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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – October 29

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.

Not to sound like my friend Mac Stipanovich, but did you ever see the 1964 epic film The Fall of the Roman Empire? It starred a gorgeous Sophia Loren, Stephen Boyd, Alec Guiness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer, and Omar Sharif.

The final scene of the movie, with the unhinged emperor Commodus now dead, depicts the remaining members of the Roman government bickering about who will take the emperor’s place.

The film’s name is a misnomer, as actually the Roman Empire survived for centuries after the period depicted in the film – even though historians consider it the beginning of Rome’s decline.

Might future historians consider yesterday, October 28, the true beginning of the Florida GOP’s decline?

In three settings — a presidential debate, Congress, and the Florida Capitol — Florida Republicans revealed just how deep the stress fractures of being the governing party for two decades run.

In Boulder, Colorado, the site of the third presidential debate, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, i.e., Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio clashed on stage in such a heartbreaking way that it might forever change national and Florida politics.

In Washington, D.C., the political career of Daniel Webster — one of the original leaders of the Florida GOP who would be on a Mount Rushmore of the state’s most important contemporary Republicans — saw his dream of being Speaker of the House finally doused with the election of Paul Ryan. With that over and the likelihood he cannot hold his own congressional seat, the first Republican to lead the Florida House in decades is likely down to his last year in electoral politics.

And in Tallahassee, on the floor of the Florida Senate, two giants of that body — Don Gaetz and Jack Latvala — sparred in a way that few observers of the Florida Legislature say they’ve the like before. The morale of the Florida Senate is at its lowest point in years, one member commented with really no end in sight to the crisis created by the order to redraw their own districts.

If you don’t think yesterday was perhaps the worst day in the history of the modern Florida GOP, consider this: Al Cardenas, a D.C.-Tallahassee wise man who supports Bush for president called on Rubio to resign his U.S. Senate seat. Cardenas is a former chairman of the Florida GOP for goodness’ sake and he’s echoing the argument of a newspaper editorial board and the Democratic National Committee.

The barbarians are at the gates. The empire is collapsing.


Celebrity businessman Donald Trump was again center stage as the Republican presidential field gathered Wednesday night for the third debate of the 2016 campaign, but for the first time, the billionaire seemed reduced to the role of a supporting cast member.

An early rumble between Bush and  Rubio showed they were willing to fight for the spotlight. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the leader in some recent preference polls, stuck to his soft-spoken style, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had some highlight moments — especially early on.

Here are a few takeaways from the two-hour matchup in the swing-state of Colorado.


Simmering tension between Bush and Rubio, who are vying for the same traditional Republican donors and supporters, spilled into plain view just 15 minutes into the debate. Bush seemed prepared to go after Rubio for missing votes in the Senate, but appeared ill-prepared for Rubio’s quick response — that he’s only attacking him because he’s behind.

“Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term and you should be showing up to work,” Bush said. “I mean, literally, the Senate. What is it, like a French work week? You get like three days where you have to show up? You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job.”

But Rubio was ready with his reply, citing the percentage of votes missed by previous senators who ran for president, including President Barack Obama. The detail of his response showed he had been prepared for the attack — and that he knows it could be viewed as a liability.

“The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” Rubio said.


With the moderators focusing more on Bush, Rubio and some others, Trump seemed unusually quiet.

He was asked only a few questions by the moderators from CNBC and interjected himself into other questions far less than in the first debate, when he seemed in command of the debate stage. One of his longest responses was on his company’s bankruptcy record. His use of legal bankruptcy, he said, shows, “boy, am I good at solving debt problems.”

As has been the case on each of the crowded debate stages, some candidates — including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — seemed to disappear for long stretches of time.

That was also the case for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, though he jokingly compared the bloated federal government to a runaway blimp making news Wednesday and later pointed out that he was wearing a Trump tie.


Cruz was a champion college debater and those skills were on display Wednesday. He deftly recapped the moderators’ quizzing of his opponents, describing those interactions as antagonistic.

“These questions illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match,” he said. The rebuke drew some of the loudest, most sustained applause of the evening. Cruz said the Republican debate is a stark contrast with the Democratic contest, “where every fawning question” was about “which one of you is more handsome and wise?”

Christie, Trump, Rubio and others joined in the media bashing. So, too, did Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus, who told reporters the moment the debate ended that he was disappointed in both the debate’s moderators and CNBC.

Cruz, a freshman Texas senator who has made his name by defying his fellow senators, also had one of the most memorable quips of the night. Asked by moderators to describe his worst characteristic, as he would in a job interview, he said with a smile: “I’m too agreeable, easy-going.”


During the August debate, Carson meekly said at one point, “I wasn’t sure I was going to get to talk again.” This time, as the leader in some recent preference polls, the moderators showed that people are taking a closer look at his background and his policy proposals.

Carson said he’d like to have an across-the-board tax rate of 15 percent and get rid of all income tax deductions and loopholes if he were president.

He also was questioned about his involvement with a medical supplement company called Mannatech that has come under legal scrutiny. Although he appears in promotions for the company, he called it “absurd” to say he has a relationship with them. When a moderator pushed him about whether perhaps that showed is weak on his “vetting process,” the crowd began to boo.

Carson smiled — spotting his chance to pile-on the media as other candidates had done. “They know,” he said of the audience.


Asked about his biggest weakness with the first question of the debate, Kasich dismissed it and began a tirade about the seriousness — or lack thereof — in the Republican campaign. “We are on the verge, perhaps, of picking someone who cannot do this job,” he said ominously, noting — without using their names — Carson’s proposal to end Medicaid and Trump’s talk about deporting all immigrants who are in the country illegally.

A few moments later, as Carson discussed his flat-tax proposal, Kasich piped back up: “This is the fantasy that I talked about in the beginning,” adding, “It’s not responsible.”

“We cannot elect someone who doesn’t know how to do the job,” he said.

Trump had a quick analysis of why Kasich’s tone had turned so negative: “His poll numbers tanked, and that’s why he’s on the end. And then he got nasty.”

BUSH COMEBACK STRATEGY BACKFIRES IN GOP DEBATE via Steve Peoples of the Associated Press

Bush sought to calm anxious donors with a comeback strategy focused on taking down rival Marco Rubio. But Bush’s plan backfired badly on national television in the third GOP presidential debate.

The mild-mannered Bush mustered up an attack on Rubio for missing so many votes in the Senate. “Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term, and you should be showing up to work. I mean, literally, the Senate — what is it, like a French work week? You get, like, three days where you have to show up? You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job.”

It was the moment Bush’s supporters had been waiting for. But so, apparently, was Rubio.

The first-term senator, Bush’s junior by 18 years, quickly charged that Bush had praised Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has missed many votes as well.

“I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record,” Rubio said. “The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”

The fresh-faced senator then pivoted beautifully: “My campaign is going to be about the future of America, it’s not going to be about attacking anyone else on this stage.”

The crowd cheered. Bush’s team did not.

Ari Fleischer, who worked in the George W. Bush administration, said Bush should have attacked Donald Trump instead of Rubio. “Mistake going after Rubio,” Fleischer tweeted.

And Bush never seemed to recover from the exchange, which took place just minutes into the debate.

He almost completely disappeared for long stretches. In fact, Bush had the least speaking time of anyone in the debate, by some counts.

— Bush talked less than any other candidate on the stage on Wednesday night, according to one count — less than 6 minutes total.

BEST WAY TO SUM IT UP via Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: “I]n their body language, the surprising story of the campaign seemed to unspool frame by frame, revealing the frustrations of Mr. Bush, awkwardly trying to adapt to modern sound-bite politics, and the talents of his young challenger, whose stage presence and confidence seem almost effortless.”


— @AJConWashington: Cruz spinner/Iowa radio host @SteveDeaceShow on Jeb: “you saw Marco Rubio rip his still-beating heart out of his chest and stomp on it.”

— @BallardFirm: Sad to see these cheap attacks on Marco.

— @EliStokols: Jeb adviser Trent Wisecup: “60 seconds on a debate stage doesn’t wipe away the wurst voting record in the senate.

— @EWErickson: “I do like Jeb Bush. He is a good person. But he needs to start thinking about his future now.

— @MarcACaputo: This has to hurt: @JebBush friend @ananavarro said she was felling “glum” about his performance.

— @nickmorrow: “Rubio just destroying Jeb on the stage: the moment when you realize your son can beat you at hoops in the driveway.

— @ZekeJMiller: Rubio camp’s Terry Sullivan “There’s no need to pile on Gov Bush after his performance tonight” #ouch

MODERATORS LOSE CONTROL AT THIRD GOP DEBATE via Hadas Gold of POLITICO – The CNBC-moderated debate became, at crucial moments, a debate about CNBC … By the end of the first hour, the audience seemed to be siding with the candidates, booing when CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla seemed to play gotcha with Carson about his past work for a questionable company.

BUSH CAMPAIGN MANAGER REALLY UPSET WITH CNBC via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO – Danny Diaz was so incensed about something that he got into a loud confrontation with a CNBC producer in the debate hall.

HOW THE DEBATE PLAYED ON TWITTER via Mike Allen of POLITICO – Four of the top five top … moments … involved criticism of the moderators: 1. Cruz attacks moderators’ questions. … 2. Rubio says ‘Democrats have their own SuperPAC, it’s called the mainstream media.’ … 3. Rubio and Bush go head to head regarding Rubio’s voting record. … 4. Christie discusses fantasy football and tells moderator that ‘even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude.’ … 5. Carson answers question about supplement promotion, crowd boos moderators.

MOST MENTIONS ON TWITTER with share of conversation: “1. Trump 22.19% … 2. Cruz 14.49% … 3. Carson 12.58% … 4. Rubio 12.24% … 5. Bush 11.30% … 6. Fiorina 7.13% … 7. Christie 5.43% … 8. Kasich 5.39% … 9. Huckabee 5.07% … 10. Paul 4.17%.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORSBush will be in New Hampshire for a 1:15 p.m. campaign event at Gino’s Chowder and Sandwich Shop, 177 Mechanic St. in Portsmouth. Then, at 7 p.m. ET, the former governor will appear at Whipple Memorial Town Hall, 429 Main St. in New London. Doors open at 6 p.m.

BUSH SUPER PAC STARTS TAKING SHOTS AT RUBIO via Nick Gass of POLITICO – ight to Rise’s account, @IsMarcoWorking … first tweet includes a Vine from the 1986 film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.’ Rubio was 15 years old when that film hit theaters.

BILLIONAIRE TO RUBIO: TIME TO STEP IT UP via Alex Isenstadt and Glenn Thrush of POLITICO  Paul Singer, the billionaire super PAC moneyman, likes Rubio … but he’s not quite ready to crack his seven-figure checkbook for a shoestring Rubio campaign run out of a tatty Capitol Hill row house. Like just about every Republican these days, Singer … is wondering if the … Florida senator can really create a big-time national campaign … Seldom has a candidate running around 9 percent in national polls (in third place, a click or two ahead of Bush) generated as much buzz as Rubio has heading into the third Republican primary debate … “We only need to be in first place for one f–king day,” said one Rubio staffer, who hopes his man peaks … in December, with just enough momentum heading into Iowa and New Hampshire … Rubio has adopted a small-mammal approach, maneuvering quietly at ground level, hoping that dinosaurs like …Trump … Bush … Carson ignore him while stomping each other … Therein lies his paradox. To gain stature … Rubio needs to aggressively promote himself, but not so aggressively that he becomes a focal point of the race.

SURPRISE: BUSH WANTS ‘PHASE OUT’ OF SUGAR SUBSIDY via Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post – Bush, a longtime ally of his state’s wealthy sugar producers, is parting ways with the industry and calling for an end to government subsidies that have boosted company profits for decades … a surprise to industry lobbyists, could help the Republican’s struggling presidential campaign court conservative activists and competing industries that decry the sugar program as “crony capitalism” … comes as he retools his operation to focus on early-voting states, including Iowa, where the corn industry is preparing to begin an ad campaign attacking the subsidy … puts him at odds with … Rubio … who is being backed by members of the … Fanjul family.

NEW GOP GROUPS TAKING AIM AT HILLARY CLINTON via Patrick O’Connor and Rebecca Ballhaus of the Wall Street Journal – A collection of top GOP operatives, financed by prominent Republican donors, is launching two new groups to take aim at … Hillary Clinton. The groups — Future45, a super PAC, and 45Committee, an issue-advocacy organization — are designed to seize on issues that emerge in the campaign or comments … Clinton makes and quickly assemble ads that will run both online and on television. … Both entities will be bankrolled by some of the biggest donors to Republican candidates and causes, including hedge-fund billionaires Ken Griffin and Paul Singer and the family of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. Former RNC finance chairman Ron Weiser will serve as chairman of Future45.

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DAN WEBSTER’S BID FOR HOUSE SPEAKER ENDS THIS AFTERNOON via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Webster’s quixotic attempt to become speaker of the U.S. House [came] to an end … when Republicans [voted] to nominate Paul Ryan, setting up confirmation …  by the full chamber. Webster never had a chance … Now, Webster has to worry about keeping his job.

FAVORITE SONS PINCHING GOP FLORIDA SENATE CONTRIBUTIONS via Emily Cahn of Roll Call – Two favorite sons of Florida running for president in the crowded GOP primary field are stunting fundraising for the 2016 Senate race in the Sunshine State, sucking up the time and attention span of Florida’s top donors, according to multiple Florida Republican operatives … Bush and … Rubio have siphoned off the time and money from top donors that could be going to Republican Senate candidates. The cash squeeze has been so bad that the leading Democrat in the race raised nearly as much in the third quarter as the three top Republican candidates combined.

BOB POE TELLS DEMOCRATIC DONORS HE’LL RUN FOR CONGRESS via Florida Politics – Bob Poe, the former chairman of the Florida Democratic Party and … head of Charlie Crist‘s gubernatorial campaign committee … is considering running in Florida’s soon-to-be redrawn 10th Congressional District … according to two high-level Democratic donors  … he is further along in his thinking and is likely to announce for the seat in January. Poe also told those donors that he is prepared to self-finance up to half of the campaign’s expenses … Poe wouldn’t confirm the accounts but he did say he’s looking hard at the seat.

FLORIDA SENATE NARROWLY APPROVES NEW SENATE MAP via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press  – Amid an ugly political brawl in which one senator publicly accused another of being a bully, the Florida Senate on Wednesday narrowly approved a new map for the state’s 40 senate districts.

But some senators predicted shortly after the 22-18 vote that the proposal may not pass the Republican-controlled Florida House. That’s because the Senate made last minute changes to a handful of districts in Miami-Dade County that some Democrats said were aimed at helping an incumbent GOP senator from Miami.

“There is not a magic solution to anything,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner. “Today was the first inning. We have a long way to go.”

The Senate has struggled so far to come up with a replacement map. At the last minute, they altered the lines in Miami-Dade at the urging of Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. Diaz de la Portilla insisted the change was needed to boost the chance that three senators from Miami-Dade would remain Hispanic. He also said his proposal would keep the well-known Cuban community of Little Havana intact.

But 14 Democrats sided with four Republicans in opposition to the new map. Several senators predicted that the same groups that challenged the existing map would prevail in court if they decided to oppose the new one. A lawyer representing the coalition of groups that sued lawmakers sent a letter this week to legislative leaders contending the Senate map violated the “Fair Districts” amendment.

DON GAETZ TAKES ON JACK LATVALA OVER FLORIDA SENATE REDISTRICTING CLASH via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – The personal and political conflicts that have divided Florida Senate Republicans for months reached the boiling point … as the Senate narrowly approved a redrawn redistricting map 22-18 and two powerful senators pointedly used the opportunity to finger each other for the chamber’s mistakes. Democrats voted together in opposition to the map … joined by … Latvala … and three other Republicans. Following the debate, however, angry emotions spilled into view as … Gaetz … rose for a rare “point of personal privilege,’’ a rule that prevails over all others, and used it to criticize Latvala for blaming the need for the special session to redo the maps on him. “Sen. Latvala says Don Gaetz is the cause for the special session. You decide. I am sorry for my mistakes. Sen. Latvala should be sorry for his … But when a bully throws a sucker punch, you hit back and never give in.”

TWEET, TWEET: @BylineBrandon: “Crust of civility” “false flags,” “beards,” “hot mess” — we have reached #PeakGaetz

JACK LATVALA: ‘NO PROBLEM’ WITH SUPPORTERS WHO VOTED FOR SENATE MAP via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Latvala says he has “no problem” with those supporting his Senate presidency bid voting for a redraw of the state Senate map he opposed. “Unlike some other people in the process, I don’t think you have to vote with me all the time to be my friend.” … he had no problem with the move, and was not caught off guard. “I knew how everyone was going to vote.”

JOSE OLIVA ON SENATE MAP: ‘I’VE GOT A REAL CONCERN’ ABOUT INCUMBENCY ISSUES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Oliva … said he feared the changes the Senate made to the staff-drawn map could led the court to conclude the map violates what is considered “tier one” standard that prohibits lawmakers from intentionally protecting incumbents or political parties. “Numerically, it is in fact a more compact map …The concern of course is all that has been said regarding the tier one – who has spoken to whom – and I’ve got a real concern about all of that.” … was also encouraged by the map submitted late Tuesday by the challengers in the redistricting lawsuit … It was not considered by the Senate and Senate Reapportionment Committee chair Bill Galvano said he expects it will be part of the debate with the House.


— @AlexDLP40: This is not the Senate I remember #schoolyardfights #fairdistricts

— @Fineout: As I stated a few weeks before – who is really running the Fla. Senate?

@Fineout: Sen. @JackLatvala – “not sorry for saying” that Gaetz wound up costing taxpayers millions

— @JKennedyReport: If @FLSenate map somehow limps out of this. @BillGalvano better have today’s journal deleted. Testimony toxic in court

******Florida horsemen fear “decoupling” will trigger a statewide gambling avalanche, extract money out of Florida’s economy and siphon it back to Big Casinos, disabling our heretofore successful horse racing industry from competing for business with other, more horse racing-friendly states.  It tells potential investors that “Florida is closed for business.” is an advocacy outreach by United Florida Horsemen, which comprises nearly 350,000 horsemen from the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ AssociationFlorida Standardbred Breeders’ and Owners’ AssociationNational Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective AssociationAmerican Quarter Horse Association and U.S.Trotting.***

IN FLORIDA’S BEAR HUNT, EMOTION AND AGENDAS TRUMPED FACTS via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – Much of the reaction to Florida’s bear hunt has been understandably emotional … But the reality is that hunting is part of this country’s DNA. Bear hunting is legal in 32 other states … And frankly, aside from vegans, human outrage about killing animals is awfully selective … I could understand bear hunting. It isn’t for me … But I understand the logic … IF the state first completed its bear count … IF all the bears killed were killed for consumption … IF cubs weren’t killed … IF new mothers weren’t killed … IF state officials knew what they were doing. But here’s the thing: They didn’t.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight job creation with a 2 p.m. press conference at Xcelience, 4910 Savarese Circle in in Tampa.

NO STATE SENATE RUN FOR KRISTIN JACOBS via Florida Politics – Both Jim Waldman and Gary Farmer breathed a sigh of relief … Kristin Jacobs, former mayor of Broward County and current Florida House member … is not going to run for Senate. “I just got elected to serve as a House member and feel I have an obligation to stay here as long as voters will have me. Running for a higher office at this time, just didn’t feel like the right thing to do,” Jacobs told

PERSONNEL NOTE: FLORIDA DEMOCRATS NAME ROOSEVELT HOLMES AS DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR via Florida Politics – Orlando-based political operative Roosevelt Holmes III has been brought on as new deputy political director for the Florida Democratic Party … has served as a Florida Democratic campaign staffer and legislative assistant, working on campaigns such as Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential bid and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s 2012 re-election campaign. Most recently, he worked in U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and served in the Government Affairs and Public Policy Department of UNCF.

PERSONNEL NOTE: LEADINGAGE FLORIDA NAMES SUSAN LANGSTON VP OF ADVOCACY via Florida Politics – LeadingAge Florida … named Susan Langston to lead its advocacy team. Before joining LeadingAge Florida as vice president for Advocacy, Langston spent five years as Director of Government Affairs for the Florida Assisted Living Association. For the last year and a half of her tenure, she served as chief operating officer … previously worked as Executive Director of the Florida Telecommunications Industry Association.


Chris Carmody, Chris Dawson, Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: City of Neptune Beach

David Griffin, GrayRobinson: University of Central Florida Foundation

Glenn Kirkland, Jonathan Menendez, Strategies Public Affairs: Splunk

MUST-READ LAUNCHING TODAY — INSANE. INVISIBLE. IN DANGER. via the Tampa Bay Times – Years of neglect and $100 million in budget cuts have created chaos at Florida’s mental hospitals, leaving violent patients unsupervised and easily able to attack workers and other patients …The Tampa Bay Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune spent more than a year tracking the violence, which state officials ignored as they continue to cut … The series begins on

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the best, Bascom Communications and Consulting’s Kristen Bridges. Also celebrating today are Alan Brock and Rivers Buford III.

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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