August 24, 2010

A insider's guide to the primary election

Will Rick's voters show up?: Turnout could be a major factor in the GOP primary for governor. Rick Scott is hoping thousands of casual voters flock to the polls to oust career politicians. A lower turnout could benefit Bill McCollum, who has the party infrastructure and a stronger base of supporters. A win by Scott tomorrow would set the GOP establishment on fire -- it would likely end McCollum’s political career and put his supporters on the spot over who they will back in November. Or how many people sick with the fight will pick third-wheel Mike McCalister?

Will Haridopolos get his candidates? A handful of key state Senate primaries could test the power of incoming President Mike Haridopolos. The Merritt Island Republican has weighed in on several races: Jim Norman over Kevin Ambler in Hillsborough’s District 12; Miguel Diaz de la Portilla over Julio Robaina in Miami’s District 36; Ellyn Bogdanoff over Carl Domino in District 25 in Palm Beach; and Lizbeth Benacquisto over Sharon Merchant in the sprawling Fort Myers-to-Palm Beach District 27. The winners in the two Palm Beach seats face tougher races in November, while the other two primary winners will likely capture a Senate seat tomorrow evening.

Will the Greer/GOP-spending scandal hurt candidates? Former GOP Chairman Jim Greer is gone but his connections to candidates and the party’s legacy of spending on credit cards remains. In Pasco County, former Marco Rubio aide Richard Corcoran is getting reminded of his party credit card spending in his state House race (HD45). And in Seminole County, House candidate Jason Brodeur still thinks Jim Greer is the “bees knees.” Will it hurt him?

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August 23, 2010

GOP censored Scott response to Thrasher

Florida Republican Chairman John Thrasher sent a message to party faithful titled "Rick Scott" on Sunday night, blasting him (again) for invoking the Jim Greer scandal in the campaign. (See his message below.)

Scott's camp sought to respond, but the party refused to send the message, which says "denying the facts to paint a better picture of Bill McCollum is the wrong way to do it." (Read the whole thing here.)

Party spokeswoman Katie Betta explained the party routinely sends campaign emails to its list. But it also reserves the right to reject those "that contain personal or otherwise inappropriate attacks towards other Republicans." As for the email from Thrasher, which contained some choice words, Betta said the chairman can send what he wants.

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Scott camp predicts monster turnout

Rick Scott is predicting a monster turnout -- 1.7 million voters -- for tomorrow's primary election. Of course, it would be in Scott's interest if hordes of new voters stormed polling places to rage against the political machine. As Scott strategist Tony Fabrizio notes in his statement below, early voting an absentee ballots are up -- but will that translate to overall increased turnout? Stay tuned...

“Given that as of Saturday, August 21st nearly 520,000 Florida Republicans have already voted by absentee or early vote, we expect overall turnout of at least 1.7 million in the Florida Republican gubernatorial primary,” Fabrizio said. “This would represent roughly 41% of registered Republicans, a 70% increase over the 2006 gubernatorial primary. This is consistent with the increased turnout we have seen in Republican primaries across the country where outsiders have shocked the establishment candidates.”

After Election Day, who gets to define Alex Sink?

Facing only token opposition in her primary, Democrat Alex Sink is expected to emerge victorious Tuesday but with one big problem: in her quest to become governor, she is unknown to half of Florida's voters.

Meanwhile, a barrage of television ads in the high-profile Republican primary has given her competitors — Attorney General Bill McCollum and Naples businessman Rick Scott — plenty of name recognition. It's also given her plenty of ammunition to use against them in the November general election.

Sink's challenge now is to define herself as a candidate, and explain to voters what she wants to do in office -- or her competitors will, say pollsters and political observers.

"When you're not known, nobody knows what you're for or against," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. More here.

'Burger Bill' McCollum at Five Guys in Tampa

The current governor is famous for not eating during the day, but that's not a problem for Bill McCollum. The Republican candidate for governor feasted on a burger and fries for lunch Monday at Five Guys on West Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa.

It wasn't a big crowd -- five guys and maybe five or 10 women -- and they donned Team McCollum T-shirts and formed a backdrop while the candidate fielded questions.

"Polls are all over the place, but the most credible polls have us up between four and 10 points. I'm pleased with that," McCollum said. He agreed with the observation that GOP voters, disgusted by the tone of the primary, are ready for it to end, and he said he can unify Republicans, even if 42 or 44 percent of them cast ballots for Rick Scott.

In the McCollum camp, signs are abundant that a Scott victory Tuesday would make it difficult to unify the Republicans in November. Angela Panezze, 33, a Hillsborough GOP activist who does health care marketing, says she can't support Scott. "If it comes down to it, I've got to say that I probably would vote for Alex Sink," she said.

Afterward, McCollum waved signs and dodged raindrops at the corner of West Kennedy and Dale Mabry. Rick Scott was doing the same a couple of miles north.

-- Steve Bousquet

Push back on McCollum's AZ-style immigration bill

Memo to wanna-be Republican Gov. Bill McCollum: Expect resistance to your proposed crackdown on illegal immigration in Florida.

That was the message during a phone call with a group of civil rights leaders, clergy and Hispanic and black lawmakers, who say there's no place in a non-border state like Florida for an Arizona-style law requiring local police to question suspected illegal immigrants.

State lawmakers on the call included Republicans Steve Bovo and Juan Zapata, and Democrats Gary Siplin and Tony Hill.

Siplin, chairman of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators, said the bill would have an "adverse economic impact on tourism" and infringe on civil rights.

Bovo said, "If this debate is a genuine debate with regards to security, I'm well-versed to engage in that debate. If this debate is another vile cover for bigotry and simply for political purposes, I must be honest and share that I'll be greatly disappointed."

Mike Pheneger, chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the bill "panders to our fears and our worst instincts as a people" and that the ACLU would take "immediate legal action."

Did Bill McCollum flip flop on abortion? Probably not.

In the final stretch of the Republican race for governor, every nuance, every utterance and every snippet ever spoken by Bill McCollum, Rick Scott and their surrogates is under the microscope. And nothing receives the attention like abortion and other life issues.

Take the flap over McCollum telling the Christian Coalition et all that he doesn't support abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. The Scott folks pounced this morning, noting that McCollum said "McCollum is on the record with the Orlando Sentinel saying that he does not support taxpayer funding of abortions except 'in circumstances where the mother's life or health is at risk or in cases of rape or incest.' "

Not quite. The blog in question refers to a letter McCollum wrote governor Charlie Crist, urging him to sign legislation regarding sonograms and abortion. (Crist vetoed it). In his letter, McCollum outlines three reasons to sign the bill. Reason number 2 is what's in question:

Second, the bill prohibits taxpayer-funded abortions. The bill specifically prohibits health insurance purchased through an exchange with any state or federal funds from providing coverage for an abortion unless it is performed to save the life of health of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

It looks as if McCollum is explaining what the bill does. He's not saying he supports the bill because of the rape-or-incest clause. He's saying he supports it because it prohibits taxpayer-funded abortions. Since the Christian Coalition of Florida and associated groups are in McCollum's camp, we asked Florida Right to Life what they thought.

Matt Ozolnieks, chairman of the group's PAC, said a review of their records back to 2004 shows McCollum has been consistent on the issue. What about Scott? Ozolnieks said he's strong on "life issues" as well. "we have two strong pro-life candidates," he said. What about the Christian Coalition voter guide, which went out of its way to question Scott's abortion stances by noting that some abortions might have been performed at some of the 343 Columbia/HCA hospitals he controlled in the 1990s.

"On further investigation, it turns out that has been blown out of proportion," Ozolnieks said. "He pushed for conscience clauses, which puts him in a prolife position."

Scott does think abortion should be permitted in rape-or-incest cases. So why is his campaign raising the alleged McCollum flip flop in the first place? Because McCollum has done at least two reversals this campaign season: 1) on supporting an AZ-style immigration law and 2) supporting embryonic stem cell research. McCollum in 2004 said he supported the research on fertility-clinic embryos that would otherwise be destroyed. This year, he said he never said that. But then earlier this month, he said he did change his position.

Rick Scott: John Thrasher's 'biased,' ruling like Jim Greer

Rick Scott isn’t just running against fellow Republican Bill McCollum any more. Over the past few weeks, the political outsider/multi-millionaire has ratcheted up the rhetoric to say he’s taking on the entire power structure of Tallahassee and the Republican Party of Florida.

For proof, he says, just look at the recent repeated and most recent statements of RPOF Chairman John Thrasher, who denounced Scott yesterday (again) for running an ad suggesting that McCollum knew more about now-indicted former chairman Jim Greer. Thrasher issued the statement in response to Scott's questioning of RPOF finances and his decision to take out full-page newspaper ads noting a Greer-McCollum nexus. 

"Rick Scott has orchestrated a multifaceted campaign of misinformation in an effort to mislead Florida voters and confuse the facts surrounding the arrest and indictment of Jim Greer as well as the Party’s financial situation and preparedness to support our candidates," Thrasher said in an email yesterday.

Though Thrasher said he’s neutral in the race, Scott doesn’t buy it and he’s now making Thrasher out to be more of a successor to Greer’s legacy, rather than a usurper of his allegedly corrupt former predecessor, Greer, who got Thrasher et al to initially sign a golden-parachute severance agreement.

“Clearly, he’s biased,” Scott said. “Clearly, it’s all been orchestrated. That started with Jim Greer – it’s all been orchestrated that Bill McCollum will be the candidate. They didn’t want to have a primary….

“The information that we put out is absolutely true. You go look at the facts. They’re all there, whether they like it or not. So it’s a mistake that the party chairman would be biased and take a position on this when he knows the facts are absolutely true.”

Q: Do you think Thrasher’s being motivated by the special interests you mention on the campaign trail and who fund the RPOF?

Scott: “I don’t know what it is. I think it’s disappointing the party didn’t allow a primary. It started with Jim Greer trying to clear the field for both Charlie Crist and Bill McCollum. And it’s disappointing.”

Do you not trust Thrasher? Is that why you didn’t agree to fundraise for the party and have it help run parts of your campaign?

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