Bernie Sanders Archives - Page 5 of 61 - Florida Politics

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.

Scarce targets curb Dem hopes for House gains, despite Donald Trump

In a taste of ads to come, House Democrats have run national TV spots in which actors recount Donald Trump‘s derogatory remarks about immigrants, women and veterans and one asks, “How can Republican members of Congress support that?”

The commercials, by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, underscore the party’s hopes for an Election Day bumper crop of new House seats, fueled by the GOP presidential candidate’s disparaging verbal assaults and poor showing in most polls.

Outnumbered by Republicans 247-188 – and with two vacancies in districts they’re certain to win – Democrats seem likely to bolster their ranks in November. Yet gaining the 30 seats needed to capture a House majority appears elusive.

DAUNTING FIGURES

Of the House’s 435 seats, only around 40 from California to Maine seem clearly up for grabs, though that could change.

Redistricting, along with Democrats’ tendency to be concentrated in urban and coastal areas, has given both parties’ incumbents such sturdy protection that on Election Day 2014, just 13 of 388 lawmakers seeking re-election lost. Of the 435 House members elected, 377 won by a decisive 10 percentage points or more or were unopposed.

Democrats would have to sweep 35 of the 40 competitive contests and lose only five for a 30-seat pickup, a significant challenge. In the 17 presidential election years since World War II, a party has gained 30 House seats just three times, most recently in 1980.

Democrats’ predictions have been tempered. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., who heads House Democrats’ campaign committee, says, “Democrats are on offense and we’ll pick up seats.”

OTHER HURDLES

Democrats failed to recruit strong candidates in districts where they might have competed.

The Democratic challenger against well-financed freshman Rep. Tom MacArthur in central New Jersey, Frederick LaVergne, has reported $600 cash on hand. The party has had problems fielding candidates in the Philadelphia suburbs, eastern Ohio, central Illinois and west of Detroit.

“They haven’t put seats in play they needed to put in play,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, a top member of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Democrats want to pry Republicans out of suburban districts where TV advertising is often expensive, especially with a competitive presidential or Senate race in the state. A week of commercials can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in Denver; Orlando, Florida; and Las Vegas, and can be prohibitively expensive for House candidates in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

In addition, Democrats seem certain to lose a newly redrawn district in north Florida and face challenges keeping seats around Omaha, Nebraska; Sacramento and California’s central coast; and Florida’s Palm Beach.

GOP DANGER SIGNS

Republicans hold about three in four battleground House seats, leaving them more at risk. Nevada, Maine and Minnesota are places where the GOP faces tough defensive fights.

Thanks to strong off-year elections in 2010 and 2014, the GOP’s 247 seats are its high-water mark since Herbert Hoover’s presidency 86 years ago. The party holds districts in New York, New Hampshire and Iowa that it will struggle to retain this presidential election year, when Democratic turnout should increase.

While 26 House Republicans were elected in 2014 in districts that backed President Barack Obama in 2012, just five Democrats serve in districts carried by 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

That means more Republicans are at a disadvantage. Among them, Rep. Robert Dold is clinging to a Chicago-area district that gave Obama 58 percent of its vote, more than in any other Republican-held seat.

TRUMP FACTOR

Trump is unpopular among women, minorities and college-educated voters. This spells trouble for Republicans representing suburbs and districts with many Hispanic voters, and many candidates have criticized his remarks, though few have abandoned him outright.

Freshman GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo is fighting to survive in a South Florida district that is two-thirds Hispanic. He’s said he won’t support Trump and has run a Spanish-language radio ad in which former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says, “I know Carlos and I know he will continue representing us with integrity in Washington.”

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, whose suburban Denver district is one-fifth Hispanic, says of Trump in one spot, “Honestly, I don’t care for him much.”

Trump’s problems with crucial voters and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton‘s modest but distinct advantage in most polls have emboldened Democrats to hunt for additional GOP seats.

They’ve already spent against conservative Rep. Scott Garrett in New Jersey suburbs of New York City and have hopes of grabbing seats around Minneapolis, Orlando and central New York. They envision benefiting from diminished voter turnout by Republican moderates appalled at Trump and conservatives who distrust him.

“Our biggest concern is turnout,” but it’s also a problem for Democrats, said Mike Shields, top aide for the Congressional Leadership Fund and the American Action Network, which back House GOP candidates.

COUNTER-CURRENTS

Republicans argue that Clinton poses problems, too. Polls find much dislike for her, too, and Republicans are hoping for lower turnout by young liberals who preferred Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s Democratic presidential rival, and by blacks no longer drawn to vote by Obama.

Should Trump’s defeat appear inevitable, House Republicans could cast themselves as a brake on a Clinton administration. So far they’ve used that sparingly.

One GOP fundraising email signed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says, “I worry about what will happen if Hillary Clinton is elected president.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

With more than 173,000 votes, Senate hopeful Pam Keith says she feels like a winner

Although Pam Keith was always in the Senate race to win it, she won’t deny the sense of satisfaction she felt Wednesday, even though she came up well short of defeating Patrick Murphy for the Democratic nomination.

Keith captured more than 173,000 votes in the Florida Democratic Primary, finishing less than 2.5 percent behind Alan Grayson for third place in the Democratic Senate race. The 33-year-old Murphy captured 59 percent of the vote. Grayson finished in second place with just under 18 percent, and Keith, the former Navy JAG officer and Miami-based attorney, came in third with 15.4 percent. And she did that while barely raising $250,000 and airing no television ads.

“I think I conducted myself with grace, and I ran a positive campaign,” said Keith in a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon. “I didn’t spend my time smearing my opponents, and so I know I didn’t win, but I still feel like a winner. Certainly, the feedback I’ve gotten back today has been nothing but positive and encouraging.”

And unlike Grayson, Keith has already endorsed Murphy (on her Facebook page) in his race against Marco Rubio in the general election. “My goal is to make sure that we take control of the Senate and retain the White House, and if I can be helpful, I will be,” she said.

During the heat of the campaign, though, Keith was hardly so sanguine about Murphy, the Democratic Party’s establishment choice from early in 2015. She was particularly piqued when he would not submit to participating in a single debate this summer, despite several media organizations’ attempts to do so. After Grayson’s ex-wife accused the Orlando congressman of domestic abuse, Murphy unilaterally declared he would not debate him, while barely acknowledging he also was blowing off Keith.

“I think that was very wrongheaded,” she said of Murphy’s decision. “What Patrick did was basically take a default position that he had so much of a lead in fundraising and visibility, that the best move for him was to just make sure that nobody else could get any visibility or oxygen, and he would win by default,” she recounts. “And I think that a lot of people who ended up voting for him, voted for him because they didn’t even know that they had another choice, or given the opportunity to see that they had a choice.

“But the name of the game of politics is winning, and his strategy worked, so you can’t fault him for doing what he thinks you need to do to win. I just think that’s not in the interest of voters.”

Perhaps Keith’s biggest moment during her quixotic campaign occurred a few weeks ago, when the Miami Herald editorial board endorsed her for the Democratic nomination, choosing her over Murphy and Grayson. Keith called that unexpected decision “a validation” of her candidacy. “It’s such a respected publication,” she said. “They didn’t do the ‘hey, this is the front-runner thing, so the front-runner gets our endorsement.’ They asked tough questions, and they based their decision on the merits of the answers given by the candidates.”

But for every positive moment like garnering the Herald’s endorsement, Keith continued to feel a lack of respect that comes in part from never having held public office. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel never invited her in for an endorsement interview, she says. Nor did the AFL-CIO. “I can’t say that I was allowed to compete head to head, and I didn’t win.  You know, that’s not exactly what happened.”

With a very real chance of recapturing the U.S. Senate this fall, the Democratic Party in Washington and Tallahassee rallied around Murphy immediately after he declared his candidacy for the Senate in the spring of 2015, with Barack Obama and Joe Biden making an unusual endorsement of Murphy early on. At that moment the party wasn’t even attempting to be unbiased in telegraphing who they were pulling for, a charge many Bernie Sanders supporters made about former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee frequently over the past year.

“I definitely think the president should not have chimed in this race,” Keith said. “I don’t think the titular head of a party should be endorsing candidates in primaries. I think that’s wrong, and it doesn’t make for a fair race. And if we start to lose faith that we have fair primaries, then we lose something critical, and I’m not sure that it can be fixed in the future if we let it go.”

While some of her supporters are already inquiring about her running for another office in two to four years, Keith said she’s not willing to commit to anything yet — other than that after a year-and-half on the road competing with limited financial resources, she needs a job. “If you know anyone’s hiring?” she laughed, before addressing the disappointment she hears from Florida progressives, not exactly thrilled about a Murphy candidacy.

“In politics, sometimes the candidates you want sometimes don’t win and sometimes things don’t go the way that you want them to, but you gotta keep your eye on the bigger picture, and you must be pragmatic, and there are a lot of things at stake this year, and I don’t want people to use their disappointment or their bitterness to be a block toward making rational choices.

“Our country needs us to be clearheaded, and to be pragmatic, and I’m inviting all my fellow Floridians out there to take heed of that.”

 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz handily defeats Tim Canova in CD 23

In one of the most closely watched congressional primaries in the nation, Debbie Wasserman Schultz defeated her Democratic challenger, law professor Tim Canova, 57 percent to 43 percent, to win another two-year term representing Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

Wasserman Schultz has held her suburban Fort Lauderdale-based seat since 2004 and had never been challenged in a primary election until Canova’s emergence this year.

“The result was so incredibly gratifying,” Wasserman Schultz said. “It really fills my heart to know the people I have represented said with this margin and this vote that ‘We know her and we have been able to count on her for all these years and we want her to keep fighting for us.’ They aren’t going to let millions of dollars from people outside the state decide who is going to represent our community in Washington.”

Tapping into the same anti-establishment fervor that catapulted Bernie Sanders to national prominence, Canova was able to raise an astonishing $2.8 million in his effort, receiving 200,000 individual contributions, what his campaign called a record amount in a congressional campaign.

A good deal of that support came from outside the district, from Democrats angered at Wasserman Schultz for what was perceived to be her bias in favor of Hillary Clinton during the presidential primary campaign, specifically in the DNC’s scheduling of the debates.

The low point for Wasserman Schultz during the campaign came last month when she resigned as the head of the Democratic National Committee the day before the Democratic convention, after leaked emails showed DNC staffers disparaging the Sanders campaign. The next morning, she was unceremoniously booed off the stage at the Florida delegation breakfast and had laid low the rest of the week in Philadelphia.

But while her reputation might have been wounded nationally, the sentiments inside CD 23 were quite different. And national Democratic leaders such as Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and John Lewis all traveled to Miami to campaign for her — while Sanders opted not to do the same for Canova.

“There’s no one tougher than Debbie Wasserman Schultz. No matter what is thrown her way, Debbie gets back up and keeps fighting,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant. “She’s been a lifelong champion of our party’s progressive values and I congratulate her on tonight’s victory. Florida Democrats are proud to stand with Debbie and we look forward to her continued work on behalf of the people of Florida’s 23rd Congressional district.”

Canova had produced one internal poll that showed him down by eight points. A South Florida Sun-Sentinel poll had her up by 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent, while a poll produced by a super PAC working for Wasserman Schultz had her up by more than 30 percentage points.

“Losing sucks. But we came a long way in a short period of time,” tweeted Mike Nellis, Canova’s digital fundraising manager.

Wasserman Schultz will face Republican Joe Kaufman in November. He lost to Wasserman Schultz by a 63 to 37 percent margin in 2014 in the 2-to-1 Democratic district.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

AFP-Florida bashes Patrick Murphy for supporting a public option in Obamacare

Americans for Prosperity Florida is blasting Democratic Senate hopeful Patrick Murphy, a day after he expressed support for adding a government public option to the Affordable Care Act.

“It is good to see Patrick Murphy leaving the privileged gates of his Palm Beach estate,” said AFP Florida state director, Chris Hudson. “Maybe while he’s out and about he should take a second to recognize that Obamacare has failed and that the results of President Obama’s “lie of the year” have included insurance companies dropping out of the embattled top-down program, requests being made to increase premiums as high as 43.6%, and the average American being saddled with $1,000 in medial debt.

Continued Hudson, “Patrick Murphy needs to stop pandering to special interests, and stop supporting policies like the public option that only exist to undermine the private sector until they go out of business! If this is the sort of lead-from-behind attitude Congressman Murphy is trying to sell, then Florida families shouldn’t buy it.”

While campaigning at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop on Monday, Murphy told voters that he believes that with more insurers now announcing that they will no longer carry patients who are on the Affordable Care Act, a public option is now needed to provide competition.

“The key is like any issue — it’s acknowledging that there are some things that are working, and that some things that need to be fixed,” Murphy said. “No legislation that is passed — or rarely I should say — is perfect, and you have to evolve with the times to see what’s actually working. Unfortunately, in Washington you have a group of people that basically want to shut down the government … they say throw the whole thing and start over, without offering solutions to it.”

The idea of the public option is to create a separate, government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers offering coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders included versions of the public option in their proposals when they first began working on health care reform in 2009. But they dropped the idea relatively quickly.

As Democrats were approving their platform that was officially ratified at their national convention in July, Hillary Clinton unveiled a health care plan that included a public option. Though she had supported such a proposal in the past, during her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders she opposed it, saying it would be too costly and run into interference from Republican governors.

If Murphy wins Tuesday’s primary election for the Democratic nomination for Senate, he will likely face Republican Marco Rubio in the fall. On Monday, a spokesman for Rubio blasted his comments about a public option.

“Patrick Murphy promised voters that Obamacare’s state exchanges would bring down costs and create more competition, but Floridians are finding themselves with fewer health care options and skyrocketing premiums they can’t afford,” said Michael Ahrens. “Only someone like Patrick Murphy who has consistently embellished the facts about himself could read the latest devastating headlines about the failure of Obamacare and declare it a success that should be expanded.”

Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy look confident before Florida’s Senate primary

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy are campaigning as if Tuesday’s primary was already over and they won their parties’ nominations for U.S. Senate.

And it may be for good reason. Rubio’s main challenger, Carlos Beruff, appeared to throw in the towel, essentially shutting down the campaign he’d sunk $8 million of his own money into. And Murphy’s main challenger, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, has been damaged by ethics and domestic abuse allegations, leaving Murphy to focus on Rubio.

That leaves congressional races as some of the more exciting to watch during Tuesday’s primary, the first since court-mandated redistricting undid advantages for some incumbents and prompting one of the liveliest campaigns in many seasons. Congresswoman and former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is receiving an unexpectedly strong challenge from a Bernie Sanders-backed political novice.

Voters will also decide whether to amend the state constitution to allow a property tax break to promote solar power. And many of the state’s congressional primaries almost certainly assure the victor will be elected in November because of the political makeup of the district.

Republican primaries to replace retiring GOP Congressmen Jeff Miller, Ander Crenshaw, Curt Clawson and Richard Nugent will likely decide who is sent to Washington in November. The same goes for the Republican primary to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who is exploring a run for governor after her district was redrawn in a way that favors the GOP. Democratic primaries to replace Grayson and Murphy will also likely choose the next members of Congress in those districts.

Still, the Senate race is the main event, and one that took several twists along the way. Rubio wasn’t even supposed to be on the ballot, declaring he’d run for president instead of seeking a second term. Rubio dropped out of the presidential race when Donald Trump trounced him in Florida, but he still said he was done with the Senate. Then, two days before the deadline to get on the ballot, he changed his mind, chasing all Republicans but Beruff out of the race.

The Democratic primary pits former Republican and party establishment favorite Murphy against Grayson, a fiery liberal whose outspoken candor makes him unelectable in the minds of party leaders. Despite voting with Republicans far more often than Grayson, Murphy is backed by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Grayson has run a maverick campaign, condemning his party’s leaders and saying Murphy will be a puppet for leadership and special interests.

With comfortable leads in the polls, Rubio and Murphy took a similar strategy: Ignore the primary opposition. Both declined to debate their opponents, choosing instead to attack each other.

Rubio said he didn’t debate Beruff because there wasn’t enough time.

“He didn’t really seem that interested in debates not that long ago,” Rubio said in the days leading up to the primary. And when asked about the primary, Rubio turned the subject to Murphy, saying, “I take every race seriously. I’ll have more events today than Patrick Murphy will have all week.”

Rubio’s campaign has been issuing near-daily attacks on Murphy while virtually ignoring Grayson.

It was clear, though, that Beruff wanted a debate, particularly investing so much money trying to build his name recognition. He repeatedly criticized Rubio for not agree to an exchange, saying he should “man up” and calling him a coward.

Murphy called off the only debate schedule with Grayson after the mother of Grayson’s children said he abused her over the two decades they lived together, an accusation he has denied. Instead, Murphy focused nearly all is attention on Rubio. Murphy’s second ad of the campaign, released four weeks before the primary, attacks Rubio for missing votes while running for president.

During a phone interview, Murphy said Rubio is more concerned about his political ambition.

“He constantly says ‘I’m in this for Florida,’ but he’s clearly not running for Senate for Florida. He’s never been there for Florida; he’s never been there for a local issue; he’s never shown up for work. He’s in this for himself,” Murphy said.

It’s a similar message Grayson has made about Murphy, that there is no substance behind the candidate. Grayson repeatedly points out that Murphy was a Republican until he decided to run for Congress. He has voted with Republicans on bills that would have weakened Obama’s health care overhaul and he supported a committee to investigate Hillary Clinton’s handling of the attacks that killed four Americans at a compound in Benghazi, Libya.

“They’re desperately trying to take this empty suit and make him into a plausible candidate for U.S. Senator and they’re failing,” Grayson said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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