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Poll: Obama, Romney a toss-up for Florida; Nelson builds lead

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by John Kennedy

A new poll showing President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in a too-close-to-call fight for Florida, also has Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson building on his lead over Republican Connie Mack.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll released Thursday has Obama ahead in the nation’s biggest battleground state, 48-47 percent among likely voters and those leaning toward a candidate. Obama’s faltering performance in the first presidential debate didn’t seem to matter much to Floridians, pollsters found.

“Most Florida voters were locked into their choice prior to the debate, and only 6% of likely voters made up their mind post-debate,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Overall, Romney’s supporters are slightly more enthusiastic about their candidate than are Obama’s backers.”

In Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Mack has acknowledged that his fortunes are closely tied to how Romney does in the state. But the latest findings show Nelson ahead 52-39 percent, with only nine percent of Floridians undecided.

A week earlier, the Marist survey showed Nelson with an 11 percent lead and seven percent undecided.

The latest survey polled 1,410 Floridians from Oct. 7-9. It has a 3.1 percent margin-of-error.

Meanwhile, Nelson, who has been accused by Mack of ducking debates and trying to run out the clock on the Senate contest, is kicking off his homestretch tour of Florida on Friday in the Orlando area.

 The campaign said Nelson will appear with entertainer Jimmy Buffett that day, part of 19 planned stops across the state leading to Election Day.

Mack touts best fund-raising quarter

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Already the heavy favorite of third-party spending groups, Republican Connie Mack said Wednesday that his campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has completed its best fund-raising quarter, pulling in $2.7 million.

“We could not be in a better position for the final stretch of this race,” said Jeff Cohen, Mack’s campaign manager.

“Our outstanding fundraising results reflect the fact that this race is far closer than the media and their public polls indicate,” he added. “Our own internal polling continues to show this race is a dead heat, and Floridians are now just weeks away from retiring Bill Nelson and his lockstep liberal agenda.”

Mack has been steadily pumping up his personal campaign cash, but headed into this fall with only $1.4 million in the bank – compared with $8.8 million for Nelson. The Democrat hasn’t yet reported his fundraising for the July 1-Sept. 30 quarter.

Polls show Mack trailing Nelson by an average 5.6 percent. But there’s been no survey of Florida voters since Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney’s recent surge in the polls — a move that may also be helping the chances of many GOP contenders, including Mack.

Romney’s once tattered coattails don’t look so bad at the moment.

“If Mitt Romney wins, I win. If I win, Mitt Romney wins,” Mack has said. “So we are certainly going to be tied together.”

While Romney’s recent debate performance helped boost his prospects against President Obama, Mack has his own chance to shine under the TV lights. Mack and Nelson are scheduled to meet next Wednesday for their only statewide television debate at Davie’s Nova Southeastern University.

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.

Bob Schieffer to moderate presidential debate at Lynn University

Monday, August 13th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Veteran newsman Bob Schieffer will moderate the Oct. 22 debate between President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney at Lynn University in Boca Raton, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates website.

The Lynn University debate, the finale of three presidential show-downs, will focus on foreign affairs.

Schieffer is CBS’s chief Washington correspondent and the moderator of the Sunday morning news show Face the Nation.

The commission also announced moderators for the other two debates and a vice presidential debate today as well.

On Oct. 3, Jim Lehrer, executive editor of the PBS Newshour, will moderate the first debate between the presidential candidates at the University of Denver. CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley will be the moderator for a town hall-style meeting on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Martha Raddatz, senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News, will moderate a debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan on Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Look who’s talking: Mack ready to debate

Friday, August 10th, 2012 by John Kennedy

After refusing to debate his Republican primary opponents, U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack IV said Friday that he has accepted an invite for an October general election debate at the University of South Florida.

Mack will presumably face-off against two-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.  Both men have primary races Tuesday.

One of Mack’s opponents, former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon of Indialantic was so frustrated by Mack’s summerlong refusal to debate, he posted a mock debate on web site, where he answered questions flanked by a goofy-looking photo of his rival.

But the matter of a primary contest isn’t stopping Mack from embracing the October debate, organized by WTSP-TV, C-SPAN, and Florida’s Gannett newspapers.

 ”We believe several debates are appropriate for a Senate race of this magnitude, including this debate,” said David James, Mack’s deputy campaign manager. “We look forward to a series of issue-based debates on the right path for the future of our nation with Senator Nelson and thank WTSP and their partners for extending their offer.”

Back at you: Frankel challenges Jacobs to play nice in U.S. House race

Monday, June 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Congressional hopeful Lois Frankel said she’ll debate her Democratic opponent Kristin Jacobs before the Aug. 14 Democratic primary.

But in return, she’s asking Jacobs, a Broward County Commissioner, to agree to play nice in the U.S. House District 22 campaigns. The winner of the contest between the two women will face off against Adam Hasner, a former state House representative who also served as House majority leader, in November.

Earlier today, Jacobs’ campaign manager asked Frankel to reconsider her refusal to participate in a Palm Beach Post/WPTV Channel 5 debate scheduled for July 12. The debate was canceled after Frankel said no.

In her response, Frankel agreed to a debate (Jacobs wants four before the primary election) without saying when. Then she made her own request.

“As I’m sure you know I have always debated my previous opponents- and I expect that we will debate as well.
However, with all the critical issues facing South Florida and our nation as well as the dysfunction of the Republican-led House of Representatives, we need to be concerned first and foremost about sending a Democrat to Congress from this seat. I’m sure you agree that has to be the most important outcome of this election cycle.

To that end, I am joining with both the Palm Beach and Broward Democratic County Chairs in calling for a positive primary campaign. I pledge to run no negative commercials against you, send no negative mailings
or any other kind of communications if you simply do the same. Voters are tired of the same old slash and burn campaigns, and we do not need to give Adam Hasner and his extremist allies any comfort from a needlessly divisive Democratic primary,” Frankel wrote, adding that she would be happy to work with Jacobs’ campaign to set up a debate date.

Where did Ford liberate Eastern Europe? Where did Bentsen smack down Quayle?

Sunday, November 27th, 2011 by George Bennett

Al "Lockbox" Gore confronts George W. "Fuzzy Math" Bush in a 2000 debate remembered for Gore's audible sighing. Where did it take place?

BOCA RATON — Tiny Lynn University will host one of three presidential debates next year. But even if the debate produces a truly memorable moment, it probably won’t be linked in history with Lynn.

“It’s not so much about being on the map for some historical event, because people will forget the next day where the debate was,” says Rob Wild of Washington University in St. Louis, which has hosted three presidential and one vice presidential debate since 1992.

George H.W. Bush looks at his watch in 1992 debate while Ross Perot contemplates a "giant sucking sound." Where were they?

University of Virginia politics guru Larry Sabato confesses he was stumped recently when a student asked where President Gerald Ford defied Cold War reality by declaring “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” in 1976.

Read about Lynn’s preparations and the experience of other schools that have hosted debates by clicking here — and be sure to check out the end of the story to read about memorable debate moments and where they took place.

Scott in Vero insists he will win

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A Quinnipiac University poll released this morning showing Democratic candidate Alex Sink pulling ahead in the neck-and-neck race governor’s race for governor didn’t faze her GOP opponent Rick Scott.

At a campaign stop this morning in Vero Beach, Scott dismissed the poll results that showed a flip-flop from just two weeks ago when he was ahead of Sink.

“We’re going to win. We’re doing really well,” Scott told reporters at a rally outside Bono’s restaurant. “If you look at the likely voters and the absentee ballots and early voting, we’re doing really well. We’re doing well. We’re going to win.”

The poll of likely voters was completed on Oct. 24, the day before the final debate that set off a controversy over Sink looking at a text message on a cell phone during a commercial break, breaking the debate rules.

During the debate, Scott chastised Sink for smiling when he challenged her about a $6.75 million fine paid by her former bank for selling investors, many of them seniors, risky investments. Sink and the whistleblower who filed the lawsuit said Sink had nothing to do with the problem although she was head of NationsBank’s Florida operations at the time.

George Kopacz, in the crowd of about 300 supporters at the breakfast rally, said Sink’s demeanor during the debate pushed him to vote for Scott.

“It was the smile. It was dishonesty. She didn’t want to defend herself,” Kopacz, the Vero Beach retiree said.

Kopacz said he is an independent who voted for President Obama in the last election.

“I made a mistake. Like everyone else,” he said.

Scott’s week-long tour takes him to Melbourne, Titusville, Ocala and Gainesville later today. Sink will be in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth and Miami.

Scott campaign pre-debate stunt: Sink ‘Rolodex’

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Rick Scott’s campaign staff quietly passed out black index card boxes labeled “Sink” to reporters biding their time until tonight’s gubernatorial debate kicks off at Nova University at 7 p.m.

“Sink has long been one of those behind-the-scenes players whose money and Rolodex help get people elected,” reads a quote from the St. Petersburg Times from 2002 taped to the top of the box.

Inside, Alex Sink’s fake files include a variety of familiar names and their pseudo-associations to Scott’s Democratic opponent.

“Barack Obama” is listed as Sink’s “chief policy advisor.” Bill Clinton? Her “finance and policy advisor.” Sink’s husband Bill McBride is included as “hubby and chair, Trial Lawyers for Sink.”

The candidates will go mano-a-mano live for the first time this evening at the debate hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

At their only previous debate, a taped Univision event earlier this month, Scott’s campaign staff handed out whoopee cushions before the match began.

Scott and Sink will go at it again for their second live debate on Oct. 25.

CFO debate debacle

Friday, October 8th, 2010 by Dara Kam

There either will or won’t be a debate between chief financial officer candidates Jeff Atwater and his Democrat opponent Loranne Ausley.

Ausley, a former state representative from Tallahassee, has made much of Atwater, the outgoing Senate president, avoiding a debate in the statewide race.

She held a press conference in Tallahassee this morning Florida demanding that Atwater agree to a debate before the Nov. 2 election.

“I’m running to clean up the mess in Tallahassee, not to hide from problems, duck debates, and refuse to be held accountable,” she said.

Hold on, Atwater’s campaign insists. The North Palm Beach banker’s campaign spokesman Brian Hughes said they had agreed to an Oct. 21 debate at Univision but Ausley backed out.

“As for the issue of a debate, the facts are as I laid them out to you. She needs to tell you guys why she said no the the 21st. We accepted one date Oct 21) that they’ve said no to because of schedule. (Univision) They accepted one that we couldn’t do because of schedule (Leadership FL/UofF). Now, they’ve accepted an alternate date at Univision and we’re seeing if it will work,” Hughes said in an e-mail.

The upshot is that the duo may take part in a verbal duel on Oct. 28 sponsored by Univision.

GOP candidates’ refusal to participate leads to cancelation of Cabinet debates

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

With two of the three GOP Florida Cabinet candidates refusing to participate in a debate next month, organizers had no choice but to cancel the event.

Attorney general candidate Pam Bondi and Senate President Jeff Atwater, the Republican nominee for chief financial officer, would not agree to debate their Democratic opponents, Florida Press Association president Dean Ridings said today. The press association and Leadership Florida had planned to host the Oct. 5 event at the University of Florida.

GOP agriculture commissioner candidate Adam Putnam was the only Republican who signed up for the debate, Ridings said.

“Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater would not confirm. We are pretty much at the deadline. And every indication was that they would not participate,” Ridings said. “It didn’t make sense just to do the one” debate, Ridings said.


Sink to release tax returns; Scott agrees to two debates

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will release her and husband Bill McBride’s tax returns for the past five years next week.

Sink, the Democrat’s nominee for governor, is challenging GOP opponent Rick Scott, the self-made billionaire who made his fortune in the health care industry, to do the same.

Scott, who self-funded his primary campaign against Attorney General Bill McCollum, refused to release his tax returns when McCollum challenged him to do so earlier this summer.

Meanwhile, Scott has agreed to two debates next month with Sink, who asked for five debates before the Nov. 2 election.

Scott agreed to a debate Oct. 20 in Davie sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association and another on Oct. 25 in St. Petersburg sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times and CNN and moderated by CNN host John King.

Crist wants debates with “all” GOP Senate candidates “at the appropriate time”

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 by George Bennett

Gov. Charlie Crist’s U.S. Senate campaign has responded to former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio’s request for 10 debates in their Republican primary campaign:

“Gov. Crist looks forward to debating all of his primary opponents at the appropriate time, but he still has an important job to do, as the Governor of Florida. After preparing for the legislative session and a possible special session on SunRail, he hopes for an agreement on a suitable amount and possible dates to debate.”

Note that Rubio isn’t mentioned by name, but lumped in with the rest of the GOP field. While there’s no telling who will actually qualify for the ballot next year, the Florida Division of Elections lists eight Republicans currently running for the Senate seat: Crist, Rubio, Shawn Teeters, Belinda Noah, Bob Coggins, Gwyn McClellan, Marion Thorpe and former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith.

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