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.
With polls suggesting she’s pulling ahead of Donald Trump in Florida, Hillary Clinton traveled to South Florida Tuesday and delivered her strongest pitch yet for for U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy while urging voters not to grow over-confident.
“It’s going to be a close election,” she said at Broward College’s Coconut Creek campus. “Don’t get complacent, because we've got to turn people out.”
Appearing a little more relaxed and perhaps even a tad sarcastic, Clinton blasted U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for his deflections on climate change, and Donald Trump for not coming out strongly enough in support of Israel. She spoke to a crowd of about 1,750, which delighted the Democratic nominee by singing happy birthday to her, one day before she turns 69.
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.
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."
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.
Murphy addresses another Rubio debate point: that his family's construction company made millions on Trump real estate projects. pic.twitter.com/Kz5RsY3oQ5
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.
The pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Correct the Record has a new online video targeting Marco Rubio, and highlighting his support for Donald Trump. Correct the Record has similar spots on Republican senators running in the battleground states of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Indiana.
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.
Marco Rubio plans an only-in-Miami campaign stop Sunday morning: An event at a Doral Colombian restaurant with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
The conservative Uribe is beloved by ex-pat Colombians who joined Rubio at the same restaurant, Mondongo, earlier this month after the South American country voted down a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The deal was put forth by sitting Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who despite the loss at the polls was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In two Spanish-language radio interviews last week, Rubio argued South Floridians should keep a loud voice on Latin American policy in the Senate. His opponent, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, doesn't campaign on U.S. policy toward Latin America, he argued.
"If I'm not in the Senate, who's going to be the leader on these topics?" Rubio said Thursday on Radio Caracol, which caters to Colombians. (He praised New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez as his Democratic counterpart on those issues.)
Rubio will be joined by Miami's three Republican members of Congress seeking reelection: Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Marco Rubio told NBC News' Hallie Jackson on Friday that when he did a debate in English on Univision during his first U.S. Senate race in 2010, the format "didn't work well."
"I had to answer questions in English, and it just didn't work well with the translator. They don't accurately translate my words," the incumbent Republican told Jackson, referring to a debate he had had with his then-opponents, Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek.
So, in his re-election bid this fall, Rubio said he fought for a true Spanish-language debate when Univision invited him and his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, to face off in front of the Spanish-language network's viewers before Election Day.
"It’s a Spanish-language debate on a Spanish-language network. I speak Spanish," said Rubio, who is Cuban-American.
But Murphy -- a Jupiter congressman who isn't fluent in Spanish -- had his own preference for the format. And after accepting Univison's invitation just last week, Murphy's campaign said it couldn't agree to what the network proposed: a genuine Spanish-language debate in Spanish, as Rubio also wanted.
It's typical for candidates to jockey for whatever advantage they can when negotiating terms of debates.
Murphy wanted the Univision debate in English and then dubbed, although the campaign billed the event it agreed to as a "Spanish-language" debate. Murphy's campaign said statewide debates on Spanish-language networks have never been done in Spanish and argued that Rubio was asking for unprecedented rules.
Rubio told NBC News that Murphy "didn't want to participate with me speaking in Spanish." (Murphy's campaign told the Herald/Times earlier Friday such a claim was "completely inaccurate.")
Rubio also took a dig at Murphy -- who, although not fluent, has spoken some españolin a bevy of Spanish-language ads he's launched this month to court Hispanic voters.
"He just did a commercial in Spanish where he was talking Spanish in it, so I guess he speaks Spanish. He should be willing to do it," Rubio said.