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April 08, 2015

Poll in Cuba: President Obama more popular than Raul and Fidel Castro

via @glenngarvin

President Barack Obama is more popular among Cubans than either of the Castro brothers who have ruled the island for the past five and a half decades, according to a new poll secretly conducted there last month.

Eighty percent of the Cubans polled said they had a “very positive” or “somewhat positive” opinion of Obama, while just 17 percent registered a “very negative” or “somewhat negative” impression.

The widespread approval of the U.S. president was in sharp contrast to the mostly adverse opinions of Cuban leader Raul Castro (48 percent negative, 47 percent postive) and his retired older brother Fidel (50 percent negative, 44 percent positive).

Obama’s popularity — exceeded by only that of Pope Francis — was perhaps the most startling finding of the poll, which was conducted by the Miami company Bendixen & Amandi International for the TV networks Univision and Fusion and the Washington Post.

The survey is the first nationwide opinion poll conducted in Cuba by a private firm since the country turned communist. Without the Cuban government’s knowledge or permission, the pollsters conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults throughout the island between March 6 and 16. The poll has a plus-or-minus 2.8 percent margin of error.

More here.

Tickets go out for Marco Rubio announcement, to take place at 5:30 p.m. Monday


Organizers of Republican Marco Rubio's expected presidential campaign launch Monday said they're emailing tickets Wednesday to some of the people who signed up online to attend the 5:30 p.m. event at downtown Miami's Freedom Tower. 

From the news release:

Doors will open at the Freedom Tower for Marco Rubio’s big announcement at 4pm and close at 5pm on Monday, April 13. Nobody will be permitted inside the building after 5:15 pm, and the program is expected to begin at approximately 5:30pm.

People who requested tickets at will begin receiving tickets today via email. Due to very strong demand, not everybody who applied for a ticket will receive one. However, in order to accommodate as many people as possible, there will be an overflow viewing area in the parking lot on the southeast corner of NE 6th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.

We will continue to accept ticket requests until noon Friday at Supporters may also enter a contest at to win a trip to Miami for the announcement. (See website for full contest rules.)

Media wishing to cover this event must RSVP to no later than 5pm Friday, April 10. Stand-up locations and truck parking will be available outside the Freedom Tower, however, due to space restrictions, a network pool for Marco’s remarks – to be distributed to the networks and their affiliates and clients – has been mandated.

Limited event parking is available in the parking lot on NE 5th Street, between NE 2nd Ave and Biscayne Blvd., and in the parking garage at NE 5th Street between NE 1st Ave. and NE 2nd Ave. To avoid anticipated traffic and parking issues, all attendees are strongly encouraged to carpool or take public transportation to the event.


No Pam Bondi for Senate campaign in 2016

via @learyreports

There wasn't much chance Attorney General Pam Bondi would run for U.S. Senate in 2016, and now there is none.

"I don't believe I should be out running for another office instead of running my office," the Republican told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

A recent poll showed Bondi, who has boosted her profile with appearances on Fox News, doing well. But she hasn't been angling like CFO Jeff Atwater. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera could also seek the nomination.

The seat is likely to open with Sen. Marco Rubio running for president.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Latvala literally calls 'bulls---' on testimony by Gov. Scott's aide

It was a rough outing Wednesday for Gov. Rick Scott's top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who for the first time publicly warned the Legislature not to create an online voter registration form by October 2017.
Detzner reluctantly testified before a Senate appropriations subcommittee about his opposition to an idea that enjoys broad bipartisan support and the backing of all 67 Florida election supervisors. House and Senate bills are moving forward in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
In a Senate subcommittee chaired by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, Detzner registered his opposition to the Senate bill and remained seated, but a senator demanded he come to the microphone and explain the reasons for his resistance.
"Behind this vote and behind what we have to do is a lot of technical work dealing with highly sophisticated databases," Detzner testified.
At that moment, Latvala can be heard whispering "This is so much bulls---" into an open mike, according to the committee videotape, which is on The Florida Channel's web site.

Gucci loafers could be taxed 12 percent under Democratic proposal

Perhaps inspired by Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran's rousing speech last week, Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, filed an amendment that would increase the sales tax on Gucci loafers sold to lobbyists.

"I will proudly declare war on all the special interests … all the Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interests, powers-that-be, who are standing in that hallway (outside)," Corcoran said in his now legendary anti-Medicaid expansion monologue. "Come to war with us. I'll fight. And if it costs me my political career or yours, so be it."

Rodriguez's amendment proposes a levy of 12 percent "on the sale of Gucci loafers to a principal or lobbyist."

Filed in jest, the amendment does target the special interests that Corcoran blames for the failed health care status quo. But c'mon. It's a tax increase, and the House is run by Republicans.

Annette Taddeo for Congress fundraiser to feature Charlie Crist


Here's the invitation for Democrat Annette Taddeo's kickoff fundraiser Thursday with "special guest" Charlie Crist, as we reported earlier this week. She is challenging freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Among the hosts are Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post. Note: We've removed the personal cell phone number and email address of a Taddeo staffer organizing the event as a courtesy.

Please Join Our Hosts

Maria & Luis Arguello | Ron Bilbao | Stephen Bittel | Henry Crespo | Juan Cuba
Marie & Dr. Kansky Delisma | Lourdes Diaz | Chelin & Alfredo Duran | Dr. Leonarda Duran 
Joe Falk | Chris Findlater | Ryan Forrest | Marlon Hill | Rene Infante | Rachel Johnson
Amb. Luis Lauredo | Steve Marino | Maria Molina | Hon. Jean Monestime
Marilyn & Mike Moskowitz | Elizabeth & Ralph Patino | Dr. Larry Pierre | Ben Pollara
Hon. Jeff Porter | Tomas Romero | Hon. Sandra Ruiz 
Gladys Rustan Hernando | Carlos Saladrigas
(Host Committee in Formation)

with Special Guests

Carole and the Hon. Charlie Crist

Thursday, April 9, 2015
6:30pm – 8:00pm

*Address available upon RSVP
Pinecrest, FL 33156

Please make checks payable to: “Taddeo for Congress”

Chair: $5,400
Co-chair: $2,700
Host: $1,000
Suggested Contribution: $100

Please RSVP at


Paid for by Taddeo for Congress

Progressive Democrats to Patrick Murphy: 'Our aim is not conflict, but debate'


The latest salvo in the tit-for-tat between Democrats over the U.S. Senate candidacy of Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter is an "open letter" from progressives to Murphy himself airing grievances over his past statements, chiefly on Social Security and Medicare.

Read the letter from the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida after the jump. On Tuesday, the chairwoman of the St. Lucie County Democratic Executive Committee called on the Florida Democratic Party to sever ties with the caucus over its Murphy criticism.

Continue reading "Progressive Democrats to Patrick Murphy: 'Our aim is not conflict, but debate'" »

Lobbyists lining up for gay adoption floor fights

The hot ticket this afternoon in Tallahassee is to the House, where Democrats have filed 17 floor amendments trying to make irrelevant a bill allowing agencies to deny adoptions for gay couples due to religious convictions.

Or is it the Senate, where Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, has an amendment to supercede a five-year-old court decision allowing same-sex couples to adopt?

“This is, for Equality Florida, the most important 24 hours of the session,” said Carlos Smith of Equality Florida.

Equality Florida is lining up to watch the firefight on an issue that even House Republicans were supporting when they lifted a statutory ban on adoptions by gay couples early in session.

John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council has issued his own missives to lawmakers in an open letter published on his website this week, addressing the religious freedom protection — or “conscience clause” — and an outright ban on adoption by gay couples.

“Unless a conscience clause has express preemption language clearly trumping the home rule of local government, then faith based adoption agencies could still subject to legal attack by local non-discrimination laws,” he wrote.

Times/Herald Staff Writer Kathleen McGrory contributed to this post.

Why Florida became the Obamacare enrollment capital

via @chabelih

When Florida racked up impressive enrollment numbers in 2014 for insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act, some healthcare analysts were surprised.

In 2015, the Sunshine State did it again, surpassing enrollment projections and beating out much-larger California and even Texas, a state more populous, more uninsured and with similar Republican opposition to the law.

Despite an uninsured rate among the top five highest in the country, Florida’s Republican-led Legislature harbored an anti-Obamacare sentiment, making it an unlikely candidate to embrace healthcare reform. With the second Obamacare enrollment period all but over, why did Florida take the top spot, with 1.6 million enrollees?

Experts point to a variety of factors that, combined, likely elevated the state’s numbers. Using enrollment specialists that spoke a variety of languages helped bridge cultural and language divides to enroll specific groups such as the large pool of uninsured Hispanics. Small businesses jumped into the Obamacare field by selling policies alongside groceries and bill-paying services. And the Florida economy, based mostly on tourism and small businesses, helped the enrollment process because many mom-and-pop operations don’t offer insurance to employees.

Florida was primed to be an enrollment powerhouse.

More here.

Wednesday: Five things to watch in Tallahassee

Wednesday is Day 37 of the Legislature's 60-day session. It's hump day of Week Six with an appetizing agenda in the state Capitol. Five things to watch:

  • Aides to Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members meet in advance of next week's Cabinet meeting to discuss new benchmarks to evaluate three state agency heads who regulate insurance, banking and revenue. Scott wants to replace all three. But Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, who jointly reports to Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, has the CFO's strong support and the start of the 2015 hurricane season is less than two months away.
  • A plan to  make Florida the 25th state to allow people to register to vote online has its first House airing at 9 a.m. in the State Affairs Committee. Scott's office is resisting a proposal to start online registration by 2017.
  • One of Scott's most visible agency heads, Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Jesse Panuccio, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.
  • The world's largest pan of paella makes its annual return to the Capitol courtyard as part of Miami-Dade Days, one of the most popular civic fly-ins every year.
  • If you're thirsty from eating that spicy Cuban food, catch the Senate floor debate on the bill that allows the fast-growing craft brewery industry to sell beer in 64-ounce "growlers" (SB 186 by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater). The Senate session starts at 4 p.m.

--STEVE BOUSQUET, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau