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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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The Blog for Sunday, January 29, 2012

Polls: Romney has "insurmountable" lead or its "tied"?

    Update: "Herman Cain, once considered the preferred choice of conservatives in the GOP presidential race, endorsed Newt Gingrich at the Kravis Center Saturday night. ... Cain's surprise appearance at the Lincoln Day Dinner came as Romney has overtaken Gingrich in the polls just three days before Florida's crucial primary. " "Gingrich garners Cain endorsement at Kravis Center GOP event".

    Further update: "It's not a blowout, but PPP's new Florida numbers match the trend and show a solid single-digit lead for Mitt Romney: 'Romney now leads with 40% to 32% for Gingrich, 15% for Rick Santorum, and 9% for Ron Paul. Romney has gained 7 points and Gingrich has dropped by 6 since our last poll, which was conducted Sunday and Monday.'" "PPP: Romney up 8 in Florida".

    "Newt Gingrich swaggered into Florida as a Republican front-runner, but now he’s close to slipping out as an also-ran against a resurgent Mitt Romney."
    Gingrich is badly trailing Romney by 11 percentage points, garnering just 31 percent of likely Republican voters heading into Tuesday’s presidential primary, according to a Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll released late Saturday night.

    President Barack Obama should be wary as well. Romney beats Obama by a 48-44 percent spread — a lead inside the error-margin, however — in a theoretical general-election matchup, the poll shows.

    In the Republican primary, Romney’s lead looks insurmountable. It cuts across geographic, ethnic and gender lines. And the poll indicates Romney’s attack on Gingrich as a Freddie Mac insider is a hit with GOP voters.

    "What does Gingrich need to do? I would say Romney would need to implode," said Brad Coker, pollster with Mason Dixon Research & Associates, which conducted the survey from Tuesday through Thursday.

    "If there’s no 11th hour surprise," Coker said, "this race is looking right now like it’s over."

    The poll was conducted by MasonDixon Polling & Research, a nonpartisan, Jacksonville-based company.

    The margin of error overall is 3.5 percentage points.

    For GOP primary questions, the margin of error is 4.5 percentage points.
    "Poll: Romney holds big lead over Gingrich in Florida". But see "Tied in poll, Gringrich, Romney woo South Florida".

    Adam C. Smith writes that "RealClearPolitics keeps an average of polls, and it tells the story:"
    On Jan. 21, polls showed Mitt Romney with an average 18-point lead over Ging­rich in Florida. They were tied in Florida by Monday, Jan. 23, and a day later Gingrich led by more than 7 percentage points. The Gingrich lead dropped to 3 points the next day, and by Thursday, Romney was up 5. The RealClear average on Saturday showed Romney leading by 8 percentage points — and that did not include the new Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll showing Romney leading by 11 points.

    Part of Gingrich's decline had to do with Romney's strong Florida debates and Gingrich's lackluster ones, but mainly it's about TV ads. Nothing moves numbers in Florida like TV commercials, and Romney and his allies grounded Gingrich with overwhelmingly negative ads. Romney and his supporters have outspent Gingrich on TV by more than 3-1 in Florida.
    "GOP candidates ride campaign roller coaster". See also "Ahead in Florida, Romney turns focus back to Obama", "Undecided voters may hold key in Tuesday's primary", "Romney campaign changes tack to tackle Gingrich surge", "Early voting ends, more than 18,000 ballots cast in Orange County" and "Republicans increasingly worry volatile primary will hurt them in general election".

    Romney's "anti-immigrant" rhetoric will haunt

    Andres Oppenheimer: "Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich, under pressure from his party’s establishment, pulled a Spanish-language ad in which he had accused his rival Gov. Mitt Romney of being 'anti-immigrant.' But was the ad really unfair?"

    The question will not go away, and will haunt Republicans for the remainder of the race if Romney wins the Republican nomination. President Barack Obama’s campaign will surely make the most of it.

    Gingrich yanked the ad, which claimed that Romney is “the most anti-immigration candidate,” after conservative Hispanic Sen. Marco Rubio. complained that it was “inaccurate” and “inflammatory.” Gingrich said he was withdrawing that ad out of respect for the Florida Senator, but did not retract from the its content in later interviews and public debates leading to Tuesday’s Florida Republican primary.

    Hours later, in Thursday’s CNN debate, Romney responded that the ad was “simply inexcusable,” and defined himself as a “pro-legal immigration” candidate.

    So who is right? The fact is that both Romney and Gingrich have used a hard-line rhetoric against immigrants in the Iowa and South Carolina primaries, and have softened their rhetoric somewhat in recent days as their campaigns shifted to Florida, where 13 percent of voters are Hispanic. But pro-immigration advocates say Romney has taken the most extreme positions on immigration.
    "Romney’s ‘anti-immigrant’ label won’t go away".

    Gingrich's insider-outsider claims puzzle Fla-baggers

    "Newt Gingrich is presenting an increasingly contradictory picture to Florida voters, portraying himself as an anti-establishment outsider and a consummate Washington insider, often in the same speech. While some voters happily embrace one or both sides of Gingrich's story, others are puzzled and troubled by a message that seems at war with itself." "Some balking at Gingrich's insider-outsider claims".

    Meanwhile, "Newt Gingrich wins cheers from religious conservatives during Orlando-area appearance".

    "Our next ambassador to the moon"

    Myriam Marquez: "Newt, Mitt and our next ambassador to the moon".

    "Republicans fret about Romney"

    In the most recent debate, "Santorum drew fresh attention to a weakness that has long shadowed Romney. While he rails against "Obamacare," the similarities with the plan Romney implemented as governor of Massachusetts — "Romneycare," as Santorum called it — could deflate a contrast Republicans are eager to draw in the general election with President Obama."

    It's easy to imagine Democratic ads juxtaposing Romney's campaign rhetoric with his support of the plan in Massachusetts, which is widely popular among residents, and was a template for the federal law.
    "Republicans fret about Romney and his Mass. health plan".

    Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post editorial board writes, "Call it RomNewtObamacare".

    BTW, the budget

    Gary Fineout: "Higher tuition for college students. State worker layoffs. Cuts to hospitals. Yet at the same time, boosts in funding for public schools as well as money to cover the state’s popular back-to-school sales tax holiday. Those details were included in a nearly $69.2 billion proposed spending plan for 2012, released by the Republican-controlled Florida House on Friday. " "$69 billion House budget: Boosting and cutting spending".

    "Legacy of wrong guess"

    "Fla. prison closings are legacy of wrong guess".

    "Romney’s nagging deficit of charisma"

    Carl Hiaasen: "If you’re a Democrat, here’s what you’re thinking two days before the Florida’s Republican primary:"

    Pinch me.

    Because Newt Gingrich — defrocked speaker of the House, original godfather of government gridlock, two-faced philandering impeacher of Bill Clinton, fondler of six-figure Tiffany jewels is now in a dead heat with Mitt Romney.

    If you’re President Obama’s campaign managers, it’s too early for rapture but not for a few private cartwheels. Newt Gingrich? Really?

    Thank you, God.

    Those of us who wrote off the old Newtster underestimated his ability to schmooze $10 million out of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire sugar daddy of the Super Pac that’s bankrolling most of Gingrich’s TV attack ads.

    Simultaneously, we also underestimated Romney’s nagging deficit of charisma. ...

    Usually Mitt stands orderly and composed, doing his standard Mitt thing. Many Florida Republicans are underwhelmed, because suddenly it’s a close race. As a result, Romney has been forced to ramp up his rhetoric, which doesn’t come easy for the guy.
    "Dream candidate? Only for Democrats".

    Greer rushes to Romney's defense

    "Somehow we doubt this will make it into any Romney campaign news release, but former state GOP chairman Jim Greer came to Romney's defense last week after Gingrich said Romney's campaign is tied to Crist because they shared campaign strategists." "Greer backs Romney".

    Details, shmetails

    "Many GOP voters want more details on candidates' economic plans".

    Privatization shills "tilt the playing field"

    Aaron Deslatte: "Florida's Republican-dominated Legislature is fast-tracking the most sweeping prison privatization plan in the country. Lawmakers had to respond after a circuit judge last summer dared to declare their last attempt had unconstitutionally used the state's budget as a vehicle for implementing policy. ... But lawmakers eager for privatization efforts to succeed sometimes tilt the playing field too far in their favor." "Costs of running private prisons hard to quantify".

    District rankings are contrary to Scott's merit-based teacher pay

    The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The problem with standardized test scores, of course, is that they are simplistic. That's the problem with the ranking that Gov. Rick Scott released last week based solely on one year's performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test."

    "Scott's ranking showed which districts' students performed best, but it gave no insight into which district did the best job of improving student performance. Such a ranking is contrary to the controversial merit-based teacher pay system Scott urged the Legislature to adopt last year that at least aims to ascertain a teacher's value in improving students — not just their final test scores." "FCAT tells of progress, falling short".

    "Ad war not for faint of heart"

    "They are the kind of ads that splash 'blood money' on Mitt Romney's record or whip out Newt Gingrich's ethics 'baggage' without forcing a rival candidate to take responsibility for the message." "Campaign ad war not for faint of heart - or wallet".

    "An enigmatic, polarizing figure in Florida [with] approval ratings around the 30 percent mark"

    "As the Republican presidential candidates darted from city to city in Florida last week stitching up votes for Tuesday’s primary, Gov. Rick Scott stayed largely ensconced in the State Capitol, far from the fray, filling his days with business meetings, receptions and talk of his legislative agenda."

    Unlike Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina, who spent three days campaigning for Mitt Romney in her state before its recent primary, Mr. Scott has not endorsed a candidate and has scarcely acknowledged the feverish pitch that is now enveloping the race.

    He is doing this for practical reasons, political analysts say: Mr. Scott, 59, remains an enigmatic, polarizing figure in Florida, and his approval ratings float around the 30 percent mark, hardly a boon on the stump for any of the four candidates.

    But for Mr. Scott, a bedrock conservative and workaholic who approaches the job of governor as the corporate chief he once was, it is also a reflection of his aversion to the fine points and foolishness of politics, something he has set out to overcome in his second year in office. ...

    Mr. Scott possesses an unshakeable belief in the free market. It is what defines him. At a lunch on Thursday about economic development, he expressed disbelief over the attacks Mr. Romney has faced for being a successful private equity manager with Bain Capital.

    “We shouldn’t be allowing candidates to attack people in business,” he said. “We should be saying, ‘Gosh, that’s us.’ ”

    “If we don’t defend the free market,” he added, “they’ll pick on somebody. Now they’re picking on Bain Capital, then they’ll pick on somebody else.”
    "Rick Scott: Fla. governor tries to become politician".

    Candidates have largely bypassed Tampa Bay

    "Ask almost any veteran Florida campaign pro about the state's main political battleground and they'll invoke Tampa Bay — the largest media market, which accounts for about one in four Florida votes in the primary and the general election. You wouldn't know it by where the candidates have spent their precious campaign time this week. Romney and Gingrich each did a couple of Tampa Bay appearances around Monday's debate, but other than that the candidates have largely bypassed the area." "Snubbing Tampa Bay".

    Wingnuts at the wheel

    The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "It was late last year when the Florida Legislature served notice that this year's 60-day session was going to be all business. They weren't going to be spending valuable time on divisive social issues that often go nowhere — and often have no place being debated by lawmakers."

    The Editorial Board said that was smart thinking. We also said we were skeptical the Legislature could keep its hands off time-consuming social issues. We said we'd believe it when we saw it.

    The skepticism was well-founded. Last week, Republican lawmakers signed off on three abortion bills after a highly-charged two-and-a-half hour debate. The proposals — making it more difficult for women to have an abortion — would restrict third-trimester abortions, prohibit abortion after 20 weeks, and require abortion providers to sign an affidavit stating they're not performing the procedure because of gender or race selection by the woman.

    And there is also a proposal to authorizing public school districts to permit sectarian prayers of invocation.

    You can bet you haven't heard the end of this for the session. Like we said, you should have expected it.
    "Legislature goes off-point again".

    "Calendar crashing pays off"

    "Most of the ballots are still uncast in Florida’s presidential primary, but already Republicans here are declaring: mission accomplished. It’s not that they suffer from an overabundance of confidence about defeating President Barack Obama in the general election. For Florida Republicans, the early primary is a victory in itself – the culmination of a long campaign to upset the presidential nominating calendar and seize huge influence over the selection of a 2012 nominee." "Florida's calendar crashing pays off".

    The Daytona Beach News-Journal editors: "Give Florida credit. When you want an exciting election, the Sunshine State delivers. The Republican primary on Jan. 31 promises to be a barn-burner. The victor could very well go on to win the nomination." "Volatile primary could have decisive impact".

    "Halt this land grab"

    The Tampa Bay Times editors: "It would be foolish to deny the public access to hundreds of thousands of acres of waterfront property in a misguided attempt to clarify where state waterways end and private property begins. But that would happen under bills working their way through the Legislature. More civic-minded lawmakers should halt this land grab that could cut off access for hunting, fishing, swimming and other public activities." "State's ill-advised grab of public land".

    The best Scott can do?

    Fred Grimm: "Normally the grand opening of an eyeglass store at a suburban mall on Kendall Drive would not be so very grand."

    But this was less than the usual misnomer, given that Rick Scott himself showed up in all his gubernatorial grandness, wielding ceremonial scissors the size of hedge clippers. As the governor went at the red ribbon across the shop entrance like a line item in his education budget, Scott bestowed the prestige and the grandeur of his great office on America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses. ...

    Admittedly, the press turnout was sparse. ... More police than press loitered on the sidewalk outside. ...

    “You ask me, it’s none of the governor’s business,” suggested Gonzalo Cabarga of Ideal Optician, just down the road from the governor’s shindig. Cabarga could name four other competitors along this stretch of Kendall Drive.

    "Jobs," Scott explained. He said the chain has promised to open 20 stores in Florida over the next year, hiring 200 employees. Scott said America’s Best was a fine example of new businesses attracted to Florida by his philosophy of "low taxes and less regulation." ...

    But 200 new retail jobs in an intensely competitive field like optometry, with independents like Cabarga already fighting it out with chains like Visionworks, Pearle, For Eyes and big box retailers, one might wonder whether Florida will actually net 200 new jobs. Or will these 200 jobs come out of the hide of another retailer? Scott, however, insisted that the coming of the America’s Best chain only reflected a resumption of the state’s growth. ...

    Cabarga shrugged off this new business threat. He said about 30 percent of his trade comes from dissatisfied customers of the big chains. “They come to me and say, 'I can’t see out of these new glasses.'"

    But Cabarga doesn’t much appreciate Scott (the governor of all the people maybe, but not all the optometrists) using his office to pitch the new competitor down the street. He called Friday’s exercise "a waste of taxpayer money."
    "Maybe Florida’s governor needs glasses".

    SunRail groundbreaking

    "A ceremonial groundbreaking Friday in Altamonte Springs kicked off the construction phase of SunRail, the commuter train line that will eventually roll on tracks from DeLand to Osceola County." "SunRail breaks ground in Altamonte Springs".

    Scott bastardizes Niemoller quotation

    "It's hard to imagine any previous Florida governor keeping as low a profile during presidential primary week as Gov. Rick Scott did last week."

    Probably just as well, since few people noticed last week when Scott paraphrased the famous Holocaust saying by Martin Niemoller — "Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew …"[*] — to describe criticism of Romney's record in venture capitalism.

    "We've got to defend the freedom of the free market," Scott said after paraphrasing the quote. "If we don't defend the free market, they'll pick on somebody. Now they're picking on Bain Capital, then they'll pick on somebody else."

    Scott press secretary Lane Wright later told the Associated Press that the comment was used to make a point, and should not been seen as a Holocaust comparison.
    "Missing in action".

    - - - - - - - - - -
    *Here is the entire quotation:
    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.
    "Martin Niemöller: 'First they came for the Socialists...'".

    That Scott would bastardize these words by Niemoller - particularly in defense of vulture capitalism, of all things - is enough to make one cringe.

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