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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.

Mother of Pulse victim criticizes Marco Rubio in new Patrick Murphy ad

The mother of one of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims is sounding off in a new advertisement for Rep. Patrick Murphy.

The Murphy campaign released a new TV spot Monday, ahead of the first U.S. Senate debate between Murphy and Sen. Marco Rubio. The 30-second spot features Christine Leinonen, whose son Christopher Leinonen was killed in the June attack on the Orlando nightclub.

In the ad, Leinonen criticizes Rubio for not taking action following the shooting.

“He was shot nine times. He didn’t have a chance, and he’s just one of over a hundred people who were shot. He was half my heart. I’ve lost half of who I am,” she says about her son in the ad. “I cannot understand how Marco Rubio would go back to Washington, D.C., and do nothing. I don’t think Patrick Murphy is afraid to take on the toughest problems, including gun violence, in this country.”

This isn’t the first time Leinonen has spoken out about the need for gun reform. She spoke during the Democratic National Convention, calling for commonsense gun policies.

She was among those members of the Pride Fund who threw their support behind Murphy. At the time, she said Murphy will “fight for the gun violence prevention measures that will help keep our families safe.”

A gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens more when he stormed a gay nightclub in Orlando in June.

Murphy faces Rubio in the Nov. 8 general election. In a statement Monday, Murphy said Rubio “never found the courage to stand” with Leinonen.

“Marco Rubio went back to Washington and stood with the gun lobby to oppose commonsense measures that would help keep Florida families safe. Marco Rubio puts the gun lobby before Floridians every time,” said Murphy in a statement. “I’m fighting for Christine, for those we lost at Pulse, and for Florida families across our state. We have a responsibility to act and Floridians deserve a real leader in the U.S. Senate.”

Democrats throughout Florida call on GOP opponents to denounce #TrumpTapes vulgar comments

A newly released videotape showing Donald Trump making crude comments about a married woman he tried to seduce is sending shock waves throughout Florida politics.

“I’ve said some foolish things,” the Republican presidential nominee said overnight Friday in a taped apology posted on Facebook. “But there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women.”

But Florida Democratic candidates statewide are not letting Trump off the hook so easily. Nearly all of them are calling for the Republican nominee — as well their opponents who support him — to either clarify their position or withdraw from the race.

U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy released a statement Saturday calling Trump’s comments “disgusting,” blasting his opponent, incumbent Republican Marco Rubio, for giving a tepid response.

“While prominent Republicans like Senators Mike Crapo and Kelly Ayotte have already withdrawn their endorsements,” Murphy writes. “Marco Rubio issued a tweet with empty rhetoric and continues to stand by his choice for President.”

“Donald Trump’s comments are sickening, inexcusable and dangerous,” Murphy said. “They contribute to a culture that devalues women and makes our society unsafe … Trump is an unhinged misogynist who has no place anywhere near our country’s highest office.”

Murphy points out Rubio claims he ran for re-election to serve as a check on the next president, even if that president was Trump.

“But how can he serve as a check on a Trump presidency if he won’t even hold Trump accountable as a candidate?” Murphy concluded. “If Senator Rubio cannot withdraw his endorsement after this latest sickening news, then he should withdraw from the race.”

Randy Perkins, who faces Republican Brian Mast in the race for Florida’s 18th Congressional District, says that his opponent has regularly ignored the regular flow of Trump’s “crude comments about women.”

In a statement, Perkins accuses Mast of continuing to support Trump, despite frequent comments the GOP nominee made about women, including calling them “fat pigs … dogs … and slobs” and talking about prenuptial agreements as, “There are three types of women, all gold diggers.”

“I am deeply disturbed and disgusted, not only as a husband and a father, but as a human being,” Perkins said. “Bragging about groping women is never acceptable, and this type of language can never be tolerated or condoned.

“This is why I’m calling on Brian Mast to officially revoke his endorsement of Trump’s candidacy for president,” he added. Many prominent Republicans, including Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, have had the courage to denounce Trump’s vile rhetoric toward women, but, unfortunately, Brian has yet to take their lead.”

Perkins concludes with a question: “Whose side is Brian on, the people of District 18 or Trump?”

David Singer, the Democratic candidate for Florida House District 60, calls it a simple issue of “right versus wrong.” He also demanded Jackie Toledo, his Republican opponent for the Hillsborough County-based seat, to immediately denounce Trump’s remarks.

“As a husband and the father of two young daughters,” Singer said in an email. “I am horrified at Donald Trump’s comments. What he described as his normal behavior with women is criminal sexual assault, plain and simple.

“Anyone who seeks public office should immediately condemn him and call for him to drop out of this race as he is unfit to serve. This is not an issue of left versus right. This is an issue of right versus wrong. This does not reflect the values of our community.

“I am joining Democrats, Independents and Republicans across the country who are calling on him to leave this race. I hope that Jackie Toledo would immediately disavow him as well and join with us in opposing his candidacy.

“At the very least, I would hope that she will finally state that she will not vote for him. If she won’t reject Donald Trump’s candidacy after this, she should tell us what it would take.”

Former Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl refers to the release of the video — now trending on Twitter as #TrumpTapes — as the “Moraitis Moment.”

Keechl, a Democrat running for House District 93, was referring to his Republican opponent, incumbent state Rep. George Moraitis, who took to the stage last month to introduce Trump in Broward County.

“He is the kind of President that I want,” Moraitis had said at the rally.

Keechl is demanding an apology.

“The country, and world, now have seen what many Republicans, Democrats and Independents have known for so long — Donald Trump is offensive and demeaning to women and his words on the video released yesterday only show how disgusting and hurtful he is,” Keechl said in a statement. “If my opponent stays silent — or worse — continues to endorse and support Donald Trump, then he not only condones Donald Trump’s words and action, but he too will owe Broward residents an apology.”

Marco Rubio at 48%, Patrick Murphy at 44% in new Quinnipiac University poll

The race for the U.S. Senate is close, with just four percentage points separating Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy.

A new Quinnipiac University poll found Rubio has a slight edge over Murphy, with 48 percent of voters backing the Miami Republican. The survey found 44 percent of respondents said they were supporting Murphy.

“Sen. Marco Rubio has led in the polls for re-election since he changed his mind and decided to seek a second term,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a statement. “But his margin over U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, the Democratic challenger, has never been large enough to make Sen. Rubio comfortable.”

Rubio’s lead over Murphy narrowed since Quinnipiac’s last U.S. Senate poll. That survey, released in early September, showed Rubio at 50 percent and Murphy at 43 percent.

The latest poll showed Rubio leads among independent voters, 52 percent to 41 percent. He also leads among male voters, 59 percent to 30 percent, and white voters. Among white voters with a college degree, Rubio leads Murphy 54 percent to 38 percent. He also leads the Treasure Coast Democrat among white voters without a college degree, 61 percent to 36 percent.

“It looks like the battle to control the U.S. Senate will go down to the campaign’s final days,” said Brown in a memo, noting races in Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania could be key to deciding which party will control the Senate.

According to a Real Clear Politics average of polls, Rubio has a lead of 5.2 points over Murphy. The website has ranked the state’s U.S. Senate race as a “toss-up.” While the Quinnipiac University poll didn’t include a breakdown of demographics, its results are similar to other polls released recently. According to the Miami Herald, a new poll from Associated Industries of Florida showed Rubio was leading Murphy, 48 percent to 39 percent among likely Hispanic voters.

The survey of 545 likely Florida voters was conducted from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2. It has a margin of error of 4.2 percent.

Patrick Murphy raises $3.3M in third quarter

Rep. Patrick Murphy raised more than $3 million in the third quarter of 2016.

The Murphy campaign announced Monday it raised $3.3 million in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30. Campaign finance records were not immediately available on the Federal Election Commission’s website.

“I am so humbled by the grassroots support our campaign has received. It is clear that Floridians are ready for a Senator who shows up and fights for them in the U.S. Senate,” said Murphy in a statement. “This election is critical for our state and families and I will not let them down. I look forward to continuing to share my message with Floridians and working hard for every vote until Election Day.”

Records show Murphy raised $1 million between July 1 and Aug. 10. At the time, the campaign reported it had $3.9 million cash on hand.

Murphy faces Sen. Marco Rubio in the Nov. 8 general election. Records show Rubio raised $3.2 million between July 1 and Aug. 10. He had more than $4.6 million cash on hand at the end of reporting period.

Florida Chamber poll shows Marco Rubio at 46%, Patrick Murphy at 42%

Another day, another poll showing a close race between Rep. Patrick Murphy and Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Florida Chamber Political Institute released a new poll Monday that showed Rubio and Murphy were locked into a tight race. The survey found Rubio was at 46 percent, while Murphy was at 42 percent. Eleven percent of Floridians polled said they were undecided.

The poll of 617 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 15 through Sept. 20. The survey has a margin of error of 4 percent.

According to the Florida Chamber Political Institute, Rubio leads Murphy among Hispanics, 46 percent to 43 percent. He also leads Murphy among white voters, 53 percent to 35 percent. Murphy, meanwhile, holds a 68 percentage point lead over Rubio among African American voters, 79 percent to 11 percent.

With just a few weeks until Election Day, Murphy appears to remain unknown. The survey found 29 percent of respondents said they had never heard of Murphy, while 22 percent said they had a favorable view of Murphy. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of Murphy.

Rubio is well known, and Floridians views seem evenly split. The survey found 43 percent of respondents said they had a favorable opinion of the Miami Democrat, while 44 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion.

Florida’s U.S. Senate race is one of the most closely watched races in the nation, and could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Bill Nelson: NASA reauthorization bill requires feet on Mars

NASA will be required to commit to putting people on Mars in the latest U.S. Senate NASA reauthorization bill, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday.

The Bill, S. 3346, was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday authorizing NASA to spend $19.6 billion budgeted for the agency and setting a few new requirements, including that NASA commit to a human settlement on Mars.

That’s NASA’s plan already, though it’ll take 20 years.

Nelson, the Orlando Democrat who sponsored the bill, declared Wednesday that provision and others aim to set consistent policy at the agency through future presidential administrations.

“Fifty-five years after President Kennedy challenged the nation to put a man on the moon, the Senate is challenging NASA to put humans on Mars,” Nelson stated in a news release issued by his office. “The priorities that we’ve laid out for NASA in this bill marks the beginning of a new era of American spaceflight.”

Not mentioned in the bill nor Nelson’s comments is neither Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton nor Republican candidate Donald Trump has said much about space policy, nor made any definite commitments for the agency’s “Journey To Mars” program, which now is driving much of NASA’s agenda.

The bill requires NASA to develop and submit a plan to Congress on a strategic framework and critical decision plan, based on current technologies, to achieve the exploration goals and objectives of a human mission to Mars.

The committee’s passage of the bill Wednesday may be significant but getting the bill into law remains a challenge. No NASA authorization bill has passed both chambers and gotten signed into law since 2010.

That earlier bill, written by Nelson and Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, remains the agency’s blueprint for operations and planning, including authorization to build America’s biggest, most powerful rocket ever, the Space Launch System, and a space capsule called Orion, which would be used to take astronauts to Mars.

S. 3346 also requires continuation of the SLS and Orion programs, as well as the agency’s commitments to encourage the development of private space companies and programs, and to turn over much of the lower-Earth orbit business to them. That includes ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station, starting as early as next year.

Patrick Murphy releases new TV spot aimed at Marco Rubio’s position on abortion

Patrick Murphy is taking a swing at Marco Rubio’s stance on abortion.

In a new advertisement, a 30-second spot called “Reckless,” the Murphy campaign tries to highlight Rubio’s position on abortions, saying the Miami Republican is “reckless on choice.” The new campaign spot comes on the heels of an endorsement from Planned Parenthood.

“Marco Rubio is reckless on a woman’s right to choose, radical in his attacks on women’s health funding, and irresponsible in his anti-woman rhetoric. Florida women deserve a senator who will stand up for their right to make their own health care decisions, but instead Marco Rubio opposes a woman’s right to chose even in cases of rape or incest,” said Murphy in a statement. “Florida families deserve a senator who will lead on funding for Zika research, but instead Marco Rubio attacked women’s health care funding. Marco Rubio has no right to make decisions for Florida women. Floridians deserve a fighter, and I will always stand with Florida women to protect their right to make their own health care decisions. I look forward to showing up and working hard as Florida’s next senator.”

Planned Parenthood announced Tuesday it was backing Murphy in the Florida’s U.S. Senate race. In a statement, Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said Murphy “has been a fighter for Florida women.”

A spokeswoman for the Rubio campaign said Murphy “is distorting Marco’s record like he distorted his own resume.”
“Not only does Murphy support using taxpayer money to fund abortions, he also supports late-term abortions,” said Olivia Perez-Cubas, a spokeswoman for the Rubio campaign. “Murphy’s extreme positions on abortion put him out of touch with the vast majority of Floridians.”

Murphy will face Rubio in the November general election. The race is expected to be close, and new polling released Tuesday showed Rubio leads Murphy, 47 percent to 45 percent.

Marco Rubio campaign hits Patrick Murphy over resume in new ad

Another day, another TV ad raising questions about Patrick Murphy’s credentials.

Marco Rubio released a new ad aimed at Murphy and allegations he embellished his resume. In June, CBS Miami ran a two-part report where it revealed he did not meet the minimum requirements to become a CPA in Florida and wasn’t a small business owner.

“In an ad called ‘Truth,’ Marco Rubio manages to lie three times in 30 seconds. These discredited lies are all Marco Rubio has to run on after he lied about showing up for Florida in the U.S. Senate and abandoned Floridians on the issues that matter,” Galia Slayen, a spokeswoman for Murphy’s campaign, said in a statement. “Marco Rubio should stop smearing Patrick and tell Floridians the truth about why he won’t commit to a full Senate term. Hint: so he can abandon Florida again to run for President in 2020.”

PolitiFact rated a similar ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee “mostly false.”

The new 30-second spot — called “Truth” and released by the campaign Tuesday — features clips of the CBS Miami report as well as a report focused on his academic achievements.

“Patrick Murphy has trouble with the truth. … No wonder a non-partisan study ranked Murphy one of the least effective members of Congress,” a narrator says in the spot. “Patrick Murphy: Just too many lies.”

Rubio faces Murphy in the November general election. The race is one of the most-watched Senate races in the nation, and outside organizations are expected to pour millions of dollars into the race.

The Rubio campaign also released a Spanish-language ad Tuesday. The spot — a translated version of one he’s already airing — is airing in Miami, according to the Miami Herald.


Poll: Marco Rubio leads Patrick Murphy, 50% to 43%

Sen. Marco Rubio has a seven-point lead in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

The survey of likely Florida voters found Rubio leads Rep. Patrick Murphy, 50 percent to 43 percent. Six percent of respondents said they still didn’t know who they would vote for.

Quinnipiac University polled 601 likely Florida voters between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7. The survey has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Rubio leads 55 percent to 35 percent among men, but lags behind Murphy when it comes to female voters. Among female voters, Murphy leads with 51 percent support, while Rubio has 45 percent.

The Miami Republican also has a leg up among white males, with 63 percent saying they would vote for him. The survey found 27 percent of white male voters picked Murphy.

The race is more evenly divided among white females, with 49 percent picking Rubio compared to 48 percent picking Murphy. Among non-white voters, Murphy received 56 percent support, while 38 percent pick Rubio.

Rubio has a double-digit lead over Murphy when it comes to independent voters. The survey found 53 percent of independent voters said they would vote for Rubio, compared to 37 percent who picked Murphy.

The race is one of the most-watched in this election cycle, and could be key to control of the Senate. Outside groups are pouring millions of dollars into the state, and both candidates have already spent weeks attacking each other.

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