A dear friend called recently to go over her sample ballot. She wanted me to explain some of the candidates and issues with which she is least familiar. As we worked her way down the ballot she said she was going to vote for Amendment One.
I asked her what she thought it was all about. She said it appeared to be a pro-solar amendment that would help the environment. I gently explained to her that Amendment One is actually backed by Florida utilities with FPL being one of the biggest backers. There was a pause.
Her initial reaction to Amendment One is a common. The utilities were brilliant in their soulless effort to deceive voters. The deceit starts with the name of the group pushing passage of Amendment One - Consumers for Smart Solar.
Well I suppose in one very broad sense FPL and the other big utilities are "consumers" and the very fact that they were able to get this amendment on the ballot suggests they are smart - but this amendment has little to do with protecting citizen rights to solar energy and everything to do with protecting utility monopolies.
There is no question that there are some complicated issues involved with broadening the availability of solar energy for homeowners and businesses. But those issues do not require a constitutional amendment. It is, as former Florida Governor Bob Graham noted today, the job of the Legislature and regulators to, well, regulate the industry.
Even if one agreed with the position being taken by the utilities - Amendment One must fail because the industry deliberately deceived voters.
Last month, the Miami Herald's formidable Mary Ellen Klas obtained an interesting audio tape:
The policy director of a think tank supported by Florida’s largest electric utilities admitted at a conference this month what opponents have claimed for months: The industry attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.
Sal Nuzzo, a vice president at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, detailed the strategy used by the state’s largest utilities to create and finance Amendment 1 at the State Energy/Environment Leadership Summit in Nashville on Oct. 2.
Nuzzo called the amendment, which has received more than $21 million in utility industry financing, “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar interests) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road,” according to an audio recording of the event supplied to the Herald/Times.
Spending at least $25 million, with much of the money coming from FPL, Consumers for Smart Solar are running television ads that make it appear that these folks are just trying to Make Florida Great Again.
They are not. Instead, they clearly think Florida voters are suckers who are easily misled.
Not likely but possible. That's the short answer as to whether Congressman Patrick Murphy's dismal campaign can be saved by Hillary Clinton.
Murphy's campaign has been a bit of mystery. When Murphy believed that incumbent U.S. Senator Marco Rubio would keep his word to not run for a second term if he lost his bid to be president, it was naive. Rubio's life is about politics and while the Republican clearly is disappointed by the inertia of Senate, leaving public life was never a real possibility.
Without Rubio in the race, Democrats believed Murphy had an excellent chance to win against whoever would be the GOP nominee. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Senate Majority PAC, were prepared to spend heavily in support of Murphy.
But like a bicycle tire with a slow leak, Murphy's campaign seemed to go flat shortly after Rubio shocked no one by saying he wanted to stay in the Senate.
Rubio has remained comfortably in the lead in public polls. Real Clear Politicspolling average gives Rubio a 4.2 point lead. One gets a hint of what internal Democratic Party polls are saying by the fact that the DSCC and the Super Majority PAC (led by Sens. Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer) have pulled out of Florida claiming the state is too expensive (it wasn't less expensive when they planned to support Murphy).
There have been missteps. Rubio challenged Murphy to six debates. Murphy should have accepted immediately and insisted that debates start that week. Instead, he turned it into a debate about debates saying he wanted Rubio to commit to a 6-year term.
Murphy's team loves the 6-year term argument. It has become a central point of their campaign. Perhaps there are voters who care but not many. Running for higher office in the middle of one's term is well, part of American politics. Few will be shocked if Rubio runs for president again in 2020.
Murphy's exaggerated resume landed him in deep trouble. In June, CBS4 investigative reporter Jim Defede nailed Muprhy for claiming he worked as a CPA when he did not and for starting a small business which in fact it is not that simple.
This was fall on your sword time. Instead, Murphy and his team counterattacked. It didn't work and kept the story alive. And handed Rubio a campaign message to use against Murphy.
No one has ever accused Marco Rubio of being one of Florida's - or the nation's - most courageous politicians. Like most, Rubio first does what is best for Rubio. And right now for him, there is more risk in not endorsing Donald Trump than in abandoning him.
Clearly, Rubio can't stomach Trump. His feeble excuse for continuing to endorse Trump is trapped in the silly putty logic that suggests as troublesome as Trump is, Rubio is even more troubled by Hillary Clinton's policies.
Rubio is simply trapped by the fear that if he dumps Trump, he will tick off a lot of conservative Florida Republicans who might decide to punish Rubio by skipping the U.S. Senate race on the ballot - or, though less likely, voting for his Democratic rival Patrick Murphy.
Trump will do very well with voters in the Panhandle and other parts of North and Central Florida. Trump will also do well in Southwest Florida. If the Senate race is a close one, it would not take too many Republicans deserting Rubio to put the race in question.
Why take the risk?
Murphy's campaign has been unimpressive. Many voters still don't know who Murphy is. The Democrat is hoping that by linking Rubio to Trump, Democrats and independents (and perhaps a few Trump-abandoning Republicans) will put him over the top.
It remains a tall order.
For now, Rubio is the likely winner. What Rubio loses is an opportunity to be a real leader by taking a stand and withdrawing his endorsement of Trump.
Unless of course, Rubio really believes in his heart that Donald Trump should be in the Oval Office. And if that is true - it begs a number of questions about Rubio's judgement.
Jeb Bush has said he has no intention of voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. It is a silly and disturbing notion.
Florida’s 29 electoral votes will decide whether Trump or Clinton will go to the White House. It will be an extremely close race with a Florida victory squeezed out by the smallest of margins. Recent polls suggest a slight Trump lead or a statistical tie.
There is a very reasonable chance that Trump could win Florida and with it the White House. If you merely look at the race in the style of the soulless Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, a Trump victory is merely a win for the GOP and the name on the White House mailbox matters little as long as it belongs to a Republican.
Some Florida Republicans are repulsed by the idea of Trump leading the GOP and they have actively, if so far ineffectively, been part of the NeverTrump movement.
Meanwhile, Jeb Bush has been largely silent. He will tweet on occasion about issues that interest him. Bush took some time off to do a skit with Jimmy Kimmel for a pre-Emmy Award show. (He was very good, acting an out of work Uber driver).
Sitting on the sidelines since quitting his own presidential bid, Bush seems to be content essentially telling voters – you picked a lunatic over me, live with it.
The middle child of the Bush family needs to get over it and step up for Florida and his party. It is unconscionable that Jeb Bush would abandon the party when it needs him most. His family has been deeply involved in the GOP since his grandfather, Prescott Bush, was elected to the U.S. Senate from Connecticut in 1952.
If he believes, as many establishment Republicans do, that Trump would be the destruction of the GOP, how can Bush remain idle? Was his campaign for president an ego-trip or a belief that Republican Party principles are better for the future of the nation?
Late Monday night, it was reported by CNN, Politico and others that Bush’s father, former President George Bush, told former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend he plans to vote for Clinton.
The elder Bush, 92, over the years has developed a close relationship with former President Bill Clinton, the man who defeated him in 1992. Former President George W. Bush also has a close relationship with Clinton often joking that he is his “brother from another mother.”
Despite these public friendships between the Bush and Clinton families, Jeb is the moody outsider who can’t bring himself to publicly support Hillary Clinton.
Yet, perhaps the last, most notable public service Bush could perform in this election would be to endorse Hillary Clinton.
As already stated, Florida will be won by a small percentage of votes. Bush does not have the political power in the Sunshine State he once held, but in a race this close, he could have an impact. His endorsement could free others to publicly abandon Trump – perhaps even U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio who still harbors presidential ambitions.
Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post and a Bush admirer, wrote last week:
In his new email to raise money for his campaign, Marco Rubio offers a two minute audio message to potential donors.
Rubio starts saying he is "took a pause from campaigning today so I could record this important message for you." Listeners then get a common political message where "the stakes have never been higher" and "your support has never been more critical."
He then warns that President Obama and the Democratic Party are working hard to defeat him because, "they know if they can defeat me they can control the Senate." Rubio also manages to take a swipe at the media.
Rubio is expected to easily defeat Carlos Beruff in the August 30 Republican primary. Many expect that he will face Democrat Patrick Murphy who is expected to defeat Alan Grayson.
Donald Trump's campaign released it first campaign ad talking about immigration and Hillary Clinton. The ad is expected to appear in key Florida markets, particularly in Orlando and the Tampa Bay area.
From a Trump news release:
The new ad provides a stark comparison between Hillary Clinton’s reality in which Americans are victims of the rigged system in Washington that compromises our borders, jeopardizes our jobs, and flouts our laws, and Mr. Trump’s vision for our country in which we secure our borders and put American jobs and safety first.
The campaign will spend $4.8 million dollars to air this ad and more on television stations over the next 10 days in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
Here is a transcript provided by the campaign:
VO: In Hillary Clinton’s America:
The system stays rigged against Americans.
Syrian refugees flood in.
Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay.
Collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line.
Jeff Clemens, a candidate for the Florida senate, Patrick Murphy, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Gwen Graham, a likely future candidate for governor, represent the future to many Florida Democrats, a party that desperately needs a future.
But as often happens among Democrats, little is done to groom the new kids. Instead, Florida Democrats would rather squabble among themselves as sometimes aging politicians decide elected office is better than golf.
A little history.
Florida’s Democratic Party died in 1998. It remained on life support for a few years but voters in subsequent elections pulled the plug. Today, the party is a mess of parochial interests with much chatter about returning to its old glory but little idea how to get there.
During the 20th Century, Floridians elected just three Republicans to be governor – Claude Kirk (1967-71), Bob Martinez (1987-1991) and Jeb Bush who would end the 20th Century taking the keys to the mansion in January 1999.
The only other interruption to Democratic reign was Prohibition Party governor Sidney Catts who ran a hateful anti-Catholic campaign and described African-Americans as being part of an “inferior race.” He was governor from 1917 to 1921.
Democrats, who also ruled most of 19th Century Florida politics, controlled Tallahassee during the period of 1900 to 1999 for 87 years. Today, Florida Democrats are largely irrelevant. They have little influence in Tallahassee and even less in Washington.
During its 20th Century reign, the Florida Democratic Party fought it out in the primaries and took a nap during the general election when often hapless Republicans were slaughtered. Conservatives, liberals, moderates all found a fraction of the party they could call their own. It was a party where North Florida Democrats looked with great suspicion on South Florida Democrats – and it was equally true in the reverse.
It was a party of personality – Napoleon Broward, Doyle Carlton, Spessard Holland, Claude Pepper, Bill Gunter, LeRoy Collins, Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles, and others.
Today, the party is one of petty fiefdoms, petty rivalries, and petty politics. It is often hapless in its attempts to confront Republicans who brush them aside like pesky gnats. So desperate for political success, the party rented it soul to Charlie Crist when the former Republican governor got kicked out his party and decided to run for governor as a Democrat. Now, he is running for Congress in Democratically favored St. Petersburg district.
Florida Democrats, rightly so, get love and attention during presidential election years when the state’s otherwise red glow begins to get a purple hue.
What they don’t notice is that national Democrats are lavishing even more love on independents who really decide where Florida’s 29 electoral votes will go.
So while Democratic activists can get all giddy about Hillary Clinton, they may want to save some energy for what really matters to the future of the party – the down ballot races. Here, Democrats have some interesting choices to make on August 30.
This is not a video that will be much of a surprise to the Marco Rubio or his campaign team. They have been preparing for battle with Democrat Patrick Murphy and there little doubt that they have expected Murphy to remind Florida voters about some of the things Rubio said about Donald Trump.
In this minute-plus video, we repeatedly hear Rubio call Trump a "con man." The video also shows Rubio repeatedly being asked how he can support Trump now after spending months calling him a con man.
Left out of the video is Rubio's explanation that as much as he disagrees with Trump, he disagrees with everything that Hillary Clinton believes. Rubio also says if he returns to the Senate, he will be in a position to provide opposition to policies he disagrees with no matter which candidate enters the White House.
Still, Rubio has neatly tied himself to Trump and his supporters. The only question that remains: If Trump implodes does Rubio fall with him?