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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Defeat the Dark Lord Voldemort!

In my opinion, there has been entirely too much enthusiasm within the left regarding Rick Scott's victory on Tuesday night. The general consensus seems to be, he's a buffoon so we can make mince of this guy. But that logic is terribly flawed.

First, it acknowledges that Bill McCollum would have been a more difficult primary opponent for Alex Sink in November. In many ways, I think that is true. McCollum had more years in public service than Sink, while Scott had less. McCollum had more name recognition from four statewide runs for office, while Scott remains a political novice. And yet, Scott beat McCollum by three points.

Public Policy Polling, the only pollster to nail the gubernatorial primary results for Tuesday, has a new poll out now which pegs Sink 7 points up, but I'd be a hypocrite to argue repeatedly that Democrats would come together in the Senate post-primary but suggest the same would not happen here. Many Republicans who are not very enthusiastic about Rick Scott still don't want a Democrat in the governor's mansion, and will hold their nose in November. Meanwhile, those outsider-loving voters who see this criminal as the savior of their party will enthusiastically bubble in Scott's name.

Of course, the notion this guy is going to come and clean up a mess left by "career politicians" is kind of like the Enron guys to show the AIG guys how to balance the books. But that is beside the point.

Sink needs to be running like she is 7 points down right now. Scott's numbers will go up. And if he pumps another $50 million into this over the next 10 weeks, and honestly he will probably pump in more, a big chunk will go toward driving Sink's negatives up. As Chief Financial Officer, Sink has not been in the most press-heavy of Cabinet positions. To many voters, she is an unknown. And her private sector resume, a successful run at Bank of America, doesn't lend the same credibility it once could offer.

But Sink still has a great deal to offer. She is a successful businesswoman and proven statewide winner, something not prevalent within the Democratic Party. The role she has played with Leadership Florida creates an instant network of expert support to lean on both as a candidate and a governor. In her time of the cabinet she has been on the right side of debates on oil, and has been a voice of reason to counter the actions of a Republican-dominated Legislature and Governor.

Also, as noted by the St. Pete Times/Miami Herald team, Sink is far better connected with the Tallahassee crowd. With the absence of a Republican insider, those business leaders who have worked the Capitol hallways so well just might favor the known quantity of Sink over the unpredictable, fraud-ridden Scott. In other words, there are advantages to be an insider, and Sink should use them.

But there also must be an assault against Scott. He can not be treated as some he-who-must-not-be-named. McCollum has done much of the homework here for us. But we need to keep reminding the general public that this guy's private sector success was running a company which earned a record fine for stealing tax dollars. A friend noted to me the other day that the $1.7-billion settlement HCA earned was likely a fraction of the money bilked, and the $300,000 severance package Scott received was barely a pittance from a board that profited so handily from the company's dirty deeds.

The only way to defeat this evil is to stare it in the eyes and deliver the truth. Scott has already shown himself to be evasive, short-tempered and dumb.

But he is also rich, and willing to spend loads of dough. Florida is a notoriously expensive state in which to run a campaign, but he can afford it. The Democrats cannot allow him to write his own sugar-coated biography that says he ran a hospital with high satisfaction and low bills, never mind how the bills were kept so low. He can't tout himself a successful businessman, never mind getting fired. He can't describe himself as transparent, never mind an unwillingness to release depositions.

This campaign is going to be hard for Democrats to win, maybe harder than against the establishment-backed but charisma-free McCollum. And Sink better not think she won anything in Tuesday's Republican primary.

P.S. Hey Bud, Please Withdraw.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Come Home to Meek!

Florida Democrats, unlike voters in some parties, cannot be won over by flashy yachts, glitzy ad campaigns and an self-funded onslaught of distortion. That was proven Tuesday evening when the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate went handily to U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek. It has yet to be proven, though, whether the slick pseudo-independent message of Gov. Charlie Crist can sway the well-informed but highly pragmatic voters in the Sunshine State.

I hope the larger message about Meek that comes from the primary is that Meek is a winner. Admittedly a young and untested politician, the South Florida Democrat showed he can endure a well-financed and vicious campaign. He showed that more than a half-million voters can be inspired to come out in August and throw their support to progressive, fresh face.

Meek's 58-35 victory of billionaire Jeff Greene shows on its face a resounding endorsement. A deeper look at the numbers reveals Meek won big in those parts of Florida which will be most important to Democrats this fall. He didn't take all counties. Far from it. But the places where Greene played well, in Southwest Florida and the Panhandle, are places notorious for large Dixiecrat voters poisoning the progressive pool.

I've often said I trust a Dixiecrat less than a conservative Republican. After all, the Republican is honest about his or her ideals, however wrong-headed, and will boost the party platform closest to those ideals. A Dixiecrat often votes against the party, particularly in federal races, angry at the way national Democrats in the past 40 years have embraced blacks and started hugging trees. Back in the Strom Thurmond days, Southern Democrats had their own plans about blacks and trees.

So let's just say those Panhandle voters saw something with Jeff Greene that they could relate too which had little to do with ideology. Or perhaps they were even attempting to sabotage the primary and elect the Democrat with the least general election appeal. Either way, I'm not so concerned to see Kendrick lose in Okaloosa County, or in rural parts of the peninsula like Glades and Hendry counties. I'm not even too upset to see Greene take Lee and Collier counties. All of those places are going to be the Republicans fighting ground come November. And with any luck, GOP nominee Marco Rubio and Crist will be fighting it out in those places.

I suspect Crist will try and shore up those areas where he has won before. While he has philosophically tacked left since first toying with independence, he has yet to win a race as anything but a Republican.

And there is a growing consensus that Meek's presence on the ballot makes Crist a weaker candidate. Die-hard Cristies have even argued with me on liberal blogs that Meek is going to "split the Democratic vote." That's like saying Al Gore siphoned off too many votes from Ralph Nader in 2000. Democratic votes that go to Crist will be ones lost to Meek, not the other way around.

I can't lie and say a Meek victory will anything but a tough row. But starting today, I think this will shift more toward being a Meek-Rubio race. That is hard enough with out Crist's orange glow interfering with the political landscape. Rubio, in primary with no serious opposition, got more than 1 million votes last night. Certainly, more voters came to the polls for the tight gubernatorial race, but Rubio was the clear choice of nearly 85 percent of Republicans even when Rick Scott and Bill McCollum were creating a rift in their party. By comparison, Alex Sink took less than 76 percent of the Democratic vote against token opposition the gubernatorial primary.

Public Policy Polling put out a highly-pubicized poll Tuesday (yeah, I'm talking about polls again) which showed Rubio at 40 percent going into the general election campaign. But I think that's all the support he will ever see. Unfortunately, in a three-man race that is enough if Meek and Crist split the vote. But that is why Democrats need to rally around the real Democrat in the race.

Meek will caucus with the Democrats. Crist won't say, likely because he knows many of his supporters still want him to go to Washington in effect a Republican. But even if Crist does caucus with Dems, he will never be a progressive. We will have our own Joe Liberman, at best! With Meek, we get the most progressive politician to represent Florida in the Senate since Claude Pepper.

There are 10 weeks to decide, but in choosing, don't write off Meek as a candidate who can't win. Indeed, he is the only candidate running to have a won a contested race in this Senate campaign. Remember that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Primary Day Experiment

So I am told there is a primary election in Florida today. The real game kicks off tomorrow morning after we know exactly what the November election will look like in Florida, but tonight, I attempt an experiment in blog coverage. I have created blog posts below on every major statewide and Congressional election being waged in Florida tonight. As the results flow in, I will update each of these posts.

I will also have a post above this one tonight declaring the winners as we learn them. It will be an adventure. Of course, I have some professional obligations tonight as well, and do plan to tuck my kids in at some point. So this may all fall apart. But hopefully this turns out fantastic and can be duplicated again in November.

Here are links to my posts.

FL-Senate: Is is Meek or Greene?

FL-Governor: Will the GOP pick McCollum or Scott?

FL-02: Can Boyd fend off Lawson?

FL-08: Who will face Grayson in November?

FL-17: A successor for Meek is chosen.

FL-24: Kosmas has a primary and the GOP names a challenger

FL-Attorney General: Both parties have unpredictable contests.

Other House races: Of little consequence, but who knows?

Primary Day - FL-Senate

Update: Greene has endorsed Meek. That's nice. Now he can start unmailing all those negative ads that painted Meek as a near-felon.

Update: I think this one is done. Meek is still riding above 55 percent right now and Greene can't break 40 percent. Even before we eliminated the runoff, it looks like Meek would have won this. Let it be remembered that Democrats were not hypnotized by big money today. And let people look at the Governor's race to see whether Republican voters are so wise.

Meek goes into the general now a bona fide winner, and has proven he can beat back better-funded foes. People need to remember when deciding how to vote in November that this man can win elections. He can fight the good fight. Think Crist is the only person who can fend off Rubio's army of crazy? Forget it. Meek is just as poised to win, and at this point, is the only candidate in the race to emerge victorious in a legitimate contest.

Looks like Kendrick Meek is winning big, taking about 55 percent and far outpacing Jeff Greene. Very good news.

And for what its worth, Marco Rubio has absolutely secured the nomination for the GOP.

The biggest contest of the night as far as I am concerned. Kendrick Meek, distinguished U.S. Congressman, fights for the soul of the party against billionaire vanity candidate Jeff Greene. You can guess where I stand. Maurice Ferre, an accomplished Miami politician, has earned some love in polls, but not much, while Glenn Burkett seems an absolute non-factor.

On the GOP side, former Speaker Marco Rubio is the presumptive nominee by every measure possible. He does have to win the formal nomination tonight over Billy Kogut and William Escoffery.

Of course, the nominees go up against the rare independent front-runner, Gov. Charlie Crist. Readers of this blog know Crist has already staked out the nonpartisan prize that is a complete lack of core values.

Primary Day - FL-02

Update: With 98 percent of the vote in, AP just called it for Boyd. The split is about 0.8 points, but that is likely insurmountable for Lawson. This is officially a Boyd-Southerland race. I must say, this was way closer than I expected it would be, and shows something about Boyd's support moving forward.

Update: This is the last race AP won't call. 90 percent of precincts are in. Lawson has whittled at Boyd all night, indicating he had better Election Day numbers than early voting numbers, but it looks like Boyd can still take it. Lawson is winning his share of counties, including Leon.

Update: Whoa, this has tightened up fast. Boyd still leads but with about 51.4 percent. But that's outside the recount margin. We'll have to see if Boyd can rally the party back together before November. This one is suddenly very, very close.

The counties to report so far are all coming in for Boyd. He leads 55-45 over Lawson right now.

And Southerland has this. He is winning with 58 percent of the vote. Scholl is closest behind with 16 percent.

Probably the most watched House race in Florida tonight, incumbent Democrat Allen Boyd gets challenged by state Sen. Al Lawson. These Panhandle Democrats are staking out the left, or at least the left as Panhandle Democrats would define it. I predict a Boyd win, but this primary has been the most serious challenge Boyd has contended against in years.

And the Republicans are salivating waiting for their own shot at the seat. The nomination tonight is likely a formality for the GOP, but presumptive nominee Steve Southerland is running against Eddie Hendry, Ron McNeil, Barbara Olscher and David Scholl.

Primary Day - FL-08

Update: All the media are calling this for Webster. Orange County is still not reporting all numbers, but that seems a safe call. He is beating Long almost 2-to-1 and it seems mathematically difficult to turn this around. The surprising thing to me is how much of a lead Webster took tonight.

By all rights, he should have been the presumptive nominee except that he entered the race late. A former state Speaker and a successful, well-liked state Senator, he had the name-recognition and the know-how to win. He was also likely the toughest opponent for Grayson to face.

I still have confidence Grayson's star power will carry him to re-election, but the Republicans want blood. Now that we have a clear challenger, I'd like to see some legitimate polls on this race (I know, I know).

Update: Numbers are in from big areas, and it seems like Dan Webster is winning. Right now he has almost 40 percent to Long's 22. Biggest surprise? O'Donoghue is only in at 6 right now. Nothing yet from Osceola.

So who dares take on super-liberal Alan Grayson? Republicans have been falling all over themselves for the chance. We learn tonight who the GOP nominee will be. In contention as Dan Webster, Bruce O'Donoghue, Todd Long, Kurt Kelly, Dan Fanelli, Ross Bieling and Patricia Sullivan.

You better believe this will be a fight to watch in November. Grayson is the first Democrat to hold this seat in decades, and he won it just a few years after Republicans in the Legislature tried to liberal-proof it. Why are those big Grayson ads running all the time on DailyKos and other sites? Because Grayson will have to run a very hard campaign. If he wins, that will be fantastic for the liberal movement as a whole.

But there are good GOP contenders here. The race in November hangs very much on the type of candidate Republicans choose, and how divided the party faithful will be after this fractious primary. May the games begin!

Primary Day - FL-17

Update: Wilson has maintained her lead. Not to take anything away from the Congresswoman-elect, but I had to point out that because this race is not being contested seriously by two major parties, a member of the U.S. House just got elected with less than 13,000 votes.

But congratulations. At least there was a race this year and voters got to weigh in at some level.

Update: Looks like this will be Rep. Wilson. She has 33 percent when noone else can beat 16 percent.


I feel genuinely bad not to know much about this race. The media as a whole has under-covered it severely. But tonight is the de facto election. This is Kendrick Meek's seat, and there is no contest to speak of in November, so it won't affect the balance of power.

The Democrats running for the long-time Meek-held district are Marleine Bastien, Phillip Brutus, James Bush, Scott Galvin, Shirley Gibson, Rudy Moise, Yolly Roberson, Andre Williams, and Frederica Wilson.

Primary Day - FL-24

Update: OK, this is close, but I'm calling it a night. It still looks like Adams leads by about 500 votes. That's good enough for me. Here is my logic. Miller lost everywhere but Volusia County, where he won by about 1,000 votes. Volusia is reporting all their normal ballots, and just has touchscreen ballots outstanding in about 6 precincts. Those ballots at this point are used by very few people, and there is no way for Miller to turn his deficit around. It's back to the steakhouse, Craig.

Update: The Sentinel says Adams still won't claim victory until more votes come in from Orange and Volusia. It seems from here that Orange has been very slow tonight. But she is probably right to keep mum. Less than one percent of the vote separates her from Diebel.

Update: While Kosmas has the nod, the Republican side is crazy tight. Adams at 31, Diebel at 29, Miller at 27.


On the Republican side, a number of people slug it our for their shot at incumbent Rep. Suzanne Kosmas in November. Candidates are Craig Miller, Karen Diebel, Sandy Adams, Deon Long and Tom Garcia. My money is Miller, but we'll see how this plays out.

Kosmas hasn't exactly become a liberal superstar, and has drawn a challenge from Winter Springs Mayor Paul Partyka.

Other Florida House Races

Update: I should have includes FL-5 before, where Sheriff Rich Nugent is winning over teabagger Jason Sager.

In FL-12, Edwards and Ross are pulling 70-percent or more in respective primaries.

It looks like Horn is the Dem in FL-16

Klein and West win primaries handily in FL-22.

Garcia and Rivera trounce primary opponents in FL-25.

No surprises tonight. I'm done with this post.


Several other House races could be important in November and have contested races tonight, but the elections are largely formalities. I will formally update these tonight, likely early. Any other races not listed here or in their own post, I simply don't believe will be of any consequence in November. If you disagree, provide your own updates in comments below.

In District 12, expect Lori Edwards for the Democrats and Dennis Ross for the GOP. This is Adam Putnam's seat, and a likely Republican hold, but the Dems can and should make a contest out of it.

I think Republican Rep. Tom Rooney will will get a pass this year in District 16, but we may as well learn which Democrat will challenge since this seat has been so volatile. Jim Horn and Ed Tautiva vie, and quietly pray for an October scandal. Most likely though, this race won't be on our radar two months from now.

House District 22 incumbent Ron Klein will keep the party nomination. Republican Allen West will challenge. Maybe this race is cooling down, but I expect a slog, if only because the online right loves West so much.

House District 25 nominees will be Democrat Joe Garcia and Republican David Rivera. This should be one of the best battles in the country come November. Tonight, not much to see.

Primary Day - Florida Governor

Update: AP Just called it for Scott. The campaign has declared victory on its website. Crap.

Update: So this looks like Scott, who has 57 percent, but it would be crazy early to call it now. Big counties, notable Broward and Duval, have not done full, if any, reporting. That means this could swing in a big way if McCollum did well in the cities. But that's a big if. Those are markets where media saturation could work in Scott's favor.

Update: Still well over a dozen counties have yet to report any votes at all. But so far, Rick Scott is holding onto the lead. So much for those polls showing McCollum with an 11-point advantage. Unless something turns, he won't even get the nomination.

This will be very, very close. Right now, Rick Scott is winning with 46 percent to McCollum's 44 percent. Too close and too early to tell.

But Alex Sink is in. The Democratic primary is cleary over.

The big race is on the Republican side where Attorney General Bill McCollum battles Rick Scott and also ran Mike McCalister.

For the Democrats, expect Alex Sink to win the formal nomination over sometimes Green Party supporter Brian Moore.

Primary Day - Florida Attorney General

Update: Right now it seems Bondi has won the Republican nomination. She has 38 percent of the vote to Kottkamp's 33. Kottkamp has conceded. A few months ago this seemed a slamdunk for the Lt. Gov, but he never was able to take advantage of the name recognition gained from his office. In the past few weeks, Bondi has surged.

Gelber is outstripping Aronberg about 60-40 right now. I don't know if that can be turned around.

For Republicans, this seems to be between Bondi (now at 39) and Kottkamp (around 34 percent.)

State Sens. Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg duke it out on the Democratic side.

For the Republicans, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, former state prosecutor and former HCA secretary Holly Benson fight for the nod.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Is Anger Burning Out or Learning Up?

Rick Scott is hoping major turnout tomorrow helps him overcome a deficit shown in recent polling, according to The Buzz. I like to think better of the people than believing stupidity is more likely en masse, but I am sure Scott doesn't view things quite that way. But he does have a point.

I have promised myself not to pick apart the polls until the primary is over, but I do think there is something at play in the statistics beyond a move in the voters away from these money candidates like Scott. Namely, likely-voter screens are getting rid of the uninformed. Primary elections typically just draw out the party faithful, or in the case of the governor's race, McCollum voters. These people have followed politics for years, and in some cases pulled the lever by his name back when you literally pulled the lever by a candidate's name.

But I like to think the new voters, those that would need to come out in order for turnout to be so high, are not such fools. Three months ago, perhaps, a message of hiring any random insider seemed something worth consideration. Back then was the heyday of the Scotts and the Jeff Greenes. It was also back when your Sharon Angles and Rand Pauls were winning primaries, but more important, it was far from our actual primary day.

Trashing Kendrick Meek's record worked fine in late April. It fed the public perception that Congressmen were all thieves or buffoons. People weren't checking on the facts about Meek. Maybe they still aren't. But they are checking on Greene.

Since then voters have checked into these men's own records. They couldn't continue to run against the bums who hold office today. Accountability caught up with them. Fines for fraud and trips to Cuba are bringing up the negatives on these vanity candidates. And voters may be anxious to toss the current lot of office-holders, they won't blindly swap for a set of genuine crooks.

So the biggest reason Scott would see a high turnout as a plus for his campaign is that it would indicate voters weren't so turned off by both candidates to be compelled to sit this one out. He may hope he can buy enough fools to stuff the boxes. I don't think this will be so easy.

I am still anxious about the elections tomorrow. The mailers and radio ads from Greene are inescapable. Rick Scott's evil mug stares at me every time I log into Facebook. But if voters have done even the slightest bit of their homework, these billionaires will realize they just wasted a lot of dough.

Friday, August 20, 2010

So Sick of Polls

I recently heard USF Professor Susan MacManus suggest Florida is over-polled on politics. Being a swing state for presidential elections and host to a competitive Senate race most cycles, that is possibly true. But right now, I am wishing it wasn't getting polled at all.

A new Quinnipaic has some interesting results, but at this point, I find myself taking everything with a grain of salt. Their data shows shows Alex Sink winning the governor's race against either Bill McCollum or Rick Scott, but shows both Republicans getting the exact same percentage (29) and Bud Chiles pulling in 12 percent regardless of who wins the GOP nomination. That odd coincidence was enough to make RedState write off the poll. Which I kind of understand.

Of course, they loved the poll that shows Marco Rubio winning the Senate race in a Rubio-Charlie Crist-Kendrick Meek matchup. I said then the poll shouldn't be taken seriously. Now I wonder if any should.

The only axiom in politics is that only one poll matters. That, of course, is the true results on election say. There is so much interest in Florida's gubernatorial and Senate contests that we are getting polls everyday offering different results. It is easy to find comfort in a poll which shows your guy on top, and I am as guilty as any there. Yesterday, I posted something on McCollum leading Scott in the polls, and planned to do another post yesterday on Meek beating Greene.

But a poll can be found to support any candidate. Jeff Greene. Rick Scott. Every candidate that matters has seen a poll come out in the last five weeks which showed them on top. The results vary greatly. That is because the questions asked vary, and the voter screening is different. Enough so that the numbers may best be described now as crap. And if the opinion of the public on these candidates is so malleable it can shift 11 points in two days, then there is no way pollsters can get voters on the phone fast enough they don't their minds.

So I am giving up on polls at least until after the primary. No more will be sourced on this blog until we know the candidates on the November ballot.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

McCollum Could Fend Off Scott's Ill-Gotten Gains

While I am openly rooting for Democrat Alex Sink to win the governor's race, I am quite happy the new Quinnipaic poll shows Bill McCollum beating Rick Scott, who brings toxicity to this entire contest.

I don't like McCollum's ridiculous health care lawsuit or his hate-pandering immigration proposal, but the man is a proven public servant with decades of experience serving Florida first as a Congressman and then as Attorney General. It's real cool right now to throw the bums out, but swapping experienced leaders for hacks with big bank accounts is not the solution to our problems in government. We need better leaders, not richer ones.

Scott, though, is a proven failure in the private sector who only made his millions breaking the rules and negotiating good severance packages. After his heath care company racked up $1.7 billion worth of fines following a landmark fraud case, he has fought tooth and nail against letting any of his testimony in the case come out. So much for taking responsibility. Of course, his answer has been to say McCollum only wants the truth out as part of a political stunt.

I say, 'So What?'

That response reminds me of when GOP leadership in the House blamed Democrats for letting the story of Mark Foley's intern-harassing come out in order to take political advantage. Never mind it was actually a Republican former intern who blew the whistle, exposing a predator going after children was the right thing to do whether there was gain in it or not. It's like attacking someone who turns in a kidnapper just to get the reward money.

If Scott is going to get angry anytime his own words prove publicly embarrassing, someone should remind him this is the Sunshine State in more ways than one. We have some of the best open government laws in the nation. All of a governor's emails pertaining to politics and government are public record and they do come out. Ask Jeb Bush.

Most credit Bush, of course, with helping McCollum through the last slogging month. The former governor's endorsement carries a lot of weight with Florida Republican voters. I am sure that contributes to McCollum bringing his favorables up to 44 percent. But there is likely more to it than that. This is a dramatic rebound for McCollum, who Q had pegged as losing to Scott 43-32 as recently as July 29. Now he is winning 44-35. In that span, undecideds only dropped from 23 percent to 19 percent, so McCollum has been poaching from Scott's support.

More likely, the polls are starting to zero in on those voters who are actually going to bother showing up to the polls. Those voters are party regulars and tend to be more educated. And they are voters who have come to primary elections year after year, often voting for McCollum whether he was seeking the nomination for Attorney General, U.S. Senator or, in the case of some Central Florida voters, Congressman.

And while McCollum's negative campaigning has at times seem crude and unrefined, it has worked at bringing down Scott's reputation. Right now, Scott is at 34/33 favorable/unfavorable ratings. On June 10, Q pegged him at 40/12. And perhaps as party regulars see Sink coasting through an uncontested primary (though independent Bud Chiles awaits in November), they worry how much more of a shellacking Scott can take in front of general election voters.

And unlike, say, Marco Rubio, Scott has not been able to bottle up the enthusiasm of the tea party quite so effectively. Perhaps that is because the attentive conservatives in Florida have always seen Impeachment Bill as a standard-bearer for the right.

Whether because of caution of enlightenment, Republican voters are coming around. But we'll see if that can last. This year may go down as the most dynamic political season in Florida history. A lead in the polls today means nothing next week.

As a P.S., I also can't help but wonder, if the establishment McCollum can fend off the insurgent Scott, will it make Charlie Crist regret fleeing from his party primary?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Florida in House Republicans' Sights

A major ad buy shows the National Republican Congressional Committee will focus heavily on dragon-slaying this year, according to Politico. The NRCC has targeted 40 incumbent Democrats, including three in Florida. The list is not especially surprising, with Allen Boyd, Alan Grayson and Suzanne Kosmas making it onto the slate. The biggest surprise to me is that Ron Klein was ignored.

Of course, this strategy offers an opportunity for Democrats seeking open seats, most notably Joe Garcia and Lori Edwards. At least for now, the NRCC seems content to let those races play out on their own. Because this proved popular last go, I will links to my race-by-race take on where things stand now in Florida's most heated house battles.

FL-12 and FL-25: Huge Opportunity

The NRCC target list provides bad news for a lot of incumbents, even ones who are prepared to take the extra licks, but it also reveals something about the NRCC's strategy this year which provides great news to Democrats seeking open seats. Florida has two real chances at pickups this year: the 12th and the 25th.

I have been saying good things about our odds in the 25th for months. Joe Garcia is an outstanding candidate who already sent Mario Diaz-Balart fleeing from his own hand-drawn district, and he has been raising a solid amount of cash. Additionally, Republican David Rivera has not been a very good candidate thus far. Yes, Rivera has raised more than a million, but shaky positions on oil and immigration have hurt him, as has a high-profile foreclosure scandal involving Senate hopeful Marco Rubio.

As for the 12th, I was ready to write off this race a month ago but news the NRCC is focusing on incumbents could help Democrat Lori Edwards out a great deal. Southern Political Report was also more impressed than I was with Edwards' fundraising, tough they still peg this as a Republican-leaning district. Adam Putnam's pursuit of higher office does create an opportunity here in a district that John McCain carried by a point. It still may take a slip-up by Republican Dennis Ross, a former state representative, to make this winnable, but things look better today than they did a week ago.

Is the NRCC over-confident in thinking these seats won't be competitive? It may be they have polling we don't, but then the strategy to leave every open seat in the nation alone hints at a confidence in the GOP that the bulk on incumbent-free races will go their way. That could be true, but such confidence would make it all the more fun to surprise them in November.

FL-22: Klein Breathing Easier?

One Democrat who had to be excited about seeing the NRCC hit list was Ron Klein. Despite just being a sophomore in the House and having an opponent who is well-liked among conservative activists, Klein isn't among the 40 targeted Democrats. That is probably a very sign that the GOP doesn't want to waste too much real money in a Southeast Florida district.

That doesn't mean Klein has nothing to worry about. Tea Party darling Allen West has been raising moula and publicity over the past few years. He is the type of black conservative that Republicans go all Alan Keyes about. He hates affirmative action and our current Commander-in-Chief, and hey, why wouldn't a minority who climbed the ranks in the military feel that way, right? An internal poll released in April showed West with a slight lead in Klein, but no independent poll has replicated those results.

But Klein is well-respected here. He just picked up the endorsement of the Palm Beach Post, and the paper sided against West in the GOP primary in favor of a less extreme candidate destined to lose. And voters here know of Klein's commitment to his constituency and his ambitious nature. He rose to leadership roles in the state Senate and has always been well-respected among party leadership. That means something in the House, and the older voters in this district have a respect for that.

FL-24: Kosmas In Trouble?

Freshman Rep. Suzanne Kosmas is probably the most tense about the news of the NRCC buy. Republicans are starting to thirst for her blood, perhaps because of anger she beat rising star Tom Feeney two years ago in a district hand-drawn for the former state Speaker. A new poll by the American Action Forum shows her trailing Craig Miller 44-41. And unlike Grayson, she has never developed any special affection with the left.

Of course, we don't even know if Miller will be the nominee. He is in a GOP primary against ex-Winter Park Commissioner Karen Diebel and state Rep. Sandy Adams, two candidates with more electoral experience than the Ruth's Chris flunky. But if they can beat the well-monied Miller that probably means they can go into the general election strong. With news of the NRCC incumbent-killing program targeting her but ignoring Ron Klein, I suspect this makes Kosmas the most vulnerable incumbent in Florida this year. And since Obama lost this district two years ago, many people such as Southern Political Report are already moving this into the leans Republican column.

But then, Kosmas is still winning in money, and will build up some good name recognition and voter support in a minor primary with former Winter Springs mayor Paul Partyka. This is a big media market, so money could make a huge difference. Kosmas can definitely stick this out, and from there develop a long-term career in Congress. But it won't be easy.

FL-08: Grayson, Ultimate Fighting Dem

Those of us who long ago tired of milquetoast Democrats constantly reasoning their way through public debate have fallen in love with Alan Grayson. Having grown up in Lake County, I have been particularly fascinated. I grew up sitting at the smallest table during mock debates in school. The very notion a liberal Democrat is representing Eustis right now is something I find confusing and exhilarating. But this Fall, it will truly put to test whether being a fighting lefty is a wise move even in swing districts.

Let me cite an odd source, this Errol Louis column in the New York Daily News where Grayson lays out the higher stakes for his re-election fight:
"I am the first Democrat to represent Orlando in 34 years," he told me. "If I do win reelection, and 25 Democrats go down because they were too weak, too indecisive and pretended to be Republicans, then that will be a learning moment for all the Democrats."

So far, the strategy has worked splendidly. Grayson is doing what some Republicans mastered years ago and turning his House perch into a national podium. By offering a strident voice to progressives, he has won a national reputation, and reaped huge rewards for his campaign warchest. He has obviously won the scorn of the right as well, and I am sure many people in McCollum country feel this usurper must be turned back.

But riled conservatives and the presumption Grayson would be vulnerable has actually hurt the GOP in a couple ways. Most notably, the primary field is mega-crowded. Former Senate candidate Dan Webster might have been an establishment favorite if he entered the race sooner, but now businessman Bruce O'Donoghue has built up significant name recognition, attorney and talk radio guy Todd Long has commissioned polls that show him leading. Official TEA Party candidate Peg Dunmire has also severely muddied the waters, and is strengthening cred with the far right despite people trying to tie her to Grayson.

It may not be as hard as people think for Republicans to pull constituencies back together after a tough August primary. But it will be hard for an individual candidate to bring together financing. That is probably why the NRCC decision to target this district means so much right now. But I expect the Democrats will toss a good deal of dough into this on Grayson's behalf. Money should still favor the incumbent, and I think this is a very winnable race.

FL-02: Boyd Getting Tested

This is the first time in ages when Allen Boyd has been involved in a real race, but I still have trouble seeing the GOP picking off this seat. I also don't see Boyd getting beaten in the Aug. 24 primary. While many had hoped state Sen. Al Lawson could get the Blue Dog tossed, Lawson simply hasn't run the best of campaigns. Making personal attacks about Boyd's divorce and getting into physical altercations with Boyd trackers have respectively made Lawson appear less like a statesman than an old crank. I am not in the Panhandle, but this race seems done.

In the general, I still have trouble believing Boyd is truly in trouble. He has far out-raised the presumptive Republican nominee Steve Southerland, and I expect that money can go a long way. Boyd has tons of name recognition, not just from 14 years in the House but another 28 in the state Legislature. And I believe this whole 'we-hate-earmarks' thing coming from the tea party megaphones will mean little when it comes to incumbents defending the spending brought home from Washington. This Tallahassee Democrat endorsement (for the primary) ticks off more than $35 million in grant dollars he won. In a district with two major state universities and the center of state government included, this should mean a great deal for voters.

Someday, Boyd will retire. And those old-school Panhandle Dixiecrats, who vote blue more out party loyalty than ideology, are slowly dying. We won't hold this seat forever. But I believe as long as Boyd is around we will continue to keep it blue.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Obsessing Over a Poll Which Should be Ignored

Why cannot I not resist this? A new Mason-Dixon poll shows Crist slipping in the general election, and losing to Marco Rubio if Kendrick Meek is the Democratic nominee. It also shows him winning if Jeff Greene is the Democratic nominee, but also shows Jeff Greene losing the primary. The funny thing about this poll is that it can be spun as good news for every single candidate in this race, and indeed I cannot help but see the good news for my favored candidate.

But let me remind, both for myself and any readers who stumble on this site, this poll doesn't matter. A general election mock-up in a race where the Democratic nominee is uncertain means nothing. To glean meaningful results in mid-August is mostly kindly described as foolhardy.

Yet, here I go. My reasons why this is good news for Kendrick Meek:

The poll shows the congressman leading vanity billionaire candidate Jeff Greene by a whopping 40-26. Since that race is a week away, this actually does matter. If this poll is to be believed, and there have been polls with different results, then voters have been educating themselves, and Meek's message is winning out despite the steady flow of nasty mailers from the Greene campaign. If nothing else in this poll is to be taken with much regard, at least this provides good news for Meek in the Aug. 24 election.

Also, it shows Meek is gaining traction in the general. While more Democrats support Crist than Meek right now by a margin of about 45-36, and about 11 percent of Democrats remain uncommitted in Meek is the nominee. That leaves great opportunity for swaying the fence-sitters and poaching Crist support. With Meek on the November ballot, it shows the race at 38 for Rubio, 33 for Crist, 18 for Meek and 11 undecided. While that is scary stuff, support is not obviously too firm. Should Crist lure Republicans into his fold while Meek wins over the undecideds, he can do this. As I has stressed repeatedly, you only need 40 percent of the vote, maybe less, to win the seat this year.

But now I sober up. If I were inclined, I would read this poll other ways as well.

For Rubio: You only need 40 percent to win this, and with Meek on the ballot, Rubio is almost there already. Assuming the support for the major candidates is firm, Crist would need to take the significant bulk of undecideds to win, and this is already out of reach for Meek. A Greene primary win would complicate things, but this poll makes that seem unlikely. Plus, his support is secure. He hold 38 percent whether the race is against Crist and Meek, or against Crist and Green. This shows him losing with Greene on the ballot in a 39-38-12 battle, but that means he and Crist are statistically tied, and that Crist's supporters are fickle.

For Greene: Meek has proven repeatedly he does not have a loyal groundswell of support among Democrats, and millions worth of mailers are surely going to chip in to Meek's lead in coming days. Plus, this will motivate those pro-Crist Democrats who seem intent on spoiling their own party primary. Should he get on the November ballot, Greene has more in his couch cushions that Rubio or Crist can hope to raise, and every poll has shown support for all established candidates seems very soft.

For Crist: OK, this is a stretch, but this is still showing a Crist victory with Greene on the ticket, still a real possibility. And Rubio is still appealing almost exclusively with base Republican voters. Crist still kills Meek in every poll, even among Democrats, and as election day creeps closer, more Democrats will jump ship and back Crist just to stop Rubio unless the Democratic nominee can turn this puppy around.

My head is spinning. So please, please ignore everything I have said. I will try and forget it as well, and we can just pretend this post never happened.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Conflicting Polls on Scott, McCollum

Who knows how this will go, but some pollster will look really stupid by the end of this month. Mason-Dixon yesterday said Bill McCollum was enjoying a 4-point lead on Rick Scott in the Republican primary for Governor. But the new Times/Herald poll shows 10 points for Scott.

I have been saying for months that Republicans have lost their senses if they run Scott for governor because his only experience has been leading health care companies into record fines and settlements.

But the M-D is the first poll I've seen in a while that shows McCollum up. I think the Attorney General is going to have another statewide loss on his resume pretty soon.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rubio's Betrayal of Hispanics

It must be tough being a minority politician and, at the same time, a darling of a movement built on hate. Apparently, Marco Rubio is having as much trouble taking a stance on hating brown people in Florida as he did about hating brown people in Arizona. This tea party crusader lacks the leadership to stand up to race-baiting within his own party, and as bigotry drives more of the political conversation in the Sunshine State, it would be nice for this supposed ideological leader to stand up for something on his own.

The problems increased for Rubio this week when Bill McCollum, in his own rush to out-crazy a crazy, came out with an Arizona-like proposal to discriminate against Hispanics. This law will give police power during "lawful stops" to demand people prove their legal immigration status. I'm sure white people like myself are busy getting their paperwork in order and making room in the glove compartment.

Rubio, though, can't tell this is a bad idea. His campaign declined to take a stance when asked by Politico. This is pure cowardice, and is worse than his queasy back-and-forth regarding Arizona's law because this will actually affect his constituents should he be elected as a U.S. Senator. I've noted his fearful cowering in the face of tea party anger before, but this bill has particularly horrible ramifications in Florida. And for a man so proud to tout his Cuban-American heritage, I would hope he could see the specific ways enforcement of this type of law could go much worse here than in other parts of the country.

Cuban immigrants don't work by the same rules as those crossing the border from Mexico. We have the ridiculous and arbitrary 'wet-foot, dry-foot' policy, a child of the dinosaur Cuban embargo which every Senate candidate this year ardently supports. Sigh. What that means is Cubans who make it to dry land are not illegal. Does this policy make sense? No. But more importantly in this conversation, it makes it much harder to demand a newly-arrived immigrant from Cuba to "prove" his citizenship.

The law makes no sense anyway. The Arizona law, of course, had its controversial sections tossed in court. That law practically requires discrimination, and even if some of the more onerous parts are scrubbed, it remains bad policy.

But while we can blame so-called conservatives for preventing Rubio from taking a firm stance on that law, his tea-carrying ways don't even make sense for the Republican primary in Florida. If the GOP has any long-range future in the state, it will need a foothold in the Hispanic community, and there are no guarantees that will happen. The Bush administration knew this the last time this Senate seat was up for re-election. That was part of why the White House was so happy to see Mel Martinez as their nominee. Martinez, also a Cubano, was deeply aware that the future of the Republican party was deeply dependent on future support among Hispanic voters.

Read this Martinez quote from the 2004 CNN piece linked above:
"This community is still up for grabs. It's a big factor."

Martinez won that Senate race in a very close contest with Democrat Betty Castor, and he can thank Hispanics for that. Bush also won Florida in 2004, and did so by increasing his share of the Hispanic vote by 7 percent, according to an analysis that year by the National Review. Bush's win was close, and Martinez's was closer, and I think it is fair to believe the presence of a candidate who would become the first Cuban-American elected to the Senate played a huge role in motivating Hispanic Republicans that year.

That National Review report notes that Florida traditionally has boasted the most conservative Hispanic population in the country, thanks largely to the Republican bent of Cubans in South Florida. So why would Rubio, the Cubano conservative hero chosen to follow in Martinez's footsteps, be so unconcerned about preserving that base support? It is, quite simply, insane.

Of course, one constant misperception about the Hispanic vote in Florida is that it is all Cuban, and all conservative. A Pew analysis of Florida's vote in 2008 shows Hispanic Democrats outnumber Hispanic Republicans in the state both in registration and at the polls. Pew also finds that Cubans make up just the third-largest share of the Hispanic electorate, behind Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.

Rubio ought to think about that as he excoriates Mexicans crossing the border, and as he gets wishy-washy on a law that has most detrimentally affected law-abiding Mexicans across this country. Puerto Ricans, who are all citizens, likely won't be too excited about the consequence of this law either. At least he came down on the right side of the offensive "birthright citizenship" issue, but there is little reason for Hispanic voters to galvanize around an Hispanic candidate if he can't be trusted on Hispanic issues.

Fear of upsetting a fast-growing and influential part of the electorate, though, shouldn't be the only reason to oppose this law. It most likely can't stand legal muster, and does nothing to solve the problems of illegal immigration in the first place. As a U.S. Senator, Rubio would accomplish more in this front by helping improve the impoverished way of life in Mexico, or by helping modernize relations with Cuba. But that sort of intervention, the type that can be done without costing the lived of American or foreign lives, is an obvious no-no with the right. Hate is the only tool Republicans have left that reliably gets voters to the poll.

At some point, Rubio needs to consider with whom he has thrown his lot. These hate-mongering conservatives are the same ones who got Martinez booted as chairman of the Republican National Committee and who questioned the citizenship of Columba Bush. The only thing Rubio should be concerned about is when they will turn on him.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

HuffPo Explores Meek and the Black Vote

Granted, there is a lot of guesswork contained here, but there is certainly interesting information about the amount of black voters within Florida's Democratic primary, and some supposition on whether the polls are underestimating Meek's support.

An excerpt from Mark Blumenthal's piece:
Here's a wager: Next Tuesday Meek will get at least 80% and probably closer to 90% of Florida's African-American vote. If I'm right, it means that all three polls are likely understating Meek's overall vote percentage by at least 8 to 10 percentage points.
The polls he lists are a Mason-Dixon I noted yesterday, a Quinni I dissected at length in late July and an internal Meek poll. I do suspect support among black voters is higher for Meek than any of these polls contend, though I worry whether turnout among black voters will be especially high. Meek is no Barack Obama, so I think looking at 2008 registration numbers provides a false sense of hope. Never mind that Meek has run a thrifty, quiet campaign whereas the presidential elections usually provide Florida with an overwhelming assault of campaign advertising.

But I do agree with Blumenthal's basic premise that Meek's potential has been underestimated by the political punditocracy. Particularly in the primary, educated voters will make the decision on the Democratic nominee, and educating oneself about this race provides more reasons to vote for Meek and against 'bad man' Jeff Greene.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Difference

A debate on the issues between Jeff Greene and Kendrick Meek is honestly a bit of a joke. The two men, in terms of stated ideology, don't have a great deal of distance between them, if any. I guess it is no surprise the only thing anyone could glean from the televised debate tonight is that these guys hate each other.

But without ideological milestones, these attacks against one another did show the difference that matters. One of these guys is a rich vanity candidate whom many of us suspected might be running on a dare. The other is a long-time public servant with an actual record to stand upon. Ethical charges seem to mean Florida is destines to see a lot of negative advertising this election cycle (though we're used to it), but it is worth noting at this point how long the list of Greene's lapses is compared to Meek's.

Tonight, Meek rightfully took Greene to task over this 2007 trip to Cuba. Greene says he took the boat into the embargoed nation for repairs, or on a Jewish philanthropy mission, or a vomit party, or to get Mike Tyson some drugs. Really, who can remember all the way back to 2007. That's like trying to recall if you voted for Ronald Reagan.

People who talk about the Dennis Stackhouse scandal like it is the sort of baggage that could sink Meek really need to pay better attention to the scandals which surround every other serious candidate in this race. Fortunately, Meek showed in the debate tonight that he can go toe to toe with well-monied loudmouths who are running out of cards to play in this crazy race. And, I imagine, Greene is starting to realize how thin his ops research folder on Meek looks compared to the plethora of scandal starting to dog his campaign.

An excerpt from the debate via the Miami Herald/St. Pete Times:
``Why didn't you go to your two United States senators in California,'' Meek asked Greene, who moved to Florida less than three years ago. ``You're a man of wealth, you're a man of influence, you're a man of power ... You decided to profit first and then go on national television and gloat about the money you made.' "

While some polls put out last week, had us all on edge, Democratic voters are on crunch time now. As they hear more about this race, they want to learn more. And a few days ago, it seemed that hunger for information was paying off for Meek. Whether Greene's old lead was a bump or an outlier, it seems as if things are breaking Meek's way once again with USA Today reporting a four-point lead.

The problem with Green is that all these mailers which look like FBI files on Meek are now old news. The more one learns about the Stackhouse scandal, the more it seems Meek was swindled, not that he was part of a great conspiracy. And unless an Ethics Commission indictment gets handed down, which seems unlikely, there isn't any more juice in that rock.

But Greene has a treasure trove of problems already on record. He made billions betting against homeowners and the banks had to pay out his winnings just as the FDIC was shutting them down. He bragged about his super-deals to Forbes from about his 145-foot yacht. (By the way, do you think Greene wishes he purchased a better toy than the Summerwind right about now?) This trip to Cuba, which is more than minor indiscretion in the world of Florida politics, seems to be gift to Meek that keeps on giving.

And since all the general voter knows about Greene is that he came from nowhere and blew a bundle on this race, these scandals stick a little nastier than usual. Meek, along with Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist, is on Crew's crooked list, but has a list of accomplishments to fall back upon. Greene only has a money pit.

Which makes the children's tale that Jeff recalled today all the more ridiculous. Again, via the Herald/Times account:
``I was brought up as a kid that if you have nothing good to say you say nothing at all,'' billionaire Palm Beach real estate mogul Greene said.
And yet, he speaks.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why Tough Primaries Rule

Everyone likes a good fireworks show, and we are finally getting it in the Democratic party primaries in Florida. Unfortunately, party leadership is as flummoxed by the idea of competition as ever, as demonstrated by some of the comments in this Creative Loafing piece, but progressive voters and better informed and better off for the recent primary season tensions making headlines right now.

I think the best example is in the current Attorney General race, an affair which until the past several weeks was failing to win any attention. Right now, I think Democrats are on track to win this race, though I have yet to see a poll which pits either Democratic candidate against any of the Republicans. Why do I think this? Because people are paying attention. Why are people paying attention? Because things are getting deliciously nasty.

For what it's worth, I think state Sen. Dan Gelber has the upper hand, despite this poll cited in Sunshine State News which shows state Sen. Dave Aronberg winning 20-18. Those doing math at home realize that's a lot of undecided voters for a two-man race. But those voters will make up their minds soon. Most party leaders have avoided choosing sides in the race, mostly because either candidate would do well in a general election contest, but even that is starting to change.

Things got good this weekend as Aronberg began running television ads ripping Gelber for working at Akerman Senterfitt. (That link goes to The Buzz, which apparently had to video the ads off television because Aronberg doesn't do the YouTube thing) Now these negative ads have folks like Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, enough so she got off the fence and endorsed Gelber. Via that Creative Loafing piece:

"Maybe I was a little naïve," Rich said by telephone last week. "I was going to be neutral, until this happened," she says of the BP fracas. "It pushed me over to the Gelber side."

Well good. Democratic voters have to make a decision soon. So should leadership. Many people say these attacks are unfair, and that Gelber's association with the firm hardly means he was defending BP. True enough. I noted here that Gelber was in on the importance oil would play in all Cabinet races long before that dawned on Aronberg. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't defend himself.

After Aronberg brought up the issue, Gelber left his firm. Should Gelber win the primary, that means he has shaken a bit of baggage before the general. And Republicans won't be able to hit him nearly so hard. If Aronberg wins the primary, he has a stronger position as the bringer of high standards.

And as attacks go, these aren't awful. Does anyone remember Peter Deutsch destroying Bettey Castor with a false link to Palestinian terrorists via USF professor Sami al-Arian? Deutsch, who was losing the Democratic primary for Senate in 2004, decided to scorch the earth and say since Castor was president of USF while a professor was there raising money to help Palestinian causes, she must secretly be harboring terrorists. That was total garbage, and by Duetsch running TV ads about it during the primary, it gave Republican Mel Martinez a vetted death blow, probably a big enough one to win the close election.

But what will the Republicans do with the BP connection? None of them will even take a stance against offshore drilling.

Meanwhile, this entire episode is getting both Gelber and Aronberg attention while the Republicans seem to run an invisible campaign. Jeff Kottkamp, Holly Bensen and Pam Bondi may as well be random assemblies of letters on the ballot. None is a star, and none can establish themselves as frontrunners.

So long as the entire ticket isn't destroyed here, the high-profile tension is good for Gelber and Aronberg. Whoever wins, at least somebody cares that it happened.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Unliked is not Unconstitutional

Since Impeachment Bill McCollum first filed a lawsuit against health care reform, I have been disgusted by a political stunt and the use of taxpayer dollars to counter the agenda of duly elected leaders. I was pleased to see Alex Sink and the Democratic party rake him over the coals for this anti-democratic, anti-fiscal conservative act. But when I read the words today of a Republican looking to succeed McCollum as Attorney General, I was struck by just how unconcerned modern Republicans can be about the law.

Backing Attorney General Bill McCollum’s constitutional challenge to new federal health-care laws backed by President Barack Obama, Benson called the new measures “the slippery slope toward socialized medicine” and said she would continue the fight against it.

That is Holly Bensen, former Health Care Administration secretary and one of three Republicans vying for the post. And according to a poll by the same news source, she is in a dead heat with Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former state prosecutor Pam Bondi. (Of note, I have frequently called Kottkamp the clear GOP frontrunner, but this poll indicates there is no such thing.)

What disturbs me about Bensen's position is that it is not simply politically-motivated but also logically bereft. McCollum has argued that mandating people have health insurance is a burden which violates their constitutional rights, kind of like making people pay taxes. This is stupid, of course, but it's an argument. I don't believe it will hold legal muster, and I don't think McCollum cares. He just wants to rile up the conservative base during the governor's race with an anti-Obama lawsuit he knows will be thrown out, but which likely won't reach a conclusion until his tenure as Attorney General is done.

Bensen, though, doesn't go through the niceties of making up a paper-thin justification. She just calls the reform names. SOCIALISM! What garbage. You don't need to be a lawyer to see the problems with this line of attack.

Of course, health care reform is not socialism. The proposal which could most accurately be labeled as socialism was the public option, but that was dropped during the watering down process our Congress calls legislating. If only this health care package was socialism. Then it might guarantee fairness and equity in the availability of medical care in the United States. Instead, the package signed into law by President Obama was little more than a series of new regulations, most of which won't go into effect until after the end of his first term.

Which gets to the fundamental problem with Bensen's statement. Socialism in and of itself is not unconstitutional. With all the talk among tea partiers of protecting the Constitution and fending off socialism, you would think our Founding Fathers were gripped by a red scare and that Sen. Joseph McCarthy was among the co-signers on the Declaration of Independence. Did John Adams and Thomas Jefferson envision this reform package? Probably not, but they didn't seem pre-occupied with making sure such laws would never get passed in the 13 colonies.

Much of what the American government does is socialism, including the few programs which conservatives so bitterly defend. Forcing all Americans to chip in tax dollars to pay for a police force that watches over our own people? Implementing a National Guard with the right to fire upon and kill this nation's citizens if they cause unrest? Forming a military force capable of imposing the political will of American leaders on neighboring countries based on the supposed notion of protecting America's collective interests? That is socialism. Helping poor people pay for surgery? Not so much.

And yet the creation of a police force and military are not unconstitutional. Why? The drafters of the Constitution were not concerned with socialism. Indeed, even after escaping the tyranny of King George III, our Founding Fathers still found a need for some centralized government and working function of society as a whole.

It is bad enough that an Attorney General who supposedly hates frivolous lawsuits would file suit on a law he simply doesn't like in an attempt to suck up to nutjobs. If we end up with an Attorney General who doesn't understand the basics of what makes something unconstitutional, then we are taking a nearly-impossible-to-find step down.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Kinder Side to Meek

This is the sort of ad I hope goes up everywhere in Florida. Meek has to play rough with Jeff Greene, but if he never gives people something to vote for, he will not win. I like this bio piece a lot. It boasts his progressive credentials and gives that every-man feel a former Congressman needs to survive in this political environment.

Must admit, though, I worry if the Carrie Meek footage will come back to bite him. I hope not, but she is the one with ties to the Stackhouse issue. Portraying her as just a single mom in West Florida, well...

P.S. I realize this blog is getting a little Meek heavy. For those loyal readers getting tired of that, I promise to get back to the Cabinet and Congress races very soon.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

In Defense of Kendrick Meek

At the start of the Senate campaign this cycle, I was among the many who had serious doubts about Kendrick Meek. Back then, it didn't matter much. Charlie Crist, then a Republican, seemed to be the slate-cleaning candidate who scared every serious Republican and Democratic challenger away. But over the past several months, it has become increasingly clear to me that Meek is no sacrificial lamb. At least he should not be. I believe he is the best shot we have at sending a truly progressive senator to Washington since the days of Claude Pepper.

That makes it all the more frustrating to see so many dismiss his candidacy. This kind of nay-saying is contagious, and has created a conventional wisdom that Meek has no shot at winning the race. The irony is that the reasons many use to justify such an opinion are exactly why he has as good a chance as he could ever hope. Meek is a black, southeast Florida liberal who, in a normal election year, would endure setbacks for all of his attributes. But thanks to a fractured right and election law that allows the Senate race to be won with a plurality, this election should be shaking down exactly as the Democrats could normally just dream.

Admittedly, he has challenges in a primary run from Jeff Greene. The self-financed vanity campaigns of Greene and Rick Scott has shaken up the races this year in ways Florida might never have endured before. But educated, activated Democrats are the ones who will vote in August. So long as informed liberals avoid the distraction of glossy mailers and sweaty television campaigns, we should have a strong candidate in Meek for the general election.

Come November, there is no reason Meek cannot beat Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio. This is where many of you will start jumping up and down and calling me naive. But please hear out my reasons.

The number one reason I hear from Democrats who plan to vote for Crist is that Rubio cannot be allowed in the Senate. But consider the visceral response to Rubio and ask yourself how broad an appeal he might have? Republicans benefit this year from an activated base, which I concede does help Rubio, but also because they offer an alternative to the party in power. In most major Senate races, they offer the only alternative. Not in Florida.

Those independent and moderate voters that tend to swing against the incumbent party in ugly times would normally vote Republican in a race like this. Don't like Harry Reid's track record? Hold your nose and vote Angle. Of course, Angle is so nutty many voters in Nevada can't stomach doing that. In Florida, they don't even need to try. Indy-Crist will get those votes, but he won't get the base. What would normally be a winning formula - crazy nuts+disenchanted moderates=Republican Senator - has been severely disrupted by Charlie's mad rush to the center.

Where does that leave us? With the highest number of registered Democrats in state history. Thanks to the Obama juggernaut in 2008, more young people are on the books as registered Dems. More blacks feel like they are a part of the political process as well. And here we are, with a baby-faced, distinguished African-American as our nominee for state office for the very first time. What about this sounds like a poor position?

Of course, in a two-man race, appeal to the left would not be enough, Meek would need to make huge concessions to the center and swear he won't be so pro-worker in the Senate. We've seen this with Betty Castor, whose issues with Sami al-Arian made her remiss to oppose the Patriot Act, and to very real degree with Bill Nelson, who won on a corporate-friendly platform that secured broad support but has left many liberals in Florida wanting more.

Meek only needs to win with 35-40 percent of the vote to have a landslide victory. It becomes more apparent each day Rubio cannot win because moderate Republicans won't support him. Crist is a pariah among conservative partisans, and his actions in recent months show how aware he is of the fact Democrats must play a role in any victory in November.

But while Crist polls well in the summertime, he will not be named in any robocalls funded by the Florida Democratic Party or the Republican Party of Florida. President Obama will not stump for Charlie Crist. Indeed, I doubt the president could avoid making some trips in support of Meek. The theory Obama will tacitly support Crist, perhaps pragmatically and perhaps out of spite for Meek backing Clinton in 2008, ignores the optics of the first black President turning his back on potentially the first black Senator from the fourth largest state in the union. No state as large as Florida has sent an African-American to the Senate. How could Obama spit on that possibility without angering many black leaders in this state?

So don't give up on Kendrick Meek. If you look purely at his positions, he offers the most to progressive voters of anyone on the ticket. And if you look at his odds of victory, and take a big picture look rather than glimpse at a mid-July poll, you see this may be the best shot we have a true liberal victory for a very long time.