Bob Sparks, Author at Florida Politics

Bob Sparks

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue.

Louisville can bring up Penn State when appealing NCAA penalties

For those who have the stomach to read the NCAA’s report on what happened with the Louisville men’s basketball program between 2010 and 2014, put your head on a swivel. One’s head will instinctively shake.

It is a detailed account of strippers, prostitutes and teenagers all in the name of luring them to play basketball for the Louisville Cardinals and Coach Rick Pitino. The Committee on Infractions panel presented a meticulous case against those involved and why Pitino bears  responsibility, even if he was unaware of what was transpiring.

One of the penalties prescribed was forfeiting games over those four years, which includes their 2013 NCAA championship. This part should be, and must be, reversed.

To be sure, what happened over that four-year period is beyond reprehensible. Louisville admitted that one of Pitino’s staff members (identified by accuser Katina Powell as Andre McGee), arranged sexual trysts for teenage recruits, including four 17-year-olds and at least one who was only 16 at the time. Graduate assistant Brandon Williams was also implicated.

At least two players on the Louisville 2013 championship team roster were also involved. Those identified to ESPN by Powell and two of her daughters (who were among the “escorts”) were star player Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell.

They are now on probation, they lost scholarships and their recruiting practices are limited. The also made it difficult for McGee to get a job in college basketball for 10 years and Williams for one year.

For his part, Pitino is suspended for the first five games of the 2018 ACC schedule. Then NCAA accepted the school’s self-imposed post season ban in 2015-16.

All of these make sense. It is a little bit tougher when the committee ordered the school to give up its share of revenue earned from playing in the 2012-2015 NCAA Tournament. The justification? The participating members of the basketball team became “ineligible” because they received “impermissible benefits.”

This is the logic also used in forfeiting all wins over the period, including the 2013 championship. Impermissible benefits are usually reserved for cash under the table, cars, no-work jobs, etc. While such actions carried out with legal age young men may be morally wrong, it’s hard to keep a straight face in hearing sexual favors described as a benefit when determining eligibility.

“Not only was this unjust and over the top in its severity,” Pitino said at a news conference, “but I’ve lost a lot of faith in the NCAA.”

Why should anyone outside of the Cardinals’ fan base be worked up about this? Two words:

Jerry Sandusky.

Sandusky perpetrated horrific treatment of young boys while serving as an assistant coach to Joe Paterno at Penn State. Sandusky is rightfully in prison and the NCAA ruled Paterno and the university were negligent as the atrocities continued. According to court testimony, Paterno knew about Sandusky’s behavior.

The Committee on Infractions slapped PSU with a $60 million fine, cut scholarships, instituted a post-season ban and forced Penn State to vacate their wins from 1998-2011. They were also forced to return bowl game money.

But when Penn State and supporters fought back (rightly or wrongly), the vacated wins were restored by the NCAA in January, 2015.

Think about that. No wins are vacated following criminal behavior that ruined lives.

What Louisville did was wrong, repugnant and also qualifies as child abuse in some of the cases. But when compared to Penn State, they should have every reason to believe they will win on appeal to either the NCAA or in court.

State, feds agree to extension for red snapper fishing

Most anglers thought the red snapper season for fishing in federal waters came and went almost two weeks ago. Thanks to an agreement between the U.S Department of Commerce and the State of Florida, recreational anglers now have 39 additional days to go after the prized catch.

The previous season lasted only three days, from June 1 until June 4, leaving fishing enthusiasts and members of Congress highly frustrated. The new arrangement calls for rolling back available red snapper days in state waters while extending the opportunities in federal waters.

“We are thankful for the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Florida’s Congressional delegation as well as the partnership across all five Gulf states in providing more sustainable fishing opportunities and sound fisheries management,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Executive Director Nick Wiley. “Though we had to reduce state waters fishing days in the summer and fall, we are pleased to be able to offer more fishing access this summer to anglers across Florida.”

The 39-day additional season begins Friday and will continue every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day, September 4. Also included is Monday, July 3 and Tuesday, July 4.

“Local folks wanted me to fight for their right to fish, and I was happy to help,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Ft. Walton Beach Republican from the First Congressional District. “I’m glad the Trump administration has agreed to extend the federal red snapper season.

The federal government establishes quotas for red snapper fishing. Based on whether that quota was exceeded or under-fished in federal waters, the season is adjusted accordingly.

“We pressed Washington for an expanded season and Washington listened,” said Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican from the Second Congressional District. “This decision provides relief this season while we work to fix what’s broken in recreational management of the red snapper fishery. I’m glad the Commerce Department is letting common sense prevail for Florida anglers.”

Marlins sale still involves Who’s Who of Republican politics even without Jeb Bush

The news began to break on Tuesday evening. Jeb Bush was reportedly no longer interested in purchasing the Miami Marlins, according to anonymous sources.

Bush was yet another among the biggest names in Republican politics seeking to buy one of baseball’s worst performing teams. Others include President Trump’s family circle and a serious investor carrying the name of Romney.

The Bush family has been involved with baseball for decades. George H.W. Bush was captain of the 1948 Yale baseball team and a frequent patron of the Houston Astros. George W. Bush co-owned the Texas Rangers in the 1990s.

Before we learned of Bush’s pursuit of the Marlins, news broke in February that current team owner Jeffrey Loria had a “handshake agreement” to sell the team. Not just to anybody, but to Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law and brother-in-law for $1.6 billion.

Charles Kushner, father of White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, and Joshua Kushner were seriously pursuing the purchase, but halted their bid. The problem developed when Trump was said to be strongly considering Loria for the role of ambassador to France. Loria is a major donor to the Republican National Committee.

“Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest Mr. Loria will soon be nominated to be ambassador to France,” read a statement from another member of the group, Joseph Meyer, Joshua Kushner’s brother-in-law. “If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it.”

Loria is yet to be nominated, leaving open the possibility the Kushners would re-engage if Trump goes in another direction for France. If so, Charles Kushner would need to address questions from his past regarding a conviction for tax evasion.

While Bush is apparently stepping aside, his partner, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is looking for other investors. If the Kushners do not get back in, the Tampa resident’s main competition comes from Massachusetts.

Tagg Romney, a venture capitalist and the 47-year-old son of the GOP 2012 nominee for President Mitt Romney, is making a strong bid and apparently picking up steam. Mitt Romney is not involved with his son’s bid.

In April, former Atlanta Braves’ legend and 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Glavine joined the group. In early May, former Oakland A’s pitching star and Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Dave Stewart joined Romney and Glavine. Miami native Alex Rodriguez declined an offer to join.

The two competing groups are said to be offering about $1.3 billion. The Marlins hope to close the sale by the time they host the MLB All-Star Game in mid-July.

Florida congressmen want more than a 3-day Red Snapper fishing season

There are 365 days in calendar year 2017, but for 362 of those days, it will be illegal for individuals to fish in federal waters for Red Snapper. For two Panhandle congressmen, that is insufficient.

Shalimar Republican Matt Gaetz and Panama City Republican Neal Dunn are urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to allow more days for private recreational fishing. The lawmakers are seeking greater than 10 times more allowable days than the federal government is providing.

The governing authority over the fishing seasons is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is a part of the Commerce Department. NOAA set the season for private anglers to begin Thursday, June 1 at 12:01 a.m. The season closes at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, June 4.

Along with several of their colleagues from Gulf states, Gaetz and Dunn wrote to Earl Comstock, Director of the department’s Office of Policy of Strategic Planning.

“We strongly urge you to use any authority at your disposal to expand the 2017 private recreational Red Snapper season in federal waters to include Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in June, July and August, as well as July 3 and July 4, consistent with the current health and overall sustainability of the stock,” they wrote.

NOAA described the need for the brief season is a result of the private angling quota for 2016 being “exceeded by 129,906 pounds.” To rectify, according to NOAA, the excess “must be paid back by the private angling component because that component exceeded its quota.”

Recreational fishing has a 49-day season, running from June 1 until July 20. That component also exceeded its quota last year.

Private angling represents more than half of the total annual catch. Combined, the 2017 quota is 5.28 million pounds.

The elected officials are certainly aware that with the season less than a week away, time is of the essence.

“As you consider this solution,” they wrote, “we ask that you act as quickly as possible to ensure greater access to the private recreational angling community.”

Update: This story includes corrected information on the recreational fishing season. The for-hire boat component underfished their component in 2016 and have received increased fishing days for 2017 from NOAA.

Marco Rubio, Sen. Chris Coons introduce bill to enhance college opportunity for low-income youth

Sen. Marco Rubio has teamed with his colleague Sen. Chris Coons to introduce re-introduce legislation designed to help low-income and at risk students. The Florida Republican and Delaware Democrat launched the American Dream Accounts Act that would provide increased access to a college education.

The two senators joined with Opportunity Nation, a group promoting educational and employment opportunities for youth, to announce the introduction of the legislation. Joining them at the announcement was Opportunity Nation executive director, Monique Rizer.

“I was happy to join Senator Coons and Opportunity Nation today to announce the reintroduction of American Dream Accounts Act,” said Rubio. “Since its inception, America has been a unique nation where anyone from anywhere can do anything. We must keep it that way and I believe one way to do that is to provide more pathways for children to attend college.”

The legislation authorizes the Department of Education to award three-year competitive grants that would support innovation and partnerships supporting low-income students preparing for a college education. Those grants would fund personal online accounts and open college savings accounts for eligible students as well as supporting college-readiness efforts.

“If we want to ensure that American workers can compete in the global economy, we must ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to access higher education,” said Coons. “The American Dream Accounts Act would bridge the opportunity gap by connecting students, teachers, parents, and mentors to create a new generation of higher education achievers through streamlining resources that would allow young people to prepare for, save for, train for, and achieve their dreams for their futures.”

In addition to Opportunity Nation, the legislation is endorsed by other state and national affiliates such as the First Focus Campaign for Children, Corporation for Enterprise Development, the National PTA and others.

“We are proud to endorse the American Dream Accounts Act sponsored by Senators Coons and Rubio, which provides an evidence based, collaborating solution to ensuring more young people have access and complete their post-secondary education, which is critical in the 21st century workforce,” said Rizer.

While the senators are generally drawing kudos for the bill, not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Responses on Rubio’s Facebook page used terms like “RINO” (Republican in Name Only) and “Rubio is really a Democrat.” Others offered the Bernie Sanders approach that college should be free.

The bill was assigned to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

 

If another SCOTUS opening occurs, will Charles Canady get a serious look?

According to Sen. Charles Grassley, the U.S. Supreme Court may need to fill another opening this summer. The Iowa Republican, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not name names, but rumors are swirling it could be the Court’s swing vote, 80-year-old Anthony Kennedy.

If that occurs, President Trump will go back to his list of 21 potential nominees, now numbering 20 after the elevation of Neil Gorsuch. Rumored to be on the short list before Gorsuch’s selection was Judge William Pryor of Alabama from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Diane Sykes of Wisconsin from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

If those rumors are true, will those three again go to the top? How about some of the others? Also on the Trump list are Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady and Judge Federico Moreno from the Southern District of Florida.

The next nominee will be an appeals court judge or a state supreme court justice. Moreno and Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee are the only two not fitting that description. Moreno’s logical next step is a promotion to the court of appeals.

Will Canady receive serious consideration this time? He has similar educational training to the current Court.

All 9 current justices studied law at either Harvard or Yale (Ruth Bader Ginsburg started at Harvard, but earned her law degree from Columbia). Canady received his degree from Yale, while Pryor came from Tulane, Sykes from Marquette, and Hardiman from Georgetown. Gorsuch attended Harvard and Oxford.

As a former state legislator, four-term Congressman and General Counsel for Gov. Jeb Bush, Canady understands the separation of powers between the three branches of government. He was Chief Justice from 2010-2012 and along with Ricky Polston, comprise the Court’s reliable conservative minority.

If Gov. Rick Scott wanted to bend Trump’s ear about Canady, the President would certainly listen. There is no question Scott and Trump are of like minds on many topics in addition to jobs. Another Trump friend, Attorney General Pam Bondi, could do the same.

On the downside, Canady will be 63 years old in June. Next to Moreno (64) and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young, who is 65, Canady is the oldest on the list.

Pryor is 55, Sykes 58 and Hardiman is 52. The thought of having someone on the bench for 30 years is an appealing quality for a sitting president.

Confirmation hearings would certainly be lively. Millennials will not likely recall the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, but Canady was one of the House prosecutors. Would Democrats have fun with that?

How about being questioned by Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham? The South Carolina Republican was also one of the impeachment prosecutors (known as House Managers).

How juicy would it be for Canady to be tapped and for Charlie Crist to receive some credit for raising Canady’s profile? It was then-Governor Crist who appointed Canady to the Florida Supreme Court.

Perhaps Canady wound up on Trump’s list as a favor to Scott, or the president will actually give him a serious look. No one has retired yet, but that doesn’t stop playing the “what ifs” game in the meantime.

Electoral College vote a non-story unless Donald Trump is involved

Just like that, it was over.

In Tallahassee and around the country, 538 electors cast their ballots to officially elect Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

Of course, they did. There was never going to be a different outcome. Never.

Florida’s 29 electors gathered in the Senate Chamber to do what everyone knew they would do. While protesters gathered in the fourth-floor lobby outside the chamber, all 29 ignored the noise, kept their pledges, and cast their votes for Trump.

I have never felt the desire to attend previous sessions because nothing earth-shattering would occur. Not that anything would be different this time, but I did accept an invitation to sit in the gallery to watch the proceedings.

There was a brief silence when House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues missed the roll call, but he was in the chamber minutes later.

Every four years the Electoral College goes through the same exercise with little fanfare. The only difference between 2016 and every other cycle was the manufactured fake news surrounding a normally routine one-hour ceremony.

This should not have even risen to the level of a story. Ok, maybe the obligatory interviews for a day or two with those who want no part of Trump.

But the every day, every hour, hysteria of the doomed-to-fail pipe dream of getting 37 Republican electors to flip? Should we mention that Trump led by 74 electoral votes going into Monday and officially won by 77?

While two did not vote for Trump, five Democrats decided Hillary Clinton was not for them. Not even Michael Moore’s offer to pay state fines could turn the trick.

Let us not take cheap shots at those who report the news. Instead, many need to be called out for continuing the charade, thereby giving false hope to those reaching for the unreachable.

Most of this falls in the lap of the major networks and national outlets. They were looking for history by fomenting hysteria.

History tells us that a similar attempt failed 16 years ago, when a Republican lost the popular vote, but had more electoral votes. Many might remember political consultant Bob Beckel trying to find two “faithless” electors to flip from George W. Bush to Al Gore in 2000.

If Beckel could not coax or coerce two souls to “vote their conscience,” then finding 37 this year would be comparable to climbing Mt. Everest in Bermuda shorts.

For this exercise in futility, or fake news, good people were subjected to a barrage of intimidating calls and emails. This includes all 29 of Florida’s electors.

Some in other states received death threats. The national media focus was on flipping the electors, not the tactics used by some of the activists.

When the gambit rose to this level, many wonder why President Barack Obama did not issue a statement that might de-escalate the dangerous rhetoric. With electors’ lives being threatened, where is the Justice Department? Federal crimes were being committed.

The media’s conduct surrounding all things Trump faces continuing bipartisan scrutiny. Republicans backing other candidates in the primary, along with the candidates, were frustrated their message could never break through the haze of all Trump, all the time.

Trump opponents were sick of all of the free media he generated. The New York Times estimated Trump earned nearly $2 billion in free media during the primary season. It was off the charts during the general election.

Trump is a ratings magnet. He was responsible for even MSNBC to draw its best numbers during the fall.

This likely explains the hysteria surrounding faithless electors. There will be plenty of opportunities both before and after January 20, 2017, for other Trump-inspired ratings opportunities.

There is a rumor he wants to climb Mt. Everest in Bermuda shorts.

Tallahassee residency case becomes statewide issue

Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox lives in the City of Tallahassee. While that should not come as man-bites-dog news, it’s not that simple in Florida’s capital.

The residency of the former Tallahassee Mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair was challenged in court by Dr. Erwin Jackson, a frequent city government and Maddox critic. Maddox maintains two domiciles; a rented home within the city limits and another larger residence outside the city, which he owns.

The home outside the city limits was put on the market in 2012 while Maddox was a candidate for the Commission and was put on the market again as he sought re-election this year. Jackson points to that and questions other indicators he says makes the case Maddox lives in the home outside the district.

Second Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled in Maddox’s favor on three occasions only to be overruled and scolded for “abuse of discretion” by a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal (DCA). After Dodson had recused himself, colleague Karen Gievers drew the short straw and was assigned the case.

In her 28-page ruling, Gievers said Jackson “has offered neither documents or testimony that establish Maddox’s legal residency on August 30, 2016, at the time of the election was somewhere other than the North Adams Street (city) address.”

She further ruled the “overwhelming credible evidence” shows Maddox lives in the city and that he did not try to “game the system.”

Gievers addressed several questions posed by Jackson and his legal team. Among those were the registrations of vehicles registered to Maddox using the county address between 2000 and 2015.

All eight were changed to the downtown address during calendar year 2016. Gievers admitted the registration changes were “not as timely as the statutes provide,” but that fact still does not prove residence on a particular date.

For the record, Maddox is registered to vote in Precinct 1302 according to the Leon County Supervisor of Elections. His rented home in the city is within that precinct, allowing him to answer in the affirmative whether he voted for himself.

The DCA had given a deadline of December 6 for the lower court to make a ruling. Unless they find some procedural error, this should put the Maddox residency matter to rest.

But there is one other matter still percolating within the legal system. The City of Tallahassee has asked the Florida Supreme Court to overrule the DCA hold that local governments should have the final say on residency.

The DCA held the Tallahassee City Charter is subservient to state law, but local governments wish to protect their autonomy to decide who meets the criteria established by their respective charters.

This is a big deal to them. When I published the first article on this topic, I heard from a former Jackson County Commissioner in total agreement with the City’s position.

On Monday, the Florida League of Cities, representing more than 400 communities around the state, turned this into a statewide matter. They, too, are asking for the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in.

“The League’s membership has a significant interest in the question before the Court in this proceeding,” they wrote in their filing document. “The governing documents of many of the League’s members contain provisions that, like the provision at issue here, authorize municipal councils and commissions to be the judges of the election and qualification of their members.”

Jackson and his legal team responded on Friday while Maddox and the City responded to the Supreme Court on Monday.

No matter whose side one takes in Jackson v. Maddox, it is probably a good thing to have some clarification. There are good reasons for the communities to set their own standards. There are also good reasons to be on the lookout for circumstances where the Establishment is protecting its own.

Merry Christmas from Tallahassee or Leon County, whichever applies.

Update: On Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court issued the following order:

“It appearing that Respondent, Dr. Erwin D. Jackson, has declined to seek review of the circuit court’s ‘Order on Pending Motions and Non-Jury Trial/Final Evidentiary Hearing, and Final Judgment,’ that the district court has lifted its stay, and that Respondent, Scott Maddox, has been sworn in as a city commissioner, Petitioner (the city of Tallahassee) is hereby directed to show cause by 3:00 P.M. on Thursday, December 8, 2016, why the petition for writ of prohibition should not be denied as moot. Respondents may serve a reply by 3:00 P.M. on Friday, December 9, 2016.”

Critic hits Leon County’s Scott Maddox right where he lives

Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman and statewide office candidate Scott Maddox is involved in another political fight this Thanksgiving season. Though elected to another term on the Tallahassee City Commission, he was blocked from taking the oath of office earlier this week.

Maddox, who served as FDP Chairman from 2003-2006, is facing a legal challenge to his official residency. The question going back and forth through the Leon County courts and the First District Court of Appeal (DCA) is whether Maddox officially lives within the city limits of Tallahassee, a fundamental requirement of the city’s charter.

Similar complaints about residency crop up around the state from time to time, usually among candidates whose district lines were re-drawn putting them outside their district. Nothing usually comes of these other than news stories, but Maddox is facing a persistent local critic in Dr. Erwin Jackson.

Jackson filed suit in the Second Judicial Circuit in September claiming Maddox is ineligible to serve because he actually lives outside the city limits. According to the filing document, Maddox, an attorney, lists his residence as a rented office building in downtown Tallahassee.

“This is a frivolous lawsuit brought by Erwin Jackson on his third attempt to discredit me,” said Maddox, who was the Democratic nominee for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2010. “This one will be thrown out like all of the others have been.”

The City of Tallahassee intervened and asked that they, Maddox’s colleagues, have the final say in determining his eligibility. Judge Charles Dodson agreed.

Jackson went to the DCA, where a three-judge panel unanimously reversed Dodson, saying “the proper forum for Jackson’s post-election contest is in the circuit court.”

The three-judge panel consisted of Charlie Crist appointee Lori Rowe, a former Executive Deputy Attorney General; Rick Scott appointee Scott Makar, a former Florida Solicitor General; and another Scott appointee, Susan Kelsey, an experienced appellate lawyer.

Dodson did not appear to take the reversal well. The DCA order to Dodson to hold a hearing used the term “immediate” before the word hearing.

He took them literally. Dodson held a hearing almost immediately and ruled in favor of Maddox. Jackson and his legal team were outraged by the fact they had little time to prepare.

This is “a miscarriage of justice,” Jackson said. “An appeal will be immediately forthcoming.”

Again, the DCA overruled Dodson, this time with a bit of a hand slap. The judges said the lower court “abused its discretion” in the way it handled the hearing.

Monday was swearing in day for the Commission and Dodson gave the go-ahead for Maddox to take the oath of office pending the residency review. The DCA stepped in by again overruling Dodson and blocking Maddox from taking the oath of office “pending further order from this Court.”

Jackson is also seeking the removal of Dodson from the case. To be reversed three times on the same case, called a hat trick in hockey, is not a good thing.

The parties are now arguing the date on which a public official is eligible. Jackson argues legal residence means Election Day, which in this case was August. The Maddox team argues November 21, or swearing in day.

To a non-lawyer observer, like this writer, that would seem to acknowledge there could be a problem if you are arguing “when” as well as “if.”

To be fair, Jackson is a relentless critic of city government. Sometimes they deserve the scrutiny, like the recent proposal to raise property taxes by 27 percent.

Maddox, to his great credit, was an opponent of the outrageous property tax plan and argued against other increases. He sounded like a conservative.

At the same time, it is understandable for elected officials to become frustrated, especially if they truly believe they are doing the right thing.

Maddox remains confident, perhaps with good reason, he will prevail. The residency challenges usually go in the favor of the candidate.

Jackson certainly isn’t going away, whether or not Dodson is relieved of command. He is 100 percent certain he has a case.

Stranger things have happened as this year’s elections demonstrated.

We will know soon.

RNC’s ground game behind Donald Trump deserves more credit for Florida victory

Plenty of congratulations are going out to the Donald Trump campaign, which is well-deserved. Others unhappy with the outcome are expressing other sentiments.

Several pundits are in the process of analyzing and pronouncing “winners and losers.” In Florida, the lists on both sides are long, but not necessarily complete.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith correctly mentions Trump’s Florida director Susie Wiles and most certainly grassroots workhorses, like Deborah Cox-Roush on the winners side. Though not mentioned, the Republican Party of Florida did what they could with the limited funding available to them.

Few, if any, are including the Republican National Committee (RNC) on the list of winners. This is a major oversight.

Chairman Reince Priebus, Co-Chair Sharon Day of Broward County and the entire organization played a monster role in the Trump victory. (Full disclosure: my firm was a consultant to the co-chairman in the previous election cycle.)

The “experts” gave Trump little to no chance. Many mocked the notion of a “silent army” of voters ready to be mobilized. The polls indicated a Trump “movement” was nowhere on the horizon.

Trump had no realistic chance to win Florida, many believed, because he had no get-out-the-vote ground game. He supposedly had only a handful of field offices while the Hillary Clinton campaign had more than 50.

In reality, Trump was on equal footing, or better, with the Clinton campaign in Florida when it came to a ground game. That will come as a surprise to those who analyze elections and campaigns.

Because of the RNC, the Trump campaign had 65 GOP Victory Offices in Florida at their disposal and working on his behalf. Working out of those offices were 1,773 staff members paid for by the RNC.

These staffers were not just making telephone calls. They were making incredible numbers of voter contacts during the cycle.

Day makes it clear the measurement of voter contact is not the same as it was in previous cycles.

“We had 6.5 million voter contacts,” said Day. “Not doors knocked on or flyers left on a doorknob. Actual contacts with targeted voters.”

She also made it clear that this was not just an election-year effort. It was part of a 50-state strategy born from the famous autopsy report issued after the 2012 elections.

“We have funded people on the ground since 2013,” she said. “The RNC committed $175 million toward building a ground game.”

Between the RNC, state, and local efforts, nearly 300,000 voters were registered in diverse communities since 2012, reducing the partisan voter registration gap by nearly 86,000 voters. On election night, Trump’s share of the Hispanic and African-American vote was up slightly over 2012, but that made a difference.

While the focus of this discussion is on Florida, it is worth repeating the RNC was at work in the other states. It is difficult to imagine winning blue states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and possibly Michigan, without such an effort.

“Donald Trump understood the common people and he connected,” added Day. “But he could not have won” without the strong ground game that was built and deployed.

There were plenty of winners and losers on Tuesday night, but outside of Trump, there was none bigger than Priebus, Day, and the Republican National Committee.

No wonder Priebus will be the White House chief of staff.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons