren't drilling in all these other places before they start drilling off the coasts of Florida, California and along the eastern seaboard. ..."Politically, what's happening is simple."
That means four-fifths of all known offshore deposits are available to industry exploration efforts, according to the federal Mineral Management Service.
So why aren't they concentrating on the oil leases that they already control? Another good question, and one for which the explanations are typically murky.
The energy companies want to score big before their two guardian angels, Bush and Dick Cheney, leave power. With the public pounded by gas prices surpassing $4 a gallon, industry lobbyists see a golden opportunity to dismantle the offshore moratorium."For seaside communities, the prospect of drilling has always meant weighing the risks against the possible rewards. "
In both Florida and California, which suffered a horrendous spill at Santa Barbara in 1969, most residents have opposed near-shore oil exploration. ...Much more here: "Drilling offshore won't help us much".
Yet in Florida, fellow green Republican Charlie Crist, a longtime foe of offshore drilling, recently announced that he -- like McCain -- has had a change of heart.
''Floridians are suffering,'' Charlie said, as if oil companies will kind-heartedly deflate gas prices once their derricks rise off Destin and Tampa.
Ironically, both the industry and the government believe leases within 100 miles off Florida's coasts hold mostly natural gas, which will do nothing to help lower the cost of crude.
Such details are seldom noted by politicians who disingenuously peddle offshore drilling as a cure for high gas prices. The only cure is to radically reduce demand, and to develop alternative energy sources. ...
Drilling in the Alaskan wilderness won't save us, nor will drilling off the beaches of Florida and California. The main result would be a temporary boost in domestic product, which the oil companies will eagerly sell us at whatever price the market will bear.
Only a sucker would believe otherwise.
"I'm sick and tired of getting table scraps"
"The leader of the Florida Democratic Party's gay caucus, declaring that 'I'm sick and tired of getting table scraps,' complained Saturday that Sen. Barack Obama offended a large and faithful voting bloc by not sending his wife or another top campaign surrogate to the group's annual meeting. But a top state coordinator of the Obama campaign assured members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Caucus that Obama is their best bet on gay issues." "GLBT Democrats say Obama 'slighted' them".
For those that can afford it ... no problem
"For-profit colleges are finding a spot in Florida's higher education market, but their popularity comes with a higher price." "For-profit colleges gain in popularity in Florida".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "It's one thing to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for take-home-cars awarded to law enforcement officers and other government workers who travel frequently on the job. But a $21,324 Ford Crown Victoria for the North Lauderdale human resources director? A $27,559 Dodge Durango for the Davie town clerk?" "Car perks for government workers waste money".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "In a broad sense, achieving a better balance is the goal of a lawsuit filed in federal court last week in Tallahassee by five environmental groups. They sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, contending that the EPA is violating the federal Clean Water Act by not setting new limits for urban and agricultural runoff that fuels algae blooms in Florida waterways." "Balancing act".
Back at the ranch, "Southwest Florida beaches littered with red algae".
"Florida schools that rally, drill and otherwise throw themselves into an FCAT frenzy may have to exercise more control, now that new test-prep restrictions have become law. FCAT skeptics say the new policy is a triumph, in that it acknowledges there is too much focus on the high-stakes test. But they question how much practical effect the law will have, given the myriad exceptions that lawmakers built into it." "Law Aims To Declaw FCAT Mania".
Try sex ed?
Dan Moffett thinks Jebbie "did for education in Florida what Eliot Spitzer did for monogamy" He continues: "it would be great to hear a governor, elected official or superintendent say something like this: 'We are not losing these kids as students at 13 and 14 years old; we're losing them at 13 and 14 months - and, in fact, even earlier.' ... people in power are still acting as if it's possible to overcome a childhood of neglect with some FCAT tutorials." "Grade schools on prenatal FCAT".
Media pays attention to Young challengers!
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "To use a neighborhood meeting about cancer-causing contaminants as a campaign opportunity is the political equivalent of ambulance chasing, but that didn't stop Max Linn."
"Politics at its worst".
On the cheap ...
Scott Maxwell on Orlando's woes: "You get what you pay for. That's why residents who want government on the cheap often get just that -- along with substandard schools, inadequate police service and shoddy roads." "Before raising taxes . . .".
"Fourth Seminole War"
Randy Schultz: "The United States won the third and final Seminole War, which ended in 1858. Ah, but the Fourth Seminole War now being fought in Florida? The tribe is winning, and despite the method of warfare, the outcome seems fair. The fourth war is over the Seminole Tribe of Florida's fight to have the most lucrative casinos in the state. And the tribe is holding all the cards." "Seminoles up the ante in latest 'war'".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Reading the recent headlines regarding Florida's property insurance crisis is as depressing as watching gas prices rise. It does not take an actuary to figure out the trend lines aren't good. The state's efforts to make property insurance more accessible and affordable are not working." "A failed insurance market".