September 30, 2014

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio to headline Rick Scott fundraiser at the Biltmore


UnnamedThere's an outside chance former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio might run against each other for president in two years. But they're certainly aligned on almost everything else, including their support of Gov. Rick Scott and their dislike of Democrat Charlie Crist (who lost to Rubio in the 2010 Senate race).

So Bush, Rubio and Rubio's longtime friend, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, are headlining an 11:30 a.m. Oct. 24 Scott fundraiser at the Coral Gables Biltmore, where Bush has an office. Bush lives in the city as does Lopez-Cantera. Rubio lives next door, in West Miami.

Suggestied donations start at $2,500/person and $25,000 for the even chair luncheon.

Don Gaetz sticks up for John Thrasher in scorching op-ed about FSU critics

Some Florida State University students and faculty were vehemently opposed to state Sen. John Thrasher becoming Florida State University's next president and let their opinions be known throughout the search process. Now that Thrasher has the job, Senate President Don Gaetz is in classic form letting Thrasher's "haters" know how he really feels.

An excerpt from the opinion page of the Tallahassee Democrat:

Granted, I didn’t threaten to “make his life a living hell” or “become an angry hive and sting him.” I didn’t chant, scream profanities, weep, accuse him of racism or sexism, call him a xenophobe or suggest he would tolerate violence against women. I went to the mat against John Thrasher on an issue just as important to me as the Florida State University presidency is to others, but I didn’t act like the handful of faculty members and students who embarrassed their university and discredited themselves by how they disagreed.

I wonder how any of us, excoriated as Sen. Thrasher was, would stretch out our hand to “academics” who couldn’t even spell “politican” correctly on a protest sign.

Their excuse is academic freedom. Really, it’s unacademic intolerance. The academicians of antiquity and the great collegiate institutions FSU seeks to emulate would be appalled by the inarticulate outbursts and tantrums that unraveled last Tuesday. These illiberal liberals broke every one of Saul Alinsky’s rules for radicals.

The rap on Thrasher is he’s not an academic. With all due respect, so what? The president doesn’t fine-tune the curriculum or micro-manage who teaches what. He doesn’t grade papers or approve thesis proposals. The president doesn’t even hire the people who do. The chief academic officer is the provost. The deans lead the colleges. The professors teach the courses.

Read the full essay here.

Carlos Curbelo's 'Ponzi scheme' remark on Medicare, Social Security makes it into Joe Garcia attack ad


A remark by Carlos Curbelo videotaped without his knowledge is now the centerpiece of U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia's latest attack ad.

"Two faced corporate lobbyist Carlos Curbelo: In Florida Curbelo claims one thing about Medicare and Social Security, but at a Washington meeting Curbelo changed his tune, calling Social Security and Medicare a Ponzi scheme," says the 30-second spot, which Garcia's campaign launched Tuesday. 

The ad also cites Curbelo saying that potential reforms to Medicare might include "means testing," so wealthier seniors might pay higher premiums than less affluent ones.

Curbelo made both comments earlier this month to a group of college Republicans in Washington D.C. He was being recorded by a Democratic tracker, the name given to people sent by opposition campaigns to follow a candidate's every move. PolitiFact rated Curbelo's "Ponzi scheme" claim False.

Curbelo spokesman Wadi Gaitan countered in a statement Tuesday that by voting for the federal healthcare law, Garcia is the one who wants to cut Medicare.

"In Congress, Garcia voted to keep a program that would slash $716 billion from Medicare and would cut Medicare Advantage by $156 billion, meaning seniors will soon lose the plans and doctors they know and like," Gaitan said.

His statement doesn't mention the Affordable Care Act by name. But claiming that Obamacare cuts senior benefits has been a talking point for Republicans elsewhere. PolitiFact has rated claims differently depending on how they're worded, but a general statement by the National Congressional Campaign Committee that the federal law includes a "$700 billion cut from Medicare for seniors" has been rated Half True.

Like Democrats across the country, Miami's Garcia has tried to make Medicare a central campaign issue to drive out base voters to the Nov. 4 midterm elections. Republicans have a far better track record of getting their supporters to the polls in non-presidential years.

The fact that Garcia has unveiled his second attack ad in 10 days suggests the closely watched race is tight. A public opinion survey commissioned by Curbelo earlier this month showed him slightly ahead of Garcia, who has not released his own poll results.


This post has been updated to better explain means testing.

FL Chamber poll: Rick Scott leads Crist 43-39 percent

A press release from the Rick Scott-backing Florida Chamber:

ORLANDO, Fla. (September 29, 2014) – According to the latest Florida Chamber Political Institute (FCPI) poll released today at the Future of Florida Forum in Orlando, likely voters continue to have a more positive view of the future and favor Governor Rick Scott in the state’s top leadership race. Jobs and the economy (29 percent) continue to be the number one issue among voters, followed by education (19 percent) and healthcare (6 percent).

“Florida voters are smart. They continue recognizing Governor Scott is doing what he said he would do,” said Marian Johnson, Senior Vice President of the Florida Chamber Political Institute. “More than 640,000 private-sector jobs have been created since December 2010, our education initiatives are working, and Florida families and small businesses continue to see opportunities for growth. The fact that a majority of polls throughout the last six to eight weeks show voters continuing to prefer Rick Scott over other candidates is a sign that his numbers are solid.”

Governor Rick Scott’s job approval rating continues to remain positive, with 49 percent of likely voters approving of the job he’s doing. At the same time, gubernatorial candidate and trial lawyer Charlie Crist’s favorability continues to drop – 39 percent favorable and 50 percent unfavorable.

“I believe a major reason Charlie Crist is visibly losing support is because voters are beginning to realize that Rick Scott’s focus on jobs is working and that Florida continues to move in the right direction,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

In head-to-head matchups:

  • Governor’s Race, Rick Scott vs. Charlie Crist vs. Adrian Wyllie: Scott earns 43 percent, Crist gets 39 percent and Libertarian Adrain Wyllie earns 4 percent. Five percent say they will vote for one of the other candidates and 7 percent are firmly undecided.
  • Attorney General Race, Pam Bondi vs. George Sheldon: Bondi earns 48 percent to Sheldon 31 percent.
  • CFO Race, Jeff Atwater vs. William Rankin: Atwater leads with 43 percent to Rankin’s 27 percent.
  • Agriculture Commissioner Race, Adam Putnam vs. Thaddeus Hamilton: Putnam earns 41 percent to Hamilton at 29 percent.

Of the 813 Florida likely voters polled, 29 percent rank job creation and the economy as their top issues. Additional polling data shows:

  • For six straight months, a plurality of voters continue to believe the Sunshine State is headed in the right direction – 43 percent based on Florida Chamber polling conducted in February, June and August 2014.
  • Amendment 1 continues to show strong support: 75 percent support while 14 percent oppose.
  • Amendment 2 has fallen below the 60 percent threshold again; this amendment is losing support. Fifty-nine percent support and 35 percent oppose.
  • Amendment 3 has 27 percent support and 21 percent opposition. 53 percent of voters are undecided.

On the national level, President Obama’s job approval rating remains upside down as 41 percent approved and 54 percent disapprove. 

The poll, conducted on September 18-21, 2014 during live telephone interviews of likely voters, has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

Please note:  The samples for the polls conducted by the Florida Chamber Political Institute are consistently drawn from likely voters, meaning those voters who have the propensity and past performance of voting in elections, rather than simply including registered voters.  Voters are again screened for likelihood of voting this November.


Established in 1916 as Florida’s first statewide business advocacy organization, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as crucial to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit for more information.
136 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301

Campaign for new Miami-Dade civil courthouse takes case to TV


With close-ups of dilapidated paint, flooded columns and moldy walls, the campaign for a new Miami-Dade County civil courthouse launched its first television ad Tuesday asking voters to approve a $393 million referendum on Nov. 4 to pay for a new building.

The ad features Bertila Soto, chief judge over the 11th judicial circuit, listing the nearly 90-year-old building's deterioration, as well as a female narrator who tris to make the question one of civic pride.

"This is our community, and we can do better," the narrator says. "The courthouse no longer serves our growing population."

Paying for the ad is Building Blocks for Justice, a new political action committee formed by an attorney for the campaign. The PAC's chairwoman is Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz, a partner at Holland & Knight. Its treasurer is Kara Stearns Sharp, an accountant and daughter of attorney Gene Stearns, who has pushed for the referendum.

"Our campaign is ready to engage with voters directly about the real crisis our courthouse faces today. Thousands of people visit the courthouse every day and are exposed to terrible conditions," de las Cuevas-Diaz said in a statement. "Understanding what's at stake is why we feel Miami-Dade residents will be ready to pass the emergency bond referendum."

The campaign is expected to face skepticism at the polls from an electorate that has been repeatedly been asked for higher taxes to spend on public buildings. Critics have already called the ballot question rushed. County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that while he will probably support the bond issue, he expects most people -- unable to tour the courthouse themselves -- won't.

So far, the group has raised $123,000, entirely in contributions from law firms except for $1,000 from Judge Soto and $1,000 from an information technology company. Two successful Miami-Dade political operatives, campaign manager Christian Ulvert and fundraiser Brian Goldmeier, have been retained to head the campaign.


September 29, 2014

Mailer mixup: Elections officials fault Scott mailing

Two Tampa Bay election supervisors criticized as "inaccurate" and "incorrect" a mailer by Gov. Rick Scott's campaign committee that tells voters that their absentee ballots should have arrived by now.  The attention-grabbing mailer by Scott's Let's Get to Work committee has the words "Voter Alert!" and the statement, "By now, you should have received your absentee ballot."

Not true, elections official say. The first day that in-state absentees can be mailed is Tuesday, Sept. 30. They can be mailed as late as Oct. 7. The last thing county elections officials want is to be inaccurately blamed for not sending ballots to their voters. 

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer issued a news release that said "Their information is incorrect." He plans to mail more than 150,000 absentees to Tampa-area voters on Oct. 6.  

On Twitter, Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley showed the mailer and said: "Here is the inaccurate flyer that voters throughout FL rec'd with incorrect info from #LetsGetToWork."

Yet another tweet Monday from Seminole County Supervisor Mike Ertel: "Absentee ballots to local voters have not been mailed. Florida voters get ballots about one month before Election Day."

Scott campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz issued this statement: "Voting by mail is important, and we hope that all voters will receive their vote-by-mail ballots promptly." The campaign wouldn't comment on the record as to why it sent voters inaccurate information, but it's possible that the mail pieces simply reached Florida households sooner than expected.

Polls show the race between Scott and Charlie Crist is in the low-to-mid single digits, and voting by mail is rapidly increasing in popularity in Florida. Both parties and campaigns aggressively "chase" voters who ask for mail ballots to make sure the ballots are returned promptly.

Florida Supreme Court gives Gov. Rick Scott 14 days to justify suspension of acquitted Miami Lakes mayor


Suspended Michael Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi has scored a major legal victory in his quest to regain his seat after Gov. Rick Scott refused to revoke his suspension after his acquittal on federal bribery charges last month.

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday instructed the governor, who was sued by Pizzi, to explain by Oct. 14 why he should not revoke Pizzi’s suspension.

“[T]he Court has determined that the [Pizzi] petition demonstrates a preliminary basis for relief,” according to the order.

In effect, the high court has boxed in the governor, leaving him with little choice but to lift Pizzi’s suspension, which Scott imposed after his arrest in August 2013.

“It’s a home run for us,” Pizzi said after reading the state Supreme Court’s order. “The court has done exactly what we asked them to do.”

More here.

This post has been updated.

New, light-hearted ad attacks Crist's record

The latest attack ad from the Republican Party of Florida is a light-hearted, almost comedic look at Charlie Crist's record.

The commercial points out that Crist has changed his party affiliation, as well as his position on Obamacare, abortion and the federal stimulus package. And it does so over catchy music, goofy sound effects and some memorable wordplay.

"Flippin' unbelievable," a voice says. "Flippin' amazing."

The 30-second spot's final message: "Charlie Crist. Typical flippin' politician."

The gubernatorial race has gotten ugly in recent weeks, with both camps launching bitter attacks. Democrats have labled Republican Gov. Rick Scott "too shady for the Sunshine State." Republicans, meanwhile, have insisted Crist "swindled Florida" in a series of stinging TV ads.

The new Flippin' Amazing ad takes a notably lighter tone. Watch it below.


Allen West endorses Carlos Curbelo; Democrats rejoice


Former U.S. Rep. Allen West backed fellow Republican Carlos Curbelo of Miami against Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia at an event in Washington D.C. on Monday, the Sunshine State News reported.

Curbelo's campaign has yet to trumpet the endorsement. But Democrats did it for him, emailing the news story to reporters.

"After Carlos Curbelo was caught on camera calling Medicare and Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme,' it's no surprise that Tea Party champion Allen West is backing his campaign," David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement. "This is just the latest example showing Curbelo puts his own political interests and the agenda of his Tea Party political allies like West over the values of South Florida families."

West was a firebrand congressman from Palm Beach Gardens before losing reelection in 2012. He now has a political action committee named Guardian Fund. It has endorsed 13 candidates, though only Curbelo in Florida.

"Col. Allen West served our country with integrity and honor," Curbelo communications director Wadi Gaitan said in a statement. "He understands that South Florida deserves better than Joe Garcia, a Congressman surrounded by scandal and corruption and who referred to Republicans as the Taliban on the House floor."

Joe Garcia: I'll debate Carlos Curbelo 4 more times. Curbelo: I've said yes to 7 more invitations


U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat, said Monday he plans to attend four more debates against Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo -- a number Curbelo's campaign criticized as too low.

Two of the four debates to which Garcia has committed, both televised, would be in Miami-Dade County. The other two would be in the Florida Keys. Congressional District 26 straddles both counties, from Westchester to Key West, though the bulk of voters are in population-dense Miami-Dade.

In a statement announcing the debates, Garcia said in part that the events will highlight a "clear contrast" between the candidates.

"Carlos Curbelo has proven time and again that he's looking out for himself, his paying clients and his Tea Party political allies -- while I am proud of my commitment to putting South Florida first," he said.

But Wadi Gaitan, Curbelo's communications director, said in a statement of his own that Garcia's debate schedule is "light" and "demonstrates a lack of respect for the voters."

Continue reading "Joe Garcia: I'll debate Carlos Curbelo 4 more times. Curbelo: I've said yes to 7 more invitations" »

RPOF ad citing anonymous Floridians bashing Obamacare faces PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter

Got a beef with Obamacare? The Republicans want to remind voters that Democrat Charlie Crist thinks the president’s health care law is "great."

A TV ad by the Republican Party of Florida features anecdotes from people making claims about how the health care law has hurt them in the pocketbook or made it harder to find doctors:

"I think Obamacare harms doctors and patients."

"It increased my health policy, personal health policy, 30 percent."

"I’m disabled and I can’t find doctors that will help me."

"My family’s medical costs have doubled."

"Many doctors are losing their patients, and patients are losing their doctors. I was one of them."

"Obamacare hurts my ability to create jobs."

The ad soon pivots to Crist saying of Obamacare "I think it’s been great," comments he made in a TV interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley in March 2014. Crist has campaigned in favor of the federal health care law while his opponent Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been a major critic.

The ad doesn’t identify the various men and women complaining about Obamacare making it impossible to verify each individual’s experiences. State GOP spokesperson Susan Hepworth’s only reply to our questions about the people and their insurance woes: "They are not actors."

But we can research the ad’s overall message that the Affordable Care Act has inflated Floridians’ health care costs anywhere from 30 percent to twice as expensive. Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see how we rated this claim. 

Report takes aim at Scott's education funding record

new report from the left-leaning American Bridge takes Republican governors to task for cutting education funding.

It includes a section on Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who slashed $1.3 billion from the education budget during his first year in office. 

Scott has since restored most of that funding and unveiled a plan to boost per-student spending to a record high level in 2015. But he continues to feel the heat from Democratic opponent Charlie Crist and progressive groups.

The American Bridge report frames education spending as a political issue that could hurt Scott.

"From Rick Scott and Scott Walker to Sam Brownback, Tom Corbett and more, Republican governors are getting slammed for slashing funds for schools, dealing a blow to their respective reelection bids, while prospective governors like Doug Ducey have promised to do the same," the organization wrote in the introduction. "Locked in tight races, these Tea Party governors are floundering to explain their draconian cuts to concerned constituents by twisting numbers and distorting their records."

The report also includes passages from Florida newspaper editorials.

Anti-testing wave catches lawmakers' attention

In Orlando, they hosted a webinar on how to skip the state tests.

In Fort Myers, they convinced the local school board to eliminate all district-required exams.

In Miami, they created an anti-testing network of nearly 1,400 members.

Across Florida, parents are pushing back on standardized tests. Some say schoolchildren are taking too many exams. Others have concerns about the quality of the tests, and the way the results are being used.

"This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before," said Suzette Lopez, who is spearheading the effort in South Florida. "It's really hit a critical mass."

The growing movement has caught the attention of state lawmakers.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg recently acknowledged that students in Florida face "an avalanche of tests" — and said the Legislature is likely to get involved.

"We need to get our house in order," said Legg, a Pasco County Republican who runs a charter school. "Some of those tests are outdated or duplicating other tests. They need to be put out to pasture."

Don’t expect lawmakers to dismantle the state testing system.

In a recent op-ed published in Florida Today, incoming Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said unraveling the system would have "significant negative consequences on student learning, education funding, and, ultimately, a graduate’s ability to find a job in today’s global marketplace."

Read more here.

Vice-president Joe Biden's South Florida-bound for Charlie Crist on Oct. 13


Vice-President Joe Biden's South Florida-bound for Charlie Crist on Monday, Oct. 13 -- making him the latest national Democrat to join the guubernatorial candidate on the campaign trail, sources say. More information will be made available at a later date.

Biden's last visit to South Florida was in May, when he delivered Miami-Dade College's commencement. He also attended a South Florida Affordable Care Act event in February.

Biden, who has presidential aspirations, follows another likely White House candidate, Hillary Clinton, who stumps Thursday with Crist at an event that's likely somewhere in the Miami area. No details have yet been made available. Clinton is also signing her new book, "Hard Choices."

Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clintton, campaigned with Crist in early September in Miami.

Gov. Rick Scott has also had Republican national surrogates (and potential White House candidates) join him recently: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Medical marijuana ad wars start in FL with release of pro & con commercials


The supporters and opponents of medical marijuana both posted their first TV ads Monday, just in time for Floridians to receive the first wave of absentee ballots in the mail.

The clash is one that has played out in 23 other states plus Washington D.C., with medical-marijuana supporters playing up the benefits of cannabis in treating cancer or MS -- while opponents target older, more conservative voters with a message about crime.

"They don't call it the Drug-Dealer Protection Act. But they should," says the opposition ad from Drug Free Florida Committee, which focuses on a provision in the proposed constitutional amendment that allows caregivers to handle marijuana. 

The supporters, People United for Medical Marijuana, concentrate on the broad outlines and promise of the amendment: Getting people the care they need without the intrusion of government.

"Twenty-three states now keep government and politicians out of the doctor-patient relationship. And it's worked," says the ad. 

Drug Free appears to be spending the most early: $1.6 million, with the likelihood of millions more to come -- especially from Las Vegas gambling magnate and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.

People United for Medical Marijuana hasn't disclosed how much it's spending. Its chairman, Democratic donor and Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, have promised to do what it takes to get their message out.

A constitutional amendment needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. The polling average of the last major public surveys pegs Florida voter support at about 64 percent.

Drug Free is concentrating on conservatives because, if Republican support falls to about 40-42 percent, the amendment will likely fail even if independent and Democratic support remains in or around the 70 percent range (more here).

Over the months, Republican support for the amendment appears to be dropping. But Democratic and independent support appears to be increasing. As a result, polls from the conservative-leaning business group, Associated Industries of Florida, show the amendment's support has remained at 64 percent for months. People United's polling showed the amendment's support has remained relatively constant as well, at 69 percent this month and 70 percent in June.

Here are the ads, in-depth fact checks to follow.

Hill + Knowlton Strategies hires Weatherford spokesman Ryan Duffy

Ryan Duffy, who served as the communications director for Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford the last two years, is joining the Tallahassee public relations firm Hill + Knowlton Strategies.

Known for his calm, self-effacing manner, Duffy, 30, will serve as vice president, the company announced Monday. Duffy has also served a press secretary for the Florida House Leadership Team under then-House Speaker Dean Cannon. He also served as spokesman for Bill McCollum's gubernatorial campaign in 2010. From 2007 to 2010 he served as speechwriter for U.S. Senators Mel Martinez and George LeMieux. He started his career as speechwriter to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

"Ryan has established himself as a battle-tested communicator who knows the ins and outs of the state capital and Florida's public affairs landscape," said Harry Costello, the firm's Florida general manager and executive vice president. "From his strong background in speechwriting for a former governor and two U.S. senators to his role as spokeswman for a house speaker, Ryan has found success in every endeavor. He will offer our clients invaluable insight and expertise."

In a statement, Duffy said he's "thrilled" with his new job.

"I'm looking forward to joining an already stellar team and helping clients to navigate public policy issues and communications challenges statewide," he said.

He holds a mster's degree in political management from George Washington University and a bachelor's in political science from Florida State University. 



Documents: Rick Scott was ready to expand tribal gambling for $2 b over 7 years

From the Associated Press:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's staff nearly reached a multi-billion dollar deal with the Seminole Indian tribe that would have allowed it to add roulette and craps at its South Florida casinos, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

The deal, which was scuttled last spring amid resistance from state legislators, also would have opened the door for the Seminoles to build a casino in the Fort Pierce area and would likely have blocked construction of any Las Vegas-style casinos in Miami for the next seven years.

In exchange, the Republican governor would have gotten the headline-grabbing news that it was the largest deal ever reached between a tribe and a state government. The figure was expected to be $2 billion over a seven-year period and the words "largest guarantee ever" were included on several documents instead of an actual amount. Another estimate placed the deal at $15 billion over 30 years.

The documents released by the Scott administration four months after the AP first requested them show that the incumbent governor is open to shifting his stance on gambling. Scott previously has been viewed as quiet supporter of opening major casinos in South Florida and had fostered ties with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Story here. 

September 28, 2014

Rick Scott's current running mate once "strongly" urged Reps to back stimulus, tax-hike budget they attack Crist for

Interesting look-back by the Naples Daily News about the Obama-buck-fed-tax-hiking budget, supported in 2009 by the new running mate of Gov. Rick Scott, who uses the spending plan to criticize Charlie Crist:

“This is a tough year, I strongly urge you to support this budget,” said Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who at the time was House majority leader, one of that chamber’s top positions, according to video from the final day of the 2009 legislative session.

The Miami Republican, who is now Scott’s running-mate, spoke minutes before the House passed the budget on the final day of the 2009 session. In his comments, he pushed back against Democratic opponents claims that the budget relied on increased property taxes.

“That is just not true,” he said.

 More here


Charlie Crist no longer looks, sounds like governor sunshine.


Governor sunshine is losing his shine.

Once known for his likability, Charlie Crist is now viewed less favorably than favorably in Quinnipiac University’s poll of the Florida governor’s race released last week. Crist now trails Gov. Rick Scott 44-46 percent, virtually a tie.

Scott’s heavily negative ad campaign deserves a goodly amount of credit or blame for that.

Since Crist entered the race in November, Scott’s campaign and allies have placed more than $41 million in TV commercials that have or will run. Crist is at $16.7 million. The vast majority of the $57 million ad campaign has and will be negative.

Crist, just now ramping up his spending, is targeting the fraud at Scott’s former hospital company.

“Taxpayers got cheated. But Rick Scott bought a beachfront mansion, a private jet and a Montana ranch," Crist’s latest spot says. "He's just too shady for the Sunshine State."

But sun isn’t shining out of Crist’s mouth, either.

Crist was always a tough campaigner. But, in his various runs for office, there was a velvet lining to his steel glove. Against Scott right now, there’s little velvet to be seen. For a candidate who made himself the cheery “optimist,” Crist’s ads are undermining his brand.

More here

NextGen Climate to continue organizing in Fla after Nov

Charlie Crist is receiving generous support from trial lawyers and teachers in his campaign to unseat the lavishly funded Rick Scott, but his single-most important ally may prove to be California billionaire Tom Steyer. Steyer, a hedge-fund manager and environmental activist, is spending tens of millions of dollars in Florida and six other states to ensure climate change becomes the kind of wedge issue that tips elections. His political committee, NextGen Climate Action Committee, has already spent more than $6 million in Florida, considerably more than any of the other high-profile midterm races he is targeting in Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine and Michigan. More than $2 million has funded TV ads — including spots in Tampa Bay accusing Gov. Scott of helping Duke Energy gouge consumers — but the bulk of it is for turning out voters. NextGen Climate has more than 300 volunteers and 47 paid staffers working out of 21 offices. It's targeting Florida voters up to 34 years old (80 percent of whom consider climate change a very serious issue, according to NextGen's polls), and Hispanic voters in South Florida. "Across the country, including in Florida, Hispanics care about this issue more than the general population by a very wide margin," said Steyer, who chatted with The Buzz over Kahwa coffee while he was in Tampa Bay last week to meet with campaign workers and with Crist. Florida is a natural priority for Steyer, in part because of its outsized influence in national politics and also because it's believed to be more vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels than any state in the nation. Scott has tried to steer clear of climate change, repeatedly refusing to say whether he even considers it a significant issue. "I'm not a scientist," he says often. "When you run for office you're not expected to be a scientist, but you are expected to be able to converse with experts in a field and figure out what's best for the people you represent," Steyer, an amiable 57-year-old sporting a wool tartan tie, said of Scott's sound bite. "I find that a purely political, transparently political, ploy to shift responsibility away from dealing with scientific analysis and facts." Whatever happens in November, Steyer said NextGen will continue organizing in Florida to make climate change a wedge issue that political leaders no longer can avoid. "Unless people, voters, understand how this issue impacts them, their families, and the people they care about, it is always going to be a second-tier issue. So I think it's really important to put this in human terms and explain how good it can be for them on an economic basis, how many jobs this is going to create, how good it is going to be on a health basis," Steyer said. "And lastly, I think people do respond to the kind of obfuscatory and dishonest practices that some people engage in to try and prevent average citizens from learning the truth.