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With election looming, Republicans rally around in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 by John Kennedy

Florida Senate Republicans rallied Tuesday around a proposal that would grant in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants, risking the wrath of tea party conservatives in a bid to woo Hispanic voters to their side this election year.

The Judiciary Committee approved the measure (SB 1400) on a 7-2 vote. The House last month OK’d similar legislation with the support of Democrats and more than half the Republican caucus, with House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel spearheading the change.

The Senate still looms as a wild card. But sponsor Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said after Tuesday’s vote, ”We’ve still got a ways to go. But I feel very good about this.”

While differences remain, Latvala said he will propose recasting the Senate version so it matches the House proposal. That would require that students complete four years of high school in Florida — up from a three-year standard that remains in the Senate proposal.

Other provisions of the bill eliminate an annual cost-of-living increase which currently can boost tuition even when the Legislature and colleges and universities seek to hold the line. While the Senate proposal also would erase the ability of state universities to increase tuition by as much as 15 percent annually, Latvala said he plans to go along with the House approach that rolls that potential hike back to a maximum of six percent.

The measure also would assure that undocumented students are “residents for tuition purposes,” making them ineligible for state-financed scholarships. Students could pay the in-state rate if they enroll in a Florida college or university within two years of graduating from secondary school. Average nonresident tuition is $21,434 annually, compared with the in-state average of $6,318.

While Gov. Rick Scott supports the proposal, testimony Tuesday before the Senate panel showed how divisive the proposal remains within the state GOP.

James Calkins, a Republican activist from Santa Rosa County, urged Senate Republicans to oppose the legislation, saying it would “clearly damage our get-out-the-vote effort for 2014.”

“The issue will divide the Republican Party at a time when the party needs to stay united,” Calkins said.

Similar legislation has been around since at least 2001 — promoted chiefly by Miami-Dade County Republicans and most Democrats.

But Florida’s shifting demographics have caught the attention of strategists for both parties. With a bruising governor’s race underway, the tuition bill may emerge as a GOP peace offering to Hispanics, increasingly siding with Democratic candidates.

Frankel urges House to pass Senate’s immigration reform

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 by George Bennett

Charlene Rupert, who said she came to the U.S. from Venezuela as an 11-year-old, urges passage of comprehensive immigration reform while Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, looks on.

WEST PALM BEACH — Standing in front of a banner that said “Immigration Is A Human Right,” U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, urged the House to approve the Senate’s version of immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for millions of people now in the country illegally.

She acknowledged the Senate bill faces a tough road in the Republican-controlled House, where Speaker John Boehner and others favor a series of smaller bills with more emphasis on border security. Frankel urged a few dozen supporters who attended today’s event to phone and e-mail House members.

“I will tell you that representatives do look at their e-mails, we do look at our letters, we do know about our phone calls and right now I believe that the American people have to move this U.S. House of Representatives to do the right thing,” Frankel said.


Jeb Bush: ‘Republicans need to cease being the obstacle to immigration reform’

Monday, July 1st, 2013 by George Bennett


Former Florida Gov. and possible 2016 GOP presidency seeker Jeb Bush is urging House Republicans to embrace “compromise and a comprehensive approach” as they take up immigration reform now that the Senate has passed the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” bill.

Bush and Clint Bolick, who co-authored a book on immigration reform earlier this year, penned a Wall Street Journal column that says the Senate-passed immigration overhaul bill could use some improvements, such as clearer border-security “triggers” and a tougher E-Verify system.

But Bush and Bolick say the Senate legislation is not “amnesty,” as many critics on the right contend. And the say the bill, which has Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as a key supporter, “addresses most of the flaws of the current system.”

Noting the GOP’s poor 2012 performance with Hispanic voters, the pair say Republicans can improve their appeal to Latinos by working toward reform legislation.

“Republicans have much in common with immigrants—beliefs in hard work, enterprise, family, education, patriotism and faith,” Bush and Bolick write. “But for their voice to penetrate the gateway, Republicans need to cease being the obstacle to immigration reform and instead point the way toward the solution.”

Scott steps into immigration debate with veto

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Rick Scott vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have allowed children of undocumented immigrants to get Florida drivers’ licenses, a move likely to rattle the governor’s support within the state’s Hispanic community while bolstering his backing from conservative groups.

The measure (HB 235) had sailed easily through a Republican-controlled Legislature, which in previous years had opposed similar steps toward embracing children of those in the country illegally.

The House approved the bill this spring 115-2; the Senate 36-0, a sign to many that Florida Republicans were looking to distance themselves from the hardline themes of the 2012 elections.

Scott, however, said the bill’s reliance on a newly adopted policy of the Obama administration was alarming.

In June 2012, the administration said children brought illegally to the country would not be subject to deportation under most circumstances.

Florida already allows immigrants legally allowed to work the opportunity to receive temporary drivers’ licenses. For now, Scott said that was enough.

In his veto letter, Scott wrote, “Although the Legislature may have been well intentioned in seeking to expedite the process to obtain a temporary driver license, it should not have been done by relying on a federal government policy adopted without legal basis.”

Florida Democrats lashed out at Scott.

“Rick Scott continues to alienate and discriminate against thousands of undocumented immigrants,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp. “Instead of joining the legislature’s near-unanmous consensus around HB 235, Gov. Scott imposed his rigid ideology on Floridians — to the detriment of the young immigrants who are Florida’s future.”

Immigration reform foes rent billboard slamming ‘Rubio-Obama amnesty’

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by George Bennett

New Floridians for Immigration Enforcement billboard near Ocala.

Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, the Pompano Beach-based group that demonstrated outside Sen. Marco Rubio‘s recent Port St. Lucie appearance, has rented a billboard along Interstate 75 in Ocala to slam Rubio for co-sponsoring the “Gang of Eight” Senate bill that includes a pathway to citizenship.

While it’s a fairly minor expenditure in a pricey media state, the billboard is one indication that Rubio’s tireless efforts to sell immigration reform to conservatives have not succeeded in winning over many of the hard-liners who are influential in GOP primaries.

FLIMEN includes several Palm Beach and Treasure Coast activists who say Rubio promised them as a 2010 Senate candidate that he would oppose amnesty for people who are in the country illegally. Rubio says the measures in the bill that would allow millions to attain legal status are not amnesty.

FLIMEN Legislative Director Jack Oliver alluded to Rubio’s potential presidential ambitions in blasting the Senator.

“I predict that no politician who votes for the Senate immigration bill will ever be elected to higher office,” Oliver said.

Immigration reform supporters, foes demonstrate near Rubio’s Palm Beach Gardens office

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 by George Bennett

Supporters of immigration reform display signs down the street from Sen. Marco Rubio's Palm Beach Gardens office. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Opponents of the immigration reform bill were outnumbered, but got closer to Rubio's office and won style points with this skeleton prop. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Supporters and opponents of the bipartisan immigration reform bill championed by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio took to the streets near Rubio’s Palm Beach Gardens office today.

At about 12:30 p.m., PostOnPolitics counted 23 supporters of the bill near the corner of PGA Boulevard and Military Trail and 13 opponents less than half a mile away in front of Rubio’s office. The outnumbered opponents scored higher in drive-by eye appeal, however, by bringing an “Amnesty Is Death To America” skeleton prop.

Tea party activists organized the protest outside Rubio’s office and delivered a Rubio aide a letter expressing concern about the legislation’s long-term costs. A study released by the conservative Heritage Foundation this week contends that, over 50 years, the bill would be a net drain of $6.3 trillion on federal coffers. Rubio has disputed the study, saying it fails to account for the dynamic economic effect the new citizens would have over the coming decades.

“Secure the borders first. If you secure the borders, then we could understand a little bit more and go forward from there,” said Mel Grossman of the Palm Beach County Tea Party. Grossman said the current bill leaves too much discretion to the Department of Homeland Security, which he said has failed to take illegal border crossings seriously.

Supporters of the bill — including the Service Employees International Union, the President Barack Obama-affiliated Organizing For Action, the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Florida New Majority — organized their counter-demonstration after hearing about the tea party plans.

“They’re trying to scare all these bipartisan Republicans who are taking a moderate approach….We are showing that there are two groups. There is a minority group who is against immigration reform, but a majority of Americans are for immigration reform,” said Florida SEIU’s Afifa Khaliq.

Where did the love go? National Review blasts ‘Rubio’s folly’ on immigration

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 by George Bennett

Back when Marco Rubio was a long shot anti-establishment Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2009, the William F. Buckley-founded National Review certified him as a national conservative star by featuring him on its cover.

It helped boost Rubio’s fundraising and popularity with GOP primary voters.

He eventually overtook heavily favored Gov. Charlie Crist in Republican primary polls, sending Crist to a failed no-party Senate bid and, eventually, the Democratic Party.

The National Review isn’t showing Rubio any love with it’s latest cover, calling his push for bipartisan immigration reform “Rubio’s Folly” and depicting him yukking it up with two figures who are reviled by many on the right — Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona

Rubio, in St. Lucie County, says immigration bill does not offer amnesty to illegals

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 by George Bennett

Ed Bender of Pompano Beach protests Sen. Marco Rubio's stance on immigration outside the St. Lucie County GOP's Lincoln Day dinner tonight.

PORT ST. LUCIE — At least 25 foes of immigration reform were protesting in the rain before Republican Sen. Marco Rubio arrived here to speak at tonight’s St. Lucie County GOP Lincoln Day dinner.

Members of the group Floridians for Immigration Enforcement say Rubio is breaking a 2010 campaign promise to oppose amnesty because Rubio has become a key supporter of legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for people who are now in the country illegally.

“I expended shoe leather and time and energy helping Marco Rubio become the senator in Florida and now he’s gone back on his campaign promises on amnesty,” said Ed Bender of Pompano Beach. “You want to call it a path to citizenship…the net result is people get to call themselves citizens on some level and the reality of it is billions and billions of additional dollars that this country does not have to support new citizens.”

Rubio, in a brief interview with the Politics column before his speech, said the bill he and other members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” have drafted does not grant amnesty to the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally.

“I think their definition of amnesty is anything that doesn’t deport 11 million people. And I say ‘theirs’ – that specific group, I’m not saying everybody has that same definition,” Rubio said of the demonstrators.

“When you’re asking someone to pay a $2,000 fine, an application fee, undergo a background check and a national security background check and all the other elements that are involved in this and wait 10 years before they can even apply for a Green Card and not qualify for any federal benefits – when you’re asking someone to go through all of that, that’s not amnesty. That’s a significant undertaking,” Rubio said.

Rubio has repeatedly called the Senate legislation a “starting point” and says he’s open to amendments and changes to the bill.

“I never pretended that eight senators could come up with a piece of legislation that we could offer to everyone as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition,” Rubio said.

To win support in the Republican-controlled House, Rubio said, “I think where we still need to do a little bit of work is on firming up the border security things to ensure that the border security happens.”

Immigration reform foes plan protest when Rubio speaks in Port St. Lucie

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 by George Bennett

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio‘s efforts to assuage the concerns of the right on immigration reform haven’t worked with Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, a group based in the Treasure Coast that plans to protest Wednesday when Rubio speaks at the St. Lucie County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

Rubio is part of the bipartisan Gang of Eight that drafted a reform bill that would create a 13-year path to citizenship for people who are now in the country illegally. Critics accuse Rubio of supporting amnesty — something Rubio has criticized in the past and says he’s not supporting now.

Rubio’s immigration stance also puts him at odds with mentor and former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, whose June 2009 endorsement of then-underdog Rubio helped establish Rubio’s conservative bona fides and sent him on his way to overtaking Charlie Crist for the 2010 GOP Senate nomination. DeMint now heads the Heritage Foundation, which is gearing up to oppose the immigration bill.

Rubio’s effort to woo right on immigration reform continues with Hannity appearance

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 by George Bennett

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio‘s attempts to get conservatives to support — or at least not vehemently oppose — immigration reform continued Tuesday night with an appearance on Sean Hannity‘s Fox News show.

Rubio played on the right’s dislike of President Barack Obama, arguing that the administration has done a poor job of handling of border security and contending that passing immigration reform would force the administration to get tougher.

“I think people have a good reason to be skeptical about immigration reform at the outset, because this administration has not done a good job of enforcing the law. What I have found over the last few days is that one of the biggest obstacles we face here is a lack of trust in the administration’s willingness to enforce the law,” Rubio told Hannity.

“But my point is, if we don’t do anything, that’s exactly what you are leaving in place. The only way that I know how to make the administration, this administration or a future administration, secure the border, is to pass a law that forces them to secure the border. And that’s what I’m working on, and that’s what our bill does. It requires them to spend upwards of 5.5 billion dollars on a border security plan, on a fencing plan. In addition to that, it requires the full implementation of e-verify. It requires the full implementation of an entry-exit tracking system. That is just so much better than what we have in place right now. And so, if we don’t do anything, or if we can’t get those things done, then what stays in place is what we have right now. How is that good for us?”

Jeb Bush back at Capitol, urging lawmakers, “Be bold”

Thursday, February 14th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Former Gov. Jeb Bush returned Thursday to the Florida Capitol for one of his few visits since his two terms as chief executive ended six years ago.

Bush, who now leads foundations that advance education policies similar to those he signed into law as governor, met behind closed doors with House and Senate members, frequently posing for pictures with lawmakers. Many had entered the Legislature since Bush left office.

Bush, however, insisted he came to Tallahassee without specific proposals to push.

“We provide assistance to people who want to advocate education reform policies, the Legislature is about ready to start,” Bush said outside Senate President Don Gaetz’s office. “I’m here to say hello to some friends and advance the cause of rising student achievement.”

Bush said he conveyed identical messages to lawmakers he encountered.

“Be big. Be bold. Fill the space,” Bush said.

Although Bush’s stop at the Capitol was his first since 2010, he still has plenty of allies. Fellow Republican, Gov. Rick Scott, is promoting changes to expand enrollment in charter schools.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has pushing for expanding online education in Florida, a concept now being studied by state university officials. He also has created a new education Choice and Innovation Subcommittee charged with exploring more charter-, virtual- and home-school options.

Legislation introduced this week in the Senate also would let parents in low-performing schools call for a private-management company to take over. A similar “parent trigger” bill died on a 20-20 vote last year in the Senate. But Bush said his Foundation for Excellence in Education, which advocates nationwide, is a strong proponent of the approach.

“It’s a pretty simple law. It says that if you’re in a failing school, parents ought to have the ability, if a majority want to, to have a say — simply a say — in providing advice on what structure a failing school should take,” Bush said. “That doesn’t say…they can convert to a charter school or something else. It just simply says, parents’ voice matters. If that’s a radical idea in America today, then we’re in a heap of trouble.”

“I think it’ll pass,” Bush said.

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, who adheres to Bush’s parental choice concepts, has been a frequent speaker at the former governor’s foundation meetings. Bennett is Florida’s third education commissioner in two years.

Gaetz, however, said that in their meeting, he and Bush didn’t speak about the parent trigger idea.

“We talked generally about where education policy was going in this country, we talked about online education,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz acknowledged that the pair shared concerns about deadlines that are nearing for many state and national education efforts. Among them, is the movement in Florida away from FCAT testing toward standards based on a common core curriculum, and the linking of teacher salaries to student performance.

“I told him we have a lot of reform that has been sort of shot off like rockets…and it’s all coming down from the sky now in the same place at the same time,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz said that Bush’s response was, “You need leadership. He sort of looked at me like, ‘Gaetz, do your job.’”

A Palm Beach Post analysis showed charter school, voucher and online education companies poured more than $2 million into last fall’s political campaigns, to primarily those of Republicans again demanding more alternatives to traditional public schools.

A deeply ideological battle is expected to unfold at Florida’s Capitol in coming months, with vast amounts of taxpayer dollars at stake. Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education also draws a portion of its financing from the industry active in state campaigns.

Along with his Tallahassee stop, Bush is about to launch a book tour to coincide with the March 5 publishing of his book, Immigration Wars, written with Clint Bolick, a constitutional lawyer with the Goldwater Institute in Arizona. The book includes recommendations for easing the nation’s immigration problems.

Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Bush protege, has already advanced broad outlines for an immigration reform effort. Bush and Rubio are both frequently talked of as possible 2016 Republican presidential contenders.

Gaetz, who said he was courted by Bush to run for office in the mid-1990s, said he remains a Bush fan and is urging he get ready for the early caucus and primary states.

“I asked him three times, ‘when the bus is leaving for Iowa, and that I want to be on the bus,’” Gaetz said. “He laughed. But he didn’t say ‘no.’

Deutch independent challenger Cesar Henao snags Fox interview, discusses Rubio and Obama

Thursday, October 25th, 2012 by George Bennett

Cesar Henao, a registered Democrat running as a no-party candidate against U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, faulted Republicans and Democrats alike on immigration when he was interviewed this week by Neil Cavuto of Fox News about his campaign.

Henao, 34, was born in Colombia and has billed himself as “the first illegal immigrant ever to run for Congress,” saying he came to the U.S. at age 12 by crossing the border from Mexico while hiding beneath bales of hay in the back of a pickup truck. He later joined his mother in New York and eventually got a Green Card and became a citizen in 2002.

Asked about Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Henao said “he’s the only Senator in the Republican Party that’s actually touched the immigration issue.” Henao said he’s “disappointed” in President Obama for not delivering on his promise to pass immigration reform in his first term.

Henao and Mike Trout will both appear on the ballot as no-party candidates against Democratic incumbent Deutch in heavily Democratic Palm Beach-Broward District 21. No Republican is running.

Rubio on his speech, immigration, Charlie Crist and the joy of being a home state boy

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

After a brief sound check onstage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was crushed by a media scrum anxious to hear the GOP rising star wax on about everything from Charlie Crist’s endorsement of President Barack Obama to how to address immigration.

Rubio, Florida’s Republican U.S. senator who grew up in Miami, will introduce Mitt Romney tomorrow night at the Republican National Convention, a primo spot second only to the presidential candidate’s acceptance speech itself.

Rubio said his job is to make clear to the millions of television viewers during his prime-time speech the choices between the two candidates and the role of government in people’s lives.

“This election is about the choice the country has about the role government should play in our country. And really that is what this choice is going to be about. It’s not a choice between a Democrat and a Republican simply. It’s a choice about much more than that. So tomorrow, my job is to introduce the next president of the united states and to do so in a way that makes It clear to people what their choice is.
It’s a great honor,” Rubio said.

Rubio will also talk about his experience as the son of Cuban immigrants, something he does with an earnestness that has made him one of the most popular Republican politicians in the country. Rubio was on Romney’s short-list for veep before the former Massachusetts governor settled on U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

When asked what’s different about his tomorrow-night speech, Rubio laughed.

“I don’t know. Thirty-nine million people, probably. Look, it’s a tremendous honor to be able to give this speech in my home state in front of a lot of family and friends,” he said, mentioning his mother and late father.
“It will be affirmation that their lives matter. That all the sacrifices and hard work they went through was worth something…It’s just an honor to be able to introduce the next president of the U.S. and to do so in a way that I hope will make clear the choice that we have and the difference between the two men.”

Rubio blamed complaints that the Romney campaign hadn’t done enough to reach out to Hispanic voters on the campaign’s limited resources and said the pace would pick up in the general election cycle .

Read what Rubio said about immigration, Charlie Crist and Paul Ryan after the jump.

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down key portions of Arizona immigration law

Monday, June 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Supreme Court struck down key portions of Arizona’s controversial illegal immigration law, handing a partial victory to President Obama’s administration.

The majority ruled that that giving state or local law enforcement the power to detain and question people could result in “unnecessary harassment.”

The Arizona law (SB 1070) would have given law enforcement the power to detain and question the immigration status of someone they believed was in the country illegally. The court ruled that immigration matters are strictly a federal function. The Arizona law would have required police to check the immigration status of anyone who is arrested.

“Under state law, officers who believe an alien is removable by reason of some ‘public offense’ would have the power to conduct an arrest on that basis regardless of whether a federal warrant has issued or the alien is likely to escape,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 5-3 opinion.

“This would allow the State to achieve its own immigration policy. The result could be unnecessary harassment of some aliens (for instance, a veteran, college student, or someone assisting with a criminal investigation) whom federal officials determine should not be removed,” the ruling reads. “This is not the system Congress created.”

The court did uphold one of the most controversial portions of the law, that requires local law enforcement officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.

The justices also said that provision, however, could be subject to additional legal challenges. Civil liberties groups are challenging that portion of the law in Arizona courts, arguing that it could lead to racial profiling.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined Kennedy and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor in the majority. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito concurred in part and dissented in part. Justice Elena Kagan, who served as Obama’s solicitor general, had recused herself from the Arizona case.

Obama camp launches Latino push by calling Romney ‘extreme’ on immigration

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 by George Bennett

As President Obama‘s campaign launched a Spanish-language TV ad blitz in Florida and other swing states with large Hispanic populations, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro painted presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney as “extreme” on immigration.

Republicans, who launched their own Latino outreach program this week, countered by blaming Obama for a sour economy that has been tougher on Hispanics than other groups.

“Mitt Romney would be the most extreme nominee that the Republican Party has ever had on immigration,” said Castro, who joined Messina and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., on a morning conference call to tout the Latinos for Obama campaign initiative.

Messina also used the word “extreme” to describe Romney’s immigration stance — echoing criticism from Romney Republican rival Newt Gingrich, who called Romney “anti-immigrant” in a January radio ad that was pulled after Sen. Marco Rubio objected.

Romney has called for beefed-up border security and tougher employer verification standards to curb illegal immigration. He also said Arizona’s controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants was a “model.” And Romney has said he would veto the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who were raised in the U.S. and complete two years of college or military service.

Romney adviser Albert Martinez accused Obama’s allies of trying to divert attention from the president’s “record of failure on the issues most important to Latinos. Hispanics have been hit especially hard as a result of three years of President Obama’s record of high unemployment, soaring debt, and skyrocketing gas prices. President Obama will do everything possible to make this election about anything other than his failed record.”


Gingrich’s immigration stance: Nixon-to-China, or Rick Perry-to-Orlando?

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 by George Bennett

Staunch anticommunist Richard Nixon meets Marxist revolutionary Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1972, launching a four-decade metaphor spree to describe unexpected political acts.

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich‘s staying power as a top-tier candidate will be tested by the less-than-hardline stance on illegal immigration he articulated in Tuesday night’s CNN debate.

Republican strategist Alex Castellanos called it a “Nixon-goes-to-China” moment.

Or will it be a Rick Perry-goes-to-Orlando moment in which a candidate plummets after running afoul of the GOP base on the immigration issue?

Read about it in today’s Palm Beach Post.

Former Sen. Mel Martinez endorses Mitt Romney

Monday, October 10th, 2011 by George Bennett


Former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez is endorsing Mitt Romney in the crowded GOP presidential race.

As a sitting U.S. Senator four years ago, Martinez’ endorsement of John McCain a few days before the 2008 Florida primary helped McCain edge Romney and effectively clinch the Republican nomination. Martinez and McCain were cosponsors of immigration reform legislation that many in the GOP criticized as “amnesty.” Romney has emphasized a tough-on-illegals immigration stance in his 2012 campaign and blasted rival Rick Perry for supporting in-state tuition benefits in Texas for the children of illegal immigrants.

Says Martinez in a statement released by the Romney campaign this morning: “I have great confidence that Mitt Romney is the candidate to get our country back on track. Unemployment remains a pressing issue both in Florida and across the nation. Now more than ever, we need a leader who will get our country’s fiscal house in order. From his experience in the private sector, Mitt Romney understands how the real economy works and how jobs are created. As Governor of Massachusetts, he balanced the budget without raising taxes. I am proud to support him.”

Romney links Perry to Obama, Pelosi, Reid and Mexico’s Vicente Fox on immigration

Friday, September 30th, 2011 by George Bennett

Talking tough on illegal immigration helped Rick Scott score an upset Republican primary win in last year’s Florida governor’s race. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is betting the issue will sour GOP primary voters in Florida and elsewhere on Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who supports granting in-state college tuition rates to children of illegal immigrants in Texas.

A new web video from the Romney campaign associates Perry’s position with President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and features a clip of former Mexican President Vicente Fox praising Perry for the Texas policy.

There’s also a clip of Perry from last week’s GOP debate in Orlando saying opponents of the program “don’t have a heart” — a statement that angered many conservatives as much as the program itself.

Scott recalls hanging chad: Obama voters now feel like Palm Beach’s Buchanan supporters

Saturday, September 24th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott drew cheers from Presidency 5 delegates Saturday, saying he expected the winner of the Florida Republican primary to emerge as the party’s nominee — with a key first step on that path being the upcoming straw poll.

“You will send a very strong signal about who will be America’s choice,” Scott told the 3,000 delegates. ”As Florida goes, so goes the nation. And as you go, so goes Florida.”

Scott pointed out that victories in straw polls at earlier installments of the party convention gave an important push to Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole.  Later though, speaking to reporters, the governor conceded that Saturday’s outcome may not prove so decisive.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is close to Scott. is narrowly leading in Florida over second-place Mitt Romney, according to a poll this week. But Perry stumbled in Thursday night’s nationally televised debate, and his struggle to explain his stance on illegal immigration seems to have cost him support among at least a portion of  P-5 atttendees.

“There’s all these expectations games, I didn’t have to deal with that in my race,” Scott said. “If he doesn’t win, he’ll be frustrated. But I think the positives are that whoever wins, it shows what people in this state are thinking about. If you want people to be active in your campaign, these are the issues you need to focus on, and have a message.

“I personally believe that the most important message is going to be jobs,” Scott added. “But we’ll see….this is the real group of activists, the people who care about this race today.”

While Florida delegates may not send as clear a message as they have in past conventions, Scott drew cheers from the crowd with a direct attack on President Obama. He recalled the 2000 presidential election, marked by hanging-chad and voter confusion.

“There were all those Palm Beach voters who couldn’t believe they voted for Pat Buchanan,” Scott remembered. “Well, since 2008, I’ve met people all over the country who can’t believe they’ve voted for Barack Obama. I’m absolutely convinced, they’ll get it right next year.”

Scott described Saturday’s speech as among the three biggest of his short political career. His inaugural address, his State of the State speech to open this year’s Legislature also are up there, the governor said.

For Scott, the speech also placed the one-time political outsider firmly within Florida’s Republican establishment.

Scott also brought many in the crowd to their feet by boasting that he had not wavered from his stance that “businesses create new jobs, not government and for “sticking to my principles.”

“I did not run to be voted most popular, I ran so that Florida could be most likely to succeed,” Scott said.

Questioner links abortion to illegal immigration and Social Security at GOP Senate debate

Saturday, August 20th, 2011 by George Bennett


ORLANDO — In asking a question about abortion at a Republican Senate candidates forum today, conservative Tampa radio host Bill Bunkley veered from the usual moral arguments into a discussion of the U.S. labor force, illegal immigration, the future solvency of Social Security and the changing demographics of Europe.

Here’s Bunkley’s preamble:

“Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, most estimates put the number of aborted unborn children in America around 50 million. Arguably, that loss has been one of the contributing factors leading to an ongoing shortage of available domestic workers, and practically speaking, workers who would have filled the gap of jobs held by illegal aliens and by workers who would have been contributing to provide financial resources for the future Social Security and Medicaid payments. In Europe we are witnessing the impact of long-term declining growth rates that will soon change the face of many of their countries.”

Then Bunkley asked the candidates’ positions on abortion and the recent vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

In their answers, Adam Hasner, George LeMieux, Mike McCalister and Craig Miller all proclaimed themselves opposed to abortion and steered clear of matters like immigration and Social Security

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