September 09, 2016

Rubio keeps getting asked about Trump. And now, about Putin

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Friday marked the end of federal lawmakers' first week in Congress after their summer break, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio returned to Miami to give reporters an update on legislation he filed dealing with Iran and Zika.

The Zika virus drew a couple of questions. Then came a mention of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- and Trump's praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Never mind that Rubio answered questions Thursday in Washington about Putin, whom he's long derided as am "authoritarian thug." And that he's given the same sort of answers on Trump for months.

In blue Miami-Dade County, where a majority of voters are Hispanic, he keeps getting asked.

"Nothing has changed" on his support of Trump, Rubio said at his local Senate office, across the street from Trump National Doral golf resort.

"Vladimir Putin is not a president. He's a dictator," Rubio said. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, however, "fundamentally misread" Putin as secretary of state, Rubio said.

Does he worry about Trump's tone on immigration? "You'll have to ask other candidates about their position," Rubio said.

Shortly after his news conference concluded, a new poll showed Rubio leading his Democratic Senate opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, by 50-43 percent.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

Republicans go after Murphy on TV en español


National Republicans began hitting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy on Friday in Spanish, airing a TV ad in Tampa and Orlando casting Murphy as a résumé fabulist.

"Investigations by the press found that Murphy hasn't worked as a public accountant," says the ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "The investigations discovered that Murphy also hasn't owned a small business."

Those are claims the NRSC also makes in an English-language ad, citing stories by Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4. Murphy's campaign has called the claims "flat-out wrong."

On Thursday, PolitiFact Florida rated both allegations "Mostly False." Murphy briefly worked as a CPA in Colorado and co-owned a business with his father, who is a major real-estate developer. It's unknown if Murphy ever put in money to finance the business.

"Murphy may be overselling his resume, but the ad also exaggerates when it says 'never,'" PolitiFact wrote.

Neither of the NRSC ads are set to run for now in Miami, Florida's most expensive TV market.


September 08, 2016

Rubio hopes Trump's views on 'thug' Putin will change

The Guardian asked Marco Rubio about Donald Trump's "fondness" for Vladimir Putin:

“Look, I have tremendous policy disagreements with President Obama, but Vladimir Putin is an authoritarian thug who is accountable to no one,” Rubio told the Guardian.

“I don’t think what Vladimir Putin exhibits is leadership. I think what he exhibits is thuggery … and we should be clear-eyed about that,” he added, noting that Putin controlled the media, the military and often his political opponents were either imprisoned or found dead.

Asked by the Guardian if he was concerned that Trump had a penchant for commending Putin, despite those facts, Rubio said he was hopeful the candidate’s posture might evolve.

“My sense is those views will probably change once he understands better who Vladimir Putin truly is – that’s my hope,” responded the senator, who is backing Trump.

Story here.

2 South Dade politicians who backed Garcia in 2014 now back Curbelo


A pair of Homestead city council members are backing Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, switching their allegiances from Democrat Joe Garcia, whom they supported in 2014.

The Curbelo campaign released a endorsement Thursday from Vice Mayor Patricia Fairclough, a Democrat, and last week from Councilman Jimmie Williams, who holds no party affiliation.

"Carlos has worked hard to improve access to quality education for every student and has advocated for criminal justice and immigration reform and funding for transportation and infrastructure," Fairclough said. "South Dade families need Carlos Curbelo to continue to represent us in Congress."

"Carlos is dedicated to bettering the lives of his constituents, making him an essential ally for our community," Williams said.

Both elected officials were behind then-Rep. Garcia two years ago. Curbelo has been campaigning as a moderate, saying in one of his TV ads that he values bipartisanship. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pushed back, arguing Curbelo is still too supportive of GOP leaders.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

Rubio: 'I am committed to serving in the U.S. Senate...'

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio continues to face questions over his commitment to serving a full six-year Senate term and in a TV interview used an interesting choice of words to go just far enough without actually making a vow.

“I am committed to serving in the U.S. Senate and it is a six year term,” Rubio said on WTVT. “The only thing I have said is no one can tell you for sure where they are going to be five years from now because things happen in life.”

Patrick Murphy’s campaign, which circulated the interview this morning, is hoping voters seeing through Rubio’s words. To press the point, Murphy this week asked Rubio to sign a “Full Time Senator Pledge.”


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

A familiar flashpoint between Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo: Cuba

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Democrat Joe Garcia accused Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Wednesday of launching a "divisive" political ad espousing an "odious" policy toward Cuban immigrants.

In a Spanish-language TV interview, Garcia referred to Curbelo's recent ad highlighting the Miami congressman's legislation to curtail abuse of federal benefits by Cuban immigrants who frequently return to the island. Garcia called it "an odious, toxic political calculation."

"At least when Mr. Trump stands in front of me, he's my enemy and he says so," Garcia said, dropping the name of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. "Worse is the guy from my same community, my same culture, who stands next to me and sticks a dagger in our backs."

Curbelo's law would no longer let Cuban immigrants automatically qualify for refugee status, which allows them to obtain certain government benefits. Some so-called economic refugees have been taking the money and frequently returning to Cuba, which suggests the immigrants aren't fleeing political persecution. That was the reason for considering Cubans refugees in the first place.

"This country offers us limitless opportunities," Curbelo says in his ad. "We can't let anyone abuse its generosity."

Garcia said Curbelo's proposal would hurt "the defenseless, the disenfranchised, the ones who arrived yesterday, as if these people don't deserve the consideration that Curbelo's father received, that my grandfather received."

Garcia has long disagreed with calls to alter federal laws that benefit Cuban immigrants. Cuba was one of the key issues that divided Curbelo and Garcia in the 2014 race, which Curbelo won. The 2016 contest looks no different.

"It's disgusting language like this that made Garcia's short, scandal-plagued tenure so ineffective," Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement. "While Joe Garcia continues to push normalized relations that threaten Cuban refugee status entirely, Carlos' proposal will protect the benefits for true refugees who continue to escape the Castro regime's oppression." 

Garcia, who held the 26th district seat before Curbelo, boasted he won last week's Democratic primary despite being outspent by opponent Annette Taddeo. He credited knocking on voters' doors and sitting in their kitchens to sip coffee.

"Not only are we going to win" the general election, he predicted to América TeVé's Pedro Sevcec. "We're going to win handily."

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

September 07, 2016

The Zika debate has come to this: Florida congressman brings jar of mosquitoes to House floor

via @learyrerpots

WASHINGTON -- Just imagine the panic if these mosquitoes were unleashed in the halls of the Capitol, U.S. Rep. David Jolly said, standing on the House floor this morning with a clear container holding 100 Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. 

Mind you the mosquitoes (larvae, actually, from the University of South Florida) do not carry the virus but the point was clear. "This is the fear of Floridians, right here," Jolly said. "The politics of Zika are garbage."

Rep. Ilenana Ros-Lehtinen spoke minutes before him and decried political "paralysis." She called for a $1.9 billion spending package without policy riders.

Continue reading "The Zika debate has come to this: Florida congressman brings jar of mosquitoes to House floor" »

Ros-Lehtinen attacks Democratic rival's criminal driving record in TV ads



Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen debuted a pair of hard-hitting television ads Wednesday slamming her Democratic challenger, Scott Fuhrman, as untrustworthy because of his criminal driving record.

One spot centers on the father of a 16-year-old girl killed by a drunk driver. The other features the retired Miami-Dade County police sergeant who responded to the girl’s 2000 death. Though Fuhrman was not involved, both show an illustration of Fuhrman behind bars.

“My 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie Witty, was killed by a drunk driver on Red Road,” John Witty says into the camera. “Now another drunk driver, Scott Fuhrman, wants to be in Congress, even after also being convicted of possessing a firearm while intoxicated. Less than three years ago, he fled on foot from a hit-and-run on U.S. 1.”

Retired Sgt. David Greenwell, who introduces himself “as a 33-year police veteran and 16 years as a supervisor in traffic homicide,” delivers a similar message.

“I don’t trust Scott Fuhrman in Congress,” he says.

Ros-Lehtinen is not considered one of the most vulnerable Florida Republicans in Congress, though her redrawn 27th district now leans Democratic. But Fuhrman, who runs his family juice-bottling business in Allapattah, is well-heeled enough to run more than a token opposition campaign. He sent plenty of fliers ahead of the Aug. 30 primary, which he won easily, and has hammered Congress for inaction on the Zika virus.

More here.

Murphy's first TV ad mocks Rubio attendance with game of 'Marco Polo'


Patrick Murphy's first TV ad of the general election starts with a quintessential Florida scene: two little boys playing in a swimming pool.

The game? "Marco Polo." The kicker? One of the boys leaves the pool -- leaving his buddy plaintively asking, "Marco? Marco? Marco?"

The message: Marco Rubio has a poor attendance record in the U.S. Senate.

"It's not a game when our senator doesn't show up," Murphy says into the screen. "Solving problems means showing up, showing independence and working together."

Murphy, a Democratic congressman from Jupiter, is hoping to unseat the Republican Rubio in part by arguing Rubio spent too much time away from the job while running for president. PolitiFact rated a recent Murphy statement accusing Rubio of having the "worst vote attendance record of any Florida senator in nearly 50 years" as Mostly True.

Rubio has pointed out he didn't miss votes that would have been decided by a single senator -- and that other presidential candidates in the Senate, including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also stayed away from the chamber to campaign.

Murphy has challenged Rubio to commit himself to a full, six-year Senate term if he's reelected. Rubio has challenged Murphy to six Senate-campaign debates. 

Elsewhere in the ad, Murphy says he worked "to protect women's health care" and "to stops cuts to Medicare" -- two issues important to female and senior voters in swing-state Florida.

"Like Marco Polo, Patrick Murphy relied on his father's riches to go around telling tall tales and exaggerating his accomplishments," Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement responding to the ad. "Given that Murphy named his ad after Polo, it's fitting that this aristocrat is lying about his own horrible attendance record in Congress and his support for liberal policies like Obamacare that cut Medicare."


This post has been updated with the response from Rubio's campaign.

September 06, 2016

After failed Senate vote, Rubio cautiously optimistic Congress can pass clean Zika bill

From McClatchy Washington correspondent Lindsay Wise's story about the failed Zika-funding vote in the U.S. Senate Tuesday night:

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for re-election in Florida, sent a letter Tuesday to House of Representatives and Senate Republicans and Democrats on the appropriations committees, as well as members of the House and Senate leadership, urging them to include Zika funding in any government funding bill they put together.

He made the same plea in a speech on the Senate floor after the vote Tuesday.

“Congress needs to act and it needs to act now,” he said.

Rubio said in an interview that he’d had conversations with Republican leaders in the House, explaining to them that he thought a clean bill without the controversial language restricting the use of grant money for Planned Parenthood probably was the only way forward.

He said a number of his GOP House colleagues had been echoing the same message to their leadership.

“I think that’s pretty clear that the Senate Democrats are not going to go for it with that language (affecting Planned Parenthood) in it,” Rubio said. “We just need to get this funded, at this point. . . . Hopefully we can prevail on our House colleagues.”

He said he was cautiously optimistic that a deal could be reached.

More here.