Ben Carson Archives - Page 4 of 37 - Florida Politics

Ben Carson endorses Ron DeSantis for U.S. Senate

GOP Senate candidate Ron DeSantis scored a major national endorsement Thursday, in the form of Dr. Ben Carson, whose name was linked with a potential Senate run weeks back.

“I am pleased to endorse Ron DeSantis for U.S. Senate. Ron is a thoughtful man of strong character and faith who has served our country in the military and who is dedicated to restoring America’s founding principles,” said Dr. Carson. “In the Senate, he will fight for the Constitution and for a strong national defense. He knows we must repeal ObamaCare, protect life and defend religious freedom.  Floridians don’t need to guess if Ron DeSantis will fight to change Washington – all you have to do is look at his proven conservative record. I urge all of my supporters in Florida to do everything they can to elect him. Ron DeSantis has my vote.”

“It’s an honor to receive the support of Dr. Carson, who has inspired millions of Americans with his incomparable life story and hopeful vision for America’s future,” said DeSantis. “Dr. Carson has been a clear and consistent voice regarding the need to repeal ObamaCare and restore the Constitution.  Dr. Carson’s support will magnify the fact that I’m the only candidate in this race with a proven record of standing up to the permanent political class in Washington. In Congress, I declined a pension, fought for term limits, and rejected special treatment for members of Congress under ObamaCare. In the Senate, I’ll continue to fight to make sure Washington lives under the same rules as everybody else.”

DeSantis, who faces a competitive primary to replace Marco Rubio against Carlos Lopez-CanteraDavid JollyCarlos Beruff, and Todd Wilcox, has combined a strong fundraising operation, savvy political moves, and grassroots outreach to catapult to the first tier of the race for the GOP nomination.

Carson, however, is an especially important endorsement.

A March poll showed enthusiasm for a hypothetical Carson candidacy among a staggering 56 percent of Republican voters.

Carson, however, has disclaimed interest in a Senate run. And Thursday’s key endorsement shows that DeSantis aligns with his vision for the GOP.

Of course, DeSantis’ opponents have their own takes.

The Carson endorsement played into the ongoing back and forth between the Florida GOP Senate campaigns of Reps. David Jolly and DeSantis. 

“Dr. Ben Carson says ‘Floridians don’t need to guess if Ron DeSantis will fight to change Washington.’  I’m not so sure about that, Doctor,” said Jolly’s spokesperson, Max Goodman, who also sent along a Friends of David Jolly 41 second digital ad asserting that DeSantis is “part of the problem in Washington D.C.

The ad begins with the stentorian voice of DeSantis addressing supporters, saying that “the difference is when you get up there, are you going to do what you say you were going to do, or are you going to drink the Kool-Aid and start to become part of the problem.”

From there, DeSantis’ voice cuts out, and a series of damning headlines that imply that the Ponte Vedra Republican has become part of the “problem.”

The ad hits DeSantis for attending the Koch Brothers’ “big money conclave in California,” for having skipped House votes to “campaign in Vegas,” for carrying the most debt in the Senate race, and for sometimes prioritizing fundraising over making votes.

The spot closes with a graphic promoting the Stop Act, authored by Jolly, which would preclude officeholders from fundraising. DeSantis, who has been the most active fundraiser on the Republican side, obviously diverges from Jolly’s position.

The video is below:

Jac VerSteeg: Want a president from Florida? Don’t send Rick Scott to the Senate

It’s bugging me that Florida, now the third-most populous state, never has managed to get a Floridian elected president.

It looked like there was a great chance this year, with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio starting out as strong possibles. Even Ben Carson looked like he had a shot at one time. But each saw his candidacy collapse.

Donald Trump has deep Florida ties. The state could kind-of claim him if he were elected. But it’s not clear he could even carry Florida in the general election.

I’m not sure what needs to happen for a Floridian to be elected president. But I’m sure what should not happen. Do not elect Rick Scott to the U.S. Senate in 2018. He is virtually a conglomerate of all the weaknesses of this year’s Floridians who ran – plus Trump’s bad points.

More on that in a minute.

First, here are sad facts about Florida’s lack of a president. The two states above Florida in population and the five states below Florida all have sent men to the White House who were residents at the time of their election.

California has sent three (Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan). Texas has sent three (Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush).

Then comes Florida with zero, zip, nada.

New York has sent six (Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt). Illinois has sent three (Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Barack Obama).

Pennsylvania has sent one (James Buchanan). Ohio has sent six (William Henry Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding). Georgia has sent one (Jimmy Carter).

So what is Florida, chopped liver?

The best way for a modern politician to get elected president is to have a résumé that includes serving as a governor or as a member of Congress – preferably as a U.S. Senator.

You have to go all the way back to Dwight Eisenhower to find a president who wasn’t either a governor or member of Congress. Eisenhower, of course, represents the third-best way to become president: Be a national war hero. Changes in the nature of modern warfare make that avenue unlikely.

Although being a senator or governor is the best way to become a president, Florida has proved that serving in those positions is not sufficient to do the trick. Former Gov. Jeb Bush and current Sen. Marco Rubio both failed this year. And Bob Graham – who was both a governor and a senator – completely failed to stir significant national interest when he ran for president in 2004.

Were Scott to be elected to the Senate in 2018, he would be on track to share Graham’s sterling résumé. Even though Scott would be the state’s junior senator, he would be the state’s premier national politician.

But Scott would have zero chance of becoming the first Floridian elected president. Why? He shares the worst faults of all the Floridians who failed before him.

Scott is nerdy like Bush and Graham. Like many nerds, he is not a gifted public speaker.

But at least both Bush and Graham were accomplished nerds. They were policy wonks who truly understood how government works. Scott is more creepy-nerdy. Lacking a nerdy passion for policy, he has failed to put his stamp on the state.

Which means that, like Rubio, Scott’s ambition outruns his abilities. He is a creature of news releases and ribbon-cuttings. But what has he done? Where is the tax cut he championed this year? Where is the Seminole Compact he negotiated? Both failures. When you get down to it, Scott shares Rubio’s distaste for doing the hard work of government.

Then there’s the fact that Scott, like Trump, can claim the mantle of “Successful Businessman.” Perhaps that will become the new best way to be elected president.

Unfortunately, here again Scott shares the worst aspects of Trump’s claim to fame. Trump is under attack for multiple business failures, including bankruptcies and the allegations of scandal surrounding Trump University.

Scott never will be able to shake the taint from the $1.7 billion fine levied against his former company, Columbia/HCA, for Medicare fraud. He is Trump with all the sleaze but none of the marketing genius.

Now, none of this means that Scott can’t be elected to the Senate. He was, after all, elected governor twice.

But I am focused on finally getting a Floridian elected president. It doesn’t seem plausible to me that the candidates to replace Rubio in this year’s Senate race will be presidential material – at least anytime soon. (Can anybody even name the declared candidates without resorting to Google?)

The task, then, would be to find someone to send to the Senate with some pizazz, skill and national appeal. Such as … ?

What about the next governor? Well, Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam might fill the bill. He was a high-ranking GOP member of the U.S. House before refocusing on state politics and his current position. Much would depend on his accomplishments were he to be elected governor in 2018.

But the end of Putnam’s potential first term is a long way away. There simply is no other Floridian on the horizon to replace Bush and Rubio as credible (once credible) presidential candidates.

Meanwhile, both the Democratic and Republican front-runners are from New York. It looks like the Empire State will get another president. And for the foreseeable future, Florida will remain the Chopped Liver State.

• • •

Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post, and former editor of Context Florida.

Jac VerSteeg: Want a president from Florida? Don’t send Rick Scott to the Senate

It’s bugging me that Florida, now the third-most populous state, never has managed to get a Floridian elected president.

It looked like there was a great chance this year, with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio starting out as strong possibles. Even Ben Carson looked like he had a shot at one time. But each saw his candidacy collapse.

Donald Trump has deep Florida ties. The state could kind-of claim him if he were elected. But it’s not clear he could even carry Florida in the general election.

I’m not sure what needs to happen for a Floridian to be elected president. But I’m sure what should not happen. Do not elect Rick Scott to the U.S. Senate in 2018. He is virtually a conglomerate of all the weaknesses of this year’s Floridians who ran – plus Trump’s bad points.

More on that in a minute.

First, here are sad facts about Florida’s lack of a president. The two states above Florida in population and the five states below Florida all have sent men to the White House who were residents at the time of their election.

California has sent three (Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan). Texas has sent three (Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush).

Then comes Florida with zero, zip, nada.

New York has sent six (Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt). Illinois has sent three (Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Barack Obama).

Pennsylvania has sent one (James Buchanan). Ohio has sent six (William Henry Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding). Georgia has sent one (Jimmy Carter).

So what is Florida, chopped liver?

The best way for a modern politician to get elected president is to have a resume that includes serving as a governor or as a member of Congress – preferably as a U.S. Senator.

You have to go all the way back to Dwight Eisenhower to find a president who wasn’t either a governor or member of Congress. Eisenhower, of course, represents the third-best way to become president – be a national war hero. Changes in the nature of modern warfare make that avenue unlikely.

Although being a senator or governor is the best way to become a president, Florida has proved that serving in those positions is not sufficient to do the trick. Former Gov. Jeb Bush and current Sen. Marco Rubio both failed this year. And Bob Graham – who was both a governor and a senator – completely failed to stir significant national interest when he ran for president in 2004.

Were Scott to be elected to the Senate in 2018, he would be on track to share Graham’s sterling resume. Even though Scott would be the state’s junior senator, he would be the state’s premier national politician.

But Scott would have zero chance of becoming the first Floridian elected president. Why? He shares the worst faults of all the Floridians who failed before him.

Scott is nerdy like Bush and Graham. Like many nerds, he is not a gifted public speaker.

But at least both Bush and Graham were accomplished nerds. They were policy wonks who truly understood how government works. Scott is more creepy-nerdy. Lacking a nerdy passion for policy, he has failed to put his stamp on the state.

Which means that, like Rubio, Scott’s ambition outruns his abilities. He is a creature of press releases and ribbon-cuttings. But what has he done? Where is the tax cut he championed this year? Where is the Seminole Compact he negotiated? Both failures. When you get down to it, Scott shares Rubio’s distaste for doing the hard work of government.

Then there’s the fact that Scott, like Trump, can claim the mantle of “Successful Businessman.” Perhaps that will become the new best way to be elected president.

Unfortunately, here again Scott shares the worst aspects of Trump’s claim to fame. Trump is under attack for multiple business failures, including bankruptcies and the allegations of scandal surrounding Trump University.

Scott never will be able to shake the taint from the $1.7 billion fine levied against his former company, Columbia/HCA, for Medicare fraud. He is Trump with all the sleaze but none of the marketing genius.

Now, none of this means that Scott can’t be elected to the Senate. He was, after all, elected governor twice.

But I am focused on finally getting a Floridian elected president. It doesn’t seem plausible to me that the candidates to replace Rubio in this year’s Senate race will be presidential material – at least anytime soon. (Can anybody even name the declared candidates without resorting to Google?)

The task, then, would be to find someone to send to the Senate with some pizazz, skill and national appeal. Such as…?

What about the next governor? Well, Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam might fill the bill. He was a high-ranking GOP member of the U.S. House before refocusing on state politics and his current position. Much would depend on his accomplishments were he to be elected governor in 2018.

But the end of Putnam’s potential first term is a long way away. There simply is no other Floridian on the horizon to replace Bush and Rubio as credible (once credible) presidential candidates.

Meanwhile, both the Democratic and Republican frontrunners are from New York. It looks like the Empire State will get another president. And for the foreseeable future, Florida will remain the Chopped Liver state.

***

Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Marco Rubio aims for role at GOP national convention

Marco Rubio is working to play a role at the Republican National Convention even as his rivals scramble for delegates the Florida senator claimed before he suspended his campaign.

Rubio has sent letters to Republican officials in states where he has won delegates, charging he wants to keep his delegates, even though he’s no longer an active candidate.

Representatives from Rubio’s network said the former candidate wants to retain his delegates in order to keep his options open in the coming months. Campaigns are preparing for the possibility of a contested national convention in July that could feature an intense fight for every available delegate.

The Rubio representatives spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about Rubio’s intentions. The Florida senator suspended his campaign in mid-March, but not before accumulating 171 delegates, a trove that could help Republican front-runner Donald Trump secure the nomination — or help stop him.

Officials from the Oklahoma and Alaska GOP say they have received letters from Rubio’s campaign. His campaign staff is no longer being paid, but many remain loyal and willing to help Rubio in the coming months.

Alaska had already divvied up Rubio’s five delegates to Trump and Ted Cruz. However, since the actual people have not been selected yet, the state party said the delegates will go back to Rubio.

In Oklahoma, state party Chairwoman Pam Pollard said she received a letter from Rubio saying he has not released his 12 delegates from that state.

Selecting the people who will be delegates at the national convention is a tedious process governed by rules that vary from state to state. The system favors political insiders who understand the arcane rules.

In Minnesota, for example, Rubio won the state but his 17 delegates will go to the convention as free agents, free to support the candidate of their choice, said Chris Fields, deputy chairman of the Minnesota GOP.

Fields said he expects Rubio’s rivals to have supporters at the party’s state convention in May to influence who gets chosen as a Rubio delegate.

“They should if they want to win, right?” Fields said.

The three remaining Republican candidates are ramping up efforts to win over Rubio’s delegates, in addition to claiming dozens more unbound delegates, in the contentious battle for the 1,237 delegate majority required to win the GOP presidential nomination.

Trump, with 736 delegates, is the only candidate with a realistic path to clinching the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7. But it’s a narrow path. And his Republican rivals are fighting to deny him the majority and force a contested convention.

Acknowledging a late start in the nuts-and-bolts business of political wrangling, Trump’s campaign will open a Washington, D.C., office in the coming days to run its delegate operation and congressional relations team, said campaign senior adviser Barry Bennett.

In addition to the new space, Trump has hired a veteran political operative to serve as the campaign’s convention manager. Paul Manafort, a seasoned Washington hand, will oversee the campaign’s “entire convention presence” including a potential contested convention, said Bennett.

“We started ramping up a couple of weeks ago, but we’re rolling now,” Bennett said of Trump’s delegate outreach efforts.

Tuesday’s moves mark a major escalation in Trump’s willingness to play by party rules and build alliances in a political system he has so far shunned.

A dispute in Louisiana highlights the potential impact of even a handful of Rubio delegates — and Trump’s need to court them.

Rubio won five delegates in Louisiana’s March 5 primary, who became free agents after he suspended his campaign.

At Louisiana’s subsequent GOP convention, Cruz’s campaign secured all of Rubio’s delegates, as well as five others who were uncommitted. As a result, Cruz could end up with more delegates from Louisiana, even though Trump narrowly won the state’s popular vote.

Trump adviser Ed Brookover promised Trump would have “an active presence” at every one of the upcoming lower-profile conventions and caucuses where delegates are selected. That includes this weekend’s state convention in North Dakota, where 25 delegates will be selected. All of them — in addition to the state’s three national committee members — will be free to support the candidate of their choosing at the GOP’s national convention.

Ben Carson will appear in North Dakota on Trump’s behalf, Brookover said, as part of outreach efforts that include hospitality suites for delegates, campaign surrogates, parliamentarians and support staff for all upcoming contests.

Representatives from Rubio’s political operation declined to comment publicly on his delegate outreach

Donald Trump scrambles to address delegate fight

He is the Republican Party’s undisputed front-runner, yet Donald Trump‘s White House aspirations may now depend on a messy fight for delegates he is only now scrambling to address.

Trump’s campaign on Monday vowed to pursue legal action against the Republican National Committee to protect his recent victory in Louisiana, one of many states that feature complicated rules allowing campaigns to influence the presidential nominating process weeks or months after their votes have been counted.

A similar process plays out nationwide every four years. Yet Trump’s outsider candidacy is so far driven largely by media coverage instead of the on-the-ground organization that rival Ted Cruz boasts. Now, Trump must play catch up — especially in the chase for delegates previously bound to former candidate Marco Rubio.

“A lot of Trump’s support has been through earned media, so you haven’t had the need to really focus on that aspect of it,” said Jason Osborne, one of several former Ben Carson aides tapped in recent weeks to undertake Trump’s delegate outreach. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t get up to speed pretty quickly on it.”

 Indeed, Trump’s campaign on Tuesday will announce plans to open a Washington, D.C. office to run its delegate operation and congressional relations team, said campaign senior adviser Barry Bennett.

In addition to the new space, Bennett said Trump has hired a veteran political operative to serve as the campaign’s convention manager. Paul Manafort, a seasoned Washington hand with decades of convention experience, will oversee the campaign’s “entire convention presence” including a potential contested convention, said Bennett.

The move marks a major escalation in Trump’s willingness to play by party rules and build alliances in a political system he has so far shunned. It comes as Trump faces a Republican nomination battle that will almost certainly extend until the final day of primary voting on June 7 — or even to the party’s July national convention in Cleveland — if he fails to secure the delegate majority needed to become the presumptive nominee.

In a campaign season so far defined by extraordinary insults and extreme rhetoric, the 2016 Republican presidential nomination fight could ultimately be decided by lawmakers, party activists and lawyers.

Selecting the people who will be delegates at the national convention is a tedious process governed by rules that vary from state to state. In some states, like New Hampshire and California, the candidates submit slates of delegates — actual people who would presumably be loyal at a contested convention.

In states like Louisiana, Iowa, Nevada and many others, delegates are selected at state and congressional district conventions and caucuses. To prevent mischief, the national party adopted a rule requiring delegates to vote, on the first ballot at the convention, to vote for the candidate who won them.

“Honestly, I’m new to the operation. It’s obviously not perfect,” said Trump aide Ed Brookover, who was Carson’s former campaign manager.

Brookover vowed Trump would have “an active presence” at every one of the upcoming lower-profile conventions and caucuses where delegates are selected. That includes this weekend’s state convention in North Dakota, where 25 delegates will be selected. All of them — in addition to the state’s three national committee members — will be free to support the candidate of their choosing at the GOP’s national July convention.

Carson himself will appear in North Dakota on Trump’s behalf, Brookover said, as part of outreach efforts that include hospitality suites for delegates, campaign surrogates, parliamentarians and support staff for all upcoming contests.

It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination. Trump, with 739 delegates, is the only candidate with a realistic path to clinching the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.

Rubio’s recent exit gave Trump’s rivals an opening to help make his path harder. Most delegates are free to support the candidate of their choice if their preferred candidate drops out. The Florida senator suspended his campaign earlier in the month after accumulating 166 delegates — a trove that Cruz’s campaign is aggressively courting.

A dispute in Louisiana highlights Trump’s challenge.

Rubio won five delegates in Louisiana’s March 5 primary, people who became free agents after he suspended his campaign.

At Louisiana’s subsequent GOP convention, Cruz’s campaign secured all of Rubio’s delegates, as well as five others who were uncommitted. As a result, Cruz could end up with more delegates from Louisiana, even though Trump narrowly won the state’s popular vote.

Bennett said the campaign would formally challenge the certification of Louisiana’s delegates during the Republican National Committee’s summer meeting. Trump is most upset, he said, that Cruz’s campaign pushed its Louisiana supporters onto the national convention’s powerful rules committee.

Bennett predicted Trump would accumulate 1,460 delegates before the convention, making legal action unnecessary. That’s more than enough to claim the nomination outright even if Cruz successfully peels away some of his support in the coming months.

Louisiana GOP executive director Jason Dore, one of the uncommitted delegates for the state, acknowledged Cruz has had a stronger ground game in Louisiana than Trump and has worked on attracting delegates since the beginning.

As for the threat of a lawsuit, Dore said: “I don’t know who he’d be suing because these 10 delegates are free to support whoever they want under the rules. The party or I can’t force them to vote any way.”

He said the delegate allocation formulas were crafted in compliance with the RNC.

“We consulted with the RNC and followed their advice,” Dore said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Darryl Paulson: The case against Donald Trump

I have been a Republican my entire life, which has not been easy as a university professor. Not only am I a Republican, I consider myself to be a conservative. I have served as a Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, America’s leading conservative think tank.

I will never vote for Donald Trump. Never!

Why won’t I support Trump? As a Republican and conservative, I find Trump to be neither. Yes, he has been a Republican since 2012, but he has spent more time as a Democrat, independent and Reform Party candidate than as a Republican. In 1990, Trump said that if he ever ran for public office, he’d do better as a Democrat. In 2000 he ran for the presidency as a member of the Reform Party, after leaving the Republican Party and calling it “crazy right.” It would be nice to have a real Republican representing the party.

His political views have aligned more with the Democrats than the Republicans. He once considered himself to be strongly pro-choice, and he pushed for a single-payer health plan opposed by conservatives. Trump has also opposed entitlement reforms that most conservatives believe are essential to get the federal budget under control.

The fact that Trump is barely a Republican and hardly a conservative is important to me, but it is not the most important reason to oppose his nomination. Does anyone know Trump’s position on the major political issues? Instead, Trump offers simplistic solutions to “bomb, build and ban.”

“Bomb the s___ out of ISIS.” Problem solved. Build a wall and that will end illegal immigration. Even better, he promises to get Mexico to pay for the wall. I would like to take a bet on that happening. Ban 1.6 billion Muslims from entering America. If only the world was as simple as Trump.

Trump promises to make the military strong again. Sounds good, but how will he do that? No one knows.

Trump promises to be the best jobs president ever. Have you heard his plan for job creation? Neither have I.

I oppose Trump because he brings out the worst, not the best, in the American people. He encourages violence at his events. He refuses to denounce a hate monger like David Duke. He demeans anyone who disagrees with him. Instead of “making America great again,” Trump encourages policies to “make America hate again.”

Trump consistently degrades women, but says he loves women. He calls Carly Fiorina ugly and says Megyn Kelly has “blood coming out of her whatever.” Do we want our daughters and mothers treated like this?

Trump attacks members of the party he wants to lead. John McCain is not a war hero because he was captured. George W. Bush should be impeached for lying about weapons of mass destruction. Ben Carson is labeled a “child molester,” and Ted Cruz is “Lying Ted.” Never mind that Politifact designated Trump as “the lie of the year” for grossly distorting the facts on three-quarters of his campaign statements.

Trump and his supporters point to the fact that he has won more votes and more delegates than any other Republican candidate. That is true.

What they don’t mention is that Trump is the most unpopular presidential nominee since David Duke. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 67 percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of Trump. About the only thing that Trump beats Hillary Clinton on is being more unpopular than she is. Her unfavorables are at a dismal 53 percent.

When two-thirds of Americans see you as “unfavorable,” it is hard to conceive how Trump could develop a successful campaign strategy. Even if he could, he is among the least qualified individuals to run for the presidency.

Trump’s emotional immaturity, at the very least, disqualifies him. If Trump responds to foreign leaders like he does to his opponents in America, he would destabilize relationships with many allies.

In addition to the damage that Trump would do to our friends, he would devastate the Republican Party for decades to come. His supporters are loyal to Trump, and not to other party candidates. “Down-ticket” Republicans would be wiped out in a disastrous Trump defeat.

So, what choices are left to Republicans and conservatives who find Trump unacceptable. Some won’t vote. Others will vote for Clinton. Some may hope that a conservative alternative will be on the ballot under an independent party or Libertarian Party label.

As a partisan, it is never easy to reject a candidate of your party. If Trump is the nominee, I will not let him turn the party of Abraham Lincoln into the party of fear and hate.

For me, the choice is easy.

***

Darryl Paulson is Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Donald Trump: Is he the quintessential Florida Man?

Donald Trump drew thousands to his rallies around the Sunshine State, basking in their adoration, his face glowing like a Florida orange as he anticipated victory.

“Florida loves Trump, and I love Florida, so I think I’m going to win Florida,” he repeated.

Trump did win Florida on Tuesday, claiming victory with the bravado of someone who survived a particularly hellish South Florida commute.

The only actual Floridian in the race — Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American born in South Florida who earned all his degrees from Florida universities — failed to make his case, and Trump had already squashed the hopes of the GOP’s other Florida candidates like so many palmetto bugs.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who was supposed to have this thing locked up before the Southern primaries, flamed out shortly after he finally tried to find Trump’s jugular by labeling him “the chaos candidate.” Ben Carson, who lives in a West Palm Beach mansion, finally quit, too, and endorsed Trump.

Somehow, it’s Trump who captured Republican hearts in what some consider America’s strangest state. Trump made his name in New York City, displaying “New York values” with a brash, fast-talking, larger-than-life persona. But really, when you think about it, Donald Trump is the quintessential Florida Man.

“He embodies the Florida dream: the idea of a better life,” says historian Gary Mormino.

All the things people fantasize about in the frigid North — a beachfront mansion and endless riches to spend on endless rounds of golf — Trump has it and more, right here in Florida.

And he doesn’t just live the Florida lifestyle — he’s a Sunshine State soul mate.

“Trump is more casual, more flippant, less buttoned-up, just like Floridians,” says Paul George, a history professor at Miami-Dade College.

But what about Rubio, the actual Floridian who dropped out of the race after Tuesday night’s crushing loss? Rubio seems youthful and has a vision for America, but “comes off as restrained,” George says, “much more buttoned-up, which is ironic, since he’s from Florida.”

Like each winter’s snowbirds and two-thirds of state residents, Trump is from outside Florida. But he plays and does business here. In 2010, he launched a multilevel marketing company that sold vitamins to an adoring crowd of thousands in Miami. Earlier this month, after 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney declared that “a business genius he is not,” Trump summoned the media to his Trump National Golf Course in Jupiter.

“He’s an empire builder, and Floridians, especially South Floridians, are empire builders,” George says. “Or they dream of building an empire.”

While his Trump Tower penthouse in New York imitates the Palace of Versailles, his most famous home has been Mar-a-Lago. In 1985, he paid $10 million for the 58-bedroom Mediterranean revival mansion with a 20-acre oceanfront estate straddling Palm Beach Island.

Trump and his third wife, Slovenian model Melania Knauss, held their wedding reception at Mar-a-Lago, which Trump had turned into a high-end club, much to the consternation of his traditional Palm Beach neighbors. “Trump’s Palm Beach Club Roils the Old Social Order” was the headline on The Wall Street Journal story.

That’s another Florida Man attribute: roiling the social order. Trump’s been doing it for years.

Mormino, a professor emeritus at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, points out Trump bought into Palm Beach when national ads by the tourism bureau proclaimed: “Florida. The rules are different here.”

That could almost be Trump’s campaign slogan, no?

Take his four corporate bankruptcies: No big deal in Florida, which trails only California in bankruptcy filings. Or his marriages: 7 percent of Florida’s men have married three or more times, like Trump. The national average is 5 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Or the fact he has made and lost fortunes in real estate. Floridians still gamble on slices of sunshine, despite the last housing bust.

“Trump’s got the Florida values and Florida lifestyle down,” George says.

Trump’s brand was nicked by a failed condo project in Tampa, but that, too, was classic Florida. Trump boasted in 2005 the 52-story Trump Tower Tampa would be “a signature landmark property so spectacular that it will redefine both Tampa’s skyline and the market’s expectations of luxurious condominium living.”

Two years later, Trump sued for $1 million in unpaid licensing fees, the developer went bankrupt, and buyers who put 20 percent down on a tower that was never built were out tens of thousands of dollars.

“Trump was like the Pied Piper who led us all into it, trusting him that he wouldn’t put his name on something bad,” said Mary Ann Stiles, a Tampa attorney who lost $100,000 on the deal.

Ah, but no one wants to dwell on the bad here. They’d rather play — preferably under the cool shade of a palm tree — like golfers and presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon did when they set up their Winter White Houses in Florida.

Trump has three world-class golf courses in Florida — Doral, Palm Beach and Jupiter. He invested hundreds of millions into Doral after rescuing it from bankruptcy, and the course has been a popular PGA Tour stop since 1962. But golf-watchers say this run is threatened by Trump’s remarks: the PGA canceled its Grand Slam of Golf at Trump’s course in Los Angeles after his comments disparaging Mexican immigrants, and Doral could be next.

Trump-haters may seek solace in this tidbit that Mormino pointed out: No Florida man has ever been elected president.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press

Donald Trump celebrates victories in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina

Donald Trump promised to continue to “win, win, win” after victories in at least three of the five states holding Republican primaries Tuesday.

Trump won primaries in Illinois, North Carolina and Florida. He came in second in Ohio, trailing John Kasich. The Missouri Republican primary was too close to call late Tuesday night.

The New York businessman clobbered Marco Rubio in Florida. He received 46 percent of the vote, while Rubio received 27 percent in the Sunshine State. Trump won almost every county in Florida, save for Miami-Dade County. Rubio announced Tuesday he was suspending his campaign.

“I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on winning Florida’s winner-take-all presidential primary,” said Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Florida GOP in a prepared statement. “While the Florida GOP will remain neutral in the Republican nominating process, we will continue our grassroots efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton and put a Republican in the White House come November.”

Trump has won 18 Republican primaries and leads in the delegate count. The winner-take-all nature of Florida’s election may help Trump secure the Republican nomination.

“I think we’re going to have a great victory,” Trump said during a celebratory speech on Tuesday. “We’re going to win, win, win, and we’re not stopping.”

Trump said his campaign has “had such incredible support,” pointing toward endorsements from Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as an example of that support.

“We have to bring our party together. We have something happening that actually makes the Republican party the biggest political story in the world,” he said. “Millions of people are coming in to vote. We have a great opportunity. Democrats are coming in, independents are coming in and, very importantly, people are coming in who never voted before.”

“I’m very proud to be a part of this,” he said.

Joe Gruters confident GOP will come together to back Donald Trump

Joe Gruters‘ association with the Donald Trump campaign is controversial, because, well, Donald Trump is controversial.

Gruters became campaign chairman for Trump in Florida last fall. His other public duties include being vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Executive Committee, and a member of Florida State University’s board of trustees.

Those conflicting roles have led critics to say that he should step down from one of those positions. Gruters has rebuffed them, now feeling more confident than ever that his candidate will be the GOP nominee this fall. And he has no doubt the party will come together for November.

“Listen, primaries are tough,” he said, standing outside a room used by Trump at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday. “A lot of things get said in primaries. People are unhappy. Their candidate loses, and just like me, there’ve been times before where I didn’t like who are nominee was going to be. But by the end of the day, I was 100 percent doing everything I could for the person, and I think the same will happen here.”

Members of the GOP establishment continue to contend most Republicans don’t support Trump, pointing to his primary victories that rarely exceeded 40 percent of total votes.

A larger field diluted the vote, and Gruters contends Trump’s numbers have grown since other candidates have dropped out.

“Eventually, all will be forgiven, and the Republican Party will come together, stronger and united and bigger and better than before, and I think we’re going to win,” he said.

Perhaps.

On Tuesday, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford said Trump falls short of his expectations of what the GOP’s standard bearer should be. A former surrogate for Jeb Bush and now a  Marco Rubio supporter, Weatherford said Trump lacks those qualities at the moment.

“I expect the nominee of the Republican Party to be presidential,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I expect them to care about the poor. I expect them to care about free markets and free enterprise. I expect them to care about life. This is not a person who has not embodied what I look for in a candidate for the Republican nomination, and somebody I can support in November.”

Gruters said Trump has ignited a movement resulting in a dramatic increase in Republicans voting in some of the first primaries and caucuses. Democratic strategist Steve Schale told The Wall Street Journal that more than half the early voters in 14 counties across Florida didn’t cast ballots in the 2012 GOP presidential primary.

“I think at the end of the day we have to win the general election, and I think that Donald Trump has the ability to expand our base, to increase the size of our tent,” Gruters said.

“You’ve seen it in the primaries; I think that the energy and enthusiasm that’s been created will be transferred over to the general election, and I think it’s going to be a historic election with DT carrying states that we were never even considered to have a chance of winning before.”

Candidates no longer in prez race take 229K votes in primaries; Jeb Bush leads with 88K

For Jeb Bush, his presidential aspirations may be over, but not in the hearts of many of his more strident supporters.

For the primaries and caucuses in 2016, nearly a quarter-million votes have been cast so far for 11 of the 13 Republicans who have already exited the race, including Bush, Ben Carson, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.

Dr. Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics analyzed the first two dozen early GOP contests, finding that more than 229,000 votes – almost 2 percent of all ballots cast – have gone to ex-presidential candidates.

Bush, who left the race Feb. 20, leads the pack with more than 88,000 votes – more than double the votes for any other former candidate. Of the 88,344 votes Bush received in 19 states and territories, 40 percent were taken in Texas on Super Tuesday (35,418), 1.25 percent of all votes cast. He also received 1.8 percent of the vote in Vermont, 1.12 percent in Tennessee and 1.02 percent in Massachusetts.

Although he left the race last week, Carson racked up 37,942 votes, coming in second among the ex-candidates. Smart Politics calculated Carson took 1.75 percent of the vote in Idaho, 1.61 percent in Michigan, 1.51 percent Louisiana and 1.31 percent in Mississippi.

Among the other Republican former candidates, for others received more than 10,000 votes since leaving the campaign trail: Paul with 32,098; Huckabee with 27,141; Chris Christie with 16,013 and Carly Fiorina with 11,484. Huckabee’s best performance was in his home state of Arkansas on Super Tuesday; the state’s former governor took 1.17 percent of the vote.

Other ex-candidates making a showing in the 2016 primaries and caucuses are former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (8,023) and current South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (4,481), as well as former Govs. Jim Gilmore of Virginia (1,691), George Pataki of New York (1,691), and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana (219).

As the Florida primary approaches, with many early votes already cast, Bush – a favorite son of Sunshine State Republicans – is sure to boost his polling numbers, thanks to many Floridians who still believe he’s the best candidate for the White House, even if he isn’t actively running.

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