May 21, 2018

Scott blitzes Florida with TV ads. Nelson holds off. That's how Scott won last time.

CIA Haspel

@alextdaugherty

Bill Nelson is an incumbent without the advantages of incumbency.

Florida's only statewide elected Democrat is in a career-defining U.S. Senate race against Gov. Rick Scott, a multimillionaire with unlimited campaign cash and nearly universal name recognition in the state, for better or worse. And so far, Scott is attempting to define Nelson through $8 million in television ads across the state, including Spanish-language ads in Miami.

The early TV blitz raises the question: When is Nelson going to respond?

"The question is not how much money you have or how much money you spend but what is effective," Nelson said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office, where he was waiting to vote on Gina Haspel's nomination as CIA director in Washington while Scott was criss-crossing Florida switching between his official office and campaign mode. . "And so, to be determined. But I'm choosing not to use my hard-earned dollars now."

Nelson declined to say when he will spend his money and what type of message he plans to communicate to voters. But timing a television pitch too late could be Nelson's undoing.

Rep. Charlie Crist, who lost a statewide race to Rick Scott in 2014 by 1 percentage point, said months of television ads by Scott without a response from his campaign was one of the big reasons why he came up short.

"Back in '14 we were unanswering on television for like three months just because of the resource issue," Crist said. "You can handle it for a while but sooner or later you've got to start to respond."

Television advertising is essential and expensive in a state with 20 million people and six of the country's top 100 television markets, including the country's third-largest Spanish-speaking television market in South Florida.

Scott went up on television almost immediately after officially announcing his Senate bid on April 9, meaning Nelson has been playing the television waiting game for over 6 weeks, trying to amass campaign cash through fundraisers while also fulfilling his role as a lawmaker in Washington Monday through Thursday.

Crist said he expects Nelson to be up on TV imminently, though Nelson won't divulge when he'll take the seven-figure plunge. Nelson noted that he had done 44 events during the first five weeks of his campaign, though many of them were fundraisers. He took issue with the suggestion that he isn't campaigning aggressively, but acknowledged the disparity on television.

"I would ask you to question your premise there about him being more aggressive," Nelson said, as he propped his feet on a desk. "If you want to define that in terms that he has TV up, that’s correct, but not in the way the campaign is being conducted."

Read more here.

Rubio introduces bill to expand tax credits in Puerto Rico

Rubio

@alextdaugherty

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill last week that would implement multiple tax changes in Puerto Rico after the measures were not included in a massive disaster relief bill passed late last year after Hurricane Maria. 

Rubio's bill, called the Puerto Rican Empowerment Act, would implement recommendations from a bipartisan congressional task force on Puerto Rico that finished its work in late 2016. The bill includes an expansion of the child tax credit to all children in Puerto Rico, which reduces some families’ tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17. Currently, the child tax credit doesn’t apply to Puerto Rican families unless they have three children or more.

“This bill would enact critical tax provisions for Puerto Rico excluded from the recent disaster relief package, like a payroll tax holiday and expanded child tax credit, which would help alleviate the tax burden for Puerto Ricans rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Rubio said in a statement. 

Rubio, who introduced the legislation with Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, sparred with Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after the GOP tax bill was passed late last year. Rosselló was unhappy that the bill did not include certain changes for Puerto Rican-based businesses, and sources on Capitol Hill complained that his administration focused solely on corporate tax changes at the expense of the task force's recommendations. 

Juan Hernández Mayoral, who led the Puerto Rican government's Washington office under former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, said the Rosselló administration put the task force’s proposal “in a drawer” when Rosselló took office in January 2017 because eliminating tax loopholes under the U.S. territory’s current political status doesn’t align ideologically with Rosselló’s pro-statehood position.

“I mean, anyone who knows Politics 101 had to know that this would be the perfect timing for Paul Ryan to pass his tax reform he’s been working on for 10 years, it’s nothing new,” Mayoral said in February. “It’s an example of how ideology comes first before the Puerto Rican people. The current government did not advocate for it after it had worked its way through Congress for two years.”

The bill, if passed, cuts payroll taxes for Puerto Rican workers for three years, expands the federal child tax credit and establishes a data research center in Puerto Rico to improve the availability of economic statistics in the U.S. territory. The bill also includes corresponding spending cuts to pay for the proposed changes, which could make it a tricky proposition for some Democrats to support it. 

Republicans and Democrats in Florida have campaigned hard for the Puerto Rican vote since Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage in October. Rubio isn't up for reelection this year but Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson have made repeated visits to the island in recent weeks as their U.S. Senate campaigns ramp up. 

 

 

Bill Nelson gets $2.2 million in TV help from Washington

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign isn't up on TV yet while Republican Gov. Rick Scott has spent the past month on air, but a Washington-based group that aims to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate is coming to Nelson's aid. 

The Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is spending $2.2 million on a statewide ad buy with an ad titled "Served" that highlight's Nelson's biography and Senate record. 

"Bill Nelson’s life has been about service to others and to his country, and he continues that tradition of service everyday as he fights and advocates for Floridians,” said Chris Hayden, spokesperson for SMP. “Nelson is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with powerful interests. From protecting Medicare and Social Security from privatization to standing up to insurance companies by stopping them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, he never backs down from a fight. Bill Nelson delivers for Florida and there is no question he is the only candidate in this race that puts Florida first.”

The contest between Nelson and Scott could be one of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history. The Senate Majority PAC is not allowed to coordinate with Nelson's campaign, and PAC's generally receive more expensive advertising rates than candidates do, but super PACs are able to raise unlimited amounts of money from donors while the candidates are bound by contribution limits. The Senate Majority PAC has raised $52.7 million so far this cycle, and the group recently received a $2 million donation from Seth MacFarlane, creator of the television show Family Guy. 

Watch the ad below: 

 

 

May 16, 2018

It's another seven-figure week on television for Rick Scott

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty

Florida's U.S. Senate race is coming to the airwaves in Miami. 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is continuing his television advertising blitz by releasing a Spanish language ad in the South Florida market, part of a $3.2 million television ad buy spread between three ads across the state just this week. 

The Spanish language ad, titled "Cambiar" (change) focuses on Scott's effort to create jobs, and is the latest iteration in a television campaign that has cost over $8 million with Election Day about six months away. Scott's likely opponent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, has not spent money on television advertising yet. 

The ad targeting South Florida voters comes two days after the Scott campaign released a television ad targeting Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida, a group of voters seen as crucial for both parties in what could be the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history. Scott has released six television and digital advertisements since he officially announced his candidacy last month.

Scott was in Israel earlier this week with a host of U.S. Senators as the Trump administration opened a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and he may have free reign of the state throughout the month of August if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cancels a scheduled break and forces Nelson and other Democrats up for reelection to stay in Washington for votes. 

Watch the new ad below: 

 


 

May 15, 2018

Bill Nelson to vote for Donald Trump's CIA Director pick

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson announced Tuesday he will vote for Gina Haspel to lead the nation's foreign intelligence arm, joining a slew of Democrats who publicly said they would vote for President Donald Trump's pick. Haspel will likely be confirmed by the U.S. Senate later this week after about a half dozen Democrats who, like Nelson, are running for reelections in states won by Trump, said they would vote for her.

"Gina Haspel has dedicated her life to serving her country and the brave men and women who work at the CIA deserve a career professional, like her, to lead them," Nelson said in a statement. "Gina Haspel has publicly acknowledged that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program should not have been undertaken and has vowed to uphold our nation’s laws and values in leading the agency. She has earned the respect and backing of former intelligence chiefs from the Bush and Obama administrations. I will vote to support her nomination to be the next director of the CIA." 

Nelson's announcement comes after he met one-on-one with Haspel on Tuesday. The former deputy CIA director's nomination has come under scrutiny from some Republicans and Democrats over her connections to torture while she worked overseas during the George W. Bush administration.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Nelson's likely opponent in November, called on Nelson to divulge his stance on Haspel last week, and criticized Nelson for "slow walking" her nomination.  

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has publicly said he supports Haspel's nomination, though Republican Sens. John McCain and Rand Paul have said they will not vote for Haspel due to her past ties to torture. 

May 08, 2018

New poll shows Scott and Nelson virtually tied, governor's race a wash

US-NEWS-FLA-SCOTT-SENATE-2-MI

@alextdaugherty

A new poll from Florida Atlantic University shows that Gov. Rick Scott's television advertising blitz could be paying early dividends. The outgoing Republican governor challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November has a four 44 to 40 percent lead with 16 percent of voters undecided, a six-point swing from a FAU poll taken in late February which showed Nelson leading 40 percent to 38 percent.

But the race remains tied at 45 percent among poll respondents who said they're likely to vote in November.

“The Senate race in Florida continues to be very close and is going to be one of the most expensive and competitive contests in the nation,” said Kevin Wagner, Ph.D., professor of political science at FAU. “President Trump’s approval ratings in Florida are edging up, and if that continues, it could help Rick Scott and other Republicans on the midterm ballot.”

Nelson and Scott's U.S. Senate race is expected to be one of the most expensive in U.S. history.

In the governor's race, Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis (16 percent) and agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam (15 percent) are effectively tied with each other, and no other Republican reached double-digit support. On the Democratic side, former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine (16 percent) and former Rep. Gwen Graham (15 percent) are running in a dead heat with businessman Chris King (10 percent) in third. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum (6 percent) rounds out the field. The majority of voters from both parties are unsure of how they will vote in the August primary election. 

The poll also shows that President Donald Trump's approval rating in Florida is 43 percent with a 45 percent disapproval rating, Trump's highest approval rating in Florida since taking office. A majority of voters, 52 percent, said Trump's tax plan has made no difference to them financially and voters would prefer to have Barack Obama back in the White House instead of Trump by a 49-43 margin. 

The survey, which polled 1,000 Florida registered voters May 4-7, was conducted using an online sample supplied by Survey Sampling International using online questionnaires and via an automated telephone platform (IVR) using registered voter lists supplied by Aristotle, Inc. The survey has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Responses for the entire sample were weighted to reflect the statewide distribution of the Florida population. The polling results and full cross-tabulations are available at www.business.fau.edu/bepi.

May 04, 2018

The field for three competitive Miami-Dade congressional races is now official

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

Candidates for federal office in Florida had until noon Friday to make their bids official, and all four incumbents running for Congress in Miami-Dade districts will face opposition in November. 

Two of the incumbents, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson will face primary challenges, though they will be overwhelming favorites to win the August primary election. Wilson will be heavily favored to keep her seat in a deep blue district against a candidate who has also filed to run for U.S. Senate in Florida and Congress in California. While Curbelo's primary will likely be non-competitive, he likely faces a competitive general election challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

Two Democrats who considered challenging Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart dropped out after former judge Mary Barzee Flores switched races yesterday. Diaz-Balart and Barzee Flores will not have primary challengers. 

And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, the fourth incumbent running for reelection in Miami-Dade, won't face a Democratic primary like she did in 2016. Tim Canova is running again after raising millions but falling well short of knocking off the former DNC chair, but this time he's running as an independent. There will also be a Republican primary in Wasserman Schultz's Democratic-leaning district. 

The largest primary field on both sides is the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The district is considered a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats and four of them, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala, state Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation Director Matt Haggman and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez have all raised over $100,000. TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar and former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro have raised the most money on the Republican side. The race to replace Ros-Lehtinen is the most crowded in Florida as 9 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 1 no party candidate have filed paperwork to run. 

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott both qualified to run for Nelson's Senate seat, as expected. Neither faces a competitive primary. 

Full list of Miami-Dade congressional candidates below: 

District 27 (Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring): 

Elizabeth Adadi (R)

Bruno Barreiro (R)

Angie Chirino (R)

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (D)

Matt Haggman (D)

Mayra Joli (NPA) 

Stephen Marks (R)

Michael Ohevzion (R)

Maria Peiro (R)

David Richardson (D)

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera (R)

Maria Elvira Salazar (R)

Donna Shalala (D)

Gina Sosa (R)

District 26 (incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo is running for reelection) 

Carlos Curbelo (R)

Souraya Faas (R)

Demetries Andrew Grimes (D)

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) 

District 25 (incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is running for reelection) 

Mario Diaz-Balart (R)

Mary Barzee Flores (D)

District 24 (incumbent Rep. Frederica Wilson is running for reelection) 

Frederica Wilson (D)

Ricardo De La Fuente (D)

District 23 (incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is running for reelection) 

Tim Canova (NPA)

Don Endriss (NPA) 

Joseph Kaufman (R)

Carlos Reyes (R)

Carla Spalding (R)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)

May 02, 2018

Why Nancy Pelosi likes Marco Rubio's talk on taxes

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Minutes after the GOP tax bill passed the U.S. Senate last year, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said "this GOP tax bill was never about helping the middle class."

Months after the GOP tax bill became law, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who voted for the tax bill, made an argument that sounded much like Nelson's.

"There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they're going to take the money they're saving and reinvest it in American workers," Rubio said in a recent interviewwith The Economist. "In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker."

Rubio's comments were quickly lauded by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Democrats in Washington.
 
"We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves," Schumer's office said in a statement. Pelosi wielded a paper copy of Rubio's remarks while visiting Florida on Wednesday.
 
More here.

May 01, 2018

Rick Scott announces second seven-figure ad buy

Gov

@alextdaugherty

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is continuing to spend millions on television ads in his quest to defeat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and Election Day is still over five months away. 

The Scott campaign announced Tuesday that it's putting $2 million into a new ad called "Results." The ad, which will run around the state in English, is the second major ad buy since Scott officially announced his Senate campaign on April 9.

The 30-second spot hits on Scott's continued push for term limits (a policy promoted by President Donald Trump on Monday) and hints at the national deficit, which stands to grow under the GOP tax bill passed last year.

"If Washington was a business it would be going bankrupt, it would be bankrupt by now," Scott says in the ad. "I believe in term limits, I think the only people who don't believe in term limits are the career politicians. In my opinion, you ought to send businesspeople up there to solve problems." 

Scott has pulled in $3.2 million in the three weeks since making his bid official, and the race between the 65-year-old governor and the 75-year-old senator could become the most expensive U.S. Senate race ever. 

Watch the ad below: 

April 25, 2018

Bill Nelson will vote for Mike Pompeo as secretary of state

Pompeo_Senate_59399

@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo as President Donald Trump's second secretary of state, his office confirmed Wednesday. Nelson's stance is a change from January 2017, when he voted against Pompeo's confirmation as CIA Director.  

Pompeo, a former congressman and currently director of the CIA, is expected to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate after about a half dozen Senate Democrats said they would vote for him. Some Democrats have expressed concerns over Pompeo leading the State Department due to his past support for torture practices and military intervention in Iraq. 

Nelson said Pompeo's secret meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un "put him in a better light" in terms of his confirmation but stopped short of saying how he would vote last week.

"I support the trip, I think it's a lot better talking than shooting especially when the crazy child dictator has nuclear weapons, I think it's better to be talking," Nelson said. "On Pompeo, I will defer on that. I voted against him. I thought he was going to be too political as CIA Director and I'm going to evaluate that as secretary of state." 

Pompeo will take over the State Department if confirmed after Rex Tillerson was fired via tweet. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is an enthusiastic supporter of Pompeo, who endorsed Rubio during his presidential bid. 

“CIA Director Mike Pompeo has the full confidence of the president, an outstanding record of service to our country, and is more than qualified to serve as Secretary of State," Rubio said in a statement. "As Director Pompeo’s nomination now moves to the Senate Floor, I strongly urge my colleagues to put country over party and confirm him without further delay."