Ted Cruz – Page 7 – Florida Politics

Mitch Perry Report for 5.5.16 — Requiem for a would-be contender

John Kasich dropped out of the Republican race for president yesterday, conceding he won’t be the “White Knight” fantasized by #NeverTrump acolytes over the past few months.

The Ohio governor’s departure came less than 24 hours after Ted Cruz “suspended” his campaign, so now we have a full half-a-year to contemplate a TrumpClinton showdown in November.

Although at times it seemed a bit embarrassing, Kasich’s decision to remain in the race despite the fact that he only captured one state and ultimately finished with fewer delegates than Marco Rubio always made sense. That’s because of one simple fact: public opinion polls consistently showed that unlike Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Jeb Bush or any other Republican running, Kasich actually had enough general election potential to become president. If you were to have a contested convention, why not just choose the man who had hung in the race and was a candidate who could go the distance (although the RNC Grand Poohbahs would have had to have changed the rules about the nominee having to win eight primaries or caucuses).

However, like every other Republican other than Trump, GOP primary voters simply weren’t compelled to vote for him.

Kasich was the last Republican to officially to enter the race, announcing his candidacy last July. He immediately jumped to the forefront of what at the time was considered the serious, top-tier candidates who had the credentials to go far.

You know, that same list that included, Bush, Rubio and Scott Walker.

But as CNN reported, whether it was his plan to use a New Hampshire win to vault himself into contention in the states that followed (he finished second), or a big win in Michigan to vault him into his Midwest swing (he finished third), or the clear advantage he claimed to hold in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic (second or third in all), seemingly little that Team Kasich predicted would occur actually happened, other than taking his home state of Ohio.

If folks are mentioning Rubio as a possible running mate (and they are), you can bet they’ll throw Kasich in the mix. The fact that he was an operator on Capitol Hill for a long time and, yes, he’s from the crucial battleground state of Ohio, will keep his name in the media until he vows he doesn’t want it to be. And with the RNC taking place in Cleveland, he’ll be a presence at the convention.

Speaking of Rubio, the Florida senator was hammered for missing so much time on his day job in Washington, but curiously, you rarely heard criticism of Kasich taking so much time off from his duties as Ohio governor to do the same thing.

So if nothing else, Kasich can now get back to work and actually do his job, and hopefully, do it well.

In other news …

The economic analysis paid for by the Tampa/Hillsborough Film & Digital Media Commission says the county commission’s $250,000 incentive plan for the producers of the upcoming film, “The Infiltrator” provided a nearly 4:1 return on investment.

The West Central Florida Federation of Labor has opted not to endorse in the three-way battle for the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts race.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine to propose raising the minimum wage so that everybody who works in his city will make at least $13.31 an hour.

Philip Stoddard, the Mayor of South Miami, says he’d like to build a “Wall of Shame” in his region for all the Florida lawmakers who’ve done nothing to fight climate change.

Now that Eric Lynn is out of the race for Congressional District 13, Rick Kriseman is now on the record as backing Charlie Crist in that contest.

Mark Ober’s fundraising numbers are up in his race for re-election for Hillsborough State Attorney, and he’s got powerful businessman John Sykes asking his supporters for more.

And Lake Worth activist Cara Jennings has more to say to Rick Scott in a new video.

#NeverTrump founder Rick Wilson: ‘Never means never’

The Florida GOP media consultant and campaign adviser who founded the #NeverTrump movement says he will continue to oppose Trump to the bitter end — and will support the nascent push for a conservative third-party candidate he says better reflects Republican values.

“I am willing to look at a conservative third-party option, even if that candidate can’t pull this thing off and win,” Rick Wilson told WJCT.

“And I’m willing to undervote if I have to, and not fill in that line on my ballot.”

Wilson, who has called Trump everything from a “narcissistic sociopath” to a “draft-dodging blowhard” (and those were some of the kinder comments) says #NeverTrump must continue, if only to save Republican candidates in down-ballot contests who now have Trump as their standard-bearer.

“Never means never,” said Wilson. “The nominee of our party is not qualified in any dimension to be the nominee, and his ideas, philosophies and temperament are dangerous, not only to the future of the party, but of the country.”



John Kasich dropping out of prez race; Donald Trump on clear GOP path

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is leaving the Republican presidential contest, giving Donald Trump a clear path to his party’s nomination.

Kasich will announce the end of his underdog White House bid on Wednesday, according to three campaign officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the candidate’s plans. The decision comes a day after Trump’s only other rival, Ted Cruz, dropped out.

With no opponents left in the race, Trump becomes the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee to take on the Democratic nominee in November — presumably Hillary Clinton.

Though armed with an extensive resume in politics, the second-term Ohio governor struggled to connect with Republican primary voters in a year dominated by anti-establishment frustration. Kasich was a more moderate candidate who embraced elements of President Barack Obama‘s health care overhaul and called for an optimistic and proactive Republican agenda.

Even before news of Kasich’s decision surfaced, Trump signaled a new phase of his outsider campaign that includes a search for a running mate with experience governing and outreach to one-time competitors in an effort to heal the fractured Republican Party.

“I am confident I can unite much of” the GOP, Trump said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today Show, as several prominent Republicans said they’d prefer Democrat Clinton over the New York billionaire. In a shot at his critics, Trump added: “Those people can go away and maybe come back in eight years after we served two terms. Honestly, there are some people I really don’t want.”

His comments on several networks came a few hours after Trump, once dismissed as a fringe contender, became all-but-certainly the leader of the Republican Party into the fall campaign against Clinton. The former secretary of state suffered a defeat Tuesday in Indiana to her rival, Bernie Sanders, but holds a definitive lead in Democratic delegates who will decide the Democratic nomination.

The Republican competition changed dramatically with Trump’s Indiana victory and Ted Cruz’s abrupt decision to quit the race. Trump won the Indiana contest with 53.3 percent of the vote, to Cruz’s 36.6 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 7.6 percent, according to unofficial results.

Some Republican leaders remain acutely wary of Trump and have insisted they could never support him, even in a faceoff against Clinton.

“The answer is simple: No,” Tweeted Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who has consistently said he could not support Trump.

What’s their plan moving forward?

“Prayer,” responded Republican strategist Tim Miller, a leader of one of the GOP’s anti-Trump groups. “Donald Trump is just going to have an impossible time bringing together the Republican coalition.”

Some conservative leaders were planning a Wednesday meeting to assess the viability of launching a third party candidacy to compete with him in the fall. Such Republicans worry about Trump’s views on immigration and foreign policy, as well as his over-the-top persona.

Hours before clinching victory in Indiana, Trump was floating an unsubstantiated claim that Cruz’s father appeared in a 1963 photograph with John F. Kennedy‘s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald — citing a report first published by the National Enquirer.

Trump defended his reference to the Enquirer article on Wednesday morning as “Not such a bad thing,” but the line of attack was the final straw for some Republican critics.

“(T)he GOP is going to nominate for President a guy who reads the National Enquirer and thinks it’s on the level,” Mark Salter, a top campaign aide to 2008 Republican nominee John McCain, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. He added Clinton’s slogan: “I’m with her.”

On finding a running mate, Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he’ll “probably go the political route,” saying he’s inclined to pick someone who can “help me get legislation passed.” Trump didn’t identify any of the names under consideration.

He also said he’s hoping to decide within a week how to fund a general election campaign, but said he didn’t want to accept money from super PACs. He told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he would begin to accept more political donations.

“I’m really looking at small contributions, not the big ones. I don’t want anyone to have big influence over me,” he said.

A prominent Cruz donor, Mica Mosbacher, quickly signaled support for Trump and urged others to follow.

“I call on fellow conservatives to unite and support our new nominee Trump,” said Mosbacher, widow of a member of George H.W. Bush‘s cabinet. “My heart goes out to Cruz who has a bright future. He did the unselfish thing to drop out.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders eked out a victory over Clinton in Indiana, 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent. But the outcome will not slow the former secretary of state’s march to the Democratic nomination. Heading into Tuesday’s voting, Clinton had 92 percent of the delegates she needs.

“I know that the Clinton campaign thinks this campaign is over. They’re wrong,” Sanders said defiantly in an interview Tuesday night. But Clinton already has turned her attention to the general election.

She and Trump now plunge into a six-month battle for the presidency, with the future of America’s immigration laws, health care system and military posture around the world at stake. While Clinton heads into the general election with significant advantages with minority voters and women, Democrats have vowed to not underestimate Trump as his Republican rivals did for too long.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Carlos Beruff calls on Republicans to unite behind Donald Trump

Carlos Beruff has a message for Republicans: It’s time to back Donald Trump.

In a statement Wednesday, Beruff urged Republicans to unite behind the likely Republican nominee. He also called on his U.S. Senate rivals to also commit to supporting the New York Republican.

“Like Gov. Rick Scott, I urge all Republicans to unite behind Trump and I urge my opponents to commit to supporting him as the Republican nominee,” said Beruff. “This election is too important for our party not to be united behind him to defeat Hillary Clinton.”

Trump all but clinched the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with a victory in Indiana that knocked rival Ted Cruz out of the race. He still needs more than 200 delegates to formally secure the nomination, but Cruz’s decision to end his campaign removed his last major obstacle.

“Beating Hillary Clinton in November should be the first goal of all Republicans,” said Beruff. “Donald Trump is the nominee of our party, and I am committed to voting for him and supporting him so that we can take our country back from the liberal policies of Obama and Clinton.”

Beruff faces Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Todd Wilcox in the Aug. 30 Republican primary. The five men are vying to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Darryl Paulson: Picking a VP: Criteria, candidates for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump

As we close out the presidential nomination phase, attention is now shifting to the selection of possible running mates for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This will be the first important decision that the candidates must make as they enter the general election phase of the campaign.

Let’s examine some of the criteria that have been used in selecting a vice president in the past. Vice presidents are sometimes selected to unite the party. Ronald Reagan selected George H. W. Bush in an attempt to unite the conservative and eastern establishment wings of the party. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts picked Lloyd Bentsen of Texas to try to unite the northern and southern wings of the Democratic Party. It failed.

A vice president may be selected to appeal to a certain demographic group. For example, that’s what Walter Mondale‘s choice of Geraldine Ferraro of New York as the first female vice president of a major political party was all about. Her selection was designed to energize women voters and to win New York. Neither happened.

A vice president may be selected to win a crucial state. Both Bentsen and Ferraro failed to deliver their home states, just as Paul Ryan was not able to win Wisconsin for the Mitt Romney ticket.

A final factor is to add gravitas to the ticket. It was concern over Reagan’s qualifications that, in part, led to his choice of Bush. He had experience in Congress, was the head of the Republican Party, ambassador to the UN and China and Director of the CIA. Strangely, it was concern over Bush’s intellect that led him to pick Dick Cheney as his vice president. Cheney had served in Congress, was White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defense and a prominent businessman. He added those experiences to the ticket.

Vice presidents can make or break a campaign or administration. In 2004, John Kerry narrowed his vice presidential options to Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina or Missouri House member Dick Gephardt. Kerry picked Edwards and lived to regret the choice.

Kerry believed that Gephardt would have helped in winning Ohio, whereas Edwards failed to carry North Carolina. Democratic consultant Bob Shrum also believed Gephardt would have performed much better in the vice presidential debate.

In 2008, many believed that John McCain‘s selection of Sarah Palin weakened his chances of victory. Richard Nixon selected little-known Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew as his running mate. Agnew would go on to have the distinction of being the first vice president forced to resign due because he accepted bribes while governor.

Among Clinton’s possible candidates are two Hispanics, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Housing Secretary Julian Castro.

Perez is well-regarded by liberals, but is virtually unknown to most Americans. He has no foreign policy experience and his only elective office was as a county council member.

On paper, Castro is one of the favorites. He is young, telegenic and a rising star in the party. But his only government experience prior to becoming Labor Secretary was being mayor of San Antonio.

Former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges hopes Clinton will pick a woman as vice president. “It would be formidable and create a huge buzz with female voters,” he said.

The leading females include Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren is certainly better known and a favorite of progressives, but Warren refused to endorse Clinton.

Three other possibilities are white males: Sens. Tim Kane of Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bill Nelson of Florida. Kane comes from a critical swing state, speaks Spanish and was one of the first to endorse Clinton for president in May 2014.

Brown is a favorite of progressives and might help win the critical swing state of Ohio. But Brown is up for re-election and Democrats want to win control of the Senate. That might work against him.

Nelson’s strengths are that he comes from the swing state of Florida and he’s not seen as ambitious. He would be a vice president whose focus would be on the job and not running for president in the future.

For Trump, there are probably more people who don’t want to be his vice president than those who want to be considered. John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Nikki Haley, and Susana Martinez are among the many who have distanced themselves from Trump. Being Trump’s vice president is “like buying a ticket on the Titanic,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham said.

Among his possible vice presidential possibilities are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former presidential candidate Ben Carson. Sessions and Christie were among the first elected Republicans to endorse Trump.

Trump has personally praised three Republican governors: Kasich, Christie and Floirda Gov. Rick Scott. Kasich and Scott come from “must win” states, but a Kasich spokesman said there is “no chance” of him running with Trump. Scott, like Trump, comes from a business background and was one of the first to openly support him.

Trump has surprised everyone during the nomination process. It should not be surprising to see him surprise us once more in choosing a vice president.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

Donald Trump wins in Indiana

Donald Trump wins the Republican presidential primary in Indiana, continuing his surge toward clinching the GOP nomination over rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

Trump took a major step toward sewing up the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with a victory in Indiana’s primary election, dashing the hopes of rival Cruz and other GOP forces who fear the brash businessman will doom their party in the general election.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were vying for victory in the Democratic primary, though it was too early to call the race as votes were being tallied. Clinton already is 91 percent of the way to her party’s nomination.

While Trump can’t mathematically clinch the GOP nomination with his victory in Indiana, his path now becomes easier and he has more room for error in the remaining primary contests. The real estate mogul will collect at least 45 of Indiana’s 57 delegates, and now needs less than 200 more in upcoming contests.

Cruz, who hasn’t topped Trump in a month, campaigned vigorously in Indiana, securing the endorsement of the state’s governor and announcing businesswoman Carly Fiorina as his running mate. But he appeared to lose momentum in the final days of campaigning and let his frustration with Trump boil over Tuesday, calling the billionaire “amoral” and a “braggadocious, arrogant buffoon.”

Trump responded by saying Cruz “does not have the temperament to be president of the United States.” Earlier Tuesday Trump had rehashed unsubstantiated claims that the Texan’s father, Rafael Cruz, appeared in a 1963 photograph with John F. Kennedy‘s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald — citing a report first published by the National Enquirer.

Cruz has vowed to stay in the race through the final primaries in June, clinging to the possibility that Trump will fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs and the race will go to a contested convention. But he now could face pressure from donors and other Republicans to at least tone down in attacks on Trump in an attempt to unite the GOP heading into the general election.

Whether a united Republican Party is even possible with Trump at the helm remains highly uncertain. Even before the Indiana results were finalized, some conservative leaders were planning a Wednesday meeting to assess the viability of launching a third party candidacy to compete with Trump in the fall.

Only about half of Indiana’s Republican primary voters said they were excited or even optimistic about any of their remaining candidates becoming president, according to exit polls. Still, most said they probably would support whoever won for the GOP.

Clinton, too, needs to win over Sanders’ enthusiastic supporters. The Vermont senator has cultivated a deeply loyal following in particular among young people, a group Democrats count on in the general election.

Sanders has conceded his strategy hinges on persuading superdelegates to back him over the former secretary of state. Superdelegates are Democratic Party insiders who can support the candidate of their choice, regardless of how their states vote. And they favor Clinton by a nearly 18-1 margin.

Exit polls showed about 7 in 10 Indiana Democrats said they’d be excited or at least optimistic about either a Clinton or Sanders presidency. Most said they would support either in November.

The exit polls were conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks.

A fall showdown between Clinton and Trump would pit one of Democrats’ most experienced political figures against a first-time candidate who is deeply divisive within his own party. Cruz and other Republicans have argued that Trump would be roundly defeated in the general election, denying their party the White House for a third straight term.

Republican leaders spent months dismissing Trump as little more than an entertainer who would fade once voting started. Cruz was among those who actively tried to align themselves with Trump and called him “terrific.”

As Trump began to pick up wins, Cruz became more critical of his rival’s policies. Still, his torrent of attacks Tuesday was by far the most pointed and personal of the campaign to date.

Trump has now won seven straight primary contests and has 80 percent of the delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination. With his victory in Indiana, Trump now has at least 1,041 delegates. Cruz has 565 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has 152.


Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Donald Trump far behind in preparing for general election

The Republican presidential nomination may be in his sights, yet Donald Trump has so far ignored vital preparations needed for a quick and effective transition to the general election.

The New York businessman has collected little information about tens of millions of voters he needs to turn out in the fall. He’s sent few people to battleground states compared with likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, accumulated little if any research on her, and taken no steps to build a network capable of raising the roughly $1 billion needed to run a modern-day general election campaign.

“He may be able to get by on bluster and personality during the primaries, but the general election is a whole different ballgame,” said Ryan Williams, a veteran of Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaigns. “They’re essentially starting from zero heading into the general election.”

Trump’s early campaign efforts — fueled in the primary season by the sheer force of his personality and free media coverage — have defied all who predicted they would fall short of what’s required to win the nomination. He

Yet the billionaire’s aides acknowledged they’ll tap into the resources of the party’s establishment — the Republican National Committee, above all — as the scale and scope of the 2016 contest grow exponentially. That’s even as he rails daily against his party’s establishment as corrupt, and they predict his unique success so far will pay off again in November.

“Our ability to run a different type of campaign against Hillary Clinton in a general election is unique to the success that Mr. Trump has shown in the primaries,” said Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager.

Trump’s late start marks a sharp break from past Republican campaigns and that of Clinton, who is already beginning to shift resources to the November election. The Republican front-runner’s organizational disadvantage marks another warning sign for GOP officials who already feared he was unelectable this fall — even if he were well-prepared.

Trump has taken steps in recent week to add experienced political staff to expand his bare-bones organization. Yet the team has been consumed by playing catch up with Republican rival Ted Cruz, devoting almost no energy or planning to the next phase. Trump hopes he can score a victory in the Indiana primary Tuesday that can effectively end Cruz’s bid.

Lewandowski and other aides have also signaled a willingness to work closely with the Republican National Committee should Trump claim the nomination — “hand in glove,” in Lewandowski’s words.

Ed Brookover is working from a recently opened Washington-area office that is tasked with developing Trump’s detailed policy prescriptions and working with allies on Capitol Hill.

“From all reports — we’ve not gone in and kicked the tires yet — the RNC’s got a larger ground game already in place than ever before,” Brookover said. “And they’ve been investing an incredible amount of money on data.” He said that’s “going to be incredibly helpful.”

Indeed, the Republican National Committee has been expanding its national footprint and accumulating detailed information about millions of general election voters since soon after the GOP’s disastrous 2012 election. With only a few employees on the ground at this time four years ago, the RNC now has more than 200 in general election battlegrounds such as Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado.

“We are so far ahead of where we were,” said RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer. “Whether it’s Trump or someone else, that’s going to be a huge advantage.”

On the Democratic side, Clinton has already begun to send waves of campaign staffers to battleground states. Advisers are starting to consider locations for a splashy convention rally in Philadelphia and lawyers are scrutinizing more than two dozen possible vice presidential picks. The Democratic front-runner also has a well-established donor network and is planning lucrative fundraisers in New York, Michigan, California and Texas later this month.

Trump has lashed out at other candidates for raising money from wealthy donors, but GOP leaders anticipate he will need to do the same thing in the coming months. Many Republicans are skeptical that Trump has the willingness or the capacity to cover the estimated $1 billion cost of the campaign ahead.

Absent a massive personal investment, Trump and his party will be tasked with raising millions of dollars a day to match spending levels from the past election. The Romney campaign spent years developing an extensive fundraising network and collected general election cash long before his primary contest was decided.

For now, though, the Trump campaign concedes it has done little to prepare for the fall fight.

“Once we are the nominee, we will look at all the options,” Lewandowski said of fundraising.

Trump still has staff on board in battlegrounds such as Ohio and Florida, though employees and volunteers have been consumed by the primaries.

“We’re focused on winning Indiana and then going on and winning California and New Jersey and anything in between,” said Stephen Stepanek, Trump’s co-chairman in New Hampshire, which is a perennial swing state. “Then we will start talking about the general election.”


Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 5.3.16 – Only six more months of hearing about Hillary vs.The Donald – every day

Well today’s the Indiana primary, and aren’t you all excited about that?

I didn’t think so. A CNN/ORC poll released yesterday shows more than eight of 10 Americans believe Hillary Clinton will challenge Donald Trump for president in November. That was taken before Indiana votes today … or Nebraska next week … or California and New Jersey next month.

But it’s still more fun to talk about a contested convention than start talking every day about a Hillary vs. Donald confrontation, since that’s still a full half-year away!

OK, enough of this: Will this be it for Ted Cruz tonight? It’s been over for quite awhile for the Texas Senator. But you wouldn’t believe that if you tune into cable news — and why would you, since it’s all about ginning up interest (The Sanders/Clinton race tonight could be close, we should add).

Seriously, I’m sure everyone reading this watches their fair share of CNN, Fox and/or MSNBC. I’m telling you I’m trying to walk away from the flat-screen though, because there’s nothing really that new to learn.

I felt a little wistful watching John Heilemann try to keep the excitement up on his Bloomberg show, “With All Due Respect.” Heilemann was a great writer/reporter for New York magazine for years. Now he makes $1 million acting like every other pundit on cable. Good for him. Bad for us.

However this race, thanks to Donald J., has been great for everyone’s ratings (and clicks).

Since the start of the year, CNN’s prime-time audience has more than doubled to 435,000 viewers a night in its target demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds, according to Nielsen.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in the fourth quarter last year, CNN’s average price for a 30-second prime-time spot was about $7,000, up from about $5,000 a year earlier. Fox News and MSNBC also have raised prices.

Thank God Trump survived, and Cruz didn’t, those network honchos are believing. Also a lot of political reporters.

But if it ain’t new, is it really news?

And before we go to the other news of yesterday, a quick shoutout to my sister Michele out in Richmond, California.  Happy Birthday!

In other news …

David Jolly, a former lobbyist, said on Sunday that he doesn’t believe ex-members of Congress should go back into the lobbying game, prompting a response from one of his GOP senate opponents, Todd Wilcox.

Although the business establishment supports the Tampa Bay Express toll lanes project, they’ve kept that support relatively close to the vest in recent months. Not anymore, as they announced the creation of a coalition with a website backing the $3.3 billion proposal. Meanwhile, TBX opponents howled upon learning the news.

Tampa attorney Bob Buesing becomes the first (and only, presumably) Democrat to enter the Senate District 18 seat in Hillsborough County — where he’ll likely face Dana Young in the fall.

Defying his leadership, Sarasota area Congressman Vern Buchanan says he doesn’t care — and is calling for the Congress to fully fund President Obama’s $1.9 billion request to combat the Zika virus.

And while Hillsborough County Commissioners dream up new ideas on where to come up with funding transportation that won’t include a sales tax, County Administrator Mike Merrill just shakes his head.

Donald Trump has a ‘plan B’ for convention – outside help

Donald Trump has a Plan B if he’s faced with a contested convention, and it involves the sort of outside groups that he’s called “corrupt.”

While the billionaire businessman might lock up the Republican presidential nomination in the next five weeks of voting, he and his allies are simultaneously undertaking a parallel effort in case he falls short.

Outside groups, including one led by longtime Trump political ally Roger Stone, and a loose collection of colorful supporters such as “Bikers for Trump” are organizing ahead of the July convention in Cleveland.

They’re soliciting money to pay for their transportation and housing, and they’re already trying to influence the mood of the convention with a social media campaign saying that anything short of a Trump nomination would be “stealing.”

“Our principal focus right now is Cleveland,” Stone said of his group, called Stop the Steal. “We want to bring as large a contingent as possible to demonstrate the breadth of Trump’s appeal so that the party can see graphically what they’re going to lose if they hijack the nomination from him.”

Stop the Steal and other groups are gaining steam even though Trump has insisted he wants no donor help for his bid and is beholden to no one.

Super political action committees “are a disaster, by the way, folks,” Trump said at a Republican debate in March. “Very corrupt.”

Stop the Steal is not technically a super PAC, but it operates under very similar rules.

This past week, Trump’s lawyers sent the Federal Election Commission a letter renewing the campaign’s disavowal of groups using his “name, image, likeness, or slogans in connection with soliciting contributions.” All the groups planning Cleveland activities repeatedly use his name in their literature.

Trump set the stage for what the outside groups are doing by making provocative comments about the complex way Republicans pick a nominee — “rigged,” he calls it. Voters weigh in, but each state has its own rules about what delegates go to the convention and how they must vote on a presidential candidate while they’re there.

Stop the Steal and other Trump fans are pushing a similar message on social media and websites.

“The big steal is in full swing,” one online letter says, calling unfriendly delegates “stooges.”

The Stone-led Cleveland coalition includes We Will Walk, Bikers for Trump, Citizens for Trump and Women for Trump. Stone said the goal is to bring thousands of people to march peacefully in the streets.

“We are prepared to bring the Republican Party down if they mess with Trump and try to take it away from him by doing the dirty tricks,” said Paul Nagy, a New Hampshire Republican. He runs We Will Walk, a group that has collected more than 41,000 online signatures of people who say Trump deserves the nomination.

The public relations offensive is a counterpart to GOP rival Ted Cruz‘s carefully crafted, labor-intensive strategy of recruiting friendly delegates in hopes he can win if Trump falls short on the first ballot of voting.

This weekend in Arizona, Cruz won another strategic victory over Trump, getting numerous friendly delegates elected to head to Cleveland while the Trump backers appeared to be virtually shut out. Those delegates are required to first vote for Trump at the convention because he won the state, but they could later switch their votes to Cruz.

While Cruz is playing within the party’s rules, Trump’s claim that what Cruz is doing amounts to “stealing” resonates with voters.

In mid-April, after Cruz swept Colorado’s elected delegates, stay-at-home mom Erin Behrens said she felt sick about what was happening to her candidate. So Stop the Steal helped her organize protests in the state.

Stone and an ally, Greg Lewis, flew in to help Behrens answer email and arrange a rally. At the April 15 event in Denver, about 200 demonstrators waved banners that read “Banana Republicans” and chanted “Stop the Steal!”

Behrens said in an interview last week that she’s continuing to organize Trump supporters in Colorado. “If there’s funny business and they make it clear they’re going to not give it to Trump, Stop the Steal Cleveland will be one thing,” she said. “But we will have protests, events across the United States. Count on it.”

A good chunk of what the outside groups are doing now is fundraising.

“Bottom line we need to raise $262,000 in the next two weeks,” Stop the Steal’s website says. “If you can’t make it to Cleveland will you help those who can? Will you send $500, $200 or even $100 to this crucial effort?”

A different pro-Trump group, Great America PAC, also is raising money for a Cleveland effort. This one is led by William Doddridge, chief executive officer of the Jewelry Exchange.

Its commercials warn that “party elites” will try to seize the nomination from Trump at the convention and suggest that people stop that from happening by calling an 800 number and giving money.

It needs the help. The group’s latest fundraising report, covering through the end of March, shows it is more than $600,000 in debt. The super PAC can take unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions. Trump’s lawyers have specifically asked it to cease operations.

Stop the Steal isn’t a super PAC, the category of outside group that attracts the most ire from Trump, Stone said. But it’s a distinction without a difference.

It is organized as a political nonprofit “527” group that files periodic disclosure reports about its donors and spending with the Internal Revenue Service rather than the Federal Election Commission. Like an FEC-monitored super PAC, a 527 can take unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Ted Cruz faces make-or-break moment to stop Donald Trump

Facing a make-or-break moment for his slumping campaign, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was blitzing through Indiana on Monday in a desperate bid to overtake Donald Trump in the state’s primary and keep his own White House hopes alive.

A victory for Trump in Indiana on Tuesday would be a dispiriting blow for Cruz and other forces trying to stop the front-runner, leaving them with few opportunities to block his path. Trump is the only candidate in the race who can reach the 1,237 delegates needed for the GOP nomination through regular voting, though Cruz is trying to push the race toward a contested convention.

“This whole long, wild ride of an election has all culminated with the entire country with its eyes fixed on the state of Indiana,” Cruz said Sunday at a late night rally. “The people of this great state, I believe the country is depending on you to pull us back from the brink.”

Several hundred people came to see him Monday at Bravo Cafe in Osceola, where he predicted a close finish in the primary and said: “We need every single vote.”

“You’re the perfect man for the job,” a man told him as diners consumed coffee and eggs. “God bless you,” Cruz said, gripping his hand.

Cruz was holding five events across Indiana on Monday. Trump was holding a pair of rallies in the state, though he was already confidently looking past Cruz and setting his sights on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Trump made clear Monday that he would keep up his accusation that Clinton is playing gender politics: “We’re making a list of the many, many times where it’s all about her being a woman.”

“I haven’t started on Hillary yet,” he told CNN, although actually he’s been trashing her record for quite some time.

For her part, Clinton told thousands at an NAACP dinner in Detroit on Sunday that President Barack Obama‘s legacy can’t be allowed to “fall into Donald Trump’s hands” and be consumed by “these voices of hatred.” She cited Trump’s “insidious” part in the birther movement that questioned Obama’s citizenship.

Clinton’s campaign announced Monday that she had raised $26 million in April.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has vowed to stay in the Democratic race, though he acknowledged Sunday that he faces an “uphill climb.” His only path rests on a long-shot strategy of winning over superdelegates, the elected officials, lobbyists and other party insiders who are free to back either candidate.

Trump can’t win enough delegates Tuesday to clinch the Republican nomination. But after his wins in five states last week, Trump no longer needs to win a majority of the remaining delegates in coming races to lock up the GOP nomination.

The importance of Indiana for Cruz became evident even before he and fellow underdog John Kasich formed an alliance of sorts, with the Ohio governor agreeing to pull his advertising money from Indiana in exchange for Cruz doing the same in Oregon and New Mexico.

But that strategy, which appeared to unravel even as it was announced, can’t help either man with the tens of thousands of Indiana voters who had already cast ballots: Early voting began in Indiana three weeks before they hatched their plan.

It also risks alienating those who have yet to vote, said veteran Indiana Republican pollster Christine Matthews. She said she believes many have continued to vote for Kasich in Indianapolis and in the wealthy suburbs north of the city.

“Indiana voters don’t like the idea of a political pact, or being told how to vote,” Matthews said.

Trump went after Cruz on Sunday, suggesting evangelical conservatives have “fallen out of love with him” and mocked his decision to announce former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina as his running mate.

“They’re like hanging by their fingertips,” he said, mimicking Cruz and Kasich: “Don’t let me fall! Don’t let me fall!”

Trump let on that he’s eager to move on to a likely general election race against Clinton.

He said the end game of the primary battle with Cruz is “wasting time” that he could be spending raising money for Republicans running for the Senate.

“It would be nice to have the Republican Party come together,” Trump told supporters in Fort Wayne. “With that being said, I think I’ll win anyway.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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