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Sunday, November 28, 2010

What Happens to Charlie?

Of all the politicians who lost elections this month, perhaps none has solicited as much interest about their future as Charlie Crist. The reason, I suspect, is that despite coming in second place as an independent, it is hard to see what sort of future exists for the tan man.

The Times reports that short-term Charlie likely has a job with Morgan and Morgan, likely true based on the close ties between John Morgan and the outgoing governor. But of course the question isn't whether Crist can find work but whether he can ever be elected again. And frankly, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

First, he has to decide whether to run as a Republican or Democrat. Based on the election environment this year, he might have a better time on the blue team, but then, why would he make the switch? The only statewide office up for grabs is Sen. Bill Nelson's seat. But could Crist really challenge Nelson in the primary? I wonder then who would see Crist as a better Democrat, and who would see Nelson as a solid progressive.

No. If anything, Crist would run for Senate as a Republican, just as he did in 1998 and as he started to do this year before the tea party scared him out. The question at that point would be whether Republicans had tired of extremists running the party. Frankly, I don't see that happening as long as Barack Obama is still in the White House.

I have heard some talk about whether Crist could get an appointment from Obama, but then the question would be why. Already, the White House was catching flak this year for apparently sending Bill Clinton to convince a black Democrat to drop out of the Senate race to make room for sorry Charlie. So now that Crist has such a self-defeating and unsuccessful campaign that fracture the left and made a hero out of Marco Rubio, why continue to embrace the governor? I don't see that happening either.

If Crist is ever to have a second life in politics, he will have to build it from scratch. That means going back to local politics or returning to the Florida Legislature. As unlikely as that seems right now, I don't see any more viable path. As for a statewide ballot, it will be at least 2014 before Crist even has a good opportunity to run again. Who knows what the political environment will look like at that point.

Then again, my guess is that Charlie will try to adapt to that environment. His political instincts at one point were enough to scare Alex Sink from challenging his for governor. I don't know that so many would be intimidated today, but then, one misstep isn't reason to write him off. Crist is a political Madonna, capable of developing a new image any time the market changes. Expect him to do it again.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Backup Plan for Haridopolos and Others

Speculation is already running rampant about who will be challenging Bill Nelson, with early focus on Senate president Mike Haridopolos. But I would like to note the biggest challenges we will face in federal elections will come from the redistricting of Florida House seats. Until we know what the map looks like, and how many ambitious pols will end up with Congressional seats drawn for them, the speculation is a bit premature (but certainly still fun, so don't stop.)

I wrote about redistricting before, stressing why it was so critical Democrats get the governor's mansion before this legislative session. But that didn't happen, so we have to deal with the cold reality that little oversight exists for a Legislature with historic GOP majorities and a Senate president promising the most right-wing agenda ever.

Early estimates show Florida most likely will get two extra House seats once the census numbers are fully tallied this year. That is the same amount we picked up in 2000. Of course, we could pick up less, or more. In 1990, we snagged four seats.

Make no mistake, those will be Republican seats. Even if Fair Districts has a positive effect on the system, something which I sadly doubt, the new seats will be drawn in a way to help the GOP. The map will be challenged, I am sure. It always is. But while new laws may govern how Republicans rig the system, I assure you it will be rigged.

The one good thing we can count on is that with so few Democratic incumbents in the House next cycle, virtually every one will have it easy in 2012. Most have solid blue districts today, and if anything, the lawmakers will try to pack more Democratic strongholds into those districts just to sort them out of red zones.

The real question is, who wants the seats, and what will they do to get them.

Florida Progressives Coalition, linked above, is following Haridopolos' Senate ambitions right now, which I am sure are genuine. But ex-Speaker Johnnie Byrd and former Senate president Dan Webster once had Senate ambitions that got squished by then-HUD Secretary Mel Martinez in 2004. Back then, Byrd fled into obscurity and Webster ran back to the state Senate until a decent House opportunity presented itself this year.

Now, any legislator who is considering a trip to Washington by defeating Bill Nelson knows it could be a tough row. Even if it turns out to be a very bad Democratic cycle (though I sincerely doubt it will be like the one just closed), Florida hasn't booted a sitting Senator since 1986, and it took popular Gov. Bob Graham and out-of-step Senator Paula Hawkins to make it happen then.

If I was living around Merritt Island, I would start wondering what House district I might be living in next year. As crazy as it sounds, it would be much easy for a sitting Senate President to draw himself a House seat, as then-state Speaker Tom Feeney did in 2000, than it would be to wage a winning statewide campaign against a fleet of ambitious GOP contenders and Nelson.

For those curious, Haridopolos' district Senate office lies within Republican Bill Posey's Congressional district. The Legislature won't endanger Posey's seat, of course, but they could screw with it. Recall that in 2000, when reshaping the 5th so that Ginny Brown-Waite would take Karen Thurman's seat, a lot of Republican voters were sucked out of Cliff Stearns' district because they knew Stearns could survive.

I would also watch Speaker Dean Cannon, who has every motive to pull a Feeney this year. Beyond that, we should see who chairs the redistricting committees next year in the House and Senate, as those people virtually always end up running for Congress in custom districts. Past committee chairs include Brown-Waite, Mario Diaz-Balart, Thurman and Peter Deutsch.

Only when we know the map will we know who is still betting the farm to be part of the 100 Kings, and who will settle for rigged House seat.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I'm Gonna Miss This Guy

Ladies and gentleman, the nearly-late but always great Alan Grayson:

Dan Webster just ain't gonna bring posters every day. Probably not even a Berkin.

Hat tip to Kenneth Quinnell.

Creating Jobs, and Gov't Waste, Already

Fiscal conservatism really is the great Republican lie. If there was no better example in the last week, I'd say Rick Scott's plans for a big inauguration party served the purpose well. Of course, maybe some of that will be offset by the $25,000 tickets to the event, though that doesn't say so much about open government for the people.

Still, in the spirit of bipartisanship, I'd like to offer some tips for the event.

1. Don't invite the Medicare investigators. Best they not sniff around too much.

2. When they ask you to take the oath of office, plead the fifth. It will be hilarious.

3. Make sure that pesky Harry Potter isn't around. He would foil your plans for sure.

4. Keep an eye on Jennifer Carroll. She knows she is one indictment away from the mansion.

5. If Alex Sink hands you an iPhone, don't chide her for cheating. The race is over.

Anyone else have some words of advice for our dashing and devlish new governor? Please chime in so we can get this party started.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A More Admirable Intraparty Dispute

Since I attacked Allen Boyd earlier this week for blaming Nancy Pelosi for November losses, I thought it only appropriate I weigh in on reports of Bill Nelson coming after Barack Obama. But I must say, I have very different view here.

The St. Pete Times is reporting that Florida's senior senator is angry at the White House for its soft approach to a number of very local problems. On his list of beefs are weak support for NASA, the BP claims process and a disappointing home foreclosure program. And I have to say, it is hard to find fault with Nelson's complaints.

The foreclosure program was teased during one of Obama's first town halls, one held in Fort Myers where I was present. At the time, he suggested very strongly that people who were underwater on their homes would be eligible for a new program to help fill that gap between the value of a home and the debt still owed. Problem is that the program, like so many efforts from Washington of late, was aimed at helping banks more than homeowners. An enormous number of underwater homeowners, including myself, couldn't prove they were far enough up crap creek to qualify for help. Those who could get help were in such dire straights it really made more sense to walk away, all associated personal shame aside.

Now, I have made my feelings known about NASA. I understand why Obama is doing what he is doing, but I also understand why Nelson, who has gone into space himself aboard a NASA shuttle, would fight so hard. And from a jobs perspective, it is truly terrible timing to stop shuttle launches when there isn't exactly a lot of opportunity for highly-skilled NASA layoff victims.

Then there is BP. This is a disaster which just won't stop hurting the administration. When Tony Hayward is having more PR success than the White House, something is wrong. The people should still be angry at BP, but they seem to have more lingering frustration with Obama.

So I think Nelson's arguments with the White House are justified. Plus, these are not problems which are antagonistic to progressives, the way Boyd's assault on Pelosi's leadership clearly was. But another thing separates Boyd and Nelson. Boyd only decided to complain after he got his bottom handed to him by voters this month. Nelson is most assuredly making noise now because he is up for re-election in 2012, but he is coming out now in hopes the administration can do something about all this.

The thing is, these problems will become a noose around the neck of a sitting Democratic senator if they can't get fixed in two years. No matter how much Nelson attacks the White House, he will be blamed for their failures, and he knows it.

But so will the White House. Florida will absolutely be a swing state again in 2012, and Obama will be in a far more defensive posture next go-round. He will need this state, whereas it was just gravy two years ago. Nelson's tough love could make a difference not only in his chances for re-election, but in Obama's.

Now we just need the White House to listen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No, Boyd is the Face of Boyd's Defeat

Update: Pelosi prevailed and will be minority leader. Tough year, Allen.

I was never someone who said we should toss out the Blue Dogs when a fragile minority was at stake in the House this year, but right now, I am regretting everything good I said about Allen Boyd this year.

Politico is reporting that the ousted Panhandle Democrat went after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, calling her "the face of our defeat" in a closed-door caucus meeting. But what he fails to recognize is that Democrats who stuck to their guns on principles nationwide fared better than the Blue Dogs across the country.

Were their ads targeting Pelosi in Florida's 2nd this year? Of course. I presume there will be ads targeting John Boehner there in 2012, unless the party just writes off the seat as a permanent loss. That is what happens when the minority party senses the voters want to punish the party in power. It works because, like it or not, Nancy Pelosi is probably a better recognized figure than Allen Boyd is even in his home district. I'm not so sure the same can be said of an Alan Grayson, not that that helped this year.

But that gets to a bigger point. Florida was in a mood to toss Dems this year. It wasn't just in Congress but in the Cabinet and state Legislature as well. Alex Sink wants to blame Obama. Boyd wants to blame Pelosi. Both are wrong.

They lost because the right was energized, and the rest of America was depressed. The same was true in reverse in 2006 when Pelosi came to power.

Since getting the gavel, Pelosi has been the most effective House Speaker in well over a decade. She has whipped like Gingrich and made the House the source of policy instead of the deliberating Senate. Now, members of her own caucus are attacking her for exactly that reason.

I am reminded that Boyd ran an aggressive campaign against Al Lawson in the primary this year, and almost lost. I said then that we should stick with Boyd, but now I regret that stance. Boyd attacked the progressive Lawson with far less remorse than he wielded against Steve Southerland, who proved to be the death of him.

The other thing that may have happened, assuming Boyd is right about the party shifting too far to the left, is that this may have simply been a corrective election. Southern Democrats like Boyd are a dying breed, and with good reason. If the voters in the Panhandle really want a conservative, now they have one. I think progressives in the Panhandle deserve better than Boyd. And in two years, I hope we get just that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Charlie Crist, Still Proving Himself Unreliable

An intriguing little blogpost showed up on Politico today from Ben Smith. Apparently Bob Dole, the former GOP presidential candidate, believes Charlie Crist would have caucused with the Republicans in the Senate. Why am I not surprised?

Mind you, I don't believe Crist would have done that. With everything that happened in the past year, and with so much of his support closer to election day coming from Democrats, I believe he would have caucused under Harry Reid instead of Mitch McConnell, this time. Whenever control of the Senate might shift, or even come within a vote or two, Crist would bolt to whoever offered the shiniest chairmanship.

But this bolsters what I have argues for months. Charlie Crist cannot be trusted.

Why does Dole believe Charlie would caucus red? Probably because Charlie told him so.

Why, according to the Wall Street Journal, does John Morgan believe Charlie would caucus blue? Probably because Charlie told him so.

This man should have no political future with either party after this season of duplicitousness.

Don't Expect Nelson-Rubio 'Clash' to Last

This is the sort of headline that will make conservatives giggle with glee, but I expect when things really get moving that Marco Rubio will do little to stop Sen. Bill Nelson from bringing bacon back to Florida.

The headline comes from the Daily Caller: "Rubio, Nelson Already Clash Over Earmarks." But the article simply alludes to statements made on the Hill by the Senator-elect, after a meeting with the senior senator, but Nelson isn't quoted at all. My guess is there is no abnormal tension between these two men. Basic politics will drive them to different public positions on this issue, but neither wants Florida, a state which historically sees far few federal dollars come back compared to the amount which go out, to receive less than its fair share.

It is good politics for Rubio to oppose earmarks. Everyone loves a good government waste story about a $600 toilet seat or a study on the flow of ketchup. That is why Rubio has gone so far as to promise co-sponsorship of a Jim DeMint ban on the practice of barreling pork.

But the truth is, earmarks constitute a tiny part of the federal budget, about one-fifth of one percent according to this ABC report. So it actually will do very little in terms of deficit reduction, or even the feel-good "cut government spending" rhetoric that right-of-center voters eat up like leftover Halloween candy. Plus, the Republicans in the Senate are still in the minority.

Nelson, of course, is not going to pick this cycle of all cycles to abandon Florida earmarks. He is up for re-election in 2012, and may be playing ball in as nasty an environment as he's had to play since 2000. The man wants every project funded, every ribbon cut, every roadway opened to stand as a "Re-Elect Bill Nelson" billboard in the minds of the voters who benefit the most.

The question then is whether Rubio will do anything to undermine Nelson. Of course, there is a old-school rule that incumbents in Florida's Congressional delegation won't campaign on behalf of efforts to unseat other incumbents. Of course, Bill Nelson may be more responsible than anyone for that pact falling apart. Ric Keller in 2002 was expressing irritation the senator was donating money to potential challengers for his seat, and by 2008, Nelson was openly campaigning to unseat GOP House members in Florida.

So maybe Rubio will join efforts to replace Nelson with a Republican, but I doubt standing in the way of transportation projects and performing arts hall grants will be his approach. This little get-together on the Hill is no sign of a deep clash. Rubio has been in legislative bodies before. He is smart enough to know not to pick a fight with a more powerful senator representing his same constituency before even getting sworn in.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Karen Thurman Should Have Stayed

Update: Well, that was just crappy timing. Thurman just resigned. Dang it. I should take this down, but I guess I'll leave it up for posterity. I am changing the title, but the original was "Retain Karen Thurman."

It is almost cliche for the calls for resignation to come on the heels of a terrible election. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to me that people are calling for the head of Karen Thurman. A petition is already up, complete with some rather unflattering pictures of the former Congresswoman, but since I have no interest in signing it, I also will not link to it.

My view is this. The Florida Democratic Party, while not in the best of shape right now, is much better off than it was when Thurman took the helm. Yes, we just lost four Congressmen this cycle, but remember that three of those seats - FL-08, FL-22 and FL-24 - were in Republican hands when she arrived. And anyone who thinks the GOP victory earlier this month was a local phenomenon simply wasn't paying attention.

The truth is that Thurman has led the state party through three election cycles now, and two of them were marked by gains for the good guys. She helped the party win seats that GOP lawmakers had hand-drawn to stay red forever. She helped recruit candidates who became national players, even if their time on stage was short-lived.

The 2012 election cycle could be one of the most critical in decades in terms of statewide leadership. The Republicans have ridiculous majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, and will redraw the state maps, Fair Districts optimism aside, to favor the party in races for the state Senate, state House and Congress. Thurman, a former state Senator and Congresswoman who frankly knows a bit about the redistricting process, has the knowledge to help us face that challenge. I simply don't believe anybody else in line to lead the party has skills which can compete.

She has an ideological compass which serves the party well. I can still recall an evening at the Claude Pepper Dinner in Lake County when Thurman, still bruised from her final, unsuccessful Congressional campaign, spoke up the value of liberalism to the cause of government. It was refreshing, and something the downtrodden activists, who just had watched Bill McBride lose his home county in the governor's race, needed to hear.

I know Thurman pretty well from covering her campaigns, so perhaps I am a bit biased, but I think it is astounding what she did with a state party which frankly seemed in ruins for most of the last decade. She was at the helm as the state went for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1996, saw the re-election of a Democratic U.S. Senator and helped make gains in Congress and the Legislature until this cycle.

My stance may surprise some, and I certain have beefs with Democratic messaging this year for which I do not fully absolve the party chair.

But then, most of the chatter online suggests Rod Smith would be her likely successor. No offense to the Gainesville politician, but he was part of a statewide campaign this year too. As running mate to Alex Sink, he was a central part of the campaign which set our political agenda for 2010, and that campaign was not successful. Could Sink-Smith make up that 63,000-vote deficit with better help from the state party? Perhaps, but I think an easier case could be made that had the gubernatorial campaign run 1-percent stronger, it would have won not just the governor's mansion, but perhaps saved Ron Klein and several Democrats in tough state House races.

I would like to keep Karen Thurman for another cycle. Let her lead the effort to retain Florida for Barack Obama, and to fight for Joe Garcia one more time without a national wind knocking every Democrat down a few points. Let her seize seeming victory away from Republicans who draw seemingly unbeatable districts. Let her have one more go at this. Now is not the time for newcomers to fake their way through leadership. Too much is at stake, and Thurman has pulled us up more often than she has let us down.

Weird Events Lead to Kaufman Declining West Offer

Well, this is bizarre. A series of events which led to the lockdown of some schools in Pembroke Pines resulted in radio host Joyce Kaufman declining the offer to be Allen West's chief of staff.

She made the announcement yesterday, so sorry for the tardiness. But basically, the lockdown came after a vague and threatening message regarding violence by a Broward County government building led her to call the authorities.

According to investigators, the e-mail sent to the station said, "I am planning something big around a government building in Broward County, maybe a post office, maybe a school."

Kaufman recently was hired as chief of staff for U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West, but on Thursday afternoon, she announced she would not take the position.

"I will not be used in an electronic lynching by proxy. The insanity of using a Hispanic woman to lynch a black American Army hero elected to Congress -- lynching by proxy," Kaufman said on her show. "What they're trying to do is bring down Congressman-elect Allen West."

"We can't tell from our investigation at this point if the person actually meant to support Ms. Kaufman or if the person was trying to derail Ms. Kaufman by pretending they supported Ms. Kaufman," said Capt. Dan Rakofsky, of the Pembroke Pines Police Department.
The whole thing is strange, and to me is does sound like a crazy lefty might have been behind it. For that reason, I won't contribute to the wackiness by offering too much commentary on my own to the events of the past 72 hours.

But I will say, the idea of having a Rush Limbaugh-wannabe act of Chief of Staff to Rep. Crazypants was something I had been looking forward too. I guess it is likely now that someone reasonable and sane may run West's office instead, and that is genuinely disappointing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Will Dockery Save Rail

I have never understood the connection between Paula Dockery, one of the Republicans in the state whom I respect most, and Rick Scott, our new Gov.-elect and perhaps the least useful person to ever move to the Sunshine State. But I hope that connection can help to save high-speed rail in some form in the state of Florida. If we ever want to see statewide mass transit or a reduction in vehicle emissions, this program is essential to Florida's future.

I have always been very fond of Dockery, and have been unafraid to admit it. I first met her when she joined the state Senate, representing a portion of Florida which included my home county of Lake. But I knew her by reputation before that, as Dockery was the greatest proponent of high-speed rail in Florida. Sure, a lot of that had to do with her husband C.C. Dockery's heavy investment in rail, but that investment itself demonstrated a belief in the project. And Dockery's strong environmental record, including the Florida Forever fund and push for better water management, shows a commitment to the environment which extend beyond laying track.

Sadly, voters saw little potential in Dockery for the governor's mansion, and instead have elected Gov. Voldemort, a man who proudly doesn't believe in global warming. Additionally, his hatred of all things Obama has him threatening to reject $2 billion in stimulus-funding for rail if Florida has to outlay even 10 percent of the project costs.

Of course, the presumptions many people are making about Scott's plans for rail are based on campaign trail rhetoric. We don't know how fixed he is to statements he made during the debates, especially when his campaign was so whole-heartedly trying to paint everything about Barack Obama and Alex Sink with a negative tint. Will he wiggle?

This is where Paula Dockery is so important. Perhaps out of anger at Bill McCollum, Dockery became a major player in the Scott campaign. She was doing post-debate media for Scott after debates in the primary. More recently, she was named to Scott's transition team. Whatever else I can say about the Dark Lord's judgment, this was a very smart move.

What does this mean for rail, though? That is a little complicated. While Dockery has been a major supporter of high-speed rail, she has also fought tooth and nail against SunRail, a program she views primarily as welfare for CSX and perhaps a detriment to genuine high-speed efforts. I wish both programs could move forward and create a complete transportation network, but in the current revenue-lite environment, that is too much too ask from a practical standpoint.

But I was excited to see Dockery join a rally led by Sen. Bill Nelson on the significance of high-speed rail. Via the Ledger:


Dockery... has been one of the leaders in Florida's efforts to bring in high-speed rail, said she was committed to the project just as she has been for 21 years.

"We need to be leaders, not followers," she said. "You have my word I will do everything I can."


And from a political point of view, it is obvious that much of the I-4 corridor, where Scott did poorly in the general election, favors the initiative. The rally was attended by leaders from Lakeland, Tampa and Orlando. And one of the things Scott has to realize very quickly if he is to accomplish anything in his first term is that the time for political rhetoric needs to end right now and the time for genuine governing must begin.

I hope Scott is smart enough to listen to Dockery on this one.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crazypants Brings Me Solace

Of all the terrible election outcomes that happened last week, the one which brings me solace is Allen West's victory over Rep. Ron Klein. Not because I think he should have won, mind you. Thankfully, I do not live in Palm Beach, and do not have to suffer this man's antics in the streets of my hometown.

No, it is because he it so freakin' nuts. Enter Chief of Staff Joyce Kaufman.

From the Independent:
  • In August 2007, when discussing illegal immigrants, she said on her show, “If you commit a crime while you’re here, we should hang you and send your body back to where you came from, and your family should pay for it.”
  • She became infuriated at illegal immigration after she called Comcast and the recording said, “Press 2 for Spanish.”
  • She said at a rally, with West standing by, “Calling illegal immigrants ‘undocumented workers’ is like calling a drug dealer a pharmacist without a license.” She was furious that children of illegal immigrants were educated in public schools and received health care at emergency rooms. “There are people who want to change your way of life, and some of them may be your gardeners,” she said.

Apparently, efforts by John Boehner to stop the nuts from bringing too many fruit loops to Washington have failed in Washington D.C.

Allen West is a torturer, a vindictive maniac and a fan of racist motorcycle gangs who wouldn't have him as a member. But he is no pushover.

Let's face it. Ron Klein, while being a very competent Congressman, was pretty boring. For the next two years, we can enjoy the madcappery that is Mr. West, then have Klein come in, promise to never rip his short off Incredible Hulk-style on the House floor, and coast back into office. But until then, let's enjoy this show.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where State Dems Failed

Following politics means suffering through a lot of ups and downs for anyone with an ounce of convictions, but it has been especially frustrating this year to watch a number of good candidates go down to especially lousy ones. The biggest frustration for me has been an utter failure for state Democrats to sell themselves as agents of change.

This complaint really only applies for our state offices: the Governor, Cabinet and Legislature. For more than a decade, all of these state offices have been dominated by Republican politicians. Yet, a supposed discontent with the status quo was directed to punish Democrats running for these offices. I can't really blame Republicans for winning. But Democrats should never have let this narrative take form, much less hold through election day.

I noted more than a month ago that it was insane that Republicans could promise on bringing change to the governor's mansion. With Rick Scott's election, we have guaranteed GOP control of our state's top office for a 16-year run. As for the Cabinet, Alex Sink was the only member who was a Democrat. And four years prior to her election in 2006, no Democrat was on that board. Come January, that will be the situation again.

As for the Florida Legislature, enormous GOP caucuses got bigger. The Division of Elections says the state Senate will have a 28-12 Republican-Democrat split. The state House will be 81-39. That means Democrats in either chamber will be outnumbered more than 2-to-1. And people say Rick Scott won't be able to push a far-right agenda. I think he will be able to do whatever he wants.

I don't really want to beat up on the candidates too much. I think Sink really did run an outstanding campaign this year, and the final margin of defeat was less than 62,000 votes. We had good candidates for the Cabinet, particularly with Dan Gelber seeking the Attorney General post.

But in the end, it seemed as if no campaign could break through a general noise. An election cycle which started as being discontent with the party in power became all about voting Republican to really show those guys in D.C. But our state officials aren't going to D.C. Florida Republicans have controlled Tallahassee for more than a decade, and their power was only expanded on Nov. 2. That is not just a disconnect. That is voters intent on punishing the party in power doing exactly the opposite of what they intended to do.

Florida has been hit especially hard by the recession, in part because lawmakers and state leaders have created policies which suck our tax coffers in order to give people an enormous number of tax exemptions, underfunded education to the point where our students are graduating without a very diverse skillset but able to bubble the hell out of a Scantron, and created growth management policies which encouraged construction of more homes than Realtors could sell before the bubble burst.

This year, we saw the leadership of the Republican Party of Florida audited and indicted. We had an oil rig explosion damage our tourism-based economy while Republicans were apologizing to BP for shakedowns. The GOP managed to nominate a gubernatorial nominee with a record fraud fine on his resume, a black guy who hangs with racist motorcycle gangs, a Senate candidate who had a home foreclosure with another Congressional candidate, and an attorney general candidate who used her position as a prosecutor to allegedly steal a dog.

And they won.

This is just embarrassing. We cannot allow the other side to control the narrative to this point. The Florida GOP controls all the pursestrings here. They are the status quo. And yet, when the going got tough, they told the voters the handful of Democrats in Tallahassee were to blame, and voters bought it. I have to give begrudging respect to the other side on that one. But the consequences are too great for us to let that happen again. While we lick out wounds, Rick Scott is putting together a transition team. And that just hurts.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nationalizing Elections

One thing this election brought home more than perhaps any other point, all politics is not local.

Now, to be sure, the demographics of particular districts will result in different outcomes. Despite a GOP wave, Corrine Brown could coast to re-election this year. And we will likely never get a shot at someone like Jeff Miller. But when it comes to swing districts and toss-up races, it seems now that nothing is more important than the national narrative.

The GOP says Alan Grayson was too liberal for his district, but being conservative didn't help Allen Boyd. And can anyone be more middle-of-the road than Suzanne Kosmas? Does anyone represent the demographic make-up of their district as well as Ron Klein?

No, the other thing Florida's ousted congressmen have in common this year is that they were Democrats in a year when being a Democrat wasn't cool.

Our side benefits from this too. Nobody thought Ric Keller was in serious trouble until weeks before the 2008 election where Grayson took that district. We talk about the Jack Abramoff scandal playing a role in Kosmas' '08 victory, but really, she benefitted most from a national anti-Bush environment and the insurgent Obama candidacy.

Today, Florida has 10 Democratic congressman in a 25-member House delegation. In January, that will drop to 6. Yet, this is clearly still a swing state. The only big difference will be that these four congressman were on the wrong side of a wave.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

First Black, Female Governor

So a silver lining in the governor's race occurred to me today. Sure, we now have a thief moving into the governor's mansion, but pretty soon, we will see the first female, African-American governor in Florida. That's two milestones in one!

How, you ask? Well, while running mates are pretty much a secret in Florida, Rick Scott chose Jennifer Carroll as his, and she will now be one indictment away from the top office in state politics. Sooner or later, Scott will inevitable be indicted for something, and voila, Gov. Carroll.

I spoke to Carroll a couple times when she was running against Corrine Brown for Congress. Never much because that race was never and will never be winnable for a Republican. She seemed harmless enough. So I won't mind her keeping the seat warm until we can run in a special election in 2012 and show her the door Gerald Ford-style.

Why 2012? Well, a special election will have to happen if Scott leaves before he is midway through his term, and do you really think the indictment will wait that long?

So congratulations, future Gov. Carroll. You laid the groundwork for history yesterday.

10 Things Florida Voters Taught Me Last Night

1. Alan Grayson's antics are too outrageous for Congress. Allen West, totally acceptable.

2. It's OK to rack up historic fraud fines as long as your mother loves you enough to cut an ad.

3. The Florida Democratic Party will never get its act together.

4. While liberals argue about the proper way to elect Marco Rubio, Republicans just voted for Marco Rubio. Their way works better.

5. Lying on your financial disclosures, running a tuck of nasty mailers off the road and calling your opponent a henchman of Castro is no big deal as long as you are Republican.

6. Receiving a text message is a fireable offense as long as you are a Democrat.

7. Being a conservative Democrat in a moderate district doesn't make sense anymore. Granted, being a liberal in a moderate district didn't help much either.

8. I should have hated Allen Boyd. Then this morning would be a little easier.

9. Floridians still vote right on most amendments even when they vote wrong on most candidates.

10. This sucks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Election Night in Florida

Update 2: It's a new day in Florida, and a lousy one. Yes, we lost every race I was following. Every stinkin' one. Florida elected criminals, torturers and zealots. So my predictions below seem particular naive today. On the bright side, this blog might have been really boring for the next year or so had this crazy cast of teabaggers just drooped away into the night, so stay tuned, and keep following these rantings.

Update: I forgot to put this on but the amendment fight looks to be heading in a pretty specific direction right now. Only 2 (the military tax exemption), 5 and 6 (Fair Districts) are on the road to passage. The Hometown Democracy, Public Finance repeal and Class-Size revision are all well south of 60 percent right now.

... and everywhere else, I know. Still, I thought I would once again do some live-blogging of just the most important races in the Sunshine State. I have posted my hopes, dreams, and pragmatic predictions on the blog already, and will update with results through the evening.

My hope for months has been that the elections will become more localized than the chattering class has predicted. Polls of late have made me doubt in that hope, but I still believe the GOP wave tonight can be ebbed a little bit in Florida.

For the sake of accountability, here are my rosy predictions from a few months ago, when I suggested every incumbent Congressman in Florida would be re-elected. I no longer believe that, but it would be nice. But while most national pundits believe our three most endangered Congressmen - Grayson, Boyd and Kosmas - all go down, I believe at least one, maybe two, will live through the night. The Senate race is gone, but we should be able to take the Governor's mansion, and maybe even one of the other Cabinet posts.

Links to my race-by-race posts are below:

FL-Sen: Meek-Rubio-Crist

Update 2: Rubio is on TV now claiming victory. I'm curious to know if he broke 50 or not, but that's about all left to learn about this disaster.

Update: Right now it seems like Marco Rubio is going to win with more than 50 percent of the vote. If that sticks, I guess the great Crist or Meek debate is moot.
If you trust the polls, this is all but over. Rubio will win in a blowout, with Crist in second and Meek in third.

I have made my feelings abundantly known. There will be no deathbed conversion for me. I vote proudly for Meek.

And while it gives me no pleasure to see Marco Rubio prep for the Senate, I revel in watching Crist's poor strategizing and constant double-crossing of values blow up in his face.

Sorry, Charlie.

FL-Gov: Sink-Scott

Update 5: There is no joy is RFF-ville. Mighty Alex has struck out.

Update 4: With 99 percent in this morning, it's still too close to call, but we are down about 50,000 votes. That sounds a little outside the mandatory recount box. But we will probably have to wait 10 days for all provisional and overseas votes. The provisionals typically trend D, the military R. I wouldn't get out hopes up too high.

Update 3: We really need to see some good figures from Palm Beach. That is Democratic territory, so there is hope. But other than that, this race is done. Guard the tax coffers. Rick Scott is packing for the governor's mansion.

Update 2: Well, this appears now to be our only hope. Most of the vote is in statewide, and with the arrival of votes from Hillsborough and Miami-Dade, the election is now within 4 points. That said, Scott has led the entire night. If he wins, I will have a lot to blog about tomorrow, if I have the heart. But right now, neither candidate is above 50.

Update: Right now, Rick Scott is ahead by about 100,000 votes. About 29 percent of the vote is in.

This one is keeping me up at night. The polls show this one is neck and neck, making me question my faith in the voters of Florida. Alex Sink is a good candidate, probably the best we've put up for governor in 16 years. She won't say that because her husband ran eight years ago, but she is a much better candidate than he was.

Rick Scott, meanwhile, is about the worst candidate I have seen in a major race ever during all my years watching Florida politics. The only thing he has in his favor is money, and he got so much of that through ill-gotten means that I can't imagine any halfway-educated voter wanting to give this guy the keys to the governor's mansion.

I hope Sink breaks away today and wins this by a significant margin. But we will see.

FL-02: Boyd-Southerland

Update 3: Southerland has claimed victory. This is done.

Update 2: Boyd is under 40 right now, but still talking up supporters. This will run the night before he offers a concession, but I am pretty sure that is how it will end.

Update: Well, Boyd is down, but still above 40 percent. It looks bad, but maybe it's not over. I wish Division of Elections was posting precinct returns by district.
This is the race I am most pessimistic about this cycle. It is not a good year to be a Blue Dog, and I suspect Allen Boyd will be Florida's Lincoln Chafee '06, an incumbent viewed as a moderate but punished anyway for caucusing with the party in power.

Boyd has the endorsement of the NRA and support from Chamber leaders, but he voted for ObamaCare, and that's enough for Panhandle voters to hand him a pink slip. Who is Steve Southerland? Who cares? He's a Republican.

I'd love to be surprised. Personally, I feel a Blue Dog is better than no Democrat at all. But Boyd performed much worse in the primary than I expected, and he has never been able to pull the party back together.

FL-08: Grayson-Webster

Update 2: Grayson has officially conceded. It appears he was beaten very badly too. Again, very sad.

Update: Forget it. Grayson is done. And I am very, very sad.
Probably the race being watched by more progressive bloggers around the country. Alan Grayson is exactly what liberals want from a Congressman, and he has the financial success to prove that. Still, most pundits have moved this race into the Lean Republican column.

I think a lot of that has to do with backlash against the Taliban Dan ad. I criticized that ad too, but it wasn't so much because of its content. I just think it was a bad move to go so negative. It earned Dan Webster a lot of national donations, and it made Grayson look weak and desperate.

Nevertheless, I believe Grayson will pull this out. The district leans blue these days, and he has organized his army for a tough fight before. As I said in my main post, I believe we will not lose all three of our most endangered incumbents tonight, and I think Grayson has the best chance to pull this one out.

FL-12: Edwards-Ross

Update 3: Well, looks like it's over. Another one for the GOP, but it looks like Ross will be held under 50 percent. Not that there is any prize for holding him below 50, but still.

Update 2: So here is the interesting thing. Hillsborough is where I think Edwards best shot at winning this race lays, and that county isn't reporting numbers to the Division yet. Regardless how this turns out, Edwards was obviously doing better than Grayson or Kosmas because the race is still within 5 points right now.

Update: Edwards is down by 5, and nobody has hit that 50-percent mark. Maybe the tea party candidate is going to keep this close tonight. We'll see.
This is the one House race in Florida where I am more optimistic now than I was a few months ago. Elections Supervisor Lori Edwards has quietly run a strong campaign, and running in an area where a lot of Alex Sink support is likely to turn out could give Edwards some coattails.

The pundits still suspect Dennis Ross to coast into office, but I think the shadow enthusiasm of the left regarding this race may bring good news. Plus a Tea Party candidate complicates things here, though maybe less then the Dems would hope.

I am not saying we should build ourselves up for victory. A win here would still be a surprise. But boy, would a surprise like this be nice tonight. I'll be watching to see what happens.

FL-10: Justice-Young

Update: Looks like Bill Young won. No surprises. Also, I numbered this district wrong earlier. Sorry.
Honestly, I'm just being nice. Incumbent Bill Young will win tonight. This year isn't the one when this decades-old House stalwart gets the boot. The best Charlie Justice can hope to do is raise his profile this year and hope Young decides to retire. And if the House turns red tonight, I suspect Young will want to hang around at least a little while.

FL-22: Klein-West

Update 4: I just woke up to some bad Palm Beach numbers. I'm guessing Ron Klein is sleeping right now. I guess it's two years of zaniness. Also, I will write this again later today, but: Alan Grayson is too crazy and theatrical for Florida voters. Allen West, just right.

Update 3: West is up about 13,000 right now. But it is tough to call this because most of Palm Beach is still out. In this race, the county supervisor is reporting 120 of 277 precincts. It still is hard to say if the lead wasn't just in early voting. Anyway, this race and the governor's race really hinge on Palm Beach right now.

Update 2: Well, South Florida numbers are coming in and things are tightening up, but I am not feeling very optimistic right now. Looks like the loony is headed to Washington.

Update: Don't be alarmed. Just 67,000 votes are in. West is up, but that means he had a god early voter machine... I hope.
If Ron Klein cannot beat the cartoon character that is Allen West, then prep yourself for a night where the Republicans take 70 seats. My hope is the racist bikers realize West is black or just get drunk lost on the way to the polls.

I suspect more attention has been paid to this race than it warrants. West is a YouTube sensation and nothing more.

But if he does win, at least I will have someone to blog about for the next few years.

FL-24: Kosmas-Adams

Update 2: Kosmas has officially thrown in the towel. Looks like neither the Grayson or Kosmas plan worked out. Bummer.

Update: Well, Adams is up by about 20 right now. So much for my hope that one of the the three most at-risk incumbents would survive. Sorry Space Coast.
It would be foolish to be too optimistic about Kosmas tonight. I hope she wins, and she has picked up the endorsements of every major paper in the district who is naming favorites this year. I hope her fight on behalf of NASA this year earns some loyalty from the space cadets.

Plus, Sandy Adams is kind of loony. But if this is truly a tea party year...

Anyhow, hope for the best and brace for the worst.

FL-25: Garcia-Rivera

Update 3: I hate to say it but this looks done. Collier still has some numbers out, but the county as a whole has been going GOP tonight.

Update 2: Miami-Dade numbers are not showing as strong for Garcia as I had hoped. Apparently, Republicans this year just don't care who is on the ballot. Only silver lining here is that Rivera may get himself indicted before the end of a first term. Boo, hiss, South Florida.

Update: As with the Klein race, it is still very early. Rivera is up by a lot, but few votes are in. And my guess is most are from liberal Miami-Dade County.
When I made my rosy predictions for the Florida Congressional races this year, I did so because I was so inspired by Joe Garcia. I suspect those predictions overall will prove too optimistic, but I sincerely believe Garcia will pull this race out.

Only part of that is on us. David Rivera has been a monumentally bad candidate who darn near got himself kicked off the ticket this year. He doesn't deserve to walk the streets freely, much less the halls of Congress.

But Garcia has also been a phenomenal and tireless campaigner. A former head of the Miami-Dade DEC and a near-victor two years ago against Mario Diaz-Balart in a seat hand-drawn for the incumbent, the guy has developed name recognition and a loyal army of supporters. I am counting on a Garcia victory. If I am wrong, well, that would be a sign of a very bad night.

Florida Cabinet: Gelber-Bondi, Maddox-Putnam, Atwater-Ausley

Update: Right now all Republicans are in the high 50s. It looks like everything but the Governor's seat is most likely going red this year.
I am just doing one post for these races. I am sorry. I thought we would have some real contests this year, but it seems the only one which maybe will be an interesting fight to watch is the Attorney General fight. I suspect the Agriculture Commissioner race and the Chief Financial Officer contests will be routs.

In the AG race, I think Dan Gelber can pull this out, and he deserves it, but Pam Bondi is also a good candidate and can ride a Republican wave to victory. She surprised me by beating Jeff Kottkamp during the primary, and I am sure a lot of conservatives will tell me she never lost the upper hand.

I am voting for Scott Maddox in the Agriculture Commissioner race, but don't think he stands a shot at winning. Adam Putnam has the upper hand in name recognition and money. And he was on the air with statewide ads while Maddox was still holding cutesy contests for his supporters to pick his ads.

And in the CFO race, well, I haven't voted yet today but I am leaning toward Jeff Atwater. Go ahead and roast me. I know he was on a board for a failed bank, and that is bad, but I kind of appreciate his pre-BP fight against offshore drilling, and know the Cabinet someday could be the body making choices on who gets to pollute our shores. Loranne Ausley has never stood out to me. I have nothing against her, but I don't see her winning this thing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rick Scott's Obama Obsession

In the waning days of this election, I have to say what has struck me about Rick Scott's negative campaign ads isn't their relentlessness. That is to be expected in any tight contest, and our side has behaved no differently. Rather, it is the obsession Rick Scott has with Barack Obama. To me, this is frankly perplexing, and part of why I hold some hope this election will break our way if Sink plays her cards right.

Scott has played video of Sink endorsing Obama. He continuously mentioned Obama in the debates. He has taken national conversations as odd as the NY Mosque and as unrelated as the stimulus to chide Sink. He has even complained the papers who endorsed Sink also endorsed Obama.

But let the voters keep a few things straight here. Sink neither would nor even could govern exactly like President Obama. And should Scott move into the governor's mansion, he could do little about this wicked, evil, supposed socio-fascio-tribal agenda.

On the Stimulus, Florida is required by its constitution to keep a balanced budget. I will assume for a second Scott's views on the Stimulus as rooted in fact enough, a big assumption I know, that his problem with the stimulus is that is raises our debt. That cannot be done in Florida. Of course, some Scott ads talk about how Sink's agenda would require raising taxes. His math is a biz fuzzy, according to PolitiFact, but regardless, Sink cannot raise taxes. The Legislature, require who wins any statewide races this year, will remain a Republican body.

She also can't pass sweeping health care reform, but I guess I understand Scott being squeamish about the subject, what with his history.

So just like Scott can't simply outlaw abortion as governor, Sink can't govern like Obama. She couldn't even if she wanted to, and I don't really think she does.