Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

February 07, 2016

Carl Hiaasen: The end of the applause for Jeb Bush

From Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen:

“Please clap,” Jeb Bush wryly told a subdued crowd in New Hampshire last week, a moment that epitomizes his problem.

The pundits call it lack of traction. Among too many voters it’s lack of interest.

If Jeb bombs in New Hampshire, he’s done. Even if he doesn’t quit the race, it’s over.

A year ago this scenario was unimaginable. He had more money, more brains, more connections and more governing experience than any other Republican wanting to be president. Like many people, I thought his nomination would be a slam dunk.

The gaseous rise of Donald Trump upended everything, but not only for Jeb. The other candidates had to scramble, too. Some did a better job.

Sure, Iowa is a silly place to start a presidential campaign. Its demographics are freakishly white, and the GOP electorate is anomalously dominated by evangelical Christians.

Still, Jeb spent plenty of time and money there, and wound up with only 2.8 percent of the vote. That’s miserably weak, and there’s no positive spin.

What’s happening? The answer is, for better or worse: Not much.

More here.

Marco Rubio defends repeating Obama attack at debate: 'I'm going to keep saying it'


NASHUA, N.H. -- Chris Christie rattled Marco Rubio in Saturday night's debate for repeating four times a line about President Barack Obama. But Rubio said Sunday morning that he stands by what he said -- and plans to keep saying it on the campaign trail.

"I would pay them to keep running that clip because that's what I believe, passionately," Rubio told ABC News' This Week

"We raised more money last night in the first hour that debate than any other debate. As far as that message, I hope they keep running it and I'm going to keep saying because it's true. Barack Obama --  yes, has he hired incompetent people to implement laws and run agencies? Absolutely.

"But when it comes to the -- what he's trying to do to America, it's part of a plan. He has said he wanted to change the country; he's doing it in a way that is robbing us of everything that makes us special."

Miami politicians trek to New Hampshire to help presidential candidates


Dave Barry: The New Hampshire moose are as cranky as Bernie Sanders

From Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry:

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- I drove here from Nashua in what I would conservatively estimate, as a South Florida resident, to be the worst blizzard to hit North America for the past 800 years. I was terrified. I am typing these words with my nose because I have been unable to release my grip on the rental-car steering wheel.

Somehow the snow didn’t seem to bother the New Hampshire people; they just drove calmly through it without hitting each other or sliding off the road. I was very impressed. In Miami, the drivers can’t handle rain. Their reaction is: “What’s this? Water falling from the SKY?? I had better take evasive action by swerving violently OH NO (BANG).”

Anyway, I made it to Manchester, where I spent an hour or so wandering around in the snowstorm trying, as a professional journalist, to gauge the mood of the New Hampshire voters, while at the same time keeping an eye out for moose. They have moose here in New Hampshire, and they are known to be cranky. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department website section on moose safety states: “NEVER approach them or allow them to approach you. . . . Always keep a good distance from them and always have a good stout tree or your vehicle nearby.”

The way that’s worded, it sounds as if the Fish and Game Department is recommending that you should carry a good stout tree around with you, which seems impractical. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any moose in Manchester. Unfortunately, I didn’t encounter any signs of political activity either, except for one young man trudging along holding a sign that said BERNIE.

More here.

Team Marco Rubio's post-debate spin

via @learyreports

GOFFSTOWN, N.H. -- While acknowledging a "tough exchange" with Chris Christie, Marco Rubio's senior strategist spun Saturday's debate performance as a win. 

"What Gov. Christie was trying to do was to knock Marco out, to kill him dead. He took his best shot and he failed," Todd Harris told reporters.

Asked why Rubio kept repeating the line about President Obama, a tactic that perplexed just about everyone, Harris said:

"Maybe unlike Chris Christie, Marco thinks that fundamentally what this election is about is defeating Democrats in November. So when he was given repeated opportunities to bash Barack Obama and to bash the record of the Democratic Party, he took every single one of those opportunities. It surprises me that any member of the media would think that Republican primary votes wouldn't be interested in hearing a candidate running for president take the fight to the Democrats. We did it repeatedly. We’re proud of it. We’re going to do it again tomorrow. And the next day, and the next day, and the next day."

Harris said Rubio's campaign had raised "three times" more money during the debate than previous debates. He said Rubio's goal is to finish in the "top tier" on Tuesday.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Florida Senate's plan for after-school programs has local providers rattled

05NC Britto paint party CLO


Republican leaders of the Florida Senate want to drastically change how they dole out funding for after-school programs that provide homework help, mentoring and gang prevention services to thousands of children, often living in Florida’s most impoverished and vulnerable neighborhoods.

Senators want to increase funding, provide it to more organizations and ensure the dollars are spent on programs proven to bolster children’s academic performance.

But without any notice about the proposed change, administrators of non-profits that rely year after year on the designated state funding said they feel blindsided and rattled with uncertainty and questions.

“It came out of nowhere,” said Daniel Lyons, executive director for the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. “It just caught us off guard with how it all developed. ... It felt like a sucker-punch.”

Why? More here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file photo

How Cuban exiles ended up with 2 of their own as Republican presidential contenders

Primary Pixels Photo Gallery(2) (1)


NASHUA, N.H. -- For 50 years Cuban exiles have dreamed of the day they would elect one of their own to be president of Cuba.

This year they might actually see one elected — to be president of the United States.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both sons of Cuban immigrants, head into Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary as two of the Republican Party’s top contenders for the 2016 nomination. That one of them could win marks an exceptional feat for a community only two generations removed from political exile.

“This race could come down to the two of them,” said former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican backing Jeb Bush for president who was the first Cuban-American in the U.S. Senate. “It’s really remarkable.”

Last week, Cruz became the first Hispanic in history to win the Iowa caucuses. Together, he and Rubio took more than half the vote —nearly 51 percent — in a state not known for its ethnic diversity.

Yet there were few headlines proclaiming Cruz’s win and Rubio’s third-place finish as a victory for Latinos.

“Where is the media on this, right?” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Tuesday on Fox News. “I mean, this is a big deal.”

It is. But Cruz and Rubio themselves didn’t play it up. They don’t campaign as trailblazing Hispanics.

More here.

Photo credit: Chris Carlson, Associated Press

February 06, 2016

Marco Rubio, Chris Christie brawl in New Hampshire debate

GOP 2016 Debate

@PatriciaMazzei @lesleyclark

GOFFSTOWN, N.H. -- Marco Rubio knew he’d be the target in Saturday’s Republican presidential debate. But even though he was prepared, things probably didn’t turn out as well as he would have liked.

Rubio, usually an unflappable debater, seemed to get rattled by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has spent the past week singularly focused on the Florida senator. Christie had nothing to lose — he’s trailing Rubio and has pinned his entire candidacy on New Hampshire — and he turned the early part of the debate at Saint Anselm College into a two-man brawl.

That delighted the rest of the Republicans on stage, all hoping to slow Rubio’s ascent after his third-place finish behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and celebrity businessman Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses.

“You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable. You just simply haven’t,” Christie began, likening Rubio to President Barack Obama, who was also a first-term senator when he ran for president. “Do not make the same mistake again.”

Rubio then delivered again a line he had used only moments earlier.

“Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Rubio said, trying to single-handedly undo a message Republicans have been leveling against the president for seven years. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is trying to change this country. He wants America to become more like the rest of the world. We don’t want to be like the rest of the world, we want to be the United States of America.”

Christie, who has spent the past week in New Hampshire lambasting Rubio as being rigidly scripted, saw an opening.

More here.

Photo credit: David Goldman, Associated Press

Dave Barry: New Hampshire voters prepare to undo what Iowa voters did

From Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry:

NASHUA, N.H. -- With the Iowa caucuses finally behind us, the big question on the minds of millions of Americans, as the nation looks toward an uncertain future, is: Who will win the Super Bowl?

Also some people are wondering who will win the New Hampshire primary. This is an election held every four years to give the voters of New Hampshire a chance to urinate all over whatever the voters of Iowa did.

This year they have targets aplenty:

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses. Or maybe she didn’t. It’s possible that the late Hubert Humphrey won the Iowa Democratic caucuses, which were run so incompetently that it’s hard to believe Florida was not involved. They featured mass confusion and multiple coin flips. Yes: Coin flips. Why not go totally “high-tech” and use a Magic 8-Ball? (“Reply hazy, try again in 2016.”)

The other Democratic news is that Martin O’Malley dropped out of the race, fueling speculation that he had been in the race. It is not yet clear who will inherit O’Malley’s supporter base, which consists of Mrs. Martin O’Malley and their dog, Rex.

So the Democratic race is now a contest between Sanders and Clinton, who are engaged in an increasingly nasty debate over who is more progressive. Sanders seems to have the edge here, especially now that he is ending his rallies by setting fire to a live Wall Street banker.

More here.

Bobby Jindal backs former rival Marco Rubio

via @learyreports

Bobby Jindal is the second former 2016 presidential candidate to endorse Marco Rubiothis week.

"He can unify the party," Jindal said on Fox News. "He can win this election in November."

Jindal's endorsement follows Rick Santorum, who failed to name an accomplishment of Rubio's. The fomer Louisiana governor may have to explain this line from October 2015: "We've got a first-term senator in the White House. We need somebody with a proven track record."

But is shows how the GOP is beginning to unite around Rubio.


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times