"Barack Obama starts the general election with a 5 point advantage over Mitt Romney in Florida, 50-45. This is the biggest lead Obama's had in Florida over the course of five polls [Public Policy Polling]'s done in the state since the beginning of 2011."
The main reason for Obama's enhanced standing in the state is that his own popularity is on the rise. 51% of voters now approve of him to 45% who disapprove. His numbers with Republicans are unchanged from the last time we polled the state but he's now getting strong marks from independents (57/37, up from 43/50) and Democrats are unifying around him as the general election approaches (he's at 86/11, up from 73/20)."In the head to head with Romney Obama wins independents 53-34, while each candidate gets a pretty even amount of support from his own party with Obama at 84% of the Democratic vote and Romney at 83% of the GOP vote. Obama is up 69-21 with young voters and 52-37 with Hispanics."
[Public Policy Polling] also looked at how four prominent Florida Republicans- Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Allen West, and Rick Scott- might affect the race as Vice Presidential candidates. Only Bush has a positive impact for Romney, bringing the race within three points at 49-46. Bush continues to be a popular figure in the state with 52% of voters viewing him favorably to 40% with a negative opinion.
"Obama doing well in Florida". More: "Obama Leads Romney in PPP Poll of Florida But Jeb Bush Narrows the Gap".
Rubio's drawn the most attention as a potential Veep pick, but with him on the ticket Romney actually drops from 45% to 43% with Obama staying at 50%. There's not much evidence Rubio would be able to draw Hispanic voters to Romney. In the straight Obama/Romney match Obama leads 52-37 with Hispanics and in the Obama/Biden v. Romney/Rubio match Obama still leads 52-37 with Hispanics. Rubio is not an overwhelmingly popular figure in Florida with 43% of voters approving of him to 41% who disapprove.
West and Scott aren't serious VP possibilities anyway, but they'd both have a negative impact on Romney in Florida. With West on the ticket Obama's lead expands to 10 points at 50-40 and with Scott in the mix it goes even larger to 11 points at 51-40.
The "Maestro" foundering
"In a series of one-two-three blows, George LeMieux's Senate campaign has been staggered by anemic fundraising, the specter of a big-name Republican jumping into the race and new court documents that make him a witness in the criminal case against the former governor's handpicked Republican Party of Florida chairman."
LeMieux's campaign got even tougher this week when Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said he was considering entering the Republican race to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
"LeMieux's troubled run". See also "Jeff Atwater ponders run for U.S. Senate" and "Insiders predict Connie Mack would be GOP nominee, if no one new enters".
As a statewide officeholder and solid fundraiser, Atwater would pose an immediate threat to Mack's top-dog status and would further threaten the viability of LeMieux's candidacy.
"Amid ongoing anxiety about the Republican field for U.S. Senate, Jeff Atwater is drawing interest and enthusiasm from conservative activists across Florida." "Conservatives Make Case for Jeff Atwater Senate Bid".
"Scott on Tuesday signed what he called an 'education budget' that adds $1 billion in public school spending and allows higher tuition at state colleges and universities."
Scott also vetoed nearly $143 million in line-item projects championed by fellow Republicans in the Legislature that he said did not benefit the state as a whole or weren't worth the investment. He vetoed grants for autism, Alzheimer's care, disadvantaged youths, clinics, courthouse, road and seaport improvements, the Florida Aquarium in Tampa and a Bay of Pigs museum in Miami.
"But education groups and their Democratic allies in the Legislature said the budget does not make up for five consecutive years of cuts to K-12 spending, including $1.3 billion in cuts Scott approved last year."
The $70 billion budget includes a 5 percent tuition increase at state colleges. But Scott sent shock waves through the state university system by suggesting that the Board of Governors limit universities' tuition hikes to 5 percent as well, though universities can seek a tuition increase of up to 15 percent. Universities had been counting on higher tuition rates to help offset $300 million in state funding cuts.
They also said the $1 billion "increase" is not an increase at all, because it must pay for an influx of more than 30,000 new students, a decline in property tax revenue for schools and loss of federal stimulus money for education.
"Gov. Rick Scott signs $70 billion state budget after $142.7 million in vetoes". See also "Rick Scott vetoes less spending this year", "Scott signs $69.9 billion budget, cuts fewer projects than last year", "Scott Vetoes Hit Hard on State's Health-Care Facilities", "More than $12 million in water projects vetoed, but Scott keeps $5.6 million for St. Johns River", "Gov. Scott approves nearly $70 billion budget", "Scott signs budget, vetoes $142 million", "Teacher’s union says education budget keeps spending at 2007 levels", "State funding for county survives", "", "" "Scott keeps local [Southwest Florida] projects in $70B state budget", "Winners and losers in Gov. Scott's budget" and "Scott keeps biggest turkey in state budget".
The $150 per pupil increase means the average state spending per student will be $6,357 for 2012-13. Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, a teachers union, called the budget "a dismal failure" and chastised Scott for claiming it helps education.
"He has failed to point out that this budget restores less than a third of what was cut from last year's education budget and that our schools are still miles behind the funding levels in our state five years ago,'' Ford said. School districts across the state are considering layoffs of teachers and other personnel and curtailing arts and sports programs, the union leader said.
"Tea Party Activists, Tax Watchdog Groups Pleased with Scott Budget".
The Tampa Tribune editors: "At the same time Gov. Rick Scott signed a budget Tuesday slashing higher education by $300 million, he let slip through $33 million for Florida Polytechnic University, a school with no students, faculty or legitimate purpose." "Polytechnic nonsense".
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board: "Scott let stand a $5 million allocation for a single rowing center in Sarasota County, yet vetoed a $2 million appropriation by the Legislature for Florida's legal aid organizations. ... Nonprofit legal aid organizations help Floridians who cannot afford to hire a lawyer to defend themselves in civil matters, such as foreclosures, debt collections and family-law cases. ... State funding has been modest or nonexistent. Scott vetoed a $1 million legislative appropriation last year." "Scott's split decision on budget".
"Republicans in Tallahassee continue to ignore reality"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Standing before kindergarteners in suburban Jacksonville on Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott tried to recast himself as a champion of public education."
The backdrop for his signing of the 2012-13 state budget was meant to highlight spending an additional $1 billion on public schools next year. But the reality is Florida still will spend less next year per student than it did before Scott took office in 2011 and roughly $800 less than in 2007. The Legislature — and Scott — are still shortchanging the future by insisting on special interest tax breaks rather than adequately funding Florida's needs."Scott claimed anew that every budget decision he made was based on ensuring Floridians got a return on their investment."
Yet the governor — despite championing the 11 public universities as the state's best economic engine — accepted the Legislature's shortsighted scheme to raid $150 million in reserves from the universities to cushion a $300 million cut in state funding.
"Sound bites won't ease budget pain".
In the past five years, Republican legislators have cut higher education funding by one-fourth even as students have paid dramatically more. ...
Republicans in Tallahassee continue to ignore the reality that Florida can't keep cutting taxes for special interests ($134 million alone next year) and still expect there's enough left for real investment. Acting the part of education governor is no substitute for true advocacy. Until Scott goes beyond sound bites to demand lawmakers make significant new investment in Floridians and their future, his staged performances don't square with reality.
Deniers in a dither
"Poll: Global warming at root of recent wild weather".
Tampa "easy fodder for political pundits"
"Mayor Bob Buckhorn wants to put the city's best foot forward for the Republican National Convention, but he might have stepped in it with his 'clean zone.' The plan to control what protesters wear and carry during the RNC has made the city easy fodder for political pundits and has given free-speech advocates fits." "Tampa seeks clean break from RNC protest zone".
Serial entrepreneur in action
"The U.S. Department of Labor has notified Savtira Corp. -- the latest company founded by serial entrepreneur Timothy Roberts -- that it may be fined and could face legal action if the Tampa technology player does not reimburse its employees for back pay." "Labor Department cracks down on back pay owed by Tampa tech firm Savtira".
Alzheimer's initiatives, mental health projects and rape crisis programs vetoed by Scott
"Hospital projects, Alzheimer's initiatives, mental health programs and rape crisis programs were vetoed by the governor on Tuesday." "Scott's health care vetoes hit young, old across the state".
"Florida public school students in the midst of high-stakes testing". Related: "Honesty pledge on FCAT enrages parents".
Legislature's shilling puts homeowners in jeopardy
"The Florida Legislature's attempt to speed building permits and kickstart construction has inadvertently put the state's homeowners in jeopardy of being booted out of the National Flood Insurance Program. Without flood insurance, you can't get a mortgage in much of Florida. The impact on housing, construction and the state's fragile real estate market would be devastating." "Florida flood insurance put at risk".
Women's pay equity in Florida
"Working women in Florida make 80 cents for every $1 paid to men, according to a report Tuesday based on U.S. Census data. That puts Florida 11th among all states in women's pay equity, according to the ranking by the National Partnership for Women & Families." "Women paid 80% vs. men in Florida".
Wasserman Schultz spanks Motor City Madman
"Wasserman Schultz blasts rocker Ted Nugent's comments".
Rivera gets a pass from Florida cops, FBI investigation continues
"U.S. Rep. David Rivera will not face criminal charges following an 18-month investigation of his personal and campaign finances by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to sources close to the probe."
Although records released late Monday show FDLE last year suspected Rivera of “possible criminal and ethical violations,” ranging from campaign fraud to falsifying financial disclosure forms, prosecutors have concluded that they cannot charge the Miami congressman with any crimes because of ambiguities in the state’s campaign finance laws and a shortened statute of limitations that barred prosecution for expenses more than two years old.
"But Rivera is not entirely in the clear:"
Prosecutors also concluded that Rivera did not break any laws by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret donations to a campaign for an obscure post within the state Republican Party. The state attorney’s office is expected to issue a memo formally closing the investigation in coming days.
He still remains under investigation by the FBI and the IRS over a $510,000 payment from a dog track to a company managed by Rivera’s mother and godmother."U.S. Rep. David Rivera won’t face criminal charges in state investigation, sources tell Miami Herald".
Defenders of the Environment to sue to remove Rodman dam
"Florida Defenders of the Environment and the Florida Wildlife Federation announced in February they would sue under the federal Endangered Species Act to remove the dam, built in the 1960s as part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal." "U.S. Forest Service says it will revisit Rodman Reservoir dam".
State elections officials could not reproduce the mistake
"They think they know what happened. But they can't make it happen again. After spending a month examining the election-night error that led to wrong results in two Wellington races, state elections officials said Tuesday they could not reproduce the mistake, even as they promised that new procedures - already in place - will prevent it." "State splits blame for election error in Wellington".
"Party Disaffiliation Challenge"
"A Florida law that bars candidates from switching parties in the year before an election could face a court challenge on the grounds that it amounts to a lifelong ban." "Party Disaffiliation Challenge: What's the Meaning of 365 Days?".
ALEC to renew focus on anti-union effort
"The American Legislative Exchange Council said Tuesday that it would shift focus from social to economic issues, abandoning causes like gun rights and voter identification laws."
Sparked by several defections by a number of large companies in recent weeks, ALEC’s announcement signaled a major about-face for an organization that wielded considerable sway in changing the way 25 states deal with deadly encounters and self-defense.
"Influential national group halts push for Stand Your Ground laws". See also "Conservative group stops promoting "Stand Your Ground" laws, in wake of Florida killing".
ALEC, an organization of hundreds of state legislators and private companies, also supported the recent wave of voting law changes that critics decry as voter suppression. ...
After Gov. Jeb Bush signed the bill, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer kicked off the multistate plan, pitching the Stand Your Ground law language to ALEC during a closed-door meeting, where members drafted model laws for other state legislatures.
Anti-Romney ad on the air in Florida
"An independent group supporting President Barack Obama's re-election is spending $660,000 to run a TV ad in four states [including Florida] bashing Mitt Romney." "Pro-Obama super PAC runs ad bashing Mitt Romney".
"Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, appeared before a congressional panel exploring legislation to prohibit the practice of racial profiling by those in law enforcement." "Rep. Frederica Wilson calls for tougher laws to prohibit racial profiling".