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129 posts from January 20, 2008 - January 26, 2008

January 25, 2008

Nelson leaning toward Clinton endorsement

Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida's top ranking Democrat, is leaning toward endorsing Hillary Clinton before Tuesday's Florida presidential primary, according to sources close to the senators.

The senior senator from Florida and the junior senator from New York are friendly and have sponsored legislation together, including a proposal for a national catastrophic insurance fund. And in what could look like a tit-for-tat arrangement, Clinton today called for Florida delegates to be seated at the presidential nominating convention, a cause close to Nelson's heart.

Mel embraces McCain (finally)

Mel Martinez just took the stage to give his endorsement to his fellow Senate colleague, John McCain after a week of will-he-or-won't he speculation.

Martinez said he's had the opportunity to work with McCain for 3 years and trusts his judgement.

"I would not endorse someone I didn't have total confidence in," Martinez said, adding "I have total confidence he is Castro's worst nightmare."


Martinez, pictured left displaying a gift from a South Florida constituent, appeared poised to pull the trigger last weekend, but friends said he was reluctant to bypass Rudy Giuliani, who he's also friendly with.

The endorsement is a boost to the Arizona senator in Miami's Cuban-American community - and also in Orlando where Martinez was a popular chairman of Orange County. But it could cost him points among critics of the immigration plan that Martinez so ardently championed - and McCain supported.

McCain was the fourth GOP'er to address the powerful Latin Builders Association. He's speaking now after sort of mangling his way through pronounciations of his three other Cuban-American supporters, Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

He pledged fidelity to the cause of democracy in Cuba, recalling (for the second time in a week in Miami) his experience as a pilot aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier during the Cuban Missile crisis.

"My friends, many years ago, I was committed to the freedom of Cuba,'' he said to applause in the darkened hotel ballroom. "I am just as committed today.''

Herald poll: Prop tax amendment headed for showdown

Voter support for the property tax cut amendment is still short of victory according to a new Miami Herald poll, but undecided voters, a weekend ad blitz by the governor, and a large turnout of Republicans could send it over the top.

The statewide survey of 800 likely primary voters showed that 55 percent support Amendment 1, while 30 percent oppose it. Another 14 percent are undecided, and they are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.The poll of likely primary voters was conducted Jan. 20-22 for the  Miami Herald, the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9. Read story here. See poll results here.

Romney to McCain: I see your radio ads and raise you 1 TV ad

U.S. Sen. John McCain began flooding radio airwaves today across the state with no less than three different radio ads, including radio ads designed to help him in specific markets in the state. For example, he launched one in the Orlando area that features an endorsement from Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty. In North Florida and the I-4 corridor he's running a radio ad that says retired U.S. general Norman Schwartzkopf had endorsed him. The radio ads can be found here.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has launched a TV version of a new Spanish radio ad where he says his business background gives him the experience to solve the nation's economic woes. See it here.

McCain on Romney: Managers are nice, but leaders are better

For the first time in his final weeks of campaigning in Florida, McCain took a more direct shot at one of his Republican opponents: Mitt Romney.

He made a distinction between leadership and management. "Leaders are people who inspire" others to serve their country, while "you can hire managers all the time, people who do the mechanics, people who implement policies, people who are good with assets," McCain said to reporters at the Ft. Lauderdale airport.

"I'm suggesting Governor Romney is touting his qualities and his experience and his resume as a manager," McCain said. "I'm telling the American people, and they know it, that I am a leader."

In response to Romney's implications that he is a more well-rounded conservative, McCain also urged people to "examine his record, because he has changed positions on literally every major issue, no matter what it is."

Rep. Weldon to step down, future Sen. prez might fill spot

U.S. Republican Rep. Dave Weldon of Melbourne plans to retire, triggering a push by a number of Republican donors to ask state Sen. Mike Haridopolos to run for his office. Haridopolos said he's "been dealing with this all day," and wasn't sure if he'd run for the seat.

Haridopolos is slated (but not guaranteed) to become senate president in three years. "I'm considering my options," he said.

Another Republican state Sen. from the area, Bill Posey, said he has also "been called all day" but that "I don't have time to think about that right now."

Obama campaign: Hillary will say or do anything to get elected

The campaign of Barack Obama push backed against U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign on Friday afternoon, saying that she will "do or say anything" and suggested that Clinton's promise to try to seat Florida's 210 delegates was coming in the wake of polls that show that she may lose the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

"Now that Senator Clinton’s worried about losing the first Southern primary, she’s using Florida for her own political gain by trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred,'' said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. "Senator Clinton’s own campaign has repeatedly said that this is a ‘contest for delegates’, and Florida is a contest that offers zero."

What's left unsaid, however, in Plouffe's statement is whether Obama would agree to seat Florida delegates if he wins the nomination.

Mel "Tower of Jell-O" Martinez gets solid with McCain

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez 's on-again, off-again plans to back John McCain for president is on again, now that McCain's chief Florida rival for the endorsement has relatively little chance of winning here.

Martinez is scheduled to appear here with McCain at the Latin Builder's Association just hours after an appearance by Rudy Giuliani -- who's plummeting in the polls and was battling for the endorsement of Martinez, who couldn't be reached for comment.

McCain's staff confirmed the endorsement. Martinez was scheduled to endorse McCain this week, the Miami Herald first reported, but he backed off under pressure from Giuliani fundraisers who supported Martinez's 2004 senate campaign.

After his first about-face, a prominent McCain backer and Republican operative, Roger Stone, bashed Martinez for being a "Tower of Jell-O'' for failing to support McCain.

"I'm glad he's decided to see the error of his ways and endorse the next president of the United States,'' Stone said.

Full story here

Gov. Marco Rubio

Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio gave an impassioned endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee at the Latin Builders Association meeting in Miami.

Huckabee returned the favor.

"It's a nice honor to be introduced by the future governor of Florida, Marco Rubio,'' he said. "I'm going to keep the seat warm in the White House because I can see him sitting there some day.''

The eternally amusing Huckabee added: "Yes, that's pandering...I am saying everything nice about Marco I can, but I believe it.''

Read the Miami Herald's recent story on presidential pandering here.

Mason-Dixon says Amendment 1 still in trouble

Florida voters are still not flocking to support Amendment 1 in enough numbers to bring it to the 60 percent threshold, according to a new poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research. The poll shows that 51 percent of of voters surveyed Jan. 21-23 support the amendment while 36 percent say they oppose it and 12 percent remain undecided.

Republicans continue to favor the amendment more than Democrats, while independents appear to also be swinging in favor. Here's the breakdown:

          LIKELY GOP                LIKELY DEM             LIKELY INDEPENDENT


“YES”          61%                       37%                       57%

“NO”           27%                         51%                       26%

UNDECIDED 12%                          12%                         17%