Friday, September 28, 2007

Latest Strategic Vision Poll

The latest Strategic Vision poll, conducted September 21-23, 2007 with a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Sen. Hillary Clinton way ahead of the Democratic presidential field with 44%, followed by Sen. Barack Obama at 22% and John Edwards at 12%.

Among Republicans, Rudy Giuliani leads with 35%, trailed by Fred Thompson at 24%, Mitt Romney at 9%, Sen. John McCain at 6% and Mike Huckabee at 5%.

The biggest news here is that this poll has Giuliani reasserting his lead and has Huckabee moving into the picture.

The biggest questions are "can Thompson regain his momentum?" "can Romney turn his money into votes?" and "can Huckbaee turn buzz into double digits?"


On another note, Democratic candidates, most of whom have pledged not to campaign in Florida until after the early primary states have held their contests, are sending their spouses into the Sunshin state as surrogates

Working Families Blog Comes to Florida

The AFL-CIO has been moving into new media advocacy in recent years, with its working families blog as the centerpiece.

Florida now has its own Working Families blog.

The first posting offers a rather damning critique of our priorities - Florida is ranked 48th in the nation for total per capita spending on education and 50th for higher education. We are 44th in the nation in terms of providing health care for children, 46th for overall Medicaid spending and 48th in the amount of money we draw down from the federal government from state/federal match programs like SCHIP.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Did the Now Defunct Super Homestead Exemption Play into the Decision by the Florida Democratic Party Not to Schedule a Binding Primary?

On September 23rd, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman sent out an e-mail asking us to "Make It Count, Florida." In the e-mail, she explained that the state party was 100% committed to the January 29th primary, even though the DNC has said that Florida's delegates will not be seated at the convention if we hold a binding primary before February 5th.

Why didn't the party take another way out?

I have a suspicion, based on some phrases contained in the e-mail:

Don't let anybody call this vote a "beauty contest" or a "straw poll." On January 29, 2008, there will be a fair and open election in Florida, which will provide for maximum voter participation...

The Primary isn't the only thing on the January 29th ballot. The results of the constitutional amendment referendum and municipal races will affect you locally - your schools, your safety and your homes.

They even built a website - MakeItCountFlorida.

This e-mail was sent before the courts axed (at least for now) the super homestead exemption that was going to appear on the ballot on January 29th. Public safety and education groups are strongly opposed to this amendment, arguing it would drastically cut funding for education, police departments, and fire departments, without significantly reducing taxes for middle class Floridians.

I believe that Thurman decided to put all her weight behind January 29th because of this tax amendment, in order to keep Democratic turnout as high as possible. If Speaker Rubio fails to get this back on the ballot somehow, egg will be on both their faces - Rubio because his signature issue will not be voted on and Thurman because she could have scheduled a caucus or other event whose results would have been recognized by the DNC.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bill Young 'Equivocating' on Re-Election Plans

After insisting he wouldn't be pressured into retirement, our own Rep. Bill Young is, according to the Washington Post, "equivocating" on the prospect of running for re-election in 2008.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Is Thompson Tearing Down Giuliani's Firewall?

The two latest surveys in Florida, conducted at virtually the same time for the Southern Political Report, one by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research and the other by InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion, differ sharply from the picture that was painted by Quinnipiac's latest Florida survey. Conducted almost two weeks ago, the Quinnipiac poll showed Rudy Giuliani leading Fred Thompson by 28 percent to 17 percent in Florida's critical GOP presidential primary.

Also that week, a previous InsiderAdvantage poll showed Thompson having surged past Giuliani, if only by a modest margin just outside the poll's margin of error. That survey was taken right after Thompson officially announced.

With a week's perspective, it appears that InsiderAdvantage, not Quinnipiac, were on the right track.

A Mason-Dixon poll done last week showed Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson tied at 24% and 23%, respectively. Mitt Romney is ten points behind at 13%.

The most recent Insider Advantage poll also shows Thompson and Giuliani in a dead heat.

It's not clear to what degree, but it does seem that Giuliani's firewall is in serious danger and may already be gone.

Friday, September 21, 2007

MacDill AFB Healthcare Programs Supported in Senate Bill

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriation Act of 2008 provided $46 million for our own MacDill Air Force Base. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 92 to 1 and will now go to a joint conference to be reconciled with the House version.

In the Senate version, MacDill will get $41 million for clinic replacement and $5 million in Pharmacare additions.

While we are on the subject of military appropriations, I came across this little tidbit: Rep. Bill Young, who is the ranking member on the Defense Subcommittee, inserted earmarks benefitting 30 entities into bills brought up in that committee and received campaign contributions from 28 of those 30.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Halperin - Florida Key to GOP Nomination

Mark Halperin, the former political director at ABC News, has made some predictions, one of them re-affirming Giuliani's Florida firewall theory.

Halperin told a Texas Monthly reporter that the most important state for winning the Republican presidential nomination is Florida.

He also said that Fred Thompson is "toast," but that it's too early to write off McCain. Halpering also said that Romney and Clinton (see photo) are the most likely nominees.

I have long been saying that Romney is the most likely GOP nominee. He is running the best campaign of any Republican (though still not as good as Clinton or Obama's campaigns), in terms of the movement and organization. I am not talking about occassional verbal gaffes or any little mistake we can jump on or even who the best candidate is - I am talking about the long haul beginning when these candidates first began laying the groundwork for their campaign, and in that respect, Clinton and Obama, followed by Romney, are above the rest. And if running a good campaign does not count for something, then I have to take a good hard look at how I've spent the last ten years of my life (something I should probably do anyway).

As a side note, the latest American Research Group poll has Clinton and Giuliani maintaining their leads in Florida.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Senators Hold Hearing on Primary Schedule

Enough U.S. Senators are as disgusted as I am at the behavior of some many states (Florida being one of the worst culprits) that they recently held hearings on the issue.

One of the proposals is to craft federal legislation creating a regional primary system, with Iowa and New Hampshire allowed to continue going first. Both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee oppose this.

Separate legislation also has been introduced in Congress that would set up a new primary system eliminating Iowa and New Hampshire’s traditional roles.

Frankly, I am in favor of some sort of intervention at this point.

This proposal seems similar to the one that Bob Graham suggested. While I am not sold on the idea of the federal government getting involved in the partisan presidential nominating process, it appears that the inability of states like ours to control themselves is forcing Congress' hand.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

January 29th Democratic Primary to be Non-Binding

This was always the best that was going to happen once Tallahassess decided to participate in the great front loaded car crash that is our primary season.

If they had decided to make the primary just one week later - February 5th instead of January 29th - Florida would now be second only to Iowa in importance.

Instead, we are another joke for late night comedy.

I suppose I should stop hoping that our state government will stop mucking things up every election, but it's getting frustrating, watching us constantly embarrass ourselves through the stupid, little games our legislature plays.

This is not to say that the primary will be meaningless, but only that we squandered a chance to play a part in picking our next president by doing things right, rather than by screwing up again.

On the Republican side, it appears that the state GOP is happy with losing half our delegates (wonder what that does to Giuliani's firewall?).

GOP Candidates Ignoring Other Minorities, too - Not Just Latinos

After throwing Mel Martinez under the bus the other week, the Republicans running for president have moved on to ignoring the African-American vote.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney have declined to participate in the Sept. 27 debate at Morgan State University. "I feel good," said moderator and television host Taqvis Smiley when asked about the odds of getting former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson.

Five candidates trailing in national and state polls will be there - Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, California Rep. Duncan Hunter, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo.

Smiley said that the rejections are part of a pattern, noting most GOP candidates declined invitations to address several black and Hispanic groups, including the Univision debate discussed in a previous post.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Robert Novak Upset that Fred Thompson Not Hiring His Friends

This has little to do with Tampa Bay politics, except insofar as the presidential campaigns affect us all, but I just had to comment on this ridiculous editorial by Robert Novak, he of "leaking the name of covert CIA operative" fame.

Novak notes that Thompson is being hit by waves of criticism by people who attempted to board the Thompson campaign, but were rebuffed.

Of course, he only mentions two people, the first being Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. Novak calls him one of the GOP's "keener political minds." Considering how profoundly Dole was beaten, either this is rank hyperbole or a grievously personal insult against the GOP's current political minds.

The other is Jeff Bell, a conservative thinker who worked on Ronald Reagan's 1976 presidential campaign, who also wanted to help. Bell did not even get as far as a meeting with Thompson.

According to Novak, "[Thompson's] failure to use the past six months to craft an inspirational, exciting campaign can be partly explained by the exclusionist attitude of the old friends and political professionals in possession of Thompson's candidacy."

How exactly the man who led Bob Dole's ponderous, failed campaign was supposed to make Thompson's campaign "inspirational" and "exciting" is beyond me. And I suppose Thompson was supposed to put the man from the 1976 campaign in charge of internet outreach.

The reason this article piqued my fancy is the idea of the Washington Post publishing an editorial item that amounts to Bob Novak criticizing Fred Thompson for not hiring Novak's friends.

So, in the spirit of Novak, let me say that the reason that whoever doesn't win the presidency didn't win is because my former roommate wasn't hired.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Clinton Still Campaigning in Florida

As perhaps a soporific to those who said Florida couldn't be ignored, no matter how embarrassing we are to the rest of the country, Sen. Hillary Clinton held six events in Florida on Monday, September 10th.

Clinton, like most of the Democratic candidates, pledged to Iowa voters that she would not campaign in Florida or other queue jumpers.

Her campaign said that because the issue of Florida's was still not resolved, it was inappropriate to declare noncompliant and off limits while efforts were still being made to reach a resolution. Florida still has until later this month to reach a compromise.

Democrat Barack Obama has fundraising events scheduled in Florida later this month, but not campaign events, said spokesman Tommy Vietor, who draws a distinction between the two.

"Senator Obama has a handful of finance events scheduled in Florida, and is committed to fulfilling the pledge he signed to protect Iowa's first-in-the nation status," Vietor said.

Democrat John Edwards also has upcoming fundraising events in Florida, but not campaign events, said spokesman Dan Leistikow.

Sink to Take Questions on Public, Community Radio Tonight

CFO Alex Sink will be taking calls from residents throughout Florida on the call in show "Florida on the Line."

Tampa Bay listeners can call in toll free at 1-800-926-8809.

Locally, the show can be heard on WMNF 88.5 and WUSF 89.7.

Monday, September 10, 2007

GOP Candidates Embarrass Martinez

President Bush chose Florida Senator Mel Martinez to chair the RNC for several reasons. First and foremost, Martinez is a Bush man, through and through. He was a former Cabinet member under Bush and is what White House aides would call a "loyal Bushie."

He was also picked because of his race. In 2000 and 2004, Republicans (or at least Bush) improved performance among Latinos (30% in 2000 and 40% in 2004), but 2006 represented a significant setback (only 30% went for GOP candidates) and seemed to foreshadow a long term schism that could relegate the Republican Party, in the long term, to near permanent minority status.

Martinez, despite a reputation for mediocrity in the Senate, was chosen as the man to change that dynamic.

After the other night's Spanish language debate, his job just got harder.

All the top Democratic candidates gathered for a Spanish language debate (questions and answeres were given translated into Spanish because only Senator Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson speak fluent Spanish) the other night that was broadcast on Univision, the largest Spanish language channel in the U.S. and the fifth largest network overall.

Back in June, when the debates were first being planned, Martinez said, "I think that to have candidates address the largest minority group in America would be a terrific thing and to do it on a network that the Hispanic community of America watches would be the right forum."

Flash forward to the day before every major Democratic participates in the Univision debate and what line is Martinez forced to spout?

"I was hoping that there would be good participation in the Univision forum. It's a very busy primary calendar, and their schedules are such that this forum didn't fit in. Now is this a rejection of Hispanic voters? Of course not. And I hope it's not seen that way."

All the Democrats could make it, but only McCain agreed to attend on the Republican side.

The GOP candidates also snubbed two high profile Latino events this summer - the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the biggest gathering of the Latino political class, in late June, and the second by the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino civil rights group, in late July.

The Democratic candidates showed up for both events.

As Simon Rosenberg of the New Democratic Network said: "To be frank, every day Martinez's job is to put lipstick on a pig. It's not a pretty job, but he took it, and now he's got to live with it."

The GOP field has thrown Martinez under the bus and rendered him an empty suit over a year before the election. If he is unable to improve the party's standing among Latino voters, there is no reason for him to continue as chair - he is not an exceptional fundraiser (yes, the RNC is outperforming the DNC in fundraising, but that's just business as usual) and his political acumen is well to be substandard. I always thought that Michael Steele would have been a better choice and I believe I have been somewhat vindicated by recent events.

Click here to view excerpts from the Democratic debate.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

'Nobody' Wins Republican Debate

This isn't necessarily Florida related (or even terribly timely), but a nice opportunity to see one of the GOP's better political minds at work.

Frank Luntz is a protege of former RNC chair and now Mississippi governor, Haley "Twinkletoes" Barbour. He is also one of the modern masters of measuring public opinion and a leader in the movememt towards more use of focus groups rather polls. The results of these focus groups, because they are used internally for message development, are almost never made public.

I also just happent to have a signed copy of his book, Words That Work.

Friday, September 07, 2007

What Does the Craig Scandal Mean for Crist's VP Hopes?

Soon to be retired Idaho Senator Larry Craig will disappear into the dustbin of history. He was a nonentity as a Senator and is only notable for his (sort of) coming out. Though he still denies being a homosexual, I doubt that many people still believe he was doing anything other than cruising for gay sex in that Minneapolis bathroom.

Though the scandal is unlikely to cost the GOP that Senate seat, it has been an unwelcome distraction and a reminder of past hypocrisies (and present ones - I'm talking to you, Sen. Vitter!).

What does Craig have to do with Florida, though?

Gov. Charlie Crist has often been mentioned here in Florida as a potential vice presidential candidate. He brings a lot to the table - improved access to Florida campaign dollars and almost a guarantee of bringing in Florida's electoral votes.

But, in the post-Craig world, would a GOP presidential nominee risk adding to his ticket a man who, like Craig, has failed to dispel rumors about his sexuality?


At this point, even marrying would be unlikely to quash the rumors and quell a presidential nominee's fears - after all, Craig was married (he married a former staffer not long after the rumors first emerged).

Before Craig's scandal, Crist's bachelorhood and unsubstantiated rumors in the background were nothing more than background radiation drowned out by his popularity and so-called "post-partisan" politics. Now, an Idaho Senator's scandal suddenly makes even the rumor seem too dangerous to risk.

No, 2008 has suddenly become too early for Crist, who will have to wait until 2012 or 2016 before his name is seriously talked about by presidential candidates as potential vice president. It is unfair and has nothing to do with his political acumen (though his fumbling of our taxes and budget call that into question) and very likely has nothing to do with reality.

But we live in the post-Craig world now.

Young's Seat Makes the List... Again

The Cook Political Report's monthly look at Congressional seats once again lists our own Florida 10th and Bill Young as potentially open due to retirement.

In Cook's measurement, the seat is slightly more Democratic than the country as a whole. The metric used is PVI or presidential voting index. Essentially, it looks at the overall percentage that Bush got in 2004 and examines how the seat's electorate voted relative to that national number. In the case of the 10th, it is D +1 - which is to say that we gave Kerry 1% more than the nation as a whole. In a Democratic year (which 2008 will almost certainly be), that makes this seat a Democrat's for the taking.

As a result, there will incredible pressure from the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) on Young to hang on.

However, whether or not he retires, the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) will attempt to recruit a strong challenger, rather than be satisfied with the sacrificial lambs who have faced Young in recent elections. Even with Young running for re-election, 2008 is shaping to be as bad as 2006 for congressional Republicans.

A recent Rasmussed poll gives the Democrats an 18 point advantage on a generic ballot - that's an eight point gain for the Democrats over the same poll a month ago. A generic ballot is a lot different than voting out an entrenched incumbent and I am not the biggest fan of the Rasmussen Reports, but it does seem that, one way or another - retirement or defeat - Young's days in Congress are numbered.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Kriseman Endorses Harrelson

Though her website lacks a list of endorsements, State Representative (and former St. Petersburg City Councilman) Rick Kriseman (see photo) is backing Cathy Harrelson's campaign for the 3rd City Council District in St. Petersburg.

He hosted a fundraiser for her on August 30. The event was listed on her website and also on the calendar section of the Pinellas County DEC's website.

There is little evidence that the DEC has done much to help Harrelson, though, to be fair, there is little evidence they done much at all since Ed Helm ran the organization into the ground.

As a side note, Kriseman's name has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the 10th Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Bill Young.