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April 22, 2016

Republicans start to accept idea of Donald Trump as nominee

GOP 2016 Spring Meeting (3)

@AmySherman1 @PatriciaMazzei

If Donald Trump’s presidential campaign thrust the GOP into the five stages of grief, then it looks like many Republicans have finally reached acceptance.

Trump is their likely nominee.

That realization, however unfathomable it may have seemed just a few months ago, seemed to sink in this week during the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting, held Wednesday through Friday at the Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood. It helped Trump that the meeting began a day after he thumped his competition in the New York primary.

“Is Donald Trump gaining support? Absolutely,” Massachusetts committeeman Ron Kaufman said. “When you win a state as diverse as New York, when you win a state as big as New York by 40 points it tells you a whole lot. Trump is doing so well. It’s pretty stunning.”

It also helped that Trump dispatched the latest additions to his campaign team, both Republican veterans, to assure the party elite Thursday night — in a private, happy-hour briefing that included oysters, shrimp dipped in remoulade and an open bar — that he doesn’t really view the GOP as the nemesis he portrays on the stump.

More here.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Ann Coulter feeds, and feeds off, Donald Trump

via @glenngarvin

It is a question that has been asked at least a million times over the past two decades — sometimes by her right-wing friends in admiration and amusement, more often by her left-wing enemies in desperation or damnation — and finally we have the answer from her own, proudly venomous, lips: What would make Ann Coulter, the queen mother of American political invective, shut up?

“You want to know what would shut Ann Coulter right up?” she asks. “Defeat Trump. Unless we elect Trump and do something about immigration, America will disappear. And I’ll disappear with it....

“I should be working on another book now, but I can’t, I’m too wrapped up in the election. I’ll have to skip a year on books. And if Trump loses, my next book will probably be a cookbook. I’ll be done with politics, except for a nasty tweet or two about the end of America. Maybe I’ll organize Facebook groups to help me desecrate Teddy Kennedy’s grave.”

This is what passes for a reflective and even morose moment in the all-guns-blazing-all-the-time world of Coulter, and a startling one, too. Could it really be true?

After 11 New York Times bestsellers, something approaching 2 million book sales, a thousand newspaper columns and a seeming 10 million bombastic TV interviews in which anybody to the left of Joe McCarthy is excoriated and eviscerated, could Coulter really be on the verge of abandoning her self-appointed mission to obliterate even the faintest trace of liberalism from every nook and cranny of the United States?

Nah.

More here.

Florida donor Mel Sembler wants to kill medical marijuana amendment

via @learyreports

With Jeb Bush out of the race, Mel Sembler has another 2016 focus: Defeating Florida’s medical marijuana ballot initiative.

Sembler tells us he and his wife, Betty, plan to raise at least $10 million, exceeding their successful 2014 effort that took $7.5 million.

A presidential election will get Democrats, and young voters in general, to the polls and that favors the pro-marijuana side. Polling shows the measure clearing the needed 60 percent threshold.

Sembler said the growing financial boon that is pot is another hurdle. “It’s always a challenge, particularly when there’s a major profit on the other side and there’s no profit on our side.

“We’re trying to save lives and people’s brains,” the Drug Free America founder said. “It’s not a medicine.”

Sembler has also been asked by the governors in Arizona and Massachusetts to help defeat efforts in those states.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Supreme Court stops 24-hour waiting period for abortions

@MichaelAuslen

Women will no longer be required to wait 24 hours before having an abortion -- at least for now.

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday tapped the brakes on the controversial state law, which requires women to visit the doctor, in person, a full day before an abortion. It's the latest in a protracted legal fight that began last summer after the measure was passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Gainesville-based abortion clinic Bread and Roses Women's Health Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued the state, claiming the law violates broad privacy protections under the Florida Constitution. A Tallahassee circuit court still hasn't ruled on that question. The fight has so far surrounded an injunction stopping the law from going into effect.

For about a day in July, the law was in effect before a judge issued the injunciton. Then, on Feb. 26, a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeals ruled in the state's favor, allowing the waiting period to become state law while the lawsuit moves forward.

The Supreme Court's 5-2 ruling, however, puts the law's implementation on hold while the state's highest justices decide whether to accept the case.

David Jolly to appear on Sunday's episode of 60 Minutes

@MichaelAuslen

Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. David Jolly will be on this weekend's episode of 60 Minutes, talking about a campaign finance proposal he calls the "Stop Act."

The legislation would make it illegal for federal elected officials to personally ask for campaign cash. But they could still speak at fundraisers, and people could still contributed to their campaign funds.

"When one side of the aisle tells incoming freshman to spend at least 20 hours a week raising money and the other gives you instructions on how to secure donations over the phone, it tells the world that Congress today has made fundraising more important than actually getting things done," Jolly, R-Indian Shores, said in a written statement.

The story is on CBS at 7 p.m. Sunday. It's the third time in as many weeks that a Florida politician has been featured on 60 Minutes. Last week, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater was on, and the week before, former Sen. Bob Graham was.

For his own part, Jolly's fundraising the first quarter of the year is unclear: His finance reports haven't yet been published by the Federal Election Commission.

He's running to replace Sen. Marco Rubio against four fellow Republicans: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach; Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami; Orlando defense contractor Todd Wilcox and Bradenton homebuilder Carlos Beruff. The primary is Aug. 30.

On Earth Day, get your facts right about climate change

Forty-six years after environmentalists dedicated April 22 to Earth, the United States and China will sign the Paris Agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.

In light of the historic deal between the world’s two largest polluters, we look back on some of our recent fact-checks on the issue.  

Here are six things everyone should know about climate change.

1. The vast majority of experts say humans are contributing to climate change.

Miami beach flood

Most scientists agree that climate change is real and humans are causing it. The figure that’s widely cited is 97 percent of climate scientists, and it appears in at leastthree peer-reviewed surveys. Plenty of other studies report overwhelming majorities of experts (in the 90 percent range) and at least 18 scientific associations agree.

2.  Climate change has national security implications.

In recent years, the Obama administration, the United Nations Security Council, and many foreign policy and military defense experts have all named climate change as a national security risk. The Pentagon calls it a "threat multiplier," meaning it can lead to food and water insecurity, increased poverty and disease, mass migration and instability.

That’s what happened in Syria, according to a credible 2015 study. The cascading effects of climate change — drought, famine, disease, displacement — contributed to the Syrian conflict in 2011 and bred the conditions for terrorism and the Islamic State to operate.

Keep reading from Linda Qiu at PolitiFact.

First month on Senate campaign, Carlos Beruff relies heavily on his own money

Nearly half of all the money U.S. Senate hopeful Carlos Beruff raised during his first month on the campaign trail came from his own checkbook, new campaign finance reports show. 

Beruff, a Republican from Manatee County, raised $111,790 from donors, but chipped in another $101,192 of his own, new campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show.

And more could be coming. Asked if he could put more in, Beruff said: "Oh yeah."

Beruff would not say how much he'd commit, but his allies have said they wouldn't be surprised if he put as much as $10 million into it.

Beruff said he has no qualms about committing his own money to the race.

"I'm betting on myself," said Beruff, a homebuilder who has never run for office before. "I've always been a believer that if you don't bet on yourself, why would you ask anybody else to bet on you."

Beruff entered the race in late February and the latest FEC reports cover fundraising and spending through March 31.

According to the reports, Beruff raised a total of $212,982 and spent $153,350. He had about $59,000 in his account at the start of April. Those numbers only tell part of the story of Beruff's spending. Since the start of April, Beruff's campaign has spent more than $1 million on television ads around the state. That spending won't be fully reported until July.

Beruff is not the only Republican candidate in the Aug. 30 primary putting his own money in the race. Combat veteran and former CIA case manager Todd Wilcox, a businessman from Orlando, has already loaned his campaign $1 million, included $250,000 between Jan. 1 and March 31. In addition to $1 million in loans, Wilcox has raised $434,753 and spent $351,724 on his campaign. That gave him just over $1 million in his campaign account to start April.

The fundraising leader for the GOP candidates remains U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach. After raising $1.1 million from January through March, DeSantis has now raised nearly $4.1 million and spent just $1.5 million, giving him $3.2 million to start April.

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera raised $251,000 in the last three months, helping him top $1 million in donations. He has spent $643,000 over the whole campaign, leaving him with about $389,000 in his account to start April.

New campaign finance reports for U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, had not been delivered to the FEC as of Thursday night. 

April 21, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott heaps praise on U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff

Gov. Rick Scott once again insisted on Thursday night that he has no favorite in the race for the U.S. Senate. But in a speech in Sarasota, he heaped plenty of praise of Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff and highlighted parts of his resume in surprising detail.

"I want to wish Carlos Beruff unbelievable success," Scott told more than 450 people, including Beruff, at a hotel ballroom in downtown Sarasota.

Beruff is one of five Republicans, including Scott's Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, running for the open U.S. Senate in Florida. Former CIA case worker Todd Wilcox of Orlando, U.S. Rep Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, and U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, are also running for the position that Sen. Marco Rubio is not seeking re-election to.

After listening to brief speech from Beruff, Scott went into Beruff's resume with some detail, talking about his work in questioning contracts and other expenses at the State College of Florida where Beruff is a member of the board of trustees.

"It controls the costs," Scott said of Beruff clamping down on spending at the college.

Scott followed that with more praise for Beruff's work as a member of the Southwest Florida Water Management Board.

"He did a great job," Scott said of Beruff's tenure there.

Two nights earlier Scott gave the keynote address at the Pasco County Republican Party's Ronald Reagan Dinner in New Port Richey with Lopez-Cantera in the audience. Scott spent half as much time talking about Lopez-Cantera's background and didn't provide as much of a list of accomplishments like he did for Beruff. In about 40 seconds, Scott called Lopez-Cantera a "good friend," noted he was previously the majority leader in the Florida House when the Legislature cut taxes and said he picked the right guy to be his running mate.

"I know if something happens to me Carlos can do the job," Scott said of Lopez-Cantera.

In Pasco County, Scott did not stay around for Lopez-Cantera to give his speech, leaving just as it was beginning.

Asked on Thursday night after his Sarasota speech if the two events show he's leaning towards Beruff, Scott insisted he is not playing favorites with any of the candidates.

"I'm not going to endorse in the race," Scott said, adding he thinks Lopez-Cantera has done a good job as his lieutenant governor. "I think both of them would do a good job."

Scott was in Sarasota to receive the county Republican Party's Statesman of the Year Award. Last year, Donald Trump won the award and the year before U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz received it.

Donald Trump skips GOP meeting, but his presence is undeniable

GOP 2016 Spring Meeting

@PatriciaMazzei

Republicans talked about him in hushed tones along hallways, in line to get coffee, even as they washed their hands in the restroom — though they rarely uttered his name from the microphone.

Donald Trump didn’t actually attend Thursday’s GOP powwow in Hollywood as his rivals had a day earlier. But no one could deny his presence.

It wasn’t only because Trump’s newly hired political hands, Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley, hung around the Diplomat Resort & Spa to privately assure Republicans that the presidential front-runner’s campaign is becoming more organized and traditional ahead of Trump’s likely nomination.

Even the parts of the day that weren’t about Trump were about Trump.

The most anticipated session of the Republican National Committee’s three-day spring meeting took place Thursday afternoon. It was a dry discussion about the obscure rules that govern the party’s quadrennial presidential convention.

More here.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

CFO Atwater offers two new candidates for state insurance post

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater offered up two new possible compromise candidates Thursday to be the state's next insurance commissioner: Raymond Blacklidge and Belinda Miller.

Atwater also renominated state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, for the insurance post, which means all three will attend next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, during which Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet will evaluate the performance over the past year of Kevin McCarty, who has resigned.

Atwater's decision to pitch two more candidates will be seen as an acknowledgment that he can't persuade Scott to support Hager for the post. The start of Florida's always-treacherous hurricane season is about six weeks away.

Blacklidge, 55, a resident of Madeira Beach in Pinellas County, describes himself as an insurance executive, business entrepreneur and consumer advocate, and he's a lawyer. He is executive vice president, general counsel and board member of two insurance companies, American Traditions and Modern USA, and said he has 30-plus years of experience representing the property and casualty industry.

Miller, 55, of Crawfordville, is a lawyer who has been McCarty's chief of staff since 2003, supervising a staff of nearly 300 people. Her resume says she has "developed a deep understanding of the Florida insurance code, model laws and general corporate governance issues." 

 

By law, Atwater and Scott must agree on a successor to McCarty, who has extended his resignation date from May 2 to 45 days after his replacement is appointed.

Scott remains committed to Jeffrey Bragg of Palm Harbor, calling him "the best candidate" to succeed McCarty. Bragg, 67, is a former federal official who ran a terrorism risk insurance program in the Department of the Treasury. However, Bragg's chances of being hired appear slim because Atwater has expressed no enthusiasm for Bragg, saying Hager has a better "skill set" to handle the position.

Blacklidge, Hager and Bragg are all registered Republicans, as are Scott and Atwater. Miller is a registered Democrat.