Round-up of stories about Florida and the 2012 presidential race (8/9)

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The Daily Caller – Who’s scared of Marco Rubio?
I was recently asked by Sean Hannity if Democrats were scared of Marco Rubio being the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate. The short answer is no. The long answer lies in the fact that Rubio cannot help Republicans solve their “Latino problem.” Rubio is a politico who has two bases of support: Republican Cubans and Tea Partiers. The latter could potentially help the Republican ticket, but a number of other possible vice-presidential candidates also have Tea Party cred. The former, Cubano Republicans, are a small fraction of the Latino population. More importantly, Cubanos vis-à-vis non-Cubano Latinos hold very different political preferences.
Conservative groups are making a major new push to woo Latino voters by running a series of expensive Spanish-language television ads in key Hispanic markets that depict a Latina mother turning against President Obama for his failures to halt unemployment and to reduce the national debt.
The unprecedented new ad campaign, sponsored by American Crossroads, the funding group developed by Bush presidential mastermind Karl Rove, is the clearest indication yet that America’s fastest-growing voter group is re-emerging as a critical 2012 battleground, with Latino voter swings in battleground states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada and even New Jersey increasingly likely to determine whether President Obama wins a second term.
That Rove and Co are starting this early, a full 16 months before the 2012 election, is a testament to their awareness of the long-term political stakes, but also the short-term opportunities. Democrats are kidding themselves if they think they can sit back and hope that a GOP ticket that includes the charismatic Rubio – whom GOP frontrunner nominee Mitt Romney has all but promised to choose as his running mate – won’t hold genuine appeal for Latino voters, with the economy this bad, and Latinos, like the rest of the country, facing their worst jobless rate in decades.
Leadership PACs are committees affiliated with individual politicians, but the money they raise cannot be used for that politician’s own campaign costs. Instead, they are typically used to distribute money to colleagues, often by those interested in attaining leadership positions within the party.

The politician who has doled out the next largest sum of cash behind those five party leaders? Romney, whose leadership PAC gave a combined total of $796,800 to 258 Republican candidates during the 2010 election cycle.

Twenty-one different races in Florida saw contributions from at least one Republican presidential hopeful during the 2010 election cycle, and Romney’s PAC donated to all 21. Moreover, he was the top donor on every race with the exception of one: Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.), where Sarah Palin gave $2500 more than he did.

Romney donated a flat $2,500 to 20 of these 21 races — and exceeded that amount for the state’s contentious U.S. Senate race.

Romney donated $5,125 to the Tea Party-backed U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, whose entrance into the race caused Republican Gov.Charlie Crist to launch an unsuccessful Senate bid as an independent rather than face Rubio in a primary. That sum was more than any other of Romney’s presidential rivals.

All of this information paints a picture of the depth of each candidate’s ground game.

It’s unsurprising that Romney has instituted a widespread, inter-state system of political patronage, simply by virtue of his having run unsuccessfully for the office before.

Romney’s investments in Florida, a state he narrowly lost in 2008, his dissemination of significant funds to hundreds of candidates, and his targeted patronage of big-ticket candidates and local kingmakers such as South Carolina’s Rep. Mulvaney, Florida’s Sen. Rubio, and New Hampshire’s Ovide LaMontagne — who lost a U.S. Senate primary to Kelly Ayotte — demonstrate significant calculation on the former governor’s part.

There is no right more precious in our nation than the right of citizens to cast a ballot on Election Day. That is why generations of Americans have sacrificed and even died in efforts to expand the right to vote.
Yet across the country, powerful corporate interests and the right-wing politicians who do their bidding are working hard to make it more difficult for citizens to vote. In more than two dozen states this year, bills have been introduced to restrict the right to vote; and in several states where Wall Street-backed Republicans control both houses of the legislature, governors have signed these fundamentally misguided measures into law.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott pushed through a vast set of new and burdensome regulations that are designed to restrict the ability of working middle-class voters to cast a ballot. The period for early voting shrinks dramatically, and voters who have moved to a new county, or have married and changed their names in the months prior to an election, will not have their ballots counted on Election Day. Since the 1960s, Florida voters have been able to change their address or name at their precinct during early voting or on Election Day. But now they will only be given provisional ballots.
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is shifting into a higher gear.
The former Massachusetts governor, who leads national and state polls in the race for the GOP nomination, has spent much of the year laying low, limiting his public appearances and rarely weighing in on the national debate.
He’s scheduled to hold seven town halls and forums this month in New Hampshire alone, with a busier schedule expected through September that includes Iowa and Florida stops. He spent much of the first part of the year focused on fundraising at private events, though he did appear in public every so often. He spent much of last week vacationing with family on Lake Winnipesaukee in central New Hampshire.
Some Republicans, who gathered last week in Tampa, Fla., at a Republican National Committee meeting, said Romney’s early, lay-low strategy may have given Perry an opening.
“Sometimes you look over your shoulder and it’s too late. Somebody’s really speeding on you, they’ve got your draft, and they’re about to swing around you. That could well be happening,” said former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez. “I think if Perry gets in, he’s going to be in Romney’s draft, at least at the beginning.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.