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Marco Rubio, John Kasich fight to keep hopes alive

Republicans Marco Rubio and John Kasich are fighting for their political futures Tuesday, desperate for wins in their home states of Florida and Ohio to keep their White House hopes alive and complicate Donald Trump’s path to the nomination. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is hoping to keep rival Bernie Sanders from building new momentum in the Midwest.

With more delegates up for grabs than almost any other day in the primary calendar, Tuesday’s contests afford Trump and Clinton the chance to put their parties’ nominations out of sight for their competitors. While Florida and Ohio are the biggest prizes, Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina are also awarding of delegates.

Trump enters Tuesday’s primaries embroiled in one of the biggest controversies of his contentious campaign. The GOP front-runner has encouraged supporters to physically confront protesters at his events and is now facing accusations of encouraging violence after skirmishes broke out at a rally last week in Chicago.

During an event Monday in Tampa, Trump was interrupted intermittently by protesters, some of whom were forcibly removed. Trump said he didn’t want to “ruin somebody’s life, but do we prosecute somebody like that?”

The vibe at Trump’s events has deepened the concern over his candidacy in some Republican circles. Rubio and Kasich have suggested they might not be able to support Trump if he’s the nominee, an extraordinary stance for intraparty rivals. House Speaker Paul Ryan has also taken lightly veiled shots at the businessman, who has denied playing any role in encouraging violence against protesters.

“I think the candidates need to take responsibility for the environment at their events,” Ryan said during an interview Monday with WRJN, a radio station in Racine, Wisconsin. “There is never an excuse for condoning violence, or even a culture that presupposes it.”

Kasich, who has been restrained in his criticism, said Tuesday he would be “forced, going forward, to talk about some of the deep concerns” he has about Trump’s campaign.

Kasich appeared to have the best chance of defeating Trump anywhere on Tuesday. The governor spent Monday campaigning in his home state alongside Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee and a fierce critic of Trump.

Rubio, despite having the backing of numerous GOP elected officials, appears to have slipped in recent public polls in Florida. The senator tried to stay upbeat Monday, perhaps his final full day of campaigning in the 2016 race.

“Tomorrow’s the day where we are going to shock the country,” Rubio said during a stop in Jacksonville.

If Trump sweeps Tuesday’s contests, he’d still have to keep winning in order to clinch the nomination. But he would cross an important threshold by collecting more than 50 percent of the delegates awarded so far.

He won easily in the Northern Mariana caucus on Tuesday, picking up nine delegates. That gave him 469 to 370 for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 163 for Rubio and 63 for Kasich. It takes 1,237 to win the GOP nomination.

Trump’s closest competition has come from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has defeated the businessman in seven states. He’s also the only remaining GOP candidate who still says unequivocally that he would support Trump if he becomes the nominee.

Among Democrats, Clinton has been itching to look ahead to the general election but continues to face persistent competition from  Sanders. While Clinton maintains a commanding lead in the delegate count, Sanders breathed new life into his campaign with a surprising victory last week in Michigan.

Reprising a theme that helped propel that Michigan win, Sanders on Monday pounded Clinton’s past support for trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. He’s escalated his criticism in recent days, hoping to undercut her edge among minorities and expand his advantage with white working-class voters.

“When it came down whether you stand with corporate America, the people who wrote these agreements, or whether you stand with the working people of this country, I proudly stood with the workers,” Sanders said in Youngstown, Ohio. “Secretary Clinton stood with the big money interests.”

Clinton’s team is attempting to tamp down expectations for Tuesday night, though she’s also eyeing the general election and escalating her attacks on Trump, saying he’s “inciting mob violence.”

The campaign next shifts to the West, where Sanders’ advisers have suggested he could rattle off a win streak and begin cutting into Clinton’s delegate lead.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Will Florida continue its 50-year streak of choosing the GOP nominee?

Five delegate-rich states are casting ballots today in Republican primaries.

If history is any indication, Florida is poised in 2016 to continue its long-running streak as the state which chooses the Republican Party nominee.

Crunching the numbers, a Smart Politics analysis found Florida is one of just three states that backed the eventual Republican nominee in every presidential election cycle since 1956. The other two are Illinois and Kentucky. States voting on “Super Tuesday redux” are in the Midwest (Illinois, Missouri, Ohio) and South (Florida, North Carolina).

Once the dust settles, a clearer picture will emerge whether Donald Trump will have a majority of delegates under his belt when he arrives this July at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

As for the three Midwest states, no single candidate has a clear-cut advantage; Trump is holding a double-digit lead in both the Tar Heel and Sunshine States.

Throughout the modern political era – nearly five decades – Florida has become as close to a bellwether as possible for the Republican Party.

In reaching this conclusion, Smart Politics examined decades of Republican Party presidential primary results in states where primaries or presidential preference caucus votes were not held in a given cycle, looked at convention delegate votes. Since 1956, Only three states – including Florida – have chosen the Republican nominee each cycle.

Starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 re-election campaign, Smart Politics found that Florida, Illinois, and Kentucky successively backed every Republican nominee through 2012, totaling 15 election cycles. Two-thirds of Florida’s 18 delegates backed Ohio U.S. Senator Robert Taft in 1952 Republican national convention. The rest went to Eisenhower.

Four years later, Florida Republicans held their first presidential primary, easily giving Eisenhower the win with 92.0 percent against U.S. Senator William Knowland of California.

In 1960, Richard Nixon ran uncontested in Florida; in the next two primaries most of the delegates were unpledged. That changed in 1964, when 32 of Florida’s 34 delegates backed Barry Goldwater. Four years later, 32 delegates backed Nixon; one each for Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan.

After that, Smart Politics notes that Florida primary voters supported the eventual nominee in the next 11 cycles: Nixon in 1972 (87.0 percent), Gerald Ford in 1976 (52.8 percent), Reagan in 1980 (56.2 percent) and 1984 (100 percent), George H.W. Bush in 1988 (62.1 percent) and 1992 (68.1 percent), Bob Dole in 1996 (56.9 percent), George W. Bush in 2000 (73.8 percent) and 2004 (unopposed, no primary), John McCain in 2008 (36.0 percent), and Mitt Romney in 2012 (46.4 percent).

Ever since 1968, Florida has played a considerable role in the Republican Party primary calendar, casting ballots on the second Tuesday in March. Two exceptions were 2008 and 2012, where primaries took place in January.

Florida led nation in job growth in January

Florida leads the nation in job growth according to new federal jobless reports.

Florida’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5 percent in January according to state officials. That’s higher than the national jobless rate of 4.9 percent.

But the state did add 32,200 jobs that month. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that this was the highest number of jobs added by any state in January. Texas was second with 31,400 jobs added.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the new jobless numbers during a stop in Orlando at Orion Technologies. Scott has made job creation the central focus of his administration.

Monroe County, which is where Key West is located, continues to have the lowest unemployment rate at 3.3 percent. Hendry County had the highest jobless rate at 8.4 percent.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Caught in act: Bernie Sanders supporters take video of Jacksonville man stealing their candidate’s signs

The Jax for Bernie Sanders campaign is circulating a video that shows an unidentified man on a bicycle taking down Bernie Sanders campaign signs.

You can check out the short clip on YouTube.

According to the poster, “This occurred less than 10 minutes from the Jacksonville campaign office. People have been complaining to the office that their signs have been going missing and requesting new ones.”

The man is also caught on video saying what sounds like “You’re a bunch of freaks!” to the Sanders supporters (who took video of him from a moving car in the Riverside neighborhood).

Stealing campaign signs is a time-honored Florida tradition, of course. (It’s also a Class C misdemeanor.)

However, it’s rare to catch offenders in the act.

Bill Clinton to union workers: “America needs a raise”

In a very intimate setting, former President Bill Clinton stumped for his wife Hillary Clinton by rallying dozens of local union members gathered at the Ironworkers Local 597 Hall on Jacksonville’s Northside. It was one of two Jacksonville stops for the HRC campaign’s most high-profile surrogate.

And the message was straight-up economic populism.

“Even though the economy is improving, that’s not the life experience of most Americans,” said the 42nd president. “We know it takes, at least, ten years for incomes to recover after the economy rebounds. That explains a lot of the disorientation, anger and frustration people feel.”

His spouse’s solution? “She thinks the biggest problem we have is that America needs a raise,” Clinton said. “And to do it we’ve got to massively invest in infrastructure, in building roads and bridges. That way we all grow together.”

In a short speech that touched on everything from Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, to a public employee union ruling from a divided Supreme Court, Clinton also managed to work in a Sunshine State reference.

“Florida is the canary in the coal mine of America’s future,” he said, exhorting the crowd to remind their membership to vote.

With a tightly scripted event, there was no opportunity to question “42” about controversies that have impacted Hillary Clinton’s campaign (and there was no mention of her opponents either).

Spotted among the invitation-only crowd, JFRD union president Randy Wyse, and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (slated to introduce Clinton later in the day).

UNF professor on Donald Trump: “This is what modern fascism looks like”

Drawing a direct line between the popularity of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and the rise of Nazism in Germany, UNF professor Parvez Ahmed in a talk radio interview with WJCT pointed out that all the factors in a country that make genocide possible are now present in today’s United States.

He spoke strongly against the GOP for not denouncing Trump sooner.

“Think about 1930’s Germany,” Ahmed said. “There was a populist leader who preyed on peoples’ anxiety and victimized vulnerable minorities. Voters chose him because they said, he’ll solve our economic problems, we don’t care about his other rhetoric, because he will deliver us to the promised land. And we know what happened.

“Is that the history we want to relive? Our grandchildren will ask us, what did you do when Donald Trump was rising in America?”

Asked whether Godwin’s Law should be invoked in making the Trump/Hitler comparison, Ahmed stood firm.

“I’m generally not very blunt in the way I talk about difficult issues, but this time I have to be. What we are seeing is the beginning stages of the rise of fascism in America,” he continued, also making note of the rise of anti-migrant sentiment in Germany and France.

“This rise is concerning partly because of our history. Sixty years ago we were in Europe, liberating a continent from fascism, and and here is fascism back again at our back door. The rhetoric this candidate is choosing, by using violence as a political tool, making xenophobic and misogynistic comments, and more. This is what modern fascism looks like. It is promoting the kind of anxiety that can tear apart our social fabric in ways we haven’t seen since the 1960s.”

Donald Trump leads Marco Rubio 46 percent to 22 percent in Florida

Donald Trump continues to hold a double-digit lead over Marco Rubio in the Sunshine State.

According to a Quinnipiac poll of likely Florida Republican primary voters, Trump leads the GOP field with 46 percent, followed by Rubio at 22 percent. Ted Cruz is at 14 percent, followed by John Kasich at 10 percent.

The winner-take-all Republican primary is Tuesday.

The survey found that 86 percent of likely Republican voters in Florida said their mind was made up. That number jumps to 91 percent among Trump supporters.

“At least when it comes to this presidential primary, Florida might change its nickname from Sunshine State to Landslide State,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a statement Monday. “Sen. Marco Rubio, who has staked his future on winning his home state looks like he’ll soon be toast. He trails GOP leader Donald Trump by more than 20 points with polling through Sunday night.”

Brown said there are “very few examples of candidates making up that much ground in 24 hours.”

Among like Florida Democratic voters, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders, 60 percent to 34 percent.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 615 likely Republican primary voters and 519 likely Democratic primary voters in Florida by telephone from Tuesday through Sunday. The Republican poll has a margin of error of 4 percent; while the Democratic poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percent.

New Marco Rubio web video makes closing Florida pitch

On Sunday, the Marco Rubio for President campaign issued “Florida,” a new “web video highlighting the contrast the Florida papers have drawn between Marco and the con man Donald Trump. With Florida’s March 15 primary getting close,” the campaign release asserts, “more Floridians are rallying around Marco to be the candidate to stop Trump.”

The 1-minute, 46-second ad has two parts.

The first 46 seconds highlights a series of quotes from editorials, such as one from a paper in Pensacola lamenting Trump’s “glitzy, mainstream media hyped rush toward our state’s primary,” overlaid over sinister, minor chord music and some of the rhetorical lowlights of the Trump oeuvre, including “we have very stupid people in our country” and “the press are liars” and so on.

From there, the ad pivots, to optimistic and aspirational music familiar to fans of GOP political ads in recent decades, with Rubio delivering soaring quotes to match, making his closing argument, asking for people to vote for him, because “we are going to leave for our children what Americans always leave for their children … the single greatest nation in the history of mankind.”

Editorial quotes are overlaid over the Rubio portion of the advert, including endorsements from The Tampa Tribune and the Miami Herald.

Rick Scott to launch jobs creation and “tax cut victory” tour

Gov. Rick Scott kicks off his “Million Billion Jobs” victory tour Monday. The self-proclaimed jobs governor is visiting five cities celebrating creating more than 1 million jobs in five years and $1 billion in tax cuts for Florida families over the past two years.

“The debate in Florida is now about how we can create more jobs and how we can cut more taxes, which is a win-win,” Scott said. “I will always want more jobs and more tax cuts, but any progress on these is important to the future of our state. I look forward to celebrating these important milestones in our economic growth with families across the state on our ‘Million, Billion Jobs Victory Tour’ Monday.”

Scott is visiting Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers and Miami Monday. He’ll announce January jobs numbers at his stop in Orlando.

Scott’s staff will announce exact times and locations Sunday morning.

During campaigning for re-election, Scott declared himself Florida’s jobs governor. He set a goal to create 1 million jobs in five years and cut $1 billion in taxes. Scott has accomplished the tax cuts by utilizing budget surpluses.

The tax cuts include $433 million in telephone and cable-access taxes, $428 million in property tax, $96 million from back-to-school tax holiday savings, $73 million on machinery and equipment taxes, $41.5 million on college textbooks, and $164.5 million on various other tax cuts.

Scott will tour the five major Florida cities touting his two goals as “promises kept.”

Family law attorneys blast alimony, child custody bill headed to Governor’s desk

Family law attorneys are blasting a sweeping overhaul of Florida’s divorce laws, saying they hope Gov. Rick Scott will veto SB 668.

The measure does away with lifetime alimony in the state. Instead, the amount and duration of alimony would be determined by a formula.

“It’s really going to affect women in a negative way,” said Jacksonville family law attorney Heather Quick.

“It will be financially detrimental to so many women who’ve been in a long-term marriage. Say they’ve been married over 20 years, and the wife has stayed at home and supported her husband, now, they’ll be in a situation where they won’t receive permanent alimony even though the husband may still be working and receiving substantial income,” Quick told WJCT.

In addition to the alimony flap, the piece of legislation that’s generated the most controversy is the component that would now require family law judges to begin with a “premise” that children split time equally between both parents.

The chairwoman of The Florida Bar’s Family Law section, Maria Gonzalez, has urged opponents of the time-sharing portion of SB 668 to contact Scott. She posted this on Facebook:

“Yesterday, late amendments were made to pending legislation relating to a ’50/50′ timesharing bill which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Family Law Section continues to oppose SB 668 because it contains a presumption that a 50/50 timesharing schedule is in the best interests of every child. The bill also requires detailed findings of fact in every case absent an agreement of the parents and violates the Section’s standing positions and public policy. I have attached a copy of the bill for your reference – please read it. Despite the Section’s efforts to work with sponsors of this bill and provide compromise language, we believe the current proposed language (or similar presumptive language) may nevertheless be approved by the House and thereafter proceed to the Governor in short order.”

Quick echoed those sentiments:

“The system we have now considers the best interest of the children, and that’s what it should be. This completely removes that from the law. We need judges to look at all the evidence and consider what’s in the best interest of the child on a case-by-case basis.”

However, the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, said this week that the legislation “will make circumstances a little bit easier during a really emotional and trying time for families.”

Scott vetoed a similar measure two years ago.

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