Rick Scott takes a page from Charlie Crist in latest TV ad

Charlie Crist depicted Democratic rival Jim Davis’s empty chair (left) in ads during the 2006 governor’s race; Republican Gov. Rick Scott is reviving the empty-chair theme this year in attacks on Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, trying to paint Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson as an inside-the-Beltway layabout, released a new TV ad — using figures the Nelson camp disputes — that accuses the three-term Democrat of excessive absenteeism on Capitol Hill.

Scott’s ad, titled “Empty Chair,” shows an empty seat at a committee dais with Nelson’s name plate in front of it.

Floridians of a certain age may remember then-Republican Charlie Crist using an empty chair in TV ads during the 2006 governor’s race to accuse Democrat Jim Davis of missing too many votes as a member of Congress.

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Scott’s new ad says Nelson “skipped 45 percent of the hearings on national security.” The Scott campaign said that’s a reference to Armed Services Committee hearings and provided figures that list Nelson as attending 352 of 636 of the committee’s hearings since 2001.

Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown called the ad “nothing more than another false attack by Rick Scott who is nothing more than a phony politician.”

Brown said Nelson “attended about 80 percent of the Armed Services meetings this year and 86 percent last year.” Scott’s camp says Nelson attended 76 percent of the committee’s hearings during 2017-18.

 

Rick Scott: Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford ‘must receive a fair hearing’

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, rivals in November, both say Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations should be heard. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November, weighed in this morning on Christine Blasey Ford‘s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a high school student in the early 1980s.

“Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious,” Scott said in a statement that also rips California Sen. Diane Feinstein and Nelson.

Nelson and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio both called Monday for Ford’s allegations to get a full airing by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Here’s Scott’s full statement: “The Judiciary committee needs to seek the truth here. Truth is not partisan, and truth is more important than politics. These very serious allegations should have been investigated months ago. But Democrat Senator Feinstein pulled a slick Washington trick and intentionally hid this from the Senate during the hearings. Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious. And Judge Kavanaugh deserves to have the chance to clear his name. In related news, someone must have told Senator Nelson to start doing his job now, and he is finally saying he’s interested in meeting with the Judge.”

Nelson on Monday tweeted: “I’m still waiting for a meeting with Judge Kavanaugh I’ve requested four times. I have a number of questions for him. Meantime, I agree there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him. I believe the people involved should appear before the Judiciary committee.”

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also weighed in Monday via Twitter:

“Dr. Ford has made very troubling allegations that must be fully heard. Judge Kavanaugh has strongly denied them & should be given the opportunity to respond. I agree with the decision by @ChuckGrassley to provide both parties the opportunity to do so,” Rubio tweeted.

Florida Republicans Scott, Rubio, DeSantis dispute Trump on Puerto Rico deaths

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has made seven trips to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Irma and had Puerto Rico Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State Luis Rivera-Marin (left) at the kickoff of his Senate campaign in April. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

As Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolinas this morning, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to claim that official estimates of nearly 3,000 deaths from last year’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were a Democratic concoction “to make me look as bad as possible.”

Trump’s claims drew widespread outrage and were disputed by Florida’s leading Republicans: Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio and gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis.

Trump touched off the controversy before 8 a.m. in consecutive tweets.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…” the president tweeted.

Trump added: “…..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

Democrats blasted the president, with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson calling his claims “shameful.”

Republicans defended the official death estimates.

“These days even tragedy becomes political,” said Rubio on Twitter. “3k more Americans died in #PuertoRico after Hurricane than during comparable periods before. Both Fed & local gov made mistakes. We all need to stop the blame game & focus on recovery, helping those still hurting & fixing the mistakes.”

While Rubio didn’t mention Trump, Scott — who has made multiple visits to Puerto Rico since the hurricane — was more direct.

“I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed,” said Scott, a longtime Trump ally who has distanced himself from the president since launching a Senate campaign. “I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR.”

DeSantis, whose nomination over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was largely due to Trump’s support, carefully distanced himself from the president.

“Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson. “Ron is focused on continuing to help our Puerto Rican neighbors recover and create opportunities for those who have moved to Florida succeed.”

 

Bill Nelson ad tells Latinos that Rick Scott and Donald Trump are ‘muy buenos amigos’

New Bill Nelson ad notes that Rick Scott and Donald Trump are “muy buenos amigos.”

Amid suggestions he’s underperforming with Hispanic voters, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson‘s re-election campaign is airing a Spanish-language ad that says his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, and President Donald Trump are “muy buenos amigos.”

Nelson’s campaign released the new ad Wednesday night along with an ad in English that notes — as Democrats also did in 2010 and 2014 — that Scott was CEO of hospital chain that paid a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud.

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Democrat Charlie Crist won the Hispanic vote by 20 points when he unsuccessfully challenged Scott in 2014, according to exit polls. But a recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Scott leading Nelson among Hispanic voters in a race that’s tied 49-to-49 overall. A Mason-Dixon poll in July gave Nelson only a 5-point edge among Latino voters.

The ad aimed at Latino voters features Nelson speaking briefly in Spanish (“Soy Bill Nelson, y apruebo este mensaje.”) before showing seven still images of Scott with Trump, who according to exit polls lost the Florida Hispanic vote by a 62-to-35 percent margin to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

An English translation provided by the Nelson campaign says: “Tell me who you hang out with, and I will tell you who you are. Rick Scott and Donald Trump are great/close friends/pals. Scott raised $20 million to elect Trump. Then Trump recruited Scott to run for the Senate. We need people to stand up to Donald Trump and his extreme agenda.
If Scott goes to Washington, he will do what Trump wants. Rick Scott. We just can’t trust him.”

Scott was an early cheerleader for Trump’s presidential bid and chaired a pro-Trump super PAC in 2016. Scott and Trump met frequently during Trump’s first year in office, but Scott has kept his distance from Trump since launching his Senate bid in April.

 


	

A different Republican president is coming to Palm Beach for Rick Scott

Former President George W. Bush during a 2006 visit to Palm Beach County. He’ll be back Friday to raise money for Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate bid. (Bob Shanley/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will raise money for his U.S. Senate bid with a Republican president in Palm Beach, but the headliner will not be frequent island visitor and current White House occupant Donald Trump.

Instead, former President George W. Bush — the embodiment of a GOP that Trump campaigned against in 2016 — will appear with Scott in Tampa and Palm Beach on Friday.

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The specific location for the Bush-Scott Palm Beach event, which was first reported by Politico, has not been announced.

An invitation says $1,000 donors get a ticket to a reception, $2,700 contributors get a reception ticket and mention in an event program and those who pony up $25,000 get four reception tickets, a VIP photo for two and a program listing.

Scott raised money last week with Vice President Mike Pence but so far hasn’t campaigned with Trump, with whom he’s been close in the past. Trump publicly urged Scott to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

 

Mike Pence to raise money for Rick Scott’s Senate bid in Orlando

Gov. Rick Scott and Vice President Mike Pence in Orlando last year. (From the @FLGovScott Twitter account)

Vice President Mike Pence will headline a fundraiser for Gov. Rick Scott‘s U.S. Senate bid in Orlando next week.

The Sept. 6 event is being hosted by Palm Beacher Darlene Jordan, a key Republican money-raiser, and by Texas investor and GOP moneyman Tom Hicks, according to invitations sent to GOP activists.

It’s a relative bargain as fundraisers go, with “suggested contribution levels” of $250 for individuals and $500 for sponsors.

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The specific location for the afternoon Pence-Scott reception hasn’t been disclosed.

Scott is challenging three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in one of the nation’s most expensive and closely watched Senate races.

President Donald Trump publicly urged Scott twice in 2017 to challenge Nelson, and the president and the two-term Florida governor have been close. But since formally launching his campaign in April, Scott has kept his distance from Trump.

 

NBC, CBS polls differ on Scott-Nelson Senate race; Putnam tops DeSantis in GOP governor primary

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

An NBC News/Marist poll released late Tuesday shows Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson edging Republican Gov. Rick Scott in their U.S. Senate race a day after a CBS/YouGov poll gave Scott a slight edge.

The NBC poll gives Nelson a 49-to-45 percent lead over Scott among registered –not likely — voters in a survey with a 3.9 percent margin of error. CBS had Scott leading by a 46-to-41 percent margin among likely voters, but by only 2 points among registered voters. The CBS poll had a 3.5 percent margin of error.

In other words, considering the margins of error and the more than four months until election day, the Nelson-Scott contest looks close — like Florida’s 2012 and 2016 presidential races and 2010 and 2014 governor’s races, all of which were decided by between 0.9 and 1.2 percentage points.

Not as close, according to NBC, is the Republican primary for governor. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam holds a 38-to-21 percent lead over U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

NBC’s take on the Putnam-DeSantis is similar to the results of a Fox News poll last week that showed Putnam holding a 32-to-17 percent lead.

Both polls offer some hope for DeSantis, who was praised by President Donald Trump on Twitter in December and got the president’s “full endorsement” on Friday. NBC and Fox both found 39 percent of Republican primary voters are undecided ahead of the Aug. 28 primary.

In the five-candidate Democratic primary for governor, NBC finds the race up for grabs. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine tops the field at 19 percent and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham gets 17 percent in a sample that has a 6.5 percent margin of error. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (8 percent), billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene (4 percent) and Winter Park businessman Chris King (3 percent) round out the Democratic field with 47 percent of voters undecided.

Five Dem governor candidates heading to Broward County this weekend

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo, who’s also chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, outside state party headquarters in Tallahassee in January. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

All five Florida Democratic candidates for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine — are scheduled to appear in Broward County this weekend for the Florida Democratic Party’s annual Leadership Blue Gala, but no debate is scheduled.

Each of the candidates is hosting a welcome reception Friday night at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood and will be available to interact with party activists at a “meet the candidates” event Saturday afternoon. Each candidate also gets a three-minute speaking slot at a dinner Saturday night.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, which hasn’t had a Florida representative in this millennium — will be the keynote speaker. U.S. House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn and Sen. Bill Nelson are also featured attractions.

Three-term incumbent Nelson faces the re-election fight of his life this year against Republican Gov. Rick Scott. And Democrats are hoping to win a Florida governor’s race for the first time since 1994, when Lawton Chiles squeaked to a second term against Republican Jeb Bush.

The Leadership Blue weekend is the state party’s main fundraising event. This is the first one under Terrie Rizzo, the Palm Beach County Democratic chair who was elected state chairwoman in December.

 

Florida poll: Scott leads Nelson; Trump approval 53%; most oppose family separations

Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Likely Florida voters favor Gov. Rick Scott over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by a 46-to-41 percent margin in their nationally watched U.S. Senate contest, according to a new online poll for CBS by YouGov.

The poll also finds 53 percent of likely Florida voters approve of President Donald Trump‘s job performance in a state Trump won by 1.2 percentage points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Fifty-five percent of likely Florida voters disapprove of separating children from parents who try to enter the U.S. illegally, with 47 percent calling the policy “immoral.” The issue matters “a lot” to 45 percent of likely voters and matters “some” to another 28 percent.

But while Democrats have slammed Trump for the separations policy, Florida voters spread the blame around and the issue appears to have limited potential as an election-changer.

One-third of likely voters say the issue makes them more likely to consider voting for Democrats in November, 23 percent say they’re more likely to vote Republican and 44 say it won’t change the way they vote. Among independents, 53 say the issue won’t change how they think about voting.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters, including the same percentage of independents, say parents are mostly to blame for bringing their children into the country illegally. Another 23 percent say parents are partly but not entirely to blame.

Asked who has the responsibility for changing the separations policy, likely Florida voters point to Trump (69 percent), Republicans in Congress (80 percent) and Democrats in Congress (73 percent).

Among likely independent voters, 68 percent say Trump has responsibility to change the policy, 79 percent point to congressional Republicans and 80 percent point to congressional Democrats.

In the Scott-Nelson race, Scott has 62 percent approval among likely voters while Nelson’s approval rating is 54 percent. Scott leads among independent voters by a 41-to-32 percent margin.

The poll of 1,002 registered voters was conducted last Tuesday through Friday and has a 3.5 percent margin of error. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed said they definitely or probably plan to vote in the 2018 elections.

Bill Nelson says Florida is housing 174 minors separated from families

Sen. Bill Nelson speaking on the Senate floor this morning.

A day after being denied access to a facility in Homestead that houses some children who were separated from their families by immigration enforcement officials, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said in a Senate floor speech that a total of 174 such minors are being housed across Florida.

Nelson said the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the facilities, told him that 94 of the approximately 1,000 minors at Homestead were separated from family members accused of trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

“I have subsequently found that in addition to those 94 children, there are 174 children being held in my state of Florida that have been separated from their families,” Nelson said. His office later clarified that the 174 figure includes the 94 at Homestead.

The Homestead facility opened under President Barack Obama in 2014 to house unaccompanied minors picked up at the border while trying to enter the U.S. The facility later closed, but was reopened in February.

Nelson said he was told he’d have to wait two weeks to visit the center in Homestead to check on the conditions there. He accused President Donald Trump of being behind the shutout.

“It must be that not only is this department policy, this is being directed from the White House, and they don’t want me to see it because they don’t want us to know what is going on in there,” Nelson said.