Archive for May, 2008

FL/MI Delegate Showdown
May 30, 2008

   In Washington DC, to watch FL Dems ask to have their votes counted.  Expect an absolutist argument– seat all FL delegates, according to the results of our “outlaw” January primary.

   The problem?– no one expects that to happen, not even Jon Ausman, the author of one of Fl’s two appeals that the Rules & Bylaws Committee will hear.  When I pointed that out to ex-Hialeah Mayor and current Congressional candidate Raul Martinez– one of the presenters of the Ausman appeal– his response was: “The fact that you expect it or not– you can’t just go in with a defeatist attitude.”

   In actual fact, though Clinton supporters outnumber Obamanians on the RBC, it’s likely that these party functionaries will want Fla. (and Michigan, which also flouted party rules by moving its primary up, before Super Tuesday) to feel the sting of some punishment.

   So– FL’s delegate strength may get cut in half.  That’s the same punishment Republicans meted out to the state for breaking their rules.  

   Though that would give Clinton an edge in FL delegates of somewhere between 6-19 delegates, the Obama folks are unlikely to oppose it.  Cong. Robert Wexler– who will present the Obama campaign position– says he’ll make an agnostic argument, something like “You figure out the formula for reinstating some FL delegates, and we’ll live by the formula.”

   Fact is, the Obamanians are far enough ahead to be generous, and their priority is to put all this to rest.  Obama has a rally scheduled Monday in Troy, Michigan, and you can bet he doesn’t want to show up there without some resolution of Michigan’s delegate dilemma.  

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Veepstakes
May 27, 2008

   MSNBC’s having some fun speculating about John McCain’s VP choice, ruinning a “Veepstakes” feature on its website: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24672458/

   32 contenders are arrayed in brackets.  Charlie Crist– much-ballyhooed as a potential VP pick in his home state– rates no better than a #2 seed in his bracket (behind South Dakota Senator John Thune?  Really?). 

   The punditocracy doesn’t take Crist very seriously as a Veep pick.  A National Journal quiz of political consultants found only 4% of them thought Crist was McCain’s best choice– down from 6% from their last survey, in February.

   Jeb Bush, also a #2 seed– amazing, given that the Bush “brand” is mired in below 30% approval ratings right now.  I have yet to meet anyone, inside or outside of politics, who thinks Jeb will do anything but bide his time this year.

    A third Floridian makes the list as a real dark horse– Cong. Connie Mack III, son of FL’s former Senator, who represents a district on the Sunshine State’s west coast.

   You’re invited to vote on the contenders, with the field being weeded out over the next month or so.  A prediction– Mitt Romney will emerge the victor, with Mike Huckabee an outside choice.

   Once that’s done, look for a similar “point-n-click” game as to the Democrats #2 slot.  In that case, Florida’s Senator Nelson is sure to be somewhere on the list.  He always is, more as a nod to Florida’s pivotal place on the electoral map than because of anything he’s done on Capitol Hill.  

   Remember– most anything that gets out in public at this point is probably pandering to a state, a constituency, or a politician.  Remember the highly-improbable leak that then-Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas was on Al Gore’s VP “short list”?

Polls Apart
May 22, 2008

   Obama again runs less well than Clinton in Florida and two other swing states.  Here are numbers and analysis released by Quinnipiac this morning.

Of special note– Hillary Clinton supporters are nearly-evenly split on whether they’ll support Obama in the fall… 43% yes, 36% no. 

McCAIN LEADS OBAMA IN TWO OF THREE KEY SWING STATES,

QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY SWING STATE POLL FINDS;

CLINTON HAS BIG LEADS IN FLORIDA, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA

FLORIDA: Clinton 48 – McCain 41; McCain 45 – Obama 41;

OHIO: Clinton 48 – McCain 41; McCain 44 – Obama 40:

PENNSYLVANIA: Clinton 50 – McCain 37; Obama 46 – McCain 40      

Plagued by a defection of Clinton supporters and white working class voters, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the leading Democratic presidential contender, trails Arizona Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican candidate, in Florida and Ohio, according to simultaneous Quinnipiac University Swing State polls released today.  Sen. Obama is six points ahead in Pennsylvania. 

New York Sen. Clinton wins handily in all three states.  No one has been elected President since 1960 without taking two of these three largest swing states in the Electoral College.  Results from the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University polls show:

·        Florida: Clinton tops McCain 48 – 41 percent; McCain leads Obama 45 – 41 percent;

·        Ohio: Clinton beats McCain 48 – 41 percent; McCain tops Obama 44 – 40 percent;

·        Pennsylvania: Clinton tops McCain 50 – 37 percent; Obama leads McCain 46 – 40 percent.

In the McCain-Obama matchups, 26 to 36 percent of Clinton supporters in each state say that if Obama is the nominee they would switch to the Republican in November.  Only 10 to 18 percent of Obama supporters say they would defect to McCain if Clinton is the nominee.

“The numbers for Florida and Ohio are good news for Sen. John McCain and should be worrisome for Sen. Barack Obama. That is especially true about Ohio, which decided the 2004 election.  Ohio’s economy is worse than the rest of the country and the Republican brand there is in disrepute. McCain’s Buckeye lead may be a sign that nationally this may not be the easy Democratic walk to the White House that many expected,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

            “In the Democratic primaries Sen. Obama won in most states among whites with college educations.  But this data show him losing among Florida and Ohio white college graduates by six points or more,” Brown added.

            President Bush’s approval ratings are:

  • 28 – 68 percent in Florida;
  • 26 – 68 percent in Ohio;
  • 23 – 72 percent in Pennsylvania.

Florida

In a Clinton-McCain matchup, she leads 54 – 37 percent among women, while men back McCain 45 – 42 percent.  In an Obama-McCain matchup, men back McCain 48 – 39 percent, while women split, with 43 percent for Obama and 42 percent for McCain.

Florida voters give Clinton a 48 – 43 percent favorability rating, with 44 – 40 percent for Obama and 45 – 37 percent for McCain.

            Florida Democrats split 41 – 41 percent on whether they want to see Clinton or Obama nominated.  Democrats say 64 – 31 percent that Clinton should stay in the race and 61 – 31 percent that Obama should pick her as his vice presidential running mate.

Democrats who want Clinton to win the nomination, would vote 91 – 6 percent for her against McCain, but only 43 – 36 percent for Obama against McCain.

The economy is the most important issue in their vote, 47 percent of Florida voters say, while 19 percent list the war in Iraq.  Health care and terrorism each get 11 percent.  Voters split 46 – 44 percent on whether they trust Obama or McCain to handle the economy.   By a 52 – 42 percent margin, they trust McCain more to handle the war in Iraq and trust McCain more,         58 – 34, percent to handle terrorism.  Voters trust Obama 50 – 37 percent to handle health care.

A total of 86 percent of Florida voters say they would be “entirely comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” with an African American President.

A total of 65 percent of voters say they would be “entirely comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” with a President who enters office at age 72.

Because of his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, 43 percent of Florida voters say they are less likely to vote for Obama, while 52 percent say it won’t affect their vote.

The same number, 43 percent, say they are less likely to vote for McCain because of his association with President Bush, while 45 percent say it won’t affect their vote.

“Sen. Obama is losing the white vote by 14 – 18 points in Ohio and Florida, which is enough to keep him from victory despite overwhelming support from African Americans.  In Ohio, more than a quarter of Clinton voters say they will support McCain.  In Florida, more than a third of them say they will back McCain against Obama.  If he can’t win a decent chunk of them back, he’s got an uphill climb in these pivotal states,” said Brown.

Finally in Florida!
May 22, 2008

   In person or by satellite, I saw three Democratic presidential rallies in FL today, and the Clinton gatherings in south FL couldn ‘t have been more different than Obama’s arena shindig in Tampa.

   “I am here with a very simple message,” she told a packed meeting room at the Sunrise Lakes condo, Phase 4.  “The people of Florida deserve to have their votes counted.”

   She said the same thing in several different ways in Sunrise, and earlier at a Boca Raton synagogue.  “You didn’t break a single rule and you should not be punished for matters beyond your control,” she said to cheers in Boca.  At both gatherings, “Count our votes” was a popular chant.

   Although many of the Clinton fans in the crowd said they’d never vote for Barack Obama (both of her stops would be hotbeds of what’s come to be known as “Obama’s Jewish Problem”), she did not disparage her Democratic opponent.  That makes sense– her slim hope of getting the nomination rests on convincing super-delegates she’s a better bet to defeat John McCain in the fall, and super-delegates tend to be very sensitive to any rhetoric that might weaken the party in ’08.

   More surprisingly, she didn’t mention John McCain much either.  The main foci of her ire were Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee, for stripping  Florida’s delegates as punishment for moving our primary in front of Super Tuesday.

   The DNC Rules Committee is slated to meet 5/31 in Washington to has out the controversy over delegates from FL & Michigan.  Clinton’s stirring public sentiment for seating the delegates according to the 1/29 primary results (she’d pick up 38 delegates on Obama if it happened).  Obama backers have long argued- no primary campaign preceded the primary vote, so FL & MI didn’t yield meaningful results.

   In Tampa, Barack Obama glossed right over the delegate controversy that’s kept him from holding any rallies or giving public speeches here since last September.  “I know you guys have been holding down the fort.  It’s good to be back,” he told the enthusiastic throng in the St. Pete Times Arena (15,000 estimated).  With that, he breezed right by the kerfuffle that might well cost him Florida, in November.

   He didn’t mention Clinton much, either.  “She’s run an outstanding campaign”  or “She’s a formidable opponent” is his standard reference nowadays.

   Obama is focussed on John McCain, still intent on rebutting McCain’s assertions that he’s too raw and inexperienced to guide US foreign policy.  He once again talked about his stated willingness to meet with antagonistic foreign leaders like Iran’s (one of the prime sources of his “Jewish problem”).

   He sought to clarify his starting point with Ahmadinajad– “You’d have to be clear– ‘You’d have to give up nuclear weapons.  You’d have to stop threatening Israel.'”

   Tomorrow, Obama starts his day with a synagogue town hall meeting in Boca– a setting where he might find skepticism about his willingness to deal with anti-semitic foreign leaders, about his ex-Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and perhaps about his youth, as well.

   And we’ve been promised a few minutes (3-5 minutes, to be precise) to question the candidate.  What would you ask Obama?

 

Cuban-American Voters– New vs. Tried ‘n True
May 21, 2008

  Some thoughts on the John McCain rally in west Miami-Dade.  It looked and sounded like many other Republican rallies aimed at the Cuban exile voter in the last several years.

  Olga Guillot– singer and heroine in the exile community– sang the Cuban national anthem.  The Congressional brothers Diaz-Balart were on stage behind McCain, who was introduced by Roberto Martin Perez, the exile community’s most-prominent ex-political prisoner, a man whose presence underscores McCain’s heroic resume as a POW.

  McCain’s speech contained a lot of sentiments we’ve heard before.  “The Cuban people have waited long enough!”  Hard to argue with, and sure to win applause from an audience jam-packed with exiles who certainly feel they’ve waited far too long for the end of dictatorial rule in their homeland.

  But McCain’s speech offered little beyond “stay the course” of Bush Administration policies– continuing the embargo, and curbs on remittances and travel back to the island.  Innovations were vague and modest– more support for dissidents on the island, more resources for Radio & TV Marti.   McCain made a pledge that his Justice Department “would vigorously prosecute Cuban officials implicated in the murder of Americans, drug trafficking, and other crimes”, though when asked about prosecutions stemming from the shootdown of “Brothers to the Rescue” pilots, McCain’s bold-sounding initial answer– “Yes”– back-pedaled into something more along the lines of “We’d investigate it thoroughly, and prosecute if it was warranted.”  

 Current US policies toward Cuba have won backing of healthy majorities of hispanic voters in south Florida, voters who’ve been an essential component of crucial Bush victories in Florida.

  However, we are told constantly this is a “change” election.  It’s not just pundits– voters I interview talk about “change” all the time.   Not surprisingly, Democratic critiques of the speech said McCain outlined a “status quo” position on Cuba. 

   My biggest shock of the day was a chat with a young Cuban-American who’s been a stalwart of George W. Bush fund-raising efforts in the past– a guy who’s raised six-figure sums for W.   I’d called him, trying to find out where McCain’s evening fund-raiser was to be held, figuring he might be headed there.

   But this guy surprised me, saying he was on the political sidelines this year, focussing on his business.  I got an even bigger shock when I asked if he might even be pondering a vote for Obama.  He said yes, adding that what he’d read of Mccain’s speech on-line sounded like too much business as usual.  

   I began to wonder how many folks there were like this young man (who didn’t want me to use his name, saying– “I don’t need the phone calls”), thinking a new approach might be in order, to bring change to Cuba. 

   McCain argues, we should be alarmed by Obama’s new approach.  “He would also sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro”.   The booing swelled as McCain repeated “sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro.”  He says the same thing about the possibility Obama might sit down with Ahmadinajad of Iran, a prospect that may well alarm another big Florida constituency, Jewish voters.

   South Florida Democrats argue, while older exiles who predominated at McCain’s event might still hew to the hard-line, younger Cuban-Americans (those who listen to Marc Antony, rather than Olga Guillot) are turned off by current policy, especially those limits on visits and remittances to relatives on the island.  That perceived generational split forms the basis of the Democrats’ challenges to Congressional incumbents like the Diaz-Balarts.

   Another younger Cuban-American I ran into after the rally– an elected official– admits that this year feels like an anti-Republican “perfect storm”.  But he argues, in the end, the spread of socialism in Latin America (in Venezuela and Bolivia) will drive potential defectors from the traditional hard-line back to the GOP in the fall.

   No predictions here– but this is a campaign story that will be fascinating to watch, as it unfolds.

Calif Gay Marriage Ruling/FL Marriage Amendment
May 16, 2008

  Local gay-rights advocates had to have mixed feelings about yesterday’s ruling in California, striking down laws aganist gay marriage.  On the one hand, it legitimizes gay marriage in the nation’s largest state (hey, Ellen DeGeneres immediately announced on her show she’s getting formally engaged to her long-time girlfriend).

  But the Calif. decision may also make it tougher to defeat the proposed FL “Marriage Defined as One Man, One Woman” constitutional amendment on November’s ballot.

  Amendment backers main argument is– sure, FL has a number of laws banning gay marriage, but activist judges can overturn laws at the drop of a hat, so an amendment’s needed.  California has now replaced Massachusetts (where a judge struck down laws against gay marriage several years ago) as the poster child for pro-Amendment Two forces… though you’d have to figure there are more “activist judges” in those 2 states than in relatively conservative Florida.

  Opponents of Amendment 2 have a court case of their own, from Michigan, to rail against.  There, the adoption of an amendment similar to the FL proposal recently led a judge to strike down the domestic-partner registry at Michigan State Univ.  That jeopardized the ability of same-sex partners of Univ. employees to be eligible for insurance benefits, etc.  MSU has tried to re-write its rules to get around that decision– its unclear how the courts will react. 

  Amendment 2 would need 60% support from Florida voters in November to pass, and promises to be a high-profile, big-money contest.

Rubio on SoFla Secession “Movement”
May 16, 2008

  A few South Florida cities have passed resolutions supporting the region’s secession from the state of Florida.  The movement’s been prompted by a Herald analysis, showing SoFla sends lots more dough to the state than it gets back in services.

  Recently, I asked outgoing state House Speaker Marco Rubio about it.  While it’s no surprise that a guy with designs on the Governor’s job opposes secession (can you imagine how a Miami secessionist would play in Wakulla or Altamonte Springs?), Rubio made some interesting observations.

See his comments here:

http://video.nbc6.net/player/?id=252268 

Capitol Hill Broom– Reaching FL?
May 14, 2008

  A Congressional special election in Mississippi is almost overshadowing Hillary Clinton’s win in WV’s Primary.  In Mississippi’s 1st Cong. District, Democrat Travis Childers won back a seat the GOP had held since 1994.  It was the 3rd Dem triumph in a long-time Repub Congressional district in the last few weeks.  Even the head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, Cong. Tom Cole, is conceding that people have lost confidence in the Republican Party.

  This all offers hope for challengers to South FL Republican Congressional incumbents.  After all, Mississippi’s 1st CD voted 64% for George Bush four years ago… compared to just 54% in Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s District, 56% in the CD represented by Mario Diaz-Balart, and 57% in his brother Lincoln’s District. 

   The campaign manager for Democratic challengers Raul Martinez (running against Lincoln D-B) and Annette Taddeo (who will oppose Ros-Lehtinen) is euphoric today.  Jeff Garcia says the Mississippi results are yet another indication that “change is in the air” in this election cycle.  He points to big registration shifts favoring local Dem challlengers.

   Cong.  Cole, while conceding the climate isn’t looking good this year for the GOP, predicts things will get better.  “It’s our misfortune to have these special elections at this time,” Cole told reporters on a midday conference call, “because I think we would have fared better in the midst of a great national debate.”

  Cole argues, Democratic Congressional leaders have been playing a “delay game”, passing no major initiatives of late, while playing “pin the tail on the Republicans”.  He claims that will backfire in the fall, when GOP Congressman can attack their oppponents and the Democrats’ Presidential candidate in the same breath.  

   Maybe– but attempts by Mississippi Republicans to pin Barack Obama onto Travis Childers’ campaign didn’t bear fruit.  Lots of attackads mentioned Childers and Obama (and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) in the same breath.  You can see some of them on Youtube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5glm8PhPedo&feature=related

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krCodkhqWs0

  So– how likely is it the winds of change will blow South Florida Congressional incumbents out?  Thus far, the non-partisan analysts at the Cook Political Report don’t think the odds are good.  They only rate one South FL Repub. as being at all endangered, classifying Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s seat as “Likely Republican”.

  Indeed, Cook rates two Florida Congressman more vulnerable than Diaz-Balart– Central Florida Republican Tom Feeney, who was a golfing buddy of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and Palm Beach Democrat Tim Mahoney, who won a usually-Republican seat last time when the incumbent, Mark Foley, dropped out after his suggestive emails to Congressional pages made headlines.

 

NYT Says– FL’s a Battleground
May 12, 2008

  The New York Times says McCain v. Obama boils down to 13 battleground states, and Florida’s one of them.

   The others are Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Michigan, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, and Oregon.

   Times pundits Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny point out– Obama’s at a disadvantage, not having campaigned here (since our primary was declared off-limits by the Democratic candidates and national party).  Obama will be trying to make up for lost time soon enough– slated to do a fundraiser at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, week after next.

   Florida is mostly red, when it comes to presidential contests.  Only Bill Clinton in ’96 has interrupted GOP dominance in the state in the last 7 elections (well, there was that virtual tie in ’00).  The last statewide poll I saw (Quinnipiac) showed a dead heat between Obama and McCain.

   Obama may have problems appealing to usually-Democratic Jewish voters, because of lingering (unfounded) suspicions he’s a muslim, and more substantial reservations about his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Usually-Republican Cuban-American voters may be irked by his stated willingness to talk to even unfriendly regimes like the one in Cuba.

   But Obama has the inside track on being the “change” candidate, and Floridians beaten down by rising cost-of-living and a sinking housing market may well be looking for change, in the fall.

   And Obama’s been raising money like nobody’s business.  He’ll be able to reverse the usual GOP money edge, if he chooses to forego public financing (Republicans may call that hypocrisy).

   For political reporters, a hot contest in Florida is manna from heaven.  My professional enthusiasm’s tempered by a personal concern.

   South Florida counties will be switching from touch-screen voting to optical-scan ballots.  Shifts in voting technology rarely seem to go smoothly, and a monster turnout could exacerbate logistical snafus.  Could another Flori-DUH vote hang up Decision ’08? 

Battlin’ Dems Make Headway in FL?
May 1, 2008

    Once again, voters turn traditional wisdom on its head.  The whole campaign storyline of recent weeks revolves around Democrats’ fears that the prolonged Obama-Clinton dust-up will cost them in November, and Republicans’ joy at John McCain’s opportunity to stay above the fray and re-introduce himself to voters.

    Obama’s ex-minister, Clinton’s Bosnia airstrip mis-remembrance– surely endless coverage of these Democratic campaign troubles would turn off crucial independents and alienate Dems from one another.

   Well, not in Florida, if the latest Quinnipiac Poll is to be believed.  1,411 voters, +/- 2.6% margin for error, questioning done April 23-29, as that supposedly-divisive Pennsylvania primary played out.

   The new poll shows Hillary Clinton in front of John McCain, 49-41%.  A month ago, she led in that same poll in Florida by just 2%, a statistical tie. 

   And Barack Obama is now in a statistical tie with McCain in FL (McC-44%, O 43%), after trailing by 9-points in Quinnipiac’s April survey.

   As you’ll see in the following results and analysis by Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown– Floridians actually like McCain better on a number of fronts…

Florida voters give Clinton a 49 – 40 percent favorability rating, with 47 – 36 percent for Obama and 51 – 32 percent for McCain.

            The economy is the most important issue in their vote, 50 percent of Florida voters say, with 22 percent who list the war in Iraq and 10 percent who list health care.   If Clinton is elected, 44 percent say the economy will get better.  If Obama is elected, 38 percent say the economy will get better.   Only 24 percent say the economy will improve under McCain.

The most important quality they want in a candidate is strong leadership, 29 percent of voters say, while 27 percent want someone trustworthy and 23 percent want someone competent.

McCain is a strong leader, voters say 73 – 20 percent, compared to 69 – 27 percent for Clinton and 58 – 30 percent for Obama.   McCain also leads on the trustworthy measure 68 – 22 percent, with 58 – 28 percent saying Obama is trustworthy, and Clinton split at 46 – 46 percent. 

A total of 43 percent of Florida voters say a candidate’s age is “very important” or “somewhat important.”

            “In Florida, with its large number of senior citizens, age is an issue.  That could hurt Sen. McCain.  These same voters are less concerned with gender or race, which would impact Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama.  But it may well be that people are more reluctant to concede they’re making decisions based on a candidate’s race or sex,” said Brown.

   So the oldest state in the union is worried that John McCain’s too old to be President?  Irony doesn’t begin to describe that result. 

   John McCain can’t change his age, and– having just seen him at his Miami stop last Monday– I can testify he’s showing his years.  What he must focus on changing is Floridians’ perceptions he offers only warmed-over Bush prescriptions for the economy… like continuing tax cuts for those earning $250k and up, tax cuts he used to oppose.