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Rick Scott remains tight-lipped about U.S. Senate bid

Gov. Rick Scott remains tight-lipped about his 2018 plans, telling CNN he won’t make any decision about the U.S. Senate race until “later.”

“I’ve always said the same thing: It’s 2017. The race is in 2018. I won’t make a decision until later,” said Scott during an interview with Erin Burnett on her show Erin Burnett OutFront. “Politicians seem to worry about their next job. I’ve got 570 days to go in this job. I’m trying to make Florida No. 1 for jobs, No. 1 for people being safe … and No. 1 for education.”

Scott is widely believed to be considering a U.S. Senate run in 2018. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has already said he plans to run for re-election.

The Naples Republican has been boosting his national profile for months now. In May, he announced he would chair the New Republican, a federal super PAC aimed rebranding the Republican Party and helping President Donald Trump.

The super PAC was founded by GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, and several Scott allies have been tapped to oversee the day-to-day operations. Melissa Stone, the governor’s former chief-of-staff and campaign manager of his successful 2014 re-election campaign, serves as the executive director; while Taylor Teepel, served in the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and spent two years as former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff, is New Republican’s finance director.

If Scott decides to run, he’ll have a big-name backer. President Donald Trump has encouraged Scott to run on several occasions, including last week when they were in Miami to announce the president’s Cuba policy.

“He’s doing a great job,” the president told the crowd. “I hope he runs for the Senate.”

Scott told Burnett that wasn’t the first time Trump put him on the spot, telling Burnett that Trump “did the same thing … a week and a half ago” when he was with him at an infrastructure conference.

Florida Poll: Bill Nelson 52%, Rick Scott 37% in hypothetical 2018 U.S. Senate race

Sen. Bill Nelson holds a significant lead over Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical 2018 match-up, according to a new poll.

The survey — conducted March 28 through March 29 by Gravis Marketing for The Orlando Political Observer — found Nelson leads Scott, 52 percent to 37 percent. According to the poll, 12 percent of respondents said they were unsure who they would pick.

The poll of 1,453 registered voters, which was conducted using automated phone calls and web responses of cell phone users, has a margin of error of 2.6 percent.

That 15-point margin represents the largest spread Nelson has enjoyed in early polling. A recent Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted on behalf of the Florida Hospital Association showed a much closer race between the two men come 2018, with Nelson at 46 percent to Scott’s 44 percent.

Meanwhile, a poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce released in March showed Nelson had a 6-point lead over Scott, 48 percent to 42 percent.

That margin was similar to one predicted in a UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory survey released earlier in the month that found Nelson would take 44 percent to Scott’s 38 percent. A Mason-Dixon survey showed Nelson with a 5-point edge over Scott, 46 percent to 41 percent.

Scott, who was elected in 2010, can’t run for governor in 2018 because of term-limits. He’s been boosting his national profile in recent months, and is widely believed to be considering a U.S. Senate run.

Second poll pitting Bill Nelson and Rick Scott head-to-head gives Democrat the advantage, again

Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t announced he’s running for U.S. Senate in 2018, but a new survey shows he’s already trailing in the polls.

A poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Research shows Sen. Bill Nelson holds a five-point lead over Scott, who is widely believed to be mulling a 2018 U.S. Senate bid. Statewide, the Orlando Democrat leads Scott 46 to 41 percent, with 13 percent of respondents saying they were undecided.

The poll was first reported by POLITICO Florida.

The poll found Nelson has a big lead in Southeast Florida, where 60 percent of voters said they backed Nelson, compared to 24 percent who picked Scott. He also leads in the Tampa Bay region, 47 to 40 percent.

Scott is favored in North Florida, 56 percent to Nelson’s 34 percent. And the Naples Republican has a big lead Southwest Florida, his home turf, where 52 percent of voters backed Scott, compared to 37 percent who picked Nelson.

The poll of 625 registered Florida voters was conducted from Feb. 24 through Feb. 28. It has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Pollsters noted the outcome of the race would “likely be shaped by the political fortunes of President Donald Trump.” While Republican carried the state by one percentage point, his “personal popularity has slipped into slightly negative territory.”

“He was elected on a change message and swing voters, who have shown they are less interested in the circus, bought into his agenda. How they still feel about that agenda and his success or failure implementing it is going to be a very important factor in 2018,” according to the polling memo. “Given the narrow margin that he carried the state by, he doesn’t have much room for error in Florida.”

Marco Rubio wimps out on town halls. Are we surprised?

As we saw during the last campaign, Marco Rubio can be awfully good at not showing up. His latest no-show has nothing to do with his attendance in the U.S. Senate, though. Now, he doesn’t want to show up at town hall meetings because people might be rude.

“They’re not town halls anymore, and I wish they were because I enjoy that process very much, going back to my time as speaker of the house. I hosted over a hundred idea (meetings) around the state,” he said in an interview with CBS4 in Miami.

“But the problem now is – and it’s all in writing, I’m not making this up – what they want is for me to organize a public forum. They then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists in the two counties or wherever I am in the state.”

No, he isn’t making it up.

He is, however, wimping out.

Are we surprised?

Yes, those forums do offer those pesky Florida liberals a rare opportunity to remind Republicans that a whole lot of people want their representatives to protect health care coverage.

This is not some political talking point, either. For these folks, it’s emotional and personal, so they do heckle, they shout, they boo and they are loud. That bothers Florida’s very junior U.S. senator – although it didn’t bother him in 2010 when he was swept in by the tea party wave that wrote the book on heckling, shouting, booing and doing that at high volume.

As a first-time senate candidate, it was OK to be supported by disruptors. Those rallies took place around the country, organized at the grassroots level through websites like the Tea Party Patriots. The plan was to put the “riot” in patriot.

It worked. Rubio was elected.

Facing angry constituents didn’t stop U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis from showing up recently at multiple Pasco County meetings, nor has it stopped many of Rubio’s house and senate colleagues from facing the 50 percent of the country that doesn’t agree with them.

But not Rubio. Change of heart, I guess, after an opposition group now called Indivisible, which supports Democrats, copied those tea party guerilla tactics. The group has a game plan called “A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” It’s available on the internet for all to see.

In his interview, Rubio said, “They then, according to the document, they get there early and take up all the front seats. They spread themselves out. They cheer when the questions are asked. They are instructed to boo no matter what answer I give.

“They’re instructed to interrupt me if I go too long and start chanting things. Then, at the end, they’re instructed not to give up their microphone when asked. It’s all in writing in this Indivisible document.”

That’s sort of true, but also sort of not.

Indivisible supporters are indeed told to get there early, sit in the front, spread out. They also are instructed to “be polite but persistent, and demand real answers.”

It adds, “MoCs (members of Congress) are very good at deflecting or dodging question they don’t want to answer. If the MoC dodges, ask a follow-up. If they aren’t giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the congressman or applauding you.”

Rubio is awfully good at deflecting and dodging. He gets into trouble when strays from the talking point. In a friendly town hall, that’s OK. In a hostile setting, he might get exposed (further) as a lightweight or, as then-candidate Donald Trump liked to call him, “Little Marco.”

CBS4 host Jim DeFede started to ask, “So you don’t believe these are real …”

“They’re real people,” Rubio quickly said. “They’re real liberal activists and I respect their right to do it, but it’s not a productive exercise. It’s all designed to have news coverage at night saying, ‘Look at all these angry people screaming at their senator.’”

So instead the story becomes, look how their senator runs and hides.

Yeah, that plays well.

Bill Nelson again talking the ‘centrist’ talk regarding Supreme Court nominee

Senator Bill Nelson does a good job of talking the moderate, bipartisan approach in the U.S. Senate. In the end, he nearly always votes with the liberals in his party.

To be sure, Sen. Marco Rubio votes primarily the same way as his Republican colleagues. The difference is Rubio makes no statements about being a centrist. He makes it clear he is a conservative and votes that way.

Nelson, who is up for re-election in 2018, has a high-profile vote coming his way. In the not-too-distant future, the Senate will conduct hearings involving Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

No credible person can argue that Gorsuch is not qualified to be on the Court. Nelson and some of his colleagues will want to know where the judge stands on certain issues.

He mentions voter suppression and “unlimited money in campaigns” as two issues most important to him. Bewilderment over the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in the Hobby Lobby case, in which Gorsuch participated, clouds Nelson’s opinion of the judge.

As usual, he is saying the right things.

“Whatever the pressure is,” he told the Tampa Bay Times, “I’m going to make up my own mind as to what I think is in the best interest of our country and Florida.”

No one who is aware of Nelson’s record expects him to do anything other than vote against Gorsuch. While Gorsuch supporters are open to pleasant surprises, Nelson telegraphed his intentions when asked whether he supported a filibuster against the nomination.

“You bet I do,” he said. “The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come to the middle to build consensus.”

There is that “centrist” dialogue masking a liberal position again.

In this case, Nelson and the Democratic minority are picking the wrong fight if they try to filibuster this nominee. He does not need or want any advice from a conservative Floridian, but perhaps one of his home state newspapers might have more clout.

“Democrats are expected to vote against the nominee, likely with the dilatory move of a filibuster. They shouldn’t,” wrote the Miami Herald in a February 2 editorial titled “Don’t filibuster Supreme Court nominee.”

The paper goes on to recommend Gorsuch’s confirmation. It is safe to say the Herald does not fall into the category of a conservative organ.

A true centrist will take into account comments from people who know Gorsuch best. Jessica Greenstone, a former Gorsuch law clerk who is now a high-ranking official with the World Wildlife Fund, lays out the centrist case in a USA Today column.

Even if a Senator plans to vote “no” on a nominee, a true centrist will not participate in a filibuster in this case. The Herald editorial rightly points out that Republicans did not filibuster former President Barrack Obama’s nominees of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

While the Democrats’ outrage over the blockage of Obama nominee Judge Merrick Garland is easy to understand, it does not mean the vacancy should remain indefinitely. It was exactly one year ago that Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly.

Trump could have picked a highly polarizing figure to put on the Court, but he didn’t. As a constitutional originalist like Scalia, Gorsuch will face stiff opposition from true liberals.

A true centrist can support this nominee, but at the very least allow for an up-or-down vote.

What say you, Senator Nelson?

Report: Randolph Bracy considering 2018 U.S. Senate bid

Sen. Randolph Bracy could be eyeing higher office.

The Florida Times-Union reported Thursday that Bracy is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2018. If he decides to jump into the race, Bracy would face sitting U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a Democratic primary.

“I’m considering it; I’ll leave it there,” he told the paper.

First elected to the Florida House in 2012, Bracy won his Senate District 11 seat in November. The 39-year-old serves as the chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee and vice chairman of the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

Nelson is the only Democrat in Florida elected to statewide office, and is widely expected to run for re-election in 2018. When asked about Bracy’s possible run by the Times-Union, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party indicated Nelson would have the establishment’s backing.

Rick Scott’s political committee raises more than $2.9M in 2016

Gov. Rick Scott continued to grow his war chest in 2016, raising millions of dollars amid speculation he plans to mount a U.S. Senate bid in two years.

State records show Let’s Get to Work — the political committee that fueled Scott’s 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial races — raised more than $2.9 million in 2016. And that sum will likely rise, since the most recent campaign finance data does not include money raised in December.

The committee spent more than $2.5 million this year, including $227,666 for political consulting and $76,264 on surveys and research.

Scott can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be on the ballot. In November, Scott told reporters he was considering challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

“It’s an option,” he said at the time, according to POLITICO Florida. “It’s an option I have. But right now, my whole focus is how do I do my best job as governor.”

He could face a tough race if he decides to challenge Nelson. The Orlando Democrat has served in the U.S. Senate since 2001. A recent poll from the Florida Chamber Political Institute showed 48 percent of Floridians approve of the job Nelson is doing in the U.S. Senate. The same survey showed 53 percent of Floridians approve of the job Scott is doing as governor.

But a recent Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer indicated Nelson is the early favorite in 2018. The poll of 3,250 registered Florida voters showed the Orlando Democrat had a double-digit lead over Scott.

In a head-to-head match-up between Nelson and Scott, the poll showed Nelson would receive 51 percent compared to Scott’s 38 percent.

Rick Scott considering bid for US Senate in 2018

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who challenged the Republican establishment six years ago and stormed his way into the governor’s mansion, now says he is considering running for the U.S. Senate.

During a wide-range interview with reporters on Tuesday, Scott conceded that “an option I have” is to run for the seat held by Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018. Nelson, the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, has already said he plans to run for a fourth term.

Scott, who has already said he’s not interested in a potential job in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, didn’t lay out any kind of time table for a decision and instead said that he would continue to focus on his current post.

Scott said that in business he figured out that “if I do well every day in my job there would be a next opportunity.”

Scott was re-elected in 2014, but is limited by law from seeking another term.

Scott spoke of his intentions while attending the Republican Governors Association annual conference in Orlando where he said he was “excited” about Trump’s victory because he now had someone he could call on for help. Scott said that he had already talked to Trump three times since the election.

“I now have a president I can talk to,” said Scott, who repeatedly criticized the administration of President Barack Obama on a myriad of issues.

Scott’s bid for future office could be helped out by Trump, who Scott called a friend and said he’s someone he has known for 20 years. Scott endorsed Trump right after he won the Florida primary and stood by even as Trump came under fire for some of his comments during the campaign. He also was a chairman of a super PAC that raised $20 million that was used on ads in battleground states that were won by Trump.

Scott has compared his upstart victory in 2010 to Trump’s since the former health care executive ran against GOP favorite and then-Attorney General Bill McCollum. He noted that Republicans ran attack ads against him during the heated campaign.

During his remarks with reporters, Scott said it was time for Republicans who offered lukewarm support for Trump to now “embrace him.” He predicted that Trump could help the state on everything from flood insurance rates to securing federal funding for Everglades restoration and repairing the aging Lake Okeechobee dike.

Reprinted with the permission of the Associated Press

Marco Rubio makes closing argument in new TV ad

Sen. Marco Rubio is making his closing arguments in his final TV spot.

According to the Rubio campaign, 30-second spot, called “Debt,” is meant to discuss each generation’s “debt and duty to the next.

“America is the greatest country in the world, and keeping it that way is every generation’s debt to the next,” he says in the advertisement. “Today, our country is more divided than ever and our challenges are growing more grave, threatening who we are and everything we hope to be.”

He goes on to say the upcoming election “is about the future, and about keeping America the one place in the world where any dream can still come true.”

Rubio faces Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Nov. 8 general election. The Miami Republican has led in almost every poll since announcing his re-election bid. According to RealClearPolitics, he has an average 3.2 percentage point lead over Murphy.

Rubio is hitting the trail this weekend to rally support in the final weekend of early voting. He is expected to attend three get out the vote events Saturday, starting the day with a rally at the Sandshaker Lounge in Gulf Breeze. From there, he’ll attend a rally at RV Connections at Panama City, before wrapping up his North Florida swing at the Republican Party of Florida’s Jacksonville Beach Victory Office.

More than 5.7 million Floridians have already voted, according to the state Division of Elections. State records show nearly 2.3 million Democrats and nearly 2.3 million Republicans have voted by mail or in person during the early voting period. Democrats have edged out Republicans on early vote totals by a margin of more than 7,000 votes.

Report: FBI investigating donor scheme tied to Patrick Murphy

The FBI is investigating an alleged illegal donation scheme involving Rep. Patrick Murphy, according to a new report.

The Hill reported Tuesday that FBI is investigating a scheme involving a wealthy Saudi family that supports Murphy. According to the report, the Hill found no evidence Murphy was involved in the alleged scheme, and the campaign declined to say whether he was aware of the probe.

“This complaint was written by a Republican super PAC willing to say anything to elect Marco Rubio,” said Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp told The Hill. “Neither Patrick nor any current or past employees have ever been contacted regarding this matter, and we are confident an examination of the facts will result in its dismissal.”

According to The Hill, the investigation goes back to Murphy’s first congressional run in 2012. The claim, originally made by the Senate Leadership Fund, is that Ibrahim Al-Rashid, a friend of Murphy’s and political donor, coordinated a straw donor scheme to help Murphy.

The super PAC filed a complaint in June with the Federal Election Commission. According to The Hill, the complaint alleged 11 donors participated in a scheme to funnel contributions to Murphy.

Murphy is running against Sen. Marco Rubio in the state’s contentious U.S. Senate race. Rubio currently has an average 5.6 percentage point lead over Murphy, according to RealClearPolitics.

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