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Barack Obama: ‘This is the moment where America has to take a stand’

At the University of Central Florida Friday night, a triumphant-sounding Barack Obama made a bold declaration to voters — in this election, no less than the direction of America was at stake.

The president, no doubt buoyed by resurgent popularity and comforted by the realization that the end is near, proclaimed fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton a worthy bearer of his progressive legacy.

“This is the moment where America has to take a stand and decide what it is what we believe in and who we are,” Obama told 9,000 people inside the CFE Arena, and a reported 7,000 more outside.

“And we’re not going to believe in fear. Instead, we’re going to lift up hope. If you want hope instead of fear, then you will elect Hillary Clinton as president of the United States!”

That stand, in Obama’s words, is for a more progressive America.

In his 42-minute speech, Obama acknowledged he didn’t accomplish everything he wanted, and that he made some mistakes.

But he did boast a list of accomplishments: 20 million more people on health insurance, reducing dependence on foreign oil, recognizing global warming and fighting to reduce carbon emissions. He also promoted his expansion of Civil Rights, preservation of abortion rights, the fight for women’s rights, reduced unemployment, increased wages, and the creation of a country where “You can marry the person you love.”

“Across the board, by almost every measure,” he said, “we are significantly better off now than we were eight years ago.”

“All the progress we’ve made over the last eight years goes out the window if we don’t win this election,” he added.

Obama seldom mentioned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s name — calling him “that other guy” — but repeatedly compared him with Clinton, characterizing the Democratic candidate as prepared and optimistic, while Trump was unprepared and fear mongering.

At one point, Obama praised Clinton as a meticulous hard-worker, who knows issues in depth, accusing Trump of “just making stuff up.”

“You don’t want at the slacker as your president,” he said. “You want somebody that knows what they’re talking about.”

Using his speech in front of a college student-dominated crowd, Obama pushed for the election of Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Obama criticized Rubio for taking many of the conservative stands that he said would end many of his progressive initiatives, including a vote to defund Planned Parenthood, opposing abortion, walking away from comprehensive immigration reform and “the Latino community;” and not believing in climate change.

That led the crowd, which often cheered Obama with defining, high screams — as if at a 1964 Beatles concert — to chant, “Patrick, Patrick, Patrick.”

But the chant never gained momentum and died off pretty quickly.

When Obama took a brief swipe at Trump’s comments about and alleged behavior toward women, a man in the back of the arena climbed over the railing of the upper deck, positioned himself on folded-back risers, and began shouting: “Bill Clinton is a rapist!”

It went on for several minutes before an Orange County deputy sheriff managed to talk him back over the railing and escorted him out.

Obama described an optimistic and diverse America, saying, “That’s the America I love.

“That’s why through all the ups and downs I haven’t been worried about this country,” he continued.

“Because, I’ve seen the heart and soul of the American people, and it is good, and it is decent, and it is strong, and it is resilient, and there is only one candidate in this race who I believe can continue the progress that we’ve made, and I know that because she’s been working all her life to make America better. And that’s the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton.”

Broward ballot battle over Amendment 2 makes Norm Kent a Democratic hero

norm-kent-2Norm Kent — criminal defense attorney in Broward County, publisher of the South Florida Gay News, and past chairman of NORML — may be the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton, Patrick Murphy, and Democrats throughout Broward.

At noon Thursday, Judge Lisa Phillips will hear Kent’s suit against Broward Supervisor of Elections and bastion of governmental incompetence, Brenda Snipes, brought on behalf of two registered voters in the county.

At issue is the widely reported absence of Amendment 2, “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions,” from the vote-by-mail ballots of certain voters, and its absence from at least one early vote ballot.

Now you might be thinking, “what possible good for Democrats could come from election problems in the largest Democratic county in Florida?”

If Kent can successfully convince the court of his case’s merits, the answer is “lots.”

First, regardless of what happens today, my guess is that the most recent instances of nincompoopism emanating from Snipes’ office have ALREADY been a boon to Democrats’ prospects.

Consider this scenario: you’re an absentee voter, and like many such voters, your ballot has been sitting in your mail pile by the front door since it came last week. But then the evening news runs a story on ballots potentially missing Amendment 2.

What do you do? You go grab that ballot out of the stack of bills, negative campaign direct mail pieces, and car warranty offers … and you make sure Amendment 2 is there.

And now that you’ve opened your ballot and have it in front of you, you find a pen and a stamp, and you fill the damn thing out and stick it in the mail.

Ever see or hear about those campaign communications that don’t advocate for or against a candidate but shame or embarrass the voter into casting a ballot? “Your neighbors have voted, why haven’t you?” That sort of thing.

What’s going on in Broward County, and the attention it’s received thus far, should already be percolating a similar effect among Broward absentee voters.

The problems so far seem relatively minimal in scope, but likewise appear to be greater than what Snipes’ offices have presented them to be. And it also seems clear Snipes can’t say for certain what the actual scope is — because she doesn’t know.

So what is Kent proposing as a remedy?

Despite his vast and storied history as an activist bomb-thrower, his solutions seem reasonable and prudent on their face. He requests a clear remedial solution for absentee voters who have or had one of the misprinted ballots in question. Kent is asking the court the compel the SOE to educate and put on alert both SOE staff and Broward County voters as to the potential absence of Amendment 2, imploring their vigilance in making sure the issue is present on ballots.

At its most basic, what Kent seeks for Broward County voters — and by extension, Democrats writ large, since their numbers in the county are so dominant — is to have the SOE step up in a public way to reassure and educate the electorate on the essential integrity of the elections.

Putting aside that the SOE should already be doing so with both their conduct and public communications, think about what that means in a blue stronghold like Broward.

To atone for its screw ups, the SOE may wind up having to engage in what could have the effect of being a GOTV campaign countywide. Obviously, such a campaign would get out the votes of ALL Broward voters, but MOST Broward voters are voting D down the line.

And in a year where the presidential campaign is expected to turn voters out in record numbers, the conversation about medical marijuana as a turnout mechanism for Democrats (an existential fear for Republicans two years ago) has mostly fallen by the wayside.

But young, cynical, Bernie SandersRon PaulGary JohnsonJill Stein-type voters, who might, seeing polls for Amendment 2 in the 70s, otherwise stay home, will now have additional motivation to ensure they get to vote for medical marijuana.

And just as turning out a random Broward County voter means you’re likely turning out a Democratic voter, so too does turning out a random, unlikely medical marijuana voter.

Forty percent of Rick Scott voters voted for medical marijuana in 2014, so it’s not an entirely partisan proposition, but virtually every poll shows Democrats and Independents are overwhelmingly for this amendment.

So, if you’re a watcher of turnout in Florida, pay close attention today.

An old pothead with a fedora and a propensity toward righteous indignation could strike a major blow for the cause. Kent will be encouraging a massively blue county to open those absentee ballots languishing by the front door, lighting a fire (no pun intended) under Democrats — and naturally paranoid pot smokers — to get off their butts and vote.

And Hillary Clinton will get the benefits of perhaps 70-80 percent of those votes.

As a visibly intoxicated (but coherent nonetheless) John Morgan once said, “if you pieces of s*** don’t get out and vote … then f*** it all. We’re gonna lose.”

If Norm Kent’s day in court goes as planned, you may see similar messages coming out of the SOE’s office.

Minus the signature and John Morgan’s profane color, of course.

Report: Democrats criticize John Mica over support of Donald Trump’s new hotel

Rep. John Mica was had to fend off Democratic attacks about his involvement in the redevelopment of a historic Washington D.C. landmark.

According to Morning Consult, Mica got a shout-out from Ivanka Trump Wednesday during the grand opening of Donald Trump’s new luxury hotel. Ivanka Trump, according to the report, “touted Mica’s support in the redevelopment of the Old Post Office Pavilion, a 315-foot clock tower that had fallen on tough times.”

The comments were seized upon by House Democrats, who are spending big to try to unseat Mica.  In a statement to Morning Consult, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said “Mica pulled out all the stops to help Donald Trump with his luxury D.C. hotel project.”

And Stephanie Murphy, his Democratic opponent, told Morning Consult she would expect the Trump family to thank Mica “for everything he did to make them richer.”

Mica defended his support of the restoration project, telling Morning Consult the building was losing taxpayers millions of dollars. He said he “did everything” he could to make sure the property “would turn into a revenue producer for taxpayers.”

Barack Obama to encourage voting at UCF speech Friday

President Barack Obama will give a speech for Hillary Clinton at the University of Central Florida on Friday, pushing for more people to get out and vote.

The 5 p.m. speech will be at the CFE Arena at UCF, with doors opening at 3 p.m.

People who wish to attend will have to get reservations through the Hillary For America website.

With more people voting in this election than any in history, Obama will urge Florida voters to take advantage of in-person early voting, stated a release from the Hillary For America campaign.

This will be Obama’s first visit to Orlando since late June when he and Vice President Joe Biden came together to pay respects following the June 12 Pulse nightclub massacre. That visit did not include a public speech, though Obama and Biden both made brief remarks.

Steve Schale: Notes on the first day of early voting in Florida

Dear friends and casual Twitter followers:

It is Florida election memo time! I know you all are excited.

Fourteen days left. If Jaguars fans can survive the Gus Bradley era, America can do 14 days of this.

Also of note: 18 days until FSU basketball tips off.

So here are some notes on the first day of in-person early voting:

Frankly, for fans of the home team, it’s all good news.

Democrats entered the day down after about two weeks of vote-by-mail returns by about 20,000 votes. This 1.7 percent Republican Party advantage compares to a GOP advantage of 5 percent in 2012.

Then, early voting happened.

First, not all counties have reported yet (17 yet to report, most are small), but when all said and done, over 300,000 will have voted on Day 1. Just to put into scale, 1.2 million voted by mail in the first two weeks.

When you add in the mail ballots from yesterday, 22 percent of all the ballots cast in Florida were cast in person yesterday. That is a remarkable number.

In total, Democrats reduced the Republican advantage of 1.7 percent going into yesterday to around 0.5 percent after Day 1 (still counties reporting, so this number will move around).

Here are some interesting places on Day 1:

Won Duval County by 1,700 votes. Duval hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter, and is one of those places where Donald Trump really needs to run up the score. Dems also won the day in Polk County, an I-4 county that also hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Carter.

Won Volusia County by several hundred, again a place Trump was hoping to build on the gains of Romney in 2012.

And in bellwether county Hillsborough, the only place in Florida to vote for George W. Bush twice and Barack Obama twice, Democrats won by almost 3,000 votes, or roughly 14 points (49-35). By comparison, Democrats have a seven-point advantage in registration.

In fact, Democrats won every county along I-4, plus Pinellas — including both Republican strongholds Polk and Seminole. The total I-4 vote was 48-33 D. Seminole County hadn’t voted Democrat in a presidential election since Harry Truman.

Base turnout was also very encouraging.

In Orange County, Democrats won a robust day, 53-27 percent.

In Broward County, Democrats won a record day, 63-20 percent.

In Palm Beach, a county which improved for Mitt Romney in 2012, Dems won 53-27 percent.

In Alachua, where the University of Florida is, it was 65-22 percent Dems.

And in Dade County, 10,000 more voters showed up on the first day of early voting than 2012. Of the 35,000 who cast a ballot, Democrats won the day 53-27 percent.

Finally, with the help of a friend yesterday, I looked into the question of whether Democrats were simply “cannibalizing” their traditional vote by encouraging its traditional voters to vote early in person and by mail.

Two points: First, even if that’s all they did, Hillary Clinton would almost surely win Florida. Republicans need to expand the electorate to win.

But, that isn’t what is happening. Over 28 percent of Democratic vote-by-mail returnees as of yesterday were either first-time voters, or rare voters (voted in one of last three), compared to 20 percent for Republicans. Another way of looking at it: 80 percent of Republican Party vote-by-mail returns are from most-likely voters, compared to 72 percent of Democrats.

That is voter expansion.

I am going to try to do a little note each day. Try is the operative word.

As always, if you have any questions, give me a holler.

Steve

In which Ryan Tyson deep-dives into the vote-by-mail numbers

The race to Election Day has entered its final sprint.

More than 1.2 million vote-by-mail ballots have already been returned to elections officials across Florida. Early voting kicked off Monday in dozens of Florida counties.

It’s too early to know what those ballots hold, but that doesn’t mean the ballots can’t offer some insight into the 2016 election. In a briefing memo over the weekend, Ryan Tyson, the vice president of political operations at Associated Industries of Florida, outlined some of the trends campaign watchers are seeing so far this election cycle.

Vote early

Millions of Floridians are expected to cast their ballot ahead of Election Day. Tyson said his team anticipates about 29 percent of total votes, or about 2.4 million votes cast, will be by mail this election. Tyson said he anticipates about 27 percent or more of the overall electorate will vote early.

While Republicans have typically had an edge over Democrats in vote-by-mail returns, Tyson said Democrats have increased their share of ballots returned by 185,000, while Republicans have only grown by 165,000.

Elections records show Republicans have returned 503,632 ballots, compared to 483,019 ballots returned by Democrats. Independent voters returned 219,698 ballots.

Boost in turnout

With just 16 days until Election Day, voters returned 451,322 more ballots than at the same point in 2012. But Tyson warned a boost in vote-by-mail returns doesn’t necessarily mean higher turnout.

“Contrary to popular belief, we don’t anticipate that it’s an indicator of higher-than-usual turnout,” wrote Tyson. “Rather, we would suggest the growth in the popularity of VBM is due to both parties’ continuing effort to move their early or Election Day voters forward.”

According to Tyson’s memo, 27 percent of both party’s returns were cast in person — either early or on Election Day — in 2012. The analysis showed 57 percent of Republicans voted by mail in 2012, while 54 percent of Democrats voted by mail in 2012.

“To us … it seems the clearest indicator of true strategic growth in the utilization of VBM is amongst low-propensity voters and voters who had vote history in 2012,” he wrote. “In both categories, the Democrats are ever-so-slightly outpacing the Republicans.”

Vote-by-mail profile

Here’s what we know about the vote-by-mail electorate: They’re older, white, and from Southwest Florida.

According to Tyson’s memo, 82 percent of the vote-by-mail electorate is over the age of 50, “with 56 percent being over 65.” Millennials, or voters between the ages of 18 and 34, account for just 7 percent of vote-by-mail voters.

New registrants, defined by Tyson as people who have registered to vote since 2012, account for 12 percent of the returned ballots. About 81 percent of the current returns are considered “likely” voters.

Three-quarters (76 percent) of the current electorate is white, while Hispanic voters make up 11 percent of the electorate. Eight percent of those people casting ballots are African-American.

As for where the ballots are coming from, Tyson wrote that “as is usual in this phase of the election, Tampa and Fort Myers are disproportionately represented.”

One-third (33 percent) of the ballots have been returned from the Tampa media market, while 12 percent have come from the Fort Myers media market. Those markets will ultimately be about 24 percent and 6 percent, respectively, of the final geographic make-up of the electorate.

Independent voter profile

About 217,000 independent voters returned their ballots as of Saturday. For the most party, those voters reflect the overall profile of the vote-by-mail electorate.

According to Tyson’s memo, 74 percent of independent voters — described as no-major-party voters in his report — are white, and 76 percent are over the age of 50. Tyson reported 50 percent of independent voters returning ballots are over the age of 65.

About 61,000 independent voters have no voter history from 2012. Tyson said about 48 percent of those voters are whites over the age of 50, while 16 percent are Hispanic.

“This memo is merely intended to dive into the electorate as it exists today, 16 days from the General,” wrote Tyson. “With one full week of early voting in, we anticipate this memo will look a lot different next week as the electorate tends to get younger and less white during the second phase of voting.”

Barack Obama endorses Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy

President Barack Obama has endorsed the congressional candidacies of Democrats Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy, their campaigns announced Monday.

Murphy, of Winter Park, is running against Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica, also of Winter Park in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Demings, a former Orlando police chief, is running against Republican nominee Thuy Lowe of Sorrento in Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

Neither endorsement is a surprise, since Murphy, Demings and Obama are all Democrats, and Obama’s approval and popularity ratings have seen a remarkable bounce this year.

“Chief Demings will be the kind of progressive leader we need to build on all of the progress we’ve made over the last eight years to create a stronger, safer, fairer country for our children,” Obama stated in a news release issued by Demings campaign. “Chief Demings is a fighter for Florida’s working families, and will fight for a level playing field so that everyone has a shot at the American dream. In Congress, I know that Chief Demings will stand up and fight to raise the minimum wage, end the influence of secret money in politics, address the climate change crisis, and enact reforms to end the cycle of senseless gun violence in our country. Orlando families can count on Val Demings to continue to stand up for them, too.”

In Murphy’s campaign press release, Obama stated, “In Congress, I know Stephanie Murphy will put Central Florida families first, and fight to build on all of the progress we’ve made over the last eight years to create a stronger, safer, fairer country for our children. In the wake of the Pulse tragedy, I have been struck by the resilience of the greater Orlando community and how they have come together to reject hate and fear, and to fight to end the cycle of senseless gun violence in our country. Stephanie Murphy embodies those values and will work with both parties toward the commonsense gun safety reform we need, and will be a champion for Central Florida’s working families in Congress.”

Demings and Murphy responded with right-back-atcha kudos.

“Words cannot express how grateful I am to receive the endorsement of Barack Obama,” Demings stated. “For nearly 8 years it’s been an honor and a privilege to watch him take care of our nation as the Commander-In-Chief. Obama led our nation out of a recession, and put economic policies in place that are lifting up working families. Under his leadership, millions of people who couldn’t afford health care, now have access to quality health care. It is because of programs Barack Obama started, like “My Brother’s Keeper,” that some of our nation’s most at-risk youth will be able to go on to the college of their choice. In Congress, I will continue the fight to protect American families, continue to unite our communities, and continue to move our nation forward.”

“I am incredibly honored to be endorsed by Barack Obama, and I am so grateful for the steady hand in which he has guided our nation throughout his two terms in office,” Murphy stated. “Eight years ago our country was on the brink of economic disaster, and thanks to Obama, we have made incredible progress. But there is more work to be done. We must work in a bipartisan manner to strengthen our middle class, raise wages for American families, pass commonsense gun safety reform, and usher in a new prosperity for all Americans. I thank Barack Obama for his support of my campaign, and I look forward to working together with both parties to bring change, security, and equality to our nation.”

 

Buddy Dyer, Phillip Levine, Bob Buckhorn, others on Mayors for Hillary bus tour

What a party bus this will be. A Democratic Party bus, filled with mayors from Florida including Orlando’s Buddy Dyer, Miami Beach’s Phillip Levine, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, and St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, has begun a cross-state tour to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

Hillary for America announced Thursday that those four and 19 other mayors and former mayors — some from out-of-state cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Dallas — are participating in the tour with at least four stops to promote Clinton’s economic plan and urge people to vote early.

The activity actually began Wednesday night with a kick-off debate watch party in Miami, and will roll Friday to Orlando and Gainesville, and Saturday to Tallahassee, with other stops yet to be scheduled or announced.

In addition to Levine — widely discussed as a 2018 gubernatorial candidate — Dyer, Buckhorn and Kriseman, the Florida mayors include Wayne Messam of Miramar, Oliver Gilbert of Miami Gardens, Lauren Poe of Gainesville; Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, Thomas Masters of Riviera Beach, and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

From out of state, Florida will meet William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama, Jacqueline Goodall of Forest Heights, Maryland, Sly James of Kansas City, Lovely Warren of Rochester New York, Malcolm Clark of Mt. Vernon, New York, Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, Bill Bell of Durham, North Carolina, and former mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, Mike Coleman of Columbus, Ohio, Wellington Webb of Denver, Dennis Archer of Detroit, and Ron Kirk of Dallas.

Viviana Janer, Nancy Rosado, Zoé Colón urge Puerto Rican women to vote ‘for our future’

Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer and two activist Puerto Rican women from Central Florida announced an effort Tuesday to convince the region’s Puerto Rican women to come out to vote against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday.

At a press conference in Kissimmee, Chairwoman Janer, Somos Orlando [We Are Orlando] co-founder Nancy Rosado, and Que Vote Me Gente [My People Will Vote] campaign activist Zoé Colón decried what they called the “bigoted and divisive campaign” of Trump and, by extension, Rubio, and said they believe the Puerto Rican community will have the power to impact the election.

They said they will encourage the area’s Puerto Rican community to vote for Democrats Hillary Clinton and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

“Puerto Ricans helped formed the fabric of this nation, whether fighting on the battlefield for our freedoms or standing up here at home for our civil rights. This election we will honor the sacrifices and battles of our community by uniting at the ballot box against hate, xenophobia, and fear,” Janer said.

Rosado took Rubio to task for announcing in June that the June 12 massacre at the popular Orlando gay nightclub Pulse, on Latino Night, led him to seek re-election.

“Donald Trump and Marco Rubio think that saying they ‘love Hispanics’ or having a Latino last name is enough to get our votes, even as they actively fight against us,” Rosado said. “The Puerto Rican and LGBTQ community in Orlando refuses to stand by any candidate who would use the deaths of our brothers and sisters for their own political gain the way Marco did when he announced his re-election campaign.”

Colón noted there are an estimated 400,000 Puerto Ricans living in Osceola and Orange Counties.

“Our vote will deliver more economic opportunities here in Central Florida for a fast growing diaspora and relief for our families and loved ones back in Puerto Rico. We are a million strong in Florida and we will not give up our power this election — we will vote for our future,” she said.

 

votes

Democrats take slight lead in vote-by-mail ballots

It’s a small lead — 27 ballots — but Democrats are now in front in the number of returned vote-by-mail ballots.

With more than a half-million ballots turned in, the Division of Elections website Monday showed registered Democrats had submitted 210,734 ballots to Republicans’ 210,707.

Other party and no-party voters have returned another 91,648 ballots to their local supervisors of elections.

Monday’s update drew cheers from the Democratic faithful, including Tallahassee PR man Kevin Cate.

“Here’s your enthusiasm gap,” he tweeted, referring to the new numbers.

“Wow,” added former campaign consultant Geoff Puryear. “To anyone who has done field in Florida, this is a huge development.”

Lawmakers recently changed the name of such ballots to “vote-by-mail” ballots from the traditional “absentee” ballots.

In a related development, a federal judge late Sunday ordered the state of Florida to give thousands of voters a chance to make sure their vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled county election offices should notify voters if their signature on a vote-by-mail ballot and their voter registration forms don’t match. Voters would then be given a chance to fix the problem by 5 p.m. the day before the election.

Walker also had extended the state’s voter registration deadline one week to 5 p.m. Tuesday, saying Floridians needed extra time in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which especially disrupted the state’s Atlantic coast communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission

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