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October 18, 2016

Poll: Rubio, Murphy in dead heat for Florida U.S. Senate seat

Rubio murphy


The most recent poll from Quinnipiac University finds Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's lead over Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy has narrowed to just 2 percentage points -- making it a dead-heat about a month out from Election Day.

The poll, done Oct. 10-16, found Rubio with 49 percent support, compared to 47 percent support for Murphy. About 4 percent were undecided.

The last Quinnipiac poll done in late September had Rubio with a 4-percentage-point lead.

Rubio has led every poll since June by various margins. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll conducted earlier this month also found Rubio with a 2-percentage-point lead.

None of Quinnipiac's polls have included Libertarian Paul Stanton or the four independent candidates who will also be on the ballot: Tony KhouryBruce Nathan, Steven Machat and Basil E. Dalack.

Photo credit: AP / Palm Beach Post

Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy and the debate over Donald Trump

via @learyreports

At times Marco Rubio was, well, robotic.

And Patrick Murphy was dazed by an uppercut.

Both instances in Monday night’s U.S. Senate debate came courtesy of the man hanging over race: Donald J. Trump.

Rubio knew he would face questions about Trump and was prepared to distance himself from him - repeatedly, without giving an inch to Hillary Clinton.

“I don’t trust either one of them.”

“On this stage tonight, there’s only one person that’s ever run against Donald Trump and tried to defeat him and that was me. There’s only one person on this stage tonight who’s ever voted against Donald Trump and that was me.”

“If there are any kids in America who understand what a horrifying choice America has in this election cycle, it’s mine, because they’ve lived through it over the last 14 months.”

“Not the most inspirational choice we’ve ever had in America history in terms of these two candidates.”

“This election is a disturbing choice.”

“A difficult and less than ideal choice.”

“Donald Trump was not my first choice, or even my 10th choice.”

“Two less than ideal options … Two deeply flawed candidates.”

“I have deep reservations about the nominee of my party.”

Continue reading "Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy and the debate over Donald Trump" »

Hispanic voter registration push hits home stretch on I-4 corridor

IMG_6591The road to the White House always goes through central Florida's I-4 corridor, or to be more specific, Kissimmee. And to be even more specific, the Melao Bakery on Boggy Creek Road.

The bakery, a popular dining destination for Osceola County's growing Puerto Rican population, is where the Hispanic Federation has set up shop for weeks as it registers new voters for the 2016 presidential election. With an extra week to sign up voters because of a federal judge's intervention, workers were posted outside the restaurant all weekend. The deadline to register to vote is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"There's a lot of Puerto Ricans around here and they want to vote this year," said Wilfredo Ramirez, who took time off from his job as a park ranger in San Juan to make extra money as a voter registration worker. His 28-year-old son Wilfredo, a police officer, was doing the same work at a nearby tax collector's office in Kissimmee. The father and son have been in Florida for nearly three months.

"Se puede votar?" (Can you vote?) they call out to strangers entering the bakery at lunchtime. In an era when social media increasingly dominates politics, this voter registration drive is decidedly low-tech, with clipboards and ball point pens. Jacqueline Lopez of Orlando, pictured at right above, was busy signing up new voters at the bakery on Friday, including Isaias Garcia, 33, a painter. Also registering was Heriberto Luciano, 42, of Davenport in Polk County, a server at a nearby Disney hotel, the Swan and Dolphin Resort, who has lived in central Florida since 2001 but has not been a voter until now.

"We need a change," Luciano said. He said his wife goaded him into registering. As a no-party-affiliation voter, Luciano declined to reveal how he'll vote, other than to say "I'm still thinking about it."  

An analysis by USA Today concluded that the increase in Hispanic voter registration mirrors population growth, and that there has not been a major surge in response to Donald Trump's intense anti-immigrant rhetoric. The newspaper reported that the increase in Florida was among the largest of all 10 states it analyzed.  

Fact-checking Patrick Murphy's attack on Marco Rubio's immigration position



U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy says that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s flip-flop on immigration reform will rip apart families.

"I worked with President (Barack) Obama on this topic while Sen. Rubio changed position," Murphy said in a Spanish-language ad Oct. 10. "Now he opposes immigration reform. Worse, Rubio supports Donald Trump. His plan would deport 800,000 children, destroying families."

Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat, is challenging Rubio, a West Miami Republican, in the Nov. 8 Senate race.

Murphy’s ad makes it sound like Rubio is against any changes to the immigration laws, but that’s misleading. Rubio supports a different approach than the one he initially backed in 2013. The threat of 800,000 deportations under Trump also requires further explanation.

Keep reading here from PolitiFact Florida.

Photo by the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, Murphy go after one another in policy-infused Senate debate

@ByKristenMClark & @JeremySWallace

ORLANDO -- After weeks of sniping at each other on the campaign trail, Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy were able to do it in person Monday night in their first of two scheduled U.S. Senate debates before Election Day.

Over 57 heated minutes, Murphy, the Democratic challenger, repeatedly attacked Rubio for his absenteeism during his first term as U.S. senator and for his continued support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Rubio, meanwhile, highlighted embellishments Murphy made to his academic and professional résumés and what he called Murphy’s “record of doing absolutely nothing” in his first two terms in Congress.

Murphy — lagging in every poll since June and still lacking name recognition among a significant portion of likely voters — needed to shine Monday in front of his largest audience to date. Except for a few rattled moments and repetitious answers, he generally held his own against the more battle-tested Rubio, as the two also covered a gamut of policy issues including immigration, foreign policy, gun control, climate change and healthcare.

More here.

Photo credit: John Raoux / AP

October 17, 2016

'Third-party candidate' with armed security attempted to crash Senate debate


With three armed security guards in tow, an uninvited third-party candidate for Florida's U.S. Senate seat unsuccessfully attempted to enter Monday night's debate between Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy.

Courtney Gilmartin, spokeswoman for University of Central Florida's police, said the four men attempted to enter the ticketed event as the debate began at the university's Fairwinds Alumni Center. The debate started at 7 p.m.

The candidate, whom Gilmartin did not identify, did not have a ticket, she said, "and his security was armed, which is a violation of Florida state statute that prevents guns on college campuses unless they are securely locked inside a vehicle."

No one was hurt, the men were removed from campus and the debate went on as planned, Gilmartin said. She said more information, including police body camera video, would be available Tuesday.

UPDATE: More here.

Fact-checking Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy in first Senate debate


U.S. Senate candidates Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy trashed each other’s legislative records in Washington — and their parties’ presidential nominees — during their first-ever debate.

Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat, attacked Rubio, the Republican incumbent, over his Senate attendance record and his support of Donald Trump, while Rubio knocked Murphy for never breaking with Hillary Clinton.

PolitiFact Florida has been fact-checking their campaign jabs and ads since the beginning. Here’s our running list of fact-checks.

Who are the Republicans who support an increase in Florida's minimum wage?

Wages 2015 rallyConservative Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and state Sen. Anitere Flores joined Democrats in Miami and across the state Monday to do what would have been unthinkable four years ago — endorse a $15 minimum wage in Florida.

The GOP leaders are running in newly-drawn districts with more Democrats and no-party-affiliated voters than they’ve ever faced before and, by endorsing the minimum wage, they get behind something that scores high on public opinion polls this year. A Sunshine State Survey found that 51 percent of Floridians surveyed support a $15 minimum wage.

“Increasing the minimum wage is good not only for the worker, it is good for those companies that employ them,” said Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, at a news conference flanked by healthcare workers and janitors from the Service Employees International Union in Miami. “We’ve got to focus on all levels of government so we can restore the American Dream, so that everyone can have a shot at it and that’s why Florida needs $15.”

Flores, a Republican from Kendall, criticized the announcement by Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity last week which said it will raise the Florida minimum wage from $8.05 per hour to $8.10 per hour to comply with a 2004 Constitutional amendment that requires the state to adjust the wage based on a cost-of-living index.

“A whooping 5 cents an hour!” Flores said. “It makes economic sense for the minimum wage to be increased. The state of Florida has prided itself on increasing jobs for the last several years. However, we have to ensure that these are high paying jobs” in which people can earn a living wage, she said. “That is not the case that we have right now and I find that to be unacceptable.” Story here. 

Independent U.S. Senate candidates protest, unsuccessfully sue for inclusion in Murphy-Rubio debate


Upset that they've been barred from participating in tonight's televised U.S. Senate debate between Republican incumbent Marco Rubio and Democratic challenger and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a couple of the independent candidates in the contest are venting their frustration.

"When you’re marketing for public awareness and telling the public 'Marco Rubio vs. Patrick Murphy' are the two candidates, you’re misleading the public and you’re depriving the public of the opportunity of knowing there’s five other candidates," no-party-affiliation candidate Steven Machat, of Miami, told the Miami Herald's editorial board Monday in a phone interview. 

Machat unsuccessfully sued in both federal and state court with a demand that he and the other independent and third-party Senate candidates be included in the two debates scheduled. A federal judge last week said U.S. District Court wasn't the proper venue for the case, and a state judge in Miami separately rejected Machat's request for an injunction in an order Monday morning.

Meanwhile, Tony Khoury, a Miami businessman and fellow NPA candidate, plans to protest outside the University of Central Florida's Fairwinds Alumni Center just before the debate starts at 7 p.m. -- and he's threatening to crash the event.

In a statement Monday morning, Khoury's campaign said he would "attempt to attend" the debate to make his point of why he and the other candidates ought to be included.

"Voters are tired of the duopoly that the two major parties hold over politics, and nowhere is that more destructive than in our debates," Khoury said. "This systematic stifling of opinions and solutions is killing our cherished American Democracy."

Only Murphy and Rubio were invited to participate in the two scheduled debates for Florida's nationally watched U.S. Senate race. Debates typically have cut-offs for participation, such as how well candidates are doing in the polls.

Aside from Murphy and Rubio, the other candidates on the ballot are Libertarian Paul Stanton and independent candidates Khoury, Machat, Basil Dalack and Bruce Nathan.

Ryan to campaign for Curbelo at Miami-area elementary school


Ahead of his big fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, House Speaker Paul Ryan will campaign Wednesday with the endangered Miami Republican at Caribbean Elementary School, west of Cutler Bay.

The event will focus on Curbelo's work in Congress giving students learning English more time to achieve proficiency in reading and math before having their scores count on key tests. It's being advertised by Curbelo's congressional office, as opposed to his reelection camp.

Reporters have been warned that Ryan and Curbelo won't take questions. The speaker's visit coincides with the night of the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Ryan has essentially conceded the presidential race to Clinton and focused on trying to preserve Republicans' House majority.

Later Wednesday, Ryan will raise money for Curbelo, who's facing a challenge from former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat. Florida's 26th congressional district is one of the country's most competitive.