Joe Henderson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 12

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

Joe Henderson: It all comes down to unpredictable, inexplicable Florida

You know Florida is important. You know our history with elections. And you know the nation, along with every late-night comedian, will be glued to everything that goes on within our borders on Election Day, ready to scream foul play at anything that looks askew.

We know all this. But why us? Floridians are good people. We didn’t ask to be under the microscope like this every four years. Why can’t they just let us run our elections in peace?

Just lucky, I guess. We are the Kardashians of the Electoral College. The nation loves us or hates us in equal measure, but they can’t stop watching us.

The numbers back this up.

Start with the five most populous states in the nation. We generally know how those states will vote for president long before Election Day.

California? Voted for the Democratic nominee every year since 1992.

Illinois? Six consecutive wins by the Democrats.

Texas? It has gone red nine straight times, mostly by blowouts.

New York? Seven straight blue finishes, also by blowouts.

But then there’s good ol’ Florida — good ol’ unreliable, unpredictable, and often inexplicable Florida. Since 1996, the state we call home went Democratic three times. It went Republican twice. Only once in that time was the winning margin more than 3 percent.

We are a split personality of about 20 million people in a place where everyone wants to move. We even have one Democratic senator and one Republican senator.

So, yeah, we’re a little indecisive. We are the electoral equivalent of Suspense Theater. From hanging chads to voter purges, and polls that show a state where the mood shifts daily, Florida loves to keep the candidates guessing. You don’t think they keep coming here because of the sunshine and seafood, do you? They need us.

The National Journal tracks the trips by candidates. Since July 30, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have made a combined 26 trips to Florida – 15 by Trump.

The total number of campaign visits to the other four states we mentioned: 10, including none to California.

They like the money that comes out of California – a whopping $83.7 million alone to the Clinton campaign ($9.9 million to Trump), according to the Federal Elections Commission database. But since Florida is the only place in the top five where the vote is close, the candidates make believe we’re the most important place on the planet — which, of course, we are.

For what it’s worth, Florida has kicked in $19.6 million to Clinton’s campaign and $9 million to Trump.

Florida has been trending for Trump in the last week, so much so that Nate Silver’s site gives the Republican a 52.6 percent chance of carrying the state’s 29 electoral votes.

If that is wrong, though — and Silver rates Florida tops on a measure he calls “tipping point chance” — it’s lights out for Trump. He would have no effective path to overall victory. It’s going to be a tight squeeze anyway, and possibly a long night.

It’s also possible, given how close Florida is, we could wind up with another recount like in 2000. Trump’s charges of a rigged election in the weeks leading up to Nov. 8 only increased that possibility. Any abnormality, no matter how slight, will be blown up into a full-blown conspiracy to defraud whichever candidate is on the wrong side of that count.

It can be maddening, but it’s also a fascinating spectacle. And with the destiny of the union hanging like a paper chad, here we go again — our quadrennial big tease to the rest of the country. What’s the rush? When we make up our minds, we’ll be sure and let everyone know.


Joe Henderson: State Senate race was better when it was just about puppies

I just watched about the billionth TV ad for the Senate District 18 race with Dana Young and Bob Buesing. I thought the one she ran in the primary with all the adorable puppies couldn’t be topped, but she outdid herself this time.

This one features her two daughters defending their mom against all the nasty things the pro-Buesing forces supposedly have said.

That was sweet. I mean, who doesn’t love a tight-knit family? But something wasn’t adding up. Dana Young needs defending because someone was mean to her during a political campaign?

That’s when I remembered a 2010 campaign mailer from Young when she was running for the Florida House. She was pictured aiming an assault rifle while laying on top of the U.S. Constitution, along with a sticker showing her “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.


This has been way nastier than your average state senate race. With the way both candidates are going after it, you might forget that the job pays a whopping $29,697 per year.

A pro-environment group, Florida Conservation Voters, attacked Young recently for her ties to phosphate giant Mosaic.

“Rep. Dana Young’s environmental record is as dirty as her campaign contributions,” Jonathan Webber, Deputy Director of Florida Conservation Voters, said in a news release.

Also, Democratic committee ads have attacked Young as a supporter of fracking — which she strongly denies. She did vote for a bill that allowed a study on the impact of fracking, so there is that.

This race, which includes independent candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove, already was weird. Now it’s borderline ridiculous.

I guess we know why, though. This is a new district, created out of the Florida Fair Districts court fight. It is more moderate than the one Young represented as House Majority Leader (hence: puppies and daughters instead of assault rifles).

Democrats see it as a chance to cut into the Republican majority in the Senate, and they outnumber the GOP 37-35 in registered voters in the district covering most of Tampa and the western part of unincorporated Hillsborough.

Young led in a recent St. Pete Polls assessment 40-35 over Buesing, with 14 percent going to Redner.

A political action committee, Friends of Dana Young, has raised $1.3 million and has spent most of it. Additionally, Young has raised $1.67 million, while Buesing has raised less than half that.

Buesing has been attacked for his connection to a controversial courthouse project in 2007. He also has been accused of trying to close a senior living center, perhaps forcing grandma and grandpa to live on the streets.

In both cases, though, Buesing’s law firm was representing clients in the legal actions. While it makes a dark and stormy ad for evening TV, I don’t think Buesing wants to see your grandparents holding up a “please help” sign by an interstate off ramp. I must admit something, though. The first time I saw the courthouse ad, my immediate reaction was “what a jerk.”

About 1.2 seconds later, though, my reporter instincts kicked in and I went web surfing to find out the real story. Google is one of the worst things that ever happened to politicians trying to slip a fast one past voters.

That leaves us with this long-accepted political axiom: Nothing succeeds like puppies and family ties.

Joe Henderson: Ross Spano mailer in HD 59: Tacky? Yes. Sexist? No.

unnamed-11Thanks to the always-working, never-sleeping Mitch Perry, readers of this site are aware of the controversy about a mailer from the Republican Party of Florida supporting Ross Spano in the House District 59 campaign.

After the mailer labeled Democratic opponent Rena Frazier’s experience as “INSUFFICIENT” — in all caps, big red letters — the House and Senate Victory committee fired back, saying Republicans “should be ashamed of themselves for this baseless and sexist attack on Rena Frazier.”

Take a deep breath everyone.

Was the ad misleading?



Yeah, that too.

But sexist?

The Frazier side should have kept its powder dry on that one.

Real sexism is the kind of garbage spewed during this campaign by Donald Trump. His insults, lies, taunts and audio where he brags about his sexual conquests is sexism to the power of infinity. That kind of talk needs to be stamped out with a million voices screaming condemnation.

I received the mailer in question — along with several others supporting Spano — at Casa Henderson in beautiful Brandon, gave it a read, and stuck it in the box for recycling, only pulling it out again when I read Mitch Perry’s story.

I never once thought of it as sexist.

Still don’t.

I thought it was goofy, considering that Frazier is an accomplished attorney specializing in commercial litigation. She graduated cum laude from the Stetson University College of Law. She is a partner in the firm Quarles & Brady and has a string of honors long as my arm.

And she is working hard on the campaign. She got the endorsement from the Tampa Bay Times, for what that is worth. So yeah, just because she hasn’t been in the cauldron of muck in Tallahassee doesn’t mean Frazier lacks experience.

I still think she has a tough climb.

Spano has spent two terms in the Florida House and has the edge in name recognition. After beating Democrat Gail Gottlieb in 2012 by a scant 1,015 votes out of more than 67,000 cast, Spano was a comfortable winner against Donna Lee Fore two years later.

Spano works it hard, too. He tries to stay in touch with the people of his district. He is a traditionally reliable conservative — no boat rocking there. He even was one of three House subcommittee votes against a measure in 2015 that would have repealed Florida’s ban on unmarried couples living together.

To be fair, he did vote this year in favor of repealing the ban. Gov. Rick Scott signed that into law.

Spano also is active in efforts to combat human trafficking in the state.

These are two well-qualified candidates who offer voters in this relatively moderate district attractive options. That never seems to be enough though, does it?

So, let’s clear it up: Spano’s edge in “experience” consists of hanging out in a dysfunctional Legislature for the last four years. I wouldn’t automatically consider that a plus.

But as silly as the mailer in question is, to label it sexist is a leap I’m not willing to take.

Too bad both sides can’t hit the reset button on that exchange.

Joe Henderson: Bob Henriquez, Todd Jones spar over issues in Hillsborough property appraiser race

Since Bob Henriquez took over as Hillsborough County’s property appraiser four years ago, he has taken several steps to modernize the office. There are nine fewer employees than the office had before Henriquez arrived, and the department’s budget is lower.

Most important, though — Henriquez hasn’t had a batch of negative headlines. That’s no small matter. The last time an incumbent property appraiser in the county failed at re-election was 1988, when Bud Parker lost to Ron Alderman.

Both Alderman and his successor, Rob Turner, lost their jobs following scandals — something Henriquez has avoided during his first term.

So, it’s likely that Republican Todd Jones, who is challenging Henriquez in the Nov. 8 general election, faces some challenges in his first attempt to win public office. He is not deterred, though.

“I’m an appraiser running to be an appraiser, not a politician,” he said.

Jones, who has a lengthy career as a certified appraiser, took out a $100,000 loan last October to help finance his campaign. He has been active at local forums and on social media, but Henriquez — who trounced longtime political icon Ronda Storms in 2012 to win this job — is a former state representative and high school football coach with high name recognition among voters.

“That has obviously been one of the challenges in my race,” Jones said.

Henriquez said he has independent polling and one from the local Democratic Party that shows him with a double-digit lead.

“Our polls have been constantly good since August,” he said. “The undecideds (voters) have come down considerably lately.

“I’m not taking anything for granted, though. My opponent is largely an unknown quantity, but he is a credible candidate.”

The two have sparred over multiple issues, including privacy rights. As technology has evolved, the old practice of assessing property by personal inspection has largely given way to aerial mapping by low-altitude planes.

Jones has argued that the practice of using these high-resolution images to show changes in properties could expose homeowners to unwarranted intrusion in the privacy of their backyards. Henriquez said he is following a state mandate to use that system.

He said the photography is done by a private company and not subject to the state’s sunshine laws. Jones disagreed, saying even potentially compromising photos would be public record.

“We look for roof types, measurements, and things like the condition of the house,” Henriquez said. “You don’t see anything you shouldn’t see. Besides, every three years we are required to provide aerial photography to the state Department of Revenue.”

Said Jones: “(Aerial mapping) is not required. It’s allowed by state law, but not required. I guess we have a different legal opinion there.”

Another point of contention: The number of appraisal disputes decided in favor of the property owner.

Jones said 96 percent of the cases wind up on the side of government. Henriquez said that’s not true, that 85 percent of the cases are either resolved through a settlement or, in case of a hearing, in favor of the property owner.

“You’re entitled to your own set of opinions, but not your own set of facts,” Henriquez said.

The job, which pays more than $159,000 a year, includes managing a department budgeted for 129 employees (there are open positions now). Henriquez pointed to his experience as the head of a large department, while Jones’ experience is concentrated on the actual appraising process.

“He is trying to say I just fell out of a tree in North Tampa and into the job (four years ago),” Henriquez said. “But I think the best way to know the job is to actually do the job.”

Jones understands what he is up against, but says he will continue to press on until Election Day.

“As I’ve said, I’m an appraiser running to be an appraiser,” he said. “What would you do if Derek Jeter showed up and wanted to play on your team? Would you let him?

“But if I can’t overcome (Henriquez’s) name recognition, I will go to my deathbed knowing I gave it everything I had.”


Joe Henderson: Buckle up, Hillsborough, you’re the big political prize

Earlier this week, NBC political chief Chuck Todd was chatting with Republican strategist Jeff Roe, picking out three places around the country where election geeks should focus special attention. Hillsborough County topped the list.

Are we surprised?

Todd noted that Roe considered it “the bellwether county in the country” and added, “you could make that argument.”

As if we needed any reinforcement why both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have made campaign stops this week in Tampa, there’s your answer. As Hillsborough goes, so goes the presidential election, and the county is tough to label.

It was the only Florida county to vote twice for Republican George W. Bush, then twice for Barack Obama. Beth Reinhard, national political writer for The Wall Street Journal, called Hillsborough “molten core of the political universe.”

On the same show where Hillsborough was knighted, Steve Schale, the self-styled “old grizzled veteran of Florida politics,” came up with this factoid: The last Republican presidential candidate to win the county but lose the state was Calvin Coolidge in 1924.

All I know is, as someone who is registered “no party affiliation” I am red meat right now for pollsters and attempts to coerce me into thinking a certain way about a candidate. My home phone has rung about a dozen times today with various political pitches (yes, I still have a landline; don’t judge me). It’s not even suppertime yet.

[Psst, save your breath folks; I already mailed my ballot. Go bug somebody else.]

What we can say from watching the Trump and Clinton rallies is that both candidates enjoy strong support in our bellwether county, which would further explain the high-pressure sales job by both candidates to get out and vote.

Trump had a wildly energetic crowd of 15,000 Monday at the MidFlorida Amphitheatre. About a thousand more people were turned away because there was no room.

He hit the usual themes: Hillary is terrible, the media is terrible, get out and vote, and Hillary is terrible.

Likewise, Clinton drew a large and excited gathering as well Wednesday afternoon at Tampa’s downtown Curtis Hixon Park. After the crowd serenaded her by singing “Happy Birthday” — she turned 69 Wednesday — she, too, hit the usual themes: Trump is terrible, get out and vote, and by the way, Trump is terrible.

There was a bit of news. At one point, Clinton turned to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and said, “That rail system you want Bob, we’re going to get it.”

She said her staff was prepared to take people to early voting sites after the rally if need be, and that’s what the theme will be between now and Nov. 8. These rallies are more about passionate pleas to people who already have decided how they’re going to vote to actually cast that ballot.

There are nearly 845,000 registered voters in Hillsborough and about 165,000 already have voted. It’s likely that a high percentage of those who haven’t yet voted have made up their mind. And with Roe’s polling showing a 46-44 percent lead for Clinton in Hillsborough, turnout is everything.

So, buckle that chin strap, Hillsborough voter. You are prized like no other place in the country. If you didn’t already know that, I’m sure someone will be glad to explain to you over the phone.

Joe Henderson: Hillary Clinton, Citizens United and ‘never-ending’ thirst for cash

One of the themes of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency has been her opposition to Citizens United.

From the podium, she preaches that she doesn’t like the idea of the wealthy few using their money to buy influence over policies that determine the future for the rest of us. She says he wants to overturn that controversial ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that has allowed our politics to be bartered out to the uber rich.

Well, OK.

She says all that, but then The Washington Post reported Sunday that her campaign raised $1.14 billion by the end of September. More than a fifth of that came from just 100 donors.

The top five donors, the Post reported, included two hedge fund managers and one venture capitalist. Combined, they have contributed one out of every $17 Clinton raised. And as you read on, Hillary will be in Florida Tuesday for what has been billed as “the largest fundraising event” in Florida’s history.

Got $100,000 laying around? Donate it, and you can take part in a special host reception with HRC. For a mere $5,000, you get dinner and reception.

With two weeks to go and Hillary way out in front of Donald Trump in the polls, this might seem like the political equivalent of running up the score on an overmatched opponent. The bigger question is, how much is enough to quench Clinton’s never-ending thirst for money?

And the biggest question is, what does that money buy? Look, the news business has allowed me to get to know some really rich people, and they have one thing in common: When they invest this kind of money, they expect something in return.

Just follow the trail of breadcrumbs or, in this case, the dollar bills and see where it leads.

Trump’s donors are the same way, of course, so let’s not pretend Clinton’s voracious appetite for dollars is unique. But whether he actually believes his words or not, Trump has made a good case with the “quid pro quo” label he has tried to stick on Clinton.

Trump rose to the Republican nomination on the winds of disgusted Americans who feel locked out of the political process by the wealthy. They believe the game is rigged against them. That same theme inspired Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

That attitude isn’t likely to change after the election.

Clinton’s supporters squirm a little uncomfortably when the subject is money. No one is being naïve, though. It takes a lot of cash to run a national campaign. She is running for president of the most powerful nation on earth, not a seat on the county commission or school board.

The great Bobby Bowden once said of a freshman player who leaped into his arms on the sideline during an over-exuberant moment, “Recruiting season is over. He’s got to stop calling me Bobby.”

Hillary Clinton is recruiting America now, and by most accounts, she is doing such a good job that even Trump’s closest surrogates concede she is likely to win.

But next Jan. 20, when we start calling her Madam President instead of Hillary and it comes time to make good on her posturing against Wall Street and Citizens United, the big players will be in the background, expecting the return on their investments.

What then? Too often in politics, the answer is that you get what you pay for.

Joe Henderson: Predicting Donald Trump in final debate is risky business


Or victory lap?

That’s two potential outcomes for tonight’s third, and final, presidential debate.

The first one applies to Donald Trump. If he fails to change the election narrative in his last head-to-head face off with Hillary Clinton, his White House aspirations likely are finished (if they aren’t already).

Clinton, ahead in the polls, likely just needs to avoid committing a major gaffe in the face of what is expected to be a flurry of attacks and allegations from an opponent with nothing to lose.

Trying to guess what Trump might do is risky business. In the first debate, he interrupted Clinton repeatedly and accused her, among other things, of “fighting ISIS your whole adult life.”

Fact-check alert: That terrorist organization didn’t exist until Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave it a name in 2013. If you want to stretch and say its brand of terrorism has been around since the 1990s, even that doesn’t fit Trump’s charge.

Trump did better in the second debate, but a big story that emerged was that he essentially stalked Clinton around the stage while she was speaking. It may have been an attempt at intimidation. It didn’t work.

So what’s it going to be tonight?

Here are a few possibilities.


Team Trump has been telegraphing this one. Trump could focus on his five-point proposal aimed at curbing lobbying by lawmakers and members of the executive branch after they leave government service. It’s a populist approach Trump has called “Drain The Swamp” and it definitely has appeal.

It also helps focus attention on Clinton’s reputation as the ultimate Washington insider as well as the controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation.


Trump has tried to say the multiple women who accused him of unwanted sexual advances are lying.

His case is not helped by the now-infamous audio of him and former NBC host Billy Bush engaging in “locker room talk” (Trump’s words) about how big shots like The Donald can do anything they want with any woman they want.

Trump’s base has wholeheartedly bought his “they’re all liars” gambit. Tonight, we’ll see if the rest of America does.


Trump’s latest line of attack is that the “crooked media” has conspired with Clinton to rig the election in her favor. Well, the media certainly have been reporting the things Trump says and does, along with what people say about him.

But a conspiracy? You can bet he will advance that theory in the debate.

It could be a pre-emptive move by Trump to have a fallback if election night goes as many predict. He will just say he was robbed, and will set his followers’ hair on fire with allegations that precincts here or there had suspicious activity.

Arguing the election is “rigged” has been denounced by most high-level Republicans, including Mike Pence — Trump’s running mate. Clinton can make Trump look extra foolish on that point in front of millions of TV viewers.


Clinton’s strategy likely will involve staying above the fray, refusing to engage on Trump’s expected batch of dark theories and oft-repeated accusations about her alleged misconduct. Her best gambit should be to show voters she isn’t the monster Trump is trying to depict.

Clinton can be a wooden campaigner. She doesn’t have her husband’s natural gift for connecting with an audience. She has further been battered by three decades of attacks by Republicans.

They have, at times, depicted her to be complicit in a murder (former aide Vince Foster’s suicide). The beneficiary of a shady land deal (Whitewater). A traitorous secretary of state (we didn’t forget Benghazi or her use of a private email server for sensitive government business).

Trump even suggested recently she wasn’t faithful to her husband.

Despite all that, she has a solid lead in the polls. Early voting is underway and CBS News reported that 94 percent of Clinton voters say they have made up their minds (compared to 93 percent for Trump).

If she can stay away from political quicksand tonight, she might be home free.

Joe Henderson: ‘Checkmate’ in the Marco Rubio-Patrick Murphy debate

In the game of chess, it is called “checkmate.”

It is that moment when a player realizes their opponent just cut off their last route of escape.

I think that’s the gambit Marco Rubio sprung on Democrat Patrick Murphy during their U.S. Senate debate Monday night.

One of the best lines of attack for Murphy was that Rubio hadn’t committed to serving the full six-year term that goes with being a senator. The implication was this young man in a hurry was at it again, using the Senate as just a parking spot until he could accomplish his real ambition — winning the presidency.

It was a strong argument, especially given Rubio’s shoddy attendance record during his first term in office.

But then Rubio broke the news in the faceoff with the following statement: “I am going to serve in the Senate for the next six years.”

Say what? Does this mean you’re not going to run for president in the next election, Rubio was asked?

“I am going to be a senator for the next six years on behalf of the state of Florida.”

Whether he actually keeps that vow is fodder for future debates and campaigns. After all, he also promised repeatedly he wasn’t going to run for re-election to the Senate, and here we are.

That apparently hasn’t bothered voters, though. Rubio has a lead in the polls hovering around seven points, and with early voting already underway, Rubio could be difficult to catch in the final three weeks before the election. That’s why Murphy needed a decisive, headline-grabbing debate to swing attention back on his side.

He didn’t get it, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Murphy punched hard from the outset, quickly trying to link Rubio with Donald Trump. Murphy pointed out that Trump had essentially humiliated Rubio during the campaign, raising the question of why he hasn’t refused to endorse Trump’s volatile White House bid.

“Senator, if you can’t stand up to him as a candidate, how will you do that as president?” Murphy asked.

Rubio had a good answer.

“I think it’s pretty clear Donald Trump is not my first choice, or even my 10th choice,” he said.

And after jabbing Murphy for his unqualified support of Hillary Clinton, Rubio added, “I have deep reservations about the nominee of my party.”

With that settled, the debate settled into a predictable formula. Rubio criticized Murphy for his well-publicized overstatements about his qualifications. Murphy hit hard on Rubio’s poor attendance record.

My guess is voters made up their minds about those issues a long time ago. What was hovering out there was Rubio’s willingness to commit to serving a full term in the Senate.

With his promise, Rubio may have removed the last bit of major uncertainty the public had about his actual interest in doing the job. If voters decide he means what he says … checkmate.

Joe Henderson: To catch up, Patrick Murphy needs knockout debate against Marco Rubio

When the candidates in one of the strangest U.S. Senate races in Florida’s history finally meet at 7 tonight in Orlando at the University of Central Florida in their first of two debates, it will come down to this:

It’s the last big chance for Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy to make up what polls say is a considerable gap between himself and incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Here are the stakes:


Early voting already is underway. According to the Florida Division of Elections, nearly 500,000 mail-in ballots already have been returned out of 2.4 million requested, with a nearly even split between Republicans and Democrats. The X-factor is about 500,000 ballots specifying either no party affiliation or “other” — candidates who don’t identify with the major parties.

With the latest University of North Florida poll showing Rubio running about seven points ahead, Murphy needs two things tonight: A large, fully engaged, statewide TV audience, and then to convince undecided viewers they should vote for him because Rubio didn’t do the job Floridians elected him for in 2010.

He will hammer on Rubio’s seeming disinterest in his job. It’s an old theme, though. Rubio had one of the worst attendance records in the Senate, but people already know that. Rubio will pounce on Murphy’s distorted resume, which embellished several of his accomplishments. That charge, too, has been out there since the primaries.

For voters still trying to make up their minds, it simply could come down to which candidate comes across better on TV.


Expect Murphy to hammer Rubio early and often on his association with presidential candidate Donald Trump. Although Rubio, like nearly everyone, denounced Trump’s recently unearthed lewd comments on a decade-old video, he maintains Trump is still preferable to Hillary Clinton.

Murphy, who has been endorsed by Clinton and President Barack Obama, likely will press Rubio on why he continues to support Trump. With Clinton leading narrowly in Florida polls, Rubio may need a better answer than “Trump may be terrible, but at least he isn’t Clinton.”


Murphy might try to pull a page from the campaign tactics book of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. In February’s New Hampshire primary debate, Christie torpedoed Rubio with a blistering attack that left Rubio flummoxed and fumbling.

Rubio’s campaign never recovered.

Going that route could be risky for Murphy, though. Rubio learned from that tough night and handled himself better in subsequent debates. While it was a fatal blow to his presidential aspirations for this election, Rubio generally is a gifted public speaker if he stays on script. Knocking him off that may be tough now because Murphy won’t have the element of surprise.


The election season has been an interminable grind, and it’s possible many voters will choose the option of changing the channel to something more soothing. Local TV stations generally carry entertainment shows during the 7-8 p.m. hour, when the debate is scheduled.

With Round III of Trump-Clinton scheduled for Wednesday in Las Vegas, it is worth wondering how many potential viewers will decide to pass on the Senate race. The candidates, obviously, must treat this like everyone in Florida is watching, but a lower TV audience probably would be great news for Rubio.


Democrats held high hopes this year of winning this seat on the way to retaking control of the Senate. If Clinton wins the election, they need to pick up four seats to accomplish that. Florida was one of their prime targets.

With Murphy lagging in polls, though, the national Democratic strategy (and money) has shifted to other states where they believe they have a better chance.

A good showing by Murphy could reinvigorate his campaign and convince party bosses he is worth the investment of time and money. With just three weeks left until the election, he can’t just squeak out a win. He probably needs a knockout.

Otherwise, Rubio likely will be too far ahead to catch.

Joe Henderson: Assault on polling begins in ‘ShameFest 2016’

As we approach the home stretch of ShameFest 2016 — otherwise known as the election — we should take a moment to ponder one of the great moments the last time the nation chose a president.

It was election night 2012 and Fox News, accurately as it turned out, declared President Barack Obama had won Ohio and, thus, a second term as commander in chief.

But GOP operative Karl Rove didn’t agree. He argued live on camera that his own network was wrong. He argued his numbers told a different story, and that Mitt Romney would win. So anchor Megyn Kelly was dispatched to the Fox number-crunching room, where the people charged with making that call patiently explained why they were 99.5 percent correct on their projection.

When Rove persisted, saying his calculations told a different story, Kelly asked, “Is that math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?”

It was the runaway best quote of the election season.

We are seeing an assault on polling again, particularly by the Donald Trump camp. At every rally, he tells the faithful that the polls are wrong and it always gets big cheers.

I’ll admit this morning I did a double-take Friday morning when Rasmussen Polling showed Trump with a 43-41 percent lead nationally. Where in the world did that come from, especially when the evening news shows Hillary Clinton with a seven-point advantage?

There are too many polls for the average voter (or, I hate to admit, the average journalist) to keep up with. And since polls show only a snapshot of the moment, no one can say with certainty who will or won’t win until all the votes are counted.

So it’s really a case of which ones you trust most.

I tend to believe Nate Silver’s site is on the mark way more often than not. In case you’re curious, his site has a section devoted to grading the accuracy of all the polls. The ranking is based on several criteria, including the percentage of races it has called correctly.

He has the Monmouth University poll at the top of a lengthy list of polls. It was one of six polls, including the ABC/Washington Post poll, to get an A-plus rating.

For what it’s worth, he gives the Rasmussen poll a C-plus.

Silver’s own forecast has Hillary Clinton with an 84.4 percent chance of winning the election. He gives her a 72 percent chance of winning Florida’s 29 electoral votes.

Remember, though, that’s just a snapshot. The site advises it will be updating its forecasts every time new data is available until the election, because things do change.

In the end, though, numbers never lie — even when politicians do.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons