Across Florida
What's happening on other political blogs?


Herman Cain, Michael Reagan lend celebrity appeal to Gingrich’s last day of campaigning

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

TAMPA – The Herminator and son-of-Gipper hit the campaign trail for GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich today on his last day of campaigning before Florida’s primary on Tuesday.

And it was difficult to tell which of the two GOP celebrities the crowds loved more.

Michael Reagan, 66, was on hand to visibly counter attacks from Mitt Romney that Gingrich exaggerates his ties to the former conservative talk show host’s beloved father, the late President Ronald Reagan.

Herman Cain, who dropped out of the GOP presidential race in December amid sexual harassment allegations, was there to help Gingrich lure Tea Party voters and, of course, use his trademark firebrand oratory skills to pump up the crowd.

Taking the stage to enthusiastic applause from about 100 Gingrich supporters in a cavernous airport hangar at Tampa International Airport, Cain said: “If I didn’t know better one could get the impression that you all like me. But even better I like Newt Gingrich for president of the United States.”


Gingrich campaign chair says Florida is “volatile” but victory far from elusive

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

ORLANDO – Win or lose on Tuesday in Florida, Newt Gingrich is going to score a victory against Mitt Romney, the former House Speaker’s national campaign chairman said today.

“What Florida is going to prove is that he did not knock Newt out early,” said former U.S. Rep. Bob Walker. “His plan was to knock him out in Florida and that’s not going to happen. We’re going to go on.”

Walker said it’s not clear what will happen Tuesday. “It’s very volatile,” he said of competing, and contradictory, polls that have been released over the last several days. In some, he pointed out, Gingrich is behind by double-digits. Other pollsters have said that the race is a near deadlock.

But, he said, Gingrich has gained valuable ground while Romney has spent a ton of money. “At one point we were down by 25 points in Florida. So, even in a worst case scenario, we’ve made up 13 points against a barrage of negative ads,” he said.

Rick Scott: Gingrich has to win Florida to stay in the game

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott told FOX Business Network today that tomorrow’s Sunshine State GOP primary could be make-or-break for Newt Gingrich, trailing Mitt Romney in recent Florida polls by double digits.

“It looks like Florida is going to choose. It’s going to be tough, I think it will be hard on Newt, if he doesn’t win Florida, to go forward, because Governor Romney has a good campaign going from the standpoint of good organization and he’s raised a lot of money,” Scott told FOX Business Network’s Follow the Money host Eric Bolling in a show to be aired at 10 p.m. tonight.

Scott hasn’t endorsed any of the candidates in the primary, but he’s talked up Romney in recent interviews, praising the former Massachusetts governor’s business acumen and opining that Latino voters prefer Romney to the twice-divorced and admitted former lady’s man Gingrich because Romney is a family man committed to his wife.

Tomorrow’s election defining the GOP nominee is exactly what Republican lawmakers hoped for when the moved Florida’s primary up from its previously scheduled date, incurring the wrath of national GOP leaders. State Republicans are being punished by losing half their delegates to the GOP convention, and because of the early date, Florida is now a winner-take-all-delegates match.

Scott also told FBN that the winner needs to sell his jobs plan – as Scott himself did (with the help of his own $73 million) in his gubernatorial campaign – to Floridians.

Romney, who with Gingrich and “Super-PACs” on both sides have traded nasty ads, has done a better job of getting his message out, Scott told Bolling.

“I hope it has nothing to do with the negative ads. But somebody, one of these two, is going to go out there and really sell that they’ve got a better jobs plan than the other one. That’s who I think is going to win tomorrow,” Scott, who will vote in Leon County tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., said. Unlike most of his predecessors, Scott has registered to vote with his new address at the governor’s mansion.

Asked if he was leaning toward endorsing Romney, Scott remained coy.

“I’m not leaning,” he said.

Romney pressing Freddie Mac attack to the end

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by George Bennett

DUNEDIN — Several polls show Mitt Romney with a big lead over Newt Gingrich heading into Tuesday’s Florida Republican primary, but Romney — who saw his big South Carolina lead turn into a Gingrich victory — isn’t easing up on the former House speaker.

As he has done in almost every opportunity over the last eight days, Romney today criticized Gingrich for working as a consultant for troubled government-backed mortgage giant Freddie Mac. After pounding home the issue all week and in two nationally televised debates, the only change for Romney is that he’s been striking a tone of mockery rather than outrage the last few days.

“I know the speaker’s not real happy, Speaker Gingrich. He’s not feeling very excited these days,” Romney told a crowd of more than 500 that filled a local park here. “I know, it’s sad. He’s been flailing around a bit trying to go after me for one thing or the other and you just watch it, you shake your head. It’s been kind of painfully revealing to watch. I think the reason he isn’t doing so well is because of those last two debates, don’t you think?”

Gingrich’s company received $1.6 million from Freddie Mac for what Gingrich says were his services as consultant and historian; Romney calls it lobbying.

Romney said voters turned on Gingrich when they found out he “made money from Freddie Mac, the very institution that helped stand behind the huge housing crisis. Here in Florida, if you’re part of the housing crisis you’re probably not going to get elected president. So the people here in Florida said we’re not going to get behind Newt Gingrich, we’re going to get behind Mitt Romney.”

Live Election Night updates coming to this space Tuesday

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Palm Beach Post Staff

Palm Beach Post government reporter Jennifer Sorentrue will be live tweeting from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office on Tuesday, Jan. 31, from late afternoon until midnight with up-to-the-minute updates.

Make sure to bookmark this page to follow the live updates and see them scrolling in the box below.

Or, if the box is temporarily not loading, simply click here to follow Jennifer (@sorentruepbp) on Twitter.

See all of Jennifer’s tweets

Gingrich proudly wears Soros crown of ‘extremist conservative’

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

JACKSONVILLE – GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is claiming he won a backhanded endorsement from George Soros, the billionaire backer of all things liberal.

In an interview with Reuters over the weekend, Soros said he wouldn’t be worried if former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney replaced President Obama.

“Well, look, either you’ll have an extremist conservative, be it Gingrich or Santorum, in which case I think it will make a big difference which of the two comes in,” Soros was quoted as saying. “If it’s between Obama and Romney, there isn’t all that much difference except for the crowd that they bring with them.”

Gingrich crowed about Soros’ statement this morning, claiming it shows who is the true conservative in the race.

“It makes no difference to us whether it’s Romney or Obama it makes no difference either one, but Gingrich, that would be a real threat,” he said, paraphrasing Soros.
“It’s actually so perfect you would think we made it up.”

Gingrich gets religion about bashing Obamacare, Romneycare

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

JACKSONVILLE – The best moment of Newt Gingrich’s day on Sunday came when he went to Mass at night and learned Catholic bishops share his outrage over President Obama’s health care package, he said today.

As happened in Catholic churches across the nation, the priest at the church Gingrich and his wife attended read a letter, protesting a proposal that would require most employer-sponsored health plans to offer women contraceptive services, including sterilization.

“The Obama is engaged in a war against religion,” he told a small group that gathered in a hotel conference room to send him off on his last full-day of campaigning in the state. The proposed requirement, he said, “is in direct violation of freedom of religion and an example of the increasingly dictatorial attitude of this administration.”

Gingrich finds hope in polls that show he’s trailing Romney

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

JACKSONVILLE – Lauding two polls that he said show him closing the gap with rival Mitt Romney, GOP president hopeful Newt Gingrich began his last day of campaigning before Florida’s winner-take-all primary with the son of a Republican icon by his side.

After introducing the late President Ronald Reagan’s son, Michael, to about 100 supporters in a hotel conference room, Gingrich talked polls. He pointed out that a new Insider Advantage poll shows him 5 points behind the former Massachusetts governor. The poll, with a margin of error of 3.8 percent, shows Romney with 36 percent support of likely Republican voters and Gingrich with 31 percent.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul both had 12 percent support among voters. Another 9 percent of GOP voters were undecided.

Public Policy Polling found Romney leading with 40 percent and Gingrich with 32 percent. Santorum had 15 percent and Paul 9 percent.

“We have closed the gap a lot according to Insider Advantage,” Gingrich said. “We have a chance now, in the next 24 hours to finish the job.”

He was referring to a weekend poll that showed him down by 11 points. However, Public Policy Polling said all polls are showing the same trend: strong movement away from Gingrich and toward Romney.

While clearly not writing off Florida, Gingrich said regardless of what happens in the Sunshine State on Tuesday, he’s not conceding the nomination to Romney, who he has branded a liberal.

“The last three national polls I was ahead of Romney. Why would people wonder what I’m going to do?” he asked. “The idea that the conservative movement is going to roll over and give up, it’s not going to happen.”

Santorum plans to resume campaign Monday, but not in Florida; cancels Boca Raton stop

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

After cancelling two Florida stops on Sunday to care for his ailing 3-year-old daughter, Rick Santorum’s campaign announced that he will be back on the road Monday — but not in Florida.

Santorum last appeared in Florida Friday afternoon before returning home to Pennsylvania for a fundraiser. He also filed his taxes over the weekend. Santorum had planned appearances in Sarasota and Punta Gorda on Sunday and at Boca Raton Synagogue Monday morning. His campaign still held rallies in Sarasota and Punta Gorda, with surrogates, including his adult daughter, Liz and a reality TV family, in his place.

On a conference call Sunday night, Santorum said his daughter Bella had suffered from pneumonia but was recovering.

Santorum, expected to finish third in Florida, had already announced that he wouldn’t stick around for Tuesday’s vote. He said he regretted staying in South Carolina when the votes were counted there because it was a wasted campaign day.

So instead of returning to Florida just to campaign in Boca, Santorum will appear in Missouri and Minnesota on Monday.

He will then travel to Colorado on Tuesday and hold a primary night watch party in Las Vegas Tuesday night.

Romney: L-word attack underscores Gingrich’s desperation

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

Mitt Romney scoffed at Newt Gingrich’s assertion that the former Massachusetts governor is a liberal.

“Speaker Gingrich has a history of attacking other Republicans and undermining conservatives,” said Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman. “This dishonest attack is another example of Newt Gingrich trying to rewrite history to save his sinking campaign.”

Williams comments came hours after Gingrich used the ‘L’ word to describe Romney while speaking to a crowd at The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in Central Florida. Earlier in the day, speaking to reporters, Gingrich called his chief rival in Tuesday’s state GOP presidential primary a “Massachusetts moderate.”

Gingrich back in form at Central Florida event but schedule slim as election nears

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

THE VILLAGES – The feisty, cantankerous, sarcastic and biting Newt Gingrich was back.

While that well-known side of Gingrich largely disappeared late last week, notably during a listless performance at a nationally-television debate, it came back today when he was speaking to some 3,000 supporters in this sprawling retirement community south of Ocala.

In a roughly 30-minute speech, the GOP presidential hopeful called chief rival Mitt Romney a liberal. He pounded the podium as he swore he would dismantle both the Republican and Democrat establishments in Washington. He portrayed President Obama as a naïve dreamer who doesn’t understand the threats facing the world. He scorned the intelligence community’s ineptitude for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Kick Butt and Take Names,” Don Doggett, 73, said of the former House Speaker’s demeanor. “I’m for that.”

John West, a fellow member of the Still Kickin’ bluegrass band, agreed. “What we don’t need in Washington is a panty waist,” he said.

It was his only speech of the day. While he made three stops as he made his way from Tampa to Jacksonville two days before Tuesday’s election, the other two were at Baptist churches. He attended the services and shook hands with members of the congregation.


Cuban-American ally says Romney will improve on 2008 Hispanic showing

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by George Bennett

Romney outside the Casa Marin restaurant in Hialeah

HIALEAH — Hispanic voters were a key part of the reason Mitt Romney lost Florida’s 2008 primary, but at a rally here today, a key surrogate said things will be different this time.

Romney lost the Hispanic vote to John McCain by a 53-to-21 percent margin statewide in the 2008 GOP primary and lost Miami-Dade County, where three-quarters of voters are Hispanic, by a 49-to-16 percent margin.

“You’re going to see an overwhelming victory for Romney this year” predicted former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Diaz-Balart backed McCain four years ago. This year, he’s endorsing Romney. So is his brother, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami.

“They trust Ileana, Mario and me, they trust us,” Lincoln Diaz-Balart said of Cuban-American voters. “They know that he (Romney) is listening to us, that he is our friend, and thus that our community will have a friend in the White House. So you’re going to see a very dramatic difference in the vote on Tuesday from four years ago.”

Romney was accompanied today by the Diaz-Balarts and Ros-Lehtinen and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral. He also brought his youngest son, Craig. Speaking in Spanish, Craig Romney told the crowd of a few hundred outside the Casa Marin restaurant that while his father doesn’t speak Spanish, he speaks the language of the economy, prosperity and liberty. The remark got big applause.

As he did in Naples earlier today, Romney bashed chief GOP rival Newt Gingrich for his work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Romney also called President Obama soft on Cuba.

“With Cuba he says, OK, we’re going to open up remittances and we’re going to extend travel to Cuba as a show of kindness and a gift. And of course gifts to people who are fundamentally evil are always accepted and never returned. The right course for America is to stand with strength against despots, to stand with strength against tyranny and to stand with strength for the principles of this great land,” Romney said.

Gingrich whips out ‘L’ word to describe Romney

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

THE VILLAGES – Mitt Romney is no long a mere moderate, according to Newt Gingrich. He’s a full blown liberal.

Campaigning in front of as many as 3,000 retirees under the blazing Florida sun, Gingrich blasted his chief GOP presidential rival for claiming he wasn’t a good friend and close policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

To show how wrong the former Massachusetts governor is about his relationship with the Republican icon, Gingrich said the late president’s son, Michael, will be campaigning with him Monday when he crisscrosses the state on one last attempt to woo voters before Tuesday’s primary.

“Michael will be here tomorrow to prove to every doubting person that I am the legitimate heir of the Reagan movement not some liberal from Massachusetts,” he said.

Liz Santorum: ‘My dad today is exercising his most important role; being a dad’ as 3-year-old hospitalized

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

Santorum and daughter Bella

SARASOTA — Just two days before Florida GOP voters go to the poll, Rick Santorum stayed behind in Pennsylvania to care for his ailing 3-year-old daughter, Bella.

Santorum’s 20-year-old daughter, Liz, appeared in his place, giving a brief speech to a crowd of about 250 at an airport hanger in Sarasota.

Liz Santorum

“My dad wishes he could be here with all of you today,” Liz Santorum said. “My dad today is exercising his most important role; being a dad.”

Bella Santorum suffers from Trisomy 18, a genetic condition caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 18th chromosome. Santorum has teared up speaking about Bella at past campaign stops, saying she wasn’t expected to live past the age of 1.

Liz Santorum didn’t provide many details about Bella’s condition, telling reporters after the speech that “we’re hoping and praying she’ll be better soon.”

Liz Santorum said on Sunday that her family knew from the beginning that the presidential campaign “would not be the easiest campaign for our family.” She said they knew there would be tests and trials, “but we knew this would be worth it because America is worth it.”


Gingrich slaps back at those who call his criticism of Obama racist

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

THE VILLAGES – While campaigning this week in Florida, one of GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s favorite lines is that he’ll be the “paycheck president,” while President Obama has been the “food stamp president.”

The line, that always gets laughs, cheers or at least applause, has come under fire from pundits who believe it smacks of racism.

Speaking to a sign-waving, cheering crowd of roughly 3,000 in this sprawling retirement community south of Ocala, he went after his favorite target – the media – for creating an issue where none exists.

“The news guys just seem fascinated with this,” he said. “They say if you use the word food stamps it must have some deep, underlying racial connotation.”

A chant of “No! No!” rippled through the crowd.

“No,” the former House Speaker agreed. “It’s a fact this is the most effective food stamp president in American history. His policies of killing jobs have pushed more Americans onto food stamps than any president in American history.

His explanation is unlikely to quell criticism about his choice of phrase.

In a column this week for CNN, author Walter Mosley was among those who took Gingrich to task for knowingly using a emotionally-charged buzzword to deride the nation’s first African-American president.

He wrote: “Newt Gingrich … knows full well that calling someone a “food stamp president” brings up the working person’s fear, looming reality, and in some cases the actual experience, of unemployment – while making a shout-out to racism and affixing a stigma to poverty. All the while hiding behind the symbol of a flag.”

Gov. Scott: Latinos like Romney family values

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Once the anti-establishment candidate, Gov. Rick Scott is full of praise – without officially endorsing – Mitt Romney, who’s garnered the support of some of the Sunshine State’s top GOP insiders.

Scott has defended Romney’s business background and today told CNN‘s Candy Crowley that Hispanic voters prefer the former Massachusetts governor because of his family values.

Scott’s comments come as Romney and Newt Gingrich sweep the state hoping to nail down the all-or-nothing convention delegate prize on Tuesday’s primary, with a lot of the focus on the state’s Latino voters crucial to the GOP primary.

This morning on CNN’s State of the Union, Crowley asked Scott about a recent poll show Romney outstripping Newt Gingrich among Hispanic voters by 49-23 percent.

“Look, the Latino vote cares about family. I mean, if you look at Gov. Romney’s family, he’s been very successful. He’s built a great family, very committed to his wife,” Scott said. “He’s somebody that’s been successful in life. So I think if they look at his background, it’s what they want. They care about their families. They care about, you know, somebody that’s been successful in business. That’s what they care about. So I think that’s part of what his attraction to the Latino vote.”

Gingrich’s campaign recently yanked a Spanish-language ad accusing Romney of being “anti-immigrant” after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio blasted scolded the former speaker of the House over the ad.

And Romney scored one of his best lines on the thorny immigration issue during Thursday night’s debate in Jacksonville after Gingrich said Romney’s immigration stance would result in rounding up grandmothers who’ve lived for years in the country illegally.

“Our problem isn’t 11 million grandmothers,” Romney said. “Our problem is 11 million people getting jobs that many Americans, legal immigrants, would like to have.”

With recent polls showing Romney surging in the polls on Florida, Scott told Crowley “it sure looks like Gov. Romney’s going to win” and again said the candidates should be discussing their jobs plans instead of trading barbs.

Scott lauded Romney’s business background but did not say whose jobs plan he prefers.

“They all have plans,” he said.

Mitt mocks and socks Newt before big Naples crowd

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by George Bennett

Romney works the crowd in Naples.

NAPLES — With polls showing him climbing to a commanding lead before Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary, Mitt Romney drew his biggest Sunshine State crowd today and mocked GOP rival Newt Gingrich as “Goldilocks,” then accused the former House speaker of being an accessory to the state’s mortgage meltdown.

The crowd at a downtown retail area topped 2,000, one Naples police officer estimated.

Former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack and his son, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, introduced Romney at the midday event. Romney campaigns later today in Hialeah and Pompano Beach.

Romney, who dominated a pair of GOP debates last week, accused Gingrich of being “like Goldilocks” because he complained a Monday night debate crowd was ordered to be silent and one of his aides said the Romney camp “packed the room” for a louder Thursday debate.

“He’s now finding excuses everywhere he can. He’s on TV this morning going from station to station complaining about what he thinks are the reasons he’s had difficulty here in Florida,” Romney said.


Florida is just the beginning, Gingrich says

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

LUTZ- No matter what happens in Florida on Tuesday, the race to determine who will be the the GOP’s presidential choice isn’t going to end anytime soon.

“We will go all the way to the convention,” candidate Newt Gingrich pledged today. “I believe the Republican Party will not nominate a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase moderate from Massachusetts. I think they will not nominate someone who raises millions from Wall Street to run ads that are false.

“This is going to be a straight up contest for the next four or five months,” he said.

Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who has denied Gingrich’s characterization of him, holds a commanding 11-percent lead of Gingrich, according to weekend polls.

Gingrich courts evangelicals; dismisses sagging poll numbers

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

LUTZ – Minutes after attending a “Sanctity of Life” worship service at the cavernous Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church outside Tampa, GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich dismissed weekend polls that showed him trailing leader Mitt Romney by 11 points headed into Tuesday’s election.

“The race is substantially closer than the polls suggest,” he told reporters. Saturday’s endorsements from former former presidential rival Herman Cain and right-wing darling Sarah Palin and his continued support from Michael Reagan, the iconic Republican president’s son, show who in the race is the true conservative, he said.

Besides, he said, “Ronald Reagan was 30 points behind Jimmy Carter and he beat him with a bigger number of votes than Roosevelt beat Hoover.”

The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 showed the former Massachusetts governor with a commanding 42 to 31 percent lead over Gingrich. It also uncovered a significant gender gap between the two candidates.

While tied among likely male voters, Romney commands a 19 point lead among women, the poll found.

“I have no idea,” he said when asked why he might not be attracting female voters. “I’ve never seen the numbers.”

Pundits have suggested that it might be his two failed marriages. He began have an affair with his current wife, Callista, while still married to his second wife.

The infidelity issue isn’t a deal-breaker for evangelicals, said Todd Graves, who watched Gingrich work the crowd after the service.

“As Christians, we’re taught that forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity,” he said. “He said he has asked for forgiveness and regrets what he did. I have to accept what he says is true. It’s not up to me to judge. That’s between him and God.”

Outside the church, Gingrich said that evangelical leaders throughout the state are backing him because they believe he is the only candidate who can beat Romney, a Mormon, and bring Christian values back to the White House.

“I believe life begins at conception,” he said. While he said he opposes using embryonic stems cells for research, he said he isn’t against in vitro fertilization. However, he said, he wants to know more about what is done with unused fertilized eggs.

Despite those views, Grave said, Gingrich won’t get his vote. He supported Romney in 2008 and switched from Gingrich to Cain to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum this year. He said he will likely vote for Santorum Tuesday, even though he has little chance of winning the state’s winner-take-all primary.

Graves said he has watched Gingrich since he led the House in the 1990s with his Contract With American. “I think Gingrich is eventually going to implode because that is his history,” he said.

Romney opens big polling lead as Tuesday’s primary nears

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 by George Bennett

NAPLES -- Big turnout for Romney's first event today.

NAPLES — A large crowd is here waiting to see Mitt Romney, who has opened up a double-digit lead over Newt Gingrich in three new polls as Tuesday’s Florida Republican presidential primary approaches.

Here’s the latest polling roundup from RealClearPolitics.

Gingrich, who got Herman Cain‘s endorsement Saturday night in West Palm Beach, vowed on ABC News this morning to press his fight for the nomination all the way to the Republican convention in Tampa this summer.

Romney has a campaign stop here around noon, then heads to Hialeah, Pompano Beach and Jacksonville today.

Gingrich attended church in Lutz near Tampa this morning, then heads to The Villages and Jacksonville.

Rick Santorum called off morning appearances in Florida today because his 3-year-old daughter was hospitalized in Pennsylvania. But he may still make it to events later today in Sarasota and PUnta Gorda.

Florida political tweeters
Video: Politics stories