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Mack’s ‘penny plan’ for budget-balancing could cost plenty

Friday, October 5th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack’s signature “penny plan” for balancing the federal budget could force deep cuts in Medicare, Social Security and defense spending, the independent Congressional Research Service reported this week.

Mack spokesman David James, however, dismissed the findings as “one opinion.” He also said the goal of Mack’s plan is to force Congress and the president to reach agreement to avoid the kind of slashing included in the CRS findings.

“It’s only if agreement is not reached that 1 percent cuts across the board would occur,” James said Friday.

The CRS study was prompted by a request from Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.  Mack’s plan has 70 co-sponsors in the House and 14 supporters in the Senate. Sanders, who sides with Democrats on most issues, is among those who fear the legislation could gain new strength following the November elections.

Under the proposal, the federal government would reduce spending by 1 percent each year over six years. In the seventh year, federal dollars would be limited to 18 percent of gross domestic product, a measure of the overall economy’s size. By Year 8, the plan would balance the budget and save $7.5 trillion over 10 years, Mack and supporters say.

If Congress and the president couldn’t reach an agreement about what to cut, the plan would trigger automatic across-the-board spending cuts over a decade, beginning in 2013. CRS concluded that would force an almost $2.9 trillion reduction in defense spending; $1.1 trillion from Social Security; and $211 billion from Medicare.

For his part, Mack has been hitting his opponent, two-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for supporting the Budget Control Act, part of last year’s debt ceiling fight. The measure’s central, sequestration tool would force across-the-board cuts that could hit veterans benefits and defense spending hard, especially in Florida and other military heavy states.

James, however, defended Mack’s blistering of his opponent – even though the Republican also advocates dangling the potential of deep cuts to balance the budget. The difference? Timing, he said.

“It’s huge. In terms of sequestration, that’s a $500 billion blow to the Defense Department in one year,” James said.

Poll: Prez race deadlocked in Florida, but Nelson has breathing room

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Another poll Wednesday shows the race between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney deadlocked in Florida, but gives Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson more breathing room in his contest with Republican Connie Mack IV.

Obama holds a 47-46 percent lead over Romney in a survey of 890 likely voters, according to the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the Sept. 20-Oct. 1 poll for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. The survey has a 3.3 percent margin-of-error.

Nelson, however, commands an 11 percentage point lead over Mack among likely voters, 52-41 percent, with only 7 percent undecided.

Suffolk University in Boston released a poll Tuesday showing Obama up by 3 percentage points in Florida, within that survey’s margin-of-error. Nelson held a more modest, 6 percentage point lead, Suffolk found.

In Marist’s survey of the presidential race, Obama has lost some of his once-sizable lead among women voters in Florida. A month ago, Obama held a 12 percentage point lead over Romney among women voters — with the margin now down to 3 percent in the latest survey.

Romney, too, has lost some of his dominance among men. Once ahead of Obama by 4 percentage points among men, Romney’s edge is now one percent, Marist found.

In Florida’s Senate contest, Nelson holds a six percentage point lead over Mack among men and a 15 percent margin among women voters.


After tough talk about talking — U.S. Senate race will have only one debate

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican Connie Mack renewed his blistering Tuesday of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson over what now looks all but certain to be a single debate between the two contenders.

Mack, trailing in the polls, wants plenty more. Nelson doesn’t need them.

“The voters of this country are getting three prime-time opportunities to view their choices for President and sadly Bill Nelson does not think the voters of Florida are entitled to the same opportunity,” said David James, Mack’s deputy campaign manager.

An Oct. 17 debate at Davie’s Nova Southeastern University, to be broadcast by television stations across Florida, is shaping up as the lone contest. Mack didn’t want the Tampa Bay Times as a co-sponsor of a CNN debate proposed for Oct. 30 — sending everyone back to the drawing board.

CNN, Bay News 9 of Tampa and Central Florida 13 began talking of picking up the second debate — but Nelson’s side wanted it earlier than Oct. 30, since early voting will be underway by then. Mack said he’d be willing to debate Oct. 25 or Oct. 27 — but Nelson’s campaign said it now looks unlikely that CNN will take part in anything that’s not slated for Oct. 30.

So Nelson’s not interested.

“At this point, we’ll have one debate Oct. 17 — and that’s still one more debate than Mack had in his primary,” said Nelson spokesman Paul Kincaid.

Poll: Obama, Nelson still up in Florida — but wild cards abound

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

A new poll shows President Obama holding a narrow lead over Republican Mitt Romney in Florida — with the state still living up to its toss-up status.

While Obama appeared to be widening his distance over Romney nationwide last week, Suffolk’s survey of 600 registered voters in Florida shows Obama’s 3 percentage point lead remains within the poll’s margin-of-error. Obama was up 46-43 percent, with seven percent of voters undecided.

“On the eve of the first debate, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney know the importance of each percentage point in a state like Florida,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.  “Not only are the remaining undecided voters critical, but so are the voters of all the third-party candidates here – and there are many.”

 The Suffolk University/7NEWS (WSVN-Miami) survey is the first taken in Florida this year that includes all 12 of the candidates who qualified to appear as presidential contenders on the Florida ballot.

 Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Party nominee Jill Stein, and Peace and Freedom Party nominee Roseanne Barr were each favored by 1 percent of voters polled. In a state where the George W. Bush and Al Gore’s epic 2000 election deadlock was helped by third-party candidate Ralph Nader, these also-rans could loom as a factor in Florida’s final count.

The Florida Senate race also looks tougher to call in Suffolk’s survey.

Although Democrat Bill Nelson has built a commanding lead in many polls, Suffolk showed him holding a 40-34 percent lead over Republican Connie Mack, with 20 percent of voters still undecided.

 Other contenders on the Florida Senate ballot, Chris Borgia and Bill Gaylor, gain 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively, of the vote in the poll.


Farmer Bill Nelson taken to woodshed by GOP committee

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

A Karl Rove-created political committee said Tuesday it is spending $2 million this week on a TV spot blasting Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for taking a Florida tax break on 55 acres of land he owns in Indian River County — where six cows graze.

“Bill Nelson’s decades as a career politician have taught him how to dodge paying hefty taxes and still make big profits for himself,” said Nate Hodson, a spokesman for American Crossroads, a committee created by President George W. Bush’s former strategist. “Floridians can’t afford another six years of Bill Nelson helping himself while he pushes higher taxes for everyone else.”

In the 30-second spot, American Crossroads also tars Nelson for supporting a Democratic-backed initiative that would have increased the federal estate tax — a move critics said would hit family-owned farms hard.

Nelson saved $43,000 in property taxes last year by leasing the land, long owned by his family, to a cattle operation. Under the state’s greenbelt laws, Nelson faces a reduced tax liability compared to the full market value of the land.

Nelson has sold neighboring parcels of land for development. A Nelson spokesman earlier denied any wrongdoing on the senator’s part.

Nelson’s campaign shot back, saying the new spot was “false and misleading.”

“It’s always been pastureland and always will be,” the campaign said.  “Even the courts have upheld its use as such.” 

American Crossroads is helping Republican Connie Mack in his race against Nelson. Although Mack is well back in the polls, he told the Palm Beach Post last week that he expects as much as $30 million to be spent on behalf of his campaign by third-party organizations like American Crossroads.

Here’s the TV spot:

Two polls show Nelson well ahead of Mack

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 by John Kennedy

While Republican Connie Mack IV made his way by bus across the northern half of Florida, he was dogged Tuesday by more bad poll numbers.

The Washington Post and Public Policy Polling both released surveys showing Mack well behind Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is running a low visibility re-election campaign. The Post showed Mack 14 percentage points back, while PPP had him down by 9 percent — slightly worse than where he stood three weeks ago.

“Nelson’s still not popular,” PPP concluded. “Only 34% of voters approve of him to 41% who disapprove. But he lucked out with an extremely weak opponent. Only 30% of voters have a favorable opinion of Mack to 44% with a negative one.”

Mack has been out to improve those negatives. On Tuesday, he campaigned in Orlando, where he was endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business, and in Lakeland.

Meanwhile, American Crossroads, the superpac formed by former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, is airing a new TV spot in Florida blasting Nelson for supporting the federal health care overhaul.


Mack works tailgaters at FSU, UF games on bus tour

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack made his way through a crush of garnet-garbed tailgaters Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, ending the opening day of a six-day bus tour at the Florida State-Clemson football game.

Also posing for pictures and shaking hands at the stadium was Josh Romney, one of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney’s five sons. ‘Noles for Romney-Ryan’ bumper stickers were being distributed by supporters.

Earlier Saturday, Mack had campaigned in Gainesville, working the crowd outside the Florida-Kentucky game in the afternoon. But his race with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was never far from his mind.

“It looks good,” Mack said about his chances, despite polls showing him well behind the two-term incumbent. Macksaid he is banking on undecided voters — who number in the 10 percent range in most polls — as his key to a come-from-behind win.

“Polls we’ve done are better, much better,” Mack said. “But the undecideds also are trending Republican, and that’s good.”

Still, Mack also has seen his popularity ratings tank in various surveys. The six-day bus tour, which heads Sunday to Jacksonville, may help soften the image Nelson TV spots have enhanced, casting Mack as a spoiled senator’s son. Mack’s father held the same seat for two terms from 1989-2001.

“It all helps,” said

Connie Mack IV meets fans outside FSU game

Mack, who will campaign Sunday with David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association.

Mack also took issue with Nelson for so far refusing to take part in a CNN debate planned for Oct. 30 and another proposed for Oct. 23 from the University of Florida.  The rival campaigns have agreed on only one debate, an Oct. 17 Leadership Florida-Florida Press Association sitdown scheduled for Davie.

“We’re saying come debate us anywhere, anytime. I’m sure he’s going `Ahh, I’ve got a lot of money in the bank and some of the public polling have us up and we don’t want to make a mistake,” Mack said. “I think the people of Florida are saying, ‘we want to know what the two candidates are all about.’”

Mack, who refused to debate his Republican rivals before the Aug. 14 primary, drew a distinction with his approach. “Our closest opponent was 35 points behind us….we’re in a much more competitive race than we had in the primary.”



Trailing in polls, Mack gets on the bus

Thursday, September 20th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Connie Mack IV, who a new Fox News poll shows is running  double-digits behind Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, will spend the next week bouncing across Florida on a bus, the campaign announced Thursday night.

Mack will launch his six-day “Freedom Tour” Saturday in Gainesville. While steering clear of South Florida, Mack will spend plenty of time next week in such Republican strongholds as Jacksonville, the Orlando area and the Panhandle. Various VIPs are expected to join him at select stops, the campaign said.

The tour comes on the heels of a Fox News survey showing Mack trailing Nelson by 49-35 percent. The poll was conducted Sept. 16-18, with 829 Florida likely voters surveyed. One of the more revealing sections showed Mack losing 14 percent of Republican voters to Nelson, a crossover the GOP candidate is clearly trying to pull back to his side.

Fox also reported President Obama ahead of Republican Mitt Romney 49-44 percent. Mack has acknowledged that his Senate prospects are hinged largely on whether Romney can win Florida.

Polls in recent weeks show Nelson comfortably ahead of Mack.

Jeb! to raise Cash! for Mack; one Senate debate also set

Thursday, September 13th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will headline a fund-raiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack next month in Miami, the campaign announced Thursday.

The $500-and-up per-person event will be held the evening of Oct. 5 at Miami’s Grove Isle Club on Biscayne Bay.

Meanwhile, Mack and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson have agreed to what sponsors are calling the pair’s only live statewide television debate, Oct. 17. Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association are co-sponsoring the debate, which will be aired from Nova Southeastern University in Davie at 7 p.m.

WPTV-Channel 5 in West Palm Beach is producing the event, which will be carried by other broadcast partners in Florida’s 11 TV markets.

Mack and Nelson are still in discussions with Tampa’s Bay News 9 and CNN about another debate, tentatively planned for Oct. 30. The Nelson campaign wants to advance that date, to bring it closer to when early voting is scheduled to begin on Oct. 27.

Debate over Debates nearing end in U.S. Senate race

Monday, September 10th, 2012 by John Kennedy

The debate over Florida’s U.S. Senate debates appeared Monday to be nearing an end.

With Republican Connie Mack refusing to take part in a debate co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9-TV of Tampa, and sister station, Central Florida 13 have stepped in as co-sponsors with CNN of the proposed Oct. 30 exchange between Mack and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“The discussions are going very well,” said Rod Gramer, vice-president and general manager of Bay News 9. “We hope to be able to have something wrapped up, maybe by the end of the week.”

Pete Mitchell, Nelson’s campaign manager, said his side would like to have the debate somewhat earlier. But an Oct. 17 Mack-Nelson debate also looks on — and sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

Mack’s campaign also accepted a proposed Oct. 23 debate at the University of Florida.  But talks about the talk-a-thons continue.

Florida Dems fired up about dumping Scott in 2014; less talk about helping Nelson this year

Thursday, September 6th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson faces a tough fight this fall that could determine which party controls the Senate, but the governor’s race two years from now inspired more passion at this week’s Florida delegation breakfasts at the Democratic National Convention.

Calls for President Obama‘s reelection were a surefire applause line for the many speakers who appeared before the hundreds of delegates and activists each morning. Calls for unseating Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2014 got nearly equal responses.

“Our task is not easy. And it’s not just this election. We need to help win for the president in Florida today, in November, we need to do that. We need to pick up legislative seats. But we need to keep that enthusiasm and organization going to defeat Rick Scott in 2014,” Democratic pollster David Beattie said at Wednesday’s breakfast.


Nelson stops by Democratic convention, heads to Panhandle

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by George Bennett

Sen. Bill Nelson gives a radio interview shortly before the beginning of the Democratic National Convention.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sen. Bill Nelson — the only Democrat now in statewide office in Florida — made a brief appearance on the floor of the Democratic National Convention this afternoon, granting a few interviews and greeting delegates before heading out of town.

“My campaign’s down there,” Nelson said when asked why he’s not sticking around for the entire three-day convention.

“I’m running my own race and that’s why I’m going back to Florida tonight. I’ll be in the Panhandle of Florida tomorrow morning early,” Nelson told a TV interviewer.

Nelson faces a tough reelection challenge from Republican Rep. Connie Mack, with outside groups pouring millions into the state to try to unseat Nelson.

Democratic poll: Crist unpopular but edges Scott; Nelson leads Mack

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, one of the featured speakers at this week’s Democratic National Convention, has a net unfavorable ranking among Florida voters, according to a new survey by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

But Crist, who switched to no party affiliation in 2010 and is rumored to be mulling a 2014 run for governor as a Democrat, would edge Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical matchup, PPP says.

Crist is viewed favorably by 36 percent of Floridians and unfavorably by 44 percent, according to the survey of 1,548 likely voters taken Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Democrats and independents have a net favorable view of Crist, while Republicans are overwhelmingly negative. The poll has a 2.5 percent margin of error.

Crist would beat Scott by a 45-to-42 margin, the poll says. But a generic Democrat would beat Scott by the same margin.

Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s attending the convention today only, leads Republican Rep. Connie Mack by a 45-to-38 percent margin in PPP’s poll. Voters disapprove of the job Nelson is doing by a 42-to-35 percent margin. But they’re even more negative toward Mack, with 27 percent having a favorable opinion of him and 45 percent unfavorable.

Mack: “If Mitt Romney wins, I win”

Thursday, August 30th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Connie Mack IV brought his message Thursday to the Florida delegation to the GOP National Convention and acknowledged that his success is directly linked to the fate of presidential contender Mitt Romney in Florida.

“I think I can win, but there’s a lot of possibilities out there,” Mack told reporters. “If Mitt Romney wins, I win. If I win, Mitt Romney wins. So we are certainly going to be tied together. But see this is something I’m proud of.  I’m proud to stand next to Mitt Romney.”

Mack, who is scheduled to speak to the convention tonight — part of a lineup of Floridians which includes former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio — told the delegation that the contrasts in the campaign is clear.  President Obama and two-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson are also paired, he said.  “Lockstep liberals” is what Mack has called them in TV ads, certain to fill Florida airwaves through Nov. 6.

“If I win and beat Sen. Nelson, I’ll tell you why this is important,” Mack told the Florida crowd over breakfast at the Inverness Golf Resort in Palm Harbor. “Harry Reid will no longer control the agenda in the United States Senate.”

Freebird! Connie Mack to introduce Lynyrd Skynyrd at pre-convention event

Friday, August 24th, 2012 by George Bennett

Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack and his wife, California Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack, will introduce Lynyrd Skynyrd on Sunday at an event near the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the GOP convention kicks off the next day.

The band is participating in a benefit for Citizens Helping Heroes, a nonprofit that assists military members and their immediate relatives and focuses on wounded troops and the families of those killed in action.

Mack has an autographed guitar from the band hanging in his congressional office in Washington and is a friend and neighbor in Fort Myers of Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Rickey Medlocke, a Mack spokesman said.

Mack gets warmup for Romney role at RNC

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Underscoring the role of battleground Florida, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Connie Mack IV was named Thursday as one of the early evening speakers on the final night of next week’s Republican National Convention.

Mack, who is looking to unseat two-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, will precede another Floridian, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is scheduled to introduce presidential contender Mitt Romney to the crowd. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus also announced Thursday a roster of other Republican Senate and congressional candidates who will get turns at the microphone during the Aug. 27-30 convention.

But Mack appears to have drawn better positioning.

Also noteworthy: No other Florida congressional Republicans, including firebrand U.S. Rep. Allen West of Plantation, a tea party favorite and one of only two black Republicans in the U.S. House, have been given mainstage speaking roles.


Q poll: Obama lead narrows in Florida after Ryan ‘micro-bump’ for Romney; Nelson leads Mack

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 by George Bennett

The newest Quinnipiac University poll shows President Obama holding a 49-to-46 percent lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters in Florida — down from a 6-point Obama lead in the state three weeks ago.

Quinnipiac attributes Romney’s modest gain to a “micro-bump” from naming Paul Ryan as his running mate.

The poll, conducted Aug. 15-21 with a 2.8 percent margin of error, is sure to continue the debate over Quinnipiac’s voter sample. In the latest survey, 34 percent of voters identified themselves as Democrats and 28 percent as Republicans. That compares to actual 2008 Florida turnout that was 37 percent Democratic and 34 percent Republican, according to exit polls.

Republicans have accused Quinnipiac of oversampling Democrats in its last few polls; Democrats aired similar complaints in May when Quinnipiac’s sample was 34 percent Republican and 31 percent Democrat and Romney had a 6-point lead.

Ryan is viewed favorably by 35 percent and unfavorably by 29 percent of Florida voters in the new poll. Vice President Joe Biden, by comparison, is viewed favorably by 37 percent and unfavorably by 44 percent.

The new poll also gives Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson a 50-to-41 percent lead over Republican Rep. Connie Mack. And it continues Gov. Rick Scott‘s streak of underwater approval ratings, with 41 percent approving of the governor’s job performance and 47 percent disapproving. Scott’s approval/disapproval score was 36/52 in Quinnipiac’s Aug. 1 poll.

Marco Rubio on how he learned he wasn’t Romney’s VP pick; kind words for Nelson, harsh ones for Akin

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 by George Bennett

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches luncheon crowd today about the phone conversation he had with Mitt Romney the day before Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate.

“Gov. Romney was gracious enough to call me on Friday evening that week,” Rubio told a crowd of 825 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. “I was out on boat with my kids. I came back and I had four missed calls from Mitt Romney. I go ‘Uh-oh.’ So I talked to him and he said we’re going to be announcing our VP tomorrow and you’re going to be excited about the pick I’ve made.

“And I said, ‘Well, that’s really good news because I just bought a four-day cruise,’ ” said Rubio, who devoted much of his remarks to Medicare.


Bracketology: Joe Biden coming to Tampa area during GOP convention

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 by George Bennett

Taking opposition “bracketing” to a new level, Vice President Joe Biden will campaign in the Tampa area and other cities on Monday and Tuesday — the first two days of the Republican National Convention.

Both parties routinely make high-profile surrogates available in person or on conference calls to siphon some attention when a rival candidate is coming to town. The surrogate usually isn’t a member of the presidential ticket, however.

During Mitt Romney‘s last visit to Florida, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz made a bus tour of the state to counter Romney’s message. During the run-up to Florida’s Jan. 31 GOP primary, Romney supporter and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack attended several Newt Gingrich events to offer instant counterspin.

Mack gets a GOP convention speaking slot

Thursday, August 16th, 2012 by George Bennett

“Lockstep liberals” should prepare for rhetorical fire — Florida Republican Senate nominee Connie Mack will have a speaking part in the Republican National Convention in Tampa this month, the GOP announced this morning.

Other Florida figures who’ll be featured in the national GOP showcase include Sen. Marco Rubio (tapped to introduce Mitt Romney), former Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Mack, who frequently uses the phrase “lockstep liberals” to slam Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and President Obama, said in a statement announcing his convention speaking slot that “Washington’s Lockstep Liberals have forced the government takeover of healthcare and saddled us with job-killing regulations, more taxes, more spending and more debt. That ends this year. The American people are demanding change, and change is on its way.”

The latest batch of announced speakers includes former Democratic Alabama congressman and early Barack Obama endorser Artur Davis, who seconded Obama’s nomination at the 2008 Democratic convention and has since become an outspoken Obama critic.

Also announced as speakers this morning: Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire

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