Trump to visit Orlando; which Republicans will be there?

President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott at the Broward Sheriff’s Office in February a few days after the Parkland massacre. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump will visit Orlando on Monday to speak to the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Wednesday.

It’s an official trip rather than one of Trump’s signature campaign rallies.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has kept his distance from the president since launching his campaign for U.S. Senate, plans to attend the chiefs gathering, also in an official capacity rather than as a candidate.

Republican nominee for governor Ron DeSantis, whose endorsement by Trump was crucial to his GOP primary win, does not plan to attend.

“The event on Monday is an official event, not a political event,” said DeSantis campaign communications director Stephen Lawson. “But this won’t be the last time the plane comes down to Florida.”

At the police convention, Sanders said Trump plans to “speak about the work of the administration to protect American communities by restoring law and order, supporting local law enforcement, and securing the border.”

Trump’s last Florida appearance was a July 31 rally in Tampa in which he promoted DeSantis four weeks before the GOP primary. Scott did not attend the rally, but appeared with the president earlier in the day at a non-political event at a vocational high school.

 

Pollster sees Kavanaugh factor in Florida’s Nelson-Scott Senate race

Republican Gov. Rick Scott (left) and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson are virtually tied in a new Mason-Dixon poll. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

A new Mason-Dixon poll shows Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a virtual tie in their nationally watched U.S. Senate race.

Read Palm Beach Post coverage of Tuesday’s Nelson-Scott debate by clicking here.

Nelson gets 47 percent and Scott 46 percent in a survey of 815 likely voters with a 3.5 percent margin of error. President Donald Trump gets a 46 percent approval rating and a 48 percent disapproval rating in the survey, making him “a neutral factor, other than serving as a motivator for partisan turnout on both sides,” says Mason-Dixon’s Brad Coker.

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Coker says key elements of the race have been shifting in Nelson’s direction, and fellow Democrat Andrew Gillum‘s bid to become Florida’s first African-American governor should help the thee-term senator by bringing out minority voters who are otherwise less likely to vote in a midterm.

But, Coker also noted, “this poll was conducted during the week of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, which may have sparked Republican voter interest and closed the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and the GOP. It could explain why Nelson may have had larger leads in several other polls conducted prior to last week, while this one shows him still in a toss-up contest. At least for the moment, the Supreme Court battle is casting a shadow in Florida.”

 

Endorsement watch: Democrats Gillum, Nelson to appear today with Puerto Rico governor

Democratic governor nominee Andrew Gillum (left) and Dem. Sen. Bill Nelson are expected to pick up endorsements from Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló today. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló will make a “special campaign announcement” with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson at 10:45 a.m. in Orlando this morning, then make a “major campaign announcement” with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum at 1:15 p.m. in Kissimmee.

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The apparent Rosselló endorsements could help Democratic efforts to turn out Democratic-leaning Puerto Rican voters, who are a growing force in Florida politics, particularly in and around Orlando. Democrats have sought to gain from criticism of President Donald Trump‘s response to Hurricane Maria last year.

The number of Floridians who identify as Puerto Rican Hispanics in the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey was estimated at more than 1 million in 2016 — up from 482,027 in the 2000 census. About 30 percent of Florida’s Puerto Ricans live around Orlando in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson in the Senate race, has made eight trips to Puerto Rico since Maria hit in Septemberr 2017. In a pre-emptive strike Sunday night, the Scott campaign released the names of 46 Puerto Rican officials who have endorsed his campaign, including U.S. Del. Jenniffer González-Colón, Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marin and former Gov. Luis Fortuño.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

DeSantis camp blasts donor’s N-word tweet; won’t return past contributions

Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump at a Tampa rally on July 31. (Zac Anderson/The Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

Republican Ron DeSantis‘s campaign for Florida governor has condemned a campaign donor’s recent tweet that called former President Barack Obama the N-word and pledged not to accept any more contributions from the donor.

But DeSantis is rejecting calls from Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo and others to return at least $4,000 in past contributions from Boca Raton communications executive Steven Alembik and his business.

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Alembik’s SMA Communications gave $2,000 to the DeSantis campaign in July and $2,000 to a pro-DeSantis PAC in January. Alembik also gave $2,500 in 2017 to the Fund For Florida’s Future, which is not officially connected to DeSantis but gave $2.5 million to the DeSantis PAC early this year.

“That money was donated before the primary and has been spent. He (Alembik) said something last week and we are not taking any more money,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson.

“We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: We adamantly denounce this sort of disgusting rhetoric,” Lawson said of Alembik’s tweet, which has been deleted.

Alembik told Politico, which first reported the story, that he is “absolutely not” a racist and had tweeted about Obama in anger.

Reached Friday, Alembik declined comment but had his company’s vice president of operations, Bianca J. Hennings, call The Palm Beach Post.

“I would never work for or work with a racist. This man stands for integrity,” Hennings said.

Alembik made news last year after President Donald Trump drew fire for initially blaming “many sides” for the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. When a wave of nonprofits responded by cancelling plans to host events at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Alembik booked an event there for his organization, The Truth About Israel. He had DeSantis speak at its February event.

Alembik told The Palm Beach Post last year: “I’m reading about these groups pulling out of Mar-a-Lago and I’m thinking, ‘This is ridiculous. Somebody needs to take a stand here and do something. My president is my president. I like what he stands for. With him as president, I don’t have to worry. He’s got Israel’s back.”

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Rizzo, who also chairs the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, called Thursday for DeSantis to return past Alembik contributions.

“Ron DeSantis’ campaign is funded by bigots — and he apparently has no problem with it. Since day one, DeSantis has run a divisive, toxic campaign, and it’s only getting worse with each passing day. If DeSantis doesn’t return the money from Steven Alembik immediately, he owns this,” Rizzo said.

 

‘I will never roll on Donald Trump,’ says Roger Stone in West Palm Beach

Literally a circus atmosphere for Roger Stone’s speech to a pro-Donald Trump club in West Palm Beach. A camera from Showtime’s political documentary series “The Circus” records Stone’s remarks. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

With prosecutors interviewing a dozen of his associates, Roger Stone told hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump on Monday night that “it is entirely possible that Mr. Mueller will frame me for some extraneous crime.”

Stone, speaking to the Club 45 PBC at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, said he’s never colluded with Russia and will never go the route of longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen and cooperate against Trump.

“I’m ready. I will never roll on Donald Trump. Michael Cohen I am not,” Stone said. “One reporter asked me last week ‘Are you worried?’ I don’t worry. I make other people worry.”

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