June 10, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Former Romney spokesman new press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida

 Susan Hepworth, who served as director of the national traveling press for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, is the new press secretary and deputy communications director for the Republican Party of Florida.

The Kansas City native traveled full time with former Gov. Romney and the press corp during his race for president.

During the 2010 election cycle, she directed the day-to-day political operations at the RNC. Prior to that she was at Majority Strategies, a mail firm in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Hepworth began her political career in 2007 in Iowa on Romney’s first presidential bid right after graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism.

“I graduated on a Sunday, drove to Des Moines on Monday and I started working on the campaign on Tuesday,” said Hepworth, who started her new job June 7. “And that’s been my life.”

Winsor new state solicitor general

Allen Winsor succeeds Timothy Osterhaus as Florida’s solicitor general,  the state government’s top appellate lawyer. Osterhaus was appointed to the 1st District Court of Appeal May 20th.

Winsor, 36,  has been the principal deputy solicitor general since January. Prior to that, he was a member of the Tallahassee office of GrayRobinson, most recently as a shareholder. He’s a 2002 graduate of the University Of Florida College Of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review.

The Florida solicitor general represents the state throughout Florida's appellate courts and in the U.S. Supreme Court. The solicitor general also serves as the Richard W. Ervin Eminent Scholar Chair and a visiting professor of law at Florida State University College of Law.

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March 04, 2013

Jeb Bush immigration reversal? No citizenship-pathway for the undocumented. Pulling a Romney?


The Huffington Post obtained a copy of Gov. Jeb Bush's new book on immigration -- and it indicates the former Florida governor has reversed himself when it comes to granting a pathway to citizenship for those illegally in the country.

The revelations angered top advisors to Mitt Romney, who felt that Bush went out of his way to make statements during the campaign that undermined the former Republican presidential candidate's campaign by seeming to urge a softer approach to immigration.

"Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?" said one advisor."He spent all this time criticizing Romney and it turns out he has basically the same position. So he wants people to go back to their country and apply for citizenship? Well, that's self deportation. We got creamed for talking about that. And now Jeb is saying the same thing."

Asked to respond, Bush said by email: "i am not advocating self  deportation. read the book."

The book isn't out yet. So it's unclear what specifically Bush was advocating for and against.

From a marketing perspective, it's a good move for Bush. It gets people talking about his book. It also gets people wondering if he's covering his right flank and is therefore more-serious about running for president in four years.

Excerpts from HuffPo:

WASHINGTON -- In a new book, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) makes a notable reversal on immigration reform, arguing that creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would only encourage future unauthorized immigration.

"It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences -- in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship," Bush and lawyer Clint Bolick argue in a new book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution. "To do otherwise would signal once again that people who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American citizenship."....

They don't fully rule out citizenship, however, despite what that sentence implies. Although Bush and Bolick state there should be no special pathway, they say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to go through normal channels to naturalize by going to their native country to apply. That process currently requires three- or 10-year bars and no guarantee of return, making it untenable to many undocumented immigrants.

November 11, 2012

Vote suppression. HB1355. And Florida's latest election debacle

Edgar Oliva waited to vote at Shenandoah Elementary School and fretted.

The line was too long. The clock was ticking. He had to get to work across town.

Twice before, during in-person early voting, he tried to vote but he had to leave because lines were even longer. Tuesday was his third try at voting in between one of his two jobs, cleaning carpets in Doral and working at an airport hotel.

About 4 p.m. on Election Day, he gave up.

“I had the intention of voting but there were always a lot of people,” Oliva, a native of Guatemala, told a Miami Herald reporter as he left the scene.

Oliva had so much company on Tuesday.

Voter after voter who spoke to Herald reporters on Election Day said the longer early voting lines dissuaded them from casting early ballots in person. And then the unexpected long lines on Election Day just compounded the sense of frustration in some places. Many dropped out of line.

The experience played out across the state. Data show the 71.13 percent turnout percentage in 2012 fell well short of the rates in 2008 (75 percent) and 2004 (74 percent).

Continue reading "Vote suppression. HB1355. And Florida's latest election debacle" »

November 10, 2012

With all 67 counties in, Obama still the Florida winner, now ahead by more: 73k votes

Palm Beach County, which lagged behind the 66 others, has finally finished counting its absentee ballots and it only helped President Obama.

Obama picked up a net 6,910 more votes over Republican Mitt Romney. That helped increase Obama's overall lead in Florida to 73,694. That's an increase of mroe than 15,600 since Thursday, when The Herald first reported Obama had little chance of losing and that a Romney adviser acknowledged the Republican loss.

Obama's lead now stands at 50.01 percent (4,234,522 votes) to Romney's 49.13 (4,160,828 votes). The results are due now at the Secretary of State's office.

Counties are still counting provisional ballots, which are cast when a voter's status is in doubt. And overseas ballots are still not in. The former often favor Democrats. The latter have favored Republicans. But Obama has pulled relatively strong military support, so the chances that Romney can make up for the loss with overseas ballots looks less and less likely as Obama's lead has grown.

The race won't officially be called until Nov. 20, when the state canvassing board meets to certify the results.

November 08, 2012

Obama "picking the Republican lock" in Florida by getting big Cuban and even bigger P.R. support

President Obama nearly won the solidly Republican Cuban-American vote in Florida and rolled up huge margins with every other Hispanic group, according to an exit poll performed by a firm that also worked for his campaign.

Obama actually won Cuban-Americans on Election Day itself, taking 53 percent of their vote compared to 47 percent for Republican Mitt Romney, who built up a lead among those who cast absentee and early in-person ballots, according to the survey of 4,866 voters conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International.

So Romney narrowly carried Cuban-Americans, 52-48 percent, which is a decrease for Republicans when compared to 2008.

"Obama is picking the Republican lock in Florida," Fernand Amandi said, noting that Hispanics are Florida's fastest-growing segment of the electorate.

But some conservatives doubt the numbers, accusing the firm of under-sampling Republican precincts, which Bendixen & Amandi denies.

"Like every election cycle, Sergio Bendixen, who is infamously known for the inacuracy of his polls, is once again peddling inaccurate exit polling data about Cuban-American voting trends," Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, wrote on his Capitol Hill Cubans blog.

But Bendixen points out that his bottom-line exit poll numbers mirror the figures from the exit polls conducted by Edison Reserch for the news media, including the Miami Herald, which found Obama winning the overall Hispanic vote 60-39 over Romney.

In Bendixen's poll, Florida Hispanics broke 61-39 percent in Obama's favor -- a one-point difference from Edison. Edison's poll indicated Obama may have won the Cuban-American vote, 49-47 percent, but the results were well within the survey's error margin.

Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager, highlighted the Edison results and pointed out that, in its surveys, the share of the Hispanic vote increased in the state from 14 percent to 17 percent from 2008 to 2012.

"We won a majority of Cuban voters in Florida," said Messina. "It's a dramatic realignment for cuban voters in that state."

Continue reading "Obama "picking the Republican lock" in Florida by getting big Cuban and even bigger P.R. support" »

November 07, 2012

Why The Miami Herald's pre-election poll was so far off.

Pre-Election Day polls in Florida predicting Mitt Romney would comfortably win the state’s 29 electoral votes were quite wrong, it turns out.

Though some absentee ballots are still being counted, Romney is narrowly trailing President Barack Obama.

Last week, a survey conducted for the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9, Miami Herald and two other media partners showed Florida almost deep red — with Romney winning 51-45.

Three weeks before that, the same polling firm, Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, had Romney ahead 51-44.

A poll conducted for the Florida Times-Union the Sunday before Election Day called it Romney 52, Obama 47.

Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said the shift was not caused by polling error, but because Obama moved the needle with his handling of Hurricane Sandy.

Continue reading "Why The Miami Herald's pre-election poll was so far off." »

Obama turnout machine smashes the tea-party china in Florida.

Florida voters to the tea party: Cool it.

Tuesday's election in the nation's biggest battleground state was a rejection of the drift of the conservative movement and the Republican Legislature it empowered.

The state voted, albeit as narrowly as possible, for President Obama, whose 2008 election brought about the rise of tea-party conservatism.  Iconic tea party Congressman Allen West might also lose (he's seeking a recount). He was painted as a name-calling extremist by Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy.

And voters rejected the Legislature's tea party-inspired proposed state constitutional amendments, starting with a measure opposing Obama's healthcare law.

The author of that proposal, Longwood state Rep. Scott Plakon, lost his election, which he credits to an Obama turnout machine that Republicans underestimated in Florida.

"This is hard for me to process," Plakon said. "With all the debt, all the unemployment and the bad economic indicators, how is it that Obama is only 2.5 percentage points down from where he was in 2008?"

Plakon pointed out that conservatism is alive and well in Florida; Obama barely won and the Legislature is still firmly in the hands of Republicans.

In congratulating Obama on his win, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio issued a statement last night re-affirming his commitment to conservative principles. But he subtly noted a shortcoming of the tea party: The tenor of the immigration debate, which probably cost Mitt Romney some support among Florida Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate.

"The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them," Rubio said.

Continue reading "Obama turnout machine smashes the tea-party china in Florida. " »

November 06, 2012

Exit polls: Florida too close to call, but Obama has 50-49 edge over Romney

With thousands of Floridians still lined up to vote, the presidential race in the nation’s largest battleground state is as close as can be, according to exit polls showing that President Obama might have an edge.

The president leads Republican Mitt Romney 50 to 49 percent in Florida, according to Edison Research’s exit poll of 4,172 voters. The poll results are tentative and will be updated later in the evening.
Early vote returns for the state have seesawed between Obama and Romney.

Obama’s strength: Liberal Southeast Florida, where early vote returns show the president nursing a double-digit lead, the exit polls and early votes show.

But Obama’s position isn’t solid. His lead in the exit polls is well within the error margin of the poll. And precincts in the Panhandle, a heavily conservative area, just closed at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, when the initial exit polls were released.

Also, the exit polls and the early returns indicate that Obama isn't doing as well as he did in 2008 in Florida, which he won by fewer than 3 percentage points.

If Romney loses Florida, he likely loses his chance of unseating Obama.

Miami-Dade: an election of wait and wait-nots. So who's to blame?

Miami-Dade, Florida's largest county, has become a place of wait and wait-nots.

In some precincts, voters were in and out in 30 minutes. Lines stretched up to three hours in others. It all depends.

But that wasn't the case at the UTD Towers in downtown Miami where it took voters up to 6.5 hours to cast a ballot. In Hialeah, the wait was about 6 hours for some. At South Kendall Community Church, it took some voters 5 hours.

Voters reported that the problems were largely of a technical or simple nature: The ballot was too long, slowing people down. That, in turn, led people to take longer in their voting booths, leading to longer waits outside. Then, voters had to line up to feed the ballot -- 5 sheets at least -- into the ballot.

It could get worse over the next hour and 15 minutes. People are getting off work now. Many will go vote. Some might not.

"I can't wait any longer," one South Kendall voter said earlier in the day, dropping out of line. That's a lost vote for whomever.

It was worse at UTD. Poll watchers said the precinct was understaffed and poorly organized.

For one, poll workers had trouble finding voters' names in the hard-copy registry because two precincts (and six sub-precincts) were voting at one location.

And of the eight ballot scanners, only two were working, said Manuel E. Iglesias, a volunteer attorney for the Romney campaign. Only two people were able to vote at any one time, he said.

Meanwhile, the line to vote contained more than 400 people and stretched around the perimeter of the property. It took four hours to move 250 voters.

"This is the worst excuse for a precinct I've ever seen," Iglesias said.

So who's to blame?

Perhaps every level of government:

1) The Legislature. In a fit of pique, after the Florida Supreme Court, tossed legislatively designed constitutional amendments off the ballot, the lawmakers decided to print the measures in full on the ballot. And they put 10 of them on the ballot. That takes a while to get through. The Legislature also shortened early voting days in Florida to eight from 14 in 2008, when Democrats flocked to the early vote sites and secured Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

2) Gov. Rick Scott. Unlike his predecessor, Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott refused to extend the cumulative early voting hours. They're capped at 96 hours for the early voting period. In 2008, South Florida voters had 120 hours of early voting time. That's a reduction of 20 percent of early voting time in the most-populous region of the state.

3) Miami-Dade County. Officials knew the ballot was long. They knew it would take time. They knew this would be a big election. Yet they didn't have enough scanning machines in some precincts or enough voting booths to handle the volume or both.

This doesn't mean the entire election is a fiasco. But it is for those who decided to actually vote on Election Day, only to lose hours of their lives to long lines that were made by government action or inaction.

Yes, people could have cast absentee ballots. More than 2.1 million did in Florida. But dozens (and perhaps more) reported requesting ballots but never receiving them. Or they received them late. It seems that, whether it's absentee ballots or early voting or Election Day voting, the combined forces of this presidential election are straining aspects of the voting system.

--- with Kathleen McGrory

Stats guru: Obama has 52% chance of winning FL, Romney 48%

The computer model of the New York Times statistics guru, Nate Silver of the Five Thirty Eight blog, indicates President Obama has a 52 percent chance of winning Florida, without which Mitt Romney can't win the presidency.

Basically, it's a coin toss election. And already, up to half of the vote is in. More here on that.

538 FL