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Sunburn for February 5 – Dem debate takeaways; Piling on Marco Rubio; Rick Scott vs. mosquitos; Happy birthday Clay Ingram

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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.


For months, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have campaigned against each other with a velvet touch, eager to distinguish their race for the Democratic presidential nomination from the combative contest taking place in the Republican primary.

No more.

The pair tangled again and again during their first one-on-one debate of the 2016 race, battling over who is the best liberal standard-bearer for a party that’s moved to the left during President Barack Obama’s eight years in the White House.

Clinton cast herself as a “progressive who gets things done.” Sanders attacked her as being part of a political “establishment” in the pocket of big Wall Street donors.

And that was just the start of it.

Takeaways from Thursday night’s debate:

An artful smear — Eyebrows and voices were raised by both candidates as Clinton and Sanders targeted each other in a series of contentious exchanges. The subject more often than not was Wall Street.

Clinton called Sanders out for “attacks by insinuation” after he referenced the millions of dollars raised by an outside political group supporting Clinton’s campaign from donors with ties to the nation’s financial industry. She argued Sanders was saying that “anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.”

She went on, “I think it’s time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out.”

It went both ways. When Clinton said Sanders voted against regulating some kinds of financial trades blamed for contributing to the Great Recession, the Vermont senator shot back that there was “nobody who fought harder” for such efforts.

“Go to YouTube today. Look up Greenspan-Sanders. Listen to what I told them then,” he said. “I helped lead the effort against deregulation.”

Joked moderator Rachel Maddow after that sharp exchange, “Obviously we touched a nerve.”

Who is more liberal? Or is it progressive? — The two Democratic candidates repeatedly argued over who was worthy of being considered the most progressive — the preferred term among some Democrats for “liberal.”

Asking if Obama should be considered a progressive, since he supports a major trade deal with Asian nations opposed by many liberals, Sanders turned the question around. The debate over progressivism, he said, started when he cited a comment Clinton made at a September campaign event when she said she was “guilty” of being a moderate.

“It wasn’t me paraphrasing her,” Sanders said. “It is what she said, and all that I said was there’s nothing wrong with being a moderate.”

Clinton fired back, saying Sanders was “cherry picking” quotes and accusing him of setting a liberal standard that Obama, Vice President Joe Biden or the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, a liberal icon, could not meet.

“You being the self-proclaimed gatekeeper for progressivism, I don’t know anyone else who fits that definition, but I know a lot of really hard-fighting progressives,” she said.

More on Wall Street — Clinton struggled when asked whether she would release transcripts of her paid speeches, many of which she made to Wall Street firms.

“I will look into it,” she told moderator Chuck Todd. “I don’t know the status, but I will certainly look into it.”

She later tried to push back on the criticism, saying contributions to her campaign have no impact on her positions. And besides, she added, Wall Street is only part of the problem. She would go after “a broader target list” as president, including oil and pharmaceutical companies.

Sanders wasn’t interested: “Wall Street is an entity of unbelievable economic and political power. That’s a fact.”

Many of the contracts for her speeches, drafted by her team, stipulated there would be limited public coverage of her comments.

Foreign policy strength — On foreign policy, Sanders and Clinton agree: She has more experience. “That is not arguable,” Sanders said.

“But experience is not the only point, judgment is,” he said, noting as he often has during the campaign that Clinton voted to support the invasion of Iraq — and he did not.

But the former secretary of state was stronger at deflecting attacks on what amounted to her turf. She took viewers through a tour of the world’s toughest diplomatic disputes, even going so far as to surmise what current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is trying to accomplish in Russia.

And she skillfully raised questions about Sanders’ command of foreign policy, turning around his argument about her Iraq war vote, cast more than a decade ago.

“A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS,” she said. “We have to look at the threats that we face right now.”

THE FIX’S WINNERS AND LOSERS via Amber Phillips of the Washington Post — Winners: Clinton, Two-person debates, split-screens, Chuck Todd/Rachel Maddow; Losers: Bernie Sanders, New Hampshire, The Democratic National Committee, time.


— @ChrislHayes: I’m biased, but thought this was the best debate so far.

— @DylanByers: I would watch 4 hours of this.

— @TheFix: Imagine Donald Trump in a two-person debate like this. Hard not to see him struggling.

— @Politicalwire: This is easily the best debate of the campaign so far. Truly great.

— @RalstonReports: Twitter consensus: This is awesome.

SANDERS WON THE DEBATE’S GOOGLE FIGHT — IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE via Phillip Bump of the Washington Post — What’s particularly interesting, though, is what New Hampshirites want to know more about for each of the candidates. Google has a page dedicated to the debate, on which they list the five trending questions for both Sanders and Hillary Clinton in the state. … The fourth-most-Googled question about Bernie Sanders is how can I give him money. … There are a lot of ways to explore the differences in the questions asked about Sanders and Clinton in New Hampshire, and getting more people interested in searching for more information in general is a win.

— “Bernie Sanders wins the battle for most expressive eyeballs” via Mashable

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SANDERS LEADS CLINTON BY 20 POINTS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE via NBC News — Sanders gets the support of 58 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, while Clinton gets 38 percent — essentially unchanged from last week’s NBC/WSJ/Marist poll, which showed Sanders ahead by a 57 percent-to-38 percent margin in the Granite State.

NEW HAMPSHIRE POLL — DONALD TRUMP ON TOP, BATTLE FOR SECOND EMERGES via CNN – Trump continues to hold a wide lead among likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, according to a new CNN/WMUR tracking poll, with the pack vying for second place is beginning to break up.

Behind Trump’s field-leading 29% support, Marco Rubio climbs to second place with 18% following his strong third place finish in Iowa, followed by Ted Cruz (13%) and John Kasich (12%) in a near-tie for third. Jeb Bush holds fifth place at 10%, a hair behind Cruz and Kasich, with Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina well behind at 4% each. The fight for second place between Cruz, Rubio and Kasich remains within the survey’s margin of sampling error.

TRUMP NOSEDIVES IN LATEST NATIONAL POLL via Taegan Goddard of the Political Wire — A new Public Policy Polling national survey finds Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential field with 25%, followed by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both at 21% and Ben Carson at 11%. Trump is down 9 points since the last survey while Rubio is up 8 points and Cruz is up 3 points.

SCOOP — TRUMP CAMPAIGN HEADED TO TAMPA FEBRUARY 12 — Trump is planning a campaign event at the USF Sun Dome on February 12, sources inside the campaign and at the university tell We hear Sarasota GOP chairman Joe Gruters may even be the emcee.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Jamestown Associates – Winning tough campaigns. The record to prove it. Jamestown produces persuasive TV, radio, mail and digital advertising that breaks through the clutter and gets votes. We help our clients in Florida and the nation perfect their message, create powerful ads, micro-target the media buy and WIN. Jamestown’s work has been recognized with 50 Pollie and Reed awards. See our work at***

GEORGE W. BUSH CUTS TELEVISION AD BACKING HIS BROTHER via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO – Just days before the New Hampshire primary, former President George W. Bush has cut a TV ad for the super PAC supporting his brother (JEB BUSH) marking the former president’s most public political activity in the campaign to date. “The first job of the president is to protect America. The next president must be prepared to lead. I know Jeb. I know his good heart and his strong backbone,” Bush says in the Right to Rise spot.

— “Georgia governor Sonny Perdue endorses Jeb Bush in GOP contest” via the Atlanta Journal Constitution

WHAT MARCO RUBIO OFFERS THE SUPER RICH THAT HIS GOP RIVALS WON’T via S.V. Dáte of the National Journal – While 1-per­cen­t­ers hop­ing for lower taxes have reas­on to like pretty much every Re­pub­lic­an run­ning for pres­id­ent, there’s one who should have Amer­ica’s wealth­i­est think­ing about what to do with their ex­tra thou­sands, or even mil­lions, of dol­lars: Marco Ru­bio … who once called tax­ing prop­erty “im­mor­al” now wants to com­pletely elim­in­ate taxes on cap­it­al gains and di­vidends—a main­stay for the richest of the rich. That tax already has a top rate of 23.8 per­cent, com­pared with a 39.6 per­cent max­im­um for wage in­come. Ru­bio’s plan is ac­tu­ally most luc­rat­ive for those who don’t have to work for a liv­ing: those who can get by on so-called “un­earned in­come”—quarterly stock di­vidends and cap­it­al gains made from selling as­sets at a profit.

RUBIO: NO ONE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT HAS PRESIDENTIAL EXPERIENCE via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio has an answer for the governors saying he lacks experience to be president: “No one running for president has presidential experience. Being president is nothing like being governor. It’s nothing like being a senator.” Rubio continued: “Barack Obama is not a bad president because he lacks experience. He now has seven years of presidential experience and he’s worse today than he was in his first year.”

QUESTIONS SURROUND RUBIO’S ROLE AT FLORIDA COLLEGE via NBC News – Rubio has received plenty of attention – and criticism – for skipping Senate hearings and votes as he campaigns for his White House bid. But this isn’t the first job where Rubio has taken heat for failing to go all in. Documents and records obtained by NBC News suggest that as a visiting professor at Florida International University, he worked less than 10 hours a week and missed three-in-10 classes during his first semester of teaching – all while making more than most part-time visiting professors.

RUBIO’S CAMPAIGN SAYS IT DOESN’T KNOW WHY HIS LAW FIRM BIO SAYS HE LOBBIED CONGRESS via BuzzFeed – In the mid-2000s, Rubio was described as having ‘represented local governments before Congress’ – meaning that he was a lobbyist – for a prestigious Florida law firm. Officials for the Florida senator’s presidential campaign have said in recent days that Rubio wasn’t a lobbyist …Todd Harris, a Rubio campaign operative (said) he didn’t know how the detail made onto Rubio’s page. “You can talk to every firm he’s ever worked for and they will tell you he never lobbied the federal government,” Harris said.

— “Is Marco Rubio ‘scripted’ or just passionate?” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

— “Opinion: Marco Rubio is running scared” via the Washington Post

RUBIO SUPER PAC HITS BUSH FOR RELYING ON FAMILY via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – As former First Lady Barbara Bush campaigns in New Hampshire for her son, a radio ad from the super PAC supporting Marco Rubio knocks Jeb Bush‘s reliance on his family. “Jeb Bush keeps talking about the past, about his brother, his father, his mother. All good people, respected. But their time has passed. … It’s time for a new generation of leadership. It’s time for Marco Rubio.”

RICK SANTORUM’S STUMBLES AT CENTER OF NEW CHRIS CHRISTIE AD ATTACKING RUBIO via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Christie took a swipe at Rubio in a new ad featuring a top backer’s inability to identify one of Rubio’s accomplishments. The 60-second spot — called “It’s a Simple Question” — features clips from a “Morning Joe” segment Thursday. In the video, Rick Santorum fails to name one of Rubio’s Senate accomplishments. Santorum is then shown responding to Scarborough with: “The bottom line is — there isn’t a whole lot of accomplishments, Joe. I just don’t think it’s a fair question.”

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: Re: Santo’s appearance on Morning Joe, Rubio World admits “he took a shit” & he didn’t say he was going on. They woulda said no if they knew

— “Mass. Governor to endorse Chris Christie” via Daniel Strauss of POLITICO

RUBIO PILES ON CRUZ ‘DIRTY TRICK’: ‘THAT IS A WILLINGNESS TO SAY OR DO ANYTHING’ via Caitlin Macneal of Talking Points Memo – Rubio… joined the criticism of Sen. Ted Cruz following reports that the Cruz campaign told Iowa caucusgoers that Carson was dropping out of the race even though the retired neurosurgeon just had plans for a quick trip to Florida for a fresh set of clothes. “Obviously we’ve all seen the reports of the rumors that he spread about Ben Carson, and we know those weren’t accurate,” Rubio said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “I think it goes back to what I’ve said before, and that is a willingness to say or do anything, in this case spread a false rumor.”

TED CRUZ RAISES $3 MILLION SINCE IOWA CAUCUS WIN via AP – [A]ccording to Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe… Roe says the Cruz campaign has raised $10 million overall since the beginning of the year. That includes 182,000 individual contributions averaging $55 each. His campaign closed the year with almost $18.7 million in the bank. That was about as much as Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie combined.

BEN CARSON DOWNSIZING HIS CAMPAIGN STAFF via AP – Carson is downsizing his campaign staff after his fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, a spokesman confirms. Larry Ross gave no details on how many staff members are being laid off or how many will remain, but said the personnel cuts “were made to wisely and prudently position the campaign for the coming months.” Carson last month accepted the resignation of his finance chairman, Dean Parker, who had been criticized for his spending on salaries and consultants.

CARLY FIORINA EXCLUDED FROM NEXT GOP DEBATE via Hadas Gold of POLITICO – Fiorina has been excluded from Saturday’s Republican debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, ABC News announced on Thursday. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO has lagged her GOP rivals in national and state-level polls, but she complained in an open letter to the Republican National Committee on Wednesday that the debate process is “broken” and urged the RNC to intervene on her behalf.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORSBush will spend most of Friday off the trail, with just one event on his public schedule. He’ll hold a town hall at a school in Concord at 5:30 p.m.

***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.***

FLORIDA READIES FOR FIGHT WITH ZIKA VIRUS via Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press – Florida’s warm climate, year-round mosquitoes and revolving door of international travelers make it vulnerable to the Zika virus, but local governments aggressively urge people to dump or cover anything on their property that holds water so they don’t end up raising mosquitoes that spread the virus through bites. A rainy, humid winter already had mosquito control officials on alert statewide and door-to-door inspections have been increased in neighborhoods where 12 cases of Zika were reported, all from people who have traveled abroad.

Gov. Rick Scott called for more vigilance Thursday, and he said his emergency health declaration for five counties was much like getting ready for a hurricane. He sought to assure people that Florida, a hub for cruises and flights to Central and South America where the outbreak is, was safe. But in preparing for the worst, the governor asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to supply 1,000 kits to test for viral antibodies in pregnant women and new mothers who have shown Zika symptoms after traveling to affected countries. The state has about 500 tests on hand.

“With 20 million people and over 100 million tourists, we need the CDC to immediately provide these kits to Florida so we can protect our families and of course all of our visitors,” Scott said at a news conference in Tampa. He also wants the CDC to help train Florida hospital workers to identify Zika symptoms.

***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.***

SENATE SCHEDULES SEMINOLE COMPACT HEARING via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – On Thursday, the Florida Senate’s website showed two proposed bills from Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who chairs the Regulated Industries Committee, set for next Tuesday’s meeting at 1:30 p.m.

One (SB 7074) is the Compact as proposed by Gov. Scott that gives continued exclusive rights for blackjack to the state’s Seminole Tribe in return for $3 billion over seven years to the state. It also would allow the tribe to offer roulette and craps, among a host of other provisions. The other is a shell bill (SB 7072) for an accompanying measure that would be a gambling-law rewrite. It consists of one line: “The Legislature intends to revise laws relating to gaming.”

Bradley’s panel already has held two nonvoting workshops on the proposal, including one where some senators criticized the deal.

JOSE FELIX DIAZ CHOKES BACK TEARS DURING TESTIMONY ON KIDCARE BILL via Christine Jordan Sexton of POLITICO Florida -The Republican from Miami said he left his [Regulator Affairs] committee so he could present his bill in person. “It’s way too important to me and something I have been working on too long,” he said. A child of parents who legally immigrated to the United States from Cuba, Diaz became emotional during his closing remarks on the bill. “We make a lot of promises and this process is tough. And a lot of good bills die, but you can’t relent,” Diaz said, choking back tears. “You have to do things you believe in without fears of consequence. Handling a bill that deals with immigration is not easy.”

BILL TO LET TERMINALLY ILL USE MEDICAL MARIJUANA ADVANCES via Joe Reedy of the Associated Press  A proposal to allow terminally ill patients in Florida to use medical marijuana is headed to the Senate floor. Sen. Rob Bradley‘s measure, which passed the Fiscal Policy Committee on Thursday, has gone back to its original intent – allowing those with terminal conditions to use nonsmokable marijuana of all strengths and doses. … Bradley had attempted to add a 22-page amendment to the bill to rectify some regulatory issues that have arisen as the Department of Health attempts to get dispensaries up and running, but the Republican from Fleming Island withdrew the amendment to get things back on track.

JOE GELLER MORTIFIED BY MISTAKEN VOTE ON CAMPUS-CARRY VOTE via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Gellersays he’s “mortified” and “very embarrassed” by what he calls an honest mistake Wednesday night. … As the House was called to vote on a controversial measure to allow concealed handguns on Florida’s public college and university campuses, Geller said he pressed the wrong button — not only for himself, but for his seatmate, Rep. Randolph Bracy. That’s why the two Democrats came in as “yes” votes in the 80-37 result, which passed the bill out of the chamber. (The only Democrat to intentionally vote for it was Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who co-sponsored the bill.) … “It was absolutely a mistake. I just hit the wrong button and they locked the machine too quickly for me to fix it,” Geller told the Herald/Times.

HOUSE ALIMONY REFORM CLEARS LAST PANEL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A bill aimed at effectively ending permanent alimony is heading to the House floor after clearing its last committee Thursday. The Judiciary Committee approved the measure (HB 455), sponsored by Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton of Lakeland, by a 14-3 vote. Chiefly, the measure limits judges’ discretion in awarding alimony by providing guidelines for how much an ex-spouse should get and for how long.

JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS OK’D BY FINAL HOUSE COMMITTEE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The bill (HB 197) cleared the Judiciary Committee Thursday by a vote of 11-6, sending it to the full Florida House. Under the measure, pushed by Republican Rep. John Wood of Winter Haven, district court of appeal judges and state Supreme Court justices would be limited to 12 years on the bench, or two six-year terms. To take effect, it must be finally approved by 60 percent of voters as a constitutional amendment. Moreover, a Senate companion has not yet been heard in committee.

Speaking of the judicial branch…

APPOINTED: Honorable Harvey L. Jay, III and Allen Winsor to the First District Court of Appeal.

APPOINTED: Ernest Kollra and Alberto Ribas, Jr. to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.

APPOINTED: Geoffrey Gentile and Judge Leigh Frizzell Hayes to the Twentieth Judicial Circuit Court.

APPOINTED: Devin S. George to the Lee County Court.

APPOINTED: Gina Beovides to the Miami-Dade County Court.

APPOINTED: Paul Militello to the Sumter County Court.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA  Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda features an unusual game of cornhole as Governor Rick Scott rallies hard for $1 billion in tax cuts. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum talks with Gomes about his decision to skip a run for Congress and why he’s speaking out against the Legislature’s Open & Campus-Carry gun bills. The family of former FSU football player Devaughn Darling makes an impassioned plea to lawmakers to process a claims bill for his untimely death. And Gomes checks in on Florida’s presidential candidates after Iowa.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James  on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Producer Duhane Lindo discusses acquisition of property for a new charter school for minority boys Neil Phillips, founder of Bradenton’s Visible Men Academy.

Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Outgoing Dept. of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio and Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus at USF-St. Petersburg; Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson; Democratic political consultant Stacy Blake; and Republican political consultant Mark Proctor.

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: UNF professor Michael Binder on the recent results in Iowa and New Hampshire, a trio of Florida Times-Union reporters on connections between U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and an education nonprofit, and Jax Equality talks about the ongoing city Human Rights Ordinance.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Democratic SD 11 candidate Chuck O’Neal, Michelle Ertel and Jeremiah Jaspon discuss Iowa, New Hampshire, and the latest Republican debate. Plus, PolitiFact rates recent a Ted Cruz claim.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, Steve Vancore, Ed Moore and Peter Schorsch.

SUPER BOWL: AN EVENT THAT DEFIES THE NOTION OF AMERICAN DECLINE OR PROVES IT via David Maraniss of the Washington Post –The paradox of the Super Bowl is that it means more and yet less than almost any other game aside from the rip-off exhibition contests and the sunny Pro Bowl. Only fans of two of the 32 NFL teams, this time the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, have an emotional attachment. For the vast multitudes, the stake is not bragging rights to the Lombardi Trophy but either money down on the largest gambling enterprise of the year or beer and cholesterol consumption at some mandatory gathering of family or friends. There is no need to calculate how the outcome might affect your favorite team later in the season. Once it’s over, everything is over, and there is no deader feeling than the day after, especially in the dreary February grayness of the north. That sense of postgame emptiness for the pro football fan has been there for a half-century, even as so much else has changed. There are those who long for the old days, thinking the past was somehow more innocent, but the players who participated in those early Super Bowls were not so different from those of today. The temptations are greater, the money vastly more, but human nature stays the same. The NFL is all about blurring the lines between athletics and entertainment, and the Super Bowl is the material-world culmination of that monetizing effort. Even the coaches are part of it these days, wearing official team merchandise on the sidelines.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my friend, state Rep. Clay Ingram and Jennifer McDougald.

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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