"For Florida voters, it's gut-check time."
Now comes the character test — not for the politicians, but for the people."Scott-Sink race is a major test of voters' character".
The outcome of the race for governor three days from now will reveal the true mind-set of Floridians in 2010.
Are Florida voters truly sold on Republican Rick Scott's promise to create all those jobs?
Are people willing to install Alex Sink, a Democrat, in the Governor's Mansion after 12 years of Republican dominance?
Is the public's anger at President Barack Obama and Washington in general so intense that voters will entrust their future to Scott, even though he's untested and has never satisfactorily explained his role in the Medicare fraud at his former employer?
Can Sink overcome the perception of her Obama connection and keep her head above the Republican wave that seems to be sweeping the country?
South Florida vortex
"South Florida state legislative races tend to leave little room for general election surprises, with districts drawn to overwhelmingly favor Democrats or Republicans."
But one Miami-Dade matchup has emerged as key for both parties -- and several others have attracted significant campaign dollars -- in a year when high-stakes federal and statewide contests have drowned out races for the Florida House and Senate."Dade contest seen as key battlefield".
The handful of competitive contests include a battle between two lawyers to replace Republican state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff in a GOP-leaning district that hugs the Broward-Palm Beach coast. George Moraitis, who narrowly won the GOP primary, has outraised Barbra Stern, who switched her registration from Republican to Democrat to run and is the daughter of lobbyist Judy Stern.
In Miami-Dade, Republicans in control of the Legislature are pouring money into the fight for House District 119, which stretches from deep South Dade to Sweetwater and is one of the Democrats' few pickup opportunities this year.
"That's probably one of the most closely watched House races in the entire state,'' said Juan Carlos Zapata, the moderate Republican and current chairman of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation who has represented the district for the past eight years.
Vying to replace Zapata are Republican Frank Artiles, an insurance adjustor, and Democrat Katie Edwards, the executive director of the Dade County Farm Bureau. A tea party candidate and a candidate running without party affiliation are also on the ballot.
Edwards, who has the fundraising edge in the campaign, is seeking public office for the first time. Artiles lost to Zapata in nasty primaries in 2004 and 2002 and unsuccessfully ran for state Senate in Hialeah as a write-in candidate in 2000.
Florida sliding into right wing cesspool?
Politico: "Two years after Florida Democrats celebrated their role in the election of Barack Obama and the ouster of two Republican congressmen, the nation’s largest swing state is poised to tilt back toward the GOP, a pivot that could dramatically alter the dynamic for the president’s 2012 election campaign." "Florida swings toward GOP".
"Shameless" RPOFers run wild
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board:
It's been all too common this election for Florida Republicans to nationalize state elections. Chief financial officer candidate Jeff Atwater hit a new low by linking Democrat Loranne Ausley to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. ... Then, amid unflattering pictures of both women, Atwater's ad contends Ausley "wants total control of our money" and that she would raise taxes on property, the elderly and gasoline.And then there's the "shameless" Mr. Scott:
The CFO has no authority to raise taxes or dictate spending. Only the Legislature, where Atwater is the outgoing Senate president, has those powers. Guess who was in charge in 2009 when the Legislature voted to increase various fees? Jeff Atwater.
Republican candidate for governor Rick Scott has shamelessly preyed on seniors' financial insecurity to inaccurately paint Democrat Alex Sink as an irresponsible administrator of the state pension funds. The worst scare tactic is a television ad that features a mix of somber, older actors talking into the camera contending "Sink lost billions in Florida's pension funds. … If she can't run a pension fund, how can she run a state?""Campaign offenses, worse than most".
Sink doesn't run the pension fund. She is one of three elected officials who serve as trustees of the State Board of Administration. ... That hasn't stopped Scott from scaring seniors. Shameless.
"I am in this race. I believe in keeping my word"
"An emotional Kendrick Meek on Friday continued to refute reports that he considered dropping out of the three-way race for the U.S. Senate as late as last week."
"I'm not running for Senate to make a deal," said Meek, his eyes brimming with tears, after speaking to a teachers union gathering in Orlando."Meek's emotional speech to union: 'I am in this race'".
Meek said he would not drop out of the race and that he had enough support to win.
"I am in this race. I believe in keeping my word."
"Some pollsters believe the controversy with Kendrick Meek and former President Clinton could hurt Democrat Alex Sink in her appeal to black voters." "Dispute renews turnout worries". See also "Black voter reaction to Clinton's efforts could hurt Sink".
Here's the twist: "Rumors that a 'back room' political deal was in the works to persuade Democrat Kendrick Meek to drop out of Florida's U.S. Senate race all seem to lead back to one source - Charlie Crist. The former Republican, now independent governor admitted Friday during a campaign stop in Panama City that his campaign initiated a conversation with former President Clinton to encourage Meek to drop out ... Despite the finger pointing, some experts say the Clinton rumor may end up benefiting Crist". "Crist gets blame for Clinton 'back room' deal rumor, but may reap reward".
LeMieux laying groundwork for run
"For $25, members of the local chamber of commerce can hear George LeMieux give his take on the election, tout his support of small-business legislation and deliver a 'review of his experience in the U.S. Senate.'"
LeMieux was not elected to the seat and he's not on the Nov. 2 ballot, but for the past month he has been engaged in a campaignlike sprint across Florida, talking to Republican and civic groups, touring businesses and presenting military medals."In political twist, Sen. George LeMieux sets groundwork for 2012".
He has attended dozens of events, logged thousands of miles by air and land. "I'm just doing my job," he says.
But LeMieux, 41, is also working to elevate his profile and lay the groundwork for a potential run for office. He has not only turned his back on the man who put him in this fairy-tale position — Gov. Charlie Crist — but is now working to keep Crist from getting there himself.
If the 2010 election cycle is recorded as one of the most fascinating and unpredictable in decades, LeMieux's story certainly belongs in the footnotes.
"A full day of campaign stops"
"After rallying their bases at opposite ends of the state, the candidates for Florida governor are both starting a full day of campaign stops in Orlando. Republican Rick Scott begins his Saturday at a rally featuring former Gov. Jeb Bush, party leaders and other statewide GOP candidates" "Governor hopefuls plan busy Saturday".
"If Marco Rubio were bothered by speculation that Kendrick Meek might drop out of the U.S. Senate race, he didn't let it show in Daytona Beach." "Rubio visits; Meek says he's still in race". Related: "Kendrick Meek-Charlie Crist Deal Galvanizes Marco Rubio Camp".
"The cash has continued to gush"
"The campaign for Congress in District 22 has become an economic stimulus program for Palm Beach and Broward Counties. According to the Federal Election Commission, through September more than $8 million was spent in the bruising race between Democratic Congressman Ron Klein and his GOP foe Allen West, among the most expensive Congressional campaigns in the country."
And the cash has continued to gush."National divide intensifies congressional battle between Klein, West".
From Oct. 1-13, GOP fundraiser Karl Rove and his "super political action committee," American Crossroads, spent $215,616 in activities opposing Klein. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee countered with $315,840 to stymie West.
"If either side thought they couldn't win, you wouldn't see all that money still pouring in," said Kevin Wagner, political science professor at Florida Atlantic University. "Few districts in the country are still considered real battlegrounds. Most analysts have this one as a tossup."
Haridopolos admits violating "laws five years in a row"
"Looking to put the matter behind him, State Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said he waives his right to a hearing and accepts the findings of the Florida Commission on Ethics that he violated financial disclosure laws five years in a row." "Sen. Haridopolos offers agreement on disclosure".
"A chance to improve Florida’s political culture"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "The best opportunity to bring fundamental change to Tallahassee and Washington is in a pair of constitutional amendments, not in a race for a particular office. Voters have the best chance in decades Tuesday to improve Florida’s political culture by passing Amendments 5 and 6, which would ensure future legislative and congressional districts are drawn fairly and not to protect incumbents." "Putting voters back in charge".
"For the first time on his week-long 30-city buscapade around Florida, Republican candidate for governor Rick Scott on Friday took questions from an audience." "Scott vows to trim, end regulations in first audience Q&A".
Mail ballot blues
"The No. 1 discrepancy is that people do not sign the outside of the envelope."
"Once you close the flap you have to provide your signature," said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. "People forget.""Get your absentee ballots in the mail — and be sure to sign them".
Unsigned ballots must be rejected, said Brenda Snipes, Broward County supervisor of elections. "We cannot open them if there's no signature. That's our way of verifying that that's actually the voter," she said.
Snipes and Bucher said the numbers are a small percentage of the total number of absentee ballots, but even a small number of votes could make a difference. "Just think about a race that's close," Snipes said.
In Broward, Snipes estimated 700 to 800 of the absentee ballots returned so far are missing signatures. Bucher didn't have an estimate for Palm Beach County. On Wednesday afternoon, when the processing started, she estimated there were a "few dozen" in the no-signature pile. Unsigned ballots aren't tossed; they're stored with other election records.
Another signature issue sometimes comes up with people whose writing has changed.
"We've had some registered voters for decades. And for many different reasons your signature might change," Bucher said. Update it, she said, "If, when you were 18 you had this flamboyant signature and now your signature has settled down and it's different, or if you've had a medical condition."
Signatures can be update with the elections offices.
"How expensive is the Florida gubernatorial campaign? The candidates have spent enough to pay for nearly all the Miami-Dade County schools budget for textbooks." "Scott-Sink ad wars exceed $54M".
Sink talks Meek
"Sink said she knew nothing about discussions between former President Bill Clinton and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek about dropping out of the U.S. Senate race. Meek, heir to an African-American political dynasty in South Florida, trails behind Gov. Charlie Crist, an independent, and the Republican frontrunner, former House Speaker Marco Rubio of West Miami." "Sink emphasizes 'historic' race, faces questions on Meek".
Carroll’s "altered documents
"Altered documents filed with Jacksonville City Hall in 2006 helped Jennifer Carroll’s consulting firm appear eligible for a city program that annually gives out tens of millions of dollars in city contracts to small businesses, a Florida Times-Union investigation has found." "Altered documents allow Carroll's firm into city contract program".
Sink maintains paper-thin lead over Scott
"Both polls found that Sink enjoying more support from Democrats than Scott has from Republicans. More independents are leaning toward Sink." "Sink has thin lead over Scott in two polls".
Rubio increases lead in M-D poll
"Republican Marco Rubio's lead is growing in the three-way race for U.S. Senate, an advantage that's enhanced by the intrigue swirling around the two trailing candidates. ... [in a Mason-Dixon poll released Friday] Rubio increased his support to 45 percent, while Crist had 28-percent backing and Meek was stuck at 21 percent. There remain 6 percent of voters undecided." "Rubio's lead grows in poll".
Possible "record or near-record turnout"
"Heavy early and absentee voting may signal a record or near-record turnout for a midterm election in Florida, where the ballot features open races for the U.S. Senate, governor and all three Cabinet positions, state officials said today." "Heavy early voting may boost Florida turnout".
Figures, it was an "insurance lobbyist"
Sink's CNN debate gaffe last week – insurance lobbyist and campaign advisor Brian May sent her text-message advice during a commercial break, despite rules against it – illustrated a broader problem."On negative ads, and post-election revolving doors".
There is a revolving door between campaigning and governing, lobbyists and consultants, "politician" and "public servant," which blurs the distinction between both worlds. As long as negative ads continue to move the needle, the ads will keep rolling.
And many of the consultants who have drafted the hyperbolic communications strategies of today's campaigns will be lobbying policymakers to pass tomorrow's "Tallahassee Taj Mahal."
"While Republican Rick Scott battles Democrat Alex Sink in a tight gubernatorial contest, Republicans hold steady 9- to 13-point leads for Florida's three other Cabinet-level positions, according to a Sunshine State News Poll." "Poll: GOP Set to Sweep Three Cabinet Offices".
"Crist and Scott focus on Panhandle, Rubio works middle of the state, Sink and Meek hit South Florida". "Candidates Dash Through Florida Hoping to Get Supporters to the Polls".
"With just days left before the election, an illegal mailer has hit voters' mailboxes in the 8th Congressional District — and all candidates are denying responsibility for the mystery ad."
The mailer to homes in Democrat U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's district carries no return address or disclaimer identifying its source of funding, as election law requires."Voters receive mystery – and illegal – mailer".
It criticizes Republican Dan Webster for voting for a $546 million "unfunded mandate," a reference to the Legislature's approval of a 2007 plan that forced local school districts to raise property taxes while increasing education spending. Webster was state senate majority leader at the time.
The mailer, which went to many Republican and independent voters, also promotes Florida Tea Party candidate Peg Dunmire: "Peg Dunmire doesn't support legislation that requires higher taxes and increased levels of government spending. She supports all efforts to reduce government debt."
But the Dunmire campaign says it did not send the mailer.
"A careful role"
"Bill McBride is not just Alex Sink's husband: he also plays a careful role in her gubernatorial campaign." "Sink's spouse McBride plays subtle role".
A little encouragement
"Not all Republicans have abandoned Gov. Charlie Crist in his independent bid for the U.S. Senate. The 1996 Republican nominee for president, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, phoned Crist on his campaign bus today to give him some encouragement in the final days of the three-way race." "Dole telephones Crist with campaign encouragement". Meanwhile, "Rubio's lead in Senate race nearly insurmountable, latest poll says".
Out-of-state wingnut bucks powering Rubio
"Groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove's new 'super-PAC,' American Crossroads, have spent more than $6 million on behalf of Rubio, according to Tribune checks of campaign finance reports and analyses by People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, and the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan campaign watchdog group."
The independent expenditures went for television ads, mailers and other activity aimed at benefitting Rubio or opposing Crist during the general election campaign."Rubio benefits from independent groups' funding".
•About $2.4 million by American Crossroads and its affiliate, Crossroads GPS, formed by Rove, who was former President George W. Bush's chief political strategist, and former national Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie.
•A $2 million expenditure by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
•About $600,000 by Rightchange.com, a North Carolina-based political committee, for mailers.
"PolitiFact Florida examines the 2010 campaign".
"Whatever role Bill Clinton played in a plan to nudge, or not nudge, Kendrick Meek out of the Florida Senate race, it's no surprise the former president was in the fray." "Clinton a campaign magnet". See also "Florida's frenzied Senate race gets even stranger as Election Day nears".
"We have music, we have fun, we do protests"
Try not to laff too hard:
Tea party supporters want to open the door for young voters, and FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe said the movement can win over those under 30 by placing them in leadership roles. FreedomWorks was founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and has fueled much of the movement's growth."Tea party movement alienating young voters".
"More young leaders begets more young participants," Kibbe said. He said that young voters are tougher to organize but that the tea party can engage them through things they enjoy. "The tea party is different," he said. "We have music, we have fun, we do protests. It's a different set of activities than your typical, canned Republican stump speech that was driving people away in droves."