Bob Buckhorn Archives - Page 4 of 31 - Florida Politics

In Tampa, agreement that Fidel Castro was one of a kind

There was no harsher a critic of the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba than Ralph Fernandez. Yet the Tampa attorney who represented several former political prisoners in Cuba over the past several decades says that nobody ever challenged the U.S. government as the longtime Cuban leader, who died Friday at the age of 90.

“The guy stood up to America like no one could. He represented a shrimp of a country, just a dot on the map, and he was just in our face, and he became the advocate for an entire Third World,” Fernandez said Saturday morning. “We have to acknowledge that he was the most eloquent, articulate speaker of the Spanish language of all time. He was brilliant. He was evil. He was one of a kind.”

But Fernandez also compares Castro to some of the evilest men who ever walked the earth.

“It’s great news, but it’s way late. Now he’s gone off to spend time with his friends: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot and the rest of the gang, if there’s a hell, he should be there for eternity.”

There is no official registry of the number of victims who were killed during Castro’s reign in power, which lasted from 1959 until he stepped down as president in 2006 because of health issues, ceding power to his brother Raul. An analysis performed by necrometrics.com put it between 5,000-12,000 executions. Fernandez claims it was 30,000, with another 200,000 imprisoned over the years on human rights violations, and “a third” of the population leaving the island to become exiles.

Al Fox is perhaps the best-known advocate in Tampa for advocating for opening relations with the Cuban government. Since creating the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation in 2001, he’s taken more than 100 trips to the Communist island, and he is fierce in criticizing those who deride Castro’s Cuba as a wasteland for its people.

“He took a country that 70 percent of all the land was owned by foreigners, and he gave it to the people,” Fox said. “And he took a country where only the elite were educated, and only the elite had proper medical care, and today you have a country of 11.5 million, and the people of Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras — they all wish they could live like a Cuban lives, but the perception out there is the complete opposite.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been a steadfast critic of the Castro regime, and has refused to join the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Tampa City Council and others who have been calling for a Cuban consulate to be located in Tampa after the breakthrough in diplomatic relations set forth by President Barack Obama in December 2014. In a statement, he said that generations of Cubans have helped build Tampa.

“Many arrived in our City fleeing the totalitarian policies of the Castro government with nothing more that the shirts on their backs and a yearning for freedom,” Buckhorn said. “They have never strayed from the belief that one day Cuba would again be free. The passing of Fidel Castro offers hope that one day the Cuban people will enjoy the benefits of a free and democratic society.”

No Florida lawmaker was more than Marco Rubio, who called Castro an “evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people” and turned Cuba into an “impoverished island prison.”

Although there was cheering in Miami overnight about the news, the mood was more downcast in Havana, according to CNN. Fox says that despite what others say, there are many Cuban people supportive of Castro to this day.

“He is revered in Cuba,” Fox says. “When Saddam Hussein was toppled, the people went dancing in the street, OK? You watch what’s going to happen in Cuba (referring his funeral next week). He was an absolutely revered, but the perception is that he was hated.”

Tampa-area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who after traveling to Cuba in 2013 became the first Florida lawmaker to call for the end of the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Cuban government, said that she fears that Donald Trump will reverse the diplomatic measures that Obama has implemented over the past couple of years.

“Slamming the door shut at this point in time would be disastrous,” she said.” Instead, Fidel Castro’s death should encourage all of us to meet the challenge of better diplomatic relations, economic opportunities for Cubans and Americans, expanded travel, and support for the dignity of the Cuban people.”

On that point, both Fernandez and Fox agree that they do not see Trump reversing much of what Obama has done.

“There will be no wall, Obamacare will not be repealed in toto, and there will be no aggressive positioning in terms of the Cuba situation,” predicts Fernandez. “That genie’s out the bottle,” adds Fox.

Bob Buckhorn disappointed that TPP is dead

Donald Trump made it official earlier this week: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is DOA in his upcoming administration.

“On trade, I am going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country,” Trump said on Monday in a brief video outlying his first 100 days that was posted on YouTube. Instead, he said, he said he would “negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back”.

The TPP, a 12-country Pacific Rim trade agreement signed in 2015 but not ratified, did not have a lot of support in Congress, at least not while Barack Obama remained in power. It certainly had its supporters in the U.S., including farmers and ranchers. The TPP had promised to slash tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods in large markets such as Japan and Vietnam, as well as eliminate agricultural subsidies that gave competitors in the trade bloc an edge.

Several world leaders say without U.S. participation, the deal is completely dead.

Among those disappointed by the decision is Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was chair of the TTP task force with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. His unbridled support entitled him to an invitation to a White House State Dinner in August when the Prime Minister of Singapore came to Washington. Singapore was one of the signatories to the pact.

Speaking to FloridaPolitics last week, Buckhorn said he was disappointed that Trump would not commit to the agreement, largely because he says the U.S. can’t retreat from competing in a global environment.

“We have relationships, we have alliances we want to reduce barriers, we want to reduce tariffs we want to engage and produce made in America products all over the globe. That’s good for America, that’s good for American jobs,” he said.

The TPP was opposed by labor group groups in the U.S. and their champions in Congress like Bernie Sanders. But Buckhorn says it’s wrong to think that trade agreements cause the economic dislocation that has so negatively hurt American workers.

“It’s the technology that is changing the way that American workers are working,  and so to hear the demogogery on both sides of the aisle over trade, was disappointing, because I don’t think that’s  reflection of American values and the way that America has competed around the globe,” Buckhorn said. “We need to be the leader, because if we don’t, then other people will, and if certainly in the case about TPP. The void by our absence will befilled by China, and the TPP criteria, whether it was on intellectual capital,whther it was on labor, whether it was on unions, the environment,  will not be nearly to the standard that the TPP would have been. So yeah, for me that’s disappointing and I hope it’s only a temporary condition in America.”

Mitch Perry Report for 11.18.16 — John Morgan for the people?

What the hell do you have to lose?

That was, of course, Donald Trump‘s rather crude appeal to black voters in our last national nightmare of a campaign that mercifully concluded 10 days ago.

But that line could be one offered to Florida Democrats, in the wake of the movement to get John Morgan to run for governor in 2018. And the Orlando-based attorney, major Democratic Party fundraiser and grandaddy of medical marijuana released a statement Thursday indicating he’s not dismissing the idea out of hand.

“Before I go down this road any further I need a lot of time to think about it. There are obvious drawbacks and hurdles,” he admitted. “But the initial response in the form of phone calls, emails, and social media postings has been overwhelming. It is humbling.”

No doubt.

Morgan went on to say that unlike any other serious candidate, he doesn’t need to begin raising money to build up this statewide name ID. As he inimitably put it: “Politicians have to sing for their supper. Not me.”

The “for the people” populist says he he’l be jetting off to Maui and St. Bart’s “for the winter with my family” before he decided on deciding anything anytime soon.

Some populist, eh? Well, though there is only one Trump, one of the shibboleths that he may have shattered is that people can be persuaded a wealthy candidate can speak directly to their hearts and minds, and not be hypocritical in doing so.

Personally, I’m hoping that Gwen Graham, Bob Buckhorn, and Philip Levine all compete against Morgan for the 2018 nomination, and may the best person win.

Lord knows it would be interesting …

In other news …

Politics is still all local, and it ain’t over yet. Tampa City Council District 7 candidates Jim Davison and Luis Viera shared endorsement announcements.

Now’s also the time where people who want to be local or state party chairs throw their respective Stetsons (channeling Dan Rather) in the air: Sarasota state committeeman Christian Ziegler wants to be replace Blaise Ingoglia as RPOF chairman.

A couple of hours later, Ingoglia interrupted his vacation to announce that yes, he will run to remain chair of the RPOF.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Jonny Torres hopes to oust Deborah Tamargo as Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee chair.

Medical marijuana is coming — but the rules of the road have yet to be written, so the Tampa City Council followed other municipalities in calling for a moratorium on zoning any dispensaries.

Joe Henderson: Facing many hurdles, Bob Buckhorn could make a good governor

The rebirth of downtown Tampa brought inevitable speculation that Mayor Bob Buckhorn might parlay it into a shot at the governor’s mansion in 2018. The job obviously has appeal for someone like Buckhorn, who likes a big stage and challenge.

Asking him to tip his hand about a possible run, though, has proved to be a necessary, but ultimately fruitless, endeavor.

As he told Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com Wednesday, “Like a lot of people who are contemplating the future, you have to sort of sift through the carnage of last Tuesday and see what the landscape is, see whether or not there’s a path for victory for Democrats there, whether I’m the guy that can carry that torch, that I can inspire people to follow my lead.”

He then added, “ultimately it’s gotta come down to whether in my gut whether this is something that I want to do.”

Oh, I think a big part of him wants to do it. I also believe Democrats have a path to victory in the race to succeed Rick Scott. Whether Buckhorn can lead his party down this road and win is another question, though.

I like Buckhorn. I like his style. I like what he has done as Tampa’s mayor. I like his determination. I have known him for a long time, dating to his days on the Tampa City Council in the 1990s. I think he would make a good governor.

Whether any of that matters won’t be decided for a while and Buckhorn has a lot of hurdles to overcome, starting with his own party. U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham from Tallahassee has all but declared her intention to run, and high-profile attorney John Morgan might get into the race as well.

Graham is the daughter of one of Florida’s legendary politicians, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham. Morgan has been on TVs around the state nearly every night for years with his relentless “For the People” slogan, and voters just strongly approved his signature issue — making medical marijuana legal.

Escaping the shadow of either of those two would be a huge challenge for Buckhorn, or anyone else.

Plus, statewide Democrats may have a case of Tampa Bay Fatigue. There have been four races to be Florida’s governor in this century and a Democrat from the Tampa Bay area has been atop the ticket each time — Bill McBride (2002), Jim Davis (2006), Alex Sink (2010) and Charlie Crist (2014).

They all lost.

Buckhorn is a loyal Democrat, though. He went all-in for Hillary Clinton in this year’s election and worked for Barack Obama here before that. He has been outspoken in his disdain for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. That’s all fine, but Clinton lost, Rubio won, and Obama is leaving office.

One thing to keep in mind: Buckhorn isn’t afraid of losing.

He lost in a primary for state House seat in 1992. He finished third out of five candidates running for mayor in 2003. And then there was the humiliating loss to former pro wrestler and first-time candidate Brian Blair in a 2004 county commission race.

He came back to take an upset win for mayor in 2011 and was re-elected without serious opposition.

Buckhorn always says being mayor of Tampa was his dream shot. Whenever I’ve told him it looks like he never sleeps, he responds that there will time to sleep when his second term is up. Whether he decides to postpone that nap to run for governor remains to be seen.

At this point, I don’t like his chances.

But knowing Buckhorn, he will figure out a way to be involved even if he is not on the ballot. He loves this stuff too much.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.17.16 — Will there be a Democrat ready to challenge Nancy Pelosi?

If it were up to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Caucus would be voting for their leadership later today, where she would win another term as House minority leader, since there is no opposition to her leadership role.

Not yet, anyway.

In an ominous note for the 76-year-old representative from San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, dozens of rank-and-file lawmakers at a closed-door meeting earlier this week called on her to delay leadership elections for a couple of weeks.

Although their chances to retake the House last week were always slim, the Democrats did underperform in House races, and the question now is — can the opposition get behind one candidate by the time they do sit down to vote on leadership Nov. 30?

As of now, only Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan from outside of working-class Youngstown has emerged. “Who is the leader that can go into those Southern states, who is the leader that can go into the Midwestern states and begin to pull those voters back in our corner?” Ryan told the Wall Street Journal. He hasn’t officially decided to run. “A guy like me — it doesn’t have to be me — a guy like me could go into the Southern states, and we need someone who can go into every congressional district.”

There are also reports New York Rep. Joe Crowley is also interested in running against Pelosi.

The last time Pelosi was as vulnerable was in the aftermath of the 2010 midterms, when the Democrats were “shellacked,” in the words of Barack Obama.

Working in Pelosi’s favor is her formidable reputation as a fundraiser. She has raised a reported $568 million for fellow Democrats since taking over as House Democratic leader in 2002. Representing San Francisco is literally a turnoff for the same Democrats who worry the party has become a party of professionals and not the working class. The cost of living in SF has exacerbated dramatically in just the past five years due to the explosion of Google and other Silicon Valley workers who’ve chosen to move to the city and commute to the peninsula.

Mind you, this is a different discussion than who will head the Democratic National Committee, where it appears to be a battle between Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jamie Harrison.

In other news …

Bob Buckhorn says it’s time for some serious reflection for Democrats in Florida and around the nation following last week’s election.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel want Steve Bannon out of the White House before he ever gets into it.

After waiting for weeks, Gwen Graham finally receives emails from the DEP regarding the Mosaic sinkhole in Polk County, and still isn’t satisfied.

As mayors and police chiefs from some of the biggest cities in the nation say they’ll continue to shield undocumented immigrants from being detained, Sarasota GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan once again calls on a ban on federal funds for all such municipalities. 

After an eight-year run on the Hillsborough County Commission that even his fiercest critics must acknowledge was extremely productive, Kevin Beckner is officially no longer a politicianafter he served his last day on the board on Wednesday.

Shawn Harrison is backing Jim Davison in the Tampa City Council District 7 race.

A new report says USF’s “Innovation Enterprise” contributes close to $395 million to the Tampa Bay area economy, according to a new report issued Wednesday.

Bob Buckhorn says it’s a time for soul searching in the Democratic Party

Lifelong Democrat Bob Buckhorn admits it’s been rough adapting to a world where Hillary Clinton won’t be the next president. The Tampa mayor went all-out for the party’s presidential nominee, including a weekend winter trip to New Hampshire just days before the first primary in the nation last February. And while Clinton did take Hillsborough County (along with the other major metropolitan areas of Florida), she lost the exurban and rural areas big time in ultimately losing to Donald Trump by just 1.2 percent in the Sunshine State last week.

Both the national and state Democratic party are in crisis, with the Democratic National Committee and Florida Democratic Party to decide on new leadership in the coming months. Like so many other Florida Democrats, Buckhorn has been here before.

“Obviously anytime you have a loss like this, there’s going to be a lot of teeth gnashing and soul searching,” the mayor said Tuesday.

“There will be a debate at the national level as to whether or not you move to a more progressive agenda, with people like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders; or do you try to come back to the center a la Bill Clinton in 1991 and 1992 to drive a message that the middle class mattered, that those rural white working class folks that he could talk to so well have got to be included in the discussion, that it’s not just driving up minority participation but have a message that resonates with everybody.”

Although he didn’t tip his hand as to where he comes down to the different approaches that will no doubt be debated by Democrats going into the holiday season, the mayor historically has come down on the centrist side, and has previously argued that is the only way to win statewide in Florida.

Buckhorn says the conversation needs to begins now among party members in Florida if they’re going to successfully defend Bill Nelson’s Senate seat (Rick Scott admitted on Wednesday what everyone has assumed is a given — he’s looking at running for Nelson’s seat). There’s also the potential to pick up a cabinet seat (or more) with with all four state office positions — governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, and agriculture commissioner — all open seats in 2018. “We need a message that resonates, not just in the cities, but everywhere in the state of Florida,” he said.

Inevitably, any conversation with Buckhorn about politics leads to his own potential participation for one of those seats in 2018 — specifically governor.

Although one-term Congresswoman Gwen Graham has virtually declared her candidacy and there’s a movement afoot to draft Orlando attorney and Democratic fundraiser John Morgan, Buckhorn isn’t showing his cards just yet, but admits he’ll need to decide by early 2017.

“Like a lot of people who are contemplating the future, you have to sort of sift through the carnage of last Tuesday and see what the landscape is, see whether or not there’s a path for victory for Democrats there, whether I’m the guy that can carry that torch, that I can inspire people to follow my lead,” he said, adding, “ultimately it’s gotta come down to whether in my gut whether this is something that I want to do.

“I’m lucky that I’ve got a job that I love coming to work everyday, and if I choose not to do this, I’m going to be perfectly happy, because I get to finish out an opportunity here as mayor that I have worked for my entire life. It’s a good position for me to be in. I do think the state needs new leadership, I think we need a regime change in Tallahassee. And I think that the Tampa renaissance is going to be a pretty compelling story to tell.”

Mitch Perry Report for 11.9.16 — GOP dominance

Where do you begin? One of the biggest political upsets in U.S. history, to start with, in Donald J. Trump beating Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States of America.

Lots of analysis there, including about the Democratic nominee, who for the second time in eight years, thought she had the presidency in her grasp, only to lose out — forever.

What about closer to home? Although Florida Democrats have had huge disappointments in 2010 and 2014 across the board, at least they had 2006, 2008, and 2012. But not 2016.

Down went Patrick Murphy, early into the evening. Down went Clinton, officially losing the state before 10 p.m.

In Hillsborough County, a House District 63 seat that has gone back and forth between Shawn Harrison and a Democrat and Shawn Harrison went this time to … Shawn Harrison, and not Lisa Monteliione.

Ross Spano won over Rena Frazier in HD 59. And Jackie Toledo easily defeated David Singer in the battle for House District 60 in Hillsborough County.

Wipe out city.

Congratulations to Blaise Ingoglia, who from the time he became the RPOF Chairman in early 2015 vowed to turn Florida red, and did so last night.

The Florida Democrats led by Allison Tant and Scott Arceneaux? I really don’t know.

What about Washington? It’s now got the presidency, the House and the Senate. Oh, and the Supreme Court as well, now that Mitch McConnell‘s move to not make a move on replacing Antonin Scalia will pay off big time next year.

In other news …

It was not a good night for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. In addition to his girl, Hillary, losing in Florida, the mayor’s appeal for city voters to reject the charter amendment on allowing the city council to order internal audits won a smashing victory, 64-36 percent.

The upset of the night in Hillsborough County was Andrew Warren’s narrow victory over Mark Ober for state attorney.

It will be Jim Davison vs. Luis Viera in the special election in Tampa City Council District 7 race.

Charlie Crist defeated David Jolly in their CD 13 battle.

Donald Trump told Jack & Tedd on WFLA 970 yesterday morning he’d go quietly if he lost the election.

Now that he’s in the Senate for another six years, Marco Rubio waxes on how he can help make the political discourse a little more palatable in Washington.

Americans for Prosperity – Florida was one of over 50 groups who spent money in the Florida Senate race. In AFP’s case, they spent more than $2.5 million trying to bring down Patrick Murphy.

Bob Buckhorn was campaigning early yesterday against that charter amendment regarding the city council calling for their own internal audits of city departments.

Gwen Graham says she’s poised to run a 67-county strategy for governor

Emphasizing her centrist political persona while addressing a packed restaurant in South Tampa Friday morning, Gwen Graham said her potential candidacy for governor of Florida in 2018 would be a “transcending of the politics” that currently exists today.

“I have heard from so many people who say ‘you’re exactly what the state of Florida needs,'” Graham said at the weekly “Cafe Con Tampa” lecture series at Hugo’s Restaurant in Hyde Park. “I will commit to running the type of gubernatorial campaign that will excite the state of Florida from one end to the other, and if I run … I will run a 67-county strategy.”

The Democratic U.S. representative from Tallahassee announced months ago she would strongly consider a run for the governor’s mansion in 2018, after redistricting the already Republican-leaning district would have made it a virtual impossibility for her to earn a second term in 2016. Her appearance Friday before dozens of mostly Democrats in the state’s third-largest city seemed to be an important one for Graham, who spoke with her mother, Adele, sitting next to her (to her surprise), while her father Bob Graham was speaking live on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on the television monitors above her for part of her speech.

For the uninitiated, Bob Graham is perhaps the single most-popular Democrat living in the state of Florida. The soon to be 80-year-old former Florida governor and U.S. senator is still extremely active, making media appearances this week across the nation on behalf of a new edition of his book, “America: The Owner’s Manual” (co-written with Chris Hand). His reputation and legacy have redounded onto his 53-year-old daughter, Gwen, who never ran for political office until two years ago. While looking up at her father on the television, Graham herself brought up the issue of running on her father’s coattails, and embraced the notion.

“You know what, y’all? Those are the best damn coattails in the whole wide world,” she said, as the crowd heartily cheered. She added she was “honored” to have her father as a role model growing up to see what a true public servant could be.

Graham’s short record in office shows she is a centrist. She boasted about how she overcame the odds against her in 2014 when she ran in one of the most conservative congressional districts of not only the state, she says, but the country, in defeating the Republican incumbent, Steve Southerland, 51 percent to 49 percent.

In that campaign, Graham vowed to oppose Nancy Pelosi for the party leadership’s top slot in the House, where she ended up after being elected in early 2015. She repeatedly emphasized in her 45-minute appearance how she would in fact, transcend politics-as-usual if she were to become the first Democrat elected governor in two decades.

“I think the state desperately needs someone who is willing to reach across to anyone for good ideas,” she stressed. “I don’t believe this is a Republican question, or a Democratic question or an independent question. It’s a question for Floridians. What do we want our next governor to focus on? How can we make the lives of Floridians better?”

That centrist persona doesn’t mean that she doesn’t understand politics, however. She’s been relentless over the past six weeks in pestering the Rick Scott administration and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection into making more information public about what the DEP knew and when did they knew it when it came to the massive sinkhole that opened up in late August at a Mosaic phosphate processing plant near the Hillsborough/Polk County line. It was originally reported as being 300 feet deep — but in fact, may be larger.

 Graham said she was “horrified” by what happened at Mosaic, calling it an environmental, human health and, ultimately, a “transparency catastrophe.”

On growth management issues, she said she would bring back the Department of Community Affairs, abolished by Scott during his first year in office. “We’re booming” she said of the state’s growth, adding developers and environmental advocates need not be at odds.

Like many Democrats in Florida, Graham is strongly opposed to the utility-backed solar power initiative known as Amendment 1 on this year’s ballot. She said the amendment as written is a “manipulation of the voters in Florida,” and “flat-out deception,” before adding that it’s up to the voters to read up on amendments that could end up in the state’s constitution.

Regarding economic development, Graham is in the Richard Corcoran camp when it comes to opposing economic incentives Gov. Scott prefers. “I think it’s about growing Florida from within, not bribing people to come in from without,” she said.

In responding to questions from the crowd, Graham said she supports the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, said if the opportunity ever comes around for money for high-speed rail from the feds that she would take it, and that she would take a “hard look” at the Tampa Bay Express project if neighborhood groups remain virulently opposed to it.

As to when she will make an official decision about running for governor, Graham predicted it would be sooner rather than later, but will not be on Nov. 9, the day after the general election. That’s when Bob Graham turns 80, and she said she didn’t want any distractions on that day.

Though “Cafe Con Tampa” co-organizer Bill Carlson made it sound like the general election contest had already been decided when he said his group had hosted Graham and previously Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (who addressed the same group a couple of months ago), there are plenty of both Republicans and Democrats in the state who aren’t ready to accept that conventional wisdom.

Other Republicans who could explore a run include the aforementioned Corcoran, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, and CFO Jeff Atwater. Other Democrats in the mix include state Sen. Jeremy Ring, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

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

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

Are we surprised?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hillary Clinton warns a Tampa crowd that Donald Trump “can still win”

Hillary Clinton celebrated her 69th birthday by giving a speech in downtown Tampa on Wednesday afternoon, just as the polls are getting tighter between herself and Donald Trump.

Trump must win Florida to have any shot at getting the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency, but Clinton is also pushing hard to win in Florida, with three official campaign stops in the Sunshine State over the past two days.

“Now, Donald Trump says he can still win, and he’s right, that’s why it’s important that everyone gets out and votes,” Clinton told the crowd of a couple of thousand people who had waited hours under a warm sun to see her in Curtis Hixon Park.

Trump fans were energized with the release of a new Bloomberg Politics poll on Wednesday, which shows the Republican nominee up by two percentage points over Clinton, the first poll of Florida in a long time showing him in the lead.

The thought of a Trump presidency terrified some in the audience.

“The alternative would be quite scary, and it absolutely blows my mind that he would have that much support and that it could even be close,” said Lutz resident Susan Glickman.

Glickman’s husband, David, called the Trump candidacy a legacy of former talk-show host Jerry Springer, who he said made it acceptable for people to be angry to show how they want to solve things.

“Trump has capitalized on that anger for the sake of anger,” he said. “I think there are a lot of issues that are legitimate, but the way that he has brought it forth is anger without any substance behind it.”

Clinton took turns in her 23-minute speech laying out a positive vision if she were elected president, while also bashing Trump on a variety of topics.

“Let me tell you, if I ever need a pickup, I’m coming back to Tampa,” she said, after a group of fans began chanting “Hillary, Hillary” about five minutes into her speech.

Job one of her address was to remind voters that early voting has begun and that they need to get to the polls.

In addition to mentioning politicians who were in the crowd such as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Senator Bill Nelson, she made sure to name-check other Democrats down the ballot, such as CD 13 candidate Charlie Crist, and local House candidates David Singer and Rena Frazier. She also gave some love to U.S. Senate hopeful Patrick Murphy, as he attempts to close the gap against Marco Rubio.

“He’s an independent voice and a problem solver,” she said of Murphy, mentioning his support for Planned Parenthood and comprehensive immigration reform, while adding, “he’s even brought Democrats and Republicans together to try to protect our environment and fund Everglades restoration.”

Clinton repeated much of her basic stump speech, joking that there should be no questions about her stamina after surviving four-and-a-half hours of debating Trump over the past month.

“We have seen Donald Trump insult nearly every person in America,” she said exaggerating greatly. “I just find that so intolerable, because look at Tampa, it’s a cosmopolitan city. Florida is paving the way for what our country will look like it, and we need to be lifting each other, listening to each other, respecting each other, not sowing seeds of hatred and bigotry.”

Although some of Clinton’s proposed policies, such as making colleges and public universities tuition free (for those whose parents make less than $125,000 annually) are progressive, she talked often of bringing Republicans and independents into her big tent vision for the future, and invoked GOP patron saint Ronald Reagan when going on a riff about how Trump has been “bashing” America for decades.

“Back in 1987, he took out a $100,000 ad in the New York Times criticizing President Reagan! He said our leaders were the laughingstock of the world,” she exclaimed with indignation. “So this is a guy who criticizes everybody but himself!”

There was a good proportion of females in the audience. 19-year-old University of Tampa student Eugenia Davies said that while some of her friends supported Hillary, some others are backing Trump. “They like him because of his views on immigration,” she said.”I agree with that, we do have a problem in the country with that, but his solutions are not the real solutions. I believe Hillary will take care of that. You’re going to have your issues, but how you deal with that is what matters.”

“Trump had a chance, but he dug his own grave,” said Tampa resident Marina Kauffman, who added that if Clinton were a man, “this would be a slam dunk.”

Star power was provided in the manner of actress Angela Bassett giving an enthusiast speech leading up to Clinton’s appearance. “Now here me Tampa Bay, and hear me well: This election is just a little too close to be comfortable, to sit back on the sidelines,” she warned.

This was Clinton’s forth appearance in Tampa during this election cycle (previous visits were at the Florida State Fairgrounds, USF, and Ybor City), and her fifth in the Tampa Bay area (she also appeared at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg).

With 13 days left before the election, it’s uncertain whether she will appear again, but very well could in this extremely fluid final countdown to Election Day.

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