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CBS poll shows dead heat between Patrick Murphy, Marco Rubio

The Patrick Murphy campaign had more to cheer about Sunday after a CBS News poll showed the first-term congressman within striking distance of incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

The poll showed Rubio with 44 percent support among registered Florida voters compared to 42 percent support for Murphy, with 8 percent undecided and 6 percent saying they would vote for a different candidate.

Last week a poll from Opinion Savvy showed the Murphy, a Democrat, tied with Rubio at 46 percent support, and a Quinnipiac University poll showed Rubio ahead by 2 points.

In addition to the head-to-head, the poll also asked voters who they would choose if they could change their vote in the Republican Primary, and Donald Trump came out on top with 21 percent of the vote, followed by John Kasich with 17 percent.

Rubio, who placed second in the Florida Primary back in the spring, was the third place finisher in the with 15 percent support. Another 12 percent said they would have voted for Jeb Bush and 9 percent picked Ted Cruz, while the remaining 26 percent said they would vote for “someone else.”

The poll also showed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with 46 percent support compared to 43 percent for Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson polled at 3 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein took 2 percent.

The CBS News poll was conducted over the internet Oct. 20 and 21 and received 1,042 responses. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.

Mitch Perry Report for 10.21.16 — Rick Scott in 2020?

Forget about Marco Rubio in 2020, what about Rick Scott?

Troy Kinsey from Bay News 9 reports that “some GOP operatives are floating him as a potential presidential contender in 2020, should Trump lose in November.”

Kinsey then quotes all of one lone such operative in his story. But it does make for a good headline.

Now, what about Marco Rubio? The Florida lawmaker made news this week when he declared in his debate against Patrick Murphy, “I’m going to serve in the Senate for the next six years, God willing.”

Even if Rubio does break that pledge, will the GOP primary voters in 2020 become warmer to his candidacy than they were this year? Well, a Bloomberg poll of 404 Republicans nationally taken last week doesn’t even put Rubio in the top five contenders for 2020.

Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and John Kasich finished in the top five, with five percent listed as “other,” including, presumably, some Rubio fans.

Meanwhile in South Florida yesterday, the President of the United States continues to enjoy his freewheelin’ campaign style in the waning months of his tenure, slamming Rubio mercilessly for his continued support of Trump.

“How can he call him a con artist and dangerous, and object to all the controversial things he’s said, but then say, ‘I’m still going to vote for him?’,” Obama said at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens.

“C’mon, man,” he said.

“That is the sign of someone who will say anything, do anything, pretend to be anybody just to get elected. If you’re willing to be anybody just to be somebody, man, you don’t have the leadership that Florida needs in the United States Senate.”

Closer to home, a quick correction to Patrick Manteiga’s column in today’s La Gaceta. Patrick reports Lisa Montelione has “failed to receive any endorsement of her peers on Tampa City Council” in her House District 63 race versus Republican Shawn Harrison.

Au contraire. Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen did announce their endorsement earlier this week.

The Cubs thrashed the Dodgers last night, and are looking pretty up 3-2 going back to Chi-town tomorrow night. I may be the only man in the Tampa Bay area rooting for the Dodgers, which is really weird. I mean, I’m a Giants fan, for heaven’s sake.

And the Bucs travel to San Francisco, Santa Clara this weekend to play Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. Will any Bucs take a knee in solidarity with the now nationally famous activist?

In other news …

Victor Crist is calling for an emergency meeting next week of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission to deal with the negative fallout of recent press reports.

Speaking of which, newly released emails show PTC executive director Kyle Cockream communicated freely with officials of taxicab and limousine companies his agency is supposed to be regulating.

After getting his column on the more unseemly side of the Clintons spiked, Chris Ingram quit the Tampa Bay Times.

Republican Eric Seidel continues his campaign against Democratic incumbent Pat Frank for the clerk of the court.

Sarasota U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan hopes to get federal assistance in cleaning up Sarasota and Manatee County’s red tide problem.

Marco Rubio presidential campaign owes $1.5M in debt

Marco Rubio might be running for re-election, but his presidential campaign is still more than $1 million in the red.

Campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission show Rubio’s presidential campaign had more than $1.5 million in debt as of Sept. 30. The sum includes the costs of telemarketing services, media production, and legal fees.

According to campaign finance records, the presidential campaign owed $570,657 for telemarketing; $315,000 for media production; $167,000 for legal fees; $350,000 for strategic consulting; and $130,000 for web services.

It may seem like a lot, but the campaign has continued to whittle down its outstanding debt each reporting period. Records show the presidential campaign had more than $1.9 million in debt at the end of March.

Rubio ended his presidential bid in March, after he came in second to Donald Trump in Florida’s presidential preference primary. He announced he was running for re-election in June, just days before the qualifying deadline.

It’s not unusual for presidential campaigns to carry debt well after the race is over. In May, the Wall Street Journal reported former presidential hopefuls owed more than $5.4 million.

Paying down the debt could take years. According to the Wall Street Journal, Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic nominee, didn’t pay off debt for her 2008 presidential campaign until 2012.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is still trying to pay down the debt from his 2012 presidential bid. According to the most recent campaign filing, Gingrich still owed $4.6 million for his 2012 campaign.

Rubio isn’t the only 2016 hopeful whose campaign is still carrying some debt.

Campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission show Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign owed $368,063 through Aug. 31; while Bernie Sanders, a 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful, owed $472,011 at the end of August.

Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign owed $250,000, down from $452,065 at the end of February. Bush ended his presidential bid after the South Carolina primary. Meanwhile, Chris Christie’s campaign still owes $170,505; while Rand Paul’s presidential campaign owes $301,107.

 

Gold cards and red hats: A Trumpian approach to fundraising

Donald Trump is underwriting his presidential bid by selling the Donald Trump lifestyle — and campaign finance records show it is working.

For the low price of $25, you can snag a Trump Gold Card emblazoned with your name or join a campaign “Board of Directors” that comes with a personalized certificate. For $30, grab one of Trump’s signature red hats — billed as “the most popular product in America.” Supporters can elevate themselves to “big league” by ponying up $184 for a signed, “now out of print” copy of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal.”

There’s a catch to some of these merchandising claims. There is no evidence the board of directors exists. “The Art of the Deal” is still in print, available for $9.34 in paperback. And the new campaign edition of the book is signed by an autopen, not Trump, as noted in the solicitation’s fine print.

Regardless, the appeals have paid off.

Through the end of July, people giving $200 or less made up about half of his campaign funds, according to fundraising reports through July. For Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, those small gifts accounted for about 19 percent.

The two candidates each claim over 2 million donors, but Trump has been fundraising in earnest for only about three months, compared to Clinton’s 17-month operation. Both are expected to report the details of their August fundraising to federal regulators on Tuesday.

“His brand appeals to quite a number of people,” said John Thompson, digital fundraising director for Ted Cruz‘s Republican presidential campaign. “It’s smart for him to use it for fundraising. The celebrity factor builds a natural donor community on its own, without him having to do too much.”

Hyperbolic campaign marketing is a natural fit for Trump, who has puffed up the value of what he sold throughout his business career. At times, Trump has offered golf memberships or Trump University seminars at a “discount” from an imaginary, inflated price; and he has declared condo projects close to selling out when in reality they were struggling.

“You want to say it in the most positive way possible,” Trump once told attorneys who asked him whether he had ever lied about his properties to sell them. “I’m no different from a politician running for office.”

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that his campaign has adopted that same approach, outspending Clinton on campaign merchandise while running a brisk retail operation that helps him raise the money for, among other things, crucial get-out-the-vote efforts and advertising to spread his message.

Trump’s appeals for smaller contributions are reminiscent of Bernie Sanders, whose signature line in the Democratic primary this year was that his campaign was paid for by $27 donations.

Sanders’ digital fundraiser, Michael Whitney, questioned whether Trump’s small donor haul would continue since it does not appear the campaign has done much to get email addresses that could be turned into fresh batches of new potential donors.

“This feels more like a battering ram than a well-thought-out digital program,” Whitney said.

One of Trump’s most frequent fundraising offers has been a “gold card” that identifies the holder as an Executive Member for a “one-time induction fee.”

“In the past, I have asked supporters for a one-time induction fee of $100. But because of your outstanding generosity to date, I am only asking you to make a $35 contribution,” the email asks.

The Associated Press found no evidence of an online solicitation in which the card was sold for the undiscounted price of $100.

The gold card offer is reminiscent of a Trump Visa card that became available in 2004. In a press release for it, Trump pitched it as “the best deal” and warned declining it “could get you fired.”

Trump also seeks to make would-be donors feel like part of the campaign. Several emails have sought “campaign advice,” asked for help with debate preparation and even offered people the chance to join a campaign “board of directors.”

There’s no evidence such a board exists, and the campaign did not respond to questions about it.

But the gold card and executive board membership gimmicks are getting results, said Tom Sather, senior director of research at the email data solutions firm Return Path. The firm measures emails much the way Nielsen measures television viewership, by extrapolating from a large panel of study participants.

Emails from the Trump campaign and Trump joint committees with the Republican Party have an average open rate of 11 percent, Sather said. The 10 gold card-related emails had a far higher open rate of 18 percent, and executive board emails had an open rate of 19 percent, he said.

“These kinds of offers intrigue people and make them feel exclusive and special,” he said.

Ever the marketer, Trump has also dominated the campaign swag front.

In April, May and June, Trump spent about $3 million on merchandise that’s then sold to donors, an AP review of campaign finance reports found. Clinton’s operation spent about $2 million in the same time period.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Ted Cruz endorses Dan Bongino in CD 19

Dan Bongino snagged a big endorsement Monday, just one day before the Republican primary.

Sen. Ted Cruz announced Monday he was backing Bongino in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. In a statement, the Texas Republican and one-time presidential hopeful said there was “no doubt” in his mind that Bongino would defend the Constitution.

“Dan spent his life in public service, first as a police officer, and then as an agent in the United States Secret Service,” said Cruz in a statement on Facebook. “There’s no doubt in my mind that in our nation’s capital Dan would be a relentless advocate for and defender of our Constitution — just as he has been his entire life.”

The endorsement comes one day before the primary. Bongino faces Chauncey Goss and Francis Rooney in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Robert Neeld in November.

Donald Trump campaign doubles spending, not ground game

Donald Trump‘s campaign expenses more than doubled last month, even as the Republican presidential nominee held his payroll to about 70 employees, aired zero television advertisements and undertook no significant operational build out across the country.

Instead, about half of the campaign’s $18.5 million in spending was vacuumed up by Giles-Parscale, a web design and marketing firm new to national politics, Federal Election Commission filings show. It’s a crossover vendor from Trump’s real estate organization.

The campaign paid Giles-Parscale $8.4 million in July, about twice what the San Antonio firm had collected from it over the course of the preceding year. Brad Parscale, the president, is the campaign’s director of digital marketing.

The big expense came as Trump put a new emphasis on online fundraising, after paying for his primary run mostly out of his own pocket.

Millions more went to air travel. The campaign paid about $2 million for private jets other than Trump’s own TAG Air, which also collected $500,000.

Some of Trump’s consultants are also mysteriously well-paid.

Chess Bedsole, the campaign’s Alabama state director, was paid $64,000 last month for field consulting. His last campaign payment was for $15,000 in December.

Yet the campaign’s payroll remained thin, and there did not appear to be much new in the way of office leases across the country, including in critical battleground states such as Ohio.

Trump has relied heavily on the Republican National Committee for conventional campaign infrastructure. And he’s boasted of holding the line on his campaign spending. But he’s running critically low on time to build an operation that can compete with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In addition to being ahead of Trump in polls in key states, Clinton has maintained a staff of about 700 for months, opened up offices across the country and already spent $67 million on general election ads. Trump put out his first ads days ago, spending $5 million to air them in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Her campaign spent $38 million in July, about double his spending.

Clinton can afford to spend more than Trump, the July campaign finance reports show. Her campaign raised $52 million while his brought in $37 million for the month, including a $2 million contribution from Trump himself.

The candidates also raise money for their parties, enabling them to ask for contributions far higher than the $2,700-per-donor limit to the campaigns. Overall in July, Clinton raised $90 million for her campaign and Democratic partners, while Trump raised $80 million for the campaign and Republican groups.

Trump did bring aboard some new campaign consultants in July.

He paid $100,000 to Cambridge Analytica, a deep-dive data firm that did business with GOP opponent Ted Cruz. Hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who contributed $2 million to a pro-Trump super political action committee in July, is an investor in Cambridge.

The Trump filings also show some old ties.

Two weeks after the ouster of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign cut his firm, Green Monster Consulting, another $20,000 check. That’s about the same amount it had paid him each month while he was running the campaign.

At the time of the latest payment, Lewandowski was already on the payroll of CNN, where he is a political contributor.

The campaign also paid Trump Organization employee Meredith McIver, who has worked as a Trump ghostwriter over the years. She took credit — and then blame — for writing Melania Trump‘s speech at the Republican National Convention that included similar lines from Michelle Obama‘s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The campaign valued McIver’s time, accounted for as payroll from the Trump Organization, at $356.01.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Marco Rubio to campaign with Mike Pence, while keeping distance from Donald Trump

Marco Rubio is agreeing to appear with Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, even as the Florida senator and former presidential candidate keeps his distance from Donald Trump.

ABC News reports that, after several phone conversations, Pence and Rubio could begin campaigning in Florida within the next few weeks. After ending his presidential bid, Rubio is currently seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate.

A statement from the Rubio campaign says that although “Marco has tremendous respect and admiration for Gov. Pence,” no joint events are “scheduled at this time.”

Rubio’s agreement with Pence is seen as the latest move by Republicans to attempt to improve relations with the party’s presidential nominee. Pence recently met with both John McCain and Jeb Bush privately, and had contacted former presidential candidates John Kasich and Ted Cruz.

During the Republican primary, Trump and Rubio clashed on several occasions, most notably when Trump called the senator “Little Marco” and Rubio responding by mocking the New York billionaire’s “small hands.”

However, after solidly losing the Florida primary to Trump, Rubio said he would continue to back the Republican nominee, but later saying he doubted Trump could be trusted with the nuclear codes. Rubio refused to back down from his earlier comments, saying Trump was a “con man.”

“I’ve stood by everything I ever said in my campaign,” Rubio told the Miami Herald.

If re-elected to the Senate, Rubio said he could help keep Trump in check.

Rubio also told reporters he would not be making personal appearances with Trump.

“Not that I’m looking to undermine him,” Rubio said in an interview with CNN in June. “But I think the differences between us on key issues are so significant that I don’t plan …. I’ve got to run my own race.”

According to the latest NBC/WSJ/Marist poll, Democrat Hillary Clinton leads Trump in Florida 44 to 39 percent.

Donald Trump, former campaign aide settle confidentiality dispute

Donald Trump has settled a $10 million legal dispute with a former political consultant he had accused of violating a nondisclosure agreement. Terms of the settlement, which included a counter lawsuit against Trump, were confidential.

The decision brings to a close the latest move by the GOP presidential nominee to aggressively enforce terms of confidentiality agreements he requires nearly every employee to sign.

Trump had sought $10 million in damages from Sam Nunberg after accusing the former aide of leaking information to reporters after Nunberg was fired. In response, Nunberg filed a lawsuit in New York state court, accusing Trump of trying to silence him because he chose to support Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the GOP primary.

The details of the settlement were not disclosed in court papers, and attorneys on either side declined to provide further details.

“All I can say it that it was amicably resolved, the whole dispute,” said Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization.

Nunberg’s attorney, Andrew Miltenberg, issued a similar statement in an email to The Associated Press. Nunberg did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Hillary Clinton campaign reports 34.2 percent tax rate

Hillary Clinton‘s campaign says the Democratic nominee and her husband paid a federal tax rate of 34.2 percent and donated 9.8 percent of their income to charity last year.

The Clintons are releasing their 2015 filings on Friday. Her campaign is also releasing returns from running mate Tim Kaine and his wife.

The campaign says the Kaines have donated 7.5 percent of their income to charity over the last decade. They paid an effective tax rate of 25.6 percent in 2015.

Clinton is trying to undercut the trustworthiness of rival Donald Trump. He has refused to disclose any returns, breaking tradition with all recent presidential candidates.

Trump says he won’t release them until Internal Revenue Service completes audits of his returns.

The Clintons have disclosed returns for every year since 1977.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s trap: GOP nominee can’t let go of perceived slights

For Donald Trump, it’s become a familiar pattern. The Republican nominee can’t let go of a perceived slight, no matter the potential damage to his presidential campaign or political reputation.

Trump spent the days after winning the Republican nomination criticizing a U.S. district court judge’s Mexican heritage. The morning after accepting the Republican nomination at the party’s convention, Trump re-litigated months-old grievances with primary rival Ted Cruz. Now, he’s sparring with an American Muslim family whose son was killed in Iraq.

Republican leaders have urged Trump to drop his attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, who appeared at last week’s Democratic convention and harshly criticized the GOP nominee. It’s not just the optics of picking a fight with a military family that has GOP officials eager for Trump to move on, but the timing of his attacks: Election Day is just three months away.

Those who have worked with Trump say that in private meetings, he can often appear amenable to putting a controversy aside. But the businessman can quickly be drawn back in by an interview, especially if he believes he’s already answered the question, or if he grows irritated by commentary on cable television.

“It’s just who he is,” said Stuart Jolly, a former campaign staffer and current political director for the pro-Trump Great America PAC.

Others who have worked with Trump say the only way to ensure he moves on is to wait for him to tire of an issue or get drawn into another matter. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who has advised Trump, said the candidate’s inability to back away from a political land mine “makes him vulnerable.”

“His whole experience up until running for office was in a very combative New York media market,” Gingrich said. “He’s been doing it now for over 30 years. It’s a very deeply held habit.”

Khizr Kahn delivered an emotional address at last week’s Democratic convention, with his wife standing by his side. The Pakistan-born Khan told the story of his son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart after his death in 2004.

Khan said that if Trump were president and enacted his proposed temporary ban on foreign Muslims coming to the U.S., a position Trump has backed away from in recent weeks, his son would have never been allowed into the country. He also questioned whether Trump had ever read the Constitution.

Trump responded by implying Ghazala Khan’s religion preventing her from speaking at the convention, though she later said talking publicly about her late son was still too difficult. On Monday, Trump tweeted that he was being “viciously attacked” by Khizr Khan.

Trump’s unwillingness to let the matter subside sparked outrage Monday from a chorus of Republicans.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war, said Trump did not have “unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.” Rep. Mike Coffman, a vulnerable Republican in a competitive Colorado district, said he was “deeply offended when Donald Trump fails to honor the sacrifices of all of our brave soldiers who were lost in that war.” Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said the Khans “deserve to be heard and respected.”

“My advice to Donald Trump has been and will continue to be to focus on jobs and national security and stop responding to every criticism whether it’s from a grieving family or Hillary Clinton,” Blunt said in a statement.

However, none of the Republican lawmakers pulled back their support of Trump’s White House campaign.

In his first rally after a weekend of controversy, Trump spoke at length and took several questions at an event Monday in Columbus, Ohio — never once mentioning the Khans.

But when asked about Khizr Khan on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” Trump responded, “I guess it’s part of my life.”

“His son died 12 years ago,” Trump added. “If I were president, his son wouldn’t have died, because I wouldn’t have been in the war, if I was president back then.”

Trump backers attending the Ohio rally dismissed the issue, underscoring how the businessman was able to survive numerous such firestorms in the GOP primaries.

“I think the Democrats laid a trap for him,” said Tom McClanahan, a 54-year-old from Johnston, Ohio. “I think they knew what they were doing when they asked that family to speak at the convention. They knew he’d respond.”

Dale Brown, a maintenance supervisor from Grove City, Ohio, whose son is in the Navy, said Democrats were blowing Trump’s comments out of proportion and had “politicized this by asking that family to speak.”

But the real test for Trump isn’t the opinion of the loyal supporters who attend his rallies. It’s the broader general election audience, a far more diverse group still weighing Trump’s readiness for the White House.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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