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May 27, 2015

Judge dismisses final marijuana challenge; access expected by 'end of year' state says

Florida regulators said they expect to provide access to a limited strain of non-euphoric marijuana for medical purposes by the end of the year after a Tallahassee judge on Wednesday dismissed the final challenge to the long-awaited rule.

The Florida Department of Health, which developed the rule, is expected to start accepting applications within three weeks from eligible growers for the strain of marijuana that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. Growers could start selling to eligible patients who are put on a state-run "compassionate use registry" within months.

"I am one happy legislator,'' said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, one of the sponsors of the 2014 legislation that attempted to expedite the development and cultivation of the so-called "Charlotte's Web" strain of low-THC marijuana to help people suffering from epileptic seizures, cancer and other ailments.

Legislators had intended for the medical strain of cannabis to be available to Floridians by January of this year but regulators had their first rule rejected, and then faced a series of legal challenges. On Wednesday, they offered patients new hope.

"Today's ruling allows the department to move forward with implementing the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, approved by the legislature in 2014,'' the Department of Health said in a statement. "The department remains committed to ensuring safe and efficient access to this product for children with refractory epilepsy and patients with advanced cancer. We are moving swiftly to facilitate access to the product before the end of the year.”

Continue reading "Judge dismisses final marijuana challenge; access expected by 'end of year' state says" »

AP: Rick Santorum to formally enter GOP presidential race

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON -- Rick Santorum, an aggressive advocate for conservative family values, will launch a second bid for president on Wednesday, a spokesman said.

The former Pennsylvania senator exceeded the political world's expectations by scoring a second-place finish in the race for the Republican presidential nomination four years ago. Yet as he competes again, he may struggle even to qualify for the debate stage in 2016.

The 57-year-old Republican will deliver his announcement at a factory near his western Pennsylvania hometown, according to spokesman Matt Beynon.

Santorum will be surrounded by factory workers at the event, a carefully scripted setting designed to showcase his focus on the working class. A major player in 2012, he opens this political season almost as a heavy underdog in a race expected to feature more than a dozen high-profile Republicans — most of them newcomers to presidential politics.

More here.

How Rick Scott snubbed the Florida GOP on presidential cattle call

via @adamsmithtimes

Gov. Rick Scott will be front and center before the national media Tuesday as he hosts his Economic Growth Summit at Disney World, where most of the top tier presidential candidates will be talking about the vision for growing the economy.

Overlooked on this high profile cattle call is how the entire thing was put together through Scott's political committee, Let's Get to Work, rather than the state GOP. This is unprecedented and a reminder that the leading elected Republican in Florida still has a rocky - at best - relationship with the Republican Party of Florida. It's been that way since party officials snubbed him early this year by electing state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia the party chairman, rather than Scott's preferred candidate.

Traditionally, the state party has used these events to raise money through sponsorships, speaking fees, and the like that ultimately helps pay for the Republican nominee's general election campaign in Florida. No one from Let's Get to Work has yet responded to our inquiries today, so we don't know if Scott's committee is raising any money off his summit. 

Here's the rough schedule Tuesday:

Continue reading "How Rick Scott snubbed the Florida GOP on presidential cattle call" »

WaPo: Ohio Gov. Kasich looks to announce 2016 bid this summer

From the Washington Post:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been actively gauging reactions to a possible campaign for president in 2016, is now moving rapidly to assemble the staff and financial resources for such a bid and is looking to declare his candidacy sometime after June 30, according to knowledgeable Republicans.

Kasich advisers say his principal competition would come from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.). 

Kasich v. Bush 

"They consider Bush potentially hobbled by resistance to a third president from the same family," reports Post. Asked in the recent interview whether his message would be similar to Bush's, Kasich said, "I don't know anything about [Bush's theme]. I really don't. I've never listened to him. What's "Right to Rise"? Getting up in the morning?" Right to Rise is the name of Bush's super PAC.

Kasich v. Rubio

Kasich advisers view Rubio as having significant potential but faced with the problem of being a first-term senator who would be trying to follow a first-term senator -- President Barack Obama -- to the White House. "We hired an inexperienced person to run the country," a Kasich adviser said. "That didn't work out very well. That plays well in his [Kasich's] favor."

More here.

White House 'disappointed' over Florida Medicaid-expansion impasse

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama's two-day stop in Miami has nothing to do with Florida's upcoming special legislative session forced by a disagreement over how to fund healthcare.

But the White House couldn't avoid a reporter's question Wednesday about the president's opinion on the opposition from statehouse Republicans to expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.

"We have demonstrated a willingness to work closely with state leaders to tailor solutions" to their residents, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said when asked about the issue in a conference call with Florida reporters. "The refusal of Republican officials in Florida to put the interests of their citizens ahead of their own political arguments is something that we've been disappointed by."

Obama arrives Wednesday afternoon for a pair of Democratic Party fund-raisers. Earnest's question-and-answer session was intended to delve into the president's visit Thursday to the National Hurricane Center, where he will ask people to prepare for the annual storm season that formally begins June 1.

Yet with Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature still at odds over how to craft a state budget in the special session that begins the same day, Earnest had to address the impasse. He said the U.S. Health and Human Services Department is open to a compromise -- if Florida is.

"There are officials at HHS who continue to be in regular contact with Gov. Scott's office, and we continue to be ready and willing to engage in serious discussions about a Florida-tailored Medicaid expansion proposal that would help 750,000 people in Florida get access to quality, affordable health coverage," Earnest said.

(The number is closer to 850,000 people, according to a different study than the one cited by the White House; the figure depends on how the uninsured are measured. Both studies rely on statistical formulas to update old data.)

Googling 'Hillary Clinton' in Florida? Conservative America Rising PAC has a web ad for you

@PatriciaMazzei

A conservative political action committee that has Hillary Clinton in its crosshairs wants Floridians interested in her visit this week to see and hear not-so-nice things about the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner. 

America Rising PAC is targeting Google, Facebook and YouTube users who search for "Hillary Clinton" or whom they have identified as Democrats with a web video attacking Clinton as "unethical." The campaign is aimed only at users in Miami, Parkland and Orlando -- the three cities where Clinton will attend campaign fund-raisers Thursday and Friday.

The video will appear as an ad before other YouTube videos. Ads will pop up for users on Facebook and Google Search.

"By highlighting Clinton's ethical lapses, we're ensuring Democrats know about Clinton's conflicts of interest between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department," America Rising spokesman Jeff Bechdel said in an email.

"Through careful geo-targeting and messaging, we are able to deliver ads tailored specifically to the areas where Clinton will be traveling and to groups most interested in seeing ads about Clinton," he added. "Unlike with TV ads, this strategy stretches our advertising dollars further and spends them more effectively."

 

Florida Republican Party invites Hillary Clinton to Miami 'press conference'

@PatriciaMazzei

The Republican Party of Florida plans to welcome Hillary Clinton to Miami on Thursday with a press conference highlighting Clinton's lack of press conferences.

The party plans to stage its event outside of one of Clinton's stops to raise money for her 2016 Democratic presidential campaign. It's her first Florida trip as a candidate. Though a possible public event had been mentioned, none has been announced for now.

RPOF's stunt is intended to draw attention to the fact that Clinton, who is so well known she doesn't need media exposure, has given relatively few interviews compared to the rest of the likely presidential field.

"Dear Mrs. Clinton," begins an "invitation" from GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia. "The Republican Party of Florida is hosting a 'Conversations with Hillary' press conference and we are extending you an invitation to be the sole participant. Our goal is to make sure you have the opportunity to address the important questions that have led to voters across our state not to trust you."

"We want to help, so we are going to take care of everything -- from setting up the press conference with a podium and microphone to notifying the press and public."

Clinton, of course, won't show up. But if RPOF draws a gaggle of reporters hungry for news -- and getting none from the Democrat -- it plans to bring out speakers of its own.

Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina, who needs to move up in national polls to qualify for the first GOP debate in August, tried a similar tactic Wednesday in South Carolina. She held a media availability before a Clinton event in Columbia to draw a contrast with the Democratic front-runner. 

"Our events tomorrow are all open to the press. And by open press, we mean we'll actually take questions," Fiorina spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores wrote reporters Tuesday. "That's right. We've answered hundreds of questions from reporters because we believe the American people will not and should not elect a president that can't answer for her record, won't explain her positions or for whom the truth is whatever she can get away with."

Watchdog groups want Justice Department to investigate Jeb Bush fundraising

From Lesley Clark in Miami Herald/McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Two campaign finance groups are asking the Department of Justice to appoint a special, outside counsel to look at whether likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush and his Super PAC, Right to Rise, are knowingly violating campaign finance laws.

In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center say there are “powerful grounds” to believe that Bush and his fundraising arm are violating federal contribution limits and prohibitions on soft money. They charge that Bush and the fundraising group is “engaged in a scheme to allow unlimited contributions to be spent directly on behalf of the Bush campaign and thereby violate the candidate contribution limits enacted to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.”

The complaint is the second the groups have filed against the former Florida governor, who has not formally entered the race but is raising tens of millions of dollars at fundraisers across the country. A spokeswoman for Bush said he and his allies are “fully complying with the law in all activities Governor Bush is engaging in on the political front, and will continue to do so.”

Continue reading "Watchdog groups want Justice Department to investigate Jeb Bush fundraising" »

Fact-checking Rick Santorum

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is joining the ever-growing field of 2016 Republican presidential contenders. Here’s a look back at his Truth-O-Meter record.

Santorum, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2012, set an announcement date of May 27, 2015. He served as a senator from 1995 to 2007 and as a member of the House of Representatives before that. He is an attorney.

We have fact-checked Santorum 55 times over roughly four years. His record includes six Trues, seven Mostly Trues, 13 Half Trues, 11 Mostly Falses, 13 Falses and five Pants on Fires.

We have fact-checked his claims about immigration, abortion, welfare and other topics. Turn to Lauren Carroll's story from PolitiFact

Did Marco Rubio says felons should be barred from voting but get their guns back?

A Facebook meme suggests that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., believes convicted felons should regain their right to own a gun but not the right to vote.

The meme, sent to us by a reader, presents two quotes purportedly by Rubio. The first, dated March 16, is, "No, felons should not have their voting rights restored even after they have served their sentence." The second quote, from May 6, says, "Of course, convicted felons should be allowed to own guns after they have done their time. It is their constitutional right."

The claim was attributed to the Facebook community group "Stop the world, the teabaggers want off."

We’ll note right off the bat that the group’s Facebook page cops to being a primarily satirical site. It says, "This page is for entertainment purposes. It is NOT meant to be taken seriously. It is primarily satire and parody with a mix of political memes and messages."

Still, casual Facebook users are unlikely to see this bit of context and could easily take the quotes in the meme at face value, so we’ll check the substance of the meme anyway. We searched Nexis and Google for the quotes and did not find any instances in which Rubio said those words. 

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our fact-check and see our full Truth-O-Meter file for Rubio.

Politico: Was that Barack Obama strolling through streets of Havana? LOL

Politico called it "Faux-bama's" tour of Havana.

See for yourself in this photo gallery of Cuban performance artist René Francisco Rodríguez, who last week was seen walking the streets and sipping mojitos in bars dressed as the U.S. president. According to The Telegraph, Rodríguez decided to dress like Obama and record the reaction he received as part of an art performance.

May 26, 2015

Is it really a $1 billion budget hole? Scott/AHCA and Senate disagree

Tensions continued to mount Tuesday between Gov. Rick Scott and the Senate as the governor blasted a Senate compromise and the governor’s Agency for Health Care administration issued a letter to the federal government suggesting that the state would not lose the $1 billion in federal money to reimburse hospitals for serving the uninsured under the low income pool as legislators previously suggested.

Agency for Health Care Administration deputy director Justin Senior sent a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services suggesting that “there is no need to infuse additional state general revenue to maintain current Medicaid hospital funding levels” in the 2015-16 budget year because local governments could draw down matching funds to offset the $1 billion not coming to the state.

He quotes the May 21 letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which suggests that the state will get $1 billion and notes that "this level of funding for the LIP coupled with the options the state may elect at its discretion described in this letter would enable Florida to retain Medicaid investment in the state at or above the current $2.16 billion level of LIP funding.”

Senior concludes: "Based on this communication and our subsequent clarifying conversations, we understand that the renewed LIP will provide us with enough money to maintain current Medicaid program funding levels."  Download Wachino 526

He then attached a funding proposal that assumes local governments will draw down another $906 million and therefore eliminating the need for legislators to fill the funding gap for hospitals with general revenue funds.  Download Proposal

Senate President Andy Gardiner's response: not so fast.

He called the approach “shortsighted and only kicks the can down the road” because it fails to address the reforms the federal government wants the state to adopt in order to provide insurance to the uninsured.

“The plan proposed by AHCA relies on a particular premise—it assumes that CMS will approve a LIP plan or distribution model that devotes all or most of the LIP spending authority to incentivizing IGT [Inter-governmental transfers] donations and does not advance any of the reforms required for compliance with CMS principles,'' Gardiner said in a statement. "This assumption must be verified by CMS before the Legislature acts on this proposal.

“Using LIP exclusively as a financing mechanism in FY 2015-16 appears to minimize the amount of general revenue needed in rates or other provider payments for the coming year, but that approach is shortsighted and only kicks the can down the road, pushing the general revenue need to subsequent budget years.

“Any proposed spending plan should be a multi-year plan that establishes a foundation for comprehensive solutions. Specifically, the LIP cap declines by another $400 million in the next year and distribution of LIP payments must align with uncompensated care costs in the second year. Additionally, stricter guidelines on distribution of LIP payments take effect in the next year.

"“We believe any proposal must also be accompanied by a full LIP model in order to evaluate the specific impacts.”

Conservative Club for Growth praises Alan Grayson in new ad

@PatriciaMazzei

The conservative Club for Growth, which has backed Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida's 2016 U.S. Senate race, plans to debut a TV ad Wednesday praising Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando, a liberal firebrand.

The spot is purportedly about the Export-Import Bank, which Club for Growth opposes. So does Grayson. But the ad's real goal is to go after Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, the top Democrat who has declared his Senate candidacy. Grayson hasn't decided whether to jump in the race yet, but Club for Growth seems to want him to -- thinking he might be easier to beat in a general election than the moderate Murphy.

"The ad will begin airing tomorrow statewide on MSNBC and other outlets in Florida, and it represents the third phase in an overall $1 million campaign, including digital advertising," Club for Growth said in a news release.

UPDATE: Murphy's campaign "denounced" the ad in a news release,  but also characterized it as good for Murphy. 

"The fact that an ultra-right-wing Super PAC that aims to privatize Social Security is attacking Patrick is the clearest sign that he's the strongest candidate in this race," campaign manager Josh Wolf said. "Patrick entered public office to fight back against Tea Party obstructionists like the Club for Growth who are intent on outsourcing Florida jobs overseas and privatizing Social Security and Medicare."

 

House softens opposition to Senate health care plan as governor escalates it

Hours after the Florida Senate leaders thought they were addressing House criticism by offering up a modified FHIX health insurance plan, Gov. Rick Scott squelched their optimism by calling the proposal a tax increase that will "grow government."

“Florida’s economy is growing and this year we have over a $1 billion budget surplus,'' Scott said in a statement released by his office. "The Senate’s plan to expand Medicaid under Obamacare will cost Florida taxpayers $5 billion over 10 years."

He said "a budget that keeps Florida’s economy growing will cut taxes and give Floridians back more of the money they earn, not inevitably raise taxes in order to implement Obamacare and grow government." 

Scott's comments contrasted with the tone offered by Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, a top House lieutenant and vocal critic of the Senate's health insurance plan.  

"It’s certainly moving in the right direction,'' he told the Herald/Times. "I do think that they are starting to move in the direction that we would hope they would move to. It will be interesting to see if the Senate will take up real cost cutting issues. The crisis in health care begins at the cost part of that equaton. Until we address costs there will never be enough expansion as those costs continue to rise." 

House leaders say they want to reduce the cost of health are by injecting competition into the health care arena with programs that eliminate certificate of need for hospital programs, allows for ambulatory surgical centers to compete with expensive hospital care, requires hospitals to to publish price lists, and allows nurse practitioners to prescribe medication and bypass physicians. 

Jeb Bush wants more funding for Alzheimer's research -- though he vetoed some spending for it as governor

via @adamsmithtimes

Jeb Bush's comments that he thinks the government should increase funding for Alzheimer's research are likely to resonate without countless American families who, like Bush's, are struggling with the disease.

But they also may stick in the craw of former Florida legislators, Democrat and Republican alike, who recall Bush vetoeing their budget items targetting Alzheimer's research and care while at the same time approving tax cuts often mainly for the benefit of specific businesses or wealthier Floridians

From the clips:

2001--Vetoed funding for Alzheimer's care clinic in Titusville 

2002--Vetoed $100,000 for an Alzheimer's program in Hillsborough County

2003--Vetoed $187,500 for two daycare centers In Boynton Beach Serving 100 adults with Alzheimer’s disease

2004--Vetoed $12-million for construction of outpatient treatment centers connected with the University of South Florida's Alzheimer's Research Institute. He called it a "want" rather than a "need";  Vetoed $189,000 for Morton Plant Mease Health Care Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders Clinic; Vetoed $80,000 in funding for the Alzheimer’s Care Center of Titusville, the third straight year he cut funding there;  Vetoed $80,000 To Create The First Day-Care Center For Adults With Dementia In St. Lucie County.

Bush also approved millions of dollars in state spending related to Alzheimer's disease, it should be noted, but Alzheimer's programs often wound up as budget casualties under Gov. "Veto Corleone," the nick name he likes to remind voters about as he campaigns for president.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Gardiner: Budget and health care debates operate on 'parallel tracks'

Senate President Andy Gardiner promised Tuesday that legislators will “get a budget done” when they meet in special session starting June 1 for three weeks but said the debate over health insurance will not be tied to it.

"You could have a scenario where no health care bills get done and you do a budget and you go home,'' Gardiner told reporters at a media availability Tuesday. "But I have confidence in the Senate that we'll be able to address all these issues and we'll figure it out."

Gardiner's comments came after the Senate extended an olive branch to the House and proposed a modified version of the Senate FHIX health care plan (Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange) in an attempt to resolve the budget impasse that led to the House's abrupt adjournment three days before the scheduled end to the regular session.

The Senate’s proposal, referred to by Gardiner as FHIX 2.0, bypasses putting people into Medicaid starting in July as was initially proposed and instead requires those eligible for the FHIX coverage to wait until January. The state plan also would have to obtain federal government approval.

The proposal also gives people the option of staying on the federal health insurance exchange, rather than going into the state’s privately-run option.

The proposal requires federal approval and, if the federal government rejects any piece of it or recommends changes, the plan would have to come back to the Legislature for final approval.

“We look at next week as starting the dialogue or the discussion,’’ Gardiner said.

Under the proposed schedule, outlined separately in memos from House and Senate leaders, the Legislature will convene on Monday and the Senate's Health Policy Committee will take up its FHIX proposal and the amendment offered by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, to modify it.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the bill (formerly SB 7044 and now SB 2A) on Tuesday and the proposal would be voted on by the full Senate on Wednesday.

After that, the Senate bill would move to the House where the Senate measure could be amended or the House could craft its own legislation. On June 9, the House’s Health Innovations Subcommittee meets and that meeting is followed on June 10 by the House’s Health and Human Services Committee.

The Senate's revised FHIX proposal also gives the state a back-up plan if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell and invalidates the federal health care subsidies for states like Florida that rely exclusively on a federal exchange. Under the Senate plan, if the federal exchange is declared unconstitutional, people on those plans would have the option of enrolling in the FHIX program.

Gardiner noted the frequent criticism made by House leaders that the federal government has never given any state approval for a health insurance waiver under the Affordable Care Act that included a work requirement for recipients.

“I would say, let’s find out,’’ Gardiner said Tuesday. “What we want to do is a Florida solution to this situation.”

He said that while the Senate plan includes a work requirement for individual to receive subsidized insurance, the work requirement can be deferred if the individuals are in school or can show other hardship.

“This is a Florida solution to the situation,’’ he said. “We’re acknowledging that we want people insured and here’s going to be our best shot at it.”

Virginia governor, a Hillary Clinton ally, backs Florida state Senate candidate

@PatriciaMazzei

It's not typical for another state's sitting governor to make a political donation to a Florida Senate candidate -- especially when that candidate technically isn't running until 2020.

But that's what happened last month: Andrew Korge accepted a $1,000 contribution from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and another $1,000 from McAuliffe's wife, Dorothy.

Korge is the son of Chris Korge, a longtime friend and major fund-raiser for 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. McAuliffe chaired Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, and earlier worker for her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

The younger Korge filed to run for Democratic state Sen. Gwen Margolis' Miami-based seat once Margolis is term-limited in 2020. The early campaign positions Andrew Korge to make a run for the seat in 2016 if Margolis decides to retire.

"It is especially meaningful to me that the Governor and First Lady of Virginia have taken an interest in our campaign," Korge said in a statement. "Florida, Virginia, and many states in the Union have similar challenges in this new century," he added, listing climate change and education among them.

By tapping his family's fund-raising network in Florida and elsewhere, Korge has been able to raise more than $126,000 since March 17 -- an aggressive number he probably hopes will make others think twice before running in the race. So far, the only other Democrat with an account is state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach.

(UPDATE: A political committee backing Korge -- aptly named Friends of Andrew Korge, and run by his dad -- has raised another $201,000.)

Richardson, who registered for the 2016 election but said he'd only run if Margolis retired, didn't report any fund-raising in April during the annual lawmaking session, when legislators are banned from collecting campaign checks.

Jeb Bush to co-chair Mom's 90th birthday bash/literacy fundraiser

@PatriciaMazzei

Barbara Bush is turning 90 years old next month -- which can only mean a big party at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

It won't be just any party but also a fund-raiser for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Co-hosting the June 8 event are two of the former first lady's children: presumptive 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and his sister, Doro Bush Koch. The siblings are listed as "honorary event co-chairs."

The event features a lineup of guest authors, including Miami's Brad Meltzer, and a dinner with live music, including from country singers Amy Grant and Reba McEntire.

The literacy foundation lists a menu of donation options for supporters, ranging from $25 to $249,999.

Marco Rubio: Christianity faces 'real and present danger' from same-sex marriage rhetoric

@PatriciaMazzei

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio warned in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that Christianity faces a "real and present danger" from same-sex marriage supporters who cast opponents as prejudiced.

"We are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech, because today we've reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater," Rubio told David Brody, according to an interview the network posted Tuesday.

"So what's the next step after that? After they're done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech," the Florida senator continued. "And that's a real and present danger."

Rubio, who is Roman Catholic, believes in traditional marriage between one man and one woman. A lawyer by training, Rubio has said there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, though he has said the decision to legalize those unions should be left up to states. He has also run counter to some social conservatives by saying sexual orientation is something people are born with.

Could Scott Walker sit out Florida primary?

via @learyreports

Scott Walker suggested in a radio interview with Laura Ingraham on Tuesday that he could sit out Florida's Republican presidential primary.

"I don’t think there’s a state out there we wouldn’t play in -- other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are in some of the polls essentially tied and they are going to eat up a good amount of that financial advantage that Gov. Bush is going to have. Remember, Rick Scott spent something like $100 million running for governor there last year."

That comes from a hopeful who in March implied he was the front-runner. Walker is scheduled to attend Scott's presidential forum in Orlando next Tuesday.

UPDATE 3:13 p.m.: A Walker spokeswoman writes: "Governor Walker is not a candidate. Should he decide to move forward, that decision will be made at the appropriate time."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times