Monday, January 28, 2008

Florida Now a Two Horse Race for the GOP

A recent Zogby poll shows McCain and Romney tied at 30% each, with Huckabee and Giuliani sitting well behind at %14 and %13, respectively.

This poll was taken over the three day period of January 24-26, so the effects of the Crist endorsement may not be completely reflected in this, however, there is no reason to think that any endorsement would dramatically upset the dynamics of this race.

And what are the dynamics? McCain had the momentum, now Romney has it. McCain is also hampered by his need to focus more on fundraising to replenish his dangerously low coffers, while Romney is free to campaign as he pleases and put up plenty of ads in our pricey media market (including strong buys in Miami).

The Crist endorsement is a solid pick up by McCain, but is not an earth shattering event. I have long felt that Crist's support was a mile wide and an inch deep. He is well liked, but not loved.

Even less so is the endorsement of McCain by Martinez. Especially since Speaker Marco Rubio is backing Romney and Rubio's influence among South Florida's Cuban voters outstrips that of Martinez.

Florida is coming down to the wire. If you haven't already voted, do so tomorow. If you filled out an absentee ballot, but haven't yet mailed it in, your best bet is to take the ballot (properly sealed) to your polling place and give it to one of the poll workers, because if you mail it in at this late, it will probably get there too late.

Even though we have been penalized by both major parties - and even though I have railed against the legislature for moving our primary so early and participating in a rushed election process that cheapens our Democracy and damages the hope for a real, national dialogue on the future of our country - despite all this, it is still important to vote.

Click here to find your polling place in Hillsborough County.

For Pinellas County, click here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Martinez Throws His Support Behind Romney

Not really, of course. Senator Mel Martinez endorsed his fellow Senator, John McCain. But does this spell doom for for McCain? I almost suspect so. Even if Martinez's name wasn't in the toilet (his approval ratings are pretty poor), his relative political incompetence bodes poorly for McCain, who is in tight race with Romney for Florida's delegates. Also, there is good reason to believe that Martinez supposed influence in the Cuban-American community is deeply overrated.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sink to Discuss Tuesday's Election on PBS

I received this notice from CFO Alex Sink's office:

Fellow Floridians:

Tonight from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m., Public Broadcasting System (PBS) channels around the state have the option to air Florida Decision 2008: The Primary. Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will be interviewed as a part of the program, and she will speak about important Florida issues around the upcoming January 29th election. Tune in to your local PBS station to watch this one-hour special on Florida’s Primary and don’t forget to vote this Tuesday, January 29th!

My question is - does she use this opportunity to speak out against Amendment 1? She opposes the measure, but has yet to put herself front and center on the issue.

"Giuliani for all intents and purposes has virtually no chance to win in Florida"

That quote is from pollster Rob Schroth in response to the new Miami Herald poll showing Rudy Giuliani in third place in Florida.

The race has passed the former mayor by and the the contest now appears to be between Mitt Romney and John McCain.

Most polls show McCain leading here in Florida, but I should note this poll by Public Policy Polling that shows Romney as the main beneficiary of Fred Thompson's decision to drop out. That poll gave Romney a 3 point lead - 28% to 25%. While well within the margin of error, if this poll does, as it claims, reflect the effects of Thompson's withdrawal from the race, then it is something that should be taken seriously.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rick Baker Opposes Tax Amendment

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is widely considered a rising star in GOP politics here in Florida. He is staunch conservative who has found the knack for successfully winning a Democratic city. So when he says he doesn't support Amendment 1, that means something. Mainly, it means he thinks it is a disastrously bad idea.

He told the St. Petersburg Times that he would be voting against it, even though he and Gov. Crist are friends (even after Crist passed him over for Education Commissioner).

Though Baker is keeping his opposition low key, he is not hiding it. For man who will be widely talked about as a GOP candidate for Congress (when Young finally retires or is defeated) and statewide office after he leaves office to oppose a tax cut as misguided - well, let's just say that Baker must think Amendment is so monumentally flawed, misguided and dangerous that it boggles the mind.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Giuliani Ad

Not sure if I like this ad - oversubtle perhaps. I don't even know what the message is or who it's for until the end. But it also succinctly sums up Giuliani's gambit.

Cappelli Goes to Jail

One time wunderkind of the Pinellas GOP, banker Angelo Cappelli was sentenced today to 21 months in prison. He undervalued the estate of recently decease gentleman who had asked his assets be given to a local charity. Cappello then used a number of financial vehicles to essentially pocket the difference - over $100,000 dollars or 2/3 of the toal estate.

This is obviously a tragedy and a very disturbing crime, but this is also a political blog, so I am more concerned with what this means for our local political scene.

Cappelli ran a strong campaign against Bill Heller and only lost because he was up against a well known and well liked community leader. Cappelli showed himself to be a skilled fundraiser during that campaign. Only 38 years old, he would have had a bright future ahead of him.

Virtually every open seat in the area - from Congress to County - seemed like a possibility.

More importantly, no one else seemed likely to be able to challenge for Rep. Heller's seat before he was termed out. Now, it seems likely that the seat will remain Democratic until at least November 2012. Even then, Cappelli would have been one of the strongest candidates for that seat, but that is obviously impossible now.

Three Polls, Three Four Way Ties in Florida

Three recent polls show the GOP contest in Florida to be a four way statistical tie. All show McCain to be in the lead, but all have the difference between McCain and the fourth place candidate to be within the margin of error (though just barely in the case of SurveyUSA).

The three polls and links to the results are SurveyUSA, Quinnipiac, and Rasmussen.

Of these three, I personally put the most faith in Quinnipiac (I've never been competely convinced of the methodologies of SurveyUSA and Rasmussen).

Giuliani is, in all three cases, in second place and in a statistical tie with first place contender McCain. Does this mean I was premature to pronounce the death knell for his chances?

Not really.

Florida will be all about momentum. McCain has a good chance of winning South Carolina before we go to the polls, giving him another bump. Giuliani has no chance of winning South Carolina.

Perhaps the real story is the rapid decline of Mike Huckabee, who was the darling of the GOP base after Iowa. Has the shine come off Huckabee? Not necessarily. Because momentum rules, McCain's victory in New Hampshire catapaulted him over Huckabee.

As a result, Huckabee desperately needs to win in South Carolina so he can regain some propulsion and overtake or pull even with McCain. On the same day as we vote, Michigan will also be voting and if Romney takes those delegates (or half those delegates - Michigan was also penalized by the RNC for queue jumping), then February 5th (Super Tuesday) could become a three way race between Huckabee, Romney, and McCain, making it anyone's guess (though I would give the edge to McCain, because he is such a familiar face to voters, and to Romney, because he will have a significant financial advantage).

Jim Greer to Be Chair of the Republican National Committee?

I was reading the Fix (as I am wont to do) and found this little nugget buried within:

It just so happens that the three state party chairmen -- Katon Dawson of South Carolina, Jim Greer of Florida (see photo) and Saul Anuzis of Michigan -- are the three most often mentioned candidate to head the RNC come 2009.

I must confess, I don't have an opinion about the job that Jim has been doing, but after Mel Martinez successfully embarrassed Florida in that role, I'm not necessarily eager to have another Floridian step up to the plate. If he's even half as bad as Martinez was, we will have to change our names and pretend to be from somewhere dignified, like South Carolina - I hear their state GOP chairman could be the next head of the RNC.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

'Firewall' Goes Down in Flames

It's official. Giuliani will not be the Republican nominee.

He is down in Florida - this time to Sen. John McCain (earlier polls showed Huckabee leading here). According the latest SurveyUSA poll, he is eight points behind McCain in Florida and is in a statistical tie with Huckabee and Romney.

By now it should be clear to everyone that Giuliani's campaign badly miscalculated.

Yes, there is a calculus where he still wins the nod, but it is so unlikely now that his only real role now is as a spoiler.

So what happened?

Simple - momentum rules. Florida is too big for the kind or retail politics that decides the early contests and it is too expensive to effectively blanket with paid media. Quite simply, Florida is going to go with whoever has momentum and momentum is created by gains in those same early contests that Giuliani ceded to his rivals.

One more thing - Giuliani is also down in his home state of New York.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Yet Another Seemingly Innocuous Reference to Bill Young Retiring

In an article in the Politico disccusing internal efforts by GOP U.S. House members to implode themselves as members jockey for the best perch for shaking down corporate lobbyists, there is this quote: year when at least four Republicans on the Appropriations Committee will retire, with a fifth retirement — Florida Rep. Bill Young — still possible.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Democratic Resurgence in Florida?

Despite some disappointments, 2006 was a good year for Florida Democrats. Locally, Democrats followed up legislative victories (Pinellas County was ground zero for legislative pick ups) with Mary Mulhern's underdog victory over Shawn Harrison for one of Tampa's at-large city council seats.

An e-mail from the Florida Democratic Party offered the following quotes:

"Absentee ballot requests pour in from Democrats," crowed a headline in the Palm Beach Post today. Similarly, in Pasco County, "a bellwether county where Republicans outnumber Democrats, the Democratic Party has so far marshaled more voters to cast absentee ballots, 835 to 721," the St. Petersburg Times reported.

The e-mail links to a site called CreatCHANGE'08 and attempts to tap into the netroots.

The FDP formalized the importance of internet activism by officially creating the Netroots Coalition as an official caucus within the party.

But I digress.

Is there a seachange coming?

The answer is yes, but it won't be as big as you think.

Democrats have excellent opportunities to pick up 1-2 more Congressional seats and there is a very good chance that our electoral votes will go to the Democrat. Unfortunately, with gerrymandering, there is not likely to be a huge shift in the legislature - certainly not along the lines of the seven seat switch we saw in 2006. What we are likely to see is some incremental gains - possibly 1-2 State Senate seats and 1-3 State House Seats. I think we might also see some movement locally at the municipal level, with the mayor's office in St. Petersburg, in particular switching parties (though not until 2009).

One Time Frontrunner Reduced to a "Long Shot"

No, I'm not talking about Senator Clinton. We're talking about Mr. Firewall, Rudy Giuliani.

The Fix has officially declared Giuliani a "long shot" and this writer couldn't agree more.

It's interesting to look back at the history of the Florida Firewall. When the term first appeared, the Giuliani campaign dismissed it as a "tool to motivate volunteers," but it has quickly become the acknowledged cornerstone of his path to victory. It has also become, in very short order, what most people perceive to be a monumental blunder.

Giuliani has completely ceded the spotlight and let candidates like McCain and Huckabee generate all the buzz and all the momentum and has let himself become and afterthought, at best (an outright loser, at worst) in the early contests.

All of Florida's efforts to become particularly relevant in the nominating contest have failed, I believe, and Giuliani seems intent on proving my point. In a more drawn out contest, Florida might have mattered. But in this front loaded calendar, we will be too little, too late for Giuliani. By the time we come around, the media will have already dubbed this a two person contest between McCain and Huckabee, while Giuliani flounders in a morass of failed promise like a sad, cross-dressing (see photo) version Fred Thompson.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Giuliani Still Acting Confident in Florida Firewall

Check out this publicly released memo detailing how Rudy can get stomped in the early going and still win the nomination. Not sure I believe it anymore, but I'll let time be the test.

Oh, and one more thing. Giuliani's national lead - according a new Pew Poll, it's gone. It's McCain, Giuliani and Huckabee in a three way statistical tie (22%, 20%, and 17%, respectively).

RE: Looking Good
DATE: December 31, 2007

As voting nears in the Republican nomination process, our campaign remains convinced that our strategy we have long had in place is right – bold, innovative and designed to deal with the radically different election calendar. While many of the beltway insiders seem to remain committed to the old "Carter/Clinton" approach and have questioned the adjustments we have made to our strategic thinking based on the new calendar, we clearly have a winning plan to secure the nomination in an election cycle unlike any other. History will prove us right.

As we enter the final stages of the campaign we have seen a tightening in the national polling and the emergence of a real 5-way race for the Republican nomination. Mayor Giuliani has led virtually every national major media poll conducted in 2007. We are now at a point in the campaign where we are seeing increasing polling volatility as public attention turns to the horse races in individual states.

Important to our long term strategy, Mayor Giuliani has enjoyed a commanding lead in nearly every public poll conducted in the delegate rich states of Florida, California, Illinois, New York and New Jersey.

2007 November – December Public Polling Averages Mayor Giuliani and Closest Opponent in state polling
State Mayor Giuliani Average Closest Opponent Average
Florida 30% 17%
California 29% 15%
New Jersey 38% 12%
New York 40% 12%

The Primary Calendar
2008 will be unlike any recent Republican nomination process. What typically has been a primary process that stretched into March or April has been accelerated and compacted into a 33 day sprint.

Our rivals seemingly have built campaigns based on the old calendars’ strategies — a couple of very early state wins to propel them deeper in to the nomination process. To the contrary, our plan allocates time and resources to the many states which vote a bit later — on January 29 (Florida) and February 5.

For the record, only 78 delegates will be picked prior to Florida whereas 1,039 delegates will be picked on January 29 and February 5. Additionally, it is important to note that voting HAS ALREADY STARTED in Florida, Missouri, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey and New York – tens of thousands of people will have already cast their ballot by the time you are reading this note. And more February 5th states, including California will begin early and absentee voting soon. All of this points to the folly of over-estimating the impact of the results of Iowa and New Hampshire and the wisdom of our strategy.

Putting a high priority on spending our time and money in a proportional basis in Florida and the large delegate states voting on February 5th is clearly the right thing to do.

The Early States
The pre-February 5th states are Iowa, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, Florida and Maine. Delegates are at stake in just five states before February 5. Wyoming will select a portion of its delegates at their caucus in January, but will not allocate all of their delegates until later in the year. Iowa, Nevada and Maine award NO delegates at this time. Florida is the big prize on January 29, with 57 winner-take-all delegates – the only winner-take-all state before February 5th.

Pre February 5th Contests
Date State Estimated Delegates after RNC Penalty
1/3 Iowa 0*
1/5 Wyoming 12
1/8 New Hampshire 12
1/15 Michigan 30
1/19 Nevada 0*
1/19 South Carolina 24
1/29 Florida 57
2/1 Maine 0*

Because states selecting delegates before February 5th are in violation of Republican National Committee rules, those states have been penalized half of their normal delegates; Iowa, Nevada, and Maine do not select any delegates at their caucuses, but rather at state party conventions in late spring. The states before February 5th will allocate delegates to multiple candidates under varying state election laws and state party rules. Thus, it is highly unlikely that any single candidate will win all of any one state’s delegates except Florida’s, which will be winner-take-all.

Florida accounts for more than 40% of all delegates allocated before February 5th and has almost twice as many delegates as the next largest state. It is therefore easy and correct to conclude that in a multiple candidate race, whichever candidate wins Florida, with their winner-take-all delegates, will very likely have a delegate lead going into February 5th.