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Charlie Crist says ‘I’ll just go there,’ plays race card again in explaining party switch

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 by George Bennett

Crist: GOP treatment of "the African-American president" was "a big reason" he left party.

Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist denied he left the GOP because he was trailing Marco Rubio in a 2010 Senate primary and said “a big reason” he bolted was the way some Republicans treated “the African-American president.”

Crist’s remarks in an interview with Fusion TV’s Jorge Ramos echo his claims to Stephen Colbert in February that his infamous Fort Myers stimulus hug of President Barack Obama angered GOP activists in part because Obama “was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American.”

Then-Republican Crist was initially the frontrunner for the party’s 2010 Senate nomination, but fell far behind Rubio and left the party to become an independent in 2010. He became a Democrat in December 2012.

“You left the Republican Party because you were going to lose to Marco Rubio,” Ramos said.

Crist said he left because the party’s leadership “went off the cliff” and “I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there.”

He referred again to “the African-American president” and said the way “some” in the party treated Obama was “a big reason” he left the GOP.

RNC spokesman Izzy Santa responded to Crist’s remarks in an e-mail to Fusion: “Being a flip-flopper is bad enough, but playing the race card to win over voters is pitiful.”

Frankel says new Benghazi investigation ‘is about Hillary Clinton running for president’

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 by George Bennett

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, says she’s “troubled” by a newly surfaced White House e-mail from 2012 on the infamous Benghazi talking points, but she said 2016 presidential politics are behind the latest Republican calls for a House select committee investigation.

Asked if Democrats should participate in the hearings, Frankel’s office pointed to her interview with a local TV station.

“This is about Hillary Clinton running for president and the Republicans just trying to stop her,” Frankel told local CBS 12 News. Clinton was secretary of state when the attack occurred.

Republican calls for a Benghazi probe have intensified since the recent release of an e-mail by Ben Rhodes, at the time a deputy national security adviser, coaching then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice before a series of Sunday talk show appearances to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

Said Frankel: “I’m troubled by that e-mail but the email is not really a smoking gun. I think the e-mail sort of backed up what the administration was saying and I think what’s important is keeping our diplomats safe in the future.”

New Benghazi probe? Dem Murphy ‘respects the work his colleagues have done already’

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 by George Bennett

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

With House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announcing he’ll create a House select committee to investigate the deadly 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, the Obama administration and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., haven’t been clear on whether Democrats will participate.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday the administration cooperates with “legitimate” congressional oversight, but wouldn’t say if he considers the Benghazi committee legitimate. Pelosi today called for the panel to be split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. Evenly divided committees are rare on Capitol Hill and Pelosi’s demand could be seen as laying the groundwork for Democrats to boycott the panel if Republicans don’t agree.

Erin Moffet Hale, a spokeswoman for freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, gave this answer when asked via e-mail if Murphy believes Democrats should participate:

“The Congressman respects the work his colleagues have done already investigating this matter in the Oversight and several other House Committees. He believes that Congress’ main concern needs to be focused on improving safety so that an attack like this doesn’t happen again.”

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, characterized the investigation as being aimed at potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack.

The offices of the three other members of Palm Beach County’s House delegation — Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings — did not immediately respond to e-mailed questions about the Benghazi panel.

Republican calls for a Benghazi probe have intensified since the recent release of an e-mail by Ben Rhodes, at the time a deputy national security adviser, coaching then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice before a series of Sunday talk show appearances to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

After Ukraine visit, Frankel urges working with allies on sanctions, ensuring free elections

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by George Bennett

Frankel: Back in the U.S.A.

After visiting Ukraine with congressional colleagues and Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, called for the U.S. to work closely with European allies to impose sanctions on Russia and to help Ukraine have free elections next month.

Frankel and other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee visited Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The congressional delegation saw Biden in Ukraine.

Frankel called Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s aggression in eastern Ukraine “very disconcerting” and said she supported President Barack Obama‘s responses so far.

“We definitely have a role, but the role has to be together with our European allies. First of all, military action is not warranted. I really haven’t heard anybody talking about that. Economic sanctions and diplomatic discussions are the way to go,” Frankel said.

She said sanctions need to be coordinated with European allies because those countries rely more heavily on trade with Russia.

Frankel said corruption is a problem in all three countries she visited and that helps Putin in Ukraine.

“Putin is counting on an illegitimate government. It makes it much easier to take steps like he did with Crimea,” Frankel said.

Elections are scheduled for next month in Ukraine and the U.S. has pledged to help.

“If they could have a fair and free election — and I say ‘if’ because it doesn’t appear that they’ve had one…They need a strong leader who could clean up corruption and who could really stand up” to Russia, Frankel said.

Frankel said violence in eastern Ukraine appears to be “designed to really intimidate, to thwart this election from happening — the last thing Putin wants is for Ukraine to have a new elected president.”

Frankel said the three countries she visited are all being held back by corruption at all levels of government.

“They’re not going to have the kind of economy and democracy they say they want unless they get through this,” Frankel said. “We have a role to play, an important role, but so do these countries themselves…If they don’t deal with the corruption they’re never going to have the strength they need.”

‘Outsider’ who challenged Obama to 3-point shooting contest wins GOP congressional primary

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Businessman and former college basketball player Curt Clawson, who introduced himself to Southwest Florida voters during the Super Bowl with an ad challenging President Barack Obama to a three-point shooting contest, won a special Republican primary Tuesday for the congressional seat of cocaine-busted Trey Radel.

Clawson, who branded himself “The Outsider,” got 38.3 percent to win the four-candidate primary.

State Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, the former Wellington councilwoman who was the favorite of the GOP establishment, finished a distant second with 25.7 percent. Benacquisto did not have to give up her seat because Florida’s resign-to-run law doesn’t apply to candidates pursuing federal offices. With her Senate seat on the ballot in the fall, she has about $185,000 in her re-election account.

In a congressional district where Republicans have a 45-to-27 registration advantage, Clawson will be the heavy favorite in a June 24 special election against Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood.

Radel resigned in January after pleading guilty to a cocaine possession charge. Because the charge was a misdemeanor, Radel did not lose his right to vote in Florida and cast an absentee ballot in the primary, according to the Lee County elections office.

Tuition break for immigrants gains high-profile Senate opponents

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 by John Kennedy

House Speaker Will Weatherford’s push to grant in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants gained a couple of high-profile opponents Thursday in the Florida Senate.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, sent an email newsletter to voters in his Panhandle district assuring them that he would not vote the the measure. And Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, followed that with a statement outlining reasons why he won’t schedule the bill in his committee.

With the legislative session entering its final two weeks on Monday, the legislation (SB 1400, CS/HB 851) seen as designed to help Republicans woo Hispanic voters this fall is clearly in jeopardy.

“In-state tuition discounts should, in my view, be reserved for legal residents of Florida,” Negron said. “Florida law does not prohibit students who are undocumented from accessing our state colleges and universities.

“Once these students favorably resolve their residency status, they could become eligible for in-state tuition,” he concluded.

Weatherford, however, wasn’t ready to call the measure dead Thursday.

“There are a lot of folks praying for these kids.,” Weatherford said. “Two weeks is a long time and I remain optimistic.”

The House last month OK’d in-state tuition with the support of Democrats and more than half the Republican caucus, with Weatherford spearheading the change. But the issue remains explosive within the Florida GOP, where tea party conservatives have railed against the measure as giving a benefit to those here illegally.

Average nonresident tuition is $21,434 annually, compared with the in-state average of $6,318.

Gov. Rick Scott, as a 2010 candidate pledged to fight for tougher immigration controls in Florida but did little once elected. Scott has confined his comments on the legislation to echoing support for lowering tuition costs for Florida students, without addressing how the bill extends that privilege to undocumented immigrants.

With a bruising governor’s race underway, the tuition bill appeared primed to be a GOP peace offering to Hispanics, who have increasingly sided with Democratic candidates.

President Obama has embraced such legislation as part of Dream Act efforts to grant residency status to undocumented aliens. Obama has overwhelmingly carried the Florida Hispanic vote the past two presidential elections.

Murphy, Frankel cite ’77 cents’ statistic on women’s earnings; their staffs have bigger gender pay gaps

Monday, April 14th, 2014 by George Bennett

Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Lois Frankel

Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Lois Frankel joined President Barack Obama and other Democrats last week in promoting “Equal Pay Day” and its much-repeated statistic that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men are paid.

In Murphy’s and Frankel’s congressional offices, the gap between the average earnings of male and female staffers is even greater. Subscribers to can find more detail and context in this week’s Politics column.

A review of House records shows Murphy and Frankel provide similar pay to men and women who hold similar jobs. But women outnumber men in lower-paying jobs on both staffs, dragging down the overall female average compared to men.


Dems target Domino and Turnquest with web ads, robocalls blasting Ryan budget

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by George Bennett

With House Republicans expected to vote this week on Budget Chairman Paul Ryan‘s spending blueprint, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying for web ads and robocalls that single out two of the six Republicans running for the nationally targeted Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat of freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Former state Rep. Carl Domino and former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest are the targets of “Don’t Sell Out The Middle Class” web ads that launched last week and automated phone calls beginning today.


Democrat Crist to speak and sign books at Forum Club; appeared as Republican non-author in 2009

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 by George Bennett


Former Gov. Charlie Crist will speak and sign books at an April 14 Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch at the Kravis Center.

Crist has appeared at the Forum Club before, but this will be his first time as a Democrat. He’s the Democratic frontrunner for the nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November.

Crist spoke to the nonpartisan luncheon society in January 2009 as Florida’s Republican governor. Foreshadowing his eventual split with the GOP, Crist in that appearance expressed optimism about the Democratic stimulus package taking shape in Washington under recently inaugurated President Barack Obama.

Crist was also scheduled to speak to the club in 2010 as a no-party candidate for U.S. Senate in a debate with Democratic Senate nominee Kendrick Meek. But Crist pulled out the day before because of a union picket of the Kravis Center. Meek also canceled.

Tickets for Crist’s speech are $35 for Forum Club members; $45 for guest tickets ordered by members; $45 for club applicant; and $60 for the general public. For tickets, call Forum Club Administrator Wendy Norris: (561) 881-9977. Mail checks to: P.O. Box 14877, North Palm Beach, FL 33408.

After the speech, Barnes & Noble will hold a book sale and signing of Crist’s book The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.

Obamacare’s 4th anniversary: Wasserman Schultz praises ‘historic milestone,’ Rubio calls it ‘disaster’

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Today marks the fourth anniversary of President Barack Obama‘s signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law that continues to spark fierce political debate.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who’s also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, marked the occasion with a statement praising the law as “a major, historic milestone on the journey to build a more perfect Union.”

Said Wasserman Schultz: “The law has already benefited millions of Americans, and will continue to do so as enrollment increases, full benefits are realized, and the cost curve bends even further. There is no getting around these facts for the detractors and naysayers who are incapable of accepting Obamacare as the law of the land and instead continue to put politics before people.

Those “detractors and naysayers” include Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who also issued a statement marking Obamacare’s fourth anniversary.

Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, called the law a “disaster” and pledged to continue fighting to get it overturned.

“We cannot give up on our efforts, not just to completely repeal Obamacare, but to replace it with real market-based solutions that allow every single American to have the ability to buy affordable health insurance that meets their needs, and to buy it from any company in America that will sell it to them. We’re going to have a chance to achieve that soon. We cannot give up. ObamaCare is not something that’s set in stone. It can be repealed —and Americans increasingly want it to be repealed — and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

A average of polling data on the health care law shows 38.9 percent of Americans support it and 53.6 percent are opposed.

Obama to Democratic donors in Miami: ‘America is on our side…but in midterms we get clobbered’

Friday, March 21st, 2014 by George Bennett

President Barack Obama greets Sen. Bill Nelson in Orlando Thursday before heading to Miami for a pair of fundraisers. Grace Nelson and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer look on. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

With Democrats facing a tough political climate as the 2014 midterm elections approach, President Barack Obama offered some reassurance and warning Thursday to donors who paid $16,200 apiece to join him for dinner at former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning‘s house.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and other Democratic House members were among the crowd of about 75 at the event in the village of Pinecrest near Miami.

“Now, the good news is on every individual issue, America is on our side,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript released late Thursday night.

Obama mentioned the minimum wage, immigration reform and “whether or not it’s a good thing to invest in early childhood education” as examples of issues where the public agrees with Democrats, but didn’t cite his signature health care law and its double-digit negative ratings in many polls.

While arguing Democrats have an issue advantage, Obama acknowledged his party faces a challenging year.

“So the problem is not that the American people disagree with us on the issues,” Obama said. “The challenge is, is that our politics in Washington have become so toxic that people just lose faith and finally they just say, you know what, I’m not interested, I’m not going to bother, I’m not going to vote.”


House party time: Obama, Nan Rich visit same Miami Zip code later today

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 by George Bennett

Alonzo Mourning (AP)

Things will be hopping in the village of Pinecrest near Miami later today when Democratic governor candidate Nan Rich visits a “Stand With Nan” house party and President Barack Obama swoops in to attend a $16,200-a-head fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning‘s house.

Rich’s event and the DCCC fundraiser are 1.2 miles apart.

Rich’s main rival for the Democratic nomination, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, is expected to join Obama during his visit today, though it’s unclear whether he’ll be at the DCCC event near Rich. Obama is also dropping in on a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at an undisclosed location in the Miami area.

“It’s well known that the President and Governor Crist are personal friends. He enjoys spending time with him – will today, and will in the future,” Crist spokesman Kevin Cate said.

Obama to speak on economy in Orlando, raise money at Alonzo Mourning’s house in Miami

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 by George Bennett

President Barack Obama will speak about the economy on Thursday afternoon at Valencia College in Orlando, then head to Miami for fundraisers that include a $16,200-a-head Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee event at the home of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, helped organize the DCCC fundraiser, which will also feature House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

The event’s $16,200 price tag includes a cocktail reception, photo opportunity and dinner.

Obama also visited Mourning’s house for a 2010 fundraiser for the DCCC and former Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, plans to attend the Thursday fundraiser but Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, do not.

Good news for the St. Lucie Estuary

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Christine Stapleton

Good news for the St. Lucie Estuary came from Washington today: Deep in the 2015 budget proposed by President Obama is a line-item in the budget for the Army Corps of engineers that sets aside about $35 million for the C-44 Project.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy announced the proposed funding at a press conference this afternoon.

U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy holds up sample of contaminated water during a Senate Select Committee Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin Hearing at the Charles and Rae Kane center in Stuart on August 22, 2013. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

“This isn’t a guarantee that the full amount wil be there but it’s a really good indication,” Murphy said. “To get a line item – something specific in the Army Corps work plan is a big deal.”

The project in western Martin County got underway in 2011 is intended to clean runoff before sending it to the St. Lucie Estuary. The Corps is responsible for building the $225 million-plus project, which includes a 3,400-acre reservoir. The completion date is 2020.

Water quality and quantity in the C-44 Canal – which runs from Lake Okeechobee to the coast – grabbed headlines last summer when record-setting rains forced the Army Corps to release water from the lake to prevent a breach in its ailing dike. The water from the lake coupled with runoff from local roads, farms and yards, caused an ecological disaster in the estuary.

The ecological crisis turned political in August when Gov. Rick Scott, fed up with the Corps’ pace on the project, announced that rather than waiting for the corps to come up with $30 million for its share of the project, Florida will pay the entire cost.

However, just because the $35 million line item is in the President’s budget does not mean the money is guaranteed, Murphy said. The budget must now make its way through committees during  budget appropriation process, Murphy added.

Rival consultant blasts Murphy jobs brochure as ‘campaign piece’

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by George Bennett

Murphy's brochure

A 60-page pamphlet distributed by the office of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, was blasted by potential Republican rival Carl Domino‘s consultant as campaign advertising.

“This is an out-and-out campaign piece and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Domino adviser Larry Casey said after seeing Murphy’s glossy brochure titled “A Plan For Jobs.”

About 500 of the booklets were printed at a cost of $2 apiece, Murphy Chief of Staff and campaign strategist Eric Johnson said. The money comes out of Murphy’s congressional office budget allotment, Johnson said, and the content of the pamphlet was reviewed and approved by the bipartisan House Franking Commission.

Obama campaign logo

Casey is a former congressional aide who worked most recently for the late Republican Rep. Clay Shaw. He said the Franking Commission has changed since Shaw left office in 2007. But Johnson, a Capitol Hill aide since 1997, contended Murphy’s booklet is similar to materials that Shaw and other members of Congress sent to constituents over the years. Johnson also compared Murphy’s brochure to taxpayer-financed newsletters that Domino sent as a member of the Florida House of Representatives.

Rep. Steny Hoyer's "Make It In America" logo

“Congressman Murphy takes communication with his constituents very seriously and the booklet is a very important part of that. This is his plan for jobs and people need to be able to see that,” Johnson said.

Casey also likened the circular stars-and-stripes symbol on the cover of Murphy’s booklet to President Obama’s campaign logo.

Said Johson: “It’s an American flag and I’m surpised they have an issue with that.”

Crist tells Colbert race was a factor in Republican dislike of his Obama hug

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 by George Bennett

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert with Charlie Crist's new book.

Charlie Crist says his hug of President Barack Obama in 2009 incensed Republicans in part because Obama is black.

The Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat made the claim while appearing Tuesday night on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report to promote his new book.

Crist was a popular Republican governor when he hugged the recently inaugurated Democratic president at a February 2009 rally in Fort Myers to promote the $787 billion Democratic stimulus bill. The hug helped crystallize GOP discontent with the moderate Crist, who fell behind Marco Rubio in the quest for a Republican Senate nomination and left the party in April 2010. Crist became a Democrat in late 2012 and is now the party’s 2014 frontrunner for governor against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Host Stephen Colbert asked Crist why the Obama hug “ended it” with him and the GOP.

That led to this exchange:

Crist: “Several reasons, I think. Number 1, he was there to talk about the Recovery Act, the stimulus, as people call it. And a lot Republicans took issue with that. So I think that was part of it. Sadly, I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American, and…”

Colbert: “Oh, you’re not going to play the race card.”

Crist: “I’m not going to play it, no.”

Colbert: “You just did. You just did. Would you like to pick it up again and put it in your pocket? Because you just played the race card.”

Crist: “Yeah, well, I’m just trying to tell the truth. I’ve seen a level of vitriol directed at this president that I have never seen directed at President Kennedy or maybe President Johnson or even President Carter.”

Crist returns to scene of ‘The Hug’ today to launch book promo tour

Monday, February 10th, 2014 by George Bennett

Feb. 10, 2009: The beginning of the end of Charlie Crist's career as a Republican...

Five years ago today, Republican Gov. Charlie Crist hugged Democratic President Barack Obama at a Fort Myers rally to promote the $787 billion Democratic stimulus bill.

It marked the symbolic beginning of Crist’s fall from favor in the GOP and the start of a partisan journey that included a losing no-party bid for Senate in 2010 and a 2014 Democratic campaign for his old job.

Crist also has a book to sell that puts his spin on his Republican-to-independent-to-Democrat travels.

After a week of national TV interviews to plug the book, Crist will embark today on a nine-city Florida tour to promote The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.

It begins, fittingly, in Fort Myers tonight at a Books-A-Million outlet. Crist will hit the Classic Bookshop in Palm Beach on Feb. 19 before wrapping up Feb. 22 in his home town of St. Petersburg.

For a recent story on how Crist’s book glosses over some of the inconvenient details of his party switch, click here.

Murphy ranks 9th among House Dems for voting against Obama, CQ says

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 by George Bennett

Vote analysis from Congressional Quarterly

Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, voted against President Barack Obama‘s position 43 percent of the time in 2013 — the ninth highest percentage among House Democrats, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly.

Murphy represents a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional district in which Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats and voters sided with Republican Mitt Romney over Obama in 2012.

Another swing-district Florida Democrat, Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami, ranked just behind Murphy in the CQ analysis, voting against Obama 42.9 percent of the time. The least-loyal House Democrat was Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, who opposed Obama 72.1 percent of the time in 2013.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted for Obama’s position 100 percent of the time in 2013. He’s one of 17 Dems who didn’t break with the president on a single vote last year.

Crist lands campaign manager with I-4 roots

Friday, January 31st, 2014 by John Kennedy

Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist has landed a campaign manager — Omar Khan, lately an environmental trouble-shooter for President Obama.

Khan, who has Florida roots, is expected to join the Crist team next month.

“I love him. He loves Florida,” Crist said Friday. “He’s coming home to help us put the people back in charge.”

Khan has worked for Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force, an outgrowth of his recent role leading public engagement efforts at the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Kahn is a former University of South Florida student body president and member of the school’s Board of Trustees.

In the Tampa Bay area, always a key toss-up region of the state, Khan elped former state Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, win an upset victory in 2006. Khan also worked nationally on the Obama campaign in 2012 after serving as deputy Florida director four years earlier, where he clearly built a bond with Obama Florida director Steve Schale, now a top Crist strategist.

Kahn comes on board after a stumbling Crist first effort at landing a campaign manager. Crist had Democratic operative Bill Hyers lined up in November – ready to capitalize on a hot political property who had just helped Bill de Blasio win the New York mayor’s race.

But something went haywire. The partnership fizzled and Hyers is staying in the Northeast, where he recently joined Hilltop Public Solutions, a Democratic campaign shop.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, now serving as a consultant to the Crist campaign, was among those praising Khan’s selection.

“He’s smart, savvy, and as a Floridian, understands how important electing Charlie Crist is to the middle class,” Messina said.

Crist’s rival, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, recently unveiled a host of additions to his campaign team. Among them was Melissa Sellers, who moves from the executive office where she was communications director to the campaign manager’s role.

In Florida, Hillary Clinton tops Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in 2016 presidential poll

Friday, January 31st, 2014 by George Bennett

Florida voters prefer Democrat Hillary Clinton over any hypothetical Republican presidential candidate — even Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — in the 2016 presidential race, a new Quinnipiac University poll says.

Clinton is the clear favorite to win a Democratic primary in the Sunshine State, getting 64 percent to 9 percent for Vice President Joe Biden.

Bush, who was Florida’s governor from 1999 to 2007, is the top pick among Floria Republican voters. Bush is favored by 25 percent of GOP voters, with 16 percent supporting Sen. Rubio, 11 percent backing Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz getting 9 percent apiece.

The controversy over closing lanes to the George Washington Bridge has taken a toll on Christie in Florida. In November, Florida voters said by a 45-to-35 percent margin that Christie would make a good president. Those numbers are flipped in the new poll, conducted Jan. 22-27, with only 35 percent saying Christie would make a good president and 45 percent saying he wouldn’t.

In hypothetical 2016 general election match-ups, Bush would be the strongest Republican challenger to Clinton in Florida, losing to her by a 49-to-43 percent margin. Clinton leads Rubio by 10 points, Paul by 13 points, Ryan by 13 points, Christie by 16 points and Cruz by 20.

President Barack Obama‘s approval rating remains under water with Florida voters in the new poll. Only 42 percent approve of the job he’s doing, with 53 percent disapproving. That’s an improvement from November, when 40 percent approved and 57 percent disapproved.

The poll of 1,565 registered voters has a 2.5 percent margin of error. The Republican sample has a 4.1 percent margin of error and the Democratic sample has a 4.3 percent margin of error.

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