Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott weigh in on Kavanaugh

Gov. Rick Scott (left) and Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio all weighed in this morning on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson announced on Twitter this morning that he will vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio issued a lengthy statement supporting Kavanaugh.

Nelson’s challenger in the November Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, responded to Nelson’s announcement by accusing him of being a puppet of Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Scott later issued a statement supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

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Nelson’s decision wasn’t surprising as he also voted against President Donald Trump‘s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the high court last year.

Scott tweeted from his campaign account that Nelson was “always going to do exactly what your party leaders told you do do. You decided no before you even knew who the nominee was. Your vote does not even belong to you – it belongs to @SenSchumer.”

Later, Scott issued a statement saying he found Christine Blasey Ford‘s testimony that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s when both were teenagers “convincing.” But Scott said he also found Kavanaugh’s denial convincing and supports his confirmation.

Scott said both Ford and Kavanaugh “have been used and abused as pawns in a partisan Washington political theater, which is clearly the product of career politicians playing games at the expense of these individuals’ lives and reputations. This hearing was a very good example of why we need term limits in Washington.

“I don’t know what happened 36 years ago in suburban Maryland. The truth is that none of us really know. So, I have to go with what I do know – Judge Kavanaugh has been a fair and brilliant Judge, one of our nation’s very best. He should be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In his statement, Rubio said: “This entire ordeal is indicative of something that goes beyond the nomination before us. It has revealed how our culture has become increasingly sick and demented, unmoored from the values upon which this great nation was founded and which have allowed our society to flourish.”

Rubio said both Ford and Kavanaugh offered testimony that was “unequivocal, compelling and heartbreaking.”

Rubio added: “Under these circumstances, I must make my decision on the basis of evidence and established facts. Especially since voting against Judge Kavanaugh would no longer be simply a rejection of his nomination, but an endorsement of the serious allegations against him.

“I will not vote against the nomination of someone who I am otherwise inclined to support and in the process add credence to charges which have already done permanent damage to his reputation, on the basis of allegations for which there is no independent corroboration and which are at odds with everything else we have heard about his character.”

 

Hillary Clinton to campaign with Andrew Gillum in South Florida

Hillary Clinton at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth during the 2016 presidential campaign. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

After courting liberals in the primary by campaigning with progressive icon Bernie Sanders, Florida Democratic governor nominee Andrew Gillum is reaching out to the party’s establishment wing and bringing in Hillary Clinton for a rally somewhere in deep-blue South Florida on Oct. 23, the Gillum campaign announced today.

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It will be the sixth consecutive Florida governor’s race in which a Clinton has campaigned for the Democratic nominee. Former President Bill Clinton stumped in the Sunshine State for every Democratic gubernatorial nominee from 1998 to 2014, but the #MeToo movement has put a 2018 Bill Clinton visit in question.

Hillary Clinton lost Florida to Donald Trump in 2016 with 47.8 percent of the vote — a 2.2 percent drop-off from former President Barack Obama‘s winning margin in the state four years earlier. But Clinton racked up big margins in heavily Democratic Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Turning out Democrats in those counties will be a key for Gillum against Republican Ron DeSantis.

“I’m honored to have Secretary Clinton join me in Florida next month,” said Gillum, who backed Clinton over Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries and spoke at the Democratic National Convention that year. “Hillary knows just what’s at stake in this election — affordable healthcare, a brighter future for our children — and that the choice in this election could not be clearer.”

Republicans sought to exploit the split within the Democratic Party between Clinton loyalists and backers of Sanders, whose endorsement of Gillum was a key to his Aug. 28 primary win.

“Clinton’s sudden re-emergence and fundraising tour will do far more to hurt Gillum’s cause than help it,” said RNC spokeswoman Taryn Fenske. “Gillum’s socialist base isn’t going to like him aligning with Clinton who is tainted by decades of controversy and failed policies. Floridians rejected Hillary in 2016 – he better watch out or he’ll alienate his far-left base.”

Gillum is trying to become Florida’s first black governor. He’s also trying to be the first Democrat to win a Florida governor’s race since Lawton Chiles barely won re-election in 1994 over Republican challenger Jeb Bush.

Four years later, Bush began a 20-year winning streak for the GOP by winning election in 1998 and re-election in 2002. Charlie Crist, now a Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg, won the governorship as a Republican in 2006. Republican Rick Scott was elected in 2010 and re-elected — over Crist — in 2014.

The Democrats who lost those races presented themselves more or less as moderates, but Gillum staked out a variety of liberal positions and urged the party’s voters to try something new this year.

“We have nominated five pretty centrist Democrats, white Democrats, for the last 20 years and not one of them have won,” Gillum said in an August interview with the GateHouse Media. Gillum added: “Black voters, brown voters, young voters, poor voters — I trust my chances at being able to reach those constituencies over anybody else running, and if we’re going to win, our nominee must move more of those voters to the polls.”

In a five-candidate Democratic primary, the endorsement from Sanders helped Gillum get a 34.4 plurality to claim the nomination.

Ron DeSantis brings in Susie Wiles, a key figure in Trump’s 2016 Florida win

Susie Wiles, new campaign chairwoman for Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis.

With multiple polls showing him trailing Democrat Andrew Gillum in the Florida governor’s race, Republican Ron DeSantis has brought on veteran Florida operative Susie Wiles to lead his campaign with the title of campaign chairwoman.

It’s not the first time a high-profile Florida campaign has turned to Wiles for help in September of an election year. Wiles was chief Florida strategist for Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign, taking the role shortly after Labor Day that year and helping Trump win the crucial Sunshine State by 1.2 percent over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

She was also Rick Scott‘s campaign manager in 2010 when then-outsider Scott bucked the GOP establishment to defeat Attorney General Bill McCollum for the gubernatorial nomination, then won the general election over Democrat Alex Sink.

Wiles, who lives in Jacksonville, said she will be taking temporary leave from her job as a lobbyist with the powerhouse Florida-Washington Ballard Partners firm.

Brad Herold will remain as DeSantis’ campaign manager.

Since the Aug. 28 primaries, at least eight public polls have shown Gillum leading. The Democrat’s edge is within or close to the margins of error for each poll, though a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday gives Gillum a 9-point advantage. Republican insiders concede Gillum has a slight edge in his bid to become the state’s first black governor and first Democrat to win a governor’s race since 1994.

“I’m excited to have Susie join our team as Campaign Chairman. She has the knowledge, expertise and acumen to carry our message to voters all across Florida. With her winning record, Susie is the ideal person to lead our campaign efforts and help us secure a big victory come November,” said DeSantis.

“Florida’s future depends on building upon the successes of our state’s outstanding Republican leadership. Ron DeSantis is the only candidate who will lead Florida forward and help our state and its people realize their full potential. With so much at stake for our state in this election, I am honored to lead his campaign team, and look forward to working with Floridians everywhere to elect Ron as our next governor,” said Wiles.

Democratic trend in Florida? Two new polls show Gillum, Nelson ahead

Democratic governor nominee Andrew Gillum (left) and Sen. Bill Nelson lead their respective races in new Florida polls that differ on the size of their leads. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Two polls released this week show Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Democratic governor nominee Andrew Gillum leading their nationally watched Florida races.

An NBC/Marist poll released late Tuesday shows the Democrats holding narrow leads in both races while results released by Quinnipiac University show a 7-point advantage for Nelson over Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the Senate race and a 9-point lead for Gillum over Republican Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race.

The NBC/Marist poll, conducted Sept. 16-20 with a 4.7 percent margin of error, gives Nelson a 48-to-45 percent lead over Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the Senate race and shows Gillum holding a 48-to-43 percent lead over Republican Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race.

Quinnipiac released Senate results Tuesday showing Nelson with a 53-to-46 percent lead over Scott — a result out of line with other polls released in the last month and deemed “absurd and not even close to accurate” by Scott pollster Wes Anderson.

Quinnipiac today released more results of its Sept. 20-24 survey, this time showing Gillum opening up a 54-to-45 percent lead over DeSantis in the governor’s race. The Quinnipiac surveys, conducted Sept. 20-24, have a 4 percent margin of error.

The polls also paint different pictures of Florida voter attitudes toward President Donald Trump. In the NBC/Marist poll, 46 percent of likely voters approve of Trump’s job performance and 48 percent disapprove — essentially a tie given the poll’s margin of error. Quinnipiac, however, found 44 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval for Trump among likely Florida voters.

What happened to Chris King’s ‘bullet tax’?

Democrat Chris King made it past the Aug. 28 primary when Andrew Gillum tapped him as his running mate. King’s proposed “bullet tax,” however, did not make the cut. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Chris King finished a distant fifth in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for governor, but his progressive platform impressed primary winner Andrew Gillum enough to earn King a berth on the general election ticket as Gillum’s  running mate.

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In a primary race that saw all five Democrats try to outdo each other in support for gun control and opposition to the National Rifle Association, King drew attention with a proposal to impose a new tax on bullets.

King was asked about the bullet tax Tuesday after he made an appearance in West Palm Beach to denounce Republican nominee Ron DeSantis on health care.

“Part of what happens when you lose an election and you now have a new boss is he sets the ultimate priorities,” King said. “And as we’re assimilating, it doesn’t appear that that one has moved forward into the general election.”

 

Quinnipiac poll: Shifts in Scott-Nelson race, Trump approval; genders split on Kavanaugh

Republican Gov. Rick Scott (left) and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, rivals in the November race for U.S. Senate. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Three weeks after calling Florida’s U.S. Senate race a dead heat between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a new Quinnipiac University poll gives Nelson a 53-to-46 percent lead.

The poll stands in contrast to six other public polls released in the last month that have shown the race virtually tied, with neither candidate claiming a lead outside any survey’s margin of error. Quinnipiac had Scott and Nelson in a 49-49 tie on Sept. 5.

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Floridians evenly divided on whether Brett Kavanaugh should be confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court, with 47 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed — a virtual tie considering the poll’s 4 percent margin of error. Men favor Kavanaugh’s confirmation, 55 percent to 40 percent; women oppose him by a 54-41 margin.

President Donald Trump‘s Florida approval rating has sunk since Quinnipiac’s last poll, with 44 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving in the new survey. Three weeks ago, Trump had 47 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval scores.

The latest poll of 888 likely voters was conducted Thursday through Monday, with live interviewers calling a mix of cell phones and land lines.

 

 

 

 

Did Ron DeSantis tell uninsured cancer patients to ‘show up at the emergency room’?

Florida’s candidates for governor: Democrat Andrew Gillum (left) and Republican Ron DeSantis.

A new Florida Democratic Party ad for Andrew Gillum‘s gubernatorial bid hammers Republican Ron DeSantis on health care, noting he opposed Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid in Florida.

The ad’s narrator also says: “And when he was asked what cancer patients should do without health insurance, DeSantis said: ‘Show up at the emergency room.’ How can DeSantis lead Florida when he leaves Floridians behind?”

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The “show up at the emergency room” quote was extracted from a March 2017 interview of DeSantis by CNN’s Erin Burnett after CNN aired a segment about a Republican Wisconsin woman, Tiffany Koehlerwho relied on Medicaid to receive cancer treatments.

Are Democrats fairly characterizing what DeSantis said?

“Ron DeSantis fully supports covering pre-existing conditions,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson. He added: “Andrew Gillum’s attacks are a desperate attempt to distract from his disastrous single-payer healthcare proposal which would cost $33 trillion dollars and take away every Floridian’s current insurance coverage.”

To see DeSantis’ “emergency room” comment in its full context, here’s the relevant portion of CNN’s transcript of the DeSantis interview. 

BURNETT: What do you say to Tiffany? I mean, she’s a Republican, but, you know, she wouldn’t be alive, she wouldn’t be here without that Medicaid expansion and Obamacare.

DESANTIS: Well, if you remember when Obamacare was enacted, there were millions of people who had their healthcare canceled. And so there are stories of people who had certain needs, cancer or whatnot who got pushed into policies that they didn’t want, and then they didn’t have the same coverage that they had because of the broken promise. So I think this law has really created a lot of different aspects.

I would say though, and people who supported Obamacare used to make this point a lot before it passed, there really is no lack of healthcare. If people really need it, if they show up at the emergency room, they do get care, it just gets passed on

BURNETT: But not — I mean, she had $1 million in cancer treatments. You’re not going to get that by showing up in an emergency room.

DESANTIS: Well, I would say this. The bottom line with Obamacare is, a lot of the folks who were qualifying on the policies on the exchanges, more people are leaving, insurers are leaving. So that’s just not a sustainable system. You’re not going to have that going on two, three, four years into the future if nothing is done. And so that’s just the reality that we’re dealing with here with this system.

BURNETT: So when — I spoke to an expert from Standard & Poor’s yesterday, and his view was the GOP would mean 6 to 10 million people on Medicaid would lose coverage under the GOP plan because of what it would do the Medicaid expansion. When you say you wanted to go further, which I know you have said in your statement. What do you mean? You want to get rid of it altogether? What is your view of what should happen?

DESANTIS: Well, so, for example, we said we were going to repeal Obamacare. We did do a bill in January that President Obama vetoed. This bill though, for some reason, even after it were to be signed into law, actually allows more able-bodied people to sign up for Medicare for several years into the future. I think Medicaid should be focused on folks who are truly needy, poor kids, people with disabilities, seniors. I don’t think it’s a really good option for able-bodied people who are able to work and get insurance elsewhere. And what happens is, fewer and fewer physicians will even accept Medicaid, so it’s harder to get access to actual care because —

BURNETT: But what about someone again — like someone Tiffany, right? She loses her job, he’s able-bodied, but if it weren’t for Medicaid, you know, she wouldn’t have had the coverage when it turned out she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

DESANTIS: Well, I mean, I was not aware this was going to be on, so I don’t know enough about her situation, I apologize. I heard part of her story. But I would say, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that Medicaid is given block grant to the states so that the government can experiment with ways to actually get people the care that they need. And I think that we’re finding out that just having a Medicaid card is not necessarily leading to good care for a lot of those folks, both who were originally on the program and then now, obviously, with some of the able-bodied folks who have gotten on. Experiment with ways to actually get people the care that they need. And I think that we’re finding out that just having a Medicaid card is not necessarily leading to good care for a lot of those folks, both who were originally on the program and now, obviously, with some of the able-bodied folks who have gotten on.

 

Rick Scott, Bill Nelson go with tight close-ups in dueling attack ads

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, end their latest ads with tight closeups of each other.

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson found some common ground in their nationally watched U.S. Senate race — each released an attack ad today that ends with a tight, unflattering closeup of the other.

Scott continued his efforts to brand Nelson a career politician who’s “never held a real job.” Highlighting the Senate’s frequent three-day work weeks, the narrator of Scott’s latest ad says: “It’s time to retire No-Show Nelson. Give him the rest of the week off.”

Nelson’s new ad repeatedly plays a clip of Scott saying “The results speak for themselves” while blaming the governor for the state’s toxic algae crisis, faulting him for the state not expanding Medicaid and accusing him of cutting education spending and using his position to benefit himself.

 

Democratic congressional candidate April Freeman dies suddenly

Democrat April Freeman was running for Florida’s open District 17 congressional seat.

April Freeman, the Democratic nominee for Florida’s open 17th congressional district seat, died suddenly on Sunday night, the Florida Democratic Party announced this afternoon.

Freeman won the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for the seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, and was facing Republican Greg Steube in the general election. She also ran for the seat in 2016, getting 34.2 percent of the vote against Rooney.

“We are incredibly saddened by the sudden death of April Freeman. April put her heart and soul into her community – and was dedicated to making a better future for all Floridians,” said a statement from Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said. “Just last night she was in the office, making calls and working to get out the vote. Her work ethic and passion was an inspiration to all of us. It is a tremendous loss to the Democratic Party and to all who knew her. Our hearts break for her family and love ones, who are grieving her loss.”

District 17 includes portions of Sarasota and Charlotte counties on Florida’s west coast and all or part of seven other counties north and west of Lake Okeechobee.

New Florida poll: Gillum edging DeSantis; Nelson and Scott tied

Top: Senate candidates Rick Scott (R) and Bill Nelson (D). Bottom: governor candidates Andrew Gillum (D) and Ron DeSantis (R).

The University of North Florida finds tight races for Florida governor and U.S. Senate in a new poll.

In a Sept. 17-20 survey with a 4 percent margin of error, UNF’s Public Opinion Research Lab finds Democrat Andrew Gillum leading Republican Ron DeSantis by a 47-to-43 percent margin in the governor’s race and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a flat-out tie in the Senate race with 45 percent each. The results are consistent with several other public polls in recent weeks.

Can we believe general election polls after the primary polls were so wrong? The Inside Florida Politics crew discusses that question in the latest podcast…

The UNF poll also finds 71 percent support for a Florida constitutional amendment on the November ballot to restore voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences. Murderers and sex offenders would be excluded. Constitutional amendments require 60 percent voter support for approval.

Says UNF’s Michael Binder in a release accompanying the new poll: “It’s still early in the election season and even though Gillum has a small lead, a lot can happen in the next six weeks. Nelson and Scott are currently tied, but one bit of hope for Nelson is that more Democrats are unsure who they will vote for and partisans will come home in November. With polling numbers this close, the candidates that are most successful getting their voters to the polls are the ones who are going to win. Historically, Florida has had very close statewide elections, and this year is shaping up to be no different.”