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Despite harsh reviews, Donald Trump resists new debate approach

Unmoved by harsh debate reviews, a defiant Donald Trump renewed his attacks against a former Miss Universe winner on Wednesday, showing no sign of making big changes to his message or debate preparation before his second face-off with Hillary Clinton. The outspoken Republican nominee instead pressed ahead with an aggressive strategy focused on speaking directly to his white, working-class loyalists across the Midwest.

Democrat Clinton, meanwhile, pushed to improve her standing among younger voters with the help of the president, Sen. Bernie Sanders and other key allies, 48 hours after a debate performance that seemed to spark badly needed enthusiasm.

Those closest to Trump insisted the Republican presidential nominee was satisfied with Monday night’s debate, even as prominent voices within his own party called for more serious preparation next time following an opening confrontation marked by missed opportunities and missteps.

“Why would we change if we won the debate?” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a key Trump ally and traveling partner this week, told The Associated Press.

The next debate is 11 days away.

While his plan forward is far from set, Trump is not planning to participate in any mock debates, although he is likely to incorporate what one person described as “tweaks” to his strategy.

Specifically, Trump is likely to spend more time working on specific answers and sharpening his attacks after spending much of the first meeting on defense, said that person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal campaign strategy.

That may not be enough to satisfy concerned Republicans.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Trump should have been better prepared and he recommended that the candidate work harder with skilled coaches. He said, “What you need is people who are professional debaters.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said simply, “The only advice I could give him, and take it for what it’s worth: Prepare better.”

The New York businessman was on the defensive throughout the debate, particularly when Clinton highlighted his description of a former Miss Universe winner as “Miss Piggy” because she had gained weight.

Trump condemned former Miss Universe Alicia Machado again Wednesday night in an interview on Fox News, suggesting he was trying to save her job by shaming her into losing weight in the late 1990s. He also cited unsubstantiated reports that she threatened a Venezuelan judge more than a decade ago.

Machado says Trump humiliated her by inviting reporters to her gym sessions and calling her “Miss Piggy.”

“I helped somebody and this is what you get for helping somebody,” Trump told Fox on Wednesday.

Throughout his outsider presidential bid, Trump has refused to deviate from a strategy hinged on an ambitious travel schedule packed with massive rallies that draw overwhelmingly white crowds.

Clinton, meanwhile, sought Wednesday to parlay her widely praised debate performance into stronger support from women, young Americans and other critical voter groups. She got help from her party’s biggest stars.

President Barack Obama hammered the billionaire over his business practices and treatment of women in an interview aired on Steve Harvey’s radio show, which is particularly popular among black audiences. The Democratic president said his own legacy was “on the ballot” in November. He also suggested Clinton wasn’t getting enough credit, possibly because she’s a woman.

And his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, accused Trump of trying to undermine her husband’s presidency for years by questioning his birthplace. Trump publicly admitted the president was born in America for the first time earlier in the month after spending years raising questions about the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate.

“Trust me, a candidate is not going to suddenly change” once in office, Mrs. Obama said at a rally for Clinton in Pennsylvania.

Hoping to broaden her appeal among “millennials,” Clinton joined her primary rival, Vermont Sen. Sanders, on the trail for the first time since they held a “unity” rally in July in an attempt to heal divisions within the Democratic Party. Since then, Clinton has struggled to win over young Americans who formed a critical pillar of the coalition that twice elected Obama.

Flanked by campaign signs promoting Clinton’s college affordability proposal, Sanders and Clinton touted a plan they developed to make college debt-free for millions of students from middle-class and low-income families.

“None of this will happen if you don’t turn out and vote,” Clinton said at the University of New Hampshire, after a quick hug with Sanders. He declared, “It is imperative that we elect Hillary Clinton as our next president.”

Trump struggled to attack Clinton consistently on the debate stage Monday night, but he lashed out at her aggressively Wednesday in campaign stops in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Among other charges, he mocked her lighter campaign schedule.

The Democrat conceded during the debate that she had taken some time away from the campaign trail to prepare for their first debate.

“You see all the days off that Hillary takes? Day off, day off, day off,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

He added a swipe at his opponent’s recent bout with pneumonia, which nearly caused her to collapse. “All those days off and then she can’t even make it to her car, isn’t it tough?”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Jill Stein tells Tampa: ‘This is the perfect storm for a voter revolt’

Dr. Jill Stein, the 66-year-old Green Party presidential candidate, brought her campaign to Tampa Wednesday night, where she spoke to a packed house in the second floor ballroom of the Cuban Club in Ybor City.

Stein is currently averaging around 2.5 percent in the national polls, not that dissimilar to the 2.7 percent Ralph Nader ultimately earned in 2000. More than one political observer has noted the similar circumstances of that election and this one — comparing the lackluster enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton among some Democrats to the sentiments towards Al Gore back at the turn of the century, which some contend is why George W. Bush ended up getting more votes in Florida, which decided the 2000 election.

Progressives say they know a Donald Trump presidency would be disastrous, but that’s not stopping about 10 percent of the public — adding in Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s polling numbers — to look beyond the major party candidates when considering their vote for president.

“I would feel terrible if Trump gets elected, but I’ll also feel terrible if Hillary gets elected,” Stein told reporters about an hour before she addressed the Cuban Club crowd. “Hillary actually has a track record. Donald Trump wants to bar Muslims from entering the country, but Hillary Clinton has been busy bombing Muslims.”

Stein said Clinton’s hawkish beliefs helped lead the country to intervene in Libya in 2011, and says that her call for a no-fly zone in Syria to contend with that crisis is tantamount to calling for going to war with Russia. “This is the Cuban missile crisis on steroids, but in reverse,” she charged.

More than a third of voters 18 to 29 said in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll they would vote for either Johnson or Stein. Johnson had the support of 26 percent of those voters, and Stein had 10 percent.

Much of Stein’s appeal is geared towards those millennials — as are her policies, such as her $1.3 trillion bailout plan to eliminate all student debt, which she’d pay for with a 0.5 percent Wall Street financial transactions tax. She calls it the biggest stimulus package imaginable “We came up with $16 trillion to bail out the crooks on Wall Street who crashed the economy. It’s about time to bail out the students who are the way forward, the engine of the new economy for the 21st century.”

Stein is the favorite of many Bernie Sanders supporters, but Bernie is trying to persuade them to support the Democratic nominee. Campaigning with Clinton at the University of New Hampshire Wednesday, the Vermont senator told the student-heavy audience that, “All of you know this is a very tight election and that New Hampshire could decide the outcome. So I am asking you here today not only to vote for Secretary Clinton, but to work to get your uncles and your aunts and to get your friends to vote.”

But Stein says those Bernie supporters need to give her candidacy a shot.

“There is not a new entitlement for big politicians called owning our votes,” Stein said in support of voting for a third-party candidate like herself. “They have to earn our votes, they don’t own them, they have not earned our votes. So I think we want to put the horse before the cart, not the other way around. Let’s empower and inform the American voter to decide which way they want to go, instead of trying to shut off discussion before it’s even been opened. Over 70 percent of voters have no idea about my campaign. They don’t know who I am or what I stand for. I think we owe it to voters to lead the way forward rather than the party operatives and the political pundits who are telling us that they want one candidate over another and the rest of us better just shut up and go home.”

At Wednesday night’s event, Stein was preceded by a number of local speakers discussing a multitude of issues, including Susan Glickman urging the crowd to vote against Amendment One, Donna Davis from Black Lives Matter, Kelly Benjamin with the Fight for $15 movement, and Michelle Cookson from Sunshine Citizens informing the audience about why her group is so strongly opposed to the proposed Tampa Bay Express project.

Stein talks about her “Green New Deal” — an emergency jobs program she says cures the crisis of the part-time, minimum wage economy by focusing on climate change. She says it would require a mobilization similar to going to war, but says it’s worth it to save Florida, because the Sunshine State is “in the target hairs” of the global warming problem.

“You have to err on the safe side and ensure that this magnificent state and the magnificent ecosystem and what you have in your economy is not only alive, but needs to be thriving,” she said.

And Stein said “we need to go back to the drawing board” when it comes to dealing with companies like Mosaic, after the phosphate giant failed to disclose to their neighbors that 215 million gallons of contaminated water had fallen into a sinkhole at their phosphate plant in Mulberry, getting into the Florida aquifer, a source of fresh water for much of the state.

“This is not negotiable. Florida needs a great water supply,” Stein says. “We need a system that puts people first, ahead of profits. We need industries that are sustainable. We can have profits, but profits should not take place of our survival, and Florida’s survival not only as a viable economy, but just as a place that has drinking water, and an ecosystem.”

Stein was at Hofstra University on Long Island on Monday night, the site of the first presidential debate, before escorted off the college campus because of a lack of proper credentials. She said the lackluster discussion of war was why she should have been on that stage.

“Fifty-four percent of our discretionary national budget is going into these wars and this dangerous and bloated military. Almost half your income taxes are paying for it, and what do we have to show for it?” she asked. “Failed states, mass refugee migration and terrorist threats. So there’s another way forward in terms of national security and international peace. We call for a weapons embargo as well as a freeze on the funding of the bank accounts of those countries that are continuing to fund terrorist enterprises around the world, above all the Saudis. … They are the ones bankrolling all of this, so we and our allies have enabled this mess. We can shut it down peacefully, because by bombing it, we create the next wave of terrorism and they keep getting worse, they’re not getting better. So there’s a different way forward.”

Stein continues her Florida campaign tour Thursday. She’ll appear at the Robert L. Taylor Community Center in Sarasota at noon, and at the Flamboyant Banquet Hall at Acacia’s El Centro Borinqueno in Orlando at 6 p.m. 

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump battle fiercely over taxes, race, terror

In a combative opening debate, Hillary Clinton emphatically denounced Donald Trump Monday night for keeping his personal tax returns and business dealings secret from voters and peddling a “racist lie” about President Barack Obama. Businessman Trump repeatedly cast Clinton as a “typical politician” as he sought to capitalize on Americans’ frustration with Washington.

Locked in an exceedingly close White House race, the presidential rivals tangled for 90-minutes over their vastly different visions for the nation’s future. Clinton called for lowering taxes for the middle class, while Trump focused more on renegotiating trade deals that he said have caused companies to move jobs out of the U.S. The Republican backed the controversial “stop-and-frisk policing” tactic as a way to bring down crime, while the Democrat said the policy was unconstitutional and ineffective.

The debate was heated from the start, with Trump frequently trying to interrupt Clinton and speaking over her answers. Clinton was more measured and restrained, but also needled the sometimes-thin-skinned Trump over his business record and wealth.

“There’s something he’s hiding,” she declared, scoffing at his repeated contention that he won’t release his tax returns because he is being audited.

Trump aggressively tried to turn the transparency questions around on Clinton, who has struggled to overcome voters’ concerns about her honestly and trustworthiness. He said he would release his tax information when she produces more than 30,000 emails that were deleted from the personal internet server she used as secretary of state.

Tax experts have said there is no reason the businessman cannot make his records public during an audit.

Clinton was contrite in addressing her controversial email use, saying simply that it was a “mistake”. She notably did not fall back on many of the excuses she has often used for failing to use a government email during her four years as secretary of state.

“If I had to do it over again, I would obviously do it differently,” she said.

The televised face-off was the most anticipated moment in an election campaign that has been both historic and unpredictable. Both sides expected a record-setting audience for the showdown at Hofstra University in suburban New York, reflecting the intense national interest in the race to become America’s 45th president.

The candidates sparred over trade, taxes and how to bring good-paying jobs back to the United States.

Clinton said her Republican rival was promoting a “Trumped-up” version of trickle-down economics — a philosophy focused on tax cuts for the wealthy. She called for increasing the federal minimum wage, spending more on infrastructure projects and guaranteeing equal pay for women.

Trump panned policies that he said have led to American jobs being moved overseas, in part because of international trade agreements that Clinton has supported. He pushed Clinton aggressively on her past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact while she was serving in the Obama administration. She’s since said she opposes the sweeping deal in its final form.

“You called it the gold standard of trade deals,” Trump said. “If you did win, you would approve that.”

Disputing his version of events, Clinton said, “I know you live in your reality.”

Trump struggled to answer repeated questions about why he only recently acknowledged that Barack Obama was born in the United States. For years, Trump has been the chief promoter of questions falsely suggesting the president was born outside of America.

“He has really started his political activity on this racist lie,” Clinton charged.

Clinton aides spent the days leading up to the debate appealing for the media and voters to hold Trump to a higher standard than they believe he has faced for much of the campaign. Their concern was that if the sometimes-bombastic Trump managed to keep his cool onstage, he’d be rewarded — even if he failed to flesh out policy specifics or didn’t tell the truth about his record and past statements.

Trump’s campaign has said the Clinton camp’s concerns reflected worries about her debating skills.

The centerpiece of Trump’s campaign has been a push for restrictive immigration measures, including a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and an early proposal to temporarily bar foreign Muslims from coming to the U.S. But he’s been less detailed about other ideas, including his plan for stamping out the Islamic State group in the Middle East.

Clinton, a former senator and secretary of state, is banking on voters seeing her as a steady hand who can build on the record of President Obama, whose popularity is rising as he winds down his second term in office. She’s called for expanding Obama’s executive orders if Congress won’t pass legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration system and for broader gun control measures. Overseas, she’s called for a no-fly zone in Syria but has vowed to keep the military out of a large-scale ground war to defeat the Islamic State group.

For Clinton, victory in November largely hinges on rallying the same young and diverse coalition that elected Obama but has yet to fully embrace her.

Trump has tapped into deep anxieties among some Americans, particularly white, working-class voters who feel left behind in a changing economy and diversifying nation. While the real estate mogul lacks the experience Americans have traditionally sought in a commander in chief, he’s banking on frustration with career politicians and disdain for Clinton to push him over the top on Election Day.

Republish with the permission of the Associated Press.

Gold cards and red hats: A Trumpian approach to fundraising

Donald Trump is underwriting his presidential bid by selling the Donald Trump lifestyle — and campaign finance records show it is working.

For the low price of $25, you can snag a Trump Gold Card emblazoned with your name or join a campaign “Board of Directors” that comes with a personalized certificate. For $30, grab one of Trump’s signature red hats — billed as “the most popular product in America.” Supporters can elevate themselves to “big league” by ponying up $184 for a signed, “now out of print” copy of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal.”

There’s a catch to some of these merchandising claims. There is no evidence the board of directors exists. “The Art of the Deal” is still in print, available for $9.34 in paperback. And the new campaign edition of the book is signed by an autopen, not Trump, as noted in the solicitation’s fine print.

Regardless, the appeals have paid off.

Through the end of July, people giving $200 or less made up about half of his campaign funds, according to fundraising reports through July. For Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, those small gifts accounted for about 19 percent.

The two candidates each claim over 2 million donors, but Trump has been fundraising in earnest for only about three months, compared to Clinton’s 17-month operation. Both are expected to report the details of their August fundraising to federal regulators on Tuesday.

“His brand appeals to quite a number of people,” said John Thompson, digital fundraising director for Ted Cruz‘s Republican presidential campaign. “It’s smart for him to use it for fundraising. The celebrity factor builds a natural donor community on its own, without him having to do too much.”

Hyperbolic campaign marketing is a natural fit for Trump, who has puffed up the value of what he sold throughout his business career. At times, Trump has offered golf memberships or Trump University seminars at a “discount” from an imaginary, inflated price; and he has declared condo projects close to selling out when in reality they were struggling.

“You want to say it in the most positive way possible,” Trump once told attorneys who asked him whether he had ever lied about his properties to sell them. “I’m no different from a politician running for office.”

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that his campaign has adopted that same approach, outspending Clinton on campaign merchandise while running a brisk retail operation that helps him raise the money for, among other things, crucial get-out-the-vote efforts and advertising to spread his message.

Trump’s appeals for smaller contributions are reminiscent of Bernie Sanders, whose signature line in the Democratic primary this year was that his campaign was paid for by $27 donations.

Sanders’ digital fundraiser, Michael Whitney, questioned whether Trump’s small donor haul would continue since it does not appear the campaign has done much to get email addresses that could be turned into fresh batches of new potential donors.

“This feels more like a battering ram than a well-thought-out digital program,” Whitney said.

One of Trump’s most frequent fundraising offers has been a “gold card” that identifies the holder as an Executive Member for a “one-time induction fee.”

“In the past, I have asked supporters for a one-time induction fee of $100. But because of your outstanding generosity to date, I am only asking you to make a $35 contribution,” the email asks.

The Associated Press found no evidence of an online solicitation in which the card was sold for the undiscounted price of $100.

The gold card offer is reminiscent of a Trump Visa card that became available in 2004. In a press release for it, Trump pitched it as “the best deal” and warned declining it “could get you fired.”

Trump also seeks to make would-be donors feel like part of the campaign. Several emails have sought “campaign advice,” asked for help with debate preparation and even offered people the chance to join a campaign “board of directors.”

There’s no evidence such a board exists, and the campaign did not respond to questions about it.

But the gold card and executive board membership gimmicks are getting results, said Tom Sather, senior director of research at the email data solutions firm Return Path. The firm measures emails much the way Nielsen measures television viewership, by extrapolating from a large panel of study participants.

Emails from the Trump campaign and Trump joint committees with the Republican Party have an average open rate of 11 percent, Sather said. The 10 gold card-related emails had a far higher open rate of 18 percent, and executive board emails had an open rate of 19 percent, he said.

“These kinds of offers intrigue people and make them feel exclusive and special,” he said.

Ever the marketer, Trump has also dominated the campaign swag front.

In April, May and June, Trump spent about $3 million on merchandise that’s then sold to donors, an AP review of campaign finance reports found. Clinton’s operation spent about $2 million in the same time period.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

David Jolly, Charlie Crist clash in electric debate in St. Petersburg

David Jolly and Charlie Crist went at each other hard for close to an hour in their first debate for Florida’s 13th Congressional District race at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg Monday night.

It was good theater, and for those observing the event that was broadcast live on WTSP-10 News, the differences in the candidate’s positions were relatively stark and distinct.

Although the district is supposedly solidly Democratic after redistricting, Jolly would appear to be in fairly decent shape some seven weeks before Election Day. Although he is being out-fundraised, a St. Pete Polls survey released Monday (which did not include cellphones) had Jolly narrowly leading Crist, 46 percent to 43 percent. Jolly also polled better regarding favorability rankings with a 54/25 percent favorable to unfavorable rating. Crist was listed at 45/45.

The candidates clashed throughout the evening, with some of the fiercest sparks emanating from Crist’s decision to talk about the environmental crisis that has led the city of St. Petersburg to release 151 million gallons of sewage into the streets, as well as Boca Ciega Bay and Tampa Bay.

“What I don’t understand, is why our member of Congress, our representative of Pinellas County, the epicenter of this problem, isn’t advocating day after day after day for federal emergency help to get this cleaned up,” Crist said. “Our country has done this for Flint (Michigan). Why can’t we do it for Pinellas County?”

Jolly responded by getting in a dig in at St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, exciting the GOP partisans in the hall.

“Because the mayor who’s endorsed you who oversaw this catastrophe did not ask for it,” Jolly responded, getting a loud round of applause.

“If you have to be asked for help while the people in your district are suffering, something’s wrong,” Crist replied, getting almost as loud a reaction.

Jolly again blamed Kriseman for not standing up and said he’d be “happy” to work for the county as he has done for other cities in the district.

“Then why haven’t you done it?” Crist interrupted, keeping his foot on the gas. “Do you need an invitation to serve?” which generated the loudest cheer in the exchange. Crist said if he were in Congress, he’d at least be talking about the issue.

There were several other sharp conflicts throughout the evening, which actually began on the second question when co-moderator Mark Rivera asked the candidates were OK with permitting a woman infected with the Zika virus obtain an abortion.

Jolly, who is pro-life, said that he did believe in exceptions for abortion when it came to a woman’s health situation. After Crist had said he was proudly pro-choice, Jolly pounced.

“You were pro-choice, then you were pro-life, then you were pro-choice,” the Indian Shores Republican said. “As a Republican, when you had a chance to serve when you were in office you told the AP in 2009 that you would have supported an abortion ban in the state of Florida. It was only after you switched parties that you switched your position. This was not a matter of conviction for you; it was for political convenience.”

Both candidates came in well prepared.

Crist was more vulnerable, having switched political parties beginning in 2010, when he left the GOP to become an independent while running for the U.S. Senate seat, before making the complete switch to the Democratic Party in late 2012. But he took the offensive in explanation his ideological wanderlust, saying, “it’s not a sin.”

“If the values of the party at the time don’t comport with how you were raised by your family, I think you have a duty to yourself and your God, to do what you think is right, and represent the principals and values that you share, those of decency, doing unto others, doing what’s right for the people that you want to serve, and that’s why I’m a Democrat today and I’m proud of it,” Crist said, eliciting a hearty cheer from the audience.

Crist inadvertently provided the biggest laughs of the evening when he engaged with Jolly about how each candidate found themselves running in the CD 13 contest. Jolly painted his move as noble, and not political.

“Mr. Crist got into this race because the lines have changed,” he said. “I got into this race despite the fact that the lines had changed.”

Crist said he got into the contest only after the lines had changed because the new district included where he lived in downtown St. Pete.

Jolly fired back, “You bought a house in the district in St. Pete Beach that you later sold.”

Not true, Crist insisted. “My wife bought that house,” he said, which while factually accurate, didn’t pass the smell test with the crowd.

When it came for the time for the candidates to ask each other a question, Crist attempted to play the statesman, declining to offer a gotcha question to his Republican rival.

Jolly wasn’t about to let the opportunity go to waste.

Citing a Sarasota-Herald Tribune story, Jolly referred to Crist’s former life when he was known as being tough on crime “Chain-Gang Charlie” of the mid-1990s, when being tough on crime was de rigueur for conservative lawmakers. Jolly went into extensive detail about a Crist visit to Alabama, where he stood over black prisoners to say such a program would be good for Florida.

Crist appeared mortified by the story and chastised Jolly for getting racial.

“I’m embarrassed you’d say that about a fellow Floridian,” Crist said.

When each candidate was asked where they differed from their political party, Crist mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which does place him opposite Barack Obama and the platform of the Democratic National Committee, but safely with the growing mainstream of Democrats who oppose it, like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Jolly went a little loftier, saying that much of his political persona is a challenge to party leadership on issues like marriage equality, climate science, and his STOP Act, which would ban federal officeholders from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

“Look, in three years I’ve tried to change politics at great political risk,” he said. “And I think I continue to put Pinellas over Washington politics.”

Crist said at one point that Jolly lobbied for the privatization of Social Security, a charge the former D.C. lobbyist denied. “Well, you registered to lobby for it,” Crist said. Jolly did say Crist had endorsed his legislation to end taxation of Social Security.

Jolly showed off his preparation when he attempted to bust Crist regarding his support for raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour. He said Crist opposed the proposal when he served as a board member of Enterprise Florida in 2004 (that’s when Floridians voted to raise the minimum wage as a constitutional amendment).

To his credit, co-moderator Adam Smith took 45 minutes before asking whether Jolly had finally “gotten there” yet on whether or not he’ll support his party’s standard-bearer in November, Donald Trump.

“I’m not there with Mr. Trump,” Jolly said, his stock answer when asked the question.

After Smith had challenged him, Jolly said he wasn’t sure he ever would get there in November.

Crist had no such moral compunction when speaking affirmatively for Hillary Clinton, though he did elicit giggles when he said, “I believe that she is steady. I believe that she is strong. I believe that she is honest.”

Among those seen in the crowd were former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, SD 19 Democratic candidate Augie Ribeiro, and St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse.

Bill Rufty: Diverse Florida electorate crucial in presidential election

RuftyIf you are a presidential candidate, you can’t come to Florida with a single, cookie-cutter campaign and speak to issues based on national surveys.

Florida is one of the most diverse and perhaps, with 29 electoral votes, the most crucial swing state in the presidential election, University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus told a large audience Thursday evening.

MacManus was the leadoff speaker for the new season of the Florida Lecture Series hosted by the Lawton M. Chiles Center for Florida History at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.

Distinguished professor of public administration and political science at USF, MacManus is considered one of the pre-eminent scholars and commentators on Florida and national politics.

Two major issues rise to the top among Florida voters, MacManus said: the economy and personal safety, and varies in concern among the state’s diverse electorate.

The economy is a great concern for the blue collar and middle class electorate. Of almost the same strength in polls is what MacManus lists as “personal safety,” which includes terrorism in the United States and safety from home-grown violence. Younger voters are more concerned with personal safety. College-age women, for example, are concerned with rape and assault, she said.

Florida’s role is pivotal in the national election, and its swing state status is very tight. In the last three elections — 2010, 2012 and 2014 — gubernatorial and presidential, the margin of victory for the winning party has been 1 percent or less she said.

Late Thursday, a new poll had Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump statistically tied at 47 percent of the electorate with the remaining 6 percent third party voters or undecided.

Because of the closeness, both parties must look at and attract the many layers of diversity in gender, ethnicity, and age.

“Twenty-four percent [of Florida voters] — one-fourth of the electorate — are neither Republican nor Democrat,” she said. And are most likely to be younger.

And although more women traditionally are registered and go to the polls more than men across the political spectrum, the difference is higher for Democrats.

“All I had to do to do was look at the fact that there are 18 percent more females than males among Democrats and know that Bernie Sanders would not win [the Florida Primary].”

There is an even larger group of Hispanic voters now than four years ago, she said, adding that they can’t be viewed as a solid bloc.

“Whenever I talk to people outside the state they all assume every Hispanic is Cuban. The greatest change in the voting population in the last four years has been the influx of Puerto Rican voters,” she said. “It is the second-highest Hispanic voting bloc to Cuban and growing mainly along the I-4 corridor.”

Pollsters from outside the state haven’t learned this yet and often don’t see the difference when conducting their surveys. MacManus said, alluding to the fact that traditionally, Cuban voters in the past have voted Republican while Puerto Ricans primarily vote for the Democratic candidates.

Florida is not only the home base for a diverse population of Hispanic communities, but black voters as well.

“There are Haitians, Jamaicans, and Dominicans mostly in South Florida and their interests are decidedly different from African-American voters,” she said.

“Why does this matter? With a state like Florida and a 1 percent difference [in the victory margin], every slice of demographic is important. You ignore demographics, and you have a potential to lose,” MacManus said.

That is particularly true of the demographics of age, she said. The Greatest Generation — those who remember World War II and Franklin Roosevelt — are 89 years old or over and are 2 percent of the electorate. The Silent Generation includes voters 71 to 88, making up 17 percent of the electorate. Baby Boomers, 52-70, account for 34 percent and are the children of the 1960s and ’70s, with a different cultural reference. They are followed by the Gen X group, aged 36-51, at 23 percent; and the Millennials, 18-35 — whose points of reference are Afghanistan, 9/11, and social media — making up 24 percent of Florida voters.

Millennials are likely to have strongly supported Sanders on the Democratic side and Marco Rubio on the Republican side.

“If you are older, you likely favor one party or the other,” MacManus said, “younger, you are likely NPA [no party affiliation].”

It is the younger generations of Gen Xers and Millennials, which currently make up 47 percent of the electorate in Florida, who will make the changes in future elections.

Asked about the future of the country by an audience member who said he was not optimistic about it, MacManus said she was very optimistic because of the younger generation.

“I frequently ask my students at the end of the semester how many feel they want to go into politics,” she said. “In the last four years, I have seen an increased number raising their hands. And it is not for president or senator. It is the local school board or the Legislature. I find that very encouraging.”

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton turn to battleground states in the South

With Labor Day behind them, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are pushing ahead in top presidential battlegrounds in the South.

Trump, the Republican nominee, is set to campaign in Virginia and North Carolina on Tuesday, two critical states in his path to the presidency. Clinton, the Democrat, is campaigning in Florida in search of an advantage in the nation’s largest swing state. A Clinton victory in Florida would make it virtually impossible for Trump to overcome her advantage in the race for 270 electoral votes.

The day before in swing state Ohio, Trump softened his stance on immigration while Clinton blasted Russia for suspected tampering in the U.S. electoral process.

In a rare news conference aboard her new campaign plane, Clinton said she is concerned about “credible reports about Russian government interference in our elections.”

“We are going to have to take those threats and attacks seriously,” Clinton told reporters traveling with her from Ohio to Illinois.

Clinton’s comments follow reports that the Russian government may have been involved in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails just days before the party’s national convention. The emails, later revealed by WikiLeaks, showed some DNC officials favoring Clinton over her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders — who has since endorsed Clinton for president.

She said Russian President Vladimir Putin appears “quite satisfied with himself” and said Trump “has generally parroted what is a Putin-Kremlin line.”

Meanwhile, Trump extended a rare invitation to journalists to accompany him on his private plane from Cleveland to Youngstown, Ohio. The billionaire businessman appeared to shy away from his hard-line vow to block “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Any immigrants who want full citizenship must return to their countries of origin and get in line, he told reporters — but he would not rule out a pathway to legal status for the millions living in the U.S. illegally, as he did in a long-awaited policy speech last week.

“We’re going to make that decision into the future,” Trump said.

Clinton powered through a coughing fit at a Labor Day festival at a Cleveland park, sharply criticizing Trump’s recent trip to Mexico as “an embarrassing international incident.” Unwilling to allow Trump to modify his immigration stances, she said his address later that night in Arizona amounted to a “doubling down on his absurd plan to send a deportation force to round up 16 million people.”

“He can try to fool voters into thinking somehow he’s not as harsh and inhumane as he seems, but it’s too late,” Clinton said.

The former secretary of state flatly said “No,” when asked in an ABC News interview whether she’d be willing to accept the Mexican president’s invitation to visit the country, as Trump did last week.

“I’m going to continue to focus on what we’re doing to create jobs here at home,” Clinton said.

Earlier in the day, Trump attacked Clinton’s energy level, noting she hasn’t followed his aggressive traveling schedule and questioning whether she had the stamina to help bring jobs back to America.

“She doesn’t have the energy to bring ’em back. You need energy, man,” Trump told reporters.

He added, “She didn’t have the energy to go to Louisiana. And she didn’t have the energy to go to Mexico.”

Clinton’s 25-minute question-and-answer session was her first extensive availability with reporters since early December. Beyond Russia, she answered questions about the ongoing controversy surrounding her use of a private email server while secretary of state, which Trump has used to cast doubt over her ability to protect classified information.

“I take classification seriously,” she said.

While Labor Day has traditionally been the kickoff to the fall campaign, both Clinton and Trump have been locked in an intense back-and-forth throughout the summer.

The start of full-fledged campaigning opens a pivotal month, culminating in the first presidential debate Sept. 26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Polls show Trump trailing Clinton in a series of must-win battleground states, meaning the debates could be his best chance at reorienting the race.

Trump told reporters he does plan to take part in all three presidential debates, joking that only a “hurricane” or “natural disaster” would prevent him from attending.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

With more than 173,000 votes, Senate hopeful Pam Keith says she feels like a winner

Although Pam Keith was always in the Senate race to win it, she won’t deny the sense of satisfaction she felt Wednesday, even though she came up well short of defeating Patrick Murphy for the Democratic nomination.

Keith captured more than 173,000 votes in the Florida Democratic Primary, finishing less than 2.5 percent behind Alan Grayson for third place in the Democratic Senate race. The 33-year-old Murphy captured 59 percent of the vote. Grayson finished in second place with just under 18 percent, and Keith, the former Navy JAG officer and Miami-based attorney, came in third with 15.4 percent. And she did that while barely raising $250,000 and airing no television ads.

“I think I conducted myself with grace, and I ran a positive campaign,” said Keith in a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon. “I didn’t spend my time smearing my opponents, and so I know I didn’t win, but I still feel like a winner. Certainly, the feedback I’ve gotten back today has been nothing but positive and encouraging.”

And unlike Grayson, Keith has already endorsed Murphy (on her Facebook page) in his race against Marco Rubio in the general election. “My goal is to make sure that we take control of the Senate and retain the White House, and if I can be helpful, I will be,” she said.

During the heat of the campaign, though, Keith was hardly so sanguine about Murphy, the Democratic Party’s establishment choice from early in 2015. She was particularly piqued when he would not submit to participating in a single debate this summer, despite several media organizations’ attempts to do so. After Grayson’s ex-wife accused the Orlando congressman of domestic abuse, Murphy unilaterally declared he would not debate him, while barely acknowledging he also was blowing off Keith.

“I think that was very wrongheaded,” she said of Murphy’s decision. “What Patrick did was basically take a default position that he had so much of a lead in fundraising and visibility, that the best move for him was to just make sure that nobody else could get any visibility or oxygen, and he would win by default,” she recounts. “And I think that a lot of people who ended up voting for him, voted for him because they didn’t even know that they had another choice, or given the opportunity to see that they had a choice.

“But the name of the game of politics is winning, and his strategy worked, so you can’t fault him for doing what he thinks you need to do to win. I just think that’s not in the interest of voters.”

Perhaps Keith’s biggest moment during her quixotic campaign occurred a few weeks ago, when the Miami Herald editorial board endorsed her for the Democratic nomination, choosing her over Murphy and Grayson. Keith called that unexpected decision “a validation” of her candidacy. “It’s such a respected publication,” she said. “They didn’t do the ‘hey, this is the front-runner thing, so the front-runner gets our endorsement.’ They asked tough questions, and they based their decision on the merits of the answers given by the candidates.”

But for every positive moment like garnering the Herald’s endorsement, Keith continued to feel a lack of respect that comes in part from never having held public office. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel never invited her in for an endorsement interview, she says. Nor did the AFL-CIO. “I can’t say that I was allowed to compete head to head, and I didn’t win.  You know, that’s not exactly what happened.”

With a very real chance of recapturing the U.S. Senate this fall, the Democratic Party in Washington and Tallahassee rallied around Murphy immediately after he declared his candidacy for the Senate in the spring of 2015, with Barack Obama and Joe Biden making an unusual endorsement of Murphy early on. At that moment the party wasn’t even attempting to be unbiased in telegraphing who they were pulling for, a charge many Bernie Sanders supporters made about former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee frequently over the past year.

“I definitely think the president should not have chimed in this race,” Keith said. “I don’t think the titular head of a party should be endorsing candidates in primaries. I think that’s wrong, and it doesn’t make for a fair race. And if we start to lose faith that we have fair primaries, then we lose something critical, and I’m not sure that it can be fixed in the future if we let it go.”

While some of her supporters are already inquiring about her running for another office in two to four years, Keith said she’s not willing to commit to anything yet — other than that after a year-and-half on the road competing with limited financial resources, she needs a job. “If you know anyone’s hiring?” she laughed, before addressing the disappointment she hears from Florida progressives, not exactly thrilled about a Murphy candidacy.

“In politics, sometimes the candidates you want sometimes don’t win and sometimes things don’t go the way that you want them to, but you gotta keep your eye on the bigger picture, and you must be pragmatic, and there are a lot of things at stake this year, and I don’t want people to use their disappointment or their bitterness to be a block toward making rational choices.

“Our country needs us to be clearheaded, and to be pragmatic, and I’m inviting all my fellow Floridians out there to take heed of that.”

Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy win Florida’s Senate primaries

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy each easily won their primaries Tuesday, setting up a November showdown that’s guaranteed to be nasty as each party grapples for a majority in the Senate.

Rubio, who decided at the last second to seek a second term, easily fended off millionaire homebuilder Carlos Beruff and Murphy used the backing of President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders to defeat U.S. Rep Alan Grayson, who was counting on his party’s most faithful liberal voters to overcome Murphy’s money and establishment support.

In other contests, former Democrat Party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was hoping to keep her seat in Congress against Tim Canova, a Bernie Sanders-backed law professor who was able to raises more than $3 million.

Rubio had declared during his failed presidential campaign that he would not run again for Senate. But he nearly cleared what had been a crowded GOP field with his last-minute turnabout.

Beruff rolled the dice to see if the anti-establishment mood powering Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign could send him to Washington as well. But after spending $8 million of his own money and going nowhere in the polls, he essentially shut down his campaign ahead of the primary.

Rubio supporters at his party near Walt Disney World whooped and chanted “Marco! Marco! Marco!” when The Associated Press declared him the winner.

“I voted for Marco only because I’ve been a longstanding supporter,” said Diane Martin-Johnson, 66, after voting early Tuesday in Pinellas Park. “It’s unfortunate he didn’t do his job fully in Washington this term. I do think he deserves another chance. He thought he was doing the right thing (by running for president). That’s my only complaint against him. He’s a good man.”

Murphy, a former Republican, quickly earned party support and raised significantly more money. He was also backed by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Grayson, a fiery liberal known for brash comments and hamstrung by a difficult divorce, relied mostly on small donors and feuded with party leaders.

Todd Martin, 53, and his 18-year-old daughter Haley, voted together in Tallahassee, where they recently moved as she starts college. They both chose Murphy, in part because they like his efforts to get government to address algae outbreaks near their former home in Vero Beach.

“I grew up on the river and it’s a shame what they let happen,” Todd Martin said. “I like where Patrick Murphy stands on the algae. It’s very important to me.”

Secretary of State Ken Detzner said there were slight delays in opening some polling places, but described no other glitches. More than 1.75 million Floridians already cast ballots by mail or at early-voting stations before polls opened Tuesday.

This year’s primary turnout could top ones held in 2012 and 2014- a sign that competitive races for Congress and the Florida Legislature could be driving up turnout this time around.

Rubio and Murphy took opposite approaches on primary day. Rubio had no public events scheduled before polls closed, while Murphy began his day at 7 a.m. at a Miami-Dade polling site, joined by Gov. Bob Graham, a former senator, and his daughter, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham. Murphy also visited two other South Florida polling sites.

Wasserman Schultz jumped to an early lead over Canova in a primary colored by leaked emails revealing that DNC officials had worked against Sanders to favor Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.

Democrats also hope to gain seats in Florida’s heavily Republican House delegation after court-mandated redistricting chipped away the advantages of some incumbents.

Florida had to rip up and redraw its congressional maps after they were found to violate the state constitution’s provision requiring compact districts that don’t favor incumbents or political parties. That spurred one of the state’s most heavily contested congressional election years. Several races will essentially be decided in the primary and Florida will eventually send at least seven new House members to Washington.

Republicans now outnumber Democrats 17-10 in the state’s congressional delegation. If Democrats sweep all four seats seen as competitive in November, that Republican advantage could be reduced to 14-13.

One of those is now held by U.S. Rep. David Jolly, a Republican who was expected to win Tuesday, but who would then have to beat former Gov. Charlie Crist, who used to be a Republican but is now a Democrat.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

AFP-Florida bashes Patrick Murphy for supporting a public option in Obamacare

Americans for Prosperity Florida is blasting Democratic Senate hopeful Patrick Murphy, a day after he expressed support for adding a government public option to the Affordable Care Act.

“It is good to see Patrick Murphy leaving the privileged gates of his Palm Beach estate,” said AFP Florida state director, Chris Hudson. “Maybe while he’s out and about he should take a second to recognize that Obamacare has failed and that the results of President Obama’s “lie of the year” have included insurance companies dropping out of the embattled top-down program, requests being made to increase premiums as high as 43.6%, and the average American being saddled with $1,000 in medial debt.

Continued Hudson, “Patrick Murphy needs to stop pandering to special interests, and stop supporting policies like the public option that only exist to undermine the private sector until they go out of business! If this is the sort of lead-from-behind attitude Congressman Murphy is trying to sell, then Florida families shouldn’t buy it.”

While campaigning at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop on Monday, Murphy told voters that he believes that with more insurers now announcing that they will no longer carry patients who are on the Affordable Care Act, a public option is now needed to provide competition.

“The key is like any issue — it’s acknowledging that there are some things that are working, and that some things that need to be fixed,” Murphy said. “No legislation that is passed — or rarely I should say — is perfect, and you have to evolve with the times to see what’s actually working. Unfortunately, in Washington you have a group of people that basically want to shut down the government … they say throw the whole thing and start over, without offering solutions to it.”

The idea of the public option is to create a separate, government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers offering coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders included versions of the public option in their proposals when they first began working on health care reform in 2009. But they dropped the idea relatively quickly.

As Democrats were approving their platform that was officially ratified at their national convention in July, Hillary Clinton unveiled a health care plan that included a public option. Though she had supported such a proposal in the past, during her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders she opposed it, saying it would be too costly and run into interference from Republican governors.

If Murphy wins Tuesday’s primary election for the Democratic nomination for Senate, he will likely face Republican Marco Rubio in the fall. On Monday, a spokesman for Rubio blasted his comments about a public option.

“Patrick Murphy promised voters that Obamacare’s state exchanges would bring down costs and create more competition, but Floridians are finding themselves with fewer health care options and skyrocketing premiums they can’t afford,” said Michael Ahrens. “Only someone like Patrick Murphy who has consistently embellished the facts about himself could read the latest devastating headlines about the failure of Obamacare and declare it a success that should be expanded.”

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