A new Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll finds Barack Obama and Mitt Romney essentially tied in America's biggest battleground state, with 46 percent of likely Florida voters supporting the president, 45 percent backing the former Massachusetts governor, and 2 percent behind Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Only 7 percent are undecided.
"A coin toss," Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said. "Typical Florida."
Adding Marco Rubio to the Romney ticket would only marginally help Romney in must-win Florida. A Romney-Rubio ticket leads Obama-Joe Biden 46 percent to 45 percent in Florida.
Florida Recount Predicted
The New York Times' uber prognosticator, whose blog derives its name from the 2000 Recount, forecasts "Florida as close as can be. It projects the Nov. 6 result as Mr. Obama 49.5 percent, Mr. Romney 49.4 percent — an outcome that would be close enough to trigger another recount."
Sen. Bill Nelson Ahead of Connie Mack
Sen. Bill Nelson has a 47 to 42 percent lead over Rep. Connie Mack, according to the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll.
Only 36 percent of respondents like Nelson and 12 percent did not recognize him, an encouraging sign for Mack who has name recognition due to his father.
“Nelson is vulnerable,” said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
A Rasmussen poll came out Thursday that has Mack leading Nelson by a 46 to 37 percent margin.
Still, there is good news for Nelson in the latest poll. The senator holds a strong – 50 to 39 percent – lead with independents. He also holds a big advantage with women, leading Mack by a 52 to 37 percent margin.
In terms of region, Nelson is strongest in Southeast Florida, leading Mack by a 53 to 33 percent. Mack, meanwhile, is strongest in Southwest Florida, leading Nelson by a 55 to 38 percent.
NOW IT'S GETTING SERIOUS: Nelson's chief-of-staff, Pete Mitchell, officially takes charge of re-election campaign beginning today.
Weldon Winds Newspaper Endorsement
"A year ago, Republican candidates for U.S. Senate eager to take on Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson filled a stage. Now it's impossible to find two of them in the same room. The field weeded itself out, with the most promising possibilities never getting in the race and the others giving up or leaving for safer races. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV of Fort Myers has the famous name, the endorsements, the PAC money — and questionable work habits, a sense of entitlement and an undistinguished record in Congress. Former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon of Indialantic is a long shot, but he has more experience in Congress, a stronger record of accomplishments and a reputation as a more serious-minded lawmaker..."
MY TAKE: After declining its invitation to participate in the candidate debate it intended to host, the Times would endorse a tomato can before it recommended Mack.
Is Palin an RNC Wallflower?
Mitt Romney hasn't invited Sarah Palin to the Republican convention and the Tea Party is livid, Newsweek reports.
"What galls the Tea Party activists is the sense that Romney represents a lost opportunity for their agenda of less government, flatter taxes, and constitutional restraint. Facing a vulnerable president saddled with a bad economy and a crisis in the public sector, they feel stuck with a guy served up by Republican elites who speaks conservatism with an establishment accent. Worse, in this view, Romney seems incapable, or unwilling, to even defend himself, as the Obama campaign machine highlights his offshore bank accounts and his career at Bain Capital."
FLASHBACK: Palin’s PAC paid $4,500 to reserve space at Channelside Bay Mall in Tampa, near the site of the Republican National Convention, “suggesting that she plans to have an independent presence at the event separate from the formal proceedings,” according to Politico.
Is Gov. Scott a Liability for Romney?
Gathering in South Florida for their annual fundraising soiree, state Democrats made clear what they believe is their strongest argument against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Florida: Gov. Rick Scott, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
With Scott's poll numbers continuing to struggle and Florida a critical battleground in the November election, Democrats see the unpopular businessman governor as a uniquely powerful albatross against Romney, a former Massachusetts governor under fire for his time at the head of private equity firm Bain Capital as he runs against President Barack Obama.
"I think there's just a couple of words that speak to the current Republican brand and the way that we're going to present it, two words I'll use with some frequency tonight and for the rest of this campaign: Rick Scott," Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said.
Smith and other Democrats bashed Scott at a press conference before the party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner at the Westin Diplomat Hotel here, an event a party spokeswoman said had drawn about 1,000 people and raised about $750,000. And the attacks on Scott and another controversial Republican, Congressman Allen West, continued through the dinner.
Wasserman Denies Interest in Governor's Office
Democratic National Committee Chair and U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz has dismissed a published report that she would consider a run for Florida governor in 2014.
“I’m running for re-election,” Wasserman Schultz said on Saturday. “I am going to work hard to earn my constituents’ support to represent them in the nation’s capital." ... “I am completely focused on re-electing Barack Obama and earning the support of my constituents,” she said. “That’s my sole focus.”
Floridians Aren't Feeling the Love for Rick Scott
After 18 months as governor, Rick Scott remains personally unpopular with a majority of Floridians, according to the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll, reports Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times.
But despite voters' displeasure with Scott, they strongly support his efforts to rid Florida's voter rolls of noncitizens in this presidential election year.
The latest survey by the nonpartisan Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Jacksonville shows that 51 percent of voters disapprove of Scott's job performance and 40 percent approve, with 9 percent not sure.
Scott's positive name recognition also remains low, with 29 percent of voters viewing him favorably, 37 percent unfavorably, 30 percent neutral and 4 percent with no opinion, despite his people-friendly work days, blitz of ceremonial bill signings and frequent visits to high-profile, cable TV shows.
Jeb Raising Mondey for Young Candidates
Former Gov. Jeb Bush will headline a fundraiser for Maverick PAC, the group founded by George P. Bush, the former governor’s son. The organization supports young Republican candidates.
FDLE TO PROBE EX-LAWMAKER, COLLEGE PRESIDENT LARS HAFNER
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate whether State College of Florida President Lars Hafner forged signatures on documents, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
Hafner has been president of the college in Manatee and Sarasota counties since 2008. Earlier, he served 12 years as a Democratic House member from Pinellas County.
>>>The Board of Trustees at Florida A&M University meets by phone Monday to discuss the recent decision by President James Ammons to resign. The board will discuss a transition plan for when Ammons leaves in October. Ammons stepped down in the midst of a series of problems that have come to light at the school, and in the wake of the death of a student in what was said to be a band hazing event.
>>>The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors meets to discuss rate changes for the upcoming year. The workshop will be the first detailed look at potential rates since newly appointed CEO Barry Gilway started his job. Board members are looking at options to make Citizens' rates more actuarially sound and reduce the number of policies in the state-backed program.
>>>The Florida Board of Education will hold a workshop that will include presentations about state finances and major cost drivers for the 2013-14 education budget.
>>>Florida's Board of Governors looks to have a bigger say in who gets selected campus president at UF and FAMU.
DEM VERN BUCHANAN OUTRAISES VERN BUCHANAN DURING Q2 IN CD 16
While the campaign of Vern Buchanan is touting its more than $2 million overall raised and more than $1.5 million in cash-on-hand, it's the fact that Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald out-raised Buchanan during the second quarter that is turning heads in Sarasota and Washington, D.C. Fitzgerald raised over $380,000 from April 1 to June 30, while Buchanan brought in $335,000.
A SURPRISING STRAW POLL IN CD 19
Lee County’s Republican Executive Committee’s meeting this week included a surprising straw poll, brief speeches by candidates, and fireworks.
In the straw poll, only REC members were allowed to vote; officers said 117 members were present. Not all candidates attended; those who did generally did better than those who did not.
The biggest surprise? Possibly Byron Donalds’ one-vote win, 35-34, in the congressional contest over Gary Aubuchon, who has some REC leaders in his camp. Chauncey Goss was third.
THE FLORIDA RETAIL FEDERATION'S LEGISLATIVE ENDORSEMENTS
The Florida Retail Federation enjoyed a successful 2012 legislative session, although one of its priorities - the equalization of online tax collection requirements -- was and continues to be stymied. The FRF expects to be an active player in the upcoming legislative elections and is endorsing a slate of candidates supportive of the retail industry.
Among the endorsed candidates are: Rob Bradley in SD 7, Dorothy Hukill over Frank Bruno in SD 8, John Legg over the field in SD 17, Jim Frishe over Jeff Brandes in SD 22, Mack Bernard over Jeff Clemens in SD 27, Ellyn Bogdanoff over Maria Sachs in SD 34 and Ron Saunders in SD 39.
The FRF did not issue an endorsement in SD 4 between Aaron Bean and Mike Weinstein or SD 24 between Rachel Burgin and Tom Lee.
As for the interesting endorsements made by the FRF in House races, it's supporting Michelle Rehwinkle-Vasilinda over Bradley Maxwell in HD 9, Jake Raburn in the GOP primary for HD 57 and Ana Rivas Logan in HD 116.
A full listing will be posted on SaintPetersBlog later Monday morning.
THE BEST LEGISLATIVE FUNDRAISERS
Candidates for the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives today filed their F1 campaign finance reports for everything raised and spent from April 1, 2012 through July 6, 2012. On 3 Public Relations performs an amazing public service putting all of this information in one place. On 3's Christina Johnson e-mailed us these highlights:
The Top 5 Senate Incumbents (Total Money Raised)
SD 01 / Don Gaetz / $632,350.00; SD 30 / Lizbeth Benacquisto / $542,465.56; SD 32 / Joe Negron / $503,665.00; SD 20 / Jack Latvala / $455,082.00; SD 06 / John Thrasher / $450,565.00
The Top 5 Senate Candidates (Total Money Raised)
SD 21 / Denise Grimsley / $756,880.77; SD 26 / Bill Galvano / $418,249.38; SD 04 / Aaron Bean / $372,352.07; SD 08 / Dorothy Hukill / $278,010.34; SD 18 / Wilton Simpson / $273,000.00
The Top 5 House Incumbents (Total Money Raised)
HD 29 / Chris Dorworth / $296,022.00; HD 116 / Jose Felix Diaz / $243,835.00; HD 37 / Richard Corcoran / $239,412.25; HD 115 / Michael Bileca / $238,250.00; HD 80 / Matt Hudson / $233,133.00
The Top 5 House Candidates (Total Money Raised)
HD 7 / Halsey Brashears / $152,689.23; HD 77 / Dane Eagle / $133,407.72; HD 97 / Jared Moskowitz / $127,473.00; HD 78 / Heather Fitzenhagen / $115,794.30; HD 47 / Bob Brooks / $110,100.00
STATE GOP HEAVILY INVOLVED IN LEGISLATIVE PRIMARIES
To a degree that is unprecedented, the Republican Party of Florida is taking sides in GOP primaries across the state in a big way, according to the most recent campaign finance reports, reports Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union. The party has given $2.2 million to influence legislative races, records show. It has contributed $318,609 directly to candidates who have a Republican primary opponent, and nearly $1.9 million to a group controlled by some of the Senate’s most powerful members that is also taking sides.
The help comes in the form of both direct contributions and help with polling and campaign staff.
At this point in a similar 2008 election cycle, the party had given less than $500,000.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “These guys are saying we are going to slit one another’s throats to see who can be president of the Senate.” -- Tom Slade, former Chair of the Republican Party of Florida.
BIG WINNER OUT OF SECOND QUARTER FUNDRAISING REPORT? MENTZER MEDIA SERVICES
(I)t appeared that one of the big winners in this year’s campaign is a Towson, Md. political consulting company, reports James Call of the Florida Current. State records show Mentzer Media Services had collected nearly $400,000 from state Senate candidates.
Mentzer was formed in 1991 and has worked for Republican candidates running for offices from city hall to the White House. It was behind the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry and produced ads opposing Jerry Brown when he ran for governor of California in 2010. Senate President-designate Don Gaetz, R-Destin, retained the company for his fall campaign against Richard Harrison, a no-party-affiliate candidate.
“A candidate would want them on their side instead of working against them,” Sen. Mike Fasano said with a laugh. ... “A lot of times candidates will hire a consultant so their opponents can’t hire them,” he said.
ONE STAT TELLS YOU ALL YOU NEED TO ABOUT MONEY AND FLORIDA POLITICS
This one stat, courtesy of Aaron DeSlatte of the Orlando Sentinel, tells you all you need to know about Florida legislative campaigns:
A fund controlled by House Minority Leader Perry Thurston to help Democratic House candidates has raised just $15,000 since being created in January. By contrast, Thurston's Republican counterpart, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford has raised $1.37 million this year for his own fund.
IN SD 4, MIKE WEINSTEIN HAS FUNDRAISING MOMENTUM, BUT AARON BEAN STILL HAS BANK
Rep. Mike Weinstein more than doubled what fellow Republican Aaron Bean raised in the race for Senate District 4 this quarter, but Bean still has more in the bank than Weinstein. Weinstein raised $72,635 in the second quarter while Bean just managed a bit under $31,000. But Bean, who has been running to return to the Legislature for several years, has raised far more overall than Weinstein – about $374,000 to about $185,000. Bean, of Fernandina Beach, also has just under $195,000 on hand, to Weinstein's $145,000. The winner of the Republican primary faces Democrat Nancy Soderberg.
TAMPA TRIBUNE ENDORSES LEGG, FRISHE AND LEE IN BATTLEGROUND STATE SENATE RACES
The relatively conservative editorial board of the Tampa Tribune is endorsing John Legg in SD 17, Jim Frishe is SD 22 and Tom Lee in SD 24.