Randy Schultz: "One week ago, Republicans in Florida probably were excited about their decision to move up the state's presidential primary. This morning, you wonder whether they're having second thoughts."
If Democratic primary voters have moved to the left in the past decade, Republican voters have moved even further to the right, especially since the financial panic of 2008. So whoever wins the GOP nomination must move further back to the center to attract the moderates and independents who decide elections. The fastest-growing party in Florida is No Party Affiliation."To win Florida now, Romney could lose it in November".
Which brings us to Mitt Romney, Florida and immigration.
Mr. Romney would like to disown the federal health care law that was fathered by the health care legislation he signed as governor of Massachusetts. The editorial on the opposite page explains why he can't. So that's a problem with conservative Republicans who dominate primaries. Social conservatives recall that as governor Mr. Romney pledged to protect abortion rights, though he now claims to support a "personhood" amendment. Last summer, Mr. Romney said human activity is causing global warming.
So to appease the right wing of the GOP, Mr. Romney apparently has decided to sound like a crazy person on immigration, sounding nothing like the cool, CEO-type candidate he claims to be. Mr. Romney called his policy "self-deportation," which sounds similar to the attempts in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama to hound illegal immigrants out of states and out of the country by allowing local police to check immigration status.
That may thrill tea party voters, but it terrifies Republicans who see their party losing the fastest-growing bloc in the country. That bloc is especially important in Florida, where the Hispanic vote is 13 percent of the electorate, equal to the black vote. Hispanic registration has more than doubled in a decade.
Yet Republicans still pander to Cuban exile voters in Miami, even though Florida's Hispanic electorate is much more diverse. In the Orlando area, new arrivals tend to be Puerto Rican and more Democratic. Unlike the Miami crowd, most Cuban-Americans in the Tampa area welcome President Obama's policy change that has opened up travel to Cuba.
Polls: "Romney has a better chance of beating President Barack Obama in Florida"
"Republicans all over Florida have fallen in love with Newt Gingrich in the last week, but Mitt Romney might make for a better marriage. The evidence: Two new polls showing Romney has a better chance of beating President Barack Obama in Florida."
A Quinnipiac University poll of likely Florida voters released Thursday showed Romney and Obama tied at 45 percent each. The Democratic president holds a 50 percent to 39 percent lead over Gingrich. A Suffolk University/WSVN-Ch. 7 poll found Romney leading Obama 47 percent to 42 percent with Obama ahead of Gingrich 44 percent to 38 percent."New polls: Romney stronger Florida challenger to Obama". See also "Quinnipiac Poll: Florida Becoming Romney Territory Again".
"Just four days before the nation's first big-state presidential primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney opens up a 38 - 29 percent lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich among Republican likely voters in Florida, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released [yesterday]. Only 6 percent are undecided, but 32 percent say they might change their mind by Tuesday."
This compares to results of a January 25 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN- uh-pe-ack) University, showing Romney with 36 percent of likely primary voters to Gingrich's 34 percent. Wednesday's survey showed Gingrich ahead 40 - 34 percent among voters surveyed after the South Carolina primary."January 27, 2012 - Romney Pulls Ahead In See-Saw Florida GOP Primary, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Men Shift From Gingrich To Romney".
In [yesterday's] survey, men back Romney 36 - 29 percent, a shift from January 25, when men backed Gingrich 37 - 33 percent. Romney leads 40 - 30 percent among women, virtually unchanged. ...
From January 24 - 26, Quinnipiac University surveyed 580 Republican likely primary voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Florida’s Republican Primary has turned into a classic political donnybrook that upends the expectations of those who twice counted out Newt Gingrich and saw Mitt Romney as the inevitable winner. Though Mr. Romney has pulled ahead in the latest polls, the race gives candidates a chance to make the case for themselves before a far larger group of voters who mirror the nation’s demographics better than in any of the previous contest states." "Romney versus Gingrich". Related: "Tied in poll, Gingrich, Romney woo South Florida".
Poll: Nelson faces a tough re-election campaign
"Sen. Bill Nelson faces a tough re-election campaign in a year when Florida voters are dissatisfied with the economy, Congress and President Barack Obama, according to a new Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald/Times/Bay News 9 poll." "Poll: Sen. Nelson holds slim lead in Senate race" (Jacksonville-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research conducted the poll).
Florida's voter suppression schemes under the microscope
"Election experts and Democratic voting advocates told U.S. senators Friday that a Republican-backed overhaul of Florida election laws will suppress Democratic turnout in the nation's biggest battleground state next fall."
Ann McFall of Volusia County criticized the law for not allowing more variety in early voting sites such as churches. And she complained of being forced to "turn in" friends and neighbors for turning in voter registration forms after the required 48 hours, including New Smyrna Beach teacher Jill Cicciarelli, who got a warning letter from the state."Republicans have consistently defended the changes as necessary to maintain integrity in the elections process and reduce fraud, even though there has been scant evidence of fraud in recent years, according to the Department of State."
"This is a bad law," said McFall, who predicted students at historically black Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach would be caught by the provisional ballot rule because of its traditionally high number of address changes on Election Day.
Mike Ertel of Seminole County [a bit player in the 2000 scam in Seminole County predictably] defended the law, saying it is "vital" to require provisional ballots for voters who move across county lines to ensure that they vote once. He accused critics of the bill of "fear-mongering." Observers seated behind him hissed as he defended the law. ...
Gov. Rick Scott, who signed House Bill 1355 into law last May, was invited to testify but declined to appear, and when Durbin voiced disappointment at Scott's absence, people in the audience laughed.
"Today Bill Nelson and his liberal crony, Dick Durbin, are in Florida to tell us common sense laws that protect our system of democracy from fraud are a bad thing," Republican Party of Florida chairman Lenny Curry said. "Florida's new law represents a reasonable check and balance that invites maximum participation and ensures every Floridian who has the right to vote can do so with confidence in the process.""Senators question Florida law".
"GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney told participants at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference in Miami Friday that as president he would protect and expand legal immigration that conforms to the needs of the business community." "Romney at Hispanic Leadership event: Expand immigration in the U.S., trade in Latin America".
"Bain Capital's Florida record"
"There's no question that Romney grew rich while running Bain Capital, a Boston-based private equity firm that was hugely profitable during the 1980s and 1990s. And there's no debate that he's a more experienced businessman than his Republican rivals or President Obama. But Romney's record as a creator of jobs is a murkier matter."
The company: JTech Communications of Boca Raton"Romney's record on jobs not all rosy".
What happened: JTech had 50 to 70 workers when Bain Capital bought 60 percent of the company in 1995. When Bain Capital sold its stake in 2000, the number had risen to 200. When JTech was sold again in 2005, the employee count had fallen to 85.
The company: Dade Behring of Deerfield, Ill.
What happened: Amid a series of mergers, Bain Capital closed Miami plants employing 850 workers. Dade Behring filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 2002, and later was sold for more than $6 billion.
"The Florida House of Representatives on Friday released a $69.2 billion budget that frees up money for schools and avoids the deep cuts to hospitals proposed by Gov. Rick Scott." "House budget spreads cuts across agencies". See also "House budget includes PECO patch" and "Conservation land-buying cut out of House's proposed budget".
Republican debate carnival
The The Tampa Times' Daniel Ruth: "Under the big top at Republican debate".
Suppression advocates hiding under their desks
"[C]ourt documents reveal that four legislators are fighting against testifying in a legal challenge to the state’s controversial elections law passed last year."
Elections law sponsors Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Rep. Dennis Baxley — as well as Sen. Paula Dockery and Rep. Seth McKeel — have decided they do not want to talk about the law and their role in its passage. Dockery, R-Lakeland, was among two GOP senators who voted against the controversial bill last year."Four legislators fight being deposed in elections law legal challenge".
Five state senators and five state House members were issued subpoenas by a law firm representing the League of Women Voters and the National Council of La Raza last November. Both groups have intervened in the case of State of Florida vs. United States of America and Eric H. Holder Jr. Holder is the U.S. attorney general.
Blah, blah, blah
"Dozens of Florida's most experienced political hands are closely divided on whether Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney will win Florida's critical presidential primary Tuesday." "Florida insiders divided on who will win Florida presidential primary".
Rubio wows 'em at the Doral Golf Resort
"After bashing each other in the final debate before the crucial Florida primary, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich traveled south to Miami on Friday to woo Hispanic power brokers."
But before either candidate could utter a word, they were upstaged."In Miami, Gingrich and Romney upstaged by Rubio".
Sen. Marco Rubio gave sweeping remarks on immigration — the kind of personal, stirring speech Gingrich and Romney could only wish they had delivered.
Neither Gingrich, his Florida momentum stalled after his commanding South Carolina victory last week, nor Romney, riding a wave after his strong performance in a Jacksonville debate Thursday, could match the reception Rubio received in the Doral Golf Resort & Spa at a conference of the Hispanic Leadership Network, former Gov. Jeb Bush's organization.
Of the two GOP primary frontrunners, the crowd of several hundred — almost all of them Hispanic — clearly preferred Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.
Rivera files Foreign Legion bill
"Rep. David Rivera introduced a bill to give undocumented immigrants legal residency, so long as they join the military." "Rivera introduces a military-only version of DREAM Act".
Darling cuts and runs
"Doug Darling, executive director of the state's main agency for job creation, resigned abruptly from his own job this week, six months after Gov. Rick Scott appointed him."
In a concise letter to Scott, Darling said Thursday he was leaving his post as executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity for "personal reasons" and that his last day would be Tuesday."Key Rick Scott job adviser quits six months into the job". See also "Darling resigns as DEO chief".
The circumstances surrounding Darling's resignation were still unclear Friday, and lawmakers said they had no reason to expect the sudden departure. ...
Darling's office faced some criticism in November after it released several documents indicating private businesses had failed to create thousands of promised jobs, despite receiving financial incentives over the past 15 years. Additionally, some information had been omitted from the release, and lawmakers and media outlets had requested more details.
Lawsuit protections for MDs
"A top priority for the Florida Medical Association has now made it through two committees in the Florida House." "House moving ahead with lawsuit protections for physicians".
GOPers prefer absentee ballots
"Broward Republicans lag in early voting, prefer absentee ballots".
Super PAC attack
"Super PAC attack: A Super PAC supporting GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich on Friday began airing an ad in Florida, accusing his top rival, Mitt Romney, of being involved in a massive Medicare fraud scheme." "Campaign roundup: super PAC attack".
Romney sidestepping "Personhood"
"Personhood USA — the group behind attempts to define life as beginning at the moment of conception — will co-host its third forum with GOP presidential candidates at a church in Winter Park, Fla., on Saturday. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is not expected to attend." "Third presidential personhood forum slated for Saturday; Romney will not attend".
Latin Builders Association likes Santorum
"GOP primary hopeful Rick Santorum won important support in the Hispanic business community Friday, when the Latin Builders Association, based in Miami, endorsed his candidacy over that of frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich." "Santorum wins Latin Builders' endorsement in Miami". Related: "Santorum, Romney impress Hispanic groups in Miami; Gingrich not as much".
"Kathy G. Lubbers says it hasn’t been difficult finding her place in the world — a world in which everyone points her out as the daughter of Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker now fighting it out for the Republican presidential nomination." "Gingrich daughter runs campaign from Key Biscayne".
Fla-baggers make noise
"This time Mitt Romney brought the noise to Central Florida — telling vibrant crowds in Cape Canaveral and Orlando on Friday he will give America sound economic policies that President Barack Obama does not understand." "Boisterous crowds bring energy to Mitt Romney campaign in Central Florida".
Anti-choice crowd runs wild in Tally
"Conservative Florida lawmakers who last year passed a landmark bill that requires women seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound performed are pushing to go further in 2012." "Conservative Florida lawmakers consider abortion waiting period, other restrictions".
Mack Attack backfires
"U.S. Rep. Connie Mack hit the campaign trail this week to bash Newt Gingrich for saying little about his profitable ties to mortgage giant Freddie Mac — a potent issue in foreclosure-racked Florida."
But when it comes to Mack's profits from Freddie Mac's cousin agency, Fannie Mae, the congressman was mum."Freddie Mac attack boomerangs on Connie Mack".
"What's important here is what Newt Gingrich did for Freddie Mac," said Mack, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Fort Myers who is campaigning for Romney.
The Romney campaign made Gingrich's estimated $1.6 million Freddie Mac consulting work an issue because it was a two-fer: It showed Gingrich was a Washington insider and it has the potential to stoke resentment in a state where one in 360 properties is in foreclosure.
But the attack also had a boomerang effect.
At Thursday's Republican presidential debate, Gingrich said Romney had made $1 million from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae bonds. Romney responded by noting that Gingrich also had invested with the mortgage giant.
Mack and his wife, California Rep. Mary Bono Mack, have turned a profit as well off Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored enterprise that, along with Freddie Mac, is blamed for stoking the mortgage crisis.
"'Self loathing,' Log Cabin Republicans struggle"
"Called 'self loathing,' Log Cabin Republicans struggle for respect in the LGBT community".
Fair Districts? Never mind
"A House committee gave the final tweaks to the state's redistricting maps Friday and set them up for a final vote next week despite strong criticism from the Fair Districts coalition, which helped bring the new standards into law." "Redistricting maps head to Florida House floor, critics cry foul".