November 01, 2016

Rubio cuts TV ad in Spanish for Miami state rep

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@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio's face pops up on the screen in a new Spanish-language TV ad airing in Miami. But the U.S. senator running for reelection isn't making a pitch for himself.

"I'd like to tell you about my friend Michael Bileca," Rubio says in the commercial.

This is Rubio, the big-name endorser, campaigning down-ballot for a Republican state representative who can't cut Spanish-language ads of his own.

"He is a man of integrity and good character," Rubio says of Bileca. "He's not a professional politician."

Bileca is seeking reelection to House District 115, which is majority Hispanic. He's won twice in spite of his lack of fluency in the language. His bilingual wife, Vivian, has starred in his radio and TV ads since his first campaign. She does so this year, too.

But now Bileca also has Rubio, whose ad is paid for by the Republican Party of Florida. Bileca faces a challenge from Democrat Jeffrey "Doc" Solomon.

October 31, 2016

The best political Halloween costume in West Miami?

IMG_2475@PatriciaMazzei

When Halloween hits during early voting in a U.S. Senate race, the candidate's troops go to the polls in full force. Sometimes, they're even in costume.

Meet Brian Swensen, Marco Rubio's deputy campaign manager.

His costume Monday? Adult piggybacking on elephant.

Republicans. Elephants. Get it?

Swensen was hard at work ahead of Rubio's appearance to vote early at the West Miami Community Center. He rallied supporters, handed out campaign signs and sported a Rubio T-shirt himself.

The tiny legs over the GOP elephant, though, were appropriately spooky for All Hallows' Eve. No mask required.

Confident Rubio votes early for himself -- and, apparently, for Trump

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@PatriciaMazzei

After voting early Monday, Marco Rubio fielded questions about how he voted for president, for U.S. Senate, for Miami-Dade County mayor and for two Florida constitutional amendments.

Not once did he — or anyone else — utter the name of his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy. Which may explain why Rubio looked so relaxed about casting his ballot for his own reelection.

“We’ve had our own campaign,” the Florida Republican senator said. “I’m pretty confident that, irrespective of the presidential ballot, that’s going to help us win.”

Eight days before the election, Rubio leads Murphy by 5.6 percentage points in a Real Clear Politics polling average.

Still, Rubio encouraged supporters who came to cheer for him at the West Miami Community Center voting location to vote.

“It took me less than 10 minutes,” he said.

More here.

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.

October 30, 2016

Rubio says he 'probably could not' support TPP

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio on Sunday came closer than he ever has to rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership he once supported, saying in a local TV interview that if a vote came up today, he would likely vote No.

"As it currently stands, I probably could not support it," Rubio, a Florida Republican, said on WFOR-TV's "Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede." He cited a number of "concerns," calling it a "massive deal" whose intent -- more free trade with Asia -- he nevertheless supports.

Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times in August that he still hadn't made a "final determination" on the proposed deal. He had praised the TPP in 2015 but started hedging on his position in January.

His Senate rival, Democrat Patrick Murphy, opposes the TPP.

Rubio: Clinton mishandling classified info more likely than Trump launching nuclear codes

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio famously -- or infamously -- said as a Republican presidential candidate that he wouldn't trust Donald Trump with the nation's nuclear launch codes.

He has never backed away from that position, despite of his continued support for Trump over Hillary Clinton.

Pressed on that position in a WFOR-TV new interview Sunday morning, Rubio said it's more likely for a President Clinton to mishandle classified information than for a President Trump to have to launch nuclear weapons.

"I have deep concerns about her handling of classified information, which, in fact, in the real daily -- on a daily basis -- is actually much likelier than either one of these two people starting a nuclear war," Rubio said on "Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede."

"What's likely is she would mishandle classified information -- or, in her pattern of secrecy, she would create a governmental scandal that would create incredibly uncertainty in our country, as you are seeing now in this campaign," he continued. "Imagine now if the two months into her presidency, Hillary Clinton is indicted, the kind of trauma that would put our country through."

The interview hardly touched on Rubio's rival, Democrat Patrick Murphy.

Two polls released Sunday show Marco Rubio with widening lead over Patrick Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio could be widening what was recently a narrow lead over Democrat Patrick Murphy, according to two new statewide polls released Sunday.

Rubio had a 9 percentage-point lead in the latest New York Times Upshot / Siena poll of Florida, and he led Murphy by 8 percentage points in a new NBC / Wall Street Journal / Marist survey.

Both polls were conducted last week, during the same time period three other polls were done -- two of which also had Rubio leading (albeit by narrower margins) and one that had them tied.

Both campaigns are, not unsurprisingly, promoting only the polls that favor their position.

Rubio has touted these two new polls, along with a mid-October Bloomberg poll that had Rubio 10 points up, as showing him running away with the race. Meanwhile, Murphy -- as recently as Sunday -- has said the race is "dead tied" between him and Rubio -- a reference to two polls in October that found the pair evenly matched.

Murphy has not led in any of the more than 30 statewide polls that have been conducted since Rubio re-entered the race in late June.

In the new NBC/WSJ/Marist survey, Rubio had 51 percent support among 779 likely voters surveyed, compared to 43 percent support for Murphy. Four percent supported another candidate and 2 percent were undecided. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. (Among registered voters, Rubio's advantage was the same.)

By comparison, the previous NBC/WSJ/Marist survey three weeks prior had Rubio up by just 2 percentage points, which indicates he's growing his lead.

For the new NYT Upshot / Siena poll of 814 likely voters, Rubio led Murphy 51 percent to 42 percent. Five percent were undecided and 2 percent said they wouldn't vote in the race. The survey, done Oct. 25-27, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

“Marco Rubio is running 7 points ahead of Donald Trump in Florida and has established himself as a front-runner to keep his seat in the Senate,” said Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Before these two polls were released Sunday, Rubio still held an edge over Murphy but polls indicated Murphy was narrowing the gap in October.

Image credit: AP

October 29, 2016

Marco Rubio says Patrick Murphy 'should release his tax returns' after personal loan

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@ByKristenMClark

Ten days before voters decide Florida's U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Marco Rubio is calling on his Democratic challenger to release his tax returns.

Rubio said U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's announcement this week of a $1 million personal loan to his campaign raises questions about Murphy's finances. Murphy's financial disclosure from 2015 indicated his net worth was between $72,000 and almost $4.8 million -- but most of that is tied up in stock and investments, not cash assets.

"Where did he get the money from?" Rubio said, when speaking to reporters in Palm Beach County on Friday. (His campaign widely distributed the comments Saturday.) "I mean, it certainly doesn’t reflect what you see in his financial disclosures. It sounds like his wealth is largely tied up in stock in his family’s business."

Murphy's investments include $1 million and $5 million of stock in his family's Coastal Construction Group, a "gift" from his father in 2012 before Murphy took office.

“Now more than ever, I think Floridians deserve to know how he makes his money and where his money comes from," Rubio said of Murphy. "He certainly doesn’t make that a year as a congressman."

The release of tax returns is common for presidential candidates. Rubio did so when he was one recently, although Rubio's current pick for president, Republican Donald Trump, has bucked years of precedent in refusing to disclose any pages from his.

U.S. senators are not required to release their tax returns, either, but there is precedent from Rubio's first U.S. Senate race six years ago. Notably, though, Rubio's release of his tax returns has been only summaries, not the whole document.

"In 2010, when I ran for Senate, I released 10 years, and Kendrick Meek, the Democratic nominee did as well, and Charlie Crist did as well," Rubio said. "But, he [Murphy] refuses to release not even one page of one tax return.”

When asked for comment Saturday morning, Murphy's campaign reiterated a statement it released a week ago, in which they disclosed Murphy's tax rate but no other details from his tax return. The campaign said Murphy had been "transparent with the voters, disclosing his income, assets, and liabilities every year in his congressional financial disclosures."

Congressional financial disclosures offer a broad look at members' financial situations, because they're allowed to report assets and liabilities through wide ranges. That's why, for example, we don't know how much exactly Murphy's stock in his family's company is worth.

Nationally, the argument for Trump to release his tax returns has been that those documents would reveal more specific details about the candidate's financial situation than provided in federally required financial disclosures. Murphy co-sponsored legislation in June mandating major-party presidential candidates to release their tax returns.

Photo credit: AP

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

PolitiFact: Murphy revisits Rubio's line about Social Security, Medicare weakening Americans

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@amysherman1

In the second U.S. Senate debate, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy accused U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of wanting to "dismantle" Social Security -- a charge Rubio denied in a debate in South Florida -- and offered Rubio's own words as proof.

According to Murphy, Rubio "said Social Security and Medicare have, quote, ‘weakened us as a people.' "

Rubio said that Murphy distorted his words. "What I said is debt is weakening our country, it absolutely is," Rubio replied in the Oct. 26 debate at Broward College.

Murphy was referring to a speech Rubio gave at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in 2011. The quote is accurate, but it did not come in a speech arguing for such drastic reforms to Social Security and Medicare as Murphy described.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.