Sunburn for 10/12 — A morning read of what's hot in Florida politics

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CONTINUED THANKS for the well-wishes for Baby Ella. Special thanks to Dave Aronberg, Matt Blair, Chris Carmody, Tony Collins and his colleagues at Tucker Hall, Richard DeNapoli, Frank Farkas, William March, Sydney Riley, Chris Turner, Michael Wickersheim, Larry Williams (new to the Twitters @LarryWmsConsulting)

DEBATE NIGHT IN AMERICA

The vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan was one of the best debates I can remember. It was a great service to all Americans.

Biden had the primary goal of firing up Democrats after President Obama’s lackluster performance last week. He did that and more. He literally responded to every single assertion of Ryan’s and didn’t let a single thing go unchallenged. Democrats have to be very happy.

Biden was especially strong on foreign policy but one of his best moments was taking Ryan to task for criticizing the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package while at the same time asking for stimulus funds for his own congressional district.

Ryan’s goal was to build on Romney’s strong performance last week and continue to reassure undecided voters. In the end, however, he found his toughest opponent wasn’t Biden, it was his own record and the Romney campaign platform. He had trouble playing defense under Biden’s withering attacks. Ryan was exceptionally weak on the proposed Romney tax plan — “not mathematically possible”, according to Biden — while once again refusing to give specifics.

In terms of style, Ryan didn’t take kindly to being interrupted. It was almost as if Biden was coached to interrupt him.

Biden was more prepared, more experienced and the clear winner.

Finally, Martha Raddatz was a wonderfully effective moderator. She continuously pushed for specifics and forced followups to nonsense. She should be commended by both campaigns.

IT’S STILL A ONE-POINT RACE IN FLORIDA ACCORDING TO NBC…

Before the debate, it was a 1-point race with Obama leading 47 percent to 46 percent. Now, it is still a 1-point race with Obama leading 48 percent to 47 percent, according to the latest round of NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls.

BUT THE TIMES/HERALD HAS ROMNEY OPENING UP A 7-POINT LEAD

The survey conducted this week found 51 percent of likely Florida voters supporting Romney, 44 percent backing Obama and 4 percent undecided.

hat’s a major shift from a month ago when the same poll showed Obama leading 48 percent to 47 percent — and a direct result of what Obama himself called a “bad night” at the first debate.

The debate prompted 5 percent of previously undecided voters and 2 percent of Obama backers to move to Romney. Another 2 percent of Obama supporters said they are now undecided because of the debate.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: Mason Dixon poll in Aug. 2010: Bill McCollum 34%, Rick Scott 30%. #HowdThatWorkOut?

>>>Uber pundit Larry Sabato moves Florida to “Lean Romney” in his latest forecast.

NATIONAL POLLS

Gallup: Romney 48%, Obama 47%; IBD/TIPP: Romney 47%, Obama 46%; Rasmussen: Obama 48%, Romney 47%; Reuters/Ipsos: Romney 47%, Obama 44%; UPI/CVoter: Romney 49%, Obama 46%

SWING STATE POLLS

Colorado: Obama 48%, Romney 47% (CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac); Ohio: Obama 51%, Romney 45% (NBC/WSJ/Marist); Virginia: Romney 48%, Obama 47% (NBC/WSJ/Marist); Virginia: Obama 51%, Romney 46% (CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac); Wisconsin: Obama 50%, Romney 47% (CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac)

HOW ROMNEY CAN WIN WITHOUT OHIO

Here’s the most likely path for Romney, sans Ohio: He wins the McCain states, plus Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, and Iowa — losing New Hampshire and Wisconsin, along with Ohio.

Obviously, that means winning six of the nine battleground states, many of which still show significant deficits for the challenger, who also does not boast the same long-built ground game machinery as the incumbent. This map makes two things clear: Romney’s debate performance hasn’t solved his Electoral College problem, and/but his route to 270 is so, so much harder if he can’t win Ohio.”

NBC POLL OF FLORIDA: BILL NELSON 52%, CONNIE MACK 39%

Nelson continues to hold a sizable lead over Mack, 52 percent to 39 percent, about where it was last week, according to the latest round of NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls.

NEW NELSON AD FOCUSES ON MACK’S USE OF OFFICIAL OFFICE FOR SPECIAL INTERESTS

Bill Nelson’s campaign has launched its latest TV ad that provides voters with what it describes as “a voyeuristic peek at instances in which Connie Mack used his public office in an effort to benefit an oil company and a Wall Street hedge-fund honcho.”

“Connie Mack IV has a pattern of being deep in debt to special interests,” said Paul Kincaid, a Nelson campaign spokesman.

One instance in the ad shows that “Mack is protecting Chevron oil from a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit over pollution of rivers and rainforests.”  In another part of the commercial, Mack tries to pass a law to help politically friendly hedge-fund speculator win a $2 billion legal battle with another country.  The hedge-fund speculator and his employees happen to be among Connie Mack’s biggest campaign donors.

SENATE DEBATE SET FOR NEXT WEDNESDAY

Florida’s two U.S. Senate candidates will square off in their only face-to-face debate Wednesday, October 17, at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. The debate between Nelson and Mack will be televised live by several stations and is sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association. Michael Williams of WPTV NewsChannel 5 in West Palm Beach will moderate, with a panel of questioners of Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel,Lissette Campos of ABC WFTS in Tampa and Toluse Olorunnipa of the Miami Herald.

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BONDI BREAKFAST SPEAKER AT MIAMI REPUBLICAN EVENT

Attorney General Pam Bondi is the featured speaker at Friday’s Republican Party of Miami-Dade County’s breakfast reception fundraiser for state and federal GOP candidates.

RICK SANTORUM AT ANTI-ABORTION EVENT

Former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at the Stories of Hope event for Emergency Pregnancy Services, an anti-abortion group that counsels pregnant women not to have them.

BLOG POST OF THE DAY – PLEASE DON’T STOP AT THE TOP OF THE BALLOT by Dan Gelber for Florida Voices

When you review your ballot either in the mail or at the polls, you might think it unusually long and confusing. Don’t feel bad. The ballot was purposefully crafted to be long and confusing.

In a year when Republican leaders hope to suppress the vote by reducing early voting days by more than half, they also added nearly a dozen constitutional proposals that more resemble a push-poll than thoughtful policy ideas. Their hope is that a longer ballot will create longer lines, making it even harder for people to vote early and on Election Day.

In many communities, the November ballot may be 12 pages or longer. So if you get confused, the Legislature’s manipulation will have succeeded.

CHAMBER POLL SHOWS AMENDMENTS 4, 6 & 8 PASSING by Aaron DeSlatte of the Orlando Sentinel

 A Florida Chamber of Commerce poll shown to business members this week at a leadership conference in Orlando finds two of the closest-watched constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot with just enough support to pass.

… The poll found Amendment 4, a Realtor-backed change that would give beefier property tax breaks to new homeowners, businesses and snowbirds, garnering 62.6 percent support

… Another controversial question on the ballot, which critics say would allow tax dollars to flow to religious groups providing public services, also gets 66.1 percent in the poll.

NEW NO ON 6 AD FEATURES SANDRA FLUKE

Nationally recognized women’s healthcare advocate Sandra Fluke is adding her influential voice to the growing chorus of opposition to proposed Amendment 6.

“Amendment 6 could deny a lot of Florida women access to the basic healthcare that they need,” Fluke says in the ad.  She points out the political interference Amendment 6 would represent, noting that it “would put politicians like Rick Scott right there in the middle of basic healthcare.”

The Vote No on 6 campaign recently launched online banner ads and have so far purchased $1 million in air time for television ads.  The Sandra Fluke ad is the first in a series of ads to be released in the final weeks of the campaign.

>>>A group helping lead opposition to Amendment 6 has raised more than $2.4 million since May, with about half of the money coming from Planned Parenthood groups across the country, campaign-finance records show. The group, known as “Vote No on 6,” reported raising $2,455,430 through Sept. 28 and spending $2,311,353, with about $2 million going to a Virginia-based media firm for television advertising.

>>>Former Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday announced he is supporting Amendment 6.

TEACHERS UNION SHELL OUT MONEY TO FIGHT AMENDMENT 8

A group linked to the Florida Education Association contributed $1 million in August and September to a campaign to defeat Amendment 8 on the November ballot, campaign-finance records show.

The group, known as the Public Education Defense Fund, sent the money to another group called “Vote No on 8.” While affiliated with the Florida Education Association, the Public Education Defense Fund has received $1.5 million this year from national teachers-union organizations, the records show. Amendment 8 would repeal part of the state constitution that bans public aid to faith-based organizations. The FEA opposes the amendment because it argues the repeal could help lead to taxpayer-funded vouchers to send children to religious schools.

HOUSE MAJORITY PAC SLAMS ALLEN WEST ON VETERANS ISSUES via James Hohmann of POLITICO

“Allen West talks a lot about his military service, but in Washington he hasn’t served us,” veterans say in a new ad from the Democratic super PAC. “West voted against protecting troops fighting overseas from foreclosures, against $28 million in medical research for wounded warriors like me, against suicide prevention and counseling for combat vets. West even voted against the ban on baggage fees for troops heading into combat zones!”

The spot begins running Thursday in West Palm Beach and will continue for a week.

It’s the fourth ad House Majority PAC has run in this race, part of a $1.5 million TV buy. All the vets are local, including three that are from the 18th district.

This ad is likely to provoke a strong reaction from West, who is advertising heavily on his military experience and who has attacked his opponent for gallivanting around while he was in combat.

OPTOMETRISTS, OPHTHALMOLOGISTS ANTE UP $$$ FOR LEGISLATIVE LEADERS via the News Service of Florida

Amid a long-running lobbying fight about drug-prescribing powers, optometrists and ophthalmologists are funneling campaign money to legislative leaders, reports the News Service of Florida.

Optometrists in recent days sent $25,000 to a political committee headed by incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford bringing the industry’s overall contributions to the committee to $125,000, according to information dated Thursday on the committee’s website. The Florida Optometric CCE, which is affiliated with the Florida Optometric Association, has made five $25,000 payments to Weatherford’s Committee for a Conservative House since September 2011, committee and state records show.

Optometrists have lobbied in recent years to try to get broader drug-prescribing authority, though they have faced opposition from ophthalmologists.

Meanwhile, a committee headed by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, reported on its website this week that it received $10,000 from a FOCUS CCE, which is affiliated with the Florida Society of Ophthalmology. Negron’s Florida Conservative Action Committee also received $25,000 in July from the ophthalmologists’ group, according to state and committee records. Negron has served the past two years as chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee and is trying to line up support to become Senate president in 2016.

EXCLUSIVE FIRST-LOOK AT LATEST POLLING DATA IN FLA.’S KEY STATE HOUSE RACES

Here is a look at fresh polling numbers in five key battleground races via St. Pete Polls. Margin of error in most of the races is +/- 4.9%.

HD 7 – Democrat Robert Hill 36%; Republican Halsey Beshears 52.0%

HD 9 – Democrat Michelle Vasalinda 52.2%; Republican Bradley Maxwell 37.1%

HD 21 – Democrat Andrew Morey 40.4%; Republican Keith Perry 47.1%

HD 24 – Democrat Milissa Holland 34.7%; Republican Travis Hutson 45.4%

HD 66 – Democrat Mary Lou Ambrose 38.4%; Republican Larry Ahern 51%

HD 67 – Democrat Ben Farrell 36.5%; Republican Ed Hooper 44.6%

HD 68 – Democrat Dwight Dudley 44.0%; Republican Frank Farkas 45.5%

HD 69 – Democrat Josh Shulman 37.8%; Republican Kathleen Peters 48.2%

TRIAL LAWYERS HELP CHRIS DORWORTH OVER DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER by Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel

Over dinner late last year at a tony Park Avenue restaurant in Winter Park, a top lawyer with the Florida Justice Association told Clelland that the lobbying group would not support him. What’s more, Clelland said, the FJA’s incoming chairman, Paul Anderson, urged him not to run at all and vowed to spend money to re-elect Dorworth.

“There was no question that the FJA wanted me to bail out of the race because they were going to spend a lot of money to keep Chris Dorworth in office,” Clelland said.

Asked about the dinner, Anderson said he told Clelland only that he did not think he could win and that the Justice Association likely would not help him.

About two months later, in December 2011, law firms and groups connected to the Justice Association gave $74,000 to Dorworth’s political committee. Trial lawyers and related parties have given about $100,000 to Dorworth in all.

FLA DEMS DIRECT MAILPIECE REHASHES MIKE HORNER SCANDAL IN HD 42. View here.

HALSEY BESHEARS, BOB BROOKS, DANE EAGLE ALL TOP $200K RAISED

Running without the benefits of incumbency, three House candidates had raised more than $200,000 as of Sept. 28, and three others had topped $160,000, according to the latest campaign-finance reports.

Monticello Republican Halsey Beshears had collected $281,264 for his District 7 race in north Florida, while Orlando Republican Bob Brooks had raised $230,783 in Central Florida’s District 47 and Cape Coral Republican Dane Eagle had raised $201,609 in southwest Florida’s District 77.

Other top fund-raisers among new candidates were Fort Myers Republican Heather Fitzenhagen, with $182,970 in District 78; Orlando Democrat Joe Saunders, with $161,660 in District 49; and Elkton Republican Travis Hutson, with $160,370 in District 24.

WALKING THIS WEEKEND

House District 69 candidate Kathleen Peters on Saturday beginning at 9:00 a.m. Meet at 2101 Tyrone Blvd.

House District 71 candidate Jim Boyd on Saturday beginning at 9:45 a.m. Meet at the Publix Parking Lot, 6030 14th Street West in Bradenton.

House District 78 candidate Heather Fitzenhagen on Saturday beginning at 9:00 a.m. Meet at the Edison Parking Lot, 3583 McGregor Boulevard,  Fort Myers.

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FLORIDA TIMES UNION SEEKS TO SHIELD REPORTER MATT DIXON FROM SUBPOENA IN JENNIFER CARROLL CASE

A lawyer for The Florida Times-Union asked a Leon County judge to quash a subpoena for one of the paper’s reporters in a case involving a former aide for Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

Prosecutors want to talk to Times-Union reporter Matt Dixon about what he received from Carletha Cole, a former aide to Carroll who shared the recording of a conversation with Carroll’s chief of staff after she was fired. Cole has been charged criminally with disclosing that recorded conversation.

“He obviously has information,” assistant state attorney John Hutchins told Circuit Court Judge Frank Sheffield. “He obviously has knowledge about the facts surrounding it.”

But George Gabel, the attorney representing the Times-Union, said there are other ways for the state to try to prove that Cole sent an email including the recording to Dixon, and that forcing Dixon to testify would break the privilege for journalists provided by Florida law.

“What we’re saying is that the journalist privilege applies, and if there are some alternative sources, then he should spend a little time finding if those alternative sources can be used to prove his case, and that he ultimately be required to show the court that he needs the journalist’s testimony before actually making him testify,” Gabel said. “Otherwise, the journalist privilege has no effect.”

POLICY NOTES

>>>The Florida Board of Education requests almost no money for school capital projects, the Florida Times-Union reports.

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ADULT FILM WORKERS favor Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, 68% to 13%, according to an XBIZ survey of those in the industry.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Jimmie Smith and, this weekend, Democratic operative Cesar Fernandez and Republican activist Joe Triolo.

MUST-READ PROFILE on accountant to the political stars, Nancy Watkins, here.

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.