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UPDATE: Bill Clinton back in FL for five-city sweep including Palm Beach County tomorrow

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: President Bill Clinton, arguably the country’s most popular living president, will kick off a five-city Florida campaign blitz for President Obama tomorrow morning in Lake Worth. Clinton will appear at the Duncan Theater at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth. Doors open at 8 a.m., and Clinton is expected to speak around 9. Tickets aren’t required, but supporters can go online to sign up in advance here.

President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama’s chief surrogate, will be back in Palm Beach County tomorrow as part of a five-city Florida sweep just days after his last visit to Orlando on Monday.

Clinton will hold rallies in Ft. Myers, Palm Bay, St. Petersburg, somewhere in Palm Beach County and Tallahassee in the crucial swing state where polls show Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney neck-and-neck.

With early voting underway, both campaigns have pulled out the stops in Florida in an effort to get voters to the polls before Tuesday’s election.

Campaigning today in Florida, Michelle Obama is stumping in Jacksonville, where she’ll be joined by R&B icon Stevie Wonder this afternoon, Daytona Beach and Miami. Clinton visited West Palm Beach in mid-September.

Obama was scheduled to join Clinton on Monday but instead took a several day campaign hiatus in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Yesterday, he toured the devastated New Jersey shoreline with Gov. Chris Cristie, one of Romney’s chief supporters and who delivered the keynote address at the RNC in Tampa this summer.

The president, back on the campaign trail today, will be back in Florida with a visit to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Romney was joined by Gov. Jeb Bush at rallies in Tampa and Coral Gables yesterday and will return to Florida before Tuesday’s election.

Obama team bullish with eight days to go

Monday, October 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

President Obama’s campaign team held a bullish conference call with reporters shortly after President Clinton addressed an Orlando crowd Monday morning.

“We’re winning this race. And I say that not on the basis of some mystical faith in a wave that’s going to come or some hidden vote,” said Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod.

Axelrod said the Obama team’s confidence was based on “cold, hard, data-based” facts on early voting and swing state polls.

“You’re going to get spun and spun and spun in the next week,” he said. “In just eight days we’ll know who’s bluffing and who was not.”

In Florida, Axelrod and campaign manager Jim Messina said record-breaking early voting in some areas, including Jacksonville, overcame a GOP advantage in absentee ballots.

“That is a really strong, incredible sign of strength,” Messina said.

Some voters waited as long as six hours before casting their ballots, he said. “That’s what enthusiasm looks like.”

The Obama camp’s enthusiasm comes a day after Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker declared Romney the winner of Florida. Coker said Mitt Romney has nailed down the I-4 corridor crucial to a statewide sweep. In a poll of the region from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach conducted for The Tampa Bay Times and its media partners, Romney held a 51-45 percent edge over Obama with 4 percent undecided.

“Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,” said Coker told the Times. “Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney’s going to win Florida.”

Obama dropped by an Orlando campaign office Sunday night before bailing on the Central Florida event with President Bill Clinton (who showed up with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson) and instead returning to the White House to monitor Hurricane Sandy threaten much of the Northeast.

“The president…has real responsibilities. Those responsibilities come first,” Axelrod said. “We’re obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time but that’s as it has to be. We’ll try to make it up on the back end. It’s not a matter of optics. It’s a matter of responsibility.”

Obama’s aides pointed to polls showing the president leading in key swing states, including Iowa, Nevada and Virginia.

“As is befitting the Halloween season, Gov. Romney is running around the nation posing as an agent of change,” Axelrod said, adding that Romney’s economic plan would cost “middle class” $5 trillion in tax cuts “skewed to the wealthy” and a $2 trillion boost in defense spending the Pentagon is not seeking.

Romney’s plan is “an echo of the failed policies of the past,” he said.

“We’re going to be pounding that message everywhere in the final days of this campaign,” Axelrod said.

The Obama camp’s swagger drew sneers from the other side. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski sent out the following e-mail shortly after the call.

“All – a couple things stuck out to us while we were listening to Axelrod and Messina on their call – they are extremely defensive about Pennsylvania acknowledging OFA and Restore Our Future are going up with ads, Bill Clinton will be headed to at least four states that were not on Messina’s map as of April 2012 and they are spending time reaffirming their confidence about Wisconsin – a state they won by 14 points in 2008. Oh, and Axelrod made it two days in a row that the campaign has attacked the Des Moines Register. You’re right Axe, 8 days and we’ll see who is bluffing.”

An exclusive Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll of likely voters along the Interstate 4 corridor finds Romney leading Obama 51 percent to 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided.
“Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,” said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll for the Times and its media partners. “Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney’s going to win Florida.”

Scott: Foreign policy? It’s all about jobs

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

In the spin room at Lynn University, Gov. Rick Scott said that tonight’s presidential debate should center on one thing: Jobs.

That’s no surprise, since Scott ran his own gubernatorial campaign two years ago on the same agenda. Scott promised to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.

So Scott offered a job-centric prediction of what to expect from Romney tonight.

“He’s going to continue to do the same thing he’s talked about. He’s going to talk about the two paths. He’s going to explain the fact that this whole election is about jobs, just like my race in 2010. And his path for job creation is going to be the key thing,” Scott said.

But tonight’s debate is focused on foreign policy, a reporter pointed out to Scott.

“Foreign policy is all about jobs. It’s all about how we create predictability so businesses want to invest so we can get more jobs. This race 100 percent about jobs. The foreign policy focus is just like cars. How do we participate in a global economy, how do we get more jobs for America,” Scott said.

Media descends on Boca ahead of Lynn presidential debate

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 by Jeff Greer

BOCA RATON — More than 3,000 media members are expected to arrive in Palm Beach County for tonight’s foreign-policy-themed presidential debate at Lynn University. But the morning before the debate remained relatively calm as media slowly trickled onto the small Boca school’s campus.

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More fallout from secret Romney tape: Moveon.org ad blasts GOP candidate for Hispanic wannabe remarks

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Moveon.org is releasing a Spanish-language television ad in key swing states Florida, Colorado and Nevada, blasting GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for remarks he made this spring at a secretly-recorded Boca Raton fundraiser.

Romney, appearing at a Univision forum tonight, told supporters in May that he’d “have a better shot at winning” the election if his parents had been Mexican. Romney’s father was born in Mexico but was a U.S. citizen.

“I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino,” Romney said.

Speaking to the camera but addressing Romney in ad, a Hispanic woman lists issues that Romney’s been on the wrong side of for many Latino voters.

“You’ve pledged to kill the Dream Act, you’d enable the police harassment of Latinos in Arizona, and your party is trying to suppress Latino votes. But you joke that you wanna be one so you can win?” she says. “We’re not laughing, Gov. Romney. Because regardless of race a Presidential candidate who has such contempt for Latinos would never deserve our support.”

The ad, sponsored by the left-leaning Moveon.org PAC and PresentePAC+, will begin airing Thursday on Spanish television stations in Orlando, Tampa and Miami along with Las Vegas and Denver.

Romney holds fundraisers in Palm Beach County on Thursday

Friday, September 14th, 2012 by Dara Kam

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will hold two fundraisers in Palm Beach County on Thursday, the same day President Obama campaigns in Tampa and Miami.

Romney will be at the North Palm Beach home of Chris Cline for a VIP reception. The ask for a photo op with the former Massachusetts governor is $10,000 or a pledge to raise $25,000.

Later in the evening, Romney will attend a dinner hosted by Al and Dawn Hoffman in North Palm Beach. Al Hoffman, a developer, is a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former ambassador to Portugal.

Gov. Scott: ‘It’s Florida’s day to win the race’

Thursday, August 30th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott made it back to Tampa Bay in time to hear U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney cap off the Republican National Convention Thursday night.

Scott left town earlier this week to attend to Tropical Storm Isaac duties, visiting flood-ravaged Palm Beach County and the Panhandle.

“It’s great,” Scott said of his first GOP convention as he made his way through the mobbed floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

“Marco’s going to give a great talk. Jeb gave a great talk on school choices. It’s a Florida night,” Scott said. “It’s Florida’s day to win the race.”

Clad in his signature dark suit and custom-made cowboy boots, Scott eschewed his VIP governor’s viewing box and instead grabbed a seat on the floor alongside the Florida delegation.

“I want to see,” he said.

after leaving town to attend to Tropical Storm Isaac duties earlier this week.

Anti-Romney protest breaks out in West Palm ahead of nomination speech

Thursday, August 30th, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

"Mitt Romney" at West Palm protest

 

Echoing the Occupy movement, protesters took to the street in West Palm Beach this afternoon rallying against the 1 percent and the war they say is being lodged against the lower and middle classes.

But this time the protesters had clear targets: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

It was no coincidence that more than 30 protesters showed up to the corner of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Forum Way on the day that Romney will accept the Republican nomination for president.

The protest, organized by Stand Up Florida, The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and the Service Employees International Union, brought out protesters holding banners that read “Romney economy creates poverty,” “Ruthless Non-Regulated Corruption (RNC),” and “Women will remember in November.”

Protesters chanted, “Can’t pay my bills, can’t pay my rent, nothing never trickles from the 1 percent.”

“They are up there at the convention lying and creating a fantasy land,” said Tony Fransetta, president of Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.

Frank Angel, a retired plant worker from Illinois now living in Boca Raton, wore his “I (heart) Obamacare shirt.”

“Ryan said last night, and it was a flat out lie, that a plant closed under Obama when it was under the Bush administration,” Angel said. “To blame him for something he had nothing to do with is flat out lying.”

Barbara Phillippi of Wellington said she was there to support women.

“I’m proud to say that women stopped being cattle in the United States years ago,” Phillippi said. “But we are heading that way again. The Romney/Ryan administration will make a concentrated effort to take away a women’s right to choose. Next up is birth control.”

The protesters planned to stage a play this afternoon. They gave a sneak preview with a man dressed up in a Romney mask wearing a crown and a “King of Poverty” sash running around shouting, “Where’s my money?”

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.
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Scott: Isaac will showcase how Florida handles storms

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Even as Tropical Storm Isaac gains strength and poses a growing threat to Florida’s Gulf Coast, Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t say whether holding a convention in Tampa during hurricane was a bad idea, repeatedly side-stepping questions about the site selection during an emergency briefing with the media this afternoon.

“Everybody likes to come to Florida. I’m sure they’re going to have a great convention,” Scott said.

Scott tried to turn the looming disaster, expected to bring high winds and gusts into the Tampa Bay region, into a Sunshine State sales pitch.

“The convention was a big opportunity for our state to show what a great place it is to live, work and play. Now what they’ve learned, what they’re going to find out this week, is we know how to deal with hurricanes. We’re prepared. This is a state that knows how to deal with those things,” he said. “On top of that we’re the best hospitality state around. We have 87 million tourists here a year. We know how to have conventions, how to have large events and we’re going to do a great job.”

Florida officials’ job is to keep residents and visitors safe, Scott said.

“We’re going to make sure that happens and we’ll do everything we can to make sure they have a great time,” the governor said at convention emergency operations center in Tampa at noon.

Winds are emergency officials’ greatest worry for the Tampa region, Scott said.

“But around the state we’ve got rain, we’ve got wind, we’ve got storm surge and then we’ve got the risk of tornadoes,” he said.

Scott warned visitors to the area who are staying at neighboring Pinellas County beaches to stay put instead of heading into the water-surrounded downtown convention site.

“If someone’s staying close to the beach, stay close to the beach. Don’t start venturing into the Tampa side because you don’t know what’s going to happen as far as your ability to get home,” Scott cautioned, adding that he planned to be in Tampa today only.

Scott said he spoke with Mitt Romney twice yesterday and “brought him up to speed” about emergency preparations statewide and in the Tampa area.

Late yesterday, GOP officials canceled Monday’s opening day Republican National Convention events and said the convention would resume on Tuesday. They are expected to issue a revised schedule later today.

The “roll call of the states” officially nominating Romney was supposed to take place at 2 p.m. tomorrow. But the nomination is now expected to happen on Tuesday along with other events previously scheduled for Monday.

GOP moves Romney nomination up to Monday

Friday, August 24th, 2012 by Dara Kam

TAMPA – Mitt Romney will become the GOP’s official presidential nominee at the onset of the Republican National Convention on Monday, a break from tradition to keep the party faithful “on message,” according to Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus.

The decision about the early “roll call of states” wasn’t prompted by worries about Tropical Storm Isaac or to avert a disruption from Ron Paul backers, Priebus told reporters today. Rather, it’s about controlling the message.

“I just think it’s better for us to get all our business done in one shot … do everything on Monday, the nomination, all our rules and resolutions, get that done, so we can get on to telling the Mitt Romney story, how we’re going to help save our country,” he said.

The purpose of the early roll call was not to allow the convention to wind up before the scheduled end on Thursday if Isaac threatens the Tampa Bay region or to thwart Paul supporters from hijacking the nomination from the floor, he said.

“Oh no… It’s to get all the business of the party out of the way and get on with the two things, prosecuting Barack Obama, the promises he made and what he delivered, and telling the Mitt Romney story.”

Priebus also said he’s not worried about Tropical Storm Isaac.

“I’m feeling a lot better today than I was yesterday,” he said. “Right now we don’t have to change anything. Obviously we worry if this thing turns into a hurricane and the safety of people if it hits shore, but as far as the convention is concerned we’re full steam ahead and we’re going to have a great week.”

- Tampa Tribune staff writer William March contributed to this post.

West Palm Obama volunteers call senior citizens to discuss Medicare, Social Security

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

Days after Paul Ryan was named Mitt Romney’s GOP running mate, West Palm Beach senior citizen Obama supporters took to the phones today to call fellow elderly residents and criticize the economic plans of the Romney/Ryan campaign. The Obama campaign turned the phone calls into a media event, inviting reporters to listen in.

If an Obama supporter answered the phone, the volunteers thanked them and said: “President Obama is working to preserve and protect a secure and healthy retirement for us today and in the future. The President strongly opposes turning essential programs like Medicare and Social Security — which we have been paying for our entire lives — into vouchers, or leaving them up to the stock market, as the Romney-Ryan plan proposes.”

If an undecided vote on Romney supporter answered the phone, they basically got the same pitch with an added: “After a lifetime of hard work and responsibility, America’s seniors deserve the very best, and President Obama is committed to making sure we hold up our end of the bargain.”

The volunteers were also given various talking points, praising Obama for reducing health care fraud and lowering Medicare premiums.

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.

Casino King Adelson doubles down on Florida GOP

Friday, August 10th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Las Vegas casino king Sheldon Adelson double-downed on his $250,000 contribution to Gov. Rick Scott’s political committee by giving the same amount to the state’s Republican Party in June, according to campaign finance reports released Friday.

Adelson, who financed Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and recently contributed $10 million to a political action committee backing presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, was among the top individual donors to the state party over the past three months, records show.

Adelson’s check to the party was posted June 4. A day later, the same amount went to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee, records show.

The Florida Republican Party collected $9 million between between April 1 and Thursday, bringing its total to almost $12 million for the year. It’s also a big bounce-back from  the year’s first quarter, when the party which controls the governor’s office, Legislature, Cabinet, and a majority of Florida’s congressional seats pulled in its lowest contribution total in three years.

The Florida Democratic Party raised almost $2.2 million in the latest report, bringing its total to about $3.1 million for the year.

Adelson, though, clearly sees Florida as ripe for casinos, with the entire gambling industry emerging as a potent player this election cycle. The Seminole Tribe, whose compact with the state would be effectively nullified by the approval of non-tribal casinos, also steered $250,000 to the state Republican Party.

The tribe also pushed $5,000 toward the state Democratic Party, records show.

The Republican-ruled Legislature has long been split on gambling — with the House overwhelmingly opposed and the Senate mostly tolerant of expanding card rooms, slot machines and the arrival of street corner internet cafes.

But the industry cash flowing to the state Republican Party also is only part of the picture.

Political committees guided by GOP legislative leaders also have been on the receiving end of big money from the industry, which then gets converted into campaign mailers and TV spots flooding Florida households as election season deepens.

Senate prez Haridopolos – Romney backer – ‘low-keying it’ on election night

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Dara Kam

After helping secure the state’s national prominence in selecting the GOP presidential candidate by moving up the primary, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said he’ll be watching the election returns at home with his roommate, Senate budget chief JD Alexander, tonight.

“I’m low-keying it. I’ve been high-key enough in getting this early election,” Haridopolos, a Mitt Romney supporter, said during his weekly Q-and-A with reporters this afternoon. “Despite a lot of anger from some folks even in my own party…I think it clearly has come up aces for us.”

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney and political groups supporting the candidates have spent about $25 million on campaign ads, Haridopolos said, and the early date has helped fire up Republican voters, more than 600,000 of whom had already cast their ballots before today’s election. Florida Republicans gave up half their delegates in the winner-take-all election by moving the date up and breaking national GOP rules.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the returns tonight, and I expect Mitt Romney to win,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, 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.

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.

Senate prez Haridopolos on GOP primary: ‘Feels good to be right’

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 by Dara Kam

With all eyes on Florida in the GOP presidential race, Senate President Mike Haridopolos might have been justified saying “I told you so” about the Sunshine State’s early Republican primary next week.

The legislature moved Florida’s primary date up from its originally scheduled date to Jan. 31 over the objections of state and national GOP leaders. Haridopolos and others wanted to elevate the state’s role in determining the eventual nominee.

With Newt Gingrich surging in the polls after unexpectedly trouncing Mitt Romney in South Carolina, Florida could be “the lynchpin to one person winning” the race, Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said.

“Every once in a while it feels good to be right,” Haridopolos, a Romney backer, said this morning. “It was a risk, don’t get me wrong. But we thought it was a good risk. Clearly the eyes of the nation if not the eyes of the world are on this…I think it’s a good thing.”

And national coverage of the candidates stumping around sunny, mild-climed Florida may help solve some of the state’s budget problems as well, Haridopolos said.d

“This is like free advertising for our state and it wasn’t Visit Florida that had to pay the tab,” Haridopolos said.

Watching candidates “in their shirt sleeves” in sunny Florida may prompt Northerners to consider relocating their businesses to or visiting Florida, Haridopolos, a former New Yorker, said.

“So I think it’s been a jackpot,” Haridopolos said. “And I think we’re in the place where we deserve to be.”

Florida is the bellweather state in the general election and deserves to be so in the primaries, Haridopolos said, after the lesser-known candidates have been weeded out in Iowa and New Hampshire.

I love these kind of competitions – except when I’m in races. I like the ones where no one runs against me. It’s a lot more successful,” the former U.S. Senate candidate joked. “But to be serious. I think it’s good. I think this will elevate our candidate.”

Gingrich picks up future Senate President’s support, Romney backers say Perry departure no biggie

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Rick Perry’s departure from the GOP presidential race is almost certain to help Newt Gingrich in the Sunshine State’s upcoming primary as many of Perry’s conservative supporters – including the next Florida Senate president – defect to the former Speaker of the House.

But how much that matters depends on how well Gingrich, distrusted by many tea party activists, performs in South Carolina this weekend, Republican legislative leaders say.

Senate President-Designate Don Gaetz, a Perry backer, said he’s leaning towards Gingrich, not because the Texas governor has endorsed his former opponent, but because he, like many others, believes Gingrich would handily outshine President Obama in debates.

“I’ve respected Newt Gingrich for years,” said Gaetz, R-Niceville. Gaetz said he’s read Gingrich’s books and met with the historian on several occasions, “more than just casually.”

But, he said, “I’m happy with either Romney or Gingrich but I’m leaning toward Gingrich,” although “I can support Romney and support him with enthusiasm.”

Gingrich’s performance in South Carolina will influence how relevant Florida will be in determining the Republican candidate, some political insiders, including Gaetz, say.

The outcome of Florida’s winner-take-all-delegates primary could whittle the race down to contest between Romney and Gingrich or crown Romney as the all-but-inevitable nominee.

“It’s important for Florida to be relevant. So for parochial reasons, I hope that the contest goes on through the end of January at least because I want Florida to be important in selecting the Republican nominee,” Gaetz said. “So Gingrich would have to do well in South Carolina to keep hope alive among those who are unsatisfied with Romney.”

Perry dropping out of the race may have little impact on Florida voters, said Sen. John Thrasher, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and Mitt Romney supporter.

“I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. I think Newt’s where he is. I think Gov. Romney’s where he is. Most people still believe Gov. Romney’s the best choice, particularly in Florida. He’s got an incredible organization. He’s got a lot of troops on the ground all over the state. I think he’s got the resources to really put forth his message by Jan. 31,” Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said.

Perry made the right decision, Gaetz said.

“There comes a point when you look around and you realize that it’s hopeless. And I think that Gov. Perry has gotten to that point,” he said.

Bondi to co-host GOP presidential debate

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Bondi with Fox News correspondent John Roberts

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will co-host the GOP presidential debate on Fox News this weekend, according to a press release distributed by the Republican Party of Florida this morning.

Bondi, a Fox fave who often appeared on the news channel as a legal analyst before her election in January and a frequent guest star since, will join fellow Republican attorneys general Ken Kuccinelli of Virginia and E. Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s show Saturday night at 8 p.m.

Bondi is leading the charge in the multi-state federal health care lawsuit, launched by her predecessor Bill McCollum, now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Undoing the health care law is among the GOP presidential wannabes’ top campaign pledges.

“This forum is an excellent opportunity to engage each of the candidates in a candid conversation about issues that are important to voters in our state and across the nation,” Bondi said in the press release. “This will be a historic election, and I am excited to play a part in helping voters gain a better understanding of candidates’ beliefs on fundamental issues such as constitutionalism and the role of government.”

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum have all agreed to participate in the forum, according to the release.

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