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Darryl Paulson: Democratic tsunami is coming

Forget the talk about Democrats picking up Congressional seats in 2018. If Democrats don’t take control of the House, it will prove that Democrats are either inept, or God has intervened for the Republicans.

Almost every political indicator going into the 2018 election favors the Democrats.

Midterms: The party occupying the White House has lost seats in the House in all but three elections over the past century. The average midterm loss is 33 seats. Democrats need to flip only 24 seats to take control of the House

President’s Approval Rating: Unpopular presidents stir the passion of voters to turn out in larger than normal numbers. President Barack Obama had only a -3 rating (46 percent approval, 49 percent disapproval) in 2010, but Democrats lost 63 seats primarily due to negative reaction to Obamacare without a single Republican vote. Many see parallels in the 2018 midterm with voters upset about the tax reform passage without a single Democratic vote. President George W. Bush was at a -16 rating (39 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval) and Republicans lost 31 seats. President Donald Trump is at a historic low in approval at -22 — just 36 percent approval.

Generic Congressional Vote: The Democrats had been leading in the generic congressional vote by 7 percent during much of 2017. That lead has now grown to anywhere between 12 to 18 points according to three surveys. Each would be the largest lead in the generic vote in congressional election history. There are currently 58 Republican seats with a partisan lean of 12 points or less and 103 seats with a partisan lean of 18 points or less. If these numbers hold, Democrats could pick up far more than the 63 seats that Republicans won in 2010.

Special Elections: There have been 70 special elections for state and federal legislative seats in 2017. Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean in 74 percent of those elections. The Democratic margins have exceeded the lean by 12 percent. In April, a special election was held in Kansas to replace Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo, who resigned to become director of the CIA in the Trump administration.

Trump carried the district by 27 points.  The Republican candidate won by only 7 points, a shift of 20 points to the Democrat. A 21 point rout by Trump in Montana was followed by a mere 6 point win for the Republican candidate in a May special election. A 19 point Trump victory in South Carolina’s 5th District turned into a 3 point squeaker for the Republican candidate in a June special election. In a state senate race in Miami, Annette Taddeo, who had lost multiple races for office, defeated a well-known and well-financed Republican to win a low-turnout special election.

Democrats had a long record of losing such races.

Democrats easily won gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia and picked up scores of seats in the Virginia legislature. Finally, a 28 point Trump victory in Alabama turned into an embarrassing Republican loss in a special election to replace Senator Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become Trump’s Attorney General. Democrats had not won a Senate race in Alabama since 1992. It was so bad that only 41 percent of Alabama Republicans had a favorable impression of Republican Roy Moore, while 51% had a favorable impression of Democrat Doug Jones.

Republican hopes rest on the belief that circumstances will change between now and election day. They could change, but that also means circumstances could get even worse for Republicans. For example, many Republicans hope the recently passed tax bill will benefit them politically when many voters see extra dollars in their paychecks. However, the economy has steadily improved during Trump’s first year, and he has received virtually no benefit from that.

Second, Republicans hope that we are in a different political environment. They point to the fact that Trump’s approval numbers were lower than Hillary Clinton’s, but voters still elected Trump.  They are hoping that Trump’s low approval numbers will not have an adverse impact on Republican congressional candidates.

Finally, Republicans hope that Democrats will continue to blow political opportunities, just as they blew the 2016 presidential election. Democrats have often pulled defeat from the jaws of victory.

As Ed O’Keefe and Dave Weigel recently wrote in the Washington Post: Democrats “can’t agree on what the party stands for. From immigration to banking reform to taxes to sexual harassment, many in the party say it does not have a unified message to spread around the country.”

Will Democrats push too hard on the Trump impeachment?  Will the party come up with a unified vision of the future? Finally, who will be the face and spokesperson for the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton is out, but are Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders any better?

Democratic hopes for 2018 may depend on Republicans being more inept than Democrats. It should be a great battle.

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and Elections.

Seminole Tax Collector Joel Greenberg urges Rick Scott to allow pre-paid taxes

With the new federal tax laws kicking in next year capping deductions of state and local taxes, Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg is urging Gov. Rick Scott to follow New York’s lead and open a loophole allowing Floridians to prepay 2018 property taxes now, before 2017 ends.

“It is this office’s recommendation that you issue an executive order temporarily suspending that portion of Florida statute section 197.122 requiring the prepayment of taxes only when the tax roll is open, and allowing early prepayment through the end of 2017, for taxes owed in 2018,” Greenberg declared in a letter he sent to Scott Wednesday. “An executive order like this would have the benefit of encouraging early payment of the property tax bills, thus ensuring taxes are paid, and further allowing citizens who think they are hurt by the new federal tax laws to reap the benefits of the existing federal tax laws one additional year.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo already has done something similar, Greenberg pointed out, allowing New York taxpayers to make partial payments of property taxes until the end of the year.

“In this way, the citizens of New York could deduct part, or the full amount, of their payment from their federal taxes before the new tax bill goes into effect,” Greenberg suggested. “It is my recommendation Florida do the same, and allow its residents to reap the benefits of the existing tax law, and prepay their property taxes for 2018.”

The loophole, if it is opened in Florida, would only apply to those who expect to owe more than $10,000 in state and local taxes in 2018, as that is the cap the new tax reform law puts in place for deductions of state and local taxes.

There wouldn’t be much time, as 2017 ends Sunday.

“Realizing the late date presents challenges to implementing a new program, I believe that if this is logistically possible, you could bolster early payment of taxes and lessen the burden on the citizens of this great state,” Greenberg wrote.

‘Trump Country’ series examines faith of Donald Trump’s base


That’s the word used by the Associated Press’ Claire Galofaro to describe the faith of President Donald Trump’s base in a recent installment in AP’s “Trump Country” series.

The story focuses on the town of Sandy Hook, Kentucky, where the population is 622 souls, a third of which live in poverty. Just 9 percent of the town’s adults hold college degrees. The town lies in the Appalachian Mountains, where coal and tobacco industries once created prosperous jobs.

Sandy Hook is in Elliot County, which for its entire 147-year existence has voted for the Democrat in each presidential election.

“Until Donald Trump came along and promised to wind back the clock,” Galofaro reports.

In the Appalachian hills many blame global trade agreements and environmental regulations for the decline in coal. Galofaro reported that coal mining companies have added 1200 jobs across the U.S., 180 of which in Kentucky.

Some of the locals are hopeful the tax reform plan will help them and they believe the stock market surges and dip in unemployment rate are good signs.

— What Trump means to Sandy Hook: “It means God, guns, patriotism, saying “Merry Christmas” and not Happy Holidays. It means validation of their indignation about a changing nation: gay marriage and immigration and factories moving overseas. It means tearing down the political system that neglected them again and again in favor of the big cities that feel a world away,” reports Galaforo.

— BUT: Many in the town “depend on food stamps, disability coverage and health insurance through the Affordable Care Act — all of which could be upended.”

— The local perspective: “If Trump lies to us, it won’t be anything different than what the rest of them always did.”

Florence Snyder: Just in time for Christmas, John Heilemann’s chickens come home to roost

It took a while, but John Heilemann‘s chickens came home to roost, as chickens always do.

Political infotainment addicts know Heilemann as the bald half of the ubiquitous Beltway byline Mark Halperin & John Heilemann. H & H have a gift for glibness and a talent for spinning very small nuggets of news into very big paydays on multiple media platforms.

The gravy train ground to a halt in October when Halperin’s decades-old hobby of powering up his overprivileged penis and aiming it in the direction of powerless young women was revealed. Halperin apologized for his “aggressive and crude” behavior, which is Halperin-speak for “I’m hot, and I can do what I want.”

Heilemann claimed to be “flabbergasted and shocked.” Nobody believed that, except for H & H’s fools and fellow-travelers at Morning Joe.

While Mika (Know Your Value) Brzezinski was gaslighting Halperin’s victims, a real reporter at the Washington Post was putting together a piece of serious journalism which included a Halperin victim’s extremely specific recollection of that time in 2007 when she told Heilemann exactly what his homeboy was about.

Heilemann told Paul Farhi that he “doesn’t recall” that conversation, and “declined to be quoted directly.”

If you can swallow that story, it’s probably time to ease up on the hot buttered rum. From the Horny Harveys in Hollywood to the Oversexed Senators in Tallahassee, there’s always a bunch of beneficiaries around the Great Man who know plenty and say nothing that would interfere with the revenue streams.

It takes a special kind of arrogance to live in a palatial glass house with a media sex creep like Halperin and throw stones at political sex creeps like Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

That, and a Stage 4 case of Selective Memory Disease.

Francis Rooney calls for FBI, DOJ purge

Republican Florida Congressman Francis Rooney livened up a slow news day Tuesday, with a provocative call for a purge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department on MSNBC.

Rooney, being interviewed by Hallie Jackson, explained that he “would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it,” he replied.

Rooney added that “we’ve got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here, those are the people that I want the American people to see and know the good works being done, not these people who are kind of the deep state.”

Rooney’s specific agitation was with the ongoing investigation of alleged ties between agents of Russian influence and the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

“That investigation is totally off the rails… I’m very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it ‘deep state’ or what, are kind of off the rails,” Rooney asserted, adding that the DOJ and FBI don’t “respect the Constitution.”

Central to the problem: the “‘ends before the means’ culture out of the Obama administration, out of Hillary Clinton. With her $84 million of potentially illegal campaign contributions or the Clinton Foundation/Uranium One. People need a good clean government.”

President Trump devoted some time last weekend to tweets that were critical of the FBI.

“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation,” Trump asked on Dec. 23.

New survey shows Tampa voters really like Bob Buckhorn, police

Tampa residents really like Bob Buckhorn.

A new citywide poll is showing three-quarters of Tampa voters approve of the mayor’s job performance — and more than half will support a mayor like Buckhorn, one who will continue his policies.

They also favor Tampa developing a citywide rail system to ease traffic congestion, paid for by taxpayers.

The survey, taken in late November, was from Washington D.C.’s Keith Fredrick, a frequent Buckhorn campaign pollster. The poll asked 350 registered city voters — nearly half on cellphones — with a margin of error of +/- 5.3 percent.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said the city is headed in the right direction, with about 26 percent saying it was mixed (or they didn’t know); 12 percent say Tampa is going the wrong way. Fifty-one percent said they want the city’s next mayor — Buckhorn is term-limited from running again — to be “like Buckhorn and will continue with his policies.”

In addition to Buckhorn’s job approval — 75 percent saying he is either “excellent” (23 percent) or “good” (52 percent) — 88 percent of respondents said they liked the job performance of Tampa police. Seventy percent felt safe and “free from the threat of crime.” And 68 percent were feeling positive about race relations.

African-Americans in Tampa gave the police very or somewhat positive ratings (82 percent), as did 90 percent of Hispanic respondents and 88 percent of Anglos.

Among other issues, 64 percent of city voters support a higher sales tax for a citywide rail system; 28 percent opposed. Traffic congestion is the biggest concern on the minds of Tampainians (51 percent said it was either first or second on a list of six top issues), followed by “better-paying jobs” (34 percent and “street flooding and sea level rise” (27 percent).

Buckhorn also received high marks for how he handled Hurricane Irma, with 81 percent saying it was either “excellent” (45 percent) or “good” (36 percent). On that, Hispanics were the most favorable, with 91 percent applauding both the city and mayor in how they handled September’s storm.

Seventy-eight percent of voters overall also support the mayor’s welcoming residents of Puerto Rico to Tampa after Hurricane Maria. Fifteen percent opposed.

The also poll asked how Tampa residents felt about President Donald Trump and how he managed Puerto Rico relief efforts in the wake of Maria. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents felt either somewhat or very negative about Trump and how he managed the territory after the storm; only 28 percent were positive. As for Republicans, however, they approved of the president 67 to 23 percent.

Pollsters also asked whether voters agreed with a national organization recently rating Tampa as one of America’s Best Cities to live; 81 percent agreed overall — with Republicans favoring most (88 percent), followed by independents (80 percent) and Democrats (79 percent). Only 15 percent of all respondents disagreed.

AFP-FL praises Donald Trump for signing tax reform bill

Conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Florida is lauding President Donald Trump for signing the tax reform bill approved by Congress earlier this week.

“It has been a long road, but today is a monumental victory for Floridians and hardworking taxpayers across America,” said AFP-FL Director Chris Hudson in a Friday news release.

“A fairer, simpler tax code that will grow the economy, create more jobs, and let workers keep more of their paychecks is the culmination of a united effort by Congress and the President, both of which deserve immense credit for getting this done in the face of a concerted disinformation campaign by proponents of the failed status quo.”

Hudson also patted AFP-FL’s members on the back, saying they “deserve praise for the sacrifices of time and energy they put into making this a reality.”

AFP’s 36 state chapters combined to hold more than a hundred grassroots events in the months leading up to the bill’s passage, and their “Days of Action” drives saw AFP activists contact 1.8 million Americans to drum up support for the Republican tax plan.

“We will now be working to ensure that the people of Florida understand how this bill will improve their lives. Indeed, the effects of this bill are already being seen, and Americans will benefit from the economic growth, job creation, and wage growth this bill brings for years to come,” Hudson concluded.

Trump inked the tax reform bill Friday morning, putting into law his first significant legislative accomplishment after nearly a year in office.

Among the changes brought about by the bill is a permanent reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, and an increase in the standard deduction for individual taxpayers that will begin next year and last through 2025.

The bill is expected to save most taxpayers money except for those who make less than $50,000 a year and heavily itemize their returns.

The bill is also estimated to add anywhere from $1.4 trillion to $2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, though the bill’s proponents say that number will be offset by economic growth.

Ron DeSantis prospective gubernatorial bid gets Donald Trump’s seal of approval

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”

A tweet from President Donald Trump may change the race for Florida Governor.

DeSantis has been exploring a run for Governor for months now. And since May 2016, when he urged party unity in the wake of Trump becoming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he has aligned with Trump.

Most recently, DeSantis accompanied the President to a rally in Pensacola.

Reporters then said that DeSantis was poised to go “full Trump” in the Governor’s race.

DeSantis’ campaign team called the president’s tweet an endorsement.

“I’m grateful to have the President’s support and appreciate what he has done — from appointing great judges to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to signing a pro-growth tax cut — to get our country back on track,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “As an Iraq veteran, I’m especially appreciative of his efforts to support our military and our veterans.

DeSantis’ political committee has roughly $2 million on hand, well behind that of Adam Putnam, who has over $15 million.

As well, Putnam — who has run aggressively and consistently since April — has built relationships with GOP party leaders and politicians throughout the state … including in Northeast Florida, DeSantis’ geographic base.

But the President’s backing will be key in the race to come, and could prove dispositive for many voters, especially the kinds of super-voters who will decide the Republican nomination for Governor.

Just as DeSantis has done the heavy lifting on the part of the President, by pushing for the Uranium One investigation of Hillary Clinton, it now looks like 45 is returning the favor for DeSantis.

As for when DeSantis might enter the race, Brad Herold, of the Ponte Vedra Beach-based Ron DeSantis for Florida, said in an email Friday that the congressman will “make a decision when the time is right.”

Democrats are messaging.

“The president only cares about himself and it is no surprise he would support Ron DeSantis, an extreme congressman who is leading the smear campaign against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigations. Floridians want a leader who will stand up to the president — not protect him,” read a statement from the Gwen Graham camp Friday afternoon.

DeSantis’ apparent exit from Congress opens up the Congressional District 6 race, where a number of Republicans likely will make bids.

Among them: former Green Beret Mike Waltz; businessman John Ward; Operation Enduring Freedom veteran Brandon Patty.

State Rep. Fred Costello has also been discussed as a candidate.

Meanwhile, Democrat Nancy Soderberg — a former United Nations Ambassador during the Bill Clinton presidency — is running a strong campaign to face whoever the GOP nominates.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Air Force rebuffs Jacksonville, sends F-35s to Alabama, Wisconsin

A big setback manifested for Jacksonville Friday, as the U.S. Air Force passed up a chance to station F-35’s in the military-friendly city.

The Air Force instead went with Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin and Dannelly Field in Alabama as the bases for the next-generation aircraft.

Florida politicians tried to win this battle for F-35’s, but clearly did not overcome delegations elsewhere — despite strong support from the state’s Republican leadership for President Donald Trump during his campaign.

May saw the entire Florida Congressional Delegation come together to make the case for the planes coming to Jacksonville.

“We are confident that your continued review will show that 125th Fighter Wing is highly capable of supporting this fifth-generation fighter platform and that basing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Jacksonville applies the right force at the right place,” the delegation’s letter asserted.

That confidence was clearly misplaced.

Also finding their recommendations falling on deaf ears: Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam and Gov. Rick Scott.

“With Jacksonville’s unparalleled airspace and infrastructure, no other place in the nation is better suited for a new squadron of F-35 fighters,” Putnam wrote in July to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

“There is no doubt that Jacksonville and the 125th FW are the nation’s ideal choice for the basing of these aircraft,” Scott wrote, citing value-adds.

Apparently, in fact, there was some doubt after all.

The F-35’s would have brought Jacksonville $100 million in estimated economic impact, 200 jobs and — crucially — a guarantee of continued air presence once the F-15s are inevitably phased out.

Republican Rep. John Rutherford asserted that Florida legislators will try again: “We are disappointed by the decision but are looking forward to future basing rounds for the Guard. The 125th Fighter Wing remains well-positioned to serve as the home of these highly capable aircraft. The entire Florida delegation remains fully committed to supporting our outstanding Guard and bringing F-35 capability to Northeast Florida.”

This is the second setback for the Jacksonville area in recent months, with the Florida Times-Union reporting in September that Mayport won’t get the nuclear carrier local politicians wanted.

With another round of BRAC imminent, the Jacksonville area has to wonder if more bad news is coming.

Marco Rubio, Matt Gaetz split on Russia probe

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wants Special Counsel Robert Mueller to continue his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as other Florida lawmakers battle in the media spotlight about the need for the ongoing probe.

In giving a recap of his year Wednesday, Rubio, a Miami-Dade County Republican, said the best thing for everyone, including President Donald Trump, is for Mueller to be able to complete his work.

Rubio described as “troublesome” text messages between FBI agents that were critical of then-candidate Trump — an issue that conservative critics of the probe have seized upon. But Rubio said he’s convinced Mueller, based on personal interaction with the former FBI director, will only pursue “things that are true, and he will do it in a fair and balanced way.”

“If the end product does not reflect that, I’ll say I was wrong,” Rubio said. “But I think the best thing that can happen for the president, for the country and for everyone is that he be allowed to lead his investigation as thoroughly and as complete as possible and that we allow the facts from that investigation to lead where they may, to lead to the truth.”

Rubio’s approach contrasts with Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican, who more than a month ago warned on the House floor that the country was at risk of a “coup d’etat” by Mueller’s investigation.

On Wednesday, Gaetz was on Fox News to declare the Russia investigation “riddled with conflicts of interest” and that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions should “step up” to end the probe or for Mueller to immediately show what he’s found.

“It’s time for Bob Mueller to put up or shut up,” Gaetz said. “If there’s evidence of collusion, let’s see it. If there’s not, let’s move on as a country and let’s institute reforms at the FBI so that an egomaniac (former) FBI director like James Comey cannot depart from the normal standard procedures that guarantee all Americans equal treatment under the law.”

Trump dismissed Comey in May and later suggested the move was tied to the investigation into Russian election interference.

Meanwhile, Congressman Ted Deutch, a Palm Beach County Democrat, expressed concern Wednesday on CNN about the “concerted efforts by my Republican colleagues and others to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.”

Deutch pointed to “coup d’etat” comments by Gaetz and others as undermining “the rule of law in this country.”

Meanwhile, Rubio, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, dismissed reports that Trump has urged Senators to end their own investigation.

“I’ve never discussed the Senate investigation with him,” Rubio said.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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