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Sunburn for Feb. 8 – #RubioGlitch; Jeb’s last stand; Leg. releases gambling bill; RIP Edgar Mitchell

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.


Before we dive into #RubioGlitch, please allow for some housekeeping. — A hyper-local website about the hyper-growing Central Florida region is soft-launching today. With former Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers as its tent-pole reporter, @OrlRising aims to do to Orlando and Orange and Seminole County politics what SaintPetersBlog has clearly accomplished in the Tampa Bay political scene. Bookmark the site now.

— Today, myself and four other Florida-based online journalists will be grilled on the state’s extensive, yet always entertaining, political landscape. Part of the Governors Club Luncheon Speaker Series, “The Tables Are Turned: On The Record with Online News Correspondents,” is at noon in the club’s Main Dining Room. The featured panel includes Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, Gary Fineout of The Associated Press, Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News, the News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders, and yours truly.

— Speaking of speaking, mark your calendars for March 4 when I will be headed (solo) into the tiger’s den of the Capital Tiger Bay Club.

— Over the weekend, we launched “Takeaways from Tallahassee” — a new week in review email that features the juiciest tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments from the previous week of Session. If you did not receive it, please let us know. And if you’d like to see a story make its way into TFT, please drop us a line.

— We still need votes for the “Golden Rotundas” — the new industry standard for those in the lobbying business. Vote on Lobbyist of the Year, In-house Lobbyist of the Year, Lobbying Win of the Year, and several other categories. Cast your ballot here. The winners will be announced in the next edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, due out in March.

— To be sure you receive that next issue of INFLUENCE Magazine, sign up for a one-year subscription — only $25. It can be purchased at

— Also coming in March, the fifth annual TallyMadness competition, recognizing the “best” lobbyist in Florida. If you would like to serve on the selection committee that picks the 64 competitors, please email me.

— Also coming in March – Part 2, our annual ranking of “Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians.” If you would like to serve on the panel who ranks the region’s top pols, email me at


There have been no higher stakes on a Republican debate stage in the 2016 campaign for president than there were Saturday night.

Seven GOP Republican hopefuls faced off just three days before a make-or-break New Hampshire primary that some of them are not likely to survive.

Coming off a strong Iowa finish, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tripped up early under attack from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who are jockeying for the same Republican voters.

At the same time, the candidates on the still-crowded stage seemed unwilling to mix it up with Donald Trump, the national front-runner for months who needs a win in New Hampshire on Tuesday to avoid starting the 2016 race with two consecutive losses.

And then there was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the champion college debater who shared a deeply personal moment during an otherwise forgettable night while trying to build on his victory in the Iowa caucuses.

Here are some takeaways from Saturday night’s GOP debate:

Rubio stuck in a loop: Rubio experienced his worst moment in a presidential debate at the worst time, stumbling badly when forced to answer the fundamental question posed by rivals of his candidacy: whether he has the experience necessary to lead the nation.

As a first-term senator with no executive experience, Rubio’s resume is remarkably similar to Barack Obama before he became president. Rubio tried to turn the question around by charging that Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing” by “undertaking a systematic effort to change this country.”

The answer was quickly challenged by Christie: “I like Marco Rubio, and he’s a smart person and a good guy, but he simply does not have the experience to be president of the United States.”

A clearly rattled Rubio responded by delivering the same line about Obama not once, but twice. And Christie made sure New Hampshire voters knew it: “There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”

It was a cringe-worthy moment for Rubio three days before a New Hampshire contest in which he hopes to knock Christie, Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich from the race. Even if it doesn’t significantly change the contest in New Hampshire, the moment raises questions about Rubio’s readiness to take on Democrat Hillary Clinton in a general election debate.

Christie pulls no punches: He is barely registering in recent preference polls, but the New Jersey governor was the toughest candidate on the debate stage Saturday night. And that’s no small feat with the tough-talking Trump at center stage.

At seemingly every turn, Christie zeroed in on Rubio, pelting him with zingers about his inexperience and record in Washington. Calling out Rubio on his missed votes in the Senate, Christie charged, “That’s not leadership. That’s truancy.”

And when Rubio didn’t answer a moderator’s question about why he backpedaled on an immigration proposal he’d helped write when it appeared to become politically unpopular, Christie called him out.

“The question was, did he fight for his legislation. It’s abundantly clear that it he didn’t.” Then he twisted the knife: “That’s not what leadership is. That’s what Congress is.”

It was a performance Christie badly needed as he teeters on the edge of irrelevancy in the crowded Republican contest. Is it too little too late to rescue his campaign?

Trump left alone … mostly: Trump’s rivals barely laid a glove on the frequent New Hampshire poll leader.

The decision to withhold fire was evident right from the start, when Cruz declined to repeat his assertion this week that Trump didn’t have the temperament to be commander in chief. Cruz dodged, saying everyone on the stage would be better leader of the U.S. military than Obama and Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Pressed by a moderator whether he stood by his words that Trump was too volatile to be president, Cruz said simply, “I think that is an assessment the voters are going to make.” Trump noted that Cruz refused to answer the question.

Bush was the only one who took it directly to Trump. After the billionaire real-estate developer defended the use of eminent domain as a necessary tool of government, Bush said the businessman was “downright wrong” when his company tried to use eminent domain to build an Atlantic City casino.

Trump scoffed, saying Bush “wants to be a tough guy.”

Bush fired back, “How tough is it to take property from an elderly woman?”

It was the only moment in which Trump flashed any of the rhetorical jabs he’s become known for on Twitter. For the most part, Trump was content to lay back and let those chasing him in the preference polls fight amongst themselves.

A comfortable Cruz: The champion college debater wasn’t much of a factor after a rough start to the debate, when he was asked about Trump’s temperament and allegations his campaign team engaged in “deceitful behavior” by suggesting in the moments before the Iowa caucuses started that retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was leaving the race.

“When this transpired, I apologized to him then and I do so now,” Cruz said. “Ben, I’m sorry.”

Cruz returned to prominence when asked about substance abuse, and gave an answer that will be hard for some voters to forget.

The Texas senator shared the deeply personal story of his sister’s overdose death. He told New Hampshire voters, and a national television audience, that he and his father pulled his older sister out of a crack house. They pleaded with her to straighten out for the good of her son. But she didn’t listen.

“She died,” Cruz said. It was a very human moment for a candidate sometimes criticized for not being likable.

BEST RATINGS OF 2016 via CNN Money  ABC’s debate coverage between 8 and 11 p.m. averaged 13.2 million viewers. For comparison’s sake, the debate on Fox Business Network (a cable channel that is harder to find than ABC) had 11 million viewers in mid-January. The debate on Fox News Channel two weeks later — the one Donald Trump skipped — had 12.5 million.



RUBIO SPIKED ON SOCIAL MEDIA — FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS via Phillip Bump of the Washington Post – Hey, look at that! People were talking about Marco Rubio more than Donald Trump, for the first time over the course of these debates. Rubio, who surged in polling after his strong finish in Iowa. Good news, right? No. The thing about comments sections is that just because you’re being talked about, does not mean that you are being praised. Rubio’s exchange with Chris Christie, in which the New Jersey governor hammered him on reverting to the same talking points over and over — hammered him — prompted a lot of cringes online. … Rubio also “beat” Trump on Google. The biggest spikes in searches for Rubio came when he was first talking about his experience (the comments that kicked off the Christie beat-down) and, later, when he was talking about immigration. (Cruz, who usually spurs a lot of Google interest, was searched as he talked about the same topic.)

google searches

HERE’S HOW RUBIO WENT INTO REPEAT MODE via Katie Gluck of POLITICO – Rubio went into repetition mode during Saturday night’s debate, going back to the same line over and over again to defend against comparisons to Barack Obama. “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing,” the Florida senator said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s trying to change this country.” Rubio would go on to reiterate that argument, nearly word-for-word, several times over the course of a single exchange with Chris Christie, who said that Rubio’s inexperience mirrored Obama’s.

NEW ON THE TWITTERS: Marco Rubio Glitch @RubioGlitch


New York Magazine, Rubio Implodes in New Hampshire Debate – “Chris Christie, whose strategy for the debate was clearly to take out Rubio, repeatedly called attention to the senator’s canned speech and accused him of using memorized sound bites to cover up for his complete lack of executive experience.” Vox, Watch Marco Rubio “short-circuit” and repeat the same debate talking point again and again – “It happened so often that it even launched a Twitter account, called @RubioGlitch.” BuzzFeed, Under Attack, Marco Rubio Malfunctions — And Repeats The Same Line Four Times – “Lines like this one … have earned Rubio a reputation as a gifted orator … But on the debate stage Saturday night, Rubio’s years-long reliance on soaring rhetoric abruptly turned against him.” Huffington PostWatch Marco Rubio Give The Same Canned Answer 3 Times In A Row – “’There it is,’ Christie said after Rubio made the remark for the third time. Rubio repeated the comment again later in the debate and was booed.” ABC NewsMarco Rubio Repeats Similar Line Four Times in GOP Debate – “But Rubio wasn’t done. He made the statement a fourth time. ‘I think anyone who believes that Barack Obama isn’t doing what he’s doing on purpose doesn’t understand what we’re dealing with here, okay?’” Washington PostRepublican debate: Repeated attacks by Christie leave Rubio rattled – “Rubio appeared rattled by the assault, which came chiefly from Christie but was echoed by former Florida governor Bush.” BustleThe GOP Debate Loser Of The Night? It Was Marco Rubio, And It Wasn’t Close – “… after a long couple hours of questioning … the loser heading into Tuesday’s primary was laid bare: that’s right, it was Florida senator Marco Rubio.” SalonWhy Chris Christie’s beatdown of Marco Rubio was the only moment from GOP debate that mattered – “Well, it’s hard to imagine anything Rubio could have possibly done that would more immediately, and humorously, affirm the caricature. Here he was, really being challenged for the first time — and by Christie, a world-class bully, no less — and he was wilting.” YahooChris Christie’s attacks rattle Marco Rubio – “See, Marco, the thing is this: When you’re president of the United States, when you are a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech, where you talk about how great America is at the end of it, doesn’t solve one problem, for one person.” Gawker, Chris Christie Just Ripped Into Marco Rubio and the Crowd Loved It – “And when Rubio tried to respond by shaming Christie for ‘not wanting to go back’ to Jersey after the massive snowstorm, the jeering directed (presumably) at Rubio nearly drowned him out. Rubio bashed Obama some more, Christie went back and tore Rubio to shreds—it was beautifully, uncomfortably brutal.”

FLASHBACK to Jonathan Chait from March 2011: “Do you get the feeling that ‘Marco Rubio’ is not an actual human being at all but some kind of computer program designed by the Republican Party? Imagine they had the technical know-how to create a candidate like this. What would they come up with? They’d come up with Marco Rubio, a cinematically handsome Latino from Florida who hews to the Tea Party line while spitting out patriotic cliches that sound as if they were programmed like a computer. … I’m not saying I’m sure Rubio is a robot. I’m just saying that I want to watch him walk through a metal detector.”

WE THOUGHT RUBIO LOST THE DEBATE, BUT NEW HAMPSHIRE MIGHT THINK DIFFERENTLY via Nate Silver of – Rubio’s debate is likely to be remembered for his repeating the same line about President Obama almost verbatim four times … It was an embarrassing moment for Rubio … But a lot of caution is also in order. Pundits haven’t misgauged the impact of a debate since … well, since only about a week ago … On Google Trends, there was a huge spike in searches for Rubio during the debate — but it came not during his glitchy moments but instead after an effective answer he delivered on abortion about two hours into the debate. Meanwhile, a Google Consumer Surveys poll conducted midway through the debate found respondents thought that Trump, Rubio and Cruz (in that order) were winning the debate. Undoubtedly, this mostly just reflects the fact that Trump, Rubio and Cruz are the most popular Republican candidates to begin with, but it’s also a reminder that one bad answer, or one bad evening, may not weigh all that much on voters’ minds. The other good news for Rubio is that most all of this will be forgotten about if he performs well in Tuesday’s primary.

WHY RUBIO CLAIMS ‘OBAMA KNOWS WH HE’S DOING’ via Michael Grunwald of POLITICO – The knows-what-he’s-doing debacle felt like Rubio’s political Fredericksburg, a futile repetitive charge into overwhelming enemy fire. … But there was an actual point that Rubio was trying to make, even if his embarrassing inability to deviate from his political script overshadowed his political argument. … He was suggesting that Obama, despite his relative pre-White House inexperience, has been effective at getting his way. “Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country,” Rubio said. Then he listed some of the ways the president has succeeded in doing that: Obamacare, the $800 billion stimulus, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and the nuclear deal with Iran.

What Rubio emphasized, and then emphasized three more times, is that Obama has been catastrophic for America, for Americans, and for the notion of American exceptionalism. “All this damage that he’s done to America is deliberate,” Rubio said. “This is a president who’s trying to redefine this country.” What Rubio did not quite say, but certainly implied, is that Obama’s status as a first-term senator has not prevented him from achieving what he set out to achieve.

RUBIO DID MUCH BETTER IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE DEBATE … recalling how he’s performed in previous debates. But we’re still guessing there will be more focus on Christie’s brutal attacks. Rubio’s answer on abortion and life was his highpoint:

JEB BUSH’S FINEST MOMENT: ATTACKING TRUMP ON EMINENT DOMAIN … the process by which the government takes private property for public use. When Bush tried to interject, Trump drew boos when he dismissed him saying, “Let me talk, quiet.” Trump quipped the catcalls were coming from “donors and special interests,” the only people who could get tickets to the high profile debate. Trump defended the use of eminent domain, saying it’s “absolutely necessary” to build roads, schools, bridges and hospitals. But Bush forcefully challenged Trump, asking why he tried to use eminent domain to purchase the home of an elderly woman who lived near one of his Atlantic City casinos. Bush says, “That isn’t public purpose. That was downright wrong.

CNN RIPS TED CRUZ AS FEUD ESCALATES via Hadas Gold of POLITICO – CNN came out swinging against Cruz … after the Texas senator once again tried to blame the network for his campaign’s use of its report to tell Ben Carson‘s Iowa Caucus supporters that their candidate was dropping out of the race. “What Senator Cruz said tonight in the debate is categorically false,” a network spokesperson said in a statement. “CNN never corrected its reporting because CNN never had anything to correct. The Cruz campaign’s actions the night of the Iowa caucuses had nothing to do with CNN’s reporting. The fact that Senator Cruz continues to knowingly mislead the voters about this is astonishing.” CNN never corrected their reporting, as they never reported Carson was dropping out of the race.


— @joegarofoli: This is a bad sign. Oy, they can’t even get the introductions right at #GOPDebate

— @CostaReports: Christie loves this. His bid may be low on funds & he may be low in the polls, but he lives for the fight. Others just looking on, smiling.

— @DouthatNYT: I’ve watched Rubio for a long time, always thought that critique of him as a talking-points robot was way overblown. But oh dear.

— @WillieGeist: True story: 8-year-old daughter walks through room as Rubio says,”Obama knows exactly what he’s doing” and says, “Didn’t he just say that?”

— @mattbai: Trumps is trying to singlehandedly bring Jeb back into the race. Might be working.

— @MikeGrunwald: Rubio staff working so hard on telepathic messages warning him not to use “Obama knows what he’s doing” spiel in closing statement.

— @RalstonReports: So that 3-2-1 strategy by Marco was a self-destruct countdown.

— @JamesFallows: Most self-destructive debate performance since Quayle ’88 and J.B. Stockdale ’92: Rubio.

— @AmyWalter: Obvious winner of debate tonight is Christie. He was showed the largest drop over the last 3 weeks in polls. Will this bring him back?

— @GranitProf: Started the night thinking Rubio could make it a two-man race in New Hampshire. Ending it wondering who will finish second.

— @HughHewitt: But the night is @JohnKasich given that Independents vote in NH. The Ohio gov has to be very very happy.

— @CarlyFiorina: I see now why they didn’t want me on this stage. All talking points. No leadership.

WHO DOMINATED TWITTER — Share of Twitter conversation h/t James HohmannTrump, 29%; Rubio, 18%; Cruz, 14%; Bush, 9%; Christie, 8%.


Mark Halperin: Christie A-, Trump A-, Bush B+, Kasich B+, Cruz B, Carson C, Rubio D.

The Fix via Amber Phillips: Winners – Trump, Cruz, the Trump-Cruz Bromance, Chris Christie, ABC’s video introduction; Losers – ABC’s candidate introductions, Rubio, Ben Carson’s foreign policy talking points, Debate start times, ABC’s moderator questions

Chuck Todd: “If an alien came down and simply watched this debate, they’d never believe that Trump, Rubio and Cruz were the top three in the polls … Christie, Kasich and Bush are all having their best debate performances tonight. Is it too little too late or just in time?”

RedState via Leon Wolf: Winners – Cruz, Bush; Losers: Rubio, Christie, The RNC again


DNC’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “Tonight’s debate turned into a total train-wreck for the Republican Party, right from the awkward introductions at the start to the shushing, finger-pointing, and the pivots back to the same tired talking points. Tonight the American people saw that the Republican candidates left in this race have one thing in common, an ideological extremism that’s out of touch with New Hampshire’s independent-minded voters and the vast majority of the American people. What’s become crystal clear after watching Republicans debate tonight, and the substantive and thoughtful debate Democrats had two nights ago, is that we must elect a Democrat as the 45th President of the United States.”

— “Debbie Wassermann Schultz mocked for weekend debate criticism” via Hadas Gold of POLITICO

American Bridge: “What happened to the RubioBot tonight? All eyes are on Marco Rubio — whose team has been hyping expectations going into Tuesday’s primary — to come up with something other than his repetitive hateful rhetoric, amateur policy discussions, and petty name-calling that we’ve been seeing over and over and over again for months. Tonight Marco Rubio was stuck on repeat and delivered the same poll tested and rehearsed answers again and again and again in a debate performance that pundits called “awkward” and “mind-boggling.”

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POLL DU JOUR: The 7News/UMass Lowell New Hampshire tracking poll finds Trump leading the GOP presidential race with 36%, followed by Rubio at 14%, Cruz at 13%, Bush at 10% and Kasich at 9%. Taiga Godard notes, Rubio’s “surge” seems to have stalled even before last night’s debate.

BUSH LOYALISTS CONCEDE THE END MAY BE IN SIGHT via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO – Many donors and influential supporters, bound by a deep and longstanding connection to the patrician clan, say they will remain with Bush no matter what. Yet others, deeply distressed by the rise of Trump and Cruz and eager for the Republican Party to rally around a mainstream candidate with viability, say they have come to terms with Bush’s long odds and the possibility they will eventually get behind someone else. “I acknowledge reality. There’s going to be three or four candidates remaining after New Hampshire,” said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, a Bush adviser who also worked on George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. “If he doesn’t do well in New Hampshire, I think he needs to think long and hard about what he wants to do,” said one top Bush fundraiser who played a key role in his brother’s administration.

BUSH CAMPAIGN MANAGER WARNS AIDES TO WATCH FOR ‘DIRTY TRICKS’ FROM MARCO RUBIO CAMP via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO – On Sunday afternoon, Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz convened top aides for an afternoon conference call in which he told them to expect “dirty tricks” from the Rubio campaign in the run-up to voting here … The conference call came as the Huffington Post reported that a pro-Rubio super PAC had sent out a mailer in the state that highlights remarks from Bush’s mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, that the country had grown tired of political dynasties.

BUSH SUPER PAC HEDGES ON AD STRATEGY via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO – Right to Rise … ordered a series of shifts in TV advertisement time — a decision that is potentially fraught with implications for Bush‘s candidacy. The group had planned to begin airing commercials … in Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma — all states that hold primaries on March 1. But Right to Rise … moved the start dates for the ads three days later, to Thursday, according to two media tracking sources. The shift appears small. But in altering the start date from Monday to Thursday, Right to Rise gives itself the opportunity to save money in the event Bush decides to end his campaign following the New Hampshire primary. Because the group has 24 hours before the start date of a commercial flight to cancel the booking, Right to Rise would now be allowed to abort the reservation on Wednesday — one day after New Hampshire votes.

PAC PAYMENTS RAISE QUESTIONS OVER RUBIO CAMPAIGN FINANCE via Beth Reinhard and Rebecca Ballhaus of the Wall Street Journal – After he began running for president, Rubiocontinued to send monthly payments to top campaign and Senate aides through his leadership PAC, Reclaim America, raising questions with election experts about whether the PAC is subsidizing his presidential campaign activities beyond legal limits. A leadership PAC is a committee created most often by current and former members of Congress to help them expand.

TAKING DOWN RUBIO IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK via John Favreau of The Daily Beast – This is such an easy story to tell. It’s such an easy story to understand. It’s not so different from when John Kerry voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it – a flip-flop that helped sink his 2004 campaign. Beyond Washington, Rubio’s dance on immigration won’t be seen as shrewd, it will be seen as cowardly and self-serving – basically, what people have come to expect from establishment politicians.

JEANETTE RUBIO HITS THE TRAIL via Anna Palmer of POLITICO – Rubio’s wife, Jeanette Rubio is campaigning for her husband – and that’s a shift. She has been among the least seen or heard spouses in the race, steering clear of the retail politicking that others, even Jeb Bush’s famously shy wife, have embraced … her infrequent appearances on the trail are in striking contrast to the other Republican spouses who have actively engaged on the stump to humanize their spouses in the eyes of voters, especially among a key electoral bloc — women voters — here.

ICYMI — BOBBY JINDAL ENDORSES RUBIO FOR PRESIDENT via the Associated Press – It’s the second from a former GOP presidential candidate for Rubio this week. Rubio is trying to seize on a better-than-expected third-place finish in [the] Iowa caucuses as he sprints across New Hampshire ahead of [the] first-in-the-nation primary.

JOE SCARBOROUGH SAYS HE HAS NO GRUDGE WITH RUBIO — “Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign has spent the past six months shopping a story to news organizations that suggests my reporting has been influenced by some long-held personal grudge between Rubio and myself. It’s an interesting narrative, but it’s not true… I have never met Rubio.”

LATE NIGHT TWITTER POPCORN … check the feeds of @JoeNBC & @AdamSmithTimes vs. @MarcACaputo.

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BERNIE SANDERS MAKES SNL APPEARANCE WITH LARRY DAVID via John Wagner of the Washington Post — David was playing a passenger on a sinking Titanic-like ship when Sanders emerged to protest his insistence that he get a spot on a lifeboat because he comes from a wealthy family. ‘Hold on, hold on, wait a second,’ the Sanders character said. ‘I am so sick of the 1 percent getting this preferential treatment. Enough is enough. We need to unite and work together if we’re all going to get through this.’ ‘Sounds like socialism to me,’ the David character said. ‘Democratic socialism,’ Sanders said, correcting him. ‘Ahhh, what’s the difference?’ asked David. ‘Huuuuge difference,’ Sanders said, stretching out the word ‘huge’ even longer than he does on the campaign trail. … ‘Who are are you?’ David asked. ‘I am Bernie Sanderswitsky,’ Sanders replied. ‘But we’re gonna change it when we get to America so it doesn’t sound quite quite so Jewish.’ Watch that sketch here.

BERNIE SANDERS NEEDS A BIG WIN IN NEW HAMPSHIRE via Harry Enten of – Early primaries are often as much about expectations as they are about winning or losing. Just look at Rubio, who has spun a third-place finish in Iowa … into momentum in New Hampshire because he did better than most expected. That’s why I’m wondering how the press will react when (if?) Sanders defeats Clinton in [the] New Hampshire primary. That post-New Hampshire narrative will matter a lot to Sanders because he’s currently trailing in the next two Democratic contests: Nevada and South Carolina. Both states are much more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire, and Sanders will need to show he can win among non-white voters. A wave of favorable press would help.

WITH NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY NIGH, HILLARY CLINTON SHIFTS FOCUS TO NEVADA CAUCUSES AND BEYOND via Evan Halper and Michael Memoli of the Los Angeles Times – … shifting their focus to holding Latino voters in Nevada, which votes Feb. 20, and then win in South Carolina, with its large black population, the following week. … [Bill] is thousands of miles away in Nevada … Chelsea … is also elsewhere. And even Clinton‘s hearty corps of volunteer door-knockers, who were out in force braving the wintry mix that hung over the region … seemed less than sanguine about her New Hampshire prospects.”

POLL: LARGE SHARE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE’S UNDECLARED VOTERS YET TO SETTLE ON A CANDIDATE OR A PARTY via Anthony Brooks of WBUR – New Hampshire’s undeclared voters — those who aren’t registered as Democrats or Republicans and can choose either ballot on Election Day — represent over 44 percent of the state’s voters, more than either political party. They are notoriously independent and play a crucial role in picking the winners … New Hampshire independents vote much differently than Republican or Democratic partisans, often switching between parties from election to election. This is partly because they’re allowed to, while party members can only vote in their own primaries. And it helps explain that famous “independent” reputation of New Hampshire voters. It found that the two candidates that New Hampshire independents like the most are Kasich and Sanders. In fact, they’re the only two candidates who independents view favorably overall. In the case of Sanders, almost twice as many independents view him favorably as they do Hillary Clinton. Same goes for Kasich on the Republican side. Koczela says if lots of independents show up, including those more moderate fence-sitters, Kasich is basically tied with Trump among independents, 19 to 20 percent — and he’s 6 points ahead of Bush and 7 points ahead of Ted Cruz.

NEW HAMPSHIRE SET FOR RECORD PRIMARY TURNOUT via Daniel Lippman of POLITICO – New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted … a record 550,000 voters will head to the polls … Gardner projected 282,000 ballots will be cast in the Republican primary and 268,000 in the Democratic contest. … Gardner’s lofty turnout prediction squares with high rates of absentee ballot requests and returns across New Hampshire so far. … [R]equests for absentee ballots are up 12 percent in seven of New Hampshire’s 12 largest towns, per POLITICO’s analysis of figures provided by local elections authorities.

SOME NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTERS MULL PICK OF PARTY, NOT CANDIDATE via Erik Moscowitz of the Boston Globe – While it’s not uncommon for voters to be torn between two candidates in one party, many longtime Granite State observers say they have never seen so many independents actually torn between parties. These independent voters, who are allowed to participate in either party’s contest, are debating not just the familiar questions of which candidate most grabs their heart or aligns with their own policy positions — but also weighing how to use their vote most effectively, with many contemplating a kind of surgical or tactical strike on the Republican side.

WHAT NH IS READING: EDITORIAL – OF POLLS, PUNDITS, AND RUBES via Joseph McQuaid of the New Hampshire Union-Leader – [R]eliance on polls caused networks and national pundits to look silly in Iowa but they are right back at it, trying to tell Granite Staters how the race will finish here based on their wild assumptions. … Christie and John Kasich are being dismissed in New Hampshire because of their low finish in Iowa. Rarely mentioned is that neither campaign spent more than a few dollars and very little time there. Their test comes here, in the first primary. Finally, we have Rubio, the national pack media’s Flavor of the Week with fawning stories of how the Republican ‘establishment’ seeks to ‘coalesce’ behind him. Young Rubio must think New Hampshire a bunch of rubes. He hasn’t spent much time here but is trying to sell himself with TV ads as someone who can go to Washington to clean up the Washington mess. Earth to Rubio: You are a U.S. senator. The Senate meets in Washington. You are hardly an outsider.

***Florida hospitals are on a mission. A mission to increase access to health care, improve the quality of care and reduce costs for patients. Find out more about the Florida Hospital Association’s “Mission to Care” and its new website that provides hospital prices and quality ratings in a consumer-friendly, searchable format.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will make a jobs announcement at 9:30 a.m. at Web Benefits Design HQ, 4725 W. Sand Lake Road in Orlando. Scott will make a second jobs announcement at 2 p.m., at Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, 101 East Kennedy Blvd., Suite 1750 in Tampa.

LEGISLATURE FILES GAMBLING BILLS, INCLUDING SEMINOLE COMPACT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Florida Senate and House of Representatives … filed their gambling legislation … including the $3 billion Seminole Compact, a proposed “voter control of gambling expansion” amendment and two different rewrites of the state’s gambling code. As There are many similarities – and some stark differences … Both include provisions for two new permits in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties to offer slot machines, for example, but the Senate would make them available to the highest bidder while the House would seek the most qualified operator. “I don’t think you’ll find anything revolutionary in there,” [said] state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz … who chairs the House Regulatory Affairs Committee that oversees gambling issues. “But we tried to produce as clean a bill as possible.” Among the provisions of both rewrite bills (PCB RAC 16-02/SPB 7072) is allowing a certain level of “decoupling,” the removing of the requirement that dog and horse tracks run live races if they wish to offer other gambling, like slots and card rooms. Specifically, it affects greyhound, harness and quarter-horse racing. That has already sparked the ire of the state’s horse breeders, trainers and owners, who have said any kind of decoupling will kill their industry. The Senate bill also expressly allows a type of card gambling, “designated player games,” now being targeted by Scott’s state gambling regulators. “A cardroom operator that does not possess slot machines or a slot machine license may offer designated player games consisting of players making wagers against another player,” the measure says. “The maximum wager in such games may not exceed $25.” The Seminole Tribe of Florida, whose casinos compete with tracks in South Florida and elsewhere that also offer cards and slots, brokered a deal with Scott that lets them keep exclusive rights to offer blackjack, first granted in 2010 and expired last year. The new agreement, or compact, guarantees the state $3 billion from the tribe’s casino revenues over seven years if approved by lawmakers and federal Indian gambling regulators.

FIRST IN SUNBURN: The new ad from Jobs for Florida in support of The Seminole Compact. Watch here.

INSURANCE ABUSE REFORM BILLS SHOW SIGNS OF STALLING via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Proposed laws aimed at curbing what insurance companies call fraud by contractors hired to repair non-weather-related water damages show signs of stalling for a fourth-straight year … House and Senate versions of bills that would impose restrictions on homeowners’ ability to sign over benefits of their insurance policies to water restoration companies and other contractors have been advanced by banking and insurance committees in each chamber but are not yet on any other committee agendas. Both bills require contractors to notify insurers within three days of policyholders’ signing over to contractors the right to seek payment for work stemming from an insurance claim. Both bills also require contractors to include warnings on contracts that policyholders are aware they are giving certain policy rights and have the right to cancel the agreement within three days. Both bills originally capped reimbursement of emergency repairs under an assignment at $2,500. The $2,500 limit was removed from the Senate version.

FLORIDA’S FUNDING FOR AFTERSCHOOL, MENTORING PROGRAMS COULD CHANGE via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Republican leaders of the Florida Senate want to drastically change how they dole out funding for after-school programs that provide homework help, mentoring and gang prevention services to thousands of children, often living in Florida’s most impoverished and vulnerable neighborhoods. Senators want to increase funding, provide it to more organizations and ensure the dollars are spent on programs proven to bolster children’s academic performance. But without any notice about the proposed change, administrators of nonprofits that rely year after year on the designated state funding said they feel blindsided and rattled with uncertainty and questions. “It came out of nowhere,” said Daniel Lyons, executive director for the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. “It just caught us off guard with how it all developed. … It felt like a sucker-punch.” In the Senate’s budget plan for 2016-17, gone are the designated line items that have been in place for years … In their place is a pot of $30 million — larger than this year’s cumulative funding but still short of what it was two years ago — and a general outline for a competitive grant process that would let both traditional and new organizations have a shot at state dollars as long as they prove their worth to a yet-unestablished, state-appointed board.

LANGUAGE ISSUE RAISES RED FLAGS IN MEDICAID FRAUD BILL via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union –  Language in a bill intended to prevent Medicaid fraud has raised red flags among hospital officials and Democrats concerned about patient privacy and cost. Rep. Dane Eagle is the sponsor of House Bill 1299, a measure intended to reduce public assistance fraud. But much of the discussion during a recent committee meeting focused on a provision that requires Florida hospitals to install software that allows them to use biometrics and the state driver license database to check patient identification. “The question is, are they who they say they are?” Eagle said. When the bill came up for a vote last month in the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee, Rep. Amanda Murphy proposed an amendment that struck the requirement that hospitals “biometrically” confirm the identity of Medicaid patients.

LAWMAKERS CONSIDER CONTROVERSIAL ALIMONY, CUSTODY CHANGES via William March of the Associated Press – Measures to end permanent alimony and to push judges toward granting 50-50 time-sharing custody between parents are generating emotional arguments in legislative committee hearings. An alimony reform bill passed its second committee in the House last week, and is ready for a vote on the House floor. A child custody bill has passed one committee in the Senate. Backers say alimony reform is needed to provide consistency and end injustices to a spouse ordered to pay alimony for life. However, opponents including the National Organization for Women contend the changes would be unfair to women who give up careers to be stay-at-home home mothers. Alimony reform advocates have pushed their cause in the Legislature since at least 2010.

FLORIDA CONSIDERS ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BILL FOR LGBT RIGHTS via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press – This year, some Republican lawmakers are backing a bill that would give lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents the protection against discrimination. “It’s a breakthrough for the South. It’s of huge significance that a Southern state – the third largest in the country – is taking this up. It is the first time that a Southern legislature will be contemplating passage of a bill that affirms rights, not takes them away,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. In a sign that Republican attitudes on LGBT issues are shifting, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the bill during a meeting … Similar measures have been filed for about a decade and neither chamber of the Republican-dominated Legislature has given it a hearing until now. Instead, expansion of gay rights such as same-sex marriage and allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children has been achieved through the courts. It’s not that Republicans as a whole have suddenly become gay friendly. Far from it. While the anti-discrimination bill would be the most far-reaching gay rights legislation enacted in Florida, there is a Republican-sponsored bill that would allow health care providers and hospitals to refuse treatment of gays based on religious beliefs. The same bill would allow any individual to refuse service to gay customers based on their personal religious beliefs. And there are House and Senate bills that would change Florida law to say churches can’t be forced to marry same-sex couples.

— “Florida must move forward on equality measures” via Nadine Smith of Time Magazine

BILL WOULD PUT CFO AT CENTER OF CAPITOL’S “STORAGE WARS” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The measure (SB 720) is stalled in the Senate after being postponed in the Regulated Industries Committee. But its House companion (HB 559) could be heard on the floor after the Regulatory Affairs Committee OK’d it 15-3. If passed, the legislation would take away the monopoly that newspapers have long had for public notices when storage warehouses auction off the contents of units whose renters haven’t paid up or otherwise have abandoned their property. Instead, under a pending amendment from state Sen. Kelli Stargel … notice of auctions could be placed “on an Internet website to be developed and maintained by the Chief Financial Officer.”

LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

ACCESS TO POT FOR TERMINALLY ILL  A bipartisan bill on the schedule of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee would give terminally ill patients access to medical marijuana. HB 307 is sponsored by Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz and Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards from Plantation. Meeting begins 2 PM in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

EARLY SESSION FOR 2018  The House Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee will take up PCB GOAS 16-01, a proposal moving the start of the 2018 legislative session to Jan. 9, nearly two months earlier than usual. Meeting begins 3 PM in Morris Hall of the House Office Building.

JUVENILE CIVIL CITATIONS  The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will consider HB 7085, sponsored by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo, which would allow police officers to issue civil citations to juvenile offenders instead of taking them into custody. Meeting starts 3 p.m. in Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

SICK CHILDREN WAIT FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA AS NURSERIES FIGHT OVER WHO GETS TO GROW IT via Kathleen McGrory of the Tampa Bay Times – A dozen nurseries are challenging the way Florida awarded licenses to grow and dispense the drug — and asking an administrative law judge to take a second look at the applications that were passed over. The nurseries contend the Florida Department of Health flubbed the selection process and say the challenges are necessary to ensure only the best operations get the licenses. But some parents say they have already waited long enough to get the drug to their sick children. “There aren’t even seeds in the ground,” said Amy Guenst, a Valrico mom whose 4-year-old son Luke is being treated for leukemia. “It’s really sad” … the back-and-forth has meant a longer wait while her son continues to suffer. She said cannabis is the best option to alleviate his pain after chemotherapy treatments. Sometimes, his legs ache too much to walk. “It burns his nerve endings,” she said. “It is pain that nothing can help.”

***A special message from Florida’s horsemen: While legislators debate using hard-earned taxpayer dollars for corporate relocation incentives, Florida employers who’ve been hard at work for decades could lose everything, thanks to “decoupling”— a Big Casino cash grab and gambling expansion plan tucked inside the Seminole Compact. It seems senseless to kill established Florida businesses, while spending public money in hopes new business may materialize. But Florida could do just that when “decoupling” leaves horse racing investors with NO WAY to do business and NO CHANCE to recoup financial return.  Gambling policy should be about growing Florida’s economy. Not padding the pockets of Big Casinos. Florida’s horsemen oppose decoupling in ANY form.***

THAD ALTMAN TRIES TO EXPAND SOLAR ENERGY AMID OPPOSITION FROM UTILITIES, CONSUMERS FOR SMART SOLAR via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm – For six years, [the] Treasure Coast lawmaker has tried, but failed, to expand renewable energy use in Florida … Altman is trying again this legislative session, even though he knows his efforts probably are doomed. “I sponsored a lot of renewable energy bills that have pretty much gone down in flames, no pun intended,” Altman said … [His] bill is similar to Floridians for Solar Choice’s proposed constitutional amendment. Both would make solar energy more affordable because homeowners and businesses could contract with companies to install solar panels at no or low upfront costs and buy energy directly from them instead of utilities.

IN COURT BRIEFS, CRITICS ARGUE UTILITY BACKED AMENDMENT LIMITS SOLAR CHOICE via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – A proposed constitutional amendment backed by utilities is misleading and could force solar energy users to pay more for service from utilities, opponents said in briefs filed this week with the Florida Supreme Court. In their answer briefs, the opponents also pointed to a Miami Herald report that some who signed petitions for the utility-backed amendment thought they were supporting another measure proposed by environmentalists and Floridians for Solar Choice. “The proposed solar amendment has already succeeded in confusing petitioners,” attorneys for Floridians for Solar Choice wrote in their answer brief. “The court should strike the proposed solar amendment from the ballot so that will not add to the confusion.” But the utility-backed political committee, Consumers for Smart Solar, said its proposal will establish specific rights to energy use that are stronger than those in current law.

RAUL GRIJALVA ENDORSES SUSANNAH RANDOLPH FOR CD 9 – “As a community organizer who has dedicated her career to protecting our environment, Susannah knows how to be a strong advocate for our natural resources and our community,” said Rep. Grijalva, who is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “She will fight for those without a voice and that makes me proud to endorse her campaign.” Grijalva has represented Arizona’s seventh district since 2002 … As a high ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, Grijalva has been at the forefront of the movement to address and combat climate change, and has rolled out a climate-change resolution with plans to move to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

2 REPUBLICANS FILE FOR FRED COSTELLO’S HD 25 SEAT via Florida Politics – One of the candidates is Costello’s former legislative assistant, Becky Reichenberg. She filed her paperwork … two weeks after Volusia County Council member Deb Denys entered the race. Denys has a long résumé in county-level politics. She was on the Volusia County School Board in the mid-’90s and chaired the Early Learning Coalition of Flagler and Volusia from 2005 to 2010 before she was elected to the county council in 2012. In the 2014 cycle, Denys won re-election to her District 3 council seat with about 51 percent of the vote in a three-way Republican Primary race. Before Reichenberg was Costello’s legislative aide, she was the deputy director in Florida for former Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign and was a Republican state committeewoman in St. John’s County.

2 MORE DEMOCRATS FILE IN HD 108 CONTEST via Florida Politics – Michael Hepburn and Marie Steril … join former Daphne Campbell campaign staffer Fayola Delica in the race for the Miami-Dade County seat. Hepburn ran for HD 108 in 2014, but lost to Campbell 64 to 19 a three-way Democratic primary, with Taj Echoles taking the remaining 17 percent. The Florida International University alumnus also took second place in the 2010 Democratic primary in HD104, losing out to former Rep. John Patric Julien. Steril also has a few elections under her belt, having been on the North Miami City Council from 2005 to 2015, though her exit from office was controversial.

HAPPENING TODAYDaisy Baez, the Democratic candidate for Miami-Dade County’s House District 114 will be holding a fundraiser starting 6 p.m. at Clyde’s & Costello’s, 210 South Adams St. in Tallahassee.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

APPOINTED: Patricia Fitzgerald to the Florida Real Estate Commission.


Sebastian Aleksander, Matthew Helme, The Aleksander Group: Studies Weekly; Yahoo!

Brian Ballard, Sylvester Lukis, Ballard Partners: Crystal Lagoons U.S.

James Daughton, Warren HusbandGregory Black, Patricia Greene, Aimee Lyon, Andrew Palmer, Monte Stevens, Metz Husband & Daughton: American Chemistry Council

Paul Bradshaw, Jim ClarkMercer Fearington, Jerry Lee McDaniel, David Shepp, Southern Strategy Group: Biomass Harvesting Solutions; MCNA Dental Plans; Professional Claimants Representation Association

Sandra Dayton, Aaron Nangle, Victoria Nangle: Florida Unites

Scott Dick, SKD Consulting Group: Cobbster

Fausto Gomez, Gomez Barker: Village of Pinecrest

Michael Harrell, Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: River Error Farms

Lisa Henning, Timmins Consulting: Marine Industries Association of Florida; National Association of College Stores; Professional Resource Network

Mark Herron, Messer Caparello: CBN Secure Technologies

Nick IarossiJennifer Gaviria, Kenneth Granger, Ron LaFace, Capital City Consulting: NeoGraft Solutions; Philips Lighting North America Corporation

Yolanda Cash Jackson, Karen Skyers, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Community Financial Services Association

Fred KarlinskyGus Corbella, Greenberg Traurig: Argos Resources; Star Mountain Fund Management

Emily Lewis: Charlotte County

Lisa Miller, Lisa Miller and Associates: Heritage Insurance

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Brad Drake and Rachel Sutz Pienta

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.

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