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Ron DeSantis sees political risk unless Republicans repeal and replace ACA

Congressman Ron DeSantis warned Wednesday that his fellow Republicans would take a political risk in failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and settle for tweaks to the health insurance expansion.

“The system’s architecture is flawed,” the Republican from Marineland, in Northeast Florida, said during an interview on MSNBC.

“It will not lead to lowering costs. Remember, that was the key promise that was made — that you’d see a $2,500 reduction in premiums for the average family. If you’re just nibbling around the edges — my concern is, I don’t agree with Obamacare, but I just don’t think that’s going to lead to putting a downward pressure on costs,” DeSantis said.

“It’s also the case that Republicans for six years have said, first the law wasn’t going to work, and then the law’s not working, and then that we were going to repeal it and replace it with our own patient-centered reform.

“To the extent you’re doing something that’s not really living up to what you promised, I think that runs into problems with the voters. Because Republicans would not have taken the House in 2010 and they would not have taken the U.S. Senate in 2014 if they had just run on minor tweaks to Obamacare.”

DeSantis praised President Donald Trump’s approach during his address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening.

“I actually thought the president hit it exactly right. He was specific enough to offer guiding principles and contours to what a replacement would look like, but he didn’t get lost in the minutia, which I think would have put people to sleep,” he said.

“Particularly on the health care angle, I think what he did was thread the needle, where Republicans are probably going to be able to unify around those principles,” DeSantis continued.

“Particularly the fact that he linked the tax credits to health savings accounts. A lot of conservatives believe that the monies going to a health savings account, the individual can then play their premiums tax-free, and then, obviously, use the health savings account for other medical needs. That is one of the ways you put downward pressure on the cost of both insurance and medical care.”

DeSantis endorsed a work requirement for some Medicaid recipients.

“If you’re an able-bodied, childless adult, there at minimum has to be a work requirement in order to receive that benefit,” he said.

“I think Medicaid should be used to do its intended purpose, which is people who are disabled, who are poor. With the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, you are putting childless, able-bodies adults on Medicaid,” he said.

“The problem with that is, fewer and fewer physicians are willing to accept Medicaid now. So you’re expanding the number of people who are trying to access care on this program. I think that ends up undermining the ability of the truly poor and indigent who we need to be helping, for them to access care. I think giving governor’s the flexibility to do this makes a lot of sense.”

He liked Trump’s suggestion that an infrastructure program contain private investment.

“If it’s an Obama-style trillion-dollar bill, I think, obviously, Republicans are going to have a lot of problems with that,” he said.

“I think there’s a lot of details that are obviously going to be important, but I’m one that definitely would like to incentivize private infrastructure development. And that’s not just roads and bridges. That’s dealing with our electric grid, that’s dealing with pipelines and things like that.

“The details are obviously going to be important. The higher the price tag is, the more difficult it will be to get it through the Congress.

With its Lego project, the Tampa Bay Times crushes my hopes and dreams

Last week, the digital geniuses at the Tampa Bay Times debuted a multimedia presentation that used animated Lego figures and constructions to tell a complicated story about a planned toll road on the Howard Frankland Bridge.

“How the plan to fix Tampa Bay’s most important bridge fell apart, told in Legos” from Eli Zhang, Caitlin Johnston, Anthony Cormier, and Martin Frobisher is an absolute must-click for its combination of shoe-leather reporting and “Everything Is Awesome” visualization.

It’s a great read.

It’s visually stunning.

It’s also — to me and only me — heartbreaking.

Please allow me to explain, without taking anything away from the great work of the Times reporters, while also knowing that many in the Times newsroom will take some pleasure in my agony.

Back in May, I wrote in a Facebook post: “it hit me what my next project will be. The next enterprise of Extensive Enterprises, so to speak. People won’t get it at first. They’ll think it’s silly. Then it will get the right people’s attention. And then everyone will say, ‘How much does it cost to do that for us?'”

My excitement originated from a video from Bloomberg: “The White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Legos.

The introduction was — “Curious how the White House Correspondents’ Dinner works? We explain … with Legos.”

It’s that simple.

As soon as I finished, I had a Eureka moment. Why not bring the Lego video concept to Florida politics? Isn’t that what I’ve done before — take a national idea and make it Sunshine State-sized?

My plan was straightforward. I would first produce a video about some storyline involving Florida politics. From there, I would partner with public relations firms who needed a new way to tell their side of a food fight happening in the Florida Legislature.

“Marion Hammer wants 18 year-olds to bring guns to college campuses … told in Legos.”

“The Workers Comp food fight … told in Legos.”

“Why you can’t get Uber in Miami … told in Legos.”

Whatever. You get the point.

A team of folks (much funnier than I) would help write the scripts. I’d build the Lego sets. Kevin Cate would shoot the videos.

It’s ratings gold, Jerry.

Except for one thing — Lego sets are not very easy to build. At least not the interesting ones.

And, like the Times, finding the right Lego Minifigures is next to impossible.

Kristen Hare of The Poynter Institute details the roadblock the Times team faced.

“We’ve found many Lego-people-packs online,” said (Adam) Playford, director of data and digital enterprise at the Times. “But they all have too many weirdos, like Lego Bananaman and Lego Grim Reaper. Regular Lego people are apparently no longer in vogue.”

Playford and Co. solved their Lego-people-problem by putting out an all-hands-on-deck request to the staff at the Times. I, of course, do not have that luxury.

So … and here’s where some of the agony begins to set in … I worked with a firm in London to create custom Lego Minifigures.

For the script of the first video, I would tell the story of Marco Rubio and the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

I ordered Minifigures resembling Rubio, Donald Trump, Patrick Murphy, Alan Grayson, Carlos Beruff (in a trademark black shirt), Ron DeSantis (pictured here in a Navy outfit, of course), and David Jolly.

As for the sets; well, let’s just say what the Times built for its very nice story about a bridge is, um, child’s play.

I started by building the small city building sets:

Soon, I became more ambitious, building bigger sets:

I assembled cars, planes, and trucks (including a replica of one the U.S. Senator drives) so we could shoot the pivotal scene from outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando where Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera tells Rubio he should re-enter the race.

I even built The White House (which was very difficult because it’s from the “Architect” class of Lego sets, which is basically Lego’s way of saying “A lot of f*cking pieces are in this box.”

I’ve been building and collecting Lego sets for nearly seven months, thinking the entire time that no one else would bring an idea I first saw on Bloomberg to Florida politics.

And then my bitter rival, the Tampa Bay Times, unveils its pretty little story about a bridge.

When I read the first tweet about the story, I knew what it was about without clicking on the link. My heart sank to a depth deeper than those caissons that hold up the Howard Frankland.

Sure, as my wife and other friends have said, I could continue my Lego project — and I still might.

But that’s like making “Deep Impact” after you learn that “Armageddon” is in production.

“Deep Impact” is probably the better film, but everyone remembers “Armageddon.”

If I do a ” … as told by Legos” video now, critics will say, “but didn’t the Times do that first?”

And screaming “but Bloomberg did it before either of us” does nothing to solve the problem.

Now I am stuck with a whole lot of Legos — which is OK, since my daughter, Ella Joyce, loves building with them.

In fact, Legos are one of the things we’ve been able to do together.

Just yesterday, Ella became sick on our way to a Christmas event replicating a train ride to the North Pole (it’s awesome, and I recommend it to every parent.) We were forced to turn around, missing one of our favorite holiday traditions.

To make up for it, I finished building this — bringing the North Pole to Ella:

If this episode has taught me anything, it’s that, as an entrepreneur, when a light bulb goes off, move quickly. That’s what worked for Sunburn, Florida Politics, INFLUENCE Magazine and everything else I’ve done.

I moved too slowly on this project and, subsequently, I lost out.

That won’t happen again.

Speaking of which, I have an idea for a …

 

Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz to introduce Congressional term limits amendment

U.S. Rep, Ron DeSantis and Sen. Ted Cruz collaborated on a Washington Post op-ed Friday with a simple message regarding “draining the swamp.”

The secret: a Constitutional amendment for congressional term limits.

“As soon as the 115th Congress convenes,” the legislators write, “both of us will move to restore accountability among the entrenched Washington establishment by introducing a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms that a member of Congress can serve to three in the House and two in the Senate.”

“We believe that the rise of political careerism in modern Washington is a drastic departure from what the founders intended of our federal governing bodies. To effectively ‘drain the swamp,’ we believe it is past time to enact term limits for Congress,” Cruz and DeSantis add.

The chase for seniority, a consequence of a lack of term limits, nettles Cruz and DeSantis both.

“With term limits,” the legislators write, “we will have more frequent changes in leadership and within congressional committees, giving reformers a better chance at overcoming the Beltway inertia that resists attempts to reduce the power of Washington.”

The time is now to push this through, Cruz and DeSantis opine.

“With control of a decisive majority of the states, the executive branch, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Republican Party has the responsibility to respond to the voters’ call to action.”

Blaise Ingoglia rolls out more endorsements in Florida GOP Chair re-election bid

Blaise Ingoglia has received the backing of nearly a dozen Republican members of Congress in his re-election campaign for GOP chairman.

The Spring Hill Republican announced Wednesday that 11 Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation have endorsed his re-election bid.

“The organization Chairman Blaise Ingoglia put in place this past election cycle was crucial in delivering big wins from President-Elect (Donald) Trump and Senator (Marco) Rubio, our Congressional delegation, and the State Senate and State House,” said Rep. Ted Yoho in a statement. “I am proud to support his bid for re-election and with his continued leadership our party will be more than prepared for the 2018 cycle”

The announcement comes just days after Ingoglia, the current chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a state representative, formally launched his re-election campaign. On Monday, he also rolled out a list of more than 100 grassroots leaders backing his re-election.

In addition to Yoho, Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSantis, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, and Dan Webster endorsed Ingoglia. He also received the backing of incoming Reps. Neal Dunn, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, and John Rutherford.

“The operation that was built in Northwest Florida, under Chairman Blaise Ingoglia’s leadership, was crucial in helping my team as well as delivering the State of Florida for President-Elect Trump,” said Gaetz, who was elected in November in Florida’s 1st Congressional District and a former state representative. “We are grateful for his leadership and I am proud to support him for re-election as RPOF Chairman.”

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He had served as the party vice chairman, and was backed by grassroots leaders throughout the state.

Ingoglia will face Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota Republican committeeman, in the race to serve as the RPOF chair.

Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy earlier this month.

 

Republicans steamroll to win U.S. House races

Republican incumbents strolled to victory Tuesday over their Democratic opponents in three U.S. House races.

District 6

Republican Ron DeSantis, a two-term Republican incumbent who ran for the U.S. Senate this year before dropping out this summer, won Florida’s 6th Congressional District race to defend his seat. DeSantis, of Palm Coast, beat Democrat Bill McCullough, a political newcomer from DeLeon Springs.

DeSantis won with 59 percent of the vote or 212,923 votes to McCullough’s 41 percent or 150,447 votes.

CD 6 runs heavily Republican and stretches from Jacksonville’s southern suburbs south to New Smyrna Beach.

District 8

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, who is completing his fourth two-year term in Congress, held on to his seat. He defeated Democrat Corry Westbrook, lead specialist for oceans policy at the World Wildlife Fund, by a wide margin in Florida’s 8th Congressional District.

Posey won 244,097 votes, or 63 percent, while Westbrook took 125,698, or 33 percent of the votes.

CD 8 includes all of Brevard and Indian River counties along with a section of east Orange County including parts of Avalon Park, Bithlo, Christmas, and Wedgefield.

District 11

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster will continue his long career as a lawmaker, but in a new district.

Webster, a three-term Republican incumbent in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, beat political newcomer Dave Koller for Florida’s 11th Congressional District.

Webster won 256,541 or 65 percent of the vote, while Koller had 123,649, or 32 percent.

Webster switched to CD 11 after redistricting last year. His Orlando-area district was redrawn to favor Democrats so he decided to run in the heavily Republican 11th District.

Webster’s experience in the state Legislature and his six years in Congress gave him strong name recognition over Koller.

CD 11 encompasses parts of Lake, Sumter, Marion, Hernando, and Citrus counties.

National Taxpayers Union gives Marco Rubio an A, Patrick Murphy an F

The National Taxpayers Union, a fiscal conservative organization, is out with its new grades of federal lawmakers, drawing a clear distinction in assessments of candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate race: Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got an A, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy an F.

“Patrick Murphy’s F-rating from the National Taxpayers Union should come as no surprise after his years of casting liberal votes in Congress. Murphy supports higher taxes, a carbon tax, and wants to make it easier for the federal government to create new regulations. With a record like that, no wonder Murphy never actually worked as a CPA. Murphy’s liberal policies don’t work, and Florida families can’t afford them” Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens stated in a news release issued by Rubio’s campaign.

Both candidates are in good company within their parties. The taxpayers union’s annual Taxpayer Score also gave Fs to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and every other Democratic member of Congress from Florida except U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who got a D. Among Florida Republicans, U.S. Reps. Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, and Ted Yoho also got As. The worst grades among Florida Republicans were the Cs that went to U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Letinen.

Murphy’s 25 percent score from the taxpayers union was in fact the second-highest among Florida Democrats, after Graham’s 33 percent. Nelson got a 17 percent score. Rubio got an 87 percent score, tied for best among Florida’s congressional delegation.

The National Taxpayers Union was founded in 1969 and calls itself the”The voice of America’s taxpayers.”

“The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers,” according to the organization.

CD 6 longshot candidate will stump at Jacksonville’s Tiger Bay Friday

The resource gap in the Congressional District 6 race between incumbent Republican powerhouse Ron DeSantis and Democratic challenger William McCullough defies belief.

DeSantis, who was an energetic fundraiser during his discontinued campaign for the United States Senate, had $2,604,630 on hand as of his October quarterly filing.

McCullough? He’s $1,269 in the red.

In what seems like a curious decision given that it’s outside of CD 6, McCullough will be in Jacksonville Friday stumping at the First Coast Tiger Bay meeting at the University Club.

DeSantis had another engagement, claimed the local political discussion group in its newsletter.

McCullough’s remarks are one part of the program.

The part with more local relevance: a debate between the two general election candidates in the red-hot House District 13 race between Republican Mark Griffin and Democrat Tracie Davis.

FloridaPolitics.com posted an extended interview with Davis on Friday morning, in which she discusses the unprecedented nature of her campaign, re-launched earlier in October after Rep. Reggie Fullwood resigned from the state House and abandoned his re-election bid.

Ron DeSantis, John Rutherford want 2017 Atlantic Ocean red snapper season

In a preview of how they will work together in Congress, Rep. Ron DeSantis and John Rutherford (running in Florida’s 4th Congressional District) issued a joint statement calling for a 2017 red snapper season in the Atlantic Ocean.

While fishermen have the latitude to fish for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico Friday through Sunday in September and October, an Atlantic coast ban on snapper fishing was instituted in 2010 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in response to concerns about snapper population depletion.

This year, the ban continues, because of what happened last year.

NOAA asserts that “the total number of red snapper removed from the population in 2015 exceeded the allowable level [of] … 114,000 fish.  After evaluating landings and discard information for 2015, NOAA Fisheries has determined the estimates of total removals were 276,729 fish.”

NOAA’s concerns about population depletion notwithstanding, the congressman and the likely congressmen see a need for a season for economic recovery purposes, as well as to avoid “government overreach.”

“Our coastal communities up and down the east coast are just now beginning the long road of recovery after Hurricane Matthew,” said Rep. DeSantis. “A 2017 red snapper season would go far in bringing an influx of tourist dollars to help fuel our recovery.”

“The red snapper ban is government overreach at its finest,” said Rutherford. “I look forward to working with Congressman DeSantis and the entire Florida congressional delegation to restore balance with our fisheries management and end this destructive ban.”

Ron DeSantis voted against Hurricane Sandy aid. How will he vote next week?

Thousands of Floridians are heading for higher ground as Hurricane Matthew approaches South Florida and the state’s Atlantic coast. The storm, a Category 3 as of this writing, could make landfall in South Florida or the along the East Coast sometime later this week.

And even if— by some miracle — Matthew does not directly hit Florida, its path is almost guaranteed to bring hurricane-level winds and damage to millions of people living along the coast.

With the approaching storm, Matthew will also bring another type of tempest — to North Florida Republican Ron DeSantis.

In January 2013, DeSantis — newly elected to Florida’s 6th Congressional District, which covers Jacksonville through the north of Orlando — was one of the 67 House Republicans who voted against flood insurance assistance for victims of Hurricane Sandy, after it recently wreaked havoc on the New York-New Jersey area.

That bill, providing $9.7 billion in aid, otherwise passed unanimously through the Senate and was overwhelmingly approved by a (rare) bipartisan vote in the House.

”I sympathize with the victims of Hurricane Sandy and believe that those who purchased flood insurance should have their claims paid,” DeSantis said in a statement. “At the same time, allowing the program to increase its debt by another $9.7 billion with no plan to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere is not fiscally responsible.”

Paradoxically, DeSantis’ district now finds itself in the crosshairs of Matthew, which could have a double-barreled force even greater than that of Sandy.

Again, Matthew is almost certain to cause (at the very least) significant flooding and other related damage in much of Florida.

“The problem with the Sandy package was, if you look at it, only 30 percent of it was going to be spent in the first two years,” DeSantis told the St. Augustine Record in a June 2013 interview. “It actually appropriated money out to 2020 and 2021, things that could not in any way be said to be emergency spending. It just was so much extraneous stuff.”

One could assume Florida is going to see quite a bit of such “extraneous stuff” over the next few days.

On Wednesday, DeSantis tweeted this helpful warning: “We must take precautions & be prepared for #Matthew. You can build your emergency plan here: http://flgetaplan.com/ #HurricanePrep.”

While that’s all well and good, it will certainly be interesting to see how DeSantis votes next week.

Todd Wilcox launches Restoring American Leadership super PAC

Todd Wilcox, the former combat veteran and CIA case officer who ran for nearly a year as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, announced Wednesday he is forming a Super PAC called “Restoring American Leadership.”

Wilcox will serve as chairman of this new committee.

We are at a crossroads in this country where we must decide whether we continue on the destructive path we have been on for eight years, or do we renew our commitment to American leadership,” said Wilcox. “I am fighting to do everything in my power to ensure we elect only those who will fight for the conservative principals of limited government, free market capitalism, strong national defense, and the liberty ensured by an originalist interpretation of our Constitution.”

Wilcox announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat held by Marco Rubio on the 4th of July in 2015. He declared at that time he was “fed up with the status quo and I’m fed up with career politicians who care more about re-election or the next higher office than they do about their neighbors. That’s why I am declaring my candidacy for the U.S. Senate.”

For months he was the only non-politician in the GOP field, which also included Congressmen David Jolly and Ron DeSantis, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Earlier this year, Manatee developer Carlos Beruff joined the party.

But the race changed dramatically when Rubio’s chances for president faded and he decided in June to re-enter the contest. Although resistant at first to dropping out, Wilcox ultimately did exactly that, leaving Beruff to get manhandled by Rubio in the August primary.

As FloridaPolitics.com reported last month, Wilcox, a millionaire, has been giving out campaign contributions to federal candidates running in the Sunshine State since dropping out of the Senate race. And as POLITICO’s Marc Caputo reported Wednesday, Wilcox is getting behind Brian Mast, a combat veteran running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District against Democrat Randy Perkins.

Wilcox alluded to a spat the two candidates had at a meeting in front of the TC Palm editorial board recently when he wrote in an ad published in the Post on Wednesday that, “As a Green Beret in the United States Army, I had the tremendous honor of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the bravest, hardest working Americans to ever step on a battlefield. Like most who saw your recent meltdown, I watched in total disgust as you questioned ‘why the sacrifices and the services’ Brian Mast provided for this country make him ‘capable of solving issues’ affecting seniors, children, single mothers, veterans, and families.”

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