May 04, 2015

WSJ/NBC poll: Jeb Bush leads 2016 GOP field, but Marco Rubio is catching up, has broader support

@PatriciaMazzei

Hey, Miami: Are you ready to have two hometown Republicans leading the pack of 2016 presidential contenders?

It might already be happening, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush remains the leading GOP candidate in the poll, with 23 percent of respondents listing him as his first choice, compared to 18 percent for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. But a wider swath of voters -- 74 percent compared to Bush's 70 percent -- say they could see themselves voting for Rubio, the poll found. Its error margin is 6.19 percent.

Rubio got a big boost from his April campaign launch (Bush has yet to make his official), and the large Republican field is still very much in flux. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they could see themselves voting for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is also not a formal candidate, and the poll included seven other GOP hopefuls. All Republicans trail Democrat Hillary Clinton, with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky faring best against her.

For all those reasons, Rubio's camp has been quick to dismiss his strong showings in other polls. But the survey is still good news for him as he fund-raises across the country to keep up with Bush, who has a head start and established political-donor network.

Marco Rubio to speak at annual Miami-Dade GOP dinner

@PatriciaMazzei

Don't expect the Miami-Dade Republican Party to take sides in the 2016 presidential primary. But the GOP is giving contender Marco Rubio top billing at its Lincoln Day Dinner in June.

There's no mention of the other likely candidate from Miami, Jeb Bush, on the party's invitation. Rubio will be the keynote speaker for the June 20 event, with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera listed as a "special guest." Lopez-Cantera, a close Rubio friend, could jump into the U.S. Senate race to replace him.

May 01, 2015

Jeb Bush hires Jose Mallea, Marco Rubio's Senate campaign manager, for Hispanic outreach

@PatriciaMazzei

He'd been in talks with Jeb Bush's would-be campaign for several weeks, but it wasn't until Jose Mallea was featured as a panelist Monday in Bush's political-donor retreat on Miami Beach that he was outed as a Jeb Guy.

Soon, he will become part of the payroll: Bush's political action committee, Right to Rise, plans to hire Mallea to advise the former Florida governor's likely 2016 presidential campaign on Hispanic outreach and engagement.

Mallea's first paid job in politics was on Bush's 1998 gubernatorial campaign, and worked for President George W. Bush from 2001-05. But he has known Marco Rubio since 2006 and ran Rubio's successful 2010 U.S. Senate campaign -- so which Republican presidential contender would he pick?

"The decision in terms of who's going to be a better president and who's ready to be president -- that wasn't hard," Mallea told the Miami Herald on Friday in his first public comments about his new gig, which was first reported by Politico. "It was a no-brainer for me."

"It's tough on a personal level," he added. "I'm incredibly proud of what Marco has accomplished."

Mallea said he let Rubio know, through mutual friends, about his Bush post, which is not yet official. Friday marked Mallea's last day as national strategic director for the Libre Initiative, a Hispanic political outreach group connected to the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers. He also co-owns Biscayne Bay Brewing Co. in Doral.

Mallea said he was persuaded to join Bush full-time in part after speaking at length to Jeb Bush Jr., who has been traveling the country asking young Republicans to raise money for his dad.

"Jeb doesn't need to be told how to reach out to Hispanics," Mallea said.

Bush, whose wife is Mexican American, speaks Spanish and has lived for 30 years in culturally Hispanic Miami. As adviser, Mallea's job will be to help Bush execute a strategy to bring more Latino voters to the GOP. Bush has already more forcefully embraced immigration reform in his stump speech than have other Republicans in the crowded field, including Rubio.

In his time at the Libre Initiative, Mallea helped Republicans get elected in two key congressional districts, including Carlos Curbelo in Florida's 26th. Curbelo is expected to back Bush once he formalizes his candidacy. Miami's two other Cuban-American Republican House members, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have already endorsed him.

Coach Marco Rubio likes Miami Dolphins' NFL draft pick

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whose dream job besides president of the United States is National Football League commissioner, declared himself content with his beloved Miami Dolphins' draft pick.

Thursday night, the Dolphins chose Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker with their first pick -- number 14 in the first round.

"Very happy with that," Rubio told the National Review in Washington on Friday.

The Republican presidential candidate did add, though, that he was hoping the Dolphins had a shot at running back Todd Gurley of Texas. But he went to the St. Louis Rams at Number 10.

In another light moment during the Friday interview, Rubio said that, unlike likely rival Jeb Bush, he's not on the Paleo diet. He had key lime pie Thursday, the senator said: "Not the whole pie!"

Rubio played football at South Miami Senior High School and then for a year at now-defunct Tarkio College in Missouri. He joked three days before he launched his presidential candidacy that he might be announcing a bid for the top NFL job:

 

Fact-checking Marco Rubio's claim about the Iran deal

How can the United States and Iran come to a deal on Iran’s nuclear program when the two countries can’t even agree on what they supposedly agreed to?

That’s the point presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. -- a vocal critic of the negotiations -- made on National Public Radio April 13.

"I still have tremendous questions about whether this deal's even viable," he said. "The Iranians are now saying that what we're saying the deal is and what they understand it to be are two different things."

President Barack Obama and the other negotiating parties -- Iran, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany -- hit a milestone in early April. They established a framework agreement that lays the foundations for a final deal, to be reached in the summer. So we wondered: Are the United States and Iran’s descriptions of what the deal will entail so different?

See what Lauren Carroll of PolitiFact found and see Rubio's Truth-O-Meter record.

April 30, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio went to bat for now-shuttered for-profit college

From Bloomberg News:

Last summer, Sen. Marco Rubio asked the U.S. Department of Education to “demonstrate leniency” toward Corinthian Colleges by permitting the wealthy for-profit company to continue accessing millions of dollars in federal financial aid while it was cooperating with a federal investigation.

Ten months later, the company shuttered its remaining 28 campuses, instantly displacing some 16,000 students just days after it was fined $30 million by the Department of Education for a scheme involving “confirmed cases of misrepresentation of job placement rates” for as many as 947 students. The decision to close shop came after years of federal and state investigations into the company.

The top-tier Florida Republican presidential candidate had made his plea in a letter — obtained by Bloomberg Politics — dated June 20, 2014, and addressed to Jim Shelton, the deputy secretary of education, and Ted Mitchell, the undersecretary for post-secondary education.

“It has been brought to my attention that the U.S. Department of Education has recently placed extreme financial constraints on Corinthian Colleges, Inc. by restricting the company’s timely access to federal financial aid. It is my understanding the Department of Education has requested extensive documents be provided by Corinthian Colleges for review, and Corinthian has acted in good faith to try to provide these documents as expeditiously as possible,” Rubio, R-Fla., wrote.

More here.

When Marco Rubio and Grover Norquist disagreed on taxes

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio laid it down this week on Instagram. “I will oppose and veto ANY and ALL efforts to increase taxes.”

The declaration followed his re-upping of Grover Norquist’s tax “Pledge,” which Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform celebrated in a news release. Rubio had signed it twice before, as a state legislator and U.S. Senate candidate.

Rubio,  now running for president, is firm on the tax issue but not absolute.

Take this example in which Rubio, who’s signed the pledge, looks more anti-pledge than Jeb Bush, who refuses to sign the pledge. Grover makes a cameo.

In 2006, then state Rep. Rubio voted for a bill that aimed to increase by $2 the daily “surcharge” on rental cars. It would have asked voters to approve the hike, so Rubio and others who supported it could argue they weren’t raising taxes.

But that’s how Gov. Bush saw it, and Norquist as well.

“This rental car tax idea is just the newest attempt in a series of efforts by Florida’s local transit agencies and a number of counties to win legislative approval for revenue-raisers,” Norquist wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “After successive efforts to get approval for an additional tax on car owners have failed, the latest effort focuses on an idea that some think will be an easy sell: making tourists foot the bill.”

Americans for Tax Reform even ran a TV ad against the idea and Norquist met with Bush. In June 2006,Bush vetoed the bill.

“These taxes will be paid disparately by tourists visiting Florida, consequently creating taxation without representation on a large scale,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “Philosophically, I cannot support this."

This week we reached out to Americans for Tax Reform for comment. A spokesman did not respond.

Overall Rubio has a strong record on opposing taxes. But he did support increasing property taxes for schools. PolitiFact Florida explains.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 29, 2015

Marco Rubio says he is more experienced and qualified than Barack Obama was when he ran

Marco Rubio focused quite a bit on his past to make his case for a future presidency during a recent visit to Iowa.

During an interview with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board, the Republican touted his accomplishments to counter criticisms he is still a first-term senator, just as President Barack Obama was when he was elected president.

"I certainly feel I’m running for office with much more experience and qualifications than Barack Obama had when he ran. When Barack Obama ran for president, he was basically a state legislator from Illinois that had served in the Senate for two years," Rubio said April 25. "I, on the other hand, have been a legislative leader from the third-largest state in the country who has served in the Senate four and a half years, and have invested a significant amount of time in national security issues, particularly intelligence."

So is Rubio right in saying his résumé is much more impressive than Obama’s was almost a decade ago? We’ll check both candidates’ curriculum vitae.

Let’s start with an executive summary: Rubio, if he’s elected, will have spent about 17 years in politics and 19 years working overall. Obama had about 12 years in politics and 20 years of overall political and work experience. When you dig into the details, though, the differences between the two men seem fairly marginal.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found and see Rubio's Truth-O-Meter record.

April 28, 2015

AP: Marco Rubio hopes Japan’s Abe addresses ‘comfort women' rift

From the Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES - Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is warning that China is exploiting a rift between Japan and South Korea over World War II “comfort women,” and he hopes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the sensitive dispute in his address to Congress.

Abe has faced demands that he use his U.S. trip this week to speak to Japan’s use of tens of thousands of sex slaves to serve Japanese troops during the war. As many as 200,000 “comfort women” from Korea, China and other countries were forced into sex slavery.

South Korea has demanded an apology.

In Los Angeles on Tuesday, Rubio said that while Japan has expressed regret, “obviously something is missing” because it hasn’t gone far enough for survivors.

The Florida senator is in California raising campaign money.

Marco Rubio signs no tax hikes pledge (that Jeb Bush has refused)

via @learyreports

He signed it as a Florida House speaker. He signed it as a U.S. Senate candidate.

Now Marco Rubio, presidential candidate, has signed Grover Norquist's "Pledge" again.

"By signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the American people, Senator Rubio continues to protect American taxpayers against higher taxes," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "Senator Rubio understands that government should be reformed so that it takes and spends less of the taxpayers' money, and will oppose tax increases that paper over and continue the failures of the past."

PolitiFact Florida determined that Rubio has, in fact, supported tax increases.

During the 2012 presidential election every Republican candidate signed the pledge, except Jon Huntsman. Norquist can count on at least one candidate refusing to sign it this time, Jeb Bush.

“If Governor Bush decides to move forward, he will not sign any pledges circulated by lobbying groups,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said earlier this year. “His record on tax cuts is clear. He didn’t raise taxes.”

Norquist, who says tax increases under George H.W. Bush's cost him a second term, has become a major Jeb Bush basher. But he wasn't always critical. In 2006, Norquist praised Bush as an "ice breaker," and said he should run for president.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times