Sunburn for 11/1 — A morning read of what's hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Tucker/Hall — a top-notch public affairs and public relations firm. Visit TuckerHall.com to read about their team, success stories and case studies.***

STORM PROVIDES OBAMA WITH COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF MOMENT

For a day at least, Hurricane Sandy appears to have done for President Obama what he has not been able to do for himself.

In a campaign notable mostly for its negativity, the historic storm provided Obama with a commander-in-chief moment a week before Election Day. The president gained a rare moment of bipartisan praise, with Democratic and Republican governors alike commending the performance of the federal government. And the storm put on pause, for now, the sense that rival Mitt Romney had all the momentum in the home stretch.

ROMNEY REFUSES TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT FEMA

Mitt Romney refused to answer questions about how he would handle the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), after a Tuesday “storm relief” event in Ohio for Hurricane Sandy, the Huffington Post reports.

“TV pool asked Romney at least five times whether he would eliminate FEMA as president/what he would do with FEMA. He ignored the qs but they are audible on cam. The music stopped at points and the qs would have been audible to him.”

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RACE ENTERS FINAL WEEK AS CLOSE AS EVER

A new New York Times/CBS News poll finds Obama and Romney enterING the closing week of the campaign in an exceedingly narrow race, with the president edging the challenger 48% to 47%.

The race for the White House, which has been interrupted by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s deadly assault on the East Coast, is heading toward an uncertain conclusion. The president was set to stay off the campaign trail for a third straight day to tour storm damage on Wednesday with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican. Romney was set to resume a full schedule in Florida.

TWO VIEWS OF THE ELECTORAL MAP by Jonathan Martin

By comparison, the ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll shows Romney ahead 49% to 48%.

MAJORITY BELIEVE OBAMA WILL WIN

A new Gallup poll finds a majority of Americans continue to believe that President Obama will win re-election Tuesday over Mitt Romney, by 54% to 34%.

SWING STATE POLLS

Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 45% (Quinnipiac); Michigan: Obama 48%, Romney 45% (Detroit News); Pennsylvania: Obama 48%, Romney 44% (Franklin and Marshall); Virginia: Obama 49%, Romney 47% (Quinnipiac)

Q-POLL OF FLORIDA

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Florida too close to call, with Obama leading Romney by a 48-to-47 percent margin that is within the survey’s 3 percent margin of error.

The results of the Oct. 23-28 poll compare to a 9-point Obama lead in late September.

Quinnipiac released the poll as part of a swing-state package that also shows Obama with a 50-to-45 percent lead in Ohio and a 49-to-47 percent lead in Virginia.

MY KEY TAKEAWAYS here.

TWEET, TWEET: @DaveWeigel: Weird coincidence that everyone on Twitter is a pHD in poll sampling.

2.7 MILLION FLORIDIANS HAVE ALREADY VOTED; DEMS WITH 49K ADVANTAGE by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Nearly 2.7 million ballots have been cast out of a total 12 million registered voters, 75 percent of whom will probably vote. That means about 30 percent of the ballots are already in.

In all, Democrats edged Republicans by 118,000 early vote ballots, but Republicans extended their absentee-vote lead to more than 69,000.

There’s a dispute between the Republican and Democratic parties about what the numbers all mean. Republicans claim Democrats in 2008 were up by 134,000 ballots at this time (four days into early voting). That number does seem high, and the Democrats say it’s not true and that Republicans are playing fast and loose with the numbers.

IN EARLY VOTING, DEMOCRATS ARE ‘CLEANING THE CLOCKS’ OF REPUBLICANS

Palm Beach County Republicans are concerned about Democrats staking out an advantage in early voting, according to a memo obtained by FLDemocracy/WPTV.

The memo, from an adviser to a local GOP campaign, said that the Democratic turnout effort is “cleaning our clock.”

“The early and absentee turnout is starting to look more troubling,” the GOP operative said in the memo sent Tuesday.  “Even if Romney wins the state (likely based on polls), the turnout deficit in PBC will affect our local races.”

THIS EARLY VOTE CALCULATION FROM GALLUP LOOKS TERRIBLE FOR OBAMA by Dave Weigel for Slate

[I]f accurate, Gallup’s study of early voters neutralizes one of the Obama campaign’s best road-to-victory talking points. As it conducted tracking polls (which have been paused for now), Gallup asked voters whether they’d cast ballots or intended to before election day. The early voters broke 52-46 for Mitt Romney. The dawdling voters who would vote before election day were tied, 49-49. The voters waiting for November 6 broke for Romney, again, by a 6-point margin. … But this is just Gallup. The Obama campaign has kept up an early vote blog, offering new numbers from the states, and it makes a good case that it’s held its swing state lead.

THOUSANDS DESCEND ON FLORIDA TO MONITOR POLLS by Michael Van Sicker of the Tampa Bay Times

It won’t just be voters heading to the polls this week in Florida and other swing states, but thousands of lawyers and volunteers scrutinizing how ballots are handed out, scanned and stored inside precincts. Thousands more will stand outside to detect efforts to intimidate, disenfranchise or reward voters.

In the post Bush vs. Gore era, this is what Democracy looks like.

“The 2000 election scared the hell out of people,” said Nate Persily, a political science professor at Columbia University who has studied election law. “Campaigns are now armed to the hilt with lawyers beforehand so they aren’t caught off guard.”

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CELEBRITY EMAIL OF THE DAY: “Join me in supporting Bill Nelson” from Hollywood icon Robert Redford.

WORST BLOG POST OF THE DAY – “HALF BROTHER OF JOE ABRUZZO TRASHES HIM ON FACEBOOK” by (shocking!) Javier Manjarres of The Shark Tank

BIG REPUBLICAN TURNOUT ALREADY IN CHRIS DORWORTH’S DISTRICT by Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel

Data from the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Office show Republicans are turning out in big numbers in Dorworth’s district.

Republican voters have cast 48.7 percent of all absentee or early ballots cast so far in House District 29, compared with just 33.8 percent cast by Democrats. That’s a gap of 14.9 percentage points for the Republicans — which far exceeds the built-in partisan advantage to Dorworth’s seat, where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by 8.3 percentage points, according to Orlando Sentinel data.

Republicans are way ahead in absentee balloting (54 percent to 29.4 percent) and slightly ahead in early voting (42.4 percent to 39 percent).

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’ll say it again: I wholeheartedly encourage the Florida Democratic Party to abandon other potentially close races and put all their money here in the next week.” Rep. Chris Dorworth

TEA LEAVES IN SELECTED BATTLEGROUND LEGISLATIVE RACES

>>>In the House District 30 race between Republican Rep. Scott Plakon and Democrat Karen Castor Dentel, Republicans have cast 43.4 percent of early/absentee votes so far, to 39.4 percent from Democrats. (The district registration split is 38.1 percent Democrat to 37.6 percent Republican.)

>>>In the House District 47 race between former Republican Rep. Bob Brooks and former Democratic County Commissioner Linda Stewart, Republicans are narrowly ahead in early/absentee voting so far, 42.7 percent to 41 percent. The district registration split is 38.8 percent Republican to 38.1 percent Democrat.

>>>In the House District 49 race between Republican Marco Pena and Democrat Joe Saunders, Democrats have cast 45.2 percent of all votes so far, to 34.3 percent for Republicans. That is about on par with the district’s overall tilt, where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 40.8 percent to 30 percent.

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FLORIDA ECONOMY FORECAST TO BUILD STEAM IN 2013

Florida’s economy will finally build some steam in 2013, according to a new forecast released by University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith. South Florida’s fastest-growing sector will be construction at 5.5 percent annually, followed by business and professional services at 4.3 percent. The education and healthcare sectors will grow at 2.1 percent, according to the forecast.

MORE GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS FOR THE STATE

The Department of Economic Opportunity on Wednesday issued a news release touting an 18.5 percent increase in housing starts in August compared to the same month last year.

APD LOOKS TO SOLVE DEFICIT PROBLEMS

The state Agency for Persons with Disabilities is seeking $17 million in the upcoming 2013-14 budget to take care of a leftover deficit from last year — but says it thinks it is ready to avoid further red ink. The $17 million in general revenue would cover a deficit from the 2011-12 fiscal year in the agency’s main program to serve people with developmental disabilities. When coupled with federal matching money, the deficit was about $40 million. But Sharon Bradford, the agency’s chief of financial services, said during a budget presentation Wednesday that APD expects to avoid a deficit during the current 2012-13 fiscal year. That would be a major change after years of deficits in a program that provides home- and community-based services to people with disabilities. APD says a key reason is that it has moved forward with a new program, known as “iBudgets,” that helps control costs.

FLORIDA CHAMBER BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTS LARS HOUMAN CHAIRMAN

The Florida Chamber of Commerce announced that Lars Houmann, President and CEO of Florida Hospital and the Florida Division of Adventist Health System, has been elected Chair of the Florida Chamber Board of Directors for 2012-2013.

“Lars Houmann brings the perfect balance of experience and vision in support of the Florida Chamber’s efforts to champion free enterprise principles and solutions toward securing Florida’s future,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “As we work to grow the private sector and put the long-term security of our state ahead of short-term politics, there are serious policy options facing Florida.”

In addition to serving as President and CEO of Orlando metropolitan area Florida Hospital, and President and CEO of the 23 hospital Florida Division Adventist Health System, Lars Houmann is a leading state and local healthcare and economic development advocate. He is the 2012-2013 Board Chair of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, is a board member with the Florida Hospital Association, and served as Chairman of bioOrlando, an organization dedicated to the development of the life sciences economy in Central Florida. He volunteers with Heart of Florida United Way, American Heart Association, Shepherd’s Hope Clinics and participates in international healthcare mission projects in South America and Africa.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Tucker/Hall — a top-notch public affairs and public relations firm. Visit TuckerHall.com to read about their team, success stories and case studies.***

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.