October 31, 2016

Obama praises Miami-Dade state Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in new TV ad

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@ByKristenMClark

The Democratic challenger seeking to unseat Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores unveiled a new TV ad on Monday featuring President Barack Obama in voice-over.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Pinecrest resident in her first bid for public office, was one of 13 legislative candidates in Florida that Obama endorsed this month.

She and Flores are in a competitive race for the newly redrawn District 39 seat that spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys. It leans Democratic and Hispanic.

"I know Debbie will fight to defend the progress we've made over the past eight years," Obama says in the ad.

The president also cut a similar endorsement ad for District 37 state Senate candidate and current Miami Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Image credit: Mucarsel-Powell campaign / YouTube

Mock website by Rubio trolls Murphy for withholding tax returns

Capture@ByKristenMClark

Marco Rubio is doubling down on his call for his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, to release his tax returns, and Rubio's campaign is amplifying that message with a mock website that trolls Murphy's decision to not release them.

Rubio's campaign launched MurphyTaxReturns.com on Monday morning. The site includes a "click here" link to purportedly guide visitors to Murphy's tax returns only to bump them to a series of "error" pages that insinuate Murphy could be hiding any number of things in his tax returns, such as "money made from business with Donald Trump."

The site features prominently a recently unearthed photo from 2007, which shows Murphy's father and the Republican presidential nominee at a groundbreaking for one of Trump's South Florida high-rises. Murphy insists his family's Coastal Construction Group never did direct business with Trump, but Coastal and Trump were both involved in two Trump-branded projects in South Florida.

MORE FROM POLITIFACT: "Patrick Murphy says his family never did business with Donald Trump, but it's more complicated"

Rubio's campaign argues that viewing Murphy's tax returns is now relevant because Murphy recently guaranteed a $1 million personal loan to his cash-strapped campaign, for which Murphy didn't have the cash assets to cover based on his financial disclosure.

Murphy told reporters in Tallahassee on Sunday that he sold stock from Coastal in order to pay for the loan; he had between $1 million and $5 million invested in the company, a "gift" from his father several years ago.

And Murphy again dismissed questions about why he won't release his tax returns, calling it something that "presidential candidates do" even though there's precedent from Florida's 2010 U.S. Senate race, Rubio's first Senate contest.

"Patrick Murphy’s decision to make a $1 million loan to his campaign is all the more reason why Florida voters deserve to see his tax returns," Rubio campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement Monday. "Murphy says ‘democracy requires transparency’ and wants to force others to release their tax returns, but his refusal to be transparent with voters begs the question: What is Patrick Murphy hiding?"

Rubio already released summaries of his tax returns this year as part of his previous presidential campaign.

Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen called the website "an odd attack for Marco Rubio, who enthusiastically endorses Donald Trump for President." Trump has famously bucked decades of tradition in refusing to release his tax returns this year.

"Marco Rubio’s attempt to distract from his Trump problem with a website is laughable," Slayen said.

Murphy co-sponsored legislation in June mandating major-party presidential candidates to release their tax returns. Murphy says he's been "very transparent" about his own finances because he files federally required financial disclosure forms every year.

Image credit: Marco Rubio campaign / MurphyTaxReturns.com

*This post has been updated with comment from Murphy's campaign.

GOP super PAC spends another $3M in fresh ad attack against 'Party Boy Patrick' Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

A national Republican super PAC has launched a new attack ad against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, which is airing in Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach.

The Senate Leadership Fund debuted the ad Saturday as part of a new $3.2 million ad buy in the final 10 days of the election. The group is spending $11 million in all on TV advertising this fall to tear down Murphy as he challenges Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

In its new ad, the Senate Leadership Fund dubs the two-term Jupiter congressman "Party Boy Patrick" and attacks him for embellishing his academic and professional résumés and for being among the "least effective" members of Congress.

PolitiFact has looked at ads using similar attacks before: on Murphy embellishing his University of Miami degree ("Mostly True"), on him exaggerating his business experience (It's complicated), and on him being an ineffective congressman ("Mostly False").

MORE from PolitiFact: "No, Patrick Murphy, PolitiFact did not debunk every attack against you"

Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen called the ad "false and desperate."

"Marco Rubio and his allies are getting desperate as the polls have tightened and Patrick's campaign has the momentum," Slayen said.

While Murphy was able to narrow Rubio's lead during October, Rubio still holds the advantage in the race and could actually be widening that, according to two new polls released Sunday.

Murphy's campaign has routinely tried to discredit attacks on Murphy's résumé, with Murphy repeating falsely during two recent debates that PolitiFact had debunked "all" of them. That's not the case.

SLF's ad closes with a controversial image of Murphy that Rubio publicized in their first debate: a several years-old image of Murphy appearing to grab the breast of, according to his campaign, a former college girlfriend. Rubio tried to use it against Murphy but it got little traction after Rubio's initial mention of it.

 Image credit: Senate Leadership Fund / YouTube

October 28, 2016

Pro-Murphy super PAC uses new cash to recycle attack ad on Rubio

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@ByKristenMClark

Flush with fresh cash from national Democrats and other donors, a super PAC supporting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy is re-airing an attack ad in Miami that criticizes Republican incumbent Marco Rubio's Senate record.

The ad that the pro-Murphy "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" announced Friday actually first debuted a month ago, when it was launched by the Senate Majority PAC, a national Democratic super PAC. "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" says it's spending at least $100,000 to air the ad in Miami through Election Day.

On Thursday, the Senate Majority PAC announced it was giving at least $1 million to "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" to prop up Murphy's campaign in the final days of the race. "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" spokeswoman Ashley Walker said the latest ad buy is being funded in part from that money, as well as money from other supporters.

"It’s bad enough that Rubio rarely shows up to work, but it’s worse when he actually does and votes against our state’s best interests," Walker said in a statement.

Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez Cubas said in response: "Patrick Murphy has been in Congress for four years and has nothing to show for it, so he and his allies are attacking Marco. Florida already has a senator with a strong record of fighting for them, and that's why they're going to re-elect Marco." 

Recent polls show Rubio is maintaining an edge in the race, but Murphy has been able to narrow the gap in the past couple weeks.

Image credit: Floridians for a Strong Middle Class / YouTube

October 27, 2016

Murphy loans $1M to his Senate campaign for last-minute ad time

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@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy personally loaned $1 million to his U.S. Senate campaign in October to pay for extra TV ad time in the final two weeks before Election Day, his campaign says.

The move comes after Murphy had lackluster fundraising in the third quarter and after national Democratic groups withdrew millions of dollars from Florida this fall, leaving Murphy to largely fend for himself.

"These additional resources will help position our campaign to win with expanded TV buys across Florida. We are confident in our path to victory," campaign manager Josh Wolf said in a statement Thursday.

MORE: Bitter Senate debate reflects tightening race between Rubio, Murphy

The loan is being disclosed this week as part of the campaign's pre-general election campaign finance report, which is due to the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. A copy of that report -- which would detail how and when the loan was reported to the FEC -- was not immediately available Thursday morning from Murphy's campaign.

The campaign plans to use the influx of cash from Murphy's loan to continue running a Spanish-language ad featuring President Barack Obama in Miami. That's Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's backyard and where Murphy is working to court the county's high Hispanic population, which leans Republican.

Murphy's loan will also help pay for ad time in Gainesville, Tallahassee and Jacksonville -- areas of the state Murphy hasn't had much of a visible presence in but where his campaign hopes to close the gap with independents. In those markets, Murphy's campaign plans to air an ad he debuted earlier this month that knocks Rubio for his poor Senate attendance record.

Murphy is making use of his personal wealth to front the loan with no outside help.

In his annual financial disclosure for 2015 -- filed this spring -- Murphy reported a net worth of between $72,000 and almost $4.8 million. Much of that wealth comes from stock in his family's Coastal Construction Group, shares valued at between $1 million and $5 million. (The gift from his father, Coastal chairman and CEO Tom Murphy, tripled Patrick Murphy's net worth when he received it in 2012 before he first took office in Congress.)

Coincidentally, Rubio brought up Murphy's wealth in Wednesday night's final U.S. Senate debate during a discussion about the economy. (Murphy -- for whom strengthening the middle class is a major campaign platform -- supports raising the minimum wage; Rubio doesn't.)

In his rebuttal, Rubio mocked Murphy by saying: "I find it ironic that I'm being lectured by the plight of the working class by a millionaire who inherited his money" while Rubio noted he "is the son of working class immigrants who inherited no money." 

Photo credit: AP

October 24, 2016

Pro-Murphy super PAC launches ad targeting Murphy's current constituents

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@ByKristenMClark

Boosted by a recent influx of cash of an unknown amount and origin, an independent super PAC that supports Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy is launching a TV ad that will air in Murphy's backyard between now and Election Day.

"Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" announced the ad Monday morning, which touts newspaper editorial endorsements Murphy has received from the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times, Orlando Sentinel and Sun Sentinel. Each editorial included harsh criticism for Republican incumbent Marco Rubio, which the ad also emphasizes.

In response to the ad, Rubio campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said Murphy has "nothing to show" for his four years in Congress and argued the senator "has a strong record of fighting for Florida's families."

The super PAC says it's spending $800,000 to run the ad for the next two weeks on West Palm Beach stations -- a TV market that serves Murphy's moderate congressional district in northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

That area should hypothetically be safe territory for the Jupiter congressman since Palm Beach County is heavily Democratic and more-moderate Treasure Coast voters helped elect Murphy to Congress for the past two cycles.

Ashley Walker, spokeswoman for "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class," told the Herald/Times: "Patrick Murphy has a strong record of independence in this district in terms of doing what's right for his constituents, and this ad reinforces that message."

As of Sept. 30, "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" didn't even have $800,000 in the bank to spend, but Walker said "obviously some contributions have come in" since then.

Heading into October, the super PAC reported having $764,000 in cash on hand in its third-quarter disclosure report. Walker said the recent donations will be disclosed in the committee's pre-general election report, which is due later this week.

Between July and September, the super PAC reported raising about $1 million between July and September -- a haul that included a $250,000 check from Murphy's father, Tom Murphy Jr. (Tom Murphy had also previously given $500,000 to the committee earlier in the campaign.)

Image credit: Floridians for a Strong Middle Class / YouTube

*This post has been updated with comment from Rubio's campaign.

Democrats' mailer contrasts Murphy, Rubio on abortion

@ByKristenMClark

A new direct-mail piece paid for by the Florida Democratic Party seeks to drive home to voters where the state's U.S. Senate candidates stand on abortion.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy -- along with Democratic groups supporting him -- has been making the topic a campaign issue for weeks, seeking to contrast Murphy's pro-choice views with Republican incumbent Marco Rubio's pro-life stance.

In response to the new mailer, Rubio's campaign reiterated its criticism that Murphy has "extreme positions on abortion" -- such as supporting the use of taxpayer money to fund abortions or supporting late-term abortions -- that "put him out of touch with the vast majority of Floridians."

Murphy's campaign has argued Rubio is the one who is out of touch because he opposes a woman's right to choose, including in cases of rape and incest or if the mother is infected with the Zika virus.

The mailer, which started arriving at Florida voters homes this weekend, is going out to "hundreds of thousands" of voters across the state, according to Murphy's campaign.

Here's a look at the mailer:

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Planned Parenthood Mailer

Frank Artiles manipulates facts in misleading attack ad on Dwight Bullard

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@ByKristenMClark

Through a new Spanish-language TV ad and other campaign materials, state Senate candidate and Miami Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles is falsely telling central Miami-Dade County voters his opponent “voted to release violent criminals and sexual delinquents in our community.”

Artiles’ TV ad claims Cutler Bay Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard “was the only senator who voted against keeping our communities safe — the only one,” and that Artiles would be the one who would protect the communities of Senate District 40. He echoed the attack in an image he posted on Twitter, too, in which Artiles claimed he “led the way to keep sexual predators off the streets” while Bullard “voted in favor of releasing violent criminals.”

But Artiles’ assertions manipulate facts.

Bullard called the ad "disgusting" and another example of "gutter-level politics" from Artiles.

More here.

October 20, 2016

Trump's claim of being 'the least racist person' challenged in new TV ad

via @learyreports

In a continuing effort to reach black voters, Hillary Clinton's super PAC has a new ad contrasting Donald Trump's claim of being the "least racist" person with his words and violence at his rallies.

Priorities USA Action said the ad is running in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina until Election Day.

Clinton and her allies have made a push to energize African-American voters, who haven't been as enthusiastic as the 2008 and 2012 election.

Presidential TV spending in Florida hits a whopping $81M

via @learyreports

The biggest presidential battleground state is big in another way: Florida leads all TV advertising with nearly $81 million spent so far, most of it for Hillary Clinton.

Clinton and her allies have spent $58 million, while Donald Trump and team have poured in $22.7 million.

Nationally, Team Clinton has spent $197 million and Team Trump $74 million, according to ad data reported by NBC News.

Top 10 advertising markets:

1. Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, FL: $26,868,457
2. Tampa-St Petersburg-Sarasota, FL: $22,297,526
3. Cleveland-Akron, OH: $16,603,330
4. Las Vegas, NV: $16,253,382
5. Charlotte, NC: $13,779,752
6. Philadelphia, PA: $13,325,197
7. Columbus, OH: $11,327,641
8. Boston, MA: $10,799,583
9. West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL: $9,700,349
10. Denver, CO: $8,785,047

Ad spending in Florida's U.S. Senate race is approaching $40 million, Politico reports.