Chris Christie – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Joe Gruters confident GOP will come together to back Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Mitch Perry Report for 3.15.16 – Is it really Election Day when 2 million people have already voted?

Although today is Election Day in Florida, that’s sort of a misnomer, considering that over 2 million Floridians have already voted in our presidential primary.

However, nearly a quarter of all registered voters aren’t part of that total, and won’t be after tonight.

That’s because they’re registered independent, or Non-Party-Affiliated. There is 3.25 million of them in the Sunshine State.

I’ve heard the arguments from the political parties about why Florida should retain its closed-primary system that allows only registered Democrats to vote in a Democratic race and the same for Republicans, but that argument is effectively disenfranchising millions of people in Florida.

Things in society are changing, in case you haven’t noticed. And more and more people, especially millennials, want nothing to do with the political party system. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t want to participate in the electoral process. They’re not mutually exclusive.

As we reported last week, a poll commissioned by  Open Primaries, a national nonprofit group advocating for open and nonpartisan primary systems,. reported that 88  percent of Florida’s independents believe that their exclusion in Florida’s closed primary system is unfair, and 88 percent said they are independent because neither party represents them.

An attempt to change that via the state Constitution went nowhere this past year. If it’s going to change, it’s going to have to be through a citizen’s led effort here in Florida, since the political parties have no interest in aiding the cause.

That’s too bad, because Democrats in particular like to complain about efforts by Republicans to suppress the vote. Yet the closed primary system in 2016 does just that.

Last Friday I had an interaction with an official at my local bank. After we were done with the business that I came to the bank for, I asked him if he was voting today. He said he wasn’t sure if he was registered or where his polling location was, so we went online to the Hillsborough County SOE’s website.

There he learned that he wasn’t registered. Though disappointed, he excitedly went ahead and signed up then and there, only to be disappointed when I told him that he still was too late to vote today. And because he was registering as a NPA, he wouldn’t be able to vote in our next election, on August 30. He can vote in November, though.

The fact is, in other states you could register as late as Friday to vote today. Why is that system worse than what we have now?

P.S. I went to vote on Saturday at my local polling location, and was stunned to learn that I could not vote. I’ve switched around my party registration all the time, and currently am registered NPA, and had obviously failed to change that by the deadline last month. So that’s on me. Nevertheless, it’s the first election ever that I’m not participating in.

In the news…

Donald Trump brought in the big guns – Sarah Palin, Chris Christie  surprise endorsee Pam Bondi to set the table for him at his town-hall meeting at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday afternoon.

Before the Trump town hall, citizens protesting his candidacy marched to the Convention Center.

A few months ago, David Jolly called on Trump to quit the race after his remark about banning Muslims from the U.S., now realizing they might share the same ticket this November, David Jolly says he’s still pondering getting behind the New York City real estate mogul’s run for the White House.

And Sean Shaw is poised to make another run for the House District 61 seat that encompasses much of Tampa’s downtown urban core.

In Tampa, Donald Trump says he’s ready to take on Hillary Clinton

Poised to take home Florida’s 99 delegates on Tuesday night, Donald Trump held a town-hall meeting at the Tampa Convention Center before about 1,000 people on Monday afternoon, where he acknowledged that he’s ready to close out the primary season and begin pivoting toward Hillary Clinton.

“If we win Florida, and we win Ohio, we can go on to attacking Hillary, and we can stop attacking each other,” Trump said.

While Ohio may or may not go his way, there isn’t a single poll published in months that shows Trump in serious jeopardy of losing Florida, a state where he is a part-time resident (residing in Palm Beach County).

It was a star-studded occasion for conservatives in the house. Sarah Palin, Chris Christie and Attorney General Pam Bondi prepped the crowd for Trump, with Bondi announcing her endorsement for Trump before introducing him to the stage.

“Our country and our world need someone who is going to protect our security like never before, and that’s why I support Donald,” Bondi said, adding that “My mom is with Donald Trump, and so am I.”

Palin was a surprise speaker, as she had earlier canceled an appearance in the Villages after her husband Todd was injured.

“It’s a movement. This is a strategy. This is finally an opportunity to take our country back, to get out government on our side,” said Palin, stretching out her vowels on “back” and “side.”

The former Alaska governor weighed in on the violent clashes that took place between supporters and opponents of Trump Friday night in Chicago. She said: “What we don’t have time for is all that petty, punk-ass little thuggery little stuff that’s been goin’ on from these quote unquote protesters, who are doing nothing but wasting your time and trying to take away your first amendment rights, you’re right to assemble peacefully, and the media being on the thug’s side — what the heck are you guys thinking?” as the crowd booed in response.

Marco Rubio has been barnstorming the state this week, yet only a couple of polls show him within single-digits of catching Trump, who has led in every poll taken in this state since this past summer.

“You gotta go vote. You gotta represent the people. He defrauded the people,” Trump said, mocking Rubio’s poor attendance in the Senate over the past year as he’s campaigned for president. Criticizing him for being “weak” on immigration, Trump questioned how Rubio ever got elected in the first place.

With Chris Christie looking on, Trump reminisced about how the New Jersey governor pounded Rubio in that infamous moment in New Hampshire three days before the first primary. “I said, ‘This is weird, he keeps giving the same answer like he’s a robot,”’ Trump recounted. “After the fifth time, I said, ‘What’s going on over here? And I had this- see this big powerful hand? Because I didn’t want him to go down.” he asked the crowd, extending his right hand in a reference to Rubio’s juvenile campaign patter regarding the size of Trump’s hand.

He never mentioned the words “Jeb Bush,” but took a dig at the since-vanquished presidential candidate by indicating how he had spent only $2 million in winning New Hampshire, while “someone you know” spent $49 million. “I came in first; he came in fifth. Who do you want as your president?”

That Trump has largely (but not exclusively) funded his own campaign is among the things his supporters like.

“I believe because he has no political figures to give back to once he’s in the office, he’s his own person, you know?” said Greg Tapp of Lakeland. “I’ve seen what happens when you have favors you own your political party.”

Trump began his address saying his candidacy is bringing many new voters to the system, and that’s not Trump hyperbole. Tapp said Tuesday’s primary will be his first vote ever.

According to Joe Gruters, Trump’s Florida campaign chairman, there’s been a 67 percent increase in overall turnout to date in all GOP primaries “and I think that’s directly attributable, or most of it, to Donald Trump.”

Trump generally holds large rallies, but Monday’s was more intimate, using a small room in the convention center for a town-hall setting. He spoke about 37 minutes instead of his usual hour-plus, and took  questions from the audience.

The first came from an 18-year-old high school student from St. Augustine, who asked about foreigners coming from Mexico to take jobs that Americans don’t want to do.

Trump disagreed, saying Americans do want those jobs. “They want to work, they want to make a lot of money, they want to be rich, they want to buy a nicer house, they want to take care of their family with health care,” he said, but didn’t directly answer the question about Americans’ unwillingness to do low-wage jobs such as do farm work.

New Jersey resident Ed Thompson, drove up from Fort Myers  Monday where he’s visiting friends. He said he’s voted Democratic, independent and Republican over the years, and that he likes Trump for his stance on Planned Parenthood, one of several positions where he has differed from his Republican opponents.

Trump has said he supports the family planning organization, but not  for abortions (Title X does not allow using federal funding for abortions. Medicaid, however, doeallow spending government money on them — in very restricted cases). “I have no problem with Planned Parenthood doing great things for people who can’t afford it, to take that kind of a stance from a politician is refreshing because there are no absolutes in this game,” Thompson said

Thompson blamed Friday’s Chicago clashes on the progressive activist group, which he called a violent organization. “They’re domestic terrorists, as far as I’m concerned, because they rule by fear.”

Half a dozen protesters were ejected from the premises in Tampa on Monday, all in the first 15 minutes of the event. There was no violence, though on one occasion a black woman seemed to get literally in the face of an elderly white woman before she was escorted out.

“There’s no learning curve with Donald,” said Lehigh Acres resident Margaret Braun. Despite his lack of government experience, Braun thinks Trump won’t need much schooling. A lifelong Republican, she said she rejects Republicans who have failed in Washington.

“Marco Rubio, we voted for him in 2010, we wanted to change the Senate so we’d have some control, and we did, ” she said. “Oh, we were so happy. But they didn’t do anything! They have no business running for president saying they’re going to help our country when they had the chance.”

That type of sentiment has made Rubio a major underdog going into Tuesday’s election, and Trump the front runner.

Chris Christie on Donald Trump appearance: ‘I wasn’t being held hostage’

Anyone worried that Republican Gov. Chris Christie was being held hostage by Donald Trump as he stood, seemingly shell-shocked, behind the GOP presidential front-runner on Super Tuesday can rest easy.

“No, I wasn’t being held hostage. No, I wasn’t sitting up there thinking, ‘Oh, my God, what have I done?'” Christie said Thursday back home in New Jersey. “I don’t know what I was supposed to be doing. All these armchair psychiatrists should give it a break.”

He said his face was stoic because he was listening as Trump spoke. In

“I stood where they asked me to stand. What do I care? Do you think I really care? … I really don’t,” he said. “Next week there will be an Internet freakout about something else.”

InChristie also said he won’t heed calls from a handful of newspapers to resign and will continue helping Trump’s campaign. His defense of endorsing the billionaire developer came as two former Republican presidential nominees — including Mitt Romney on Thursday — and 70 national security experts warned that Trump was unfit to be commander in chief.

Christie said he doesn’t agree with Trump on everything, though he wasn’t specific. He said he’s told Trump when he disagreed with him and has tried to change his mind.

“That’s what a good endorser does,” Christie said.

He spoke Thursday at a nearly two-hour news conference in Trenton that was part campaign debriefing, part attempt to refocus on priorities in the state. But he opened the floor up to questions, and reporters had a lot of them.

Christie, who ended his own Republican presidential campaign last month, said he will continue helping Trump’s campaign but doesn’t have any more appearances scheduled. Christie added that his 30th wedding anniversary is next week, but he is otherwise focused on state priorities, including a budget due in June.

Seven New Jersey newspapers have called on Christie to resign. The Star-Ledger, which endorsed Christie in his 2013 re-election campaign, said in an editorial Thursday that he has since made it clear that governing the state is a “distant second priority” that comes behind his personal ambition. Six newspapers published by Gannett also called for his resignation.

Christie said he isn’t surprised by the newspapers’ stance because they haven’t supported him in the past. He said they’re merely trying to find a way to stay relevant as their readerships decline.

“The only way to do that is to set themselves on fire,” Christie said.

Christie, who spent 261 days out of the state in 2015, also chided the media for counting time he spent either in Philadelphia or New York as somehow not related to state business.

“The way you count days is absurd,” he said.

He said the Trump campaign financed his recent trips, but state taxpayers, as they always do, will be on the hook for the New Jersey State Police detail that is required to travel with him.

Defending his endorsement, Christie said he believes Trump would make the best president out of the remaining candidates and has the best chance to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election. He said he and Trump have been friends for 14 years.

Christie noted that despite jokes from online commenters, he wasn’t forced into giving any coerced statements on Trump’s behalf.

“This is part of the hysteria of the people who opposed my Trump endorsement,” Christie said.

Christie said he plans to finish out the nearly two years left in his term and then go into the private sector.

He did shoot down one question Thursday. When a reporter asked if he would resign if he were Trump’s pick for vice president, he replied, “Next!”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Chris Christie’s shell-shocked look stirs mockery, befuddlement

Was that really Chris Christie, the brusque, take-a-back-seat-to-no-one governor of New Jersey?

Christie’s seemingly shell-shocked gaze as he stood behind Donald Trump on Super Tuesday is generating befuddlement and mockery in his home state and beyond.

Conservatives and liberals alike have piled on.

His introductory remarks were so subdued and his appearance was so grave that many people joked on the Internet that he looked like a hostage reading a coerced statement. “Gov. Christie, blink twice if you’re in trouble!” one person tweeted.

In a move that shocked nearly everyone, especially in Democratic-leaning New Jersey, Christie endorsed Trump last week and has appeared at the billionaire businessman’s side at campaign appearances over the past few days.

But after Tuesday night’s appearance, conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg of the anti-Trump National Review imagined Christie was thinking: “My God what have I done?” Others saw the same thing in Christie’s blank stare and robotic words of introduction.

Aside from Tuesday night, Christie appears to be fully embracing his surrogate duties. The governor has introduced Trump at a number of enthusiastic rallies and has been Trump’s attack dog, sinking his teeth into Sen. Marco Rubio and vouching for Trump and his family.

Back home, the reaction has been fierce.

Republican Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency administrator, told The Star-Ledger of Newark last week she would rather vote for Hillary Clinton than Trump.

“I am ashamed that Christie would endorse anyone who has employed the kind of hate-mongering and racism that Trump has,” she said.

Six Gannett newspapers in New Jersey, including the Asbury Park Press, said he isn’t fit to be governor anymore. They called him a political opportunist who has neglected his duties in the Garden State, and urged him to resign.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll saw Christie’s approval ratings fall from 33 percent before he backed Trump to 27 percent since. The poll sampled 694 registered New Jersey voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

“Trump and Christie kind of do belong together, but not running our country,” said Barbara Silverstein of Gibbsboro, New Jersey. “It’s a big show, and it’s pretty pathetic.”

In the past few days, the politician with the outsized personality seemed to be shrinking in political stature even if something big — perhaps the No. 2 spot on the ballot with Trump — is his goal.

Trump was heard on a microphone telling Christie to get on an airplane and go home after Christie was pressed Sunday in an ABC interview about his disagreement with Trump on his proposed ban on Muslims.

Christie refers to the candidate, who is supposedly his longtime friend, as “Mr. Trump,” while Trump refers to the governor as “Chris.”

Christie defended his endorsement this week on his regular radio call-in show.

“I’ve known him personally for 14 years and I believe he is the best person to beat Hillary Clinton,” the governor said, before clarifying that he, Christie, was the best candidate but that Trump is the best of the remaining contenders.

Christie wouldn’t discuss on the call-in show whether he was hoping for a vice presidential or Cabinet slot.

Asked about his previous criticisms of Trump, Christie said that was a natural part of having to run against him — no different, he said, from George H.W. Bush calling Ronald Reagan‘s policies “voodoo economics” before becoming his vice presidential pick.

To Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Harrison, Christie’s seeming thousand-yard stare seemed to reflect sadness.

“It really looked like heartbreak and kind of a bitter pill that he was swallowing,” she said. “I still think that in his heart of hearts he thinks he was destined to be president of the United States.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Donald Trump calls presidential bid “amazing period of time” in his life

Donald Trump said he respects Florida Gov. Rick Scott, but didn’t know whether the Naples Republican would be supporting the GOP front runner.

“I have a lot of respect for Rick Scott,” Trump said. “I don’t know about his endorsement, but he’s a friend of mine. I have a lot of respect for Rick Scott.”

Trump held a news conference at his luxury resort in Palm Beach County on Tuesday. Speculation predicted Scott would be on hand to endorse the New York businessman, but that didn’t happen.

Trump eschewed a traditional celebration, choosing instead to hold a nearly 30-minute news conference. He fielded questions from reporters, varying from his support for Planned Parenthood to his inability to denounce the Ku Klux Klan during an interview over the weekend.

He also sounded off on Marco Rubio, who also held an election night event in Miami.

“They’re declaring Marco Rubio the big loser of the night, which is true,” Trump said. “He hasn’t won anything.”

Trump was expected to win many of the nominating contests on Tuesday. He fell short in Texas and Oklahoma, where Texas Republican Ted Cruz was expected to come out on top. And Rubio  led the pack in Minnesota.

“I liked Marco until about a week ago when he decided to go hostile,” Trump said when asked about Florida’s junior U.S. senator. “I’m not going to tell him what to do, I’m not going to tell anyone what to do. You have to run, but he had a bad night. You got to be able to win. You can’t talk. You got to be able to win something and he actually hasn’t come very close.”

Trump said he plans to spend a lot of time in Florida. The state’s winner-take-all primary is March 15.

“This has been an amazing period of time in my life,” said Trump. “I think we’ve done something almost nobody thought could be done. I am a unifier, and I would love to see the Republican Party get together and unify.”

Jac VerSteeg: Bladders, sweat, Flint and tears

Marco Rubio and Donald Trump are slinging mud by spraying water. Perhaps this results from the unconscious influence of their ties to Florida, a vast peninsula surrounded by the sparkling aqua stuff.

Trump himself is master of an estate whose name – Mar-a-Lago – derives from its proximity to two bodies of water. Rubio’s persona is shaped by the 90 miles of Florida Straits separating his family’s adopted country from Cuba’s tyranny.

It is a shame, given the importance of water to Florida and in their lives, that the two candidates insist on drawing from a polluted well.

For example, early in the race Trump appeared on Morning Joe and criticized Rubio as someone “who has the worst voting record in the United States Senate” – a fair line of attack – but then went on to say, “He sweats more than any young person I’ve seen in my life. …I’ve never seen a guy down water like he downs water. …They bring it in in buckets for this guy.”

That is just one instance of many in which Trump ridiculed Rubio’s sweat glands and thirst.

He frequently says Rubio looks like someone who jumped into a swimming pool with all of his clothes on. In one appearance, Trump sloshed water from a plastic bottle in what looked like a parody of a priest sprinkling holy water.

Of course Trump’s soggy insults reference Rubio’s embarrassing lurch for water during his 2013 GOP response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

Rubio paid Trump back during their Texas debate when, in a sly reference to his own previous evisceration by former candidate Chris Christie, Rubio gleefully pointed out that Trump went into robo-repetition mode when trying in vain to explain how Trump could replace Obamacare.

At a rally the day after Rubio exposed Trump as a candidate squishy on policy, he went on to ridicule Trump’s backstage request for a full-length mirror, “Maybe to make sure his pants weren’t wet.”

If that seems crude, remember that in December Trump himself seemed obsessed by the fact that Hillary Clinton took bathroom breaks during a Democratic debate, calling the thought that she did so “disgusting.”

After Rubio scored in the recent debate, Trump sought to douse his rival’s resurgence with still more remarks about Rubio’s sweat glands and by producing an endorsement from former New Jersey Gov. Christie.

Christie’s presence itself has a watery footnote since a major scandal of his administration involves attempts to punish a political rival by creating traffic jams in his city by shutting down a key bridge.

It remains to be seen whether Trump and Rubio will continue their spraying contest and how Florida voters will react if they do. Pundits reasonably conjecture that Rubio must win the March 15 winner-take-all Florida primary to keep his head above water.

Note that Democrats Clinton and Bernie Sanders also are campaigning on a water-related theme. But their concerns are loftier.

Both Clinton and Sanders have made an issue of the crisis in Flint Michigan, where water pouring out of faucets contains toxic lead levels. Inept decisions by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration initiated the crisis and have been followed by an inept response from the governor.

“If we are looking at children being poisoned,” said Sanders during a recent visit to Flint, “if that is not an emergency, I just don’t know what an emergency is.”

Clinton has been even more involved in Flint. “This is not merely unacceptable or wrong,” she said, “though it is both. What’s happened in Flint is immoral.”

Flint and the Trump-Rubio water wars might seem like minor issues, but they reflect the parties’ different approaches to larger matters. Republicans are the party of undermining the Environmental Protection Agency, endangering water and so much more. And they ignore or deny climate change, an attitude that will result in sea-level rise, one of the worst water-related disasters that can happen to Florida.

Democrats are the party that wants to protect the EPA and correctly wants America to lead in the attempt to slow global warming.

This year the contrast between Republicans and Democrats is stark. Republican candidates are spouting insults involving sweat and urine. Democrats are intent on wiping away grieving Flint residents’ tears.


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

Chris Christie endorses Donald Trump

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie backed Donald Trump in the Republican race for president Friday, a powerhouse endorsement as the billionaire tries to beat back assaults on his character from a newly aggressive rival, Marco Rubio.

Christie joined Trump at a Forth Worth news conference and praised him as “the person who will go to Washington, D.C., and be able to absolutely turn the place around.”

Christie said Trump was hands-down the better choice than Rubio, a first-term senator who “didn’t show up for work.”

“We don’t need any more of these Washington, D.C. acts,” said the governor, who had needled Rubio for missing Senate votes back when the governor was a candidate himself.

The shock endorsement came after Rubio, in an abrupt shift cheered by anxious Republicans nationwide, shattered months of relative peace with Trump in Thursday night’s GOP debate. It marked the beginning of a long-awaited takedown effort on Trump heading into the weekend before Super Tuesday.

Rubio continued the verbal assault on Friday, repeatedly calling Trump “a con artist” in interviews designed to weaken Trump’s tightening grasp on the Republican nomination. And a new advertising campaign from Rubio allies attacked Trump’s business background and limited knowledge on foreign policy.

“A con artist is about to take over the Republican Party and the conservative movement,” Rubio charged on CBS’ “This Morning.” ”And we have to put a stop to it.”

But as he has so many times during the campaign, Trump found a way to turn the attention back to himself just hours later, with the Christie endorsement. “I just said wow, that is really great,” Trump said of the governor’s support.

Trump has won three consecutive primary contests and leads polls in most of the 11 states participating in Tuesday’s mega-round of voting. Christie’s endorsement is a blow to Trump’s Republican competitors, not least Rubio, who had been courting the tough-talking New Jersey governor since he dropped his own presidential candidacy earlier in the month.

“Desperate people do desperate things,” Christie said of Rubio’s attacks while standing at Trump’s side. “The idea that Marco Rubio can get inside Donald Trump’s head is an interesting proposition.”

Rubio’s strategic shift comes as the GOP presidential candidates barreled into the final sprint to Super Tuesday. This, after a name-calling, insult-trading, finger-pointing debate Thursday night at which Rubio and Ted Cruz engaged in a tag-team attack against the GOP front-runner.

Trump’s rivals concede that it might take an extraordinary “brokered” national Republican convention in July to stop him.

“Point is, there’s still a pathway to beating him,” said Liz Mair, a Republican strategist leading an anti-Trump group. “As of Wednesday, I wasn’t convinced there really was.”

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton claimed new headway on the eve of a South Carolina Democratic primary that she’s expected to win handily.

“I think it does take me a little bit longer to get into the rhythm of campaigning,” she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” ”We hit our stride in Nevada. Our message of breaking all barriers is really beginning to take hold. I really felt we were on an upward trajectory.”

Even if the Republican-backed Trump attacks don’t work in the short-term, Clinton suggested he’d be vulnerable as the GOP nominee in the fall.

“When it moves to the general election, I think you’re going to see a real seriousness,” she said, “with people turning and saying, ‘What do we know about this man?'”

There was little sign that Trump’s stock was falling at the Fort Worth rally where supporters gathered.

Many Trump supporters said they hadn’t seen the Houston debate that shook him up. Those who had stood by their candidate and criticized the way his rivals teamed up on him.

“They come prepared to attack Trump at all costs,” said Arlene Smart, 58, of Liberty, Texas. “I’m sick of lying in Washington. Trump is the man. That’s all there is to it.”

“I think most people see it as Washington’s crooked attacks,” she added.

As Trump’s rivals stepped up their criticism, a pro-Rubio super PAC announced plans to start running Trump attack ads in key states on Friday.

One ad charges that Trump “knows nothing about foreign policy.” Another targets his business background, highlights the businessman’s use of “sleazy bankruptcy laws to avoid paying workers” and calls him out for saying he loves “the poorly educated” — Trump’s clumsy way of expressing compassion for the poor.

From Houston, the GOP candidates spread out in the hunt for Super Tuesday votes, with Cruz headed for Tennessee and Virginia on Friday. Both Trump and Rubio are signaling they’re unwilling to cede Texas, the crown jewel of Tuesday’s voting, to Cruz, the home-state senator.

Each scheduled campaign events in Texas before going to Oklahoma City.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 2.22.16 – Rubio’s narrow pathway

Sorry, GOP Establishment, but Ben Carson and John Kasich aren’t shutting down their campaigns.

Those rallying around Marco Rubio Monday morning are hoping they would, two days after Donald Trump‘s decisive victory Saturday night in South Carolina forced Jeb Bush out of the race.

Rubio says it’s a three-man race between himself, Trump and Ted Cruz, but he needs to come up with victories soon if he’s going to be a serious challenger to the New York City business mogul.

Kasich has no path to the nomination, says Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s campaign manager. In a memo distributed Sunday, Sullivan wrote, “The path for winning the nomination for John Kasich looks unrealistic given the threshold requirements in most states. With the current state of the race, Kasich is currently not in contention for 81.7 percent of the delegates awarded during the week of March 1st. He hasn’t shown any ability to appeal to voters outside the very small moderate/liberal subset of the Republican primary electorate. He has fewer resources, lower name ID, and less national infrastructure than Jeb Bush, who last night determined there was no path to the nomination.”

Perhaps true, but Kasich actually may have a shot at winning a state or two (obviously Ohio, on March 15), and he presents a distinct brand of Republican leadership that is appealing to center-right voters, those who supported Bush and/or Chris Christie.

Upshot? He ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Actually, Kasich was back in his home state on Sunday to sign a bill prohibiting Ohio from contracting for health services with any organization that performs or promotes abortions, blocking government funds to Planned Parenthood. According to CNN, Planned Parenthood isn’t explicitly named in the legislation, but the law will prevent more than $1 million in funding from the state health department from going to the nonprofit to fund programs such as HIV testing, health screenings and prevention of violence against women

Kasich also received the backing Sunday of billionaire financier Stanley F. Druckenmiller. So, no, Kasich isn’t departing anytime soon.

And Carson?

Despite his disappointing last place finish in the Palmetto State, the former pediatric surgeon somewhat incredulously told his supporters that “this is only the beginning.”

Say what?

Rubio can only win if the other guys get out. But they’re not. When asked about that at one point his advisers were saying that South Carolina would be the place where he would get his first victory, he said that Trump’s success is because there are so many candidates still in the race, versus the one-on-one matchup in the Democratic primary.

True. But it’s not going to change in the next few weeks, meaning Marco’s chances are very, very slim at this point. However, he is still in it right now.

In other news …

Jeb Bush’s failure this year on the campaign trail marks him as the fourth former Florida governor to strike out when attempting to become president.

• • •

If you like your politics with some controversy, then you have to admit that Alan Grayson did not disappoint at his appearance at the Tiger Bay Club in Tampa on Friday afternoon.

• • •

Tampa’s move to decriminalize possession of weed seems to have freaked out the editorial board over at The Tampa Tribune.

“Marcobots” to continue to dog Marco Rubio on campaign trail

Twenty-five minutes into Saturday night’s Republican presidential primary, Chris Christie went “full Jersey” on Marco Rubio. The New Jersey governor delivered a series of verbal blows that the Florida Senator failed to answer. Instead, Rubio somewhat mechanically repeated his memorized lines attacking President Barack Obama.

“Let’s dispel this notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Rubio said. “He is trying to change this country.” He repeated a variation of that three more times. Critics immediately tagged his response as “robotic.”

Seizing the moment were Kevin McAlister and Eddie Vale, operatives with the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century. The two improvised costumes to greet reporters and audience members attending Rubio’s first public appearance early Sunday morning in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

On WMNF-FM in Tampa on Thursday, interviewed McAlister beginning by asking him about the pair’s prank.

McAlister: We were in our hotel rooms doing rapid response for American Bridge and came up with this idea to dress in cardboard boxes as robots, so we managed to get to Lowe’s Saturday night right after the debate and stayed up pretty late, until around 1:30 a.m. making these costumes, and we were able to get out to Rubio’s first event Sunday morning.

FP: I got there around 8:15 a.m or so and you guys were already there. What time did you get there?

McAlister: We got there a little before 8. It worked out way better than we thought it would. I think that some of that was just getting into the last three days of the election up in New Hampshire. Reporters were looking for something else to cover and fortunately, we were there with these robot costumes.

FP: I put up my photo on Facebook of you guys immediately. I looked at the New York Daily News homepage at about noon, and the photo of you guys was staring at me. That thing went worldwide. You couldn’t have been expecting that type of coverage.

McAlister: No, not at all. I think it really tapped into what people have been saying about Rubio, even before the debate, that he is just about his talking points. To his credit, he is good at giving the same stump speech over and over again. But I think Chris Christie sort of opened the hole that says that maybe there isn’t much substance behind it.

FP: Now on Tuesday, Election day, all of a sudden you guys were back in the news. There was some footage at a Rubio rally that spread. What happened on Tuesday?

McAlister: So Rubio was going to different polling locations. It was Election Day. And we were there to greet him and make our case again that he’s just another robot. And I guess between staff and volunteers for Rubio, it got a little aggressive. I think it finally hit a chord and they weren’t too happy that we were there. So there was a lot of pushing and shoving. I mean, in any campaign you expect that volunteers and staff are going to try and cover signs and that sort of thing, but it got aggressive. One of the robots was put in a headlock by Rubio’s New Hampshire campaign manager– the director – the chairman. And it just got pretty aggressive. So we took that as a sign that we had actually hit on a nerve with Rubio and his staff. And it was just a little surprising. You hope that a candidate and his staff wouldn’t really get shaken up by Christie and two guys wearing cardboard boxes. For us, it really sort of questioned whether he’s ready to be commander in chief if he can’t handle us.

FP: Well, Chris Christie was a prosecutor, as he was always reminding us, so he can be quite aggressive. Now I know American Bridge – I’ve been getting your releases for a couple of years now. A lot of them are anti-Marco Rubio. Do you go off on other Republican candidates or – what’s the mission that you guys are trying to do during this campaign season?

McAlister: Our general motivation is just exposing Republicans and holding them accountable. We do focus on Rubio, but we’re also focusing on Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. And we do a lot in senate races and governors races and house races, too. So I’m sure that while you’re focused on what we’re doing with Rubio just because of Florida, we are out there doing a lot on other candidates.

FP: We’ve got so many primaries coming up here, of course. Will you guys be out there on the road in the next few weeks and months?

McAlister: Well the funny thing is that Eddie and I actually went down to South Carolina yesterday (Wednesday). We skipped the election coverage in New Hampshire on Tuesday night and took a flight down to South Carolina so we could be at his events down there, and I think we sort of threw off Rubio and his staff that we were actually trailing them. We did have to get back to D.C. to get back to our day jobs after wearing cardboard boxes for several days. We do have plans to keep this narrative up to make sure that everybody knows that criticism of Rubio exists. And between South Carolina nine days from now and Nevada three days later, there are some plans in the works to keep this going.

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