Bernie Sanders Archives - Page 5 of 62 - Florida Politics

Marco Rubio presidential campaign owes $1.5M in debt

Marco Rubio might be running for re-election, but his presidential campaign is still more than $1 million in the red.

Campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission show Rubio’s presidential campaign had more than $1.5 million in debt as of Sept. 30. The sum includes the costs of telemarketing services, media production, and legal fees.

According to campaign finance records, the presidential campaign owed $570,657 for telemarketing; $315,000 for media production; $167,000 for legal fees; $350,000 for strategic consulting; and $130,000 for web services.

It may seem like a lot, but the campaign has continued to whittle down its outstanding debt each reporting period. Records show the presidential campaign had more than $1.9 million in debt at the end of March.

Rubio ended his presidential bid in March, after he came in second to Donald Trump in Florida’s presidential preference primary. He announced he was running for re-election in June, just days before the qualifying deadline.

It’s not unusual for presidential campaigns to carry debt well after the race is over. In May, the Wall Street Journal reported former presidential hopefuls owed more than $5.4 million.

Paying down the debt could take years. According to the Wall Street Journal, Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic nominee, didn’t pay off debt for her 2008 presidential campaign until 2012.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is still trying to pay down the debt from his 2012 presidential bid. According to the most recent campaign filing, Gingrich still owed $4.6 million for his 2012 campaign.

Rubio isn’t the only 2016 hopeful whose campaign is still carrying some debt.

Campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission show Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign owed $368,063 through Aug. 31; while Bernie Sanders, a 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful, owed $472,011 at the end of August.

Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign owed $250,000, down from $452,065 at the end of February. Bush ended his presidential bid after the South Carolina primary. Meanwhile, Chris Christie’s campaign still owes $170,505; while Rand Paul’s presidential campaign owes $301,107.

 

Libertarian’s Gary Johnson has never been the typical politician

Ronald Reagan won a historic landslide victory in the 1984 election, taking 49 of 50 states. But he failed to win the vote of a young Republican businessman in New Mexico whose willingness to go against the political grain has made him this presidential campaign’s X-factor.

Outraged at the GOP president’s budget deficits, Gary Johnson for the first time voted for the Libertarian candidate. Ten years later, Johnson became New Mexico’s governor, and was known for vetoing bill after bill before he became a national curiosity for advocating legalized marijuana.

Now, at age 63, he’s the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee, a marijuana-promoting fitness aficionado who summited Mount Everest and now climbs a political mountain with tough odds of reaching the top.

Though Johnson has grabbed more attention for his stance on drugs and difficulty answering foreign-policy questions, fiscal conservatism remains his animating force.

“I always pushed the envelope,” said Johnson, who’s proposed deep cuts to military and other government spending as well as elimination of the federal departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, Education, and Housing and Urban Development. “I wasn’t a wallflower when I was governor and I do think government spends too much money in areas that don’t make a big difference in people’s lives.”

Before he came out for legalizing marijuana shortly after his re-election as New Mexico governor in 1998, Johnson was nicknamed “Governor Veto.” He piled up a record 700-plus vetoes during his two terms in Santa Fe. Admirers liked his dedication to limiting the size of government. Detractors considered him narrow-minded and incurious about the outside world.

“He just does not believe government should be involved in dealing with social problems,” said state Sen. Jerry Pino y Ortiz, who ran two social service agencies during Johnson’s administration and feels the former governor let down his achingly poor state. “It’s like the dad who’s proud that his kid gets by on the smallest allowance at school, but the kid’s shoes have holes in them.”

Rod Adair is a Republican political strategist and former state lawmaker who agrees with Johnson’s small-government philosophy. The problem, Adair said, is that the former governor knows relatively little beyond that.

He says Johnson prefers to focus on his obsessive fitness routine — he’s an ultramarathoner and triathelete who summited Mount Everest in 2003 after leaving office as governor— rather than learn about unfamiliar areas like foreign policy.

“Running for president, I don’t care where you’re governor, it’s very different and you need to have a degree of intellectual curiosity,” Adair said. “He doesn’t have that.”

Supporters and admirers in New Mexico agree that Johnson was an unusual politician. He didn’t horse trade or hold grudges, they say, and was generally direct and honest.

Those are attributes that have won him an unusually wide swath of support in the current presidential race, helping him appeal both to some disaffected liberal Bernie Sanders voters and more traditional libertarians.

He and running mate Bill Weld, Massachusetts’ former GOP governor, are the only third-party ticket on the ballot in all 50 states

Johnson has fallen short of the 15 percent threshold in national polling needed to enter the presidential debates, polling at about 8 percent for several months. If he receives 5 percent of the vote in November, that would be a bonanza for the Libertarian Party, assuring it of a valuable place on state ballots in the 2020 election.

Johnson’s deer-in-the-headlights response to a question from a television interviewer about what he’d do to deal with the crisis in the Syrian city of Aleppo — “What’s Aleppo?” — earned him derision in September, though he quickly apologized.

Weeks later, Democrats feared Johnson was pulling enough young voters from [Hillary] Clinton to throw some swing states to [Donald] Trump. Johnson’s campaign put out a lengthy statement urging Republicans disgusted with Trump’s taped boasts about forcing himself on women to vote Libertarian instead.

Johnson says he’s happy to criticize Clinton, even though his running mate says his focus is solely on Trump.

In an interview at a hotel near his Santa Fe home, Johnson predicted the national debt would more than double to $50 trillion should Clinton implement her various plans. She’s proposed spending that would be paid for by $1.4 trillion in tax increases on the wealthy. Johnson said those would doom the economy.

“If those tax hikes go through, I think the recession of 2008 is mild by comparison,” Johnson said.

Johnson was born in North Dakota, but his father moved the family to New Mexico when the future governor was 13. Raised by a school teacher and an accountant for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Johnson founded a construction company while he was still at the University of New Mexico. The firm grew and became a major contractor on Intel’s chip factory in Albuquerque, making Johnson his fortune.

In 1994 he entered a competitive four-way Republican primary for governor.

Johnson squeaked through with just over 30 percent of the primary vote, then defeated an incumbent Democrat whose party was so badly split that his own lieutenant governor ran against him.

The new Republican governor confronted a Democratic-controlled legislature and it was ugly.

Johnson vetoed more than half of the bills that came to his desk that first year and kept rejecting ones afterward. “When you have both houses of the legislature in the opposite party you’re always going to have a lot of sparks that fly, especially on financial issues,” said David Harris, Johnson’s longtime finance secretary. “He always applied the same test to everything,” Harris added — veto it “if it didn’t improve the government or it raised taxes.”

Over the years Johnson routinely shot down efforts to create commemorative license plates that would collect extra money for wildlife preservation, firefighters or West Point graduates. He vetoed a proposal for a state holiday recognizing Hispanic labor icon Cesar Chavez. He vetoed a $2 hotel room fee increase in the city of Las Cruces.

He even vetoed the entire budget in his final year only to have the legislature override him.

In the end, Johnson had limited success reining in state spending — the budget still grew from $4.4 billion in his first year to $7.7 billion in his last. But even his critics acknowledge it would have been far higher without him.

“He was just a very results-oriented guy and there’s some utility in his view that doing more does not mean delivering more,” said Doug Turner, who ran Johnson’s re-election race.

Johnson also championed school choice, brought private prisons to the state, implemented managed care in the state’s Medicare program and built a new highway to New Mexico’s western edge. But it was his push to legalize marijuana, announced shortly after his 1998 re-election, that made him famous.

A longtime marijuana user, Johnson said he was persuaded to end the drug war by watching the escalating costs to courts, police and jails from locking up addicts. He wasn’t able to persuade the legislature to decriminalize marijuana but came away with more money for drug treatment programs.

After leaving office, Johnson pushed for marijuana legalization and founded a marijuana branding company. In 2011, he ran for the GOP presidential nomination. But he was largely ignored in the race and switched to the Libertarian ticket. He received 1 percent of the vote in 2012.

Johnson rarely dealt with issues like gay marriage or immigration as governor, but he emphasizes them in this campaign, effectively merging the small-government, non-interventionist libertarianism of Ron Paul with a more socially liberal message.

One of the more emotional moments in his rallies usually comes when he announces that “Black Lives Matter” — often to cheers from the largely white audience — and rattles off statistics about the way the justice system treats African-Americans.

Johnson is also a non-interventionist, one of his greatest areas of difference with Clinton.

He argues that the military could be one-fifth smaller, especially if it pulled back from overseas areas where he says it doesn’t need to be, like Japan. He recently said Syria’s civil war has been worsened by the U.S. arming some of the rebels and said he wouldn’t push for safe zones for civilians in besieged Aleppo, where the U.S. government has accused Russia of targeting civilians to help Syria’s government.

“That’s just opening another conflict with Russia,” Johnson said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Hillary Clinton brings in Al Gore as closer on climate change

Al Gore laid out the environmental stakes of the presidential race in stark terms during a campaign stop for Hillary Clinton Tuesday, arguing that electing her opponent would lead to “climate catastrophe.”

Vice president during Clinton’s husband’s eight years in the White House and a longtime environmental activist, Gore served as a closer for Clinton on climate change as the Democratic candidate seeks to appeal to activists and to young people, who consider this a key issue.

“The choice in this election is extremely clear. Hillary Clinton will make solving the climate crisis a top national priority,” Gore said, before issuing a strong warning about Republican Donald Trump. “Her opponent, based on the ideas that he has presented, would take us toward a climate catastrophe.”

Gore’s history with Florida, the ultimate swing state, lent extra weight to his appeal to get out and vote. Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election, but lost the presidency to George W. Bush after a lengthy Florida recount and a shocking Supreme Court decision.

“Your vote really, really, really counts,” he told the crowd, which responded by chanting, “You won!”

Clinton, meanwhile, vigorously emphasized her plans to develop more clean energy, reduce fossil fuel production and build more weather-resistant infrastructure. She also continued her attacks on Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax” and said he would renegotiate the Paris Climate Agreement, an international treaty designed to curb the rise in global temperatures.

“We cannot risk putting a climate denier in the White House,” Clinton said.

During the primary contest against progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton offered clean energy plans and came out against the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is opposed by environmentalists.

“Climate change is one of the issues where the difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is night and day,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. “For many of the core supporters we are seeking to galvanize in the remaining weeks of the campaign, including young voters, communicating the boldness of her plan is important.”

At the rally was Miami Dade College student Adam Demayo, 24.

“Every beach I go to is polluted,” said Demayo, a former Sanders supporter who said he is reluctantly voting for Clinton. “My children are going to, like, die. I want to dedicate my life to saving the planet.”

The world is on pace for the hottest year on record, breaking marks set in 2015, 2014, and 2010. It is about 1.8 degrees warmer than a century ago. Scientists have also connected man-made climate change to deadly heat waves, droughts and flood-inducing downpours.

Gore explored global warming in his 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Despite Clinton’s promotion of energy policies aimed at lessening climate change, there has not always been unanimity among her campaign aides about how strong that support should be. A message released Tuesday by WikiLeaks from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta‘s hacked email account shows some aides were not totally on board with Clinton’s promise in June 2015 to raise fees on companies involved in oil exploration and fossil fuel production on federal land.

Clinton had broached the idea at her campaign launch in June 2015, but raising energy royalties could be politically explosive in western states where oil and gas firms have spent billions of dollars on extracting fuels.

In July 2015, campaign speechwriting director Dan Schwerin told Podesta in an email that “I think we’re going to have to make peace with our fossil fuels royalties, since she’s already promised that.”

On July 15, 2015, Clinton said she wanted to raise fees and phase out fuel extraction operating on public lands, but warned it could not be done quickly.

The leaked emails also show a discussion on how Clinton could show her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Clinton originally said she shouldn’t take a position on the issue, because she didn’t want to interfere with the Obama administration as it considered whether to approve the project.

By August 2015, Clinton had decided to oppose it and the campaign discussed how to proceed. Wrote Schwerin on August 7, 2015: “We are trying to find a good way to leak her opposition to the pipeline without her having to actually say it and give up her principled stand about not second-guessing the president in public.”

Other emails in September 2015 show a discussion about making her position known in an op-ed column. But Fallon weighed in with concerns that such a move would look like “cynical political maneuvering,” and suggested letting the information leak out after a meeting with labor leaders.

Clinton announced her opposition during a town hall in Iowa later that month, in response to a question from the audience.

Republish with permission of the Associated Press.

Despite harsh reviews, Donald Trump resists new debate approach

Unmoved by harsh debate reviews, a defiant Donald Trump renewed his attacks against a former Miss Universe winner on Wednesday, showing no sign of making big changes to his message or debate preparation before his second face-off with Hillary Clinton. The outspoken Republican nominee instead pressed ahead with an aggressive strategy focused on speaking directly to his white, working-class loyalists across the Midwest.

Democrat Clinton, meanwhile, pushed to improve her standing among younger voters with the help of the president, Sen. Bernie Sanders and other key allies, 48 hours after a debate performance that seemed to spark badly needed enthusiasm.

Those closest to Trump insisted the Republican presidential nominee was satisfied with Monday night’s debate, even as prominent voices within his own party called for more serious preparation next time following an opening confrontation marked by missed opportunities and missteps.

“Why would we change if we won the debate?” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a key Trump ally and traveling partner this week, told The Associated Press.

The next debate is 11 days away.

While his plan forward is far from set, Trump is not planning to participate in any mock debates, although he is likely to incorporate what one person described as “tweaks” to his strategy.

Specifically, Trump is likely to spend more time working on specific answers and sharpening his attacks after spending much of the first meeting on defense, said that person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal campaign strategy.

That may not be enough to satisfy concerned Republicans.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Trump should have been better prepared and he recommended that the candidate work harder with skilled coaches. He said, “What you need is people who are professional debaters.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said simply, “The only advice I could give him, and take it for what it’s worth: Prepare better.”

The New York businessman was on the defensive throughout the debate, particularly when Clinton highlighted his description of a former Miss Universe winner as “Miss Piggy” because she had gained weight.

Trump condemned former Miss Universe Alicia Machado again Wednesday night in an interview on Fox News, suggesting he was trying to save her job by shaming her into losing weight in the late 1990s. He also cited unsubstantiated reports that she threatened a Venezuelan judge more than a decade ago.

Machado says Trump humiliated her by inviting reporters to her gym sessions and calling her “Miss Piggy.”

“I helped somebody and this is what you get for helping somebody,” Trump told Fox on Wednesday.

Throughout his outsider presidential bid, Trump has refused to deviate from a strategy hinged on an ambitious travel schedule packed with massive rallies that draw overwhelmingly white crowds.

Clinton, meanwhile, sought Wednesday to parlay her widely praised debate performance into stronger support from women, young Americans and other critical voter groups. She got help from her party’s biggest stars.

President Barack Obama hammered the billionaire over his business practices and treatment of women in an interview aired on Steve Harvey’s radio show, which is particularly popular among black audiences. The Democratic president said his own legacy was “on the ballot” in November. He also suggested Clinton wasn’t getting enough credit, possibly because she’s a woman.

And his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, accused Trump of trying to undermine her husband’s presidency for years by questioning his birthplace. Trump publicly admitted the president was born in America for the first time earlier in the month after spending years raising questions about the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate.

“Trust me, a candidate is not going to suddenly change” once in office, Mrs. Obama said at a rally for Clinton in Pennsylvania.

Hoping to broaden her appeal among “millennials,” Clinton joined her primary rival, Vermont Sen. Sanders, on the trail for the first time since they held a “unity” rally in July in an attempt to heal divisions within the Democratic Party. Since then, Clinton has struggled to win over young Americans who formed a critical pillar of the coalition that twice elected Obama.

Flanked by campaign signs promoting Clinton’s college affordability proposal, Sanders and Clinton touted a plan they developed to make college debt-free for millions of students from middle-class and low-income families.

“None of this will happen if you don’t turn out and vote,” Clinton said at the University of New Hampshire, after a quick hug with Sanders. He declared, “It is imperative that we elect Hillary Clinton as our next president.”

Trump struggled to attack Clinton consistently on the debate stage Monday night, but he lashed out at her aggressively Wednesday in campaign stops in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Among other charges, he mocked her lighter campaign schedule.

The Democrat conceded during the debate that she had taken some time away from the campaign trail to prepare for their first debate.

“You see all the days off that Hillary takes? Day off, day off, day off,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

He added a swipe at his opponent’s recent bout with pneumonia, which nearly caused her to collapse. “All those days off and then she can’t even make it to her car, isn’t it tough?”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Jill Stein tells Tampa: ‘This is the perfect storm for a voter revolt’

Dr. Jill Stein, the 66-year-old Green Party presidential candidate, brought her campaign to Tampa Wednesday night, where she spoke to a packed house in the second floor ballroom of the Cuban Club in Ybor City.

Stein is currently averaging around 2.5 percent in the national polls, not that dissimilar to the 2.7 percent Ralph Nader ultimately earned in 2000. More than one political observer has noted the similar circumstances of that election and this one — comparing the lackluster enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton among some Democrats to the sentiments towards Al Gore back at the turn of the century, which some contend is why George W. Bush ended up getting more votes in Florida, which decided the 2000 election.

Progressives say they know a Donald Trump presidency would be disastrous, but that’s not stopping about 10 percent of the public — adding in Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s polling numbers — to look beyond the major party candidates when considering their vote for president.

“I would feel terrible if Trump gets elected, but I’ll also feel terrible if Hillary gets elected,” Stein told reporters about an hour before she addressed the Cuban Club crowd. “Hillary actually has a track record. Donald Trump wants to bar Muslims from entering the country, but Hillary Clinton has been busy bombing Muslims.”

Stein said Clinton’s hawkish beliefs helped lead the country to intervene in Libya in 2011, and says that her call for a no-fly zone in Syria to contend with that crisis is tantamount to calling for going to war with Russia. “This is the Cuban missile crisis on steroids, but in reverse,” she charged.

More than a third of voters 18 to 29 said in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll they would vote for either Johnson or Stein. Johnson had the support of 26 percent of those voters, and Stein had 10 percent.

Much of Stein’s appeal is geared towards those millennials — as are her policies, such as her $1.3 trillion bailout plan to eliminate all student debt, which she’d pay for with a 0.5 percent Wall Street financial transactions tax. She calls it the biggest stimulus package imaginable “We came up with $16 trillion to bail out the crooks on Wall Street who crashed the economy. It’s about time to bail out the students who are the way forward, the engine of the new economy for the 21st century.”

Stein is the favorite of many Bernie Sanders supporters, but Bernie is trying to persuade them to support the Democratic nominee. Campaigning with Clinton at the University of New Hampshire Wednesday, the Vermont senator told the student-heavy audience that, “All of you know this is a very tight election and that New Hampshire could decide the outcome. So I am asking you here today not only to vote for Secretary Clinton, but to work to get your uncles and your aunts and to get your friends to vote.”

But Stein says those Bernie supporters need to give her candidacy a shot.

“There is not a new entitlement for big politicians called owning our votes,” Stein said in support of voting for a third-party candidate like herself. “They have to earn our votes, they don’t own them, they have not earned our votes. So I think we want to put the horse before the cart, not the other way around. Let’s empower and inform the American voter to decide which way they want to go, instead of trying to shut off discussion before it’s even been opened. Over 70 percent of voters have no idea about my campaign. They don’t know who I am or what I stand for. I think we owe it to voters to lead the way forward rather than the party operatives and the political pundits who are telling us that they want one candidate over another and the rest of us better just shut up and go home.”

At Wednesday night’s event, Stein was preceded by a number of local speakers discussing a multitude of issues, including Susan Glickman urging the crowd to vote against Amendment One, Donna Davis from Black Lives Matter, Kelly Benjamin with the Fight for $15 movement, and Michelle Cookson from Sunshine Citizens informing the audience about why her group is so strongly opposed to the proposed Tampa Bay Express project.

Stein talks about her “Green New Deal” — an emergency jobs program she says cures the crisis of the part-time, minimum wage economy by focusing on climate change. She says it would require a mobilization similar to going to war, but says it’s worth it to save Florida, because the Sunshine State is “in the target hairs” of the global warming problem.

“You have to err on the safe side and ensure that this magnificent state and the magnificent ecosystem and what you have in your economy is not only alive, but needs to be thriving,” she said.

And Stein said “we need to go back to the drawing board” when it comes to dealing with companies like Mosaic, after the phosphate giant failed to disclose to their neighbors that 215 million gallons of contaminated water had fallen into a sinkhole at their phosphate plant in Mulberry, getting into the Florida aquifer, a source of fresh water for much of the state.

“This is not negotiable. Florida needs a great water supply,” Stein says. “We need a system that puts people first, ahead of profits. We need industries that are sustainable. We can have profits, but profits should not take place of our survival, and Florida’s survival not only as a viable economy, but just as a place that has drinking water, and an ecosystem.”

Stein was at Hofstra University on Long Island on Monday night, the site of the first presidential debate, before escorted off the college campus because of a lack of proper credentials. She said the lackluster discussion of war was why she should have been on that stage.

“Fifty-four percent of our discretionary national budget is going into these wars and this dangerous and bloated military. Almost half your income taxes are paying for it, and what do we have to show for it?” she asked. “Failed states, mass refugee migration and terrorist threats. So there’s another way forward in terms of national security and international peace. We call for a weapons embargo as well as a freeze on the funding of the bank accounts of those countries that are continuing to fund terrorist enterprises around the world, above all the Saudis. … They are the ones bankrolling all of this, so we and our allies have enabled this mess. We can shut it down peacefully, because by bombing it, we create the next wave of terrorism and they keep getting worse, they’re not getting better. So there’s a different way forward.”

Stein continues her Florida campaign tour Thursday. She’ll appear at the Robert L. Taylor Community Center in Sarasota at noon, and at the Flamboyant Banquet Hall at Acacia’s El Centro Borinqueno in Orlando at 6 p.m. 

 

 

 

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump battle fiercely over taxes, race, terror

In a combative opening debate, Hillary Clinton emphatically denounced Donald Trump Monday night for keeping his personal tax returns and business dealings secret from voters and peddling a “racist lie” about President Barack Obama. Businessman Trump repeatedly cast Clinton as a “typical politician” as he sought to capitalize on Americans’ frustration with Washington.

Locked in an exceedingly close White House race, the presidential rivals tangled for 90-minutes over their vastly different visions for the nation’s future. Clinton called for lowering taxes for the middle class, while Trump focused more on renegotiating trade deals that he said have caused companies to move jobs out of the U.S. The Republican backed the controversial “stop-and-frisk policing” tactic as a way to bring down crime, while the Democrat said the policy was unconstitutional and ineffective.

The debate was heated from the start, with Trump frequently trying to interrupt Clinton and speaking over her answers. Clinton was more measured and restrained, but also needled the sometimes-thin-skinned Trump over his business record and wealth.

“There’s something he’s hiding,” she declared, scoffing at his repeated contention that he won’t release his tax returns because he is being audited.

Trump aggressively tried to turn the transparency questions around on Clinton, who has struggled to overcome voters’ concerns about her honestly and trustworthiness. He said he would release his tax information when she produces more than 30,000 emails that were deleted from the personal internet server she used as secretary of state.

Tax experts have said there is no reason the businessman cannot make his records public during an audit.

Clinton was contrite in addressing her controversial email use, saying simply that it was a “mistake”. She notably did not fall back on many of the excuses she has often used for failing to use a government email during her four years as secretary of state.

“If I had to do it over again, I would obviously do it differently,” she said.

The televised face-off was the most anticipated moment in an election campaign that has been both historic and unpredictable. Both sides expected a record-setting audience for the showdown at Hofstra University in suburban New York, reflecting the intense national interest in the race to become America’s 45th president.

The candidates sparred over trade, taxes and how to bring good-paying jobs back to the United States.

Clinton said her Republican rival was promoting a “Trumped-up” version of trickle-down economics — a philosophy focused on tax cuts for the wealthy. She called for increasing the federal minimum wage, spending more on infrastructure projects and guaranteeing equal pay for women.

Trump panned policies that he said have led to American jobs being moved overseas, in part because of international trade agreements that Clinton has supported. He pushed Clinton aggressively on her past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact while she was serving in the Obama administration. She’s since said she opposes the sweeping deal in its final form.

“You called it the gold standard of trade deals,” Trump said. “If you did win, you would approve that.”

Disputing his version of events, Clinton said, “I know you live in your reality.”

Trump struggled to answer repeated questions about why he only recently acknowledged that Barack Obama was born in the United States. For years, Trump has been the chief promoter of questions falsely suggesting the president was born outside of America.

“He has really started his political activity on this racist lie,” Clinton charged.

Clinton aides spent the days leading up to the debate appealing for the media and voters to hold Trump to a higher standard than they believe he has faced for much of the campaign. Their concern was that if the sometimes-bombastic Trump managed to keep his cool onstage, he’d be rewarded — even if he failed to flesh out policy specifics or didn’t tell the truth about his record and past statements.

Trump’s campaign has said the Clinton camp’s concerns reflected worries about her debating skills.

The centerpiece of Trump’s campaign has been a push for restrictive immigration measures, including a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and an early proposal to temporarily bar foreign Muslims from coming to the U.S. But he’s been less detailed about other ideas, including his plan for stamping out the Islamic State group in the Middle East.

Clinton, a former senator and secretary of state, is banking on voters seeing her as a steady hand who can build on the record of President Obama, whose popularity is rising as he winds down his second term in office. She’s called for expanding Obama’s executive orders if Congress won’t pass legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration system and for broader gun control measures. Overseas, she’s called for a no-fly zone in Syria but has vowed to keep the military out of a large-scale ground war to defeat the Islamic State group.

For Clinton, victory in November largely hinges on rallying the same young and diverse coalition that elected Obama but has yet to fully embrace her.

Trump has tapped into deep anxieties among some Americans, particularly white, working-class voters who feel left behind in a changing economy and diversifying nation. While the real estate mogul lacks the experience Americans have traditionally sought in a commander in chief, he’s banking on frustration with career politicians and disdain for Clinton to push him over the top on Election Day.

Republish with the permission of the Associated Press.

Gold cards and red hats: A Trumpian approach to fundraising

Donald Trump is underwriting his presidential bid by selling the Donald Trump lifestyle — and campaign finance records show it is working.

For the low price of $25, you can snag a Trump Gold Card emblazoned with your name or join a campaign “Board of Directors” that comes with a personalized certificate. For $30, grab one of Trump’s signature red hats — billed as “the most popular product in America.” Supporters can elevate themselves to “big league” by ponying up $184 for a signed, “now out of print” copy of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal.”

There’s a catch to some of these merchandising claims. There is no evidence the board of directors exists. “The Art of the Deal” is still in print, available for $9.34 in paperback. And the new campaign edition of the book is signed by an autopen, not Trump, as noted in the solicitation’s fine print.

Regardless, the appeals have paid off.

Through the end of July, people giving $200 or less made up about half of his campaign funds, according to fundraising reports through July. For Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, those small gifts accounted for about 19 percent.

The two candidates each claim over 2 million donors, but Trump has been fundraising in earnest for only about three months, compared to Clinton’s 17-month operation. Both are expected to report the details of their August fundraising to federal regulators on Tuesday.

“His brand appeals to quite a number of people,” said John Thompson, digital fundraising director for Ted Cruz‘s Republican presidential campaign. “It’s smart for him to use it for fundraising. The celebrity factor builds a natural donor community on its own, without him having to do too much.”

Hyperbolic campaign marketing is a natural fit for Trump, who has puffed up the value of what he sold throughout his business career. At times, Trump has offered golf memberships or Trump University seminars at a “discount” from an imaginary, inflated price; and he has declared condo projects close to selling out when in reality they were struggling.

“You want to say it in the most positive way possible,” Trump once told attorneys who asked him whether he had ever lied about his properties to sell them. “I’m no different from a politician running for office.”

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that his campaign has adopted that same approach, outspending Clinton on campaign merchandise while running a brisk retail operation that helps him raise the money for, among other things, crucial get-out-the-vote efforts and advertising to spread his message.

Trump’s appeals for smaller contributions are reminiscent of Bernie Sanders, whose signature line in the Democratic primary this year was that his campaign was paid for by $27 donations.

Sanders’ digital fundraiser, Michael Whitney, questioned whether Trump’s small donor haul would continue since it does not appear the campaign has done much to get email addresses that could be turned into fresh batches of new potential donors.

“This feels more like a battering ram than a well-thought-out digital program,” Whitney said.

One of Trump’s most frequent fundraising offers has been a “gold card” that identifies the holder as an Executive Member for a “one-time induction fee.”

“In the past, I have asked supporters for a one-time induction fee of $100. But because of your outstanding generosity to date, I am only asking you to make a $35 contribution,” the email asks.

The Associated Press found no evidence of an online solicitation in which the card was sold for the undiscounted price of $100.

The gold card offer is reminiscent of a Trump Visa card that became available in 2004. In a press release for it, Trump pitched it as “the best deal” and warned declining it “could get you fired.”

Trump also seeks to make would-be donors feel like part of the campaign. Several emails have sought “campaign advice,” asked for help with debate preparation and even offered people the chance to join a campaign “board of directors.”

There’s no evidence such a board exists, and the campaign did not respond to questions about it.

But the gold card and executive board membership gimmicks are getting results, said Tom Sather, senior director of research at the email data solutions firm Return Path. The firm measures emails much the way Nielsen measures television viewership, by extrapolating from a large panel of study participants.

Emails from the Trump campaign and Trump joint committees with the Republican Party have an average open rate of 11 percent, Sather said. The 10 gold card-related emails had a far higher open rate of 18 percent, and executive board emails had an open rate of 19 percent, he said.

“These kinds of offers intrigue people and make them feel exclusive and special,” he said.

Ever the marketer, Trump has also dominated the campaign swag front.

In April, May and June, Trump spent about $3 million on merchandise that’s then sold to donors, an AP review of campaign finance reports found. Clinton’s operation spent about $2 million in the same time period.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

David Jolly, Charlie Crist clash in electric debate in St. Petersburg

David Jolly and Charlie Crist went at each other hard for close to an hour in their first debate for Florida’s 13th Congressional District race at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg Monday night.

It was good theater, and for those observing the event that was broadcast live on WTSP-10 News, the differences in the candidate’s positions were relatively stark and distinct.

Although the district is supposedly solidly Democratic after redistricting, Jolly would appear to be in fairly decent shape some seven weeks before Election Day. Although he is being out-fundraised, a St. Pete Polls survey released Monday (which did not include cellphones) had Jolly narrowly leading Crist, 46 percent to 43 percent. Jolly also polled better regarding favorability rankings with a 54/25 percent favorable to unfavorable rating. Crist was listed at 45/45.

The candidates clashed throughout the evening, with some of the fiercest sparks emanating from Crist’s decision to talk about the environmental crisis that has led the city of St. Petersburg to release 151 million gallons of sewage into the streets, as well as Boca Ciega Bay and Tampa Bay.

“What I don’t understand, is why our member of Congress, our representative of Pinellas County, the epicenter of this problem, isn’t advocating day after day after day for federal emergency help to get this cleaned up,” Crist said. “Our country has done this for Flint (Michigan). Why can’t we do it for Pinellas County?”

Jolly responded by getting in a dig in at St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, exciting the GOP partisans in the hall.

“Because the mayor who’s endorsed you who oversaw this catastrophe did not ask for it,” Jolly responded, getting a loud round of applause.

“If you have to be asked for help while the people in your district are suffering, something’s wrong,” Crist replied, getting almost as loud a reaction.

Jolly again blamed Kriseman for not standing up and said he’d be “happy” to work for the county as he has done for other cities in the district.

“Then why haven’t you done it?” Crist interrupted, keeping his foot on the gas. “Do you need an invitation to serve?” which generated the loudest cheer in the exchange. Crist said if he were in Congress, he’d at least be talking about the issue.

There were several other sharp conflicts throughout the evening, which actually began on the second question when co-moderator Mark Rivera asked the candidates were OK with permitting a woman infected with the Zika virus obtain an abortion.

Jolly, who is pro-life, said that he did believe in exceptions for abortion when it came to a woman’s health situation. After Crist had said he was proudly pro-choice, Jolly pounced.

“You were pro-choice, then you were pro-life, then you were pro-choice,” the Indian Shores Republican said. “As a Republican, when you had a chance to serve when you were in office you told the AP in 2009 that you would have supported an abortion ban in the state of Florida. It was only after you switched parties that you switched your position. This was not a matter of conviction for you; it was for political convenience.”

Both candidates came in well prepared.

Crist was more vulnerable, having switched political parties beginning in 2010, when he left the GOP to become an independent while running for the U.S. Senate seat, before making the complete switch to the Democratic Party in late 2012. But he took the offensive in explanation his ideological wanderlust, saying, “it’s not a sin.”

“If the values of the party at the time don’t comport with how you were raised by your family, I think you have a duty to yourself and your God, to do what you think is right, and represent the principals and values that you share, those of decency, doing unto others, doing what’s right for the people that you want to serve, and that’s why I’m a Democrat today and I’m proud of it,” Crist said, eliciting a hearty cheer from the audience.

Crist inadvertently provided the biggest laughs of the evening when he engaged with Jolly about how each candidate found themselves running in the CD 13 contest. Jolly painted his move as noble, and not political.

“Mr. Crist got into this race because the lines have changed,” he said. “I got into this race despite the fact that the lines had changed.”

Crist said he got into the contest only after the lines had changed because the new district included where he lived in downtown St. Pete.

Jolly fired back, “You bought a house in the district in St. Pete Beach that you later sold.”

Not true, Crist insisted. “My wife bought that house,” he said, which while factually accurate, didn’t pass the smell test with the crowd.

When it came for the time for the candidates to ask each other a question, Crist attempted to play the statesman, declining to offer a gotcha question to his Republican rival.

Jolly wasn’t about to let the opportunity go to waste.

Citing a Sarasota-Herald Tribune story, Jolly referred to Crist’s former life when he was known as being tough on crime “Chain-Gang Charlie” of the mid-1990s, when being tough on crime was de rigueur for conservative lawmakers. Jolly went into extensive detail about a Crist visit to Alabama, where he stood over black prisoners to say such a program would be good for Florida.

Crist appeared mortified by the story and chastised Jolly for getting racial.

“I’m embarrassed you’d say that about a fellow Floridian,” Crist said.

When each candidate was asked where they differed from their political party, Crist mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which does place him opposite Barack Obama and the platform of the Democratic National Committee, but safely with the growing mainstream of Democrats who oppose it, like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Jolly went a little loftier, saying that much of his political persona is a challenge to party leadership on issues like marriage equality, climate science, and his STOP Act, which would ban federal officeholders from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

“Look, in three years I’ve tried to change politics at great political risk,” he said. “And I think I continue to put Pinellas over Washington politics.”

Crist said at one point that Jolly lobbied for the privatization of Social Security, a charge the former D.C. lobbyist denied. “Well, you registered to lobby for it,” Crist said. Jolly did say Crist had endorsed his legislation to end taxation of Social Security.

Jolly showed off his preparation when he attempted to bust Crist regarding his support for raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour. He said Crist opposed the proposal when he served as a board member of Enterprise Florida in 2004 (that’s when Floridians voted to raise the minimum wage as a constitutional amendment).

To his credit, co-moderator Adam Smith took 45 minutes before asking whether Jolly had finally “gotten there” yet on whether or not he’ll support his party’s standard-bearer in November, Donald Trump.

“I’m not there with Mr. Trump,” Jolly said, his stock answer when asked the question.

After Smith had challenged him, Jolly said he wasn’t sure he ever would get there in November.

Crist had no such moral compunction when speaking affirmatively for Hillary Clinton, though he did elicit giggles when he said, “I believe that she is steady. I believe that she is strong. I believe that she is honest.”

Among those seen in the crowd were former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, SD 19 Democratic candidate Augie Ribeiro, and St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse.

Bill Rufty: Diverse Florida electorate crucial in presidential election

RuftyIf you are a presidential candidate, you can’t come to Florida with a single, cookie-cutter campaign and speak to issues based on national surveys.

Florida is one of the most diverse and perhaps, with 29 electoral votes, the most crucial swing state in the presidential election, University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus told a large audience Thursday evening.

MacManus was the leadoff speaker for the new season of the Florida Lecture Series hosted by the Lawton M. Chiles Center for Florida History at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.

Distinguished professor of public administration and political science at USF, MacManus is considered one of the pre-eminent scholars and commentators on Florida and national politics.

Two major issues rise to the top among Florida voters, MacManus said: the economy and personal safety, and varies in concern among the state’s diverse electorate.

The economy is a great concern for the blue collar and middle class electorate. Of almost the same strength in polls is what MacManus lists as “personal safety,” which includes terrorism in the United States and safety from home-grown violence. Younger voters are more concerned with personal safety. College-age women, for example, are concerned with rape and assault, she said.

Florida’s role is pivotal in the national election, and its swing state status is very tight. In the last three elections — 2010, 2012 and 2014 — gubernatorial and presidential, the margin of victory for the winning party has been 1 percent or less she said.

Late Thursday, a new poll had Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump statistically tied at 47 percent of the electorate with the remaining 6 percent third party voters or undecided.

Because of the closeness, both parties must look at and attract the many layers of diversity in gender, ethnicity, and age.

“Twenty-four percent [of Florida voters] — one-fourth of the electorate — are neither Republican nor Democrat,” she said. And are most likely to be younger.

And although more women traditionally are registered and go to the polls more than men across the political spectrum, the difference is higher for Democrats.

“All I had to do to do was look at the fact that there are 18 percent more females than males among Democrats and know that Bernie Sanders would not win [the Florida Primary].”

There is an even larger group of Hispanic voters now than four years ago, she said, adding that they can’t be viewed as a solid bloc.

“Whenever I talk to people outside the state they all assume every Hispanic is Cuban. The greatest change in the voting population in the last four years has been the influx of Puerto Rican voters,” she said. “It is the second-highest Hispanic voting bloc to Cuban and growing mainly along the I-4 corridor.”

Pollsters from outside the state haven’t learned this yet and often don’t see the difference when conducting their surveys. MacManus said, alluding to the fact that traditionally, Cuban voters in the past have voted Republican while Puerto Ricans primarily vote for the Democratic candidates.

Florida is not only the home base for a diverse population of Hispanic communities, but black voters as well.

“There are Haitians, Jamaicans, and Dominicans mostly in South Florida and their interests are decidedly different from African-American voters,” she said.

“Why does this matter? With a state like Florida and a 1 percent difference [in the victory margin], every slice of demographic is important. You ignore demographics, and you have a potential to lose,” MacManus said.

That is particularly true of the demographics of age, she said. The Greatest Generation — those who remember World War II and Franklin Roosevelt — are 89 years old or over and are 2 percent of the electorate. The Silent Generation includes voters 71 to 88, making up 17 percent of the electorate. Baby Boomers, 52-70, account for 34 percent and are the children of the 1960s and ’70s, with a different cultural reference. They are followed by the Gen X group, aged 36-51, at 23 percent; and the Millennials, 18-35 — whose points of reference are Afghanistan, 9/11, and social media — making up 24 percent of Florida voters.

Millennials are likely to have strongly supported Sanders on the Democratic side and Marco Rubio on the Republican side.

“If you are older, you likely favor one party or the other,” MacManus said, “younger, you are likely NPA [no party affiliation].”

It is the younger generations of Gen Xers and Millennials, which currently make up 47 percent of the electorate in Florida, who will make the changes in future elections.

Asked about the future of the country by an audience member who said he was not optimistic about it, MacManus said she was very optimistic because of the younger generation.

“I frequently ask my students at the end of the semester how many feel they want to go into politics,” she said. “In the last four years, I have seen an increased number raising their hands. And it is not for president or senator. It is the local school board or the Legislature. I find that very encouraging.”

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton turn to battleground states in the South

With Labor Day behind them, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are pushing ahead in top presidential battlegrounds in the South.

Trump, the Republican nominee, is set to campaign in Virginia and North Carolina on Tuesday, two critical states in his path to the presidency. Clinton, the Democrat, is campaigning in Florida in search of an advantage in the nation’s largest swing state. A Clinton victory in Florida would make it virtually impossible for Trump to overcome her advantage in the race for 270 electoral votes.

The day before in swing state Ohio, Trump softened his stance on immigration while Clinton blasted Russia for suspected tampering in the U.S. electoral process.

In a rare news conference aboard her new campaign plane, Clinton said she is concerned about “credible reports about Russian government interference in our elections.”

“We are going to have to take those threats and attacks seriously,” Clinton told reporters traveling with her from Ohio to Illinois.

Clinton’s comments follow reports that the Russian government may have been involved in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails just days before the party’s national convention. The emails, later revealed by WikiLeaks, showed some DNC officials favoring Clinton over her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders — who has since endorsed Clinton for president.

She said Russian President Vladimir Putin appears “quite satisfied with himself” and said Trump “has generally parroted what is a Putin-Kremlin line.”

Meanwhile, Trump extended a rare invitation to journalists to accompany him on his private plane from Cleveland to Youngstown, Ohio. The billionaire businessman appeared to shy away from his hard-line vow to block “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Any immigrants who want full citizenship must return to their countries of origin and get in line, he told reporters — but he would not rule out a pathway to legal status for the millions living in the U.S. illegally, as he did in a long-awaited policy speech last week.

“We’re going to make that decision into the future,” Trump said.

Clinton powered through a coughing fit at a Labor Day festival at a Cleveland park, sharply criticizing Trump’s recent trip to Mexico as “an embarrassing international incident.” Unwilling to allow Trump to modify his immigration stances, she said his address later that night in Arizona amounted to a “doubling down on his absurd plan to send a deportation force to round up 16 million people.”

“He can try to fool voters into thinking somehow he’s not as harsh and inhumane as he seems, but it’s too late,” Clinton said.

The former secretary of state flatly said “No,” when asked in an ABC News interview whether she’d be willing to accept the Mexican president’s invitation to visit the country, as Trump did last week.

“I’m going to continue to focus on what we’re doing to create jobs here at home,” Clinton said.

Earlier in the day, Trump attacked Clinton’s energy level, noting she hasn’t followed his aggressive traveling schedule and questioning whether she had the stamina to help bring jobs back to America.

“She doesn’t have the energy to bring ’em back. You need energy, man,” Trump told reporters.

He added, “She didn’t have the energy to go to Louisiana. And she didn’t have the energy to go to Mexico.”

Clinton’s 25-minute question-and-answer session was her first extensive availability with reporters since early December. Beyond Russia, she answered questions about the ongoing controversy surrounding her use of a private email server while secretary of state, which Trump has used to cast doubt over her ability to protect classified information.

“I take classification seriously,” she said.

While Labor Day has traditionally been the kickoff to the fall campaign, both Clinton and Trump have been locked in an intense back-and-forth throughout the summer.

The start of full-fledged campaigning opens a pivotal month, culminating in the first presidential debate Sept. 26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Polls show Trump trailing Clinton in a series of must-win battleground states, meaning the debates could be his best chance at reorienting the race.

Trump told reporters he does plan to take part in all three presidential debates, joking that only a “hurricane” or “natural disaster” would prevent him from attending.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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