Romney "self-deports" in bumbling, stumbling Florida debate
In the first of two debates before Florida's Jan. 31 primary, Mitt Romney tried, but failed to take the edge off of Newt Gingrich's post-South Carolina lead in the GOPer primary.
In one of the very few remarkable moments in the "debate", Romney magically solved the problem of illegal immigration: "Romney was asked to explain how he could say he does not want to round up illegal immigrants but also say they should have to go back to home countries, then apply for citizenship."
"So, if you don't deport them, how do you send them home?" Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam C. Smith asked."Mitt Romney enters fray at Tampa GOP debate, unleashes attack on Newt Gingrich".
"Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here," Romney replied.
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "It was a more aggressive Romney who consistently portrayed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a Washington insider with too much baggage to be elected. The normally pugnacious Gingrich spent more time playing defense, signaling the next seven days before the Florida primary will focus more on character than on policy." "Romney punches back".
Kevin Derby: "Gingrich and Romney took off the gloves, often engaging in personal attacks as moderator Brian Williams of NBC News often focused on them -- with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas in the background." When "asked about his attacks [on Gingrich] after pledging to stay positive, Romney noted that he had learned a lesson after his loss in South Carolina and that he would not be idle when he drew the heat from the other candidates." "Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney Clash in Tampa Debate".
John Romano thinks Romney flopped at playing pit bull, writing that "we had Romney in the uncomfortable role of tough guy in Monday night's debate at the University of South Florida."
He said Gingrich "resigned in disgrace'' as House speaker, using a line that was already old before he repeated it three more times. Romney hammered him for being an "influence peddler'' in Washington, and for the absurdity of receiving a $1.6-million salary from Freddie Mac for what Gingrich said was work as a "historian.''"Did the fighter's stance suit Romney?"
There were times when Romney's jabs connected, and times when they seemed too scripted. There were times when Gingrich appeared flustered, and times when he fought back effectively.
Remarkably, there were times when they both made Rick Santorum seem more presidential.
And when it was all done, I'm just not sure Romney's roundhouses helped solve his greatest problem.
In a lot of ways, Romney is the Republican version of Al Gore. The son of a politician who surpassed his father in fame, but never quite graduated to beloved. ...
Romney can take his swipes in speeches and debates, and he can raise his eyebrows at the appropriate moment for a good laugh. But playing pit bull for the camera is not his style.
And while voters may not be versed in every debate topic, they're pretty good at spotting a candidate who isn't committed to what he is saying.
To a large degree, elections are about being likable. Being steady. Being someone Americans can trust while they're going about their lives.
With that in mind, Romney shouldn't waste too much time trying to define his opponent. Instead, he had better hurry up and define himself.
More: "Reporter's Notebook: GOP Presidential Debate in Tampa", "Heated charges, counter-charges in Florida debate", "Mitt Romney strikes back at Newt Gingrich in Florida debate", "Romney launches attacks on Gingrich at GOP debate in Tampa", "Terri Schiavo case a topic for GOP presidential candidates at debate" and "Fact checks from the debate".
Meanwhile, "Hundreds of protesters rally outside GOP debate at USF".
No one seems to care about Ricky
"Scott talks Florida primary on Fox News".
"Seemed rock-solid a week ago"
Derek Catron writes about a Romney "campaign that seemed rock-solid barely more than a week ago"
George Bernardo showed up for Sunday's Mitt Romney rally in a New York Giants football jersey."Despite Romney's Florida advantages, some still undecided".
For such a fan to risk missing the kickoff to the game that would decide if his team goes to the Super Bowl, it would have been easy to assume Bernardo was as big a fan of Romney as he is quarterback Eli Manning.
That assumption would be wrong.
"I just want to hear what Mitt Romney has to say," the Port Orange doctor said, saying he was having trouble deciding between the former Massachusetts governor and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
His colleague, Greg Parr, agreed, saying later that the speech left him unmoved.
"I'll support whoever the Republican nominee is," said Parr, a urologist with offices in Port Orange. "But I think Gingrich is the candidate who would be the most effective in Washington."
The doctors' ambivalence toward Romney reveals the fissures in a campaign that seemed rock-solid barely more than a week ago. While most of the 2,000 people who rallied with Romney at the Allstar Building Materials lumberyard in Ormond Beach on Sunday were ardent supporters, it was Gingrich who took South Carolina on Saturday -- and the momentum that will be crucial to his hopes in next Tuesday's Florida primary.
Related: "Ormond Beach crowd greets Romney like front-runner". Background: "Early voting out of the gate; Romney heads south to Ormond after S.C. slide".
"Florida's story of Republican dominance"
"It's an important week for Florida Republicans, so it's a good time to trace the beginning of the dominance of the modern GOP in the state." "Florida's story of Republican dominance starts with a Democrat".
"Florida presidential primary tracker for Tuesday".
"Preliminaries are over ... time for the main event"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "The preliminaries are over. Now it's time for the main event."
Next Tuesday night the nation's eyes will be fixed on the returns from Florida's Republican presidential primary. The first three events on the GOP's 2012 nominating calendar -- the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries -- reduced the Republican field but didn't come close to identifying the eventual nominee. Three contests, three winners. It's up to Sunshine State Republicans to establish a real front-runner in the race for the nomination."Florida will choose the GOP front-runner". See also "Cerabino: Get ready for a weeklong barrage of GOP attack ads".
Florida's Jan. 31 primary has loomed large on the GOP calendar for months. But the state's importance isn't tied to state leaders' decision to push the primary date into January -- a move that caused the national GOP to take away half of the state's convention delegates. Florida is critical because it's a large, diverse, bellwether state -- it can go either "red" or "blue" in presidential elections.
Editors show their hands
The Tampa Bay Times editors show their endorsement hands this morning:
Expect more trash talking than policy discussions this week. Republicans gambling on Gingrich are backing an ethically challenged candidate suddenly flush with more casino money. First billionaire casino executive Sheldon Adelson contributed $5 million to a so-called super PAC that aired ads in South Carolina blasting Romney's work at Bain Capital, the private equity firm. Now Aldeson's wife is giving the political action committee, Winning Our Future, another $5 million so Gingrich can play in Florida. It seems casino interests trying to buy the Florida Legislature to get permission to build mega-casinos in the state are trying to buy something even bigger.
"Florida's penchant for being the nation's tattooed neighbor"
Daniel Ruth: "Given Florida's penchant for being the nation's tattooed neighbor who walks around the yard in a Speedo, swilling a beer and blaring Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, do we really want to sell the naming rights to our public facilities?"
Let's face it. When it comes to understated elegance, Florida ranks somewhere between Mr. T and a Kardashian."Florida brand names and lawmakers' games".
But that didn't stop state Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, from pushing a bill that would open the door to the corporate branding of everything from highways to school cafeterias to hiking trails.
The dignity train left a long time ago. No good will come from this.
"Florida parents are taking sides over a controversial piece of legislation known as the parent trigger. The buzzed-about bill would let a majority of parents at low-performing public schools demand dramatic changes at the school, or even have it converted into a publicly financed, privately managed charter school. Similar laws have already passed in California and Texas, sparking debate and controversy along the way." "Critics say ‘parent trigger’ bill favors charters over public schools".
Privatization made EZ
"More-expensive inmates shifted from prisons to be privatized".
Up at the house
"Rep. Allen West of Broward County organized a panel in Washington to call attention for more blacks to join the Republican party." "West urges more blacks to join GOP".
Internet sales tax
"Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, chair the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, is drafting a committee bill to enact the tax, including sales tax cuts or holidays to keep the bill 'revenue neutral.' Before finalizing the bill, though, she wants to make sure there is support for the measure in the House." "Internet sales tax bill hinges on House support".
Early voting scaled back
"Several counties scale back hours of early voting in primary".
"It used to be pious baloney. Now it's just desperate baloney"
"Riding his big win in the South Carolina primary, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told a Tampa crowd Monday that he's heard former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is stepping up his criticism of him, with more likely to come."
"I prefer personally not to believe it," Gingrich said at a rally in the parking lot of The River Church, east of Tampa. "But on the other hand, if you've been campaigning for six years, and you begin to see it slip away, you get desperate, and when you get desperate you say almost anything, and I think (at) tonight's debate he'll probably stretch the barrier.""Gingrich in Tampa: Romney's 'desperate,' will say anything".
To prepare for the debate at the University of South Florida, Gingrich said he had been memorizing old debate lines, like Ronald Reagan's "There you go again."
"I think I'll finally convince him I really am a Reaganite if I use President Reagan's line," the former House speaker said. "This is such baloney. It used to be pious baloney. Now it's just desperate baloney."
Health insurance exchange on the horizon
"Exchanges are centerpiece of federal health care reform. States without an operational exchange by January 2014 will be forced to use one run by the federal government." "House looking at establishing a health insurance exchange".
"Lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee, after a contentious three-hour hearing Monday, supported the two bills -- SB 2036 and SB 2038 -- aimed at privatizing some correctional facilities and outlining how such efforts for other state agencies could be handled in the future."
Before a room packed with correctional employees opposed to the bills, senators on the committee back the effort, saying privatization will help the Legislature working to craft a budget that faces a $1.4 billion shortfall from the current year."Privatizing Prisons Backed in Senate Rules Committee". See also "Privatization measures advance in the Senate".
Fred Grimm explains how it works:
The private companies get the contract first. The details and the cost-benefit analysis and the public discourse comes later. Both the First Amendment Foundation and Florida Tax Watch, not always the best of friends, have both gone berserk over the notion of Florida selling off its assets in secret. Sen. Gwen Margolis of Miami dubbed it the “after the fact” bill. “Extremely disturbing,” she called two privatization bills, though she wasn’t sure that either could be derailed."Tattoos and other privatization fantasies".
Best of all, for someone like me, eager to cash in on the privatization craze, the rules would apply to any agency — toll roads, state parks, state cops. Me, I’ve got my eye on the university system. Don’t think of them as students. Think of them as commodities.
"A thank-you note in the form of a high paying job"
"A panel of lawmakers voted Monday to crack down on perceived sweetheart deals that lawmakers get with public colleges and universities as a result of the legislative service. The Senate Ethics and Elections Subcommittee voted to forward legislation that would prohibit lawmakers from taking any job with a state college or university during their elected term and for two years after their legislative service. The idea is to stop lawmakers from tucking special projects or money into the state budget for their chosen institution in hopes of getting a thank-you note in the form of a high paying job." "Ethics bill would end special deals for lawmakers". See also: "Ban on University Employees as Legislators Squeaks through First Committee".
Arenas with accommodations for homeless people?
"SB 816 would take back state money given to sports teams to build arenas if the facilities don't include accommodations for homeless people or the teams don't contract for a nearby shelter. An amendment also would fine teams $125,000 each time they black out local TV access for games that are not sold out." "Sen. Bennett calls foul on sports teams' homeless shelter violations". See also "Florida legislation would force taxpayer-funded arenas to operate as shelters or make refunds".
All abortion, all the time
"Capitol Buzz: Lawmakers to debate abortion". More: "Three abortion bills to be taken up in state Legislature".