Adam Nagourney: "For Senator John McCain, it was not supposed to be this way. From a commanding lead last spring, in a state where Senator Barack Obama did not campaign in the primaries and only hired a state director in June, Mr. McCain is now locked in a neck-and-neck race for a trove of electoral votes that is vital to his hopes of victory." "While McCain Looked Away, Florida Shifted".
Bill March: "It's happening again. We knew it would."
As the presidential race narrows to a handful of states where the two candidates are clawing to get over the top, Florida would be each man's top prize. And the Tampa Bay area is their key to Florida."Is Victory At Stake In State?". See also "Florida to play big role again in presidential election".
As in 2000 and 2004, the race here has exploded in a welter of television ads, "robocalls," visiting celebrities and mega-rallies.
The result, according to experts, political insiders and a rash of conflicting polls, is a race in Florida that's simply too close to call. Either candidate could win.
But for John McCain and Barack Obama, a win would have drastically different meanings.
Obama can win the presidency in Florida, but he can't lose it here.
McCain can lose the presidency in Florida, but he can't win it here.
You can thank the RPOF for Florida's early voting mess
To be sure, "some voters fault election supervisors for too few sites or machines."
But there's a bigger culprit — the Legislature.'Ya think? "Rep. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat, says the early voting change was no accident."
Three years ago, legislators passed a huge elections bill (HB 1567). Some changes were voter-friendly, such as allowing anyone to request an absentee ballot without having to give a reason why.
The bill also limited early voting to eight hours a day, and to no more than eight hours on a weekend. That did away with 12-hour early voting sessions for people who work long hours.
The law also limited early voting sites to elections offices, libraries and city halls even though elections officials wanted to use other sites.
Democratic legislators voted against the bill and suspected the shorter hours were a Republican plot to suppress the Democratic turnout.
"They did it on purpose," Gelber said. "This was a rank antidemocracy power grab."And good luck with Katherine Browning on this:
All nine Democrats in the state's congressional delegation sent Browning a letter, urging him to expand early voting hours next week and to require the early voting sites to be open Sunday. Browning says he has no plans "at this time" to do so, and it is not clear that he has that power."GOP's law created long voting lines".
As of Thursday, 609,000 people voted early. Democrats had a big lead, further evidence that Democrats are more likely to vote early while Republicans tend to request absentee ballots more.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "With record turnouts and long lines at many early-voting sites around the state, Florida is getting its first crucial test of a 2005 elections law that took effect two years ago." "Early-voting law needs revising". The Miami Herald editorial board: "Early voting exposes weaknesses in system".
Mess, what mess? Katherine thinks ever' thing is jus' fine: "Secretary of State Kurt Browning said Friday there were very few problems at the polls as more than 600,000 Floridians cast their ballots in the first week of early voting." "Browning: Few problems in Florida as 600,000 vote early".
Meanwhile, back at the ranch - St. Petersburg Times columnist Sue Carlton: "They were young people who never voted before and longtime Democrats and older folks leaning on canes. They waited in hot sun and cool drizzle. They came by the hundreds and, by week's end, the thousands." "Early voters are standing in line for history". More: "Palm Beach County sees record numbers at the polls", "Early voting hits gusher", "Early vote lines long, convenient [sic]", "Early vote leaning Obama's direction?", "Duval early voting continues today [Sunday]" and "Palm Beach County residents keep turning out in record numbers for early voting".
"The Case of the Baffling Ballots"
Randy Schultz: "When the world wasn't watching, a Florida judge settled an election-law case like the Florida Supreme Court tried to settle the 2000 presidential recount."
Mr. Bush's attorneys would have liked Judge Francis, up to a point. They would have liked the fact that he opposed a revote, as the Florida Supreme Court did in 2000. But they would not have liked the fact that Judge Francis wanted to look for every possible vote. They also would not have liked the fact that he said, " ... county canvassing boards have a ministerial duty to count all of the ballots cast in an election." In December 2000, the Florida Supreme Court told all counties that hadn't to look for every valid vote. As the counties were doing so, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the hand-counting. Mr. Bush became president-elect three days later."Voters still winning in Florida".
All through the 2000 recount, most judges at all levels in Florida ruled for the voters. Judge Francis was lucky. He didn't have to hear the world comment on his ruling, which probably won't even be appealed. He won't face a campaign to oust him. Still, eight years later, it's good to see that voters still matter most to the Florida courts.
Bringin' the beer
"Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be campaigning the old-fashioned way Sunday." "Cindy McCain, Giuliani campaign in PBC Sunday".
See also "Rally, hip-hop concert in Fort Lauderdale urges youth to go to polls" and "Celebrities highlight campaign events planned in Broward County".
"GOP stumps in Orlando", "Biden's Wife Visits Tampa" and "Biden's wife hits Valencia".
"No match" fallout
"Though Florida's ID screening process targets a small percentage of voters, it has triggered a major political dispute and has divided counties."
With Election Day a week away, about 2,700 people who registered to vote over the past two months in Miami-Dade and Broward remain on the state's controversial ''unverified'' list."Florida counties split over voter verification".
None of the mostly black, Hispanic and Democratic would-be voters will be turned away at the polls. But they stand to face different hurdles in each county and -- at least potentially -- different odds of having their votes counted.
The separate standards in Florida's two largest counties reflect a statewide political rift over how to handle thousands of voters flagged by Florida's Voter Verification Law, known as the ''no-match'' law.
Miami-Dade is among counties opting to allow unverified voters to resolve discrepancies in identification documents at the poll and use a regular ballot -- if they can offer proof they are who they say they are.
Broward and others will follow procedures set by Secretary of State Kurt Browning that require either clearing ID questions first with elections offices or filling out a ''provisional'' ballot.
"Six proposed amendments"
"Voters will have a chance to change the Florida Constitution in several ways in the Nov. 4 election. Six proposed amendments are on the ballot, and a 60 percent vote for any one will make it law." "Amendments on Nov. 4 ballot would allow several changes in Florida Constitution".
"Legal teams for the Barack Obama and John McCain campaigns will deploy thousands of poll watchers to Florida voting sites to keep an eye out for possible irregularities in the presidential election." "Both parties to guard polls on Election Day".
Question: are GOP poll watchers really there to "guard" the polls?
"During early voting in Apopka last week,"
a Republican poll watcher took down the names of disabled voters who appeared to be mentally incompetent and who may have been directed on how to vote by their caregiver."Poll watchdogs from both parties are keeping an eye on you".
Meanwhile, at a Winter Park polling site, a Democratic poll watcher assured a voter that she could wear her pin for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama even though a voter in line told her to take it off.
Throughout Central Florida, growing armies of poll watchers enlisted by the two major parties are taking very different approaches to monitoring the vote.
"The open seat for U.S. House District 15 held by Dave Weldon has attracted four candidates hoping to win the spot in November." "Space Coast jobs, health care dominate U.S. House District 15 race".
"The changing Latino electorate in Florida"
"The changing Latino electorate in Florida is a tricky issue for both presidential campaigns. These days it takes more than a stop in Miami's Little Havana and a quick anti-Castro speech for candidates to win the Hispanic vote. Immigration from Central and South America has made the Hispanic voting population much more varied and diluted the power of conservative Cuban exiles at the polls." "Diversity among Hispanics presents challenge for presidential campaigns".
"Tom Feeney's path to Congress was easy. As Florida House speaker in 2002, he used his power to carve a safe seat for himself."
In the final weeks, Feeney is running an ad that says Kosmas "wanted drivers' licenses for illegals and terrorists." It shows the menacing face of Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers."Feeney isn't the only Republican member of Congress from Florida who's in trouble."
The ad has no documentation, and Kosmas calls the charge a lie and an act of desperation.
Feeney's campaign did not respond to requests to prove the charge. But one who did favor licenses for illegals was former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who picked Feeney as his running mate in an unsuccessful first bid for governor in 1994.
His Orlando-area colleague, Republican Ric Keller, broke a personal term-limits pledge and faces a challenge from wealthy businessman Alan Grayson, a Democrat."Safe seats become hot ones for Florida GOP". Adam C. Smith: "Feeney once looked like a rising conservative star in Washington. Now the former Florida House speaker from the Orlando area looks like toast.".
Miami's Diaz-Balart brothers, Republicans Lincoln and Mario, who won with nearly 20 percent margins two years ago, are trying to fend off Democrats Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia.
But Feeney is considered the least likely of the group to win.
"He's going to lose," predicted analyst Stuart Rothenberg, who tracks races for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.
"Why not VP Crist?"
"Authorities are investigating a report that an armed man forced a tour bus driver to drive to the Downtown Disney area." "Bus driver forced to go to Disney area at gunpoint".
"Or so it says in the state constitution"
"Asians can be barred from owning property in Florida - or so it says in the state constitution." "Amendment 1 targets Florida's anti-Asian land law".
I wish I was a "success" ...
... afford to go to college: "With many families strapped, high school seniors are looking for cheaper alternatives to the college of their choice -- and Florida universities are stressed, too. " "Economic downturn forces students to rethink college".
An Ohio thing
"Ohio woman gives birth to triplet granddaughters".
"With 10 days to go in Tallahassee's most heated legislative race, both sides are raising legal issues about advertising tactics."
An attorney for Peter Boulware, the Republican nominee for the District 9 House seat, has asked local television stations to stifle a "three-pack" advertisement because it doesn't mention Democratic candidate Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda. Instead, it drops the names of a local Senate hopeful and two Democratic House candidates running 400 miles away."Boulware attorney to TV stations: Pull ad".
Meanwhile, a local voter has filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission against Boulware. It contends that the former Florida State University football star continues unauthorized use of the Seminole spear, and that he shouldn't be in his car dealership's TV commercials.
"UPS package containing 14 pounds of pot leads to Orlando man's arrest".
Carl Hiaasen observes that that Mahoney "arrogant and hypocritical goes without saying, but those flaws are pandemic in politics. What really stands out is Mahoney's unfathomable dumbness. Did he seriously believe he could put his hump buddy on the payroll without anyone knowing? Or, worse, did he assume that nobody would care?" "Did Mahoney think he'd get away with it?".
One supposes the charming folks comprising the The Tampa Tribune editorial board think of themselves, and their owners, as "successful: "Obama's Tax Plan Rewards Everything Except Success".
Missed this one from last week: "McCain plugs 'Joe' reforms in Florida".
"The names on the ballot and the rhetoric surrounding the 5th Congressional District contest sound familiar. Even some of the signs that Republican Ginny Brown-Waite and Democrat John Russell have planted across the county are recycled from the 2006 campaign." "Brown-Waite vs. Russell in rematch for House seat".
A regular brain trust
"Elisabeth Hasselbeck of ABC's The View will introduce Sarah Palin at her rally at the Tampa Convention Center this morning." "Our campaign lineup".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board chimes in with this late to the game endorsement: "Obama for president".
He "takes care not to break the rules"
"The Rev. Tom Scott, a Tampa City Council member and pastor of the 34th Street Church of God, takes care not to break the rules. Last week, his church shuttled the elderly to early voting sites and paid for their lunch afterward. He has also put pictures of both McCain and Obama on his church bulletin along with their stances on issues such as the war in Iraq and the economy. Scott said he is careful not to endorse either senator from the pulpit." "Clerics can't be partisan in pulpit".
"You have to ask"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "You have to ask: Why has Martin County received $3.4 million in disputed FEMA reimbursements while St. Lucie County still is waiting - and waiting, and waiting - for the $2.1 million FEMA so obviously owes?" "It's the money, not Mahoney".