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Florida ‘crossover’ congressional districts give Democrats glimmer of hope in 2018

Democrats could be in for more election woes in 2018, according to a new post from political blog Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

In the post, author Kyle Kondik gives a rundown of the 2016 cycle’s “crossover” congressional seats – districts that voted for one party on the congressional level, and another for president.

There were 26 such seats in the 2012 cycle, and 2016 saw an increase to 35.

A dozen of the crossover seats sent a Democrat to Congress and backed Republican Donald Trump for president, while the remainder, including Florida’s 26th and 27th Congressional Districts, voted a Republican into Congress while backing Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

Despite the jump in crossover seats, Kondik writes that the Clinton versus Trump election may not be an “accurate gauge” of these seats true partisan leans, and says most of the districts are “more competitive on paper than in practice.”

On the whole, the crossover seats picked up by Democrats had a much narrower vote than the seats picked up by Republicans, and one Democrat, Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind, didn’t even face a major party opponent.

When it comes to Florida’s two crossover seats, CD 26 Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo had the benefit of running against “scandal-tarred” former Rep. Joe Garcia, while and CD 27 Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen consistently polled ahead of Trump throughout the election cycle.

Kondik called Ros-Lehtinen one of the GOP’s “most skilled incumbents” and noted that she is the incumbent in the most Democratic-leaning seat any Republican holds, which bodes well for the Republican Party.

Kondik also said the GOP has a much firmer grasp on their Congressional seats than Democrats did in 2010, when Republicans won the midterm election by a landslide. Democrats lost 48 House seats, and their majority, in that cycle.

“Republicans today are only about half as overextended, and it’s an open question as to whether Democrats can legitimately contend for many of these Clinton-Republican seats,” Kondik said.

Donald Trump’s assertions echo site filled with tales of dark plots

President Donald Trump‘s assertion that the media often fails to cover terrorist attacks is false, but he’s hardly alone in making the claim. The statement is just the latest by Trump to echo a website known for trafficking in dubious allegations of plots and cover-ups.

“You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that,” Trump said in a speech to military commanders at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base Monday.

That allegation was quickly disproven by numerous articles and broadcast clips detailing many of the very attacks the White House said had been overlooked or underreported. But versions of the same accusation have long gone unquestioned on Infowars, a website run by former public access cable host Alex Jones.

“Scandal: Mass media covers up terrorism to protect Islam,” a headline on Jones’ site alleged last July. “Fake news: Mainstream media whitewashes Islamic terror in Berlin,” proclaimed another, last December.

There’s no evidence that Trump gets his information from the site. But Trump voiced his admiration for Jones when the Infowars host interviewed him in December 2015.

“Your reputation is amazing,” then-candidate Trump told Jones. “I will not let you down. You will be very impressed, I hope, and I think we’ll be speaking a lot.”

Jones responded: “I hope you can uncripple America…”

Days after the election, Jones said that Trump had called him to “thank your viewers, thank your listeners for standing up for this republic.”

Jones, whose site has alleged that the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting was a hoax and that the September 11, 2001, terror attacks involved the federal government, is “America’s leading conspiracy theorist,” said Mark Fenster, author of “Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in America.”

Such allegations have always had their believers, but those who traded in the tales mostly existed on the fringes, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania professor specializing in political communication.

“You weren’t watching it. I wasn’t watching it. Certainly our political leaders weren’t watching it,” she said. But the internet has given organs devoted to such claims more visibility and acceptability. Jones’ YouTube channel has nearly 2 million subscribers.

With Trump, the country has a leader who repeats such allegations as if they are plausible, said Fenster, a professor of law at the University of Florida. Political campaigns sometimes see candidates make vague references to dark forces, but for a sitting president to regularly engage in an “unfiltered set of allegations” is well beyond the norm, Fenster said.

Trump’s allegations about the media and those made on Infowars are just the latest to echo one another. Their shared assertions include:

— President Barack Obama may not have been born in the United States.

It’s hard to know where these allegations originated, but Infowars has been making the “birther” argument for years, alleging that documents showing Obama was born in Hawaii were fake.

“Shocking new birth certificate proof Obama born in Kenya?” asked an Infowars headline in August 2009. “New Obama birth certificate is a forgery,” said another, in April 2011.

The latter was shortly after Trump appeared on the television show “The View,” in March 2011, during which he falsely said that nobody from Obama’s childhood remembered him, and that he was obligated to prove his birth in Hawaii. “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate?” Trump said. Last September, Trump said he accepted that Obama was born in the U.S.

— Thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11.

Trump was criticized after a November 2015 political rally in which he said that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” in New Jersey when the World Trade Center came down. Questioned afterward, Trump insisted that he had seen the celebrations on television that day.

There’s no evidence such celebrations took place. But accounts of Muslims cheering terrorist attacks have been a repeated theme on Infowars.

“I live in Jersey and Trump is right: Muslims did celebrate on 9/11 in NJ… We saw it!” headlined an article in November 2015. Soon afterward, the site ran another story, “Exclusive: Radical U.S. Muslims celebrate, shoot fireworks after terrorist attack,” featuring an anonymous man who said that on the night of the Paris attacks he heard people celebrating four or five blocks away from his home outside Detroit.

— Millions of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.

Trump won the presidency with an Electoral College victory despite losing to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. He has said he was cheated out of a rightful win in the popular vote.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” the president said on Twitter on November 27. Numerous state elections officials, many of them Republicans, said there is no evidence of widespread voting fraud. But Trump ordered an investigation.

His allegations have been echoed, if not preceded, on Infowars, which alleged widespread voter fraud well before Election Day.

“Dead people and illegal immigrants are being registered to vote all over America,” the site headlined in early October.

In mid-November, Infowars posted a story headlined: “Report: Three million votes in presidential election cast by illegal aliens.” The story cited a Texas businessman, Greg Phillips, who claimed to have compiled a list of 3 million illegal votes by non-citizens. On January 27, Trump Tweeted that he was looking forward to seeing Phillips’ evidence. “We must do better!” Trump wrote.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Charlie Crist wants Trump administration to look into voter suppression, disenfranchisement

Democrats skeptical about President Trump‘s repeated claims of voter fraud in last November’s election are now challenging him to add voter suppression and disenfranchisement into his administration’s upcoming investigation.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that Vice President Mike Pence will be in charge of a commission to probe what he believes was voter fraud in the election, despite a consensus among state officials, election experts — and both Democrats and Republicans — that voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S.

“I’m going to set up a commission to be headed by Vice President Pence and we’re going to look at it very, very carefully,” Trump told O’Reilly in an interview taped Friday.

Seizing on that, Congressman Charlie Crist and 75 other Democrats are signing on to a letter originally penned by Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, Alabama’s Terri Sewell and Washington’s Derek Kilmer calling for an evaluation of state voter restrictions in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida. Those states bar individuals with past felony convictions from voting unless they are able to meet a burdensome clemency requirement. This law has led to the disenfranchisement of an estimated 1.5 million Floridians. 

“Unsubstantiated voter fraud claims are being used as cover to enact policies aimed at disenfranchising certain voters — something Floridians are all too familiar with,” said Crist, the first-term St. Petersburg Democrat. “Voter suppression efforts are an attack on our democracy. I will fight to protect access to the voting booth, including for nonviolent former felons. It’s a matter of civil rights and fundamental fairness.”

“Voter suppression efforts are an attack on our democracy,” Crist added. “I will fight to protect access to the voting booth, including for nonviolent former felons. It’s a matter of civil rights and fundamental fairness.”

Clearly upset about the fact that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by more than 2.8 million votes, Trump has steadfastly maintained that if it weren’t for voter fraud, he would have won the popular vote on November 8.

Despite that refrain, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday show that while election fraud does occur, “there is no evidence that it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election.”

Trump’s focus seems intent only on looking at what happened in November, so the Democrats call for a look into other voting issues will unlikely find a sympathetic audience. Nevertheless, it gives them the opportunity to get out their beliefs that there are sustained, legalized measures in place currently that intentionally suppress the vote.

Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy among top GOP targets for 2018

National Republicans, in an effort to boost their majority for the midterms, are targeting top House Democrats over the next two years – including Florida’s Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy.

POLITICO first reported on the list of 36 lawmakers coming from the National Republican Congressional Committee, with a particular focus on “blue-collar parts of the country where President Donald Trump is popular.”

Nearly one-third of the districts on the NRCC spreadsheet were taken by President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and won by a Democratic House member. Many of those are heavily blue-collar districts in the Midwest, a region Republicans believe see as winnable territory in the Trump era.

Florida’s 13th Congressional District, the district Democrat Crist won in November over incumbent Republican David Jolly, covers much of Pinellas County, which also elected Trump by a single percentage point.

POLITICO notes that there are two Democrats who were not key GOP targets in 2016: Reps. Dave Loebsack of Iowa and Ron Kind from Wisconsin. In 2016, Kind ran unopposed in the West Central Wisconsin district that Trump by more than four points.

“The success of our government depends on Republicans maintaining a strong majority in the House,” NRCC chair Steve Stivers said in a news release. “We owe the American people assurance that the agenda we were elected on — health care reform, a stronger national defense, and more good-paying jobs – is fulfilled.”

Democrats have issued their own list of 59 Republicans, released last month by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Democrats need a gain of 24 seats in 2018 to take back the House.

With sanctuary city comment, Rick Kriseman defiant, but misguided

Whether you agree with the rules or you don’t, it’s never wise for a person in authority to say they are not going to follow the law. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman essentially did that when he stated the following in a blog post:

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” he wrote.

“We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States. Should our solidarity with ‘Sanctuary Cities’ put in peril the millions of dollars we receive each year from the federal government or via pass-through grants, we will then challenge that decision in court. Win or lose, we will have upheld our values.”

Kriseman was forced to retreat Sunday after Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said his officers would enforce the law. That’s when Kriseman said in an interview that St. Pete isn’t really a so-called Sanctuary City — it just agrees with the concept.

That’s called trying to have it both ways. It usually doesn’t work.

That said, I agree completely with Kriseman that President Trump’s demonization of undocumented immigrants goes against everything America is supposed to stand for. So much about the president’s immigration policy is morally and ethically repugnant, designed to stoke irrational fear among the citizenry.

I just wish Kriseman had taken the approach of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He visited the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque Friday to support those jittery about the travel ban Trump wants to impose on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

“This city has your back,” Buckhorn told them. “I don’t care what this President did — that is not who America is. That is not what we represent. That is not what we are all about!”

See the difference in the approaches of the two mayors?

Buckhorn stepped up to the line and maybe jumped up and down on it a bit, but Kriseman stepped over it.

Buckhorn was supportive. Kriseman was defiant.

Both are Democrats, by the way.

Buckhorn told reporters covering the Friday event that Tampa is not a Sanctuary City, but he left enforcement up to his police department. When Kriseman said St. Petersburg police wouldn’t stop someone suspected of being here illegally, that took it a bit too far.

Hence, his retreat Sunday.

That could have repercussions for Kriseman in a re-election bid. While Pinellas County has only 245 more registered Republicans than Democrats (out of 641,484 voters), Trump won there in November by about 5,500 votes over Hillary Clinton.

A recent poll showed Kriseman trailing former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker in a theoretical rematch (Baker has not declared he is running).

That’s a discussion for another day, though.

For now, I’ll give Kriseman high marks for having his heart in the right place. On the rest of it, though, he gets an incomplete.

Beyonce, Tim Tebow for prez? Invalid votes spiked in Florida

Beyonce, Tim Tebow or the Norse god Thor for prez? Those were some of Florida’s more unusual picks for president this past election.

And the number of Florida voters who didn’t cast a vote for either Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other valid contender spiked in 2016, apparently in protest over the ballot choices.

A report released by state officials Wednesday showed more than 161,000 Florida voters who took part in the elections either at the polls or by mail didn’t cast a valid vote for president.

The “non-valid votes” include those who wrote in such names as Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders and others who simply left the ballot blank. It also includes those who voted for more than one candidate.

All told, the invalid ballots outnumbered Republican Trump’s margin of victory over Democrat Clinton of nearly 113,000 votes to clinch Florida’s 29 electoral votes.

And the rate of invalid votes for president in 2016 — 1.69 percent overall — was more than double the rate it was in 2012 and 2008 when President Barack Obama won the state each time.

“There were some people who were very disgruntled,” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, giving the read of some fellow election officials on the report.

Independently, he compiled a list showing his own Florida county had write-in votes for president including Beyonce, the former University of Florida quarterback Tebow, Thor of Norse mythology and even one vote for “We Can Do Better.”

There also were a number of write-ins for Sanders, the senator who lost the Democratic nod to Clinton as well as for other Republican or independent candidates.

“I think it was a reflection of the election,” said Cowles, who tracked the names and number of invalid write-in votes even though he was not required to.

Florida’s report — compiled from data collected by all 67 counties — is required after every major election. It got its start after the chaotic 2000 presidential election, which hinged on a contentious recount in Florida famously involving “hanging chads” and more.

In the latest report, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner‘s office concluded the spike in “non-valid votes” was not the result of voter confusion or problems with voting equipment.

The report found nearly 65,000 Florida voters left their ballot blank, also known as an “undervote,” while more than 82,000 wrote the name of someone who did not qualify to run for president in Florida.

All told, more than 9.5 million Floridians voted in the election. The total of “non-valid votes” didn’t include nearly 13,000 provision ballots that were also rejected.

Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley echoed the view of other local election officials who said the invalid vote spike showed a segment of the electorate was unsatisfied with the two major candidates.

“I would attribute the spike in invalid undervotes to a highly combative presidential election with two polarizing candidates,” Corley said. “I suspect the voter who wrote in an invalid write-in did so deliberately.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Hillsborough County Dems add 44 new committee members at January meeting

For Democrats, Donald Trump might be making life a hell on earth. But the president is successful in one thing — uniting them in a way missing throughout the 2016 campaign.

Take the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, for instance.

On Monday night, the local party added 44 new members to its organization at its monthly meeting at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County in Ybor City.

It was the third consecutive standing room only meeting for the local party, all coming since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton on November 8.

And unlike their last meeting, which devolved into chaos when some locally elected officials got into shouting matches with DEC members, everyone in the room seemed united, 10 days into the Trump administration.

At that December 5 re-organization meeting, Party Chair Ione Townsend alienated some membership when she ruled that a bylaw prevented nonpartisan DEC members from participating in that night’s election for party officers. The result contributed to Alan Clendenin‘s loss for state committeeman to Russ Patterson, temporarily taking him out of the running for state party chair. He ultimately relocated to Bradford County, where he was elected as a committeeman before ultimately losing his bid for chair to Stephen Bittel earlier this month.

Townsend said the priorities for local Democrats in 2017 was voter engagement, building a bench of candidates to run in 2018 and continue to fundraise, which has been at record levels ever since they brought on former Pinellas chair Mark Hanisee two years ago.

The DEC raised nearly $140,000 for local candidates in 2016, with $46,500 of that going to Andrew Warren, the former federal prosecutor who upset 16-year GOP incumbent Mark Ober in the race for State Attorney.

One man attending Monday night’s meeting said he had never attended a DEC meeting in his life, saying, “I’ve been asleep for 43 years.”

Another man apologized for being an independent, before announcing he was switching to become a Democrat, generating a loud round of applause.

Kathy Castor is right calling ‘extreme vetting’ order immoral, un-American

It might be easy to dismiss the harsh comments by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa regarding President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order that called for “extreme vetting” of potential refugees from seven Muslim nations.

As Mitch Perry reported Sunday on SaintPetersBlog, Castor said, “President Trump’s executive order targeting and banning legal permanent residents and refugees from war-torn areas is illegal, immoral and un-American.  It has made us less safe.  If the president wants to empower jihadists, this is the way to do it.”

I would expect nothing less from Castor. She is reliably liberal. She is from the opposition party, and Trump’s action is right in the Democrats’ you-were-warned wheelhouse. And she was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton.

There is something else to keep in mind, though. In my dealings with Castor, I have found her concern for all people to be genuine and deep. She also is extremely smart and usually says exactly what she believes.

I don’t think she was just trying to make political hay here. I think she was trying to make an important point before this deeply divided nation drives off the edge of the cliff and careens into the abyss.

Did I say divided?

For all the notoriety about President Trump’s Twitter habits, his Facebook page is what raised my eyebrows Monday morning.

His statement explaining the executive order had more than 574,000 reactions – most of which appeared to be positive. The statement also had been shared with other Facebook users more than 213,000 times. And he is doing exactly what he promised to do if elected. More than a few people have said they find that refreshing.

There appeared to be thousands of comments under the statement – I didn’t have time to count them all – and most of them (but not all) were supportive of the president.

One reader noted, “If you’re saying you’re doing this to keep America safe, and now you’re saying you’re doing the same thing President Obama did (in 2011, when he restricted visas for refugees from Iraq), then why did you waste all your time during your campaign saying Obama did nothing to keep America safe?

“And if he’s doing the same thing Obama did, then why are his supporters praising him now but trashed Obama during his entire presidency?”

C’mon, we know the answer to that.

President Trump is playing politics.

The reality of his administration is matching his campaign rhetoric, and it puts Florida (of course) in the middle of the maelstrom. Perhaps inspired by Trump’s jingoistic rants, Gov. Rick Scott last week promised economic reprisals against Florida ports that do business with Cuba.

Part of his reasoning: security.

That seems to be a catch-all word when politicians want to pander to jittery voters. Republicans have demanded tighter border security for years and now they will have it. But at what cost?

Go back to what Castor said about this being “immoral.”

President Trump said Christian refugees would get priority for admission to the U.S. I’m no constitutional scholar, but that sounds dangerously like establishing Christianity as the national religion – something expressly forbidden by the First Amendment. And if we turn our backs on refugees driven from their land by war, that’s not exactly the Christian response.

Our enemies will use that as propaganda, so Castor is right that it will empower jihadists. Our friends will think Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill has turned dark and foreboding.

Castor is right when she says that is un-American. This is not who we are. If we’re not careful, though, that’s who we’re going to be.

 

Blake Dowling: Tech, politics & the Simpsons

The marriage of technology and politics is like the pairing of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise – a big mess (minus the Scientology shenanigans of course).

Hillary emails, Trump tweets, Ashley Madison’s hack … there’s always something to keep your eye on. Always will be.

With breaches and exposure around every corner, certain key figures inside our government use apps for communication that disappear after a certain amount of time. If any of you readers in Florida Politics-land have teenagers, I’m sure you’ve seen Snapchat on their phone.

Unlike texts, where you can read what they are up to, Snapchat messages vanish.

Well, now there is a Snapchat for adults, and one of those messaging apps is called Signal.

Signal uses end-to-end encrypted messaging; providers keep no record of private communications.

That’s all good to keep national security concerns (and illicit affairs) on the down low? Not so fast.

There’s a little thing called the “Presidential Records Act.” It requires elected officials to keep track of all communications.

For those who care about this sort of thing, it’s driving them crazy – Kitty-Dukakis-guzzling-rubbing-alcohol sort of crazy.

Experts say these officials are breaking retention laws and hiding from public scrutiny. The whole deal is a recipe for corruption, they warn.

Here’s some advice for all involved. If you don’t want anyone to see it, don’t put it in writing, don’t say it on the phone. Ane when you talk in person and cover your mouth like an NFL coach on the sidelines. Capish?

Get on Predict It, and take your best guess on how long before an official charge is made. A month? A week? Place your bets.

If you aren’t familiar with Predict It, you’re really missing the boat. Think Vegas + politics.

Forget sports betting, try making a bet on how many tweets Trump will spit out in a week.

The app is advertised as a “real-money political prediction market.” If you think you know politics, log on — before Predict It becomes illegal too, that is.

There is a lot to take in here. Let’s close with America’s favorite animated family — The Simpsons.

Did you know that in an episode aired 2000 (“Bart to the Future”), guess who was president? That’s right, Donald Trump.

It’s all real folks, and it’s coming at you like a warm can of Budweiser shaken for about five minutes. You just can’t make this stuff up, it’s called 2017.

Who knows? Maybe I will run for office. Let’s do this!

 ___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com

Political football: For some, Super Bowl reflects U.S. divide

Not even the grandest of American sports spectacles is immune to the nation’s deep political divisions.

Patriots fans have spent nearly two full seasons being reminded of the close friendship between President Donald Trump and their team’s three top figures — owner Robert Kraft, star quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.

As the Super Bowl approaches, that has put the typically united Patriots Nation at odds over how hard to celebrate a team chasing its fifth Super Bowl win under Brady and Belichick. New England faces the Atlanta Falcons on Feb. 5.

Some fans in the northeastern states that backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November presidential election say they’re struggling to reconcile their football loyalties with their distaste for Trump. Many other fans — more than 1 million people voted for Trump in Massachusetts alone, Clinton won by less than 3,000 votes in New Hampshire and Trump picked up one of four electoral votes in Maine — say critics are simply injecting politics where it doesn’t belong.

“It’s pathetic. We have a double standard where if you admit you like Trump, you get blasted by the media,” said Brian Craig, a Lowell, Massachusetts, Republican who voted for Trump. “If Brady endorsed Hillary, no one would care.”

Plenty of people put politics aside completely when they root for their teams. But after an election that magnified the country’s deep differences of opinion, the Super Bowl matchup offers easy symbolic foils for anyone inclined to play politics.

Trump’s friendship with Brady has been fodder for sports talk radio and local news in New England since September 2015, when one of Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” hats was spotted in Brady’s locker and the quarterback said it would be “great” if the GOP hopeful in a crowded primary field won it all.

Most of Atlanta is represented by longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who has been excoriated by Trump because he boycotted the inauguration and doesn’t consider Trump a “legitimate” president because of intelligence reports of Russian involvement in the election. Trump won Georgia in November with more than 2 million votes.

“It’s been very tough,” said Segun Idowu, a Boston civil rights activist who grew up in Massachusetts, went to college in Atlanta, voted for Clinton and will likely be rooting for the Patriots. “The Trump versus Lewis metaphor seems apt to me.”

Patrick Dugan, a Clinton voter from West Hartford, Connecticut, said his Patriots fanhood has become “increasingly lukewarm” because of the team’s Trump connections.

“You can’t put that genie back in the bottle,” he said. “It’s out there at this point. And once it’s out there, it colors how you look at them, whether you want it to or not.”

Trump drew attention to his relationships with the Patriots several times throughout his campaign and leading up to his inauguration, including an election eve rally where he read a glowing letter from Belichick and claimed Brady voted for him, prompting a denial from the quarterback’s supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen.

Brady, for his part, hasn’t revealed his vote and questioned this week why his long friendship with Trump is “such a big deal” after being asked whether he called the Republican to congratulate him, as Trump claimed in a speech attended by Kraft the night before his inauguration.

“If you know someone, it doesn’t mean that you agree with everything they say or do,” Brady said.

Indeed, few recent marriages of sports and politics have caused this much hand-wringing. There was relatively little furor when basketball megastar LeBron James — fresh off winning a title for the Cleveland Cavaliers — endorsed and stumped for Clinton in his home state of Ohio, which Trump won anyway; or when now-ousted Bills coach Rex Ryan introduced Trump at a campaign rally in Buffalo last year.

As president, Trump drew on his sports connections when he tapped New York Jets owner Woody Johnson as the next U.S. ambassador to Britain. And Peyton Manning, the retired Denver Broncos quarterback who won the Super Bowl last year, joined Trump and other leaders in Philadelphia on Thursday night as Republican lawmakers gathered to map out their congressional agenda.

Conversations on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks show the Patriots have certainly won over some new fans because of the Trump ties.

And many in Patriots Nation are certainly dreaming of sweet revenge if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has to hand the championship trophy to Brady. Goodell suspended Brady for four games at the start of this season for using underinflated footballs in a playoff game, a case that winded through two federal courts and spurred lots of disdain for Goodell among Patriots fans.

For plenty of others, the Trump association is just another reason to dislike a franchise that’s enjoyed unprecedented success but has also been the part of two high-profile cheating scandals (“Spygate” and “Deflategate”) and whose coach cultivates a gruff, stand-offish persona.

“I want the Falcons to win for normal sports fan reasons, but I want the Patriots to lose in embarrassing fashion for political reasons,” said Todd Moye, who grew up in Atlanta and now lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

As the Super Bowl approaches, some skeptical New Englanders say they’ve made their peace with politics and, for now, are just focused on the game.

“I have family members who support Trump. I’m not going to write them off, either,” said Clinton voter Jack Peterson of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. “You just try to compartmentalize.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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