"Scott's approval numbers continue to scrape bottom"
"Despite six weeks of upbeat television ads and a wholesale image makeover, Republican Gov. Rick Scott continues to draw lousy ratings from Floridians, a position Democrats are eager to exploit in the nation's biggest presidential toss up state."
The Republican Party of Florida has paid almost $1 million since March for a TV campaign, promoting the governor's push for $1 billion more for public schools and helping state unemployment fall to a three-year low behind what the ads label Scott's "pro-business initiatives."Meanwhile, "Democrats are eager to lash Scott and his lackluster numbers to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Democrats say the recent TV campaign is aimed at softening Scott's negatives."
But even with the PR offensive, Scott's approval numbers continue to scrape bottom.
Two separate polls late last month showed 54 percent of Floridians dislike what he's done.
"It's clear that the Republican Party sees Rick Scott as a drag on the ticket and is doing everything it can to try to prop him up," said Brannon Jordan, a Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman."Gov. Scott's ad blitz not swaying Floridians".
But Republican activists dismiss talk that the governor's poor support among Floridians will hurt the party's political brand in the state. They point out that Scott polls strongly among Republican voters.
A new Rasmussen Reports survey showed 72 percent of Florida Republicans approve of Scott's work, despite his mediocre 43 percent backing from overall voters.
In the presidential contest, Florida Democrats hope to capitalize on their party's almost 500,000-registered-voter advantage in helping Obama again carry the state. Republican activists, though, say Scott can help counter that by pushing supporters to the polls.
"Aura of 2008"
"Obama kicks off campaign with rallies trying to recapture aura of 2008".
Randy Schultz: "Gov. Scott may be a contemporary regulation-hater, but when it comes to Cuba, gasoline still sells for about 30 cents a gallon, and The Beatles still are playing Hamburg, West Germany."
Last week, the governor traveled to Miami to sign a bill that supposedly prevents the state or any local government from doing business with a company that does at least $1 million worth of business with Syria or Cuba. Forget that the governor signed House Bill 959 before a delegation that included Syrians. This bill is all about Cuba."Yet the bill and everything behind it is fraudulent."
To Gov. Scott, every regulation is a weed to be pulled from the lawn of business. Yet the governor signed a bill that could kill Florida jobs. It is a sop to Cuban exiles and their patrons who have frozen U.S. policy toward the island for 53 years.
The sponsor of HB 559 was Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, whose parents are Cuban exiles. Adding Syria was clever. It probably brought along any reluctant Democrats, many of whom are Jewish and didn't want to vote against legislation that seeks to punish an enemy of Israel.
In 1962, three years after Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista [a murdering, torturing dictator if there ever was one], the United States imposed a trade embargo on Cuba, intended to push out the dictator we couldn't dislodge in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion the year before. Forty-six years later, an ailing Castro turned over power to his brother, Raul. ..."Still firing away wildly at Cuba and hitting Florida".
Florida's Hispanics are no longer just Cuban exiles in Miami. Gov. Scott, though, indulged them, like all powerful Florida politicians before him. The exiles, Cuba's monied class, resettled, learned the language and moved back up from working-class jobs. Their descendants keep the failed policy in place. The father of Miami Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart was speaker of the Cuban parliament under Batista. Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero is Batista's grandson.
To appreciate how incendiary Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen's pro-Castro comments were, the Marlins' stadium displaced the Orange Bowl. In the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29, 1962, President Kennedy held up the flag of Brigade 2506, the Bay of Pigs unit, and proclaimed that the flag "will be returned to this brigade in a free Cuba."
Under Batista, though, Cuba was far from free. During a second stint as president, from his coup in 1952 to his exile in 1959, Batista used repression and terror, closed universities, restricted the press, held two elections that were free in name only, skimmed a fortune from the American mobsters whom he gave free rein and ignored the poor. There was a reason peasants were trading Castro's rebels a gallon of gasoline for a gallon of milk.
Castro, of course, became his own dictator. Cuba boasts of having a literacy rate equal to ours and an infant mortality rate that is lower, but the gulags, political killings and stripping of freedoms that Americans take for granted is not a fair exchange.
Still, HB 959 wrongly equates Cuba with Syria as sponsors of terrorism. So does the State Department, though 14 years ago U.S. intelligence analysts concluded that Cuba posed no threat to American security. ...
It is in Florida's interest to stop pretending that it's 1962.
Mitt moves to Tampa
"Mitt Romney's general election campaign is starting to take shape in Florida."
The campaign is close to leasing space in Tampa for its Florida headquarters — not far from the Barack Obama campaign's state headquarters — and the Florida primary band is getting back together."Romney forming team".
Molly Donlin is state director, having led the Florida primary campaign, as well as successful primary campaigns in Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. The pride of Xavier University was RNC victory director in Michigan in 2010, field director for the Rudy Giuliani campaign in Florida in 2008 and worked on George W. Bush's Ohio campaign in 2004.
"U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, front-runner for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, is not keen on questions that veer from his prepared script. A few weeks ago, he appeared on MSNBC and was flummoxed when Chuck Todd tried to get his position on extending low interest rates on student loans." "Mack sticks to script".
Meanwhile, "Mack pounced on a statement by GOP Senate primary opponent George LeMieux that he would have voted for the Restore Act, differing with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who voted against it. The issue is complex and ironic, considering that Rubio initially was a sponsor of the Restore Act, intended to make sure that most of the fines paid by BP for the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster go to restoration of Gulf waters." "Mack rips LeMieux for Restore stance".
Wingnuts want it all
"Challengers to the federal health care act have accused the federal government of placing a loaded gun to their heads. They have waved the rattlesnake flag bearing the words Don't Tread on Me, popularized during the Revolutionary War, just below the U.S. Supreme Court steps. And some, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, have refused to comply with what they say is an unprecedented overreach by the federal government."
The incendiary language, the split-off of 26 states legally challenging the law, and the outright rebellion of some top state officials have drawn parallels to the Civil War. In fact, the struggle encapsulated by the Affordable Care Act harks back to the founding of the republic and the central question considered by its founders: Should power lie in the hands of the federal government or with the states? ..."States in health-reform lawsuit accuse federal government of coercion".
States opposing the law have accused the federal government of "coercion" because they risk losing all of their Medicaid funding if they do not agree to add thousands of Americans to their rolls.
Or as South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson put it: "States are having a loaded gun put to their heads by the federal government - forcing them to choose between their fiscal and physical health."
Professor Ronald Dworkin writes that,
If the Court does declare the act unconstitutional, it would have ruled that Congress lacks the power to adopt what it thought the most effective, efficient, fair, and politically workable remedy—not because that national remedy would violate anyone’s rights, or limit anyone’s liberty in ways a state government could not, or be otherwise unfair, but for the sole reason that in the Court’s opinion our constitution is a strict and arbitrary document that denies our national legislature the power to enact the only politically possible national program. If that opinion were right, we would have to accept that our eighteenth- century constitution is not the enduring marvel of statesmanship we suppose but an anachronistic, crippling burden we cannot escape, a straitjacket that makes it impossible for us to achieve a just national society.After a lengthy discussion, easily accessible to the non-lawyers among us, Dworkin concludes:
The crucial constitutional challenge is to one central provision of the act. The act provides, among other benefits, health care insurance for the 16 percent of citizens who now lack it, and it forbids insurance companies to deny coverage or charge higher premiums to those who have a preexisting illness or risk. These obviously just benefits cannot be provided, however, unless all citizens—the young and healthy as well as the elderly and already sick—join the insurance pool. If only those likely to need treatment seek insurance, the insurance companies would have to charge astronomical premiums that most of those needing coverage could not afford. The premise of all social insurance plans, including the Social Security program, is that inescapable risks should be shared across a political community between those more and those less at risk. The act follows this principle; it provides that with few exceptions Americans who are not insured by their employers or by other government programs must purchase insurance themselves or, if they do not, pay what the act calls a “penalty” on their tax return amounting to the greater of $695 or 2.5 percent of their income. There is no other sanction for a failure to buy.
It is this so-called “mandate” that the plaintiffs in this case—twenty-six states, a group of businesses, and some private citizens—challenge as unconstitutional. They say that although the Constitution gives Congress the power to limit or forbid commercial activity that has a significant impact on the national economy, it denies Congress power to require commercial activity, like buying health insurance, even when that activity is crucial to the national economy. That distinction between negative and positive regulation—between dictating the terms of insurance and requiring people to buy insurance—is the heart of the constitutional challenge. It was treated as potentially decisive by all the conservative justices who spoke—Justice Kennedy, for instance, asked whether the mandate doesn’t “create” commerce rather than regulate it. Why is that difference between restricting and requiring activity so important?
We cannot ignore the political dimensions of this case. The Republican Party and the candidates for its presidential nomination relentlessly denounce the act, perhaps largely because it was one of President Obama’s main domestic achievements during his first term. They hope that the conservative justices will declare the act unconstitutional; they think that will help them defeat the president in November. But the act is plainly constitutional and it will be shaming if, as so many commentators now expect, those justices do what Obama’s enemies hope they will."Why the Mandate Is Constitutional: The Real Argument".
Our recent history is marred by a number of very badly reasoned Supreme Court decisions that, deliberately or not, had a distinct partisan flavor: Citizens United, for example, which, most critics agree, has already had a profound and destructive impact on our democratic process. These decisions soiled the Supreme Court’s reputation and they harmed the nation. We must hope, though perhaps against the evidence, that the Court will not now add to that unfortunate list.
Fla-baggers frustrated as lobbyist pulls Scott's strings
"Steve MacNamara has officially become Tallahassee's Wizard of Oz."
The lawyer-lobbyist turned university professor is the brass-knuckles gatekeeper and omnipotent adviser to Gov. Rick Scott."Scott's closest supporters and some tea party followers, however, say that the union between the newcomer governor and the wily insider is for them a Faustian bargain. Though they refuse to be quoted by name, several advisers to the governor — both inside and out of government — fear Scott is squandering his conservative credentials and his outsider brand by engaging in deal-making with special interests who have connections to MacNamara."
Since becoming the governor's chief of staff last July, MacNamara has controlled access to the governor and his schedule, assumed authority over appointments and dictated press releases and policy memos. He has directed the governor's message and reached into the bowels of agencies to remove people he doesn't like and install favorites.
His critics call him Florida's "shadow governor," noting that agency contracts have been redirected, gambling allowed to expand, and a policy to privatize state prisons, which Scott didn't focus on during his campaign, has become an administration priority."He complained that issues Scott campaigned on, like illegal immigration, have been shelved while prison privatization has emerged. 'Was that the governor's decision or was that MacNamara's decision?'"
"I voted for the outsider and he has hired the consummate insider and he is acting like an insider now,'' said Henry Kelley of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party. "It's very disappointing."
MacNamara's first orchestrated ouster came with the removal of Department of Corrections Chief Ed Buss. The prisons chief had been lured to Florida from Indiana but, once here, became a vocal critic of a Senate-led effort to privatize 30 South Florida prisons."Steve MacNamara, the brass-knuckles gatekeeper of Gov. Rick Scott".
The idea was an important one to MacNamara whose close friend, Jim Eaton, is the lead lobbyist for the Geo Group, one of the nation's largest private prison companies which stands to make billions in state business if they win the privatization contracts.
"Negotiators are on the verge of a major agreement that would commit Florida to $890 million more for Everglades cleanup." "Settlement close in Glades cleanup suits".
Rubio "trying to rebrand himself"
Andres Oppenheimer: "Sen. Marco Rubio, the 40-year-old rising star of the Republican Party and among top contenders to be Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate, is trying to rebrand himself from a right-wing Cuban-American politician to a center-right Hispanic one." "New Marco Rubio faces key test".
Fla-GOP's "advantage is the smallest it's been in a decade"
Aaron Deslatte: "Now that the major court challenges to new political districts seem to have ended, politicos can return to their regular campaign-season summer jobs of pleading for checks, promoting themselves and trashing their opponents. But for voters curious whether the 2010 Fair Districts constitutional standards made a difference, the unequivocal answer is — look around."
It's true that the House, Senate and congressional maps all still favor Republicans in a state with a half-million more Democrats — and GOP leaders did manage to protect a few of their friends."Fair Districts amendments did change political lines".
But the advantage is the smallest it's been in a decade, and the ripples from Fair Districts will run all the way to the ballot boxes this fall.
"Modernizing the state's antiquated tax system"
Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy: "The deadline for filing federal income tax returns serves as a reminder of a distinction Florida shares with only six other states: imposing no state personal income tax."
The absence of the tax is appreciated by most Floridians. But it has consequences on Florida's tax structure, affecting who pays for public services and whether the revenue generated by the tax system is adequate to meet state needs."Florida’s Tax System Highlighted On Federal Income Tax Day".
In summary, Florida is a low-tax state, rated the second-worst in the nation, inadequate to meet the need for public services, and worsened by subsidies and tax breaks to large, profitable corporations. It would be made even worse by elimination of the corporate income tax.
Keeping that tax and modernizing the state's antiquated tax system would best serve Florida.
The Miami Herald editorial board: "'Depopulating' Citizens requires careful approach" "Florida’s risky business".
Scott's "way or the highway"
Thomas Tryon: "Rick Scott is driving home this message to trustees of colleges and other board members appointed by the governor: It's my way or the highway."
Dissent and independent thinking -- even in their mildest and most respectable forms -- apparently are considered conduct unbecoming board members appointed by Gov. Scott.See what he means here: "Tryon: Scott's SCF power play bodes ill".
"Pretty, pretty please nominate Marco Rubio"
"Maybe they're whistling past the graveyard, but Florida Democrats say they're not worried about Rubio as Mitt Romney's running mate in the presidential race. A memo from a state Democratic Party official says, 'pretty, pretty please nominate Marco Rubio.'
"In the midst of Veepstakes, Rubio has hit a few speed bumps as questions about whether he is too risky to be on the ticket hit a fever pitch," said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party."Some of his reasons, plus some questions about them:"
The memo reflects the second thoughts being voiced by some conservative commentators as well as Democrats about the "Rubio fever" in the running mate race. It lists eight reasons Arceneaux thinks Rubio won't help Romney.
- "Rubio provides Romney no cover in the Sunshine State." True, one poll showed Romney performed no better in Florida with Rubio on the ticket, but that's just one poll — and it didn't measure whether Rubio would create excitement among the Florida GOP base."Dems: Bring on Rubio".
- "GOP still have a Hispanic problem." True, but a Hispanic name on the ballot wouldn't hurt.
- "Bio flap still looms large." By misstating when his family came here from Cuba, Rubio appears to have sought to associate them with anti-Castro, anti-communist refugees, when in fact they came here among the economic refugees from the pre-Castro, Fulgencio Batista era. But anti-Castro Cubans still love him, and does it matter to anyone who isn't Cuban?
- "No love from the ladies." Rubio voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act and favored the Blunt Amendment allowing employers to decline to offer health insurance that covers birth control. That won't help Romney close his gender gap.
"Bumper stickers at the Feather Sound Country Club offered the first clue"
Tim Nickens: "Bumper stickers on the cars and pickups outside the Feather Sound Country Club offered the first clue about the group inside."
Ron Paul for president. Support state Rep. Larry Ahern and Pinellas County Commissioner Nancy Bostock, two of the county's most conservative Republican officeholders. "Fluoride: There is poison in the tap water." Pro oil drilling and anti-Obama."The featured speaker was Randal O'Toole from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. O'Toole travels the country railing against light rail and smart growth policies. He claims they are too expensive, don't work and don't have public support. His general theme: Government wants to take away your car and your house and make you ride rail and live in high-rises. His slide show included pictures of a coyote in an empty rail car and drab apartment buildings in East Germany."
Inside, Barbara Haselden from the South Pinellas 912 Patriots tea party group stood before an audience of about 60 last Sunday and opened the meeting about light rail. The St. Petersburg insurance company executive said elected officials from throughout Pinellas had been invited, but the only familiar faces I saw were county Commissioners Neil Brickfield and Norm Roche, who are also on the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. They are no fans of building light rail in Pinellas. They also are half of the Fluoride Four — the county commissioners who voted last year to ignore science and public health and remove fluoride from the county's drinking water.
It would be easy to write off 60 folks listening to rail opponents on a Sunday afternoon more than a year from any referendum. That would be a mistake."Foes of mass transit gathering steam".
These are the dedicated voters who elected conservatives in 2010 such as Roche to the County Commission and Ahern and Rep. Jeff Brandes to the Legislature. The St. Petersburg Republican lawmakers opposed legislation that would have required the PSTA property tax to be repealed if the voters approve the sales tax increase and the money is used for the project.
These are also the voters and legislators who persuaded Gov. Rick Scott to veto the bill. And Scott relies on voices like O'Toole and the Cato Institute to justify killing high-speed rail and growth management.
Second, the rail opponents are poisoning the Pinellas light rail debate before it starts. Haselden said her group has met with hundreds of businesses along the proposed rail route. A website and yard signs opposing the plan are already up.
Those who believe mass transit and smart growth are essential for Pinellas' future better start moving. Otherwise, this train could run off the tracks pretty fast.