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

Miami Republican billionaire backs Murphy for U.S. Senate, donates to super PAC

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@ByKristenMClark & @PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Mike Fernandez, a billionaire healthcare executive, plans to vote for Democrat Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent Marco Rubio in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Fernandez told the Miami Herald in an email.

Fernandez recently backed up that support with a $100,000 donation to a super PAC supporting Murphy, money that is affording the group to make last-minute moves to prop up Murphy’s candidacy in the competitive contest against Rubio.

Fernandez — a top Jeb Bush donor in the GOP presidential primary who formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in September — told the Herald late Thursday that the main reason he’s voting for Murphy is because of the Jupiter congressman’s support for lifting the Cuba embargo.

More here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file photo

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 26, 2016

White House: Obama 'committed to strongly supporting' Patrick Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a press briefing Wednesday that President Barack Obama is "committed to strongly supporting" Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign in Florida -- but the White House won't weigh in on how national Democratic groups should spend their money helping Murphy versus other U.S. Senate candidates.

Between early September and mid-October, the Senate Majority super PAC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled $16 million in planned TV ad spending the groups had reserved to fortify Murphy's campaign this fall against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The decisions came as Murphy gained little, if any, ground on Rubio in September, causing the Democrats to re-direct their resources to other competitive -- and potentially more winnable -- Senate contests elsewhere.

But in the past two weeks, Murphy's campaign picked up steam again.

Recent polls show the race very close. And Murphy has gotten vocal praise from both Obama and Hillary Clinton during their recent visits to Florida, which has helped Murphy's name ID and his support among the Democratic base.

But the Democrats' money hasn't returned -- and if it did, the ad time would be vastly more expensive than before.

Some Democratic leaders are questioning the DSCC's earlier decision to withdraw from Florida and not more aggressively help Murphy unseat Rubio, according to a story by Politico on Tuesday.

When Earnest was asked Wednesday whether Obama had an opinion on if Democrats should do as much as they can to take out Rubio (and consequently help Murphy), Earnest said: "I can tell you that President Obama is traveling down to Florida because he believes that Congressman Murphy is the right person to represent the state of Florida in the United States Senate. And he will reiterate that case once again on Friday in Orlando."

"The president feels strongly about the race," Earnest added. "When it comes to the strategy that's implemented by the DSCC, those are decisions for them to make. But the president is -- is certainly committed to strongly supporting Congressman Murphy's campaign and is optimistic about his prospects."

McClatchy D.C. reporter Lesley Clark contributed to this report.

Photo credit: Miami Herald

Tonight is the second -- and final -- debate night for Rubio and Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

Florida’s U.S. Senate race has, at last, shifted into a position long predicted by political observers and even the candidates themselves: A neck-and-neck contest that will go down to the wire between Marco Rubio, the Republican incumbent, and Patrick Murphy, the Democratic challenger.

The candidates’ second and final debate Wednesday night is among their last chances to gain an edge in the competitive contest and to draw the support of undecided voters who’ve yet to cast their ballots.

The debate begins at 7 p.m. at Broward College in Davie.

More details here on what to expect and how to watch.

October 25, 2016

Rubio: 'We're not going to be held hostage to whatever Patrick Murphy's mood is' on debates

Rubio_1stdebate_1017_ap@ByKristenMClark

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has ruled out the potential for any additional debates after Wednesday night's showdown with Democrat Patrick Murphy at Broward College -- what will be their second of two scheduled debates this fall.

"It's going to be the final one, because we're not going to keep playing this game," Rubio told Adrian Whitsett of WESH 2 News in Orlando over the weekend.

Rubio's comments came a day after Rubio and Murphy quarreled over who was to blame for the cancellation of what could have been their third debate, organized by Univision.

MORE: "No Univision debate for Rubio, Murphy"

The Spanish-language network took the event off the table after Murphy's campaign objected to the station's proposal -- which Rubio supported -- of having the debate in Spanish with a translator for Murphy. Murphy wanted the debate in English and then dubbed for the Hispanic-viewing audience. (His campaign accused Rubio of seeking unprecedented rules.)

In writing off any possible future debates, Rubio essentially told WESH that the clock had run out with two weeks left until Election Day.

"We have things to schedule, places to be and things to do," Rubio said. "We're not going to be held hostage to whatever Patrick Murphy's mood is in the morning when they call him about debates."

Continue reading "Rubio: 'We're not going to be held hostage to whatever Patrick Murphy's mood is' on debates" »

Murphy denies Trump connections, but CNN.com unearths photo of Murphy's dad with The Donald

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@ByKristenMClark

After Patrick Murphy relentlessly criticized U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for weeks for standing by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Rubio tried to shift the spotlight on to his Democratic challenger during last week's first Senate debate by alleging Murphy's family has made "millions" off doing business with Trump.

Murphy quickly called it "another lie" and, in the days since, has repeatedly denied any direct business connections between Trump and his family’s Coastal Construction Group. "We've never had a contract with Donald Trump," Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times and other Florida news media last week.

But CNN.com on Tuesday unearthed old photos that put Murphy in the position of having to further explain himself.

The images show Murphy’s father -- Coastal founder and CEO Tom Murphy Jr. (shown above at far left) -- a few feet away from Trump in a group photo-op at the ground-breaking for Trump Hollywood in 2007. Everyone in the photo, including the elder Murphy, is wearing a Trump-branded hard-hat.

Republicans quickly blasted out CNN.com's story, saying the images were "damaging" to the Jupiter congressman and "prove Murphy lied in the last debate."

But Murphy's campaign says the images show nothing of the sort and shed no new light on Coastal's business history with Trump.

The campaign acknowledges Coastal and Trump were "associated" with the same two South Florida projects -- Trump Hollywood and Trump Royale in Sunny Isles. But the campaign maintains, as Murphy has also said: It was the developer's responsibility in each project for separately hiring Coastal as its builder and Trump to market the properties.

Nonetheless, expect this topic to come up during Wednesday night's second and final U.S. Senate debate.

Photo credit: In this Getty image from 2007, Tom Murphy Jr. (pictured far left) appears in a group photo with Donald Trump (center) during the ground-breaking for Trump Hollywood. CNN.com

Patrick Murphy will speak at Hillary Clinton rally today in Broward

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@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy will be among the opening speakers before Hillary Clinton takes the stage at a campaign rally today in Coconut Creek, Murphy's campaign said.

The rally is set to begin around 2:15 p.m.

This is the third major Clinton rally Murphy has spoken at in as many weeks, all in the strongly Democratic terrain of South Florida. It will be his second with Clinton directly; the other rally featured President Barack Obama stumping on Clinton's behalf.

When Obama spoke in Miami Gardens on Thursday, he devoted a significant portion of his speech to criticizing Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio and urging Democratic voters to support Murphy so the Jupiter congressman could unseat him.

In Murphy's first two rally speeches, he got about 5-8 minutes on stage -- in which he delivered part of his routine stump speech to the friendly audience, while also laying into his opponent for continuing to support Donald Trump for president.

In contrast to Murphy, Rubio has not -- and, the senator's campaign says, will not -- campaign alongside Trump in Florida.

Photo credit: Richard Graulich / Palm Beach Post

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