February 26, 2015

Florida GOP chairman backs winner-take-all primary

@PatriciaMazzei

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the new chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, paid a visit this week to the Miami Young Republicans to rally their support and answer their questions about the party's future.

One of them was whether the GOP would support legislation filed in Tallahassee setting next year's presidential primary for March 15, the earliest possible date in which all of the state's nominating delegates would be awarded to a single candidate, rather than distributed proportionally.

"It is my personal belief that the primary process in the state of Florida should be winner takes all," said Ingoglia, who represents Spring Hill, near Tampa. "We are the largest, most diverse swing state in the nation. We are the prize."

If a candidate puts in the work to win Florida, he added, then he or she should be rewarded in full. Left unsaid was that the party would want all of its delegates to back one of the state's native sons -- Sen. Marco Rubio or former Gov. Jeb Bush -- should one of them run and win the Sunshine State primary.

"It's sort of like a microcosm of the United States in general," he said. The person who can win here is "the person that we want to get behind."

February 25, 2015

Family's war record won't dictate his, Jeb Bush says

via @lesleyclark

Jeb Bush said Wednesday his father and brother’s decisions to declare war in Iraq do not mean he’d seek to avoid -- or to start -- another war.

Asked by radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt in a wide ranging interview whether or not he’d be “overly cautious” to use military force for fear of sparking a “third Bush war,” the former Florida governor said he welcomed the question.

“It wouldn’t,” Bush said, noting if he wins the Republican presidential nomination and the presidency “then I would have a duty to protect the United States. And there are circumstances where a commander-in-chief, the president of the United States has to make tough decisions.”

He said he “wouldn’t be conflicted by any legacy issues of my family,” adding that he’s “quite comfortable being George Bush’s son and George Bush’s brother.

Continue reading "Family's war record won't dictate his, Jeb Bush says" »

Obama, immigration and the politics of snagging a seat on Air Force One

@PatriciaMazzei

After the November election, where Democrats lost badly to Republicans across the country, the Obama administration said it would make an effort to reach out to more members of the GOP in Congress. Part of that outreach was supposed to include bringing them along for rides on Air Force One.

Yet that's not what Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo found this week when he asked the White House if he could hitch a ride on the presidential airplane to Miami for a town hall-style immigration meeting to be held in his swing district. Invited only two days before the event, and unwilling to take an early-morning commercial flight that would make him miss House votes, Curbelo was denied a seat on the plane and didn't attend. (In the end, House votes didn't begin until the early afternoon.)

"In this case, we were unable to accommodate the congressman's request, but we typically try to do so when we can," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Miami. When asked if there was no space for Curbelo, as the congressman said he was told, Earnest said he wasn't "exactly sure."

"When the president travels outside of Washington, it's not uncommon at all for us to invite a member of Congress from the congressional district where the president is appearing," Earnest said. "And we do that, whether or not it's a Democrat or a Republican who's participating -- or who represents that district in Congress." 

Miami's two other Republicans in Congress didn't attend, either, though all support an immigration overhaul.

Continue reading "Obama, immigration and the politics of snagging a seat on Air Force One" »

Jeb Bush name-dropped in Obama town hall

@PatriciaMazzei

Only one potential 2016 presidential candidate -- Jeb Bush -- was named at a town hall-style meeting on immigration held in Miami on Wednesday with President Obama.

Moderator José Díaz-Balart cited a statement the former Florida governor made on Facebook after a Texas federal judge temporarily halted Obama's latest executive action on immigration.

"He said last week that you overstepped your authority, and as a consequence you hurt the effort to find a solution to the immigration problem, and all the affected families deserve something better," Díaz-Balart began before asking about Obama's message to his successor.

The president gave a lengthy answer that, at one point, addressed the Bush remark, and received a round of applause.

"I appreciate Mr. Bush being concerned about immigration reform," Obama said. "I would suggest that what he do is talk to the speaker of the House and the members of his party. Because the fact of the matter is that even after we passed bipartisan legislation in the Senate, I gave the Republicans a year and a half -- a year and a half -- to just call the bill. We had the votes. They wouldn't do it."

There was no mention that the bipartisan legislation in question was pushed in part by another possible GOP presidential candidate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

That time Obama made fun of a TV anchor's dye job

@PatriciaMazzei

Nothing drew more laughter during President Obama's brief visit to Miami on Wednesday than when he made a playful jab at Telemundo and MSNBC anchor José Díaz-Balart.

The quick exchange happened at the end of an hour-long interview about immigration that Díaz-Balart conducted in English and Spanish at Florida International University. Obama was calling on young people to vote.

"It doesn't do any good to push candidates but not then back it up with action," Obama said. "And the action ultimately is going to be getting engaged and involved in the political process. The people who are least likely to vote are young people."

Then he turned to Díaz-Balart and said, "I'm going to include José in the category of being old."

"We're the same age," Díaz-Balart chimed in. "I just look a little younger..."

"He looks a little better," Obama added, pointing at his own graying head, "because, you know, I don't dye my hair."

"I know," Díaz-Balart responded with a smile. "It's called, 'The Obama.'"

The two men shook hands good-naturedly. "I'm exaggerating," Obama said.

Immigration reform will happen, Obama says in Miami: 'There will be a President Rodriguez'

@PatriciaMazzei

Likening immigration reform to the great civil-rights movements in U.S. history, President Barack Obama vowed during a brief visit to Miami on Wednesday to veto any legislation undoing his executive order protecting from deportation up to 5 million people who are in the country illegally.

“In the short term, if Mr. [Mitch] McConnell, the leader of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, want to have a vote on whether what I’m doing is legal or not, they can have that vote,” Obama said, almost daring congressional leaders to challenge him. “I will veto that vote, because I’m absolutely confident that what we’re doing is the right thing to do.”

His veto threat was met with rousing applause from the friendly audience assembled at Florida International University, where Obama taped an hour-long town hall-style meeting hosted by Miami-based Telemundo and sister network MSNBC. The event, moderated by bilingual anchor José Díaz-Balart, was later nationally televised on both networks.

McConnell, of Kentucky, wants a stand-alone bill blocking Obama’s 2014 actions, which were supposed to take effect this week but have been stalled by a Texas federal judge. Boehner, of Ohio, is waiting for the Senate’s move, after House Republicans passed a budget for the Homeland Security Department that wouldn’t pay for the president’s plan.

More here.

Conservative Club for Growth hosts Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush -- but not Florida reporters -- in Palm Beach

@PatriciaMazzei

The Club for Growth, a conservative group, has invited a gaggle of potential Republican presidential candidates to speak at the organization's winter conference beginning Thursday at the Breakers hotel in West Palm Beach. Slated to appear are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Not invited: Florida reporters.

Asked by the Miami Herald for a media credential last week, Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller responded: "Media coverage is by invitation only."

We reporters often gripe about access to public events. But these are politicians flirting with running for the world's most powerful position, so trying to keep what they say to a few hand-picked news organizations is hardly transparent. The Club for Growth appears to be more keen on controlling coverage than on reaching the widest possible audience with their -- and the potential candidates' -- conservative message.

The approach stands in contrast to numerous other events attended by would-be candidates. For example, the Conservative Political Action Conference, taking place this week in Maryland with many of the same GOP hopefuls, had open media registration and allows news outlets to live stream, upload and archive video of speakers' remarks.

AFP takes Latvala and Detert to task on economic incentives

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group backed by uber-rich brothers David and Charles Koch is lashing out against two powerful Senate Republicans who have introduced bills related to economic incentive programs.

One bill (S.B. 1046) by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, would create an incentive fund “to respond to extraordinary opportunities and to compete effectively with other states” in attracting the entertainment industry to Florida.

The other bill (S.B. 1214), by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, makes changes to existing quick-action closing funds, which AFP says allow state dollars to subsidize private economic development without enough transparency or oversight.

But AFP isn’t really a fan of Detert or Latvala, despite its strong conservative reputation and the senators’ klout among fellow Republicans in the Legislature. In 2014, AFP gave them both “F” grades in its legislative scorecard.

As Obama visits Miami for immigration town hall, a look back at fact-checks about border security, deportations

President Barack Obama will defend his record on immigration at a town hall at Florida International University today.

The event starts at 3 p.m. and it will air at 7 p.m. on Telemundo and at 8 p.m. on MSNBC.

PolitiFact has fact-checked several claims related to Obama and immigration. Here are a few examples:

A few days before he announced his executive action in November, Obama was asked why he suddenly felt he could use executive action to address immigration issues. Obama said, "My position hasn’t changed." But it had.

Obama spoke several times in recent years about what actions he was able to undertake on immigration. At one point he said, "I am president, I am not king." Later he stated, "I’m not the emperor of the United States."

He may be neither of those things, but he did take sweeping action on immigration in the face of opposition from the Republican-controlled House. So we rated his claim that he hadn’t changed position False.

We also fact-checked Obama’s claim that “the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s.”

In 2013, about 420,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended at the border. The last time it was lower than that was 1972. However, in the 1970s, it was easier for people to make multiple attempts or excursions illegally across the border, undermining the quality of the historical comparison. We rated this claim Half True.

We also checked the claim by José Díaz-Balart, a host of today’s event in Miami and a Telemundo news anchor and MSNBC host.

"Every single day in this country, 1,000 people are deported and the vast majority of those people that are deported aren't criminals."

In 2013, an average of 1,200 people per day were formally removed from the country. But non-criminal removals only slightly outnumbered the removals of those with criminal charges. We rated his claim Half True.

Hear a claim we should fact-check today about immigration? #PolitiFactThis or truthometer@politifact.com

A Rick Scott tax hike? Yes, some Republicans say

Gov. Rick Scott doesn't talk about how his "record" budget for schools requires the state to collect more taxes from Floridians. But some of his fellow Republicans say it's true.

Scott's $77 billion budget proposal now before the Legislature includes $842 million more for schools, bringing per pupil spending to its highest level. But nearly half of Scott's increase would come from higher property taxes paid by homeowners and businesses due to growth in property values.

Is that a tax increase? Absolutely, a key Republican legislator says.

"It is a tax increase if you're a property taxpayer who gets a tax bill that will go up next year compared to this year. Property taxpayers will look at that and say 'That's a tax increase,'" said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, a key architect of the education budget as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. "The state is contributing less and less ... and local school districts are contributing more and more."

Gaetz, a former school superintendent and school board member in Okaloosa County, added: "If the check he (the taxpayer) has to write goes up, then he thinks his taxes go up."

Continue reading "A Rick Scott tax hike? Yes, some Republicans say" »