September 12, 2014

Paging Dr. Freud: Rep. Steve Southerland opens mouth, inserts "lingerie shower."


Well, at least Steve Southerland isn't talking about "legitimate rape."

But for a GOP Congressman stuck in a close race against a female Democrat, someone oughtta tell Southerland to be careful with the gender talk. Southerland was already on the defensive about a cigar-smoking boys-only "roundtable" he held. Then he hosted a women-for-Southerland-style event where his campaign misspelled U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis' last name.

On Friday, the Panama City congressman opened his mouth and wondered why the press isn't asking Democrat Gwen Graham about whether she ever attended a ladies-only "lingerie shower."

Huh? What's a "lingerie shower?" Most people know what baby showers are. And a few are probably familiar with lingerie shows. To combine the two is kinda creepy. Paging Dr. Freud... UPDATE: Turns out, I don't lead an interesting life. Sharp-eyed reader Sally West points out that "lingerie showers" are for brides to be. And that makes Southerland's comment even less helpful to his cause. And so still we can say: Paging Dr. Freud....

Southerland quickly realized the gaffe and issued this statement: "I regret that my comments are being misused for political gain. I was trying to make the point that some organizations host men-only events and some host women-only events. Gwen Graham should be more focused on explaining her background as a D.C. lobbyist and political insider than she is on mischaracterizing my remarks."

Indeed, this isn't the messaging Republicans want -- espcially because it happened during an event with Gov. Rick Scott and NJ Gov. Chris Christie. But some tried to find a bit of humor in it.

"Lingerie showers, whiskey/cigar nights, funeral director by day...I'm thinking his own reality tv show," GOP operative Mike Hanna said on Twitter

Meantime, we know what Democrats'll do with the phrase: re-up the war on women talk. A while back, I said on Twitter that Southerland would probably win this race by about 4 or more points. Perhaps not if this keeps up.

"Steve Southerland’s latest jaw-dropping gambit to appeal to women: demean and ridicule us by claiming a ‘lingerie party defense,'" the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in the statement. 

So file the following dispatch from Steve Bousquet, Tampa Bay Times bureau chief in its joint state capital bureau with the Miami Herald, under the heading "self inflicted wounds." Bottom line: It's just never good campaign practice to bolster an opponent's stereotype. 

Continue reading "Paging Dr. Freud: Rep. Steve Southerland opens mouth, inserts "lingerie shower." " »

Mediscare, the 2014 campaign season edition

When it comes to claims about Medicare, some political talking points just never die.

In Iowa and Virginia, Republicans have accused Democrats of cutting Medicare to pay for Obamacare. In Florida, a Republican was slammed for ending the Medicare "guarantee." Other Medicare-related attacks have been deployed in Arkansas and Kentucky Senate races. The point of all the attacks is to convince midterm voters that one side or the other won’t protect the program.

Read PolitiFact National's story dissecting Medicare-related attacks nationwide including an ad by U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami, attacking his GOP opponent Carlos Curbelo.

Crist's attack on Scott about birth control

Charlie Crist’s most recent TV attack labels Republican Gov. Rick Scott as "extreme" on women’s issues.

A few days after he snagged the endorsement of Planned Parenthood PAC, Crist issued an ad showing a series of women attacking Scott’s record on abortion, birth control and equal pay for women.

One of the claims in the ad is that Scott "thinks employers should be able to deny women coverage for birth control."

PolitiFact Florida has fact-checked multipleclaims about Crist’s record on abortion and we gave him a Half Flip for holding various positions on it throughout his career -- even before he switched parties to become a Democrat. Several media reports have also covered bills signed by Scott that limit access to abortion.

Here we decided to fact-check Scott’s record on birth control. (Technically the Florida Democratic Party paid for the ad, but the Crist campaign announced the ad and promoted it.) Turn to PolitiFact Florida to read our full fact-check.

Anti-medical marijuana forces place $1.6m TV ad buy, promise more to come


Drug Free Florida, the folks opposed to medical marijuana, is dropping major greenbacks on a TV ad campaign: $1.6 million statewide in the first week of October.

The buy coincides with the first batch of absentee ballots dropping in the mail. Republicans and conservatives are the most-likely to vote by absentee ballot and the least-likely to support the proposed constitutional amendment, which needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.

Republican support is still strong, albeit not over 60 percent in most surveys, but out-sized Democratic and independent support have the constitutional amendment polling at anywhere from 61 to 70 percent (it's likely about 65%). By my calculations, if you drag down Republican support to about 42 percent, the amendment likely fails -- even if Democratic and independent support remains in the low to mid 70s.

We don't yet know the exact message of Drug Free Florida's ads, but it's doubtful it'll bash medical-marijuana backer John Morgan (why give the trial lawyer free advertising and credibility with people who want to hire a renegade?).

Not only is the medium the message. So is the size and location of the media buy. And this has "conservative" written all over it. Conservative North Florida (except for West Palm Beach's media market, which gives a great bang for the buck) will see the most ads, a figure expressed below as GRPs, which stands for Gross Ratings Points (1,000 GRPs generally means an average TV viewer will likely see the ad 10 times).

Continue reading "Anti-medical marijuana forces place $1.6m TV ad buy, promise more to come" »

UPDATE: Rivera's last-minute request for delay in ethics case denied -- for real

Faced with the exodus of his legal team, David Rivera tried to delay a Florida Commission on Ethics case that found he violated the state's rules for elected officials.

But on Friday, when told of his latest maneuver in a two-year-old case, the Commission unanimously rejected further delay, recommending instead that administrative law judge David Watkins determine penalties for the violations by Rivera, who appeared late at the hearing and missed the discussion on his case.

"It's insulting how this has happened," said Commission on Ethics Vice Chair Stanley Weston

"Denying this sends a message that we're over it," said Commission on Ethics board member Matthew Carlucci.

Rivera, who served in Congress between 2010 and 2012, was found in violation of seven instances of Florida's Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees while he served in the state House, including accepting state reimbursement for travel already paid for by campaign accounts and not accurately disclosing his income. 

Two of his lawyers quit representing him in July, and the third quit in August. On Thursday, at 4:43 p.m., Tallahassee attorney Leonard Collins filed a motion for continuance that had missed the deadline for Friday's meeting.

Collins said he was hired that day, Thursday, to make the motion.

"(Rivera) respectfully requests a continuance so that his counsel can carry out the above referenced review of the record and necessary legal research in order to properly prepare to address these issues before the Florida Commission on Ethics," Collins wrote in the motion.

But for members of the commission, some of whom seemed gobsmacked by the request, it didn't help Rivera's cause that Collins wasn't there to argue the case.

"If this was so important, I can't see why he can't be here," Weston said.

The vote was quick and the board went ahead with the rest of the agenda. The Rivera case, which had been moved up on the agenda that morning, was now headed to Watkins.

A half-hour after the vote, however, Collins appeared, and wasn't too pleased.

Continue reading "UPDATE: Rivera's last-minute request for delay in ethics case denied -- for real" »

September 11, 2014

Scott seeks to make his 'un-slickness' an asset

Gov. Rick Scott's two-week campaign bus tour rolled through the Panhandle Thursday, where he cast himself as an economic problem-solver in contrast to the opportunism of his opponent and predecessor, Democrat Charlie Crist.

Riding in a giant blue bus adorned with white "Let's Keep Working" signs, Scott mingled with customers at The Donut Hole in Destin and rallied Republicans, who chanted "Four more years!" at a sparsely-attended event at a Crestview Buick dealer. On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, president of the Republican Governors Association, will help Scott rally the GOP faithful in Panama City.

"Charlie Crist is a slick politician. A smooth talker. I'm not," Scott said at the dealership. "Charlie Crist is all talk and no action."

Traveling with the governor, Attorney General Pam Bondi picked up on the theme, opening her speech with this: "Rick Scott is not a slick politician, nor a slick talker. What he is is an honest, ethical, hard-working governor."

It's an obvious attempt to turn Scott's weakness into an asset by making his stiffness appear more real than Crist's "slick" style.

Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera both ripped into Crist as an opportunist who was more interested in the vice presidency or a U.S. Senate seat who as governor neglected jobs and raised state debt. "The four years he was governor, he didn't even want to be governor,"  Lopez-Cantera said.

Scott appeared more relaxed on the trail and he spent more time fielding reporters' questions. He knows his audience too. In the deeply-red Panhandle, he repeatedly tied Crist to President Barack Obama, but there was no mention of Republican priorities that do not play well there, such as his support for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students.


Rick Scott to campaign with one of GOP's least-liked in FL: the 'horrific' Chris Christie


Say you're Rick Scott, and you've struggled for years to overcome a likability problem -- then why not campaign tomorrow with one of your party's least-liked major candidates to run for president, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie?

Christie barely registers single-digit support in Quinnipiac University's most recent poll of GOP primary candidates in Florida and he's among the worst matchups (for Republicans that is) to face Hillary Clinton in Florida -- without which Republicans have little shot of winning the White House.

There's time for Christie, whose popularity sank after "bridgegate," to regain some of his mojo.

But in Florida's conservative Panhandle? This isn't the crowd normally associated with going gaga over a red governor from a blue state with a history of triangulating conservatives. Worked so well for Mitt Romney, eh?  Nothing more welcome in Crawfordville and Panama City than a voluble city slicker from Jersey. 

The last time Christie came to Florida, he hid from the news media. And before them, it's not like he was welcome during the 2012 GOP primary

For Scott, this is largely about money, from the Republican Governors Association, which Christie chairs. And for Christie, this is about making sure that he gets a foot on the ground in swing-state Florida and that, as head of the RGA, he does all he can to make sure the Republican doesn't lose to Democrat Charlie Crist.

Like Crist, Christie has a sidling-up-to-President-Obama moment. The act, just before the 2012 elections, bothered some Republicans so much that one dubbed Christie "horrific."

If Thrasher goes to FSU, his Senate seat is up for grabs


State Sen. John Thrasher is among four finalists to become Florida State University's next president. He has made clear that if he gets the job he will step down from the Legislature.

We won't know until Sept. 22 or 23 if Thrasher will get the FSU job or not. But people are already talking about who could replace him in the Senate and how that could shape the chamber for years to come.

If Thrasher resigns before the November general election, Republican leaders in St. Johns, Flagler, Putnam and Volusia counties would work together to select his replacement. Thrasher's name would remain on the ballot, but all votes would go to the person those GOP leaders choose.

In Republican-heavy District 6, that person is likely to win a full four-year term.

If Thrasher gets the job but waits until after the November election to resign, Gov. Rick Scott will call a special election. But we hear that Thrasher is more likely to resign before the election.

So who would his replacement be?

Continue reading "If Thrasher goes to FSU, his Senate seat is up for grabs" »

Rubio, Nelson: Fight against Islamic State will be long, difficult


Responding to President Barack Obama’s Wednesday night speech laying out his strategy for a broader military campaign against the Islamic State, Florida’s two U.S. senators cautioned that the effort could be long and difficult.

Marco Rubio, the Republican from Miami and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, popped up on news shows early Thursday, cautioning that – despite the best intentions of American military leaders – troops on the ground might ultimately be necessary.

“I hope it does not” require ground troops, he said on CNN, “but it may very well require, at some point, the engagement of, at a minimum, special operations forces and potentially ground troops.”

While he said, “I don’t think that’s something we need to do right away,” he added, “We need to be honest with the American people. It could require that.”

The conflict is with the Islamic State, variously known as ISIS or ISIL, the group responsible for the beheadings of two American journalists and a broad campaign of violence within Iraq and Syria.

In a prepared statement, Rubio elaborated, saying the president “is in a much better place than where he was a few weeks ago, when he was downplaying ISIL’s capabilities to threaten America’s security and the moderate Syrian rebels’ ability to fight the radical Islamists.”

That said, he worried Obama was still underplaying the reality of the situation.

“I remain concerned by his unwillingness to prepare the American people for what will likely be a long, difficult struggle,” he said. “As this debate moves forward, I hope the president will step up and make his case to the American people that we will do whatever it takes, however long it takes, to defeat ISIL and protect the American people.”

Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat from Orlando, also talked about the difficult road ahead: "This group will be degraded and defeated, but it’s going to be a long-term deal,” he said in a prepared statement. “It’s going to be probably years. The United States is putting together the coalition that will go after them. The U.S. will probably put boots on the ground, but it will be more commando raids and forward air observers with others to do the actual strikes on the ground. But we have no choice. This is a vicious, diabolical group that must be stopped.”

FSU students, alumni join 'support John Thrasher' campaign


A group of students who support state Sen. John Thrasher becoming Florida State University's next president are taking their campaign online. The website has begun collecting the names of people who want to publicly back this powerful alum and controversial candidate for the job.

"We believe now is the time to stand up for Senator Thrasher. He has been good to FSU and we believe he is well qualified and ready to serve as our next president," said Madeline Perrotta, a senior from Orlando, in a news release.

Perrotta is leading the "Students for John Thrasher" effort alongside three other seniors, according to the news release.

Thrasher will interview on campus Monday in a series of meetings with students, staff, faculty, alumni and community supporters. The other three finalists' interviews will follow throughout the week.

Thrasher, who has never worked in academia, is the only non-traditional candidate. The FSU Board of Trustees will make a final selection Sept. 23.

The domain was registered privately on July 21 and has already been circulating through the FSU community. The website currently lists 93 people who signed on as Thrasher supporters, 22 of them identified as current students.

There is also evidence that people who oppose Thrasher getting the job have infiltrated the site. For example, on a page supposedly listing comments from supporters, there are statements attributed to members of the presidential search committee that they didn't make.

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