February 02, 2016

February 01, 2016

Marco Rubio finishes 3rd in Iowa caucuses, Jeb Bush places 6th

GOP 2016 Rubio (7)

@PatriciaMazzei

DES MOINES -- Iowa voters wielded their political power in the U.S. presidential elections Monday, handing a Republican caucus victory to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — who devoted ample time and extensive resources to the state —over celebrity businessman Donald Trump, who blew off a local debate and repeatedly chose TV interviews over voter handshakes.

The victory by Cruz over Trump and fellow Cuban-American Marco Rubio sets up a three-way race GOP ahead of the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary. The Florida senator’s finish closely behind Trump bolsters his case that mainstream Republicans should unite behind him to take on the front-runners.

“This is the moment they said would never happen. For months, they told us we had no chance,” Rubio told a Des Moines crowd that celebrated his third-place finish as an outright victory. “They told me that we had no chance because my hair wasn’t gray enough and my boots were too high. They told me I needed to wait your turn, that I needed to wait in line.

“But tonight here in Iowa, the people of this great state have sent a very clear message: After seven years of Barack Obama, we are not waiting any longer,” a triumphant Rubio concluded, standing next to his wife, Jeanette, and their four children.

The Democratic race between former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was too close to call late Monday. A third Democrat, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, did so poorly he ended his campaign. So did the Republican who won the 2008 caucuses in Iowa, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

For Trump, the loss could be significant. He built his candidacy on the notion that he’s a winner, and though he led Cruz in Iowa polls, Cruz’s vaunted organization and bus tours propelled him to the top.

More here.

Photo credit: Paul Sancya, Associated Press

In last Iowa rally, Jeb Bush implores GOP not to elect 'just a big blowhard'

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DES MOINES -- Jeb Bush isn't spending the night of the Iowa caucuses in Iowa. He's jetting off to New Hampshire, where he has a better shot at a decent electoral result.

But that didn't stop him from campaigning first in Iowa's capital Tuesday, holding a rally of several hundred people in downtown Des Moines. 

"I hope that I can persuade you to go tonight to caucus for me," he said.

Without naming any of his Republican presidential rivals, Bush made a dig at Marco Rubio, criticizing candidates like President Barack Obama, whom he called a good speaker unprepared for the White House.

"The president shouldn’t have been a surprise to the American people, because what was in the background of this gifted orator that would lead you to believe he could actually make a tough decision?" he said. "There was nothing."

"I hope we've learned from that lesson," Bush said.

Continue reading "In last Iowa rally, Jeb Bush implores GOP not to elect 'just a big blowhard'" »

Marco Rubio raised about twice as much as Jeb Bush last quarter

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio's presidential campaign was on the upswing and Jeb Bush's on the downswing, and that reality was reflected Sunday when campaigns reported their quarterly fundraising.

Rubio raised nearly $14.2 million in the last three months of the year, about twice the $7.1 million reported by Bush. That's Rubio's biggest haul for that period yet, but he also spent more than before -- about $14.8 million -- largely on television ads to counter spots against him from several of his rivals, including Bush.

"Today, the Marco Rubio for President campaign announced the campaign's strongest fundraising quarter yet, doubling what was raised in the previous quarter," his campaign said in a statement.

 

The Rubio campaign reported nearly $10.4 million cash on hand but didn't specify how much of that can be spent in the primary. By not breaking down the number the previous quarter, it appeared Rubio had more cash than Bush, when he really didn't.

Bush's campaign reported nearly $8 million cash on hand as of Dec. 31.

"Jeb continues to be encouraged and grateful for the tremendous support and enthusiasm his candidacy has generated since he launched his campaign," spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger said in a statement Sunday. "We are confident our campaign will have the resources needed to get Jeb's conservative record, message and vision for the future out to voters across the country."

Pro-Jeb Bush super PAC, which amassed $103M in first half of last year, reports $15M in second half

@PatriciaMazzei

Right to Rise USA, the super PAC supporting Jeb Bush's presidential campaign, collected $15.1 million in donations in the last six months of 2015, the group reported Sunday -- a far cry from the $103 million it cleared before July 1.

A single, $10 million donation from Hank Greenberg, former chief executive of insurance giant AIG, made up the bulk of the haul.

Right to Rise still has $59 million left in the bank, more than the super PAC for Bush rival Marco Rubio, which has nearly $14 million. But the drop off in Right to Rise's fundraising reflects Bush's collapse in public-opinion polls, which make most financial donors more skittish about backing a candidate.

 

January 31, 2016

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio traipse across Iowa for just a few votes

GOP 2016 Rubio(9)

@PatriciaMazzei

SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- Presidential candidates spend hours upon hours aboard hulking SUVs and swanky buses motoring across the snowy prairies of the country’s midsection ahead of Monday’s Iowa caucuses — all to try to win just a handful of votes.

In 2012, some 121,500 Republicans caucused in the entire state. That’s only about 6,000 more people than the 114,700 Republicans who cast ballots in the presidential primary that year — in Miami-Dade County.

Rick Santorum won the 2012 caucuses with 29,839 votes. That’s about how many votes Mitt Romney got — in Miami-Dade absentee ballots alone.

But this is how the nation picks its presidents. Which is why Miamians Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush spent the better part of the past week in places like Sioux City, asking Republicans for their support.

Some of them don’t even live in Iowa.

“I’m from Nebraska,” one woman attending Bush’s Friday afternoon town hall sheepishly admitted. A couple at Rubio’s Saturday morning town hall declined to give their name, because “We came from South Dakota.”

The Sioux City metro area, on the banks of the Missouri River and once part of Lewis and Clark’s exploration trail, touches all three states. The city proper, however, has a population of 82,500 — smaller than Miami Beach — and is Iowa’s fourth-largest city. Voters expect to see their candidates in person.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

January 30, 2016

Dave Barry, Jeb Bush and the Coral Gables sod wars

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From Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry:

CARROLL, Iowa -- I swear I had no intention of involving Jeb Bush in the legal problem involving my sod.

Before I get into that, I should explain that Carroll is the site of the Greasewood Flats Club, where Bush held a rally. To get there, you leave Des Moines and drive straight for 17,000 miles, then make a right turn and go straight for another 17,000 miles, and it’s on your left. It’s a long haul, but en route you pass many fascinating sights, assuming you are fascinated by vast featureless sectors of frozen agriculture.

The Greasewood Flats Club was filled with the usual crowd of Iowans saying “excuse me” a lot and offering each other their seats. They are incredibly polite, these Iowans. If they ever come to Miami they will wind up naked in the gutter.

When Bush arrived he got a polite welcome and went into his pitch, which is that he is a Proven Leader who will provide Leadership by Leading. He then answered a bunch of polite questions, giving thoughtful responses but sometimes drifting too deeply into details, like a man reciting the tax code. This tendency toward wonkishness is Bush’s biggest weakness as a campaigner, although it could be useful in a medical emergency:

ANESTHESIOLOGIST: The gas isn’t working! The patient isn’t losing consciousness!

SURGEON: Quick! Get Jeb Bush in here to explain his five-point plan for stabilizing Medicare finances!

PATIENT: No! Just kill me!

More here.

Photo credit: Jordan J. Frasier, courtesy NBC News

Trailing in Iowa, Jeb Bush looks much more relaxed as a candidate

GOP 2016 Bush (12)

@PatriciaMazzei

CARROLL, Iowa -- Maybe it was the cold meds for his nagging cough. Or the year of rocky practice on the presidential campaign trail. Or the low expectations of where he’ll finish in Monday’s Iowa caucuses.

Whatever the reason, in the final days leading to the first Republican vote, Jeb Bush at long last seemed liberated. He was the candidate who might have been, sans Donald Trump. The governor Floridians knew. A man comfortable with being a Bush.

During Thursday night’s Trump-less debate in Des Moines, Bush embraced his family’s political dynasty, and did so almost with gusto.

“Look,” Bush said in response to a question about the GOP’s mainstream-vs.-outsider divide. “I am in the establishment because my dad, the greatest man alive, was president of the United States, and my brother, who I adore as well, as a fantastic brother, was president. Fine, I’ll take it. I guess I’m part of the establishment. Barbara Bush is my mom. I’ll take that, too. But this election is not about our pedigree; this is an election about people that are really hurting. We need a leader that will fix things and has a proven record to do it.”

His answer would have been nearly unthinkable eight months ago, when Bush, not yet a presidential candidate, stumbled over and over again when asked about his brother’s Iraq War and his family’s dynastic legacy. Bush’s inability to deal with The Bush Question, his candidacy’s most evident obstacle, was an early warning sign to some Republican donors and strategists that he might be in trouble.

But Bush’s grinding campaign has served as public talk-therapy session. He jokingly admits as much in his town halls, and a sort of psychological breakthrough had happened by Friday after the debate.

“I’m Jeb, exclamation point — proud to be a Bush,” Bush said in Carroll, about 90 minutes northwest of Des Moines, after a man asked him to compare himself with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and his brother, former President George W. Bush.

More here.

Photo credit: Paul Sancya, Associated Press

January 28, 2016

Scott: Don't count Jeb out

@jamesmartinrose

Gov. Rick Scott hasn't written off one of his famous predecessor's chances of becoming president.

Scott, in Washington to deliver an address on reforming hospital pricing practices at the American Enterprise Institute, put on his politics hat after the talk.

Scott, governor since 2011, said it's too soon to give up on former Gov. Jeb Bush despite his failure to gain traction in polls.

 "I still think it's early," Scott told the Miami Herald. "I mean, we haven't even done the first primary yet."

Scott said that Bush "was a very successful governor" when he headed the state from 1999 to 2007, noting in particular his education reforms.

"We're at a 12-year high in our K-12 graduation rate," Scott said.

Adding that "Jeb is working hard," Scott said, "The person that works the hardest generally wins."

Despite praising Bush's record in Florida, Scott declined to endorse him. Neither is he endorsing -- yet -- fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, the first-term U.S. senator, nor any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls.

"Like a lot of voters in Florida, I'm watching the candidates," the governor said.

Four days before the Feb.1 Iowa caucuses, Bush tallied just 4 percent in a NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of that state's Republican voters released Thursday. He was far behind businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio of Florida, while also trailing neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Bush is faring better in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary Feb. 9, according to a poll released Thursday by Suffolk University. Bush broke out of the single digits with 11 percent, putting him in a second-place tie with Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Rubio, with all four men well behind Trump's 27 percent standing.

In addition to Bush, Scott said he has personal relationships with Rubio, along with Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie through the Republican Governors Association.

Scott criticized the Republican National Committee for having scheduled just nine presidential debates this year.

"I wish the national party hadn't limited the number of debates and limited the locations," he said.

The RNC is weighing three additional possible Republican presidential debates.

The March 10 GOP debate will be at the University of Miami, nine days after Super Tuesday, when 14 states will hold Republican primaries or caucuses. Florida will hold its primary on March 15.

Scott declined to comment directly on Trump's decision to skip Thursday night's Fox News debate because of his ongoing feud with Megyn Kelly, one of its moderators.

"Every candidate's got to think about what's the best forum for them to get their message out, whether it's debates, whether it's town halls," Scott said.

 

Jeb Bush donor Mike Fernandez backs PAC promoting Cuba ties

via @learyreports

Billionaire Mike Fernandez -- one of Jeb Bush's biggest financial backers -- has maxed out to a political action committee organized to support federal candidates who favor ending the Cuban embargo.

His contribution helped New Cuba PAC raise nearly $350,000 in seven months - an amount the group said is its "biggest fundraising milestone yet."

Contributors who gave the maximum $5,000 include Fernandez, Carlos Gutierrez, Pat Riley (Miami Heat), Manny Medina, Joe Arriola and Paul Cejas.

“Today’s announcement is further proof that Americans from across the political and economic spectrum are continuing to unite in their support for normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations. As we enter 2016, we will do all that we can to support candidates and elected officials working towards ending the embargo, which will ultimately benefit both U.S. citizens and the Cuban people,” said PAC official James Williams.

Fernandez has supported the diplomatic reset with Cuba. Bush is vehemently opposed to the thaw.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times