September 06, 2016

DSCC delays ad buy in Florida U.S. Senate race



The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is delaying its initial advertising in Florida's U.S. Senate race in order to further fortify its resources closer to Election Day, a DSCC official told the Herald/Times.

The DSCC on Tuesday cancelled its ad buy planned for Sept. 20-26 -- what was to be the committee's first foray into Florida's general election between Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

National Republicans were heralding the news as positive for their side, saying Democrats were "bailing" on Murphy's "losing campaign."

But the DSCC official argues their change in strategy is no indication of dwindling commitment in Murphy's race.

"Florida is clearly a competitive race and one that Democrats can win given polling that was released today," the official said, referencing an internal poll that showed Murphy and Rubio virtually tied. (That poll -- conducted nearly a month ago but shared by Democrats on Tuesday -- contrasts with other recent polls that have found Rubio with a several percentage-point advantage.)

"This spending is simply being moved to come later in the election to backload our current Florida buy," the official added.

But by delaying spending until closer to Election Day, the Democrats potentially reduce the impact of their ads because many voters will have already made up their minds. Mail ballots start going out in early October and early voting begins Oct. 29.

Back in April, the DSCC -- whose goal is to elect more Democrats to the Senate -- reserved about $10 million in TV ad time for this fall to support its general election candidate, which Murphy officially became with last week's primary victory.

Democrats view Florida's as one of a handful of viable seats that could help them take back control of the chamber, but Florida's race became considerably more challenging earlier this summer when Rubio decided to seek re-election after all. Two national political analysts recently upgraded Rubio's prospects by changing their ratings for Florida's race from "toss up" to "leaning Republican."

The DSCC by early May already started reserving ad time for the final week prior to Election Day, Nov. 1-7 -- including more than $100,000 worth on one Miami TV station alone.

National Democrats won't be without resources in Florida this month, though. The Senate Majority PAC -- a Democratic super PAC -- has a large ad buy starting on Sept. 13.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

Pro-choice group goes after Rubio over Zika, abortion rights



A national pro-choice group has launched a six-figure ad buy in two Florida TV markets to attack Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio over his stance on women's abortion rights as they relate to the Zika virus.

NARAL Pro-Choice America -- which has endorsed Rubio's opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy -- is spending $175,000 to run its 30-second spot in Orlando and West Palm Beach and to publish digital ads online.

Palm Beach County has had two confirmed cases of locally-transmitted Zika, but no local cases have been reported in Orlando.

MORE: Daily Florida Zika virus tracker

The ad criticizes Rubio for his position on abortion -- he opposes it -- and accuses Rubio of "putting his agenda ahead of the health and safety of women and families."

Rubio said last month his opposition to abortion includes pregnant women infected with Zika. The virus can cause certain birth defects, such as microcephaly, if a woman is infected during pregnancy.

One of the Zika funding bills Rubio supported in late June had language that was a non-starter for Senate Democrats because it cut out Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico from funding that would help the island combat the virus. (A month earlier, Rubio also supported a Zika funding bill that didn't include any such condition; both bills were $800 million short of the $1.9 million requested.)

MORE: "Politifact: Democrats stretch impact of Planned Parenthood exclusion in Zika bill"

"Rubio's actions are putting women and families in Florida, ground zero for this outbreak, at much greater risk," Sasha Bruce, NARAL's senior vice president for campaigns and strategy, said in a statement. "Women deserve a full range of health care options, including abortion, not options limited by Senator Rubio’s extreme and out-of-touch political beliefs. This is true always, but especially during a public health crisis."

When asked for a response to the ad, Rubio's campaign revised and reiterated a statement released earlier today -- accusing Murphy "and his allies" of continuing "to exploit this public health and economic emergency in order to score political points."

NARAL is running similar attack ads against Republican U.S. Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

The ads' launch comes as Congress goes back in session, with no visible end to the stand-off over Zika funding. Meanwhile, Rubio and Murphy on Tuesday continued to criticize each other on the funding issue.

Murphy, Rubio continue to swat at each other over Zika



With Congress back in session today after its summer recess, U.S. Senate candidates Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy continue to blame each other for Congress' inaction on passing a $1.9 billion measure to respond to the growing Zika crisis in Florida.

Murphy, a two-term Democratic congressman from Jupiter, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that securing Zika funding was one of his top priorities as he goes back to D.C. and he again accused Rubio of not doing his part. Rubio has lobbed the same attack at Murphy.

Murphy, in particular, criticized Rubio -- the Republican incumbent seeking a second term -- for "not being able to deliver" on a "clean" Zika bill and for having "very little pull there with leadership in the Senate."

But Murphy, along with other members of Florida's congressional delegation, hasn't proven much clout in influencing the funding debate in the House, either.

When asked about what he has specifically done, Murphy on Tuesday pointed to collaboration with other House members on legislation in the spring and said he will "continue staying in touch with both sides of the aisle."

Continue reading "Murphy, Rubio continue to swat at each other over Zika" »

Murphy challenges Rubio to sign pledge to serve 6-year term

Rubio murphy


Doubling down on a repeated line of attack against Marco Rubio, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy wants the Republican incumbent to now sign a pledge committing to serve a full six-year term, if re-elected in November.

Rubio has been noncommittal on the idea -- leading Murphy to pound Rubio with criticism that he is "only interested in using this Senate seat to pursue his personal, political ambition."

"Floridians deserve a full-time senator who will serve a full term in office. They deserve assurance from Senator Rubio that he won't just abandon them to run for president in 2020," Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter, said Tuesday in a conference call with state and national media.

Read Murphy's letter to Rubio and his signed pledge here.

Rubio campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas didn't directly respond to Murphy's challenge and instead pivoted to criticizing Murphy for not taking Rubio up on a challenge he first made last week asking Murphy to commit to six debates.

"Patrick Murphy should agree to debate this subject," she said in a statement. "But because he was ranked one of the most ineffective members of Congress, has achieved nothing in four years as a congressman and holds radical liberal views about health care, the economy and national security, he is afraid to agree to multiple debates."

"His privileged upbringing has left him with a sense of entitlement, which is why he is often too busy spending time on his yacht in Nantucket instead of working in Florida," she added.

Murphy said again Tuesday that how many debates he has with Rubio will be contingent on Rubio committing to a full six-year term. Murphy offered that condition as a counter-challenge to Rubio's. The two have agreed to only one debate so far.

"I'm very excited to debate Senator Rubio multiple times," Murphy said. "I think it's a great opportunity to show what a contrast there is between the two of us. ... I'm going to take his challenge seriously, if he commits to serving a full term."

Murphy had previously pledged to debate his primary opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson -- citing a similar contrast a debate would showcase between them -- but he never did.

*This post has been updated with comment from Rubio's campaign.

September 02, 2016

$1.9M ad campaign slams Patrick Murphy as 'fabulously phony failure'


A conservative dark-money group called "American Future Fund" has dumped $1.9 million into a TV ad campaign bashing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy as a "fabulously phony failure."

The attack references a controversy that has and will continue to plague the Jupiter congressman during the general election -- that he, at times, embellished or didn't offer full explanations about his professional experience.

The ad uses Murphy's own words against him, echoing one statement three times in the 30-second spot.

"Who would embellish a resume intentionally?" Murphy says.

The remark was originally part of a response made to a Herald/Times reporter's questions earlier this summer when discrepancies in Murphy's resume were first coming to light. His full remarks were captured on video by the Herald/Times; American Future Fund apparently used a portion of that video for its ad.

The ad first criticizes Murphy for allegedly "lying about being an immigrant." This claim takes Murphy out of context for a remark he made during a recent Fusion interview, in which Murphy was making the point that "we are all basically immigrants here."

It also goes after Murphy for how he has described his experience as a CPA and small businessman, citing media reports that scrutinized his resume claims and found they didn't add up.

As we've reported repeatedly, Murphy's explanation of his pre-congressional work has evolved with more detail in recent months as several media outlets probed what he actually did during those years. Politifact found "that Murphy’s description of his past employment is based on actual circumstances, but at times he omits a full explanation."

In response to the ad, Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement: "Marco Rubio’s special interest allies have already tried and failed to use these discredited attacks against Patrick -- and they will fail again."

American Future Fund said the ad will run in "multiple Florida broadcast and cable markets and is complemented by an integrated digital campaign."

The group's ad buy was reported Friday in an electronic filing to the Federal Election Commission. As a 501(c)4, American Future Fund is a political nonprofit organization that does not have to disclose its donors.

*This post has been updated with comment from Murphy's campaign.

September 01, 2016

Are Marco Rubio's chances of re-election improving?



For the second time in a month, a national political analyst has upgraded Sen. Marco Rubio’s chances at winning re-election in the fall.

On Thursday, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball changed Florida’s U.S. Senate race from being a pure toss up to being a seat that leans in Rubio’s favor.

Sabato said a big reason for the change is due to Rubio not being dragged down by Donald Trump, who has been doing worse in polls in Florida than Rubio. In fact, while Trump trails in most public polling in Florida, Rubio has held a narrow lead over Democrat Patrick Murphy.

“Rubio is faring better than Trump and has a roughly five-point polling edge over Murphy,” Sabato wrote.

But don’t think Democrats are going to walk away from the race, Sabato said. If the race remains close, Democrats will want a chance to win Florida and damage Rubio’s chances of running for president in 2020.

Even with Florida being shifted toward slightly favoring Rubio, Sabato said the national landscape "looks like an ideal situation for a Democratic Senate takeover."

Sabato’s rating change comes about a month after Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Report took a similar position on Rubio. In early August, he moved Florida’s Senate race from the toss-up category to a race that leans in Rubio’s favor.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias / El Nuevo Herald

August 31, 2016

With 15 percent of vote, Pam Keith makes her mark in Florida U.S. Senate primary



Throughout her unsuccessful 22-month bid to be Florida's next U.S. senator, Democrat Pam Keith was ever the underdog -- quietly campaigning across the state almost daily on her own, with an assist from a small but loyal band of staff and volunteers.

She gained some momentum over those months by offering specific policy ideas and delivering energetic and charismatic speeches to groups large and small, but she faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles from the start.

The party establishment ignored her.

Donors didn't flock to her; she had to partially self-fund.

Florida and national media generally paid her almost no attention until this summer and, even then, there wasn't much widespread coverage.

She wasn't even included in most statewide polls and those that did pegged her most often with single-digit support. One in March had her as high as 11 percent support.

But despite that, Keith -- a Miami labor attorney and Navy veteran in her first bid for public office -- somewhat beat the odds after all.

More here.

Scott praises Beruff after loss then (13 hours later) Rubio on victory

Beruff rubio

@JeremySWallace & @ByKristenMClark

Carlos Beruff may have lost badly in his race against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, but his effort is still winning praise from Gov. Rick Scott who helped encourage Beruff to run and heaped praise on him during joint speaking events with Beruff. Within minutes of Rubio salting away the win, Scott took to Twitter and Facebook to congratulate Beruff -- not Rubio.

Beruff wasn't the only one to get praise from Scott. The governor also celebrated Republicans Matt Gaetz and Francis Rooney for winning GOP primaries for Congress.

But Scott conspicuously waited almost 13 hours to congratulate Rubio -- the Republican incumbent who trounced Beruff 72 percent to 18 percent in unofficial results from Tuesday's primary.

The Facebook post this morning praising Rubio came shortly after a Herald/Times reporter asked Scott's spokeswoman why the governor had congratulated Beruff but not Rubio.

August 30, 2016

Rubio won't commit to full US Senate term; Murphy retorts: 'I can'



As Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio both face primaries today that are expected to vault them into a head-to-head general election contest, Murphy is chiding the Republican incumbent for a vague answer Rubio gave CNN this week about whether he'd commit to serving a full six-year term if re-elected to the U.S. Senate.

Rubio told CNN's Manu Raju: "No one can make that commitment."

"You know now what the future is going to hold in your life personally or politically," Rubio continued. "I can commit to you this, if I'm running to a be a US senator, I'm prepared to let the US Senate be the last political office that I ever hold."

Murphy -- a two-term Democratic congressman from Jupiter expected to win today's primary -- was quick to pounce on Rubio's non-committal answer with a two-word pledge this morning:

Rubio's response on this topic has been consistent since he announced in late June that he'd changed his mind and would seek re-election to the U.S. Senate after his failed presidential bid. But by not committing to serve a full second term, Rubio has created a prime line of attack for Murphy, who argues Rubio is already jockeying to run for president again in 2020.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias / El Nuevo Herald

August 26, 2016

Pam Keith electrifies Pinellas Democrats over Grayson; Murphy didn't attend

Pam keithvia @JackSuntrup

CLEARWATER — A 47-year-old Miami labor attorney and Navy veteran paced around a pint-sized Marriott hotel ballroom Thursday evening throwing out ideas to Pinellas County Democrats.

They loved it.

Require that the military buy guns only from manufacturers that don't sell civilians AR-15-style weapons? That sounds interesting. Make gun owners carry insurance? Absolutely. Collect data on judges to ensure they apply the law evenly to all races and genders? Worth a shot.

"Equality under the law is not about the way the law is written," the attorney told roughly 75 people at the monthly meeting of the Pinellas Democratic Party. "It's about the way the law is applied."

If you hadn't seen the social media notices, you might not know who the attorney was. She's Pam Keith, and she's running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate in the Aug. 30 primary. You may have heard of her opponents, U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, but she hasn't gained much traction — which is curious, based on the positive reaction of the crowd.

MORE: "Florida, meet your U.S. Senate candidates"

Teresa Kelly, 56, of St. Petersburg, voted early for Grayson. Did she have buyer's remorse, based on how Keith electrified the crowd?

"Maybe a little," Kelly said. "Maybe I didn't do my homework, and I'm ashamed to admit that."

Read the full story here.