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Friday, February 25, 2011

DCCC Recruiting Against Rivera, Webster, West

Apparently the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is in Florida scouting out challengers for several seats. Via Post of Politics:

Israel said he’s been in Florida all week recruiting candidates and raising money. He mentioned freshmen Reps. David Rivera, R-Miami, and Daniel Webster, R-Orlando, as other top Democratic targets in Florida.

The Post is obviously focused on Allen West, but it's frankly a given that a solid challenger will surface against that nutjob. West 2012 is truly the right's version of Alan Grayson 2010, an ideologue who gives the base happy with dramatic rhetoric but who has the misfortune of representing a swing district. Absent a GOP wave, and the there frankly isn't any room for one after the historic Republican pickups in 2010, this seat is almost certainly heading back into blue hands.

As for the other two? That really all depends on how much the state Legislature wants to save the seats.

I suspect the folks in Tallahassee will let West twist in the wind. There is really no way to make this district safe for the red team without hurting another incumbent like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Southeast Florida is really Democratic territory, and having someone like West in power is such a fluke, nobody who looks at the numbers for even a second will view this as anything but a lost cause.

Webster, though, will probably see that district redrafted in his favor. Recall, it wasn't so long ago Webster was in the Legislature, where he was known as one of the most collegial and stand-up guys in the chamber. I know, Alan Grayson will remind us Webster is also a right-wing nut, but that strategy wasn't the right one in 2010, and it won't be in 2012 either. My guess is Webster's district will have a little less Orlando, a little more Lake County, and become a safe seat from now until whenever Webster is ready to retire.

I don't like it. But that's the way it is.

As for Rivera, I hope someone in Tallahassee does some real soul-searching on this one. The truth is this district is almost impossible to make safe for one party or the other. It was created in 2000 so Mario Diaz-Balart could go to Congress, but Diaz-Balart now represents a different district. Rivera, on the other hand, is on the road to being the biggest embarrassment to his party in the entire country. Already under investigation, and capable of showing disrespect for all kinds of laws, the man is truly a pox on the political profession.

But what to do about it? The Tally crew can try and make it impossible for a Democrat to win there, but the district is largely Hispanic, and the further we get from the Kennedy-Castro conflicts, the less Republican the South Florida Hispanic population gets. That is why a decade after the last redistricting process, MDB fled his own hand-drawn district.

In order to hold this seat, the Republicans really need something the seat has never had, a really strong incumbent. Diaz-Balart grew less popular every year, and if not for the GOP wave last cycle, Rivera's scandals would probably have sunk his run. The GOP needs to recruit a new candidate, but that will be hard. It could be easier if the new lines make for a safer general election, but I am guessing Joe Garcia is getting ready to throw all his power at this one, and that he is unlikely to see a primary challenge.

I'm curious why Steve Israel isn't out recruiting against Sandy Adams or Steve Southerland, or for that matter any veteran Republicans. If we want to make a difference in turning Florida blue for anything but the presidential election, we really need to compete statewide.

But perhaps Israel is aware that everything is subject to redistricting. Until new lines are drawn in the sand, it is difficult to speculate just what seats are vulnerable to a flip. So stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Walkout Possible for Florida Dems

I really wonder why this groundswell of Democratic principles and backbone is suddenly surfacing in February as opposed to, say, November. But it does seem to be spreading.

The union protests in Wisconsin, of course, are making international news, as has the walkout of Democratic lawmakers who are preventing a quorum. And now, similar events are happening in Indiana.

But I can't help but be frustrated that this sort of energy couldn't have been produced before the elections where these huge Republican majorities were elected under Republican governors. Imagine if the use of the democratic right to make your voice heard had been taken to the voting booth. Actually, we don't have to imagine. The Tea Party already showed us.

Of course, we saw a huge strengthening of the GOP here in Florida as well. I am sure good, working people interested in protecting the of the little guy are wondering if similar tactics to Wisconsin lawmakers need to be applied here.

Well guess what. They can't.

We have so few Democrats in the state Senate that if everyone of them absconded to the Bahamas, it would just give GOP lawmakers more room to stretch their legs. That's right. We are not just the minority party, but a completely insignificant one.

So enjoy the theatrics and the legislative hardball. But remember it would have been completely unnecessary if Democrats had performed batter nationally. And this spring, enjoy your own protests in Tallahassee. Holding a placard in the capital is about the only way your voice will be heard. But until we learn how to direct the energy toward actually elected Democrats in this state, it will be nothing more than a photo op.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dockery Spits In Scott's Eye

And this is why I continue to admire Paula Dockery.

Via the Times:
"Politics should have no place in the future of Florida's transportation, as evidenced by this letter of bipartisan support," said the letter, signed by 26 members of the Republican-controlled Florida Senate.

"This project would create real jobs, cleaner and smarter transportation and true economic development for Floridians," said the letter written to LaHood.

The letter was partly authored by one of Scott's first Senate backers, Republican Paula Dockery of Lakeland, who argued that the newly created Florida Rail Enterprise could act independently of Scott because the state's share of the rail money — $300 million — was already approved last year by a previous governor, Charlie Crist.

A huge bulk of Florida lawmakers, real ones who know and care about how government works, is rightfully rebuking Scott's insane rejection of high-speed rail money. The bad thing is this money is now likely to land in the hands of a corporation with little oversight.

But I guess reducing government and corporate responsibility is another of Gov. Voldemort's main missions.

P.S. Paula, I still think you are cool, but are you regretting this whole Scott bandwagon thing yet?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rick Scott, Killing Jobs

When someone calls any office that reports to the Florida governor right now, they will more than likely end up on hold, hearing new Gov. Rick Scott spout his campaign pledge to create 700,000 new jobs in seven years. But since arriving in Tallahassee, the government-hating government leader has done nothing but kill jobs and pay.

His most recent action today is the total rejection of high-speed rail, despite the fact the state government would have to pay nothing to get the rail and that there will be no return for taxpayers because of the rejection. I hoped having folks like Paula Dockery on his team would make a difference with this administration, but that was apparently mis-placed hope. The remarkable act of stupidity is being applauded by so-called conservatives, but the rest of the country is pretty much laughing at us right now.

Via Time's Adam Sorenson:
"It's one thing to look a gift horse in the mouth. It's quite another thing to slaughter a gift horse and send its disemboweled corpse back to Washington.

Florida Governor Rick Scott just killed the Obama administration's marquee high-speed rail project, giving up a whopping $2.4 billion in federal funds for a Tampa-Orlando bullet train. This was the nation's most shovel-ready high-speed project, and the state wasn't required to spend a dime to build it; running through the heart of the politically sensitive I-4 corridor, it had bipartisan support in South Florida, where it was seen as a precursor to a long-awaited Orlando-Miami line."

What do we lose? Of course, we miss out a popular and clean mode of public transportation. We miss being on the cutting edge of this debate, and we miss improving connectivity between our most important commerce centers in Central Florida.

But most pertinent to Scott's duplicitous logic, we lose JOBS.

We miss out on the short-term construction jobs from laying down track clear across the state of Florida.

We miss out on permanent service jobs manning the trains and maintaining the infrastructure.

We miss out on the secondary jobs which would be created for private-sector contractors providing needed equipment and material to support the presence of rail.

We miss out on high-tech jobs which would center along the track and explore new ways to improve the efficiency of the trains or to do a host of other things directly connected with the presence of rail.

That is a short list of the direct jobs which Scott could have taken credit for if he did nothing more than accept a free check for $2.4 billion.

Of course, Scott's job creation promise has a pesky qualifier. He wants seven years to create jobs. That means, of course, that when he runs for re-election, he won't have to prove he got anywhere close to that 700,000 number he has quoted ad nauseam. But he will try and claim every single job ever created, including those private sector jobs which came about without his assistance or in spite of his reckless and foolish interference.

What we cannot let happen is for the most jobs he has just flat-out prohibited be forgotten. This man just killed thousands of jobs, and he did it for not other reason than to keep a bunch of idiotic, short-sighted, uninformed and just plain stupid Tea Party voters happy, despite the fact many of them very well could have made money doing something as mindless as carrying bars of steel down the road so that more evolved co-workers would install them into rail track.

Update: Now, Obama wants to just send the rail money elsewhere and New York is yelling dibs.

Friday, February 11, 2011

CPAC Signals Florida Obsession

How badly do conservatives want to turn Florida red in the next presidential election? Based on what is happening at CPAC this year, I think it might be a quiet obsession.

It became clear to me when the group picked Al Cardenas to be its new leader. If you don't know who that is, think back to the 2000 recount in Florida, and try and recall the vile, scrupulous rhetoric that was being spouted at the time by the Republican Party of Florida. Cardenas was the chair of the party then.

I don't want to go to over-the-top here, I guess. Cardenas was the first Republican chairman I ever dealt with as a professional reporter, and there were things to like. He was very honest about where his party was doing well and where it wasn't. But when the shocking endgame to the election came, it was Cardenas calling the shots, demanding at every turn that the tactic which most benefitted his party. If chads were left hanging off Palm Beach ballots, something which was not human error like the Butterfly scandal but the result of poor perforation, he fought counting. If military ballots had been improperly completed, though, why throwing them out would only insult the troops.

And this is the guy who will now head up CPAC. Joy.

The next big new item, of course, is Allen "Wild Wild" West giving the keynote address this year. Sure, the guy is offering just the perfect dose of crazy for the birthers and pro-impeachment crowd, but they could just as easily have given the keynote to a national figure. Yes, Sarah Palin is skipping the event, and would have gotten the top billing, but plenty of other nationals are in attendance. Why not a Newt Gingrich? Or even a Ron Paul, who always polls well with the CPAC crowd?

The news today even shows a zaniness about Donald Trump. Now, I realize this is probably because the crowd here watches a whole lot of reality TV, but it's noteworthy that a guy with a mansion in Palm Beach would get bigger applause than any other presidential hopefuls so far. I promise his connections in the Sunshine State would be exploited in a national run. Hell, with New York off the table in a presidential contest for the red team, he might even set up shop in Florida.

Perhaps in the same county where Cardenas showed off the dark side of his campaign ethics.

Yes, Florida is playing big at CPAC this year. And no, that can't be good.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's Here Already. 2012 Polling

Before Kendrick Meek's body was even cold, we apparently are ready fro a new election cycle. Quinnipiac has done its first big peek at the electoral prospects for 2012.

The news? A mixed bag no matter who you are rooting for in two years. Sen. Bill Nelson has a 45 percent approval rating, better than newbie Marco Rubio but a good bit under the 50-percent thresholds where most incumbents want to be facing re-election.

Barack Obama isn't doing so hot either, with 48 percent of voters saying he doesn't deserve to win re-election and 45 percent saying he does. Against a generic Republican (and generics always do better than actual, named candidates), the president loses Florida by two percent.

On Kos today, Steve Singiser suggested this might be good news for the president. But I say good news is winning and bad news is losing. Sure, the president isn't at his zenith in popularity, and the state just elected a treasure trove of Republicans this cycle, whereas next cycle almost has to go better. But then again, it might not, and how well it goes depends almost completely on Barack Obama.

Supporters of the Democratic Party learned a long time ago that the state party can't deliver big results. It focuses too much on headline races, can't manage the narrative and never puts together a big enough bench. But at least we have two big hitters. Nelson can offer his own coattails in addition to the ones provided by the president, and the two can help one another.

I think Obama will be re-elected, but it won't be a cakewalk. At least not here. I am heartened by the fact Florida has not voted against a president seeking re-election since 1980, and hasn't voted out a senator since 1986.

This isn't in the bag for anyone, though.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wasserman Schultz Getting Results

After a disheartening election last year, Florida progressives can enjoy the successes in the past few weeks from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. After she came out strongly on on a bill which would soften rape legislation in the name of defunding abortion, House Republicans backed down and admitted drugging a girl and having sex with her is indeed rape.

This comes after Wasserman Schultz, a friend of Gabby Giffords, came out as one of the most forceful and relenting critics of right-wing zeal. When the right was expressing more concern about their own wounded reputations than about the dead victims or wounded congressman, Wasserman Schultz was one of the people keeping the true tragedy front and center and who would not back down from calls for a more civil dialogue.

After losing voices like Alan Grayson, it is refreshing to see Wasserman Schultz getting face time. I have admired her since she was in the Florida Senate, and think she is truly a rising national figure. The best part for those of us who love hearing her is that she resides in a relatively safe seat. Let's hope the Legislature doesn't change that.

It seems to me the party in Florida can take a lot more inspiration from this congresswoman. Her continued success should mean improvements in our standing with Sunshine State voters.