Sunburn for 10/4 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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NBC POLL OF FLORIDA: OBAMA 47%, ROMNEY 46%; NELSON 52%, MACK 41%

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Marist poll finds Barack Obama with 47 percent support among likely voters, to 46 percent for Mitt Romney. That’s a change from two weeks ago when NBC had Obama leading by 5 points (though a Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald poll at the time had Obama up by one). Among registered voters, Obama leads 48 percent to 43 percent.

The poll finds Bill Nelson leading Republican Connie Mack by 11 points, 52 percent to 41 percent.

Forty six percent of likey voters said they had a favorable view of Mitt Romney and 46 percent had an unfavorable view. Fifty percent had a favorable view of Obama and 45 percent unfavorable. Forty eight percent approved of the president’s performance and 47 percent disapproved.

On the key question of who would better handle the economy, Romney narrowly led 47 percent to 45 percent. On handling Medicare, Obama led 48 percent to 43 percent.

>>>I’m hearing there is a second poll, this one from the Florida Chamber, also showing Nelson leading Mack by eleven points.

BLOG POST OF THE DAY: OBAMA AND ROMNEY HAVE MORE COURAGE THAN NELSON AND MACK by Brian Crowley of the Crowley Report

No matter what you think about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney you have to give them credit – they are willing to debate each other. Not once but three times before a national audience. And as much as their strategists may try to control the event, once the camera is on – the two men are on their own.

… Unfortunately, the only silence in Florida is coming from the candidates. Florida’s U.S. Senate candidates –  Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Connie Mack – have agreed to just a single debate.

After much squabbling, they will get together on Oct 17 for a debate that will be broadcast on many Florida television stations. One debate. That’s it. … That’s wrong.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “No, don’t boo, he’s the best thing we’ve got going, guys.” — Marco Rubio, referring to Joe Biden’s statement that the middle class has been “buried” in the past four years.

INTRADE

Likelihood of … Obama winning: 67.4%; Romney winning: 32.8% — Obama down 6.6%

Likelihood of … Nelson winning 78.1%; Mack winning: 22.9%

NATE SILVER

Likelihood of … Obama winning: 96.9%; Romney winning 3.1%

Likelihood of … Democrats keeping the Senate: 80.2%

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “Obama and Romney So Hot For Us” via the Progressive Leadership Council

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RPOF VICTORY DINNER TONIGHT! 

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will be the keynote speaker for the Florida Republican Party’s Victory Dinner fundraising event tonight at the Disney Contemporary Hotel.

SMITH: DEMS WILL STAY OUT OF MERIT RETENTION

Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said Wednesday that political parties should stay out of the fight over merit retention for Supreme Court Justice, reports the News Service of Florida. “When tremendous stakes are involved the last thing you want is for a message to be sent to judges: ‘If you don’t rule for us, you’ll pay a price for it,'” Smith said. That puts the party in a different position from the Republican Party, which is backing the effort to oust Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince – the last three appointed by a Democratic governor. RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry says the push came from the party’s grassroots members.  Gov. Rick Scott, who would get to appoint the justices’ replacements if the trio is removed, hasn’t publicly taken a position.

RIGHT LEANING AMENDMENTS 6 & 8 IN TROUBLE, POLL SHOWS

Two of the more controversial proposed constitutional amendments face a difficult path to approval, according to a Suffolk University/WSVN-TV poll released late Tuesday via the News Service of Florida.

The survey of 600 likely voters showed both Amendment 6, barring the use of taxpayer money for health insurance that covers abortion, and Amendment 8, doing away with a prohibition on the use of taxpayer money for faith-based social services, are well below the 60 percent support needed to gain approval. Just 44 percent of those surveyed said they supported Amendment 6, while 40 percent said they were opposed. Meanwhile, 52 percent said they opposed Amendment 8, while just 28 percent approved.

Voters did say they would vote for Amendment 2, which would lower property taxes for disabled veterans, by a 75-13 margin. The poll, conducted Sept. 27-30, has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

INTERNAL POLL: DAN WEBSTER 46%, VAL DEMINGS 41%

In a new internal poll conducted by Global Strategy Group, Republican incumbent Daniel Webster leads Democrat Val Demings 46 to  41 percent. … Webster is beneath 50% in a district John McCain carried in 2008.

Read the polling memo here.

>>>The DCCC has reserved $2 million for TV ads in Central Florida, airtime that could be a boon for Demings in the homestretch of election season.

GUS BILIRAKIS FORMS LEADERSHIP PAC

Three-term Rep. Gus Bilirakis has created a new leadership political action committee dubbed the Giving Us Security Political Action Committee. Congressional members may use leadership PACs separate and apart from their campaign committees to raise money to fund travel, tout political ideologies or donate to political brethren.

Robert F. Carlin will serve as treasurer.

JESSICA EHRLICH’S FIGHT TO UPEND BILL YOUNG GETS TOUGHER by Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times

(O)n Monday, local political blogger Peter Schorsch, who is supporting Young, accused Ehrlich of padding her resume.

Schorsch, on his SaintPetersblog.com site, pointed to a line in Ehrlich’s campaign literature about her time working for former U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale. The literature and her website both say she was working as an attorney in St. Petersburg “before receiving an opportunity to work for then Congressman Clay Shaw (R-FL) on the Social Security Subcommittee of the Committee on Ways and Means.”

…But Shaw told the Times that he read Ehrlich’s website and believes she was indeed implying that she worked for the committee, which he said “is absolutely false. She exaggerated her position. She was not on the Ways and Means staff.”

Schorsch slammed Ehrlich again Monday with another blog post, accusing her of claiming on her website to have clerked for a judge when she was only an intern, then altering the wording to say “intern” after he questioned it.

“Yes, Ehrlich cleaned up her campaign web site, but that still doesn’t explain how this little white lie got on there in the first place,” Schorsch wrote.

POLICE ENDORSE ADAM HASNER OVER LOIS FRANKEL by Andrew Ambramson of the Palm Beach Post

The Police Benevolent Association, a nemesis of Lois Frankel during her second term as West Palm Beach mayor, endorsed Adam Hasner today and had some harsh words for Frankel.

“Lois Frankel has a 25-year record of more spending and rambling priorities, and her time as mayor was marked with arrogance, marble bathrooms in city hall, and a police helicopter being commandeered by Frankel to attend a party,” John Kazanjian, president of the PBA, said in a statement. “West Palm Beach couldn’t afford Lois Frankel then, and we certainly can’t afford to send Lois to Washington now.”

FDLE BEGINS CRIMINAL PROBE IN VOTER REGISTRATION CASE via the News Service of Florida

Following allegations of fraud, state law enforcement officials on Wednesday launched a formal criminal investigation into the activities of Strategic Allied Consulting, a Virginia-based company hired by the Republican Party of Florida to register voters in preparation for the November elections. Both the RPOF and the Republican National Committee severed ties with the company after allegations arose last week that registrations were improperly gathered. A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said the agency received a complaint Friday from by the Florida Department of State and has since found enough evidence to warrant a full-blown probe. Suspect voter registration forms have shown up in at least 10 counties including Palm Beach, where more than 100 were discovered. “

After reviewing this complaint, FDLE has decided that a criminal investigation into these allegations is warranted,” FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said in an email. “This is now an active investigation, which precludes us from providing further information until such time that the investigation is complete.”

GAETZ: VOTER FRAUDSTERS SHOULD BE PUNISHED REGARDLESS OF PARTY

Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz told reporters Tuesday that law enforcement officials should throw the book at Strategic Allied Consultants if the company is found guilty of systemic fraud in the gathering of voter registration applications for the Republican National Committee. So far, more than 100 questionable registrations in Palm Beach County have surfaced. Potential irregularities in several other Florida counties have also been reported. “Let’s hope there’s not selective indignation here,” Gaetz said when asked whether there was any irony that Republicans had pressed hard against voter fraud last year and now were faced with a GOP firm being accused of it. “I don’t find it ironic, I find it outrageous,” said Gaetz. “I hope they go to jail.” The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was reviewing evidence sent Friday by the Division of Elections regarding potentially fraudulent voter registration efforts by the Virginia-based company, agency spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said in an email Tuesday. The agency has not yet determined whether a formal investigation will ensue. State election officials also forwarded a handful of suspect ballots collected by National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the nation, sent to them by the Miami-Dade elections supervisor’s office.

DAN RUTH COLUMN: GAETZ’ OLIVE BRANCH MORE LIKE A SPEAR

It certainly promises to be a vastly different Senate under Gaetz than how the chamber operated with outgoing President Mike Haridopolos, R-Boo!, a man who instilled about as much fear among recalcitrant legislators as Barney Fife.

Indeed, the Corys and their fellow swizzle sticks at the AIF may have performed a valuable service for Gaetz, providing the Senate president a perfect opportunity to publicly berate an influential couple to demonstrate his authority.

One of the things that irritated Gaetz and his leadership team (which, by the way, is sure to include Lee) was the annoying habit of AIF of making political contributions directly to GOP candidates rather than going through the state Republican Party apparatus.

>>>Rep. Matt Gaetz gets the Huffington Post treatment about his use of Twitter here.

AFTER BRUTAL PRIMARY, JACK LATVALA SAYS HE’S FULLY SUPPORTING ‘FINE YOUNG MAN’ AARON BEAN by Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

Remember those ads state Senator Jack Latvala helped fund blasting Aaron Bean during the GOP primary? If you live in Northeast Florida, they were tough to miss.

Well, forget all that. Latvala now says he is fully behind the Nassau County Republican. “He is a fine young man, and I’m supporting him,” said the St. Petersburg Republican

Latvala is listed a member of the host committee for a Bean fund-raiser being held at the Jacksonville home of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida lobbyist Mike Hightower. He’s unsure if he can make the Oct. 15 event, but said “if I can be there, I’ll be there.”

LATEST INTEL ON BATTLEGROUND HOUSE RACES via Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Political Hurricane

>>>HD 7 – Halsey Beshears money advantage and the lack of Democratic Party help for Robert Hill mean this seat is edging towards the Republicans. However, we hesitate to move to because in large portions of this district the Republicans last won a race for State Representative during the reconstruction era.

>>>HD 21 – Rep. Keith Perry is proving to be a stronger opponent for Andrew Morey than many expected. Still this seat is a toss-up with Perry holding a slight edge based on his fundraising ability and the somewhat less than committed effort the FDP is making here.

>>>HD 30 – Rep. Scott Plakon’s local ties, focused campaign and money has earned him a slight edge in this Democratic leaning district. Plakon has also (for now) successfully redirected the debate away from his conservative votes and statements and towards some of his bi-partisan achievements. Kathy Castor-Dentel needs to refocus her message after a strong start that has faded.

BEST FUNDRAISING INVITE I’VE SEEN IN A WHILE: You’d be a fool to miss the Wild Game Lunch and Dove Hunt fundraiser on Saturday, October 13 benefiting Rep. Shawn Harrison’s re-election campaign. Heck, Congressman Dennis Ross is on the host committee and he’s likely to skin a boar. Adam Putnam, Will Weatherford, Chris Dorworth and Richard Corcoran are also on the host committee. The event’s taking place at the Crooked Creek Rance in Dade City. RSVP to susan@shawnharrison.com. Invite here.

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APPOINTED: Clifford Manuel to the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority

FLORIDIANS BUYING MORE THAN A YEAR AGO

Taxable sales increased 6.6 percent statewide in July from the previous July, and were up over the year earlier month in every part of the state, state officials announced this week. In the state report on monthly taxable sales released by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, officials said some of the biggest increases in taxable sales were in Miami and the Winter Haven-Lakeland areas, which could mean those areas are recovering stronger than the state as a whole. Both areas saw year-to-year jumps of more than 8 percent in the value of taxable goods purchased. Also good news for the economy: sales in the building category were the most robust, nearly 11 percent higher than a year ago in July, the report said. Floridians were making a number of big purchases in July, according to the report: taxable sales in the autos and accessories category were just under 10 percent higher than a year ago. Read the report here.

MORE LEADERSHIP CHANGES AT ALEX SINK’S THINK TANK by Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Seven months after naming a new CEO to her economic development policy foundation, Florida Next, Alex Sink is again looking at leadership changes at her organization.

Steve Freedman, founder of the Institute for Child Health Policy at the University of Florida had been tapped as Florida Next to succeed Sink’s longtime right hand man, Jim Cassady. Now Cassady is back with the title of interim CEO.

Sink is considering running for governor again in 2014, and many people saw  the launch of her foundation a year ago as a vehicle to keep her profile high in Florida, just as Jeb Bush did with his foundation after losing his first governor’s race. Florida Next, however, has had a low profile, though Sink says she and it are doing lots of work to help promote young entrepreneurs in the state.

RANDOM PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: “Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff to Receive 2012 Legislative Bicycle Champion Award”

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CAN’T WAIT TO READThe Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden. An excerpt in Vanity Fair reveals that President Obama intended to put Osama bin Laden on trial in the federal court system if he had been captured, rather than killed, during the Abbottabad raid.

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.