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Miami GOP rainmaker Mike Fernandez endorses Patrick Murphy, gives $100K

Mike Fernandez is backing Democrat Patrick Murphy in his race against Republican Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate.

Fernandez, the Miami billionaire who is one of the nation’s largest GOP funders, announced his support of Murphy to the Miami Herald Friday morning. He told reporters the main reason he’s voting for Murphy is the Jupiter Democrat’s support for lifting the Cuba embargo.

As well as voting for Murphy, the Herald also reports Fernandez has given $100,000 to a pro-Murphy super PAC.

Fernandez has been a longtime Republican fundraiser — giving more than $3 million this cycle to a super PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s presidential run — and briefly served as finance chair for Gov. Rick Scott‘s 2014 re-election bid.

However, in September Fernandez announced he was formally endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

Jeanette Rubio highlights husband’s support of the Girls Count Act in new ad

Jeanette Rubio is praising her husband’s work against human trafficking in a new campaign ad.

The Marco Rubio campaign released a new advertisement Friday featuring the Miami Republican’s wife. The 30-second spot gives Jeanette Rubio a chance to highlight the Girls Count Act, which helps ensure children in developing countries are registered at birth.

“Human trafficking is a tragedy. Of all the things Marco has done, the Girls Count Act is the one thing I’m most proud of,” says Jeanette Rubio in the advertisement. “Marco wrote the law that forces any country in the word that receives American aid to give little girls birth certificates when they are born. It doesn’t sound like much, but that one thing could save thousands of girls, and even if it just saves one, it is truly a blessing.”

According to Girl Up, a program run by the United Nations Foundation, one in 12 people around the world is a girl or young woman between the ages of 10-24. The organization reported most developing counties did not account for the number of girls in their population. In some countries, the reason might be that they don’t have the capacity to do it, while some “don’t prioritize girls.”

“This means that as a girl grows up it will be difficult, if not impossible, for her to attend school or get a job. She will not be able to own her own land or start her own business,” according to the Girl Up website. “She will not be able to vote.  She will likely be confined to the home and left unpaid — an invisible member of society.”

President Barack Obama signed the bill, which was sponsored by Rubio, into law in June 2015.

“There is a massive worldwide problem involving boys and especially girls for whom no official records exist because they were not registered at birth,” said Rubio in a March 2015 statement introducing the bill. “This leaves them vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation, but it also leaves them excluded from accessing basic services in their countries, such as education.”

Rubio faces Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Nov. 8 general election. Rubio has been leading in the polls for months, with RealClearPolitics showing he has an average 3.6 percent lead over Murphy.

Marco Rubio rallies the faithful during Naples stop

Sen. Marco Rubio used a stop in deep-red Collier County to gin up supporters and encourage Floridians to get out and vote.

The Miami Republican held a get-out-the vote rally in Naples on Thursday. The campaign stop came just one day after the second and final U.S. Senate debate, and Rubio used the stop to hammer Rep. Patrick Murphy over his limited congressional accomplishments.

“I’m running against someone who has been in Congress for four years; he’s not a theory, he’s not a businessman that’s coming in from the outside,” he told a crowd of about 200 people at 7th Avenue Social in downtown Naples, one block from a popular early voting location. “He’s been in Congress for four years, and yet he’s never had a bill that he wrote that has been passed into law.”

Rubio resorted to familiar attacks, pointing to claims Murphy padded his resume. The claims have been a frequent point of contention during the election, and have been at the center of several attack ads.

He criticized Murphy, honing in on comments the Treasure Coast Democrat made during the debate Wednesday.

“(He said) ‘when I got to Congress I started a bipartisan group. So I just passed all these laws, I’m banned from going to Nicaragua, I’m banned from going to Venezuela … and he’s bragging about starting a club,” said Rubio. “We cannot afford a U.S. senator from one of the most important states in the country that can’t get things done on behalf of you.”

The rally was meant to energize supporters in a deep red county. There are 199,889 registered voters in Collier County, 51 percent of whom are registered Republicans.

He hoped to tap back into that support network Thursday, encouraging the crowd to “vote early.”

“Vote once, and vote right,” he said, after joking he wanted to tell supporters to vote early and often. “We’ll win; we’ll turn this country around. We’re going to leave our children as the freest and most prosperous Americans that ever lived, and Florida as most prosperous state in America.”

According to the Division of Elections, as of Thursday more than 2.4 million had already cast their ballots.

“We’re not just choosing between political parties and ideologies, we’re choosing between two very different destinies: An America greater and ever more prosperous than before, or a once-great nation in decline,” said Rubio. “That is the crossroads with which we are at, and we must make a choice right now and it begins in this election.”

Marco Rubio: ‘I don’t have any plan, any intention, any desire to run for office in 2020’

Marco Rubio sidestepped questions about Donald Trump, saying voters “will have to make their own decisions” about the Republican nominee.

“I think every race has to stand on its own; I’ve said that from the beginning,” said Rubio, following a campaign stop in Naples on Thursday. “If he wins, that doesn’t mean I win. If he loses, that doesn’t mean I lose. I think every candidate is going to have to stand on their own merits and their own ideas.”

The Miami Republican has been criticized in recent weeks for his continued support of Trump. Rep. Patrick Murphy continually brought up the New York businessman during a televised debate Wednesday, and has been hammering Rubio over his decision to back him.

But Rubio said he has “strong disagreements” with both candidates, and backs Trump because he doesn’t “want Hillary Clinton to be president.”

“People look at this (race) and say these are not ideal choices,” said Rubio. “But that’s one of the reasons I ran for Senate, because I know no matter who wins, we’re going to have to have a strong Senate.”

Rubio announced he was running for re-election just days before the qualifying deadline. His decision came after he repeatedly said he would not run for re-election after mounting a failed presidential bid.

Whether Rubio would run for president again in 2020 has been a question from opponents and on the campaign trail. During the first U.S. Senate debate, he said he planned to serve a full six-year term. He reiterated that Thursday, telling reporters he doesn’t plan to run in 2020.

“If I wanted to run for president, I wouldn’t have run for Senate. This is the toughest swing state in the country, and I got in at the very last minute after running a presidential race, so I’m focused on serving in the Senate,” said Rubio. “I don’t have any plan, any intention, any desire to run for any other office in 2020. I look forward to being in the Senate for six years and achieving a lot on behalf of our state.”

Marco Rubio campaign reports raising $2.85M

Sen. Marco Rubio raised nearly $3 million ahead of the election, his campaign announced this week.

The campaign announced Thursday that Rubio raised $2.85 million in 19 days. According to the campaign, $1.74 million of that went directly to the campaign, while 1.1 million went to the “Rubio Victory Committee.”

According to the most recent campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission, Rubio raised more than $11.1 million through Sept. 30. Reports show he had $5.5 million cash-on-hand at the end of September.

The campaign announced its fundraising totals shortly after the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported Rep. Patrick Murphy loaned his campaign $1 million in October to pay for TV time in the final weeks of the election.

Federal campaign finance records show Murphy raised $13 million through Sept. 30. He reported having nearly $2.8 million cash-on-hand at the end of the month.

Campaigns are required to file pre-general election campaign reports by Thursday. Neither campaign’s report was immediately available Thursday afternoon.

Iraq veteran says Marco Rubio insulted Kurdish forces in Senate debate

While discussing U.S. policy in Syria during the Senate debate between Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy in Davie on Wednesday night, Rubio one-upped his Democratic opponent by chiding him for saying that the Kurdish resistance fighters known as the Peshmerga were fighting in Iraq, not Syria. Now a Democratic Representative and Iraq veteran is calling on Rubio to apologize for “using these brave soldiers as a punchline.”

“As a veteran of the war in Iraq, I know exactly what kind of sacrifice the Kurdish forces are making right now in the fight to recapture Mosul in Iraq,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, in a statement released by the Murphy campaign after the debate. “The Peshmerga are some of the world’s bravest and most elite warriors. They have been some of our strongest allies in the multidimensional regional battle to defeat ISIS, a conflict that recognizes no national borders. Patrick was right — the Kurdish fighters are key in the fight against ISIS.”

The remark occurred when the Miami Herald’s Patricia Mazzei asked about how the candidates would deal with the more than five-year conflict in Syria. Rubio said currently it was important to ensure the war-torn nation not become a safe haven for terrorists.

Murphy said it was crucial to get rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that meant maintaining alliances with various actors in the Middle East.

Rubio countered by saying he wasn’t sure what alliances Murphy was referring to, “The one with the Kurds? The Syrian Kurds or the Turks? This is the situation this president has put us in.”

“It is important to note how many factions are in Syria right now,” responded Murphy. “Whether it’s the Kurds or the Peshmerga, Iraq, Hezbollah, Russia, the moderate rebel forces that we have tried to arm in many ways, and it’s important to talk about them.” He then pivoted towards denouncing Rubio for supporting Donald Trump, who he said wants to “tear up those alliances.”

The moderator indicated that the exchange was spent, but Rubio said he needed to get in a response.

“Congressman there are no Peshmerga in Syria. The Peshmerga are Iraqi,” Rubio said.

Murphy interjected, saying, “Yes, and they are helping us fight.”

“In Iraq, not in Syria,” Rubio responded. “The Syrian Kurds, in fact, don’t get along with the Iraqi Kurds which is adding more complexity to the region.”

In fact, there are reports Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have entered into the fighting in Syria.

Al-Jazeera reported in July that some Peshmerga soldiers held back from the front line in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq have crossed the border into Syria to fight with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, where soldiers can move from unit to unit with fewer restrictions.

The Murphy camp also provided a link to a CNN story from 2014 reporting of Iraqi-Kurdish Peshmerga fighters arriving in the besieged northern Syrian city of Kobani. And they trotted out Rep. Gallego, who was in the hall watching and supporting Murphy during the debate, to rebut Rubio’s comment.

“Tonight, Marco Rubio tried to use these brave soldiers as a punch line,” Gallego said Wednesday night. “He should apologize to our allies as they are fighting and dying on the battlefield right now. If Marco Rubio actually showed up to work at the Senate, he would know better than to insult the people fighting this war.”

The Rubio campaign maintains the Peshmerga are not the primary Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria.

“Marco met with Iraqi Kurds earlier this year in Erbil,” said Olivia Perez-Cubas, a Rubio spokeswoman, on Thursday. “The Peshmerga, who are Iraqi Kurds, have been fantastic allies in the fight against ISIL in Iraq. They are not the primary Kurdish force fighting ISIL in Syria. Patrick Murphy claims to be a national security expert but yet again appears to be embellishing his resume.”

Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy spar over policy, fall back on old attacks

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy tried to to focus largely on policy during a televised debate Wednesday, but neither man could escape from attacks that have dogged them for months.

Rubio was blasted for his attendance record, one of the worst in the Senate, while Murphy was criticized his limited record congressional accomplishments. And while neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump were anywhere near the Broward College stage, both presidential hopefuls loomed large over the debate.

The debate — hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association — was the second, and likely final, time the two men shared a stage this election cycle. And it comes as Rubio continues to lead in the polls.

RealClearPolitics, a polling aggregation website, has Rubio ahead by an average of 3.6 percentage points, while Bloomberg Politics poll released earlier Wednesday showed the Miami Republican leading by 10 points.

“Here’s the choice in this election, because elections are at their best when they’re about clear choices, and this election is a clear choice,” said Rubio. “I have real, concrete achievements I can point to, things I’ve been able to do for the state of Florida. He’s been there for four years, and no one’s even noticed. This is a clear … difference.”

More than 2 million ballots have already been cast ahead of the Nov. 8 general election, and millions more people are expected to vote during the early voting period.

“Florida deserves a senator that’s going to show up to work, somebody who is going to roll up their sleeves and get things done for Florida,” said Murphy. “There’s way too much at stake to have a missing senator. We have to do more.”

Both men tried to use the debate to draw clear differences from their opponent on a variety of issues, including Cuba and the Supreme Court.

The issue of health care has loomed large in recent days, after federal officials announced premiums are expected to go up significantly next year under the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. Premiums for a mid-level plan are expected to increase an average of 25 percent across 39 states, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. And about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from.

Murphy has long said he supports the health care law, and defended that position Wednesday, while also saying there needs to be changes to make the program more affordable.

“There’s no question the Affordable Care Act was a huge step forward for our country. But the focus now has to be getting it right, working across the aisle to ensure we are fixing it, making sure we have more coverage for more people that’s affordable,” he said. “I believe we can do that, but you have to show up for work and you have to be working across the aisle.”

Murphy said Rubio has spent his time in office trying to undermine the healthcare law. Rubio opposed the Affordable Care Act, and has said he would repeal it.

But Rubio said he doesn’t want to go back to the “old system,” instead a proposing tax credits to allow Americans to buy health insurance and creating a high risk pool for people who have difficulty getting insurance.

“That is a much better approach than the system we have now, where you are forcing people on Obamacare because if they don’t they’ll get fined on their taxes,” he said.

The two men also squared off on the economy. While Florida has made gains in recent years, wages have generally been flat.

Murphy said the government should invest more in education and infrastructure to help boost wages. He also said the country needs to raise the minimum wage, saying lawmakers can “do more to help them out.”

“Anyone who is willing to work a full time job in this country shouldn’t be living in poverty,” said Murphy, who supports raising the minimum wage.

Rubio shot back, saying he understands what people are going through. He said the wage gap isn’t the only problem, the increase in the cost of living is also stretching working families thin.

“We have to become more competitive by rolling back taxes, especially on small businesses, and rolling back the regulatory burden,” said Rubio. “And we need to diversify our education choices. It doesn’t just have to be a four-year degree. We need more vocational training … we need more alternatives to traditional higher education.”

__The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Poll: Marco Rubio 40%, Patrick Murphy 38%

Sen. Marco Rubio has a narrow lead over Rep. Patrick Murphy, according to a new poll of likely Florida voters.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows 40 percent of likely voters said they were backing Rubio in the U.S. Senate race, while 38 percent picked Murphy. The poll found 12 percent of voters either didn’t know or refused to say and 6 percent said they were voting for someone else.

Murphy has the support from 74 percent of Democrats and 35 percent of independent voters. The survey found 6 percent of Republicans said they were backing him.

Rubio, the poll found, has the backing of 79 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of independent voters. He also has support from across the aisle, with support from 13 percent of likely Democratic voters.

The online poll of 1,532 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 5 through Oct. 12.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll is in line with other recent surveys, which showed a tight race between the two men. According to RealClearPolitics, Rubio has an average 3.4 percentage point lead over Murphy.

The two men are scheduled to meet Wednesday for their second debate of the election cycle. The one-hour, televised debate, hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association, kicks off at 7 p.m. at Broward College in Davie. The debate will be broadcast in each of Florida’s 11 media markets and simulcast on Florida Public Radio member stations.

Patrick Murphy campaign releases new digital ad featuring Barack Obama

Rep. Patrick Murphy is getting a bit more help from President Barack Obama.

The Murphy campaign released a new digital spot Friday highlighting Obama’s comments about Murphy. The president campaigned in Miami on Thursday, and used a bit of his speech to encourage Floridians to send Murphy to the U.S. Senate.

“You don’t need to wait until Nov. 8 to send Patrick Murphy to the United States Senate. And Patrick Murphy, unlike his opponent, he actually shows up to work. Unlike his opponent he didn’t try to defund Planned Parenthood. He didn’t walk away from Florida’s Hispanic community when the politics got tough,” the president is shown saying in the advertisement.

“He fought for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Unlike his opponent, Patrick actually believes in science and believes in the effects of climate change. The point is, you deserve leaders who show up to work, who want equal pay for equal work for women.”

This isn’t the first time Obama has given the Murphy campaign a helping hand. In recent months, he’s taped a TV spot for Murphy’s campaign, penned a letter encouraging Floridians to vote for Murphy in the primary, and even sent a fundraising appeal to supporters.

Both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Murphy, and both helped raise campaign cash for Murphy ahead of his primary.

And the new digital ad comes days after the campaign released a new Spanish-language ad featuring the president.

“President Obama knows this election is critical for Florida families and I am humbled to have him standing with me in this campaign,” said Murphy in a statement Friday. “For the past eight years, the president has led the way in the fight to protect our environment, defend women’s health care, and fix our broken immigration system. We have to build on that legacy. We can’t fall backwards. That’s why I’m in this fight. Marco Rubio stands with Donald Trump and special interests. I stand with President Obama and Florida families. I will always show up and fight for this state.”

A new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed a dead heat between Murphy and Sen. Marco Rubio. According to the poll, 49 percent of Floridians said they were backing Rubio, compared to 47 percent who picked Murphy.

The poll of 660 likely Florida voters was conducted from Oct. 10 through Oct. 16. It has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

Joe Henderson: ‘Checkmate’ in the Marco Rubio-Patrick Murphy debate

In the game of chess, it is called “checkmate.”

It is that moment when a player realizes their opponent just cut off their last route of escape.

I think that’s the gambit Marco Rubio sprung on Democrat Patrick Murphy during their U.S. Senate debate Monday night.

One of the best lines of attack for Murphy was that Rubio hadn’t committed to serving the full six-year term that goes with being a senator. The implication was this young man in a hurry was at it again, using the Senate as just a parking spot until he could accomplish his real ambition — winning the presidency.

It was a strong argument, especially given Rubio’s shoddy attendance record during his first term in office.

But then Rubio broke the news in the faceoff with the following statement: “I am going to serve in the Senate for the next six years.”

Say what? Does this mean you’re not going to run for president in the next election, Rubio was asked?

“I am going to be a senator for the next six years on behalf of the state of Florida.”

Whether he actually keeps that vow is fodder for future debates and campaigns. After all, he also promised repeatedly he wasn’t going to run for re-election to the Senate, and here we are.

That apparently hasn’t bothered voters, though. Rubio has a lead in the polls hovering around seven points, and with early voting already underway, Rubio could be difficult to catch in the final three weeks before the election. That’s why Murphy needed a decisive, headline-grabbing debate to swing attention back on his side.

He didn’t get it, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Murphy punched hard from the outset, quickly trying to link Rubio with Donald Trump. Murphy pointed out that Trump had essentially humiliated Rubio during the campaign, raising the question of why he hasn’t refused to endorse Trump’s volatile White House bid.

“Senator, if you can’t stand up to him as a candidate, how will you do that as president?” Murphy asked.

Rubio had a good answer.

“I think it’s pretty clear Donald Trump is not my first choice, or even my 10th choice,” he said.

And after jabbing Murphy for his unqualified support of Hillary Clinton, Rubio added, “I have deep reservations about the nominee of my party.”

With that settled, the debate settled into a predictable formula. Rubio criticized Murphy for his well-publicized overstatements about his qualifications. Murphy hit hard on Rubio’s poor attendance record.

My guess is voters made up their minds about those issues a long time ago. What was hovering out there was Rubio’s willingness to commit to serving a full term in the Senate.

With his promise, Rubio may have removed the last bit of major uncertainty the public had about his actual interest in doing the job. If voters decide he means what he says … checkmate.

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