Who does history favor if Rick Scott challenges Bill Nelson in 2018?

Sen. Bill Nelson in his West Palm Beach office last month. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is one of 10 Democrats up for re-election next year in states that Republican Donald Trump won in 2016.

Republicans, on the other hand, have only one Senate incumbent — Dean Heller of Nevada — facing re-election next year in a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton won.

The contours of the 2018 Senate map fuel Republican optimism about keeping their Senate majority despite Trump’s low approval ratings and polls showing a Democratic advantage in generic congressional ballot tests. 

But a new analysis by University of Minnesota politics blogger and master data cruncher Eric Ostermeier gives Democrats reason for optimism in Florida and the other Trump states they’re defending in 2018 Senate races.

Voters in those 10 Trump states — particularly Florida — have a tendency to vote against the president’s party in Senate elections over the last 50 years.

If that trend holds, it’s good news for Nelson, who could face a strong challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

In 17 Senate elections since 1966, Florida voters have chosen the nominee of the president’s party only 5 times — 29.4 percent.

Nelson did it twice. He initially won his seat in 2000 while Democrat Bill Clinton was president and he won a third term in 2012 while Barack Obama was president. Republican Mel Martinez won a 2004 Senate race during Republican George W. Bush‘s presidency. Republican Connie Mack (1988) and Democrat Bob Graham (1998) also won Senate races while their party had the presidency.

In 12 other Senate races — including both of Republican Marco Rubio‘s victories — Florida voters chose the nominee from the party out of the White House.

Ohio voters have been the toughest on the president’s party, voting for the Senate nominee of the party that controls the White House only 4 times in 17 races.

Missouri voters, on the other hand, have chosen a Senator from the president’s party 11 times out of 17, or 61.1 percent.

Click here to read Ostermeier’s full report on his Smart Politics blog.




Why Gov. Rick Scott isn’t meeting with Sen. Bill Nelson in Washington

Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Washington, D.C., today.

UPDATED with response from Nelson

WASHINGTON — Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s schedule here today includes meetings with Vice President Mike Pence and at least five senators, including Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, to discuss the Senate health care bill.

But the governor hasn’t penciled in any time with his state’s senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson.

Republican Scott is expected to challenge Nelson next year, with President Donald Trump among those encouraging Scott to run.

Nelson slammed the GOP-drafted Senate health care bill when it was unveiled last week, calling it “just as bad as the House bill, taking coverage away from millions of people and making huge cuts to Medicaid.”

Scott, who wants changes to the Senate bill so Florida gets a larger share of Medicaid payments, said talking to Nelson would be a waste of time.

“He’s not engaged in the health care debate,” Scott said of Nelson today in an interview with The Palm Beach Post. “What have you seen him come out and do other than oppose doing anything about this?”

Scott continued: “I’m going to focus on the people that are actually doing something with regard to the health care debate. The Republicans have a bill and I’m going to focus on the people that are actually trying to get something done. I appreciate that Donald Trump is focused on repealing and replacing Obamacare. I know Mike Pence is. I know the Senate Republicans are trying to get something done. I’m going to focus my time on trying to get something done.”

Nelson offered this response through his office this morning: “Rick Scott is supporting and urging Republican senators to vote for a bill that makes huge cuts to Medicaid, takes coverage away from 22 million of people and allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans. If he really cared about the people of Florida, he’d be doing the exact opposite of what he’s doing now.”


Health care: Rick Scott in Washington, Florida House and Senate staffers embedded with Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio says he wants Florida input and Gov. Rick Scott says he’ll “fight for Florida” as the Senate considers a health care bill.

WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott will meet here today with Vice President Mike Pence and others after pledging last week to “fight for Florida” on the Senate health care bill.

And Scott isn’t the only Tallahassee employee in town.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, have each sent staffers here to work out of the office of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who hasn’t said whether he’ll support legislation that the Congressional Budget Office says would result in 22 million fewer Americans being insured.

Rubio will decide whether to support the health care bill “on the basis of how it impacts Florida,” his office said last week. He asked Negron and Corcoran to send staffers so he can analyze the bill through a Florida lens.

Scott’s schedule today includes a 10:30 a.m. Fox News interview, the Pence meeting at noon and afternoon meetings with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Thune of South Dakota and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Scott and Rubio are also scheduled to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the afternoon.

Follow PostOnPolitics.com, MyPalmBeachPost.com and @gbennettpost on Twitter for more reporting from Washington.



Conservative blogger Javier Manjarres considers challenging Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch

Javier Manjarres, managing editor of The Shark Tank website.

Fort Lauderdale-based conservative blogger Javier Manjarres says he’s exploring a run for the Democrat-leaning seat of U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, speaking to Florida delegates at the 2016 Democratic Naitonal Convention. (Krristina Webb / The Palm Beach Post)

Manjarres is well-connected in the conservative world — the announcement of his exploration on his Shark Tank website was accompanied by testimonials from Republican Florida U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz and Mario Diaz-Balart. But Deutch’s Palm Beach-Broward District 22 voted 57 percent for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.

“It was clear that after the historic 2016 elections, Americans rejected the agenda and policies of the outgoing Obama Administration that they believe were threatening the American way of life,” Manjarres said in a statement on his website.

“Even with Republicans in control of congress, it is of the utmost importance that Republicans continue to win the public’s trust and reform all aspects of the federal government. It is time for all  pouting members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who have been comporting themselves like petulant obstructionist children, put the American people first before political ideology or party, and remember that they are 1 of 435 individuals tasked to serve all Americans, regardless of the race, color, sexual persuasions, or political party affiliation.”

District 22 includes Boca Raton and Highland Beach in Palm Beach County coastal Broward County from Fort Lauderdale north.


Trump card: Democrat Bill Nelson invokes president 7 times in money plea

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump are teaming up against Sen. Bill Nelson, says Nelson in a new fundraising appeal.

When President Donald Trump paused at a Miami rally last week to urge Florida Gov. Rick Scott to run for U.S. Senate next year, he pretty much wrote Sen. Bill Nelson‘s next fundraising appeal to partisan Democrats.

Sure enough, Nelson’s re-election campaign responded this week with a letter pleading for campaign cash because “Rick Scott has been recruited by Donald Trump to run against me.”

Bill Nelson’s latest campaign mailer mentions Trump and Scott.

Republican Scott, facing term limits next year, has been sounding like a Senate candidate but hasn’t launched a campaign.

“Oh, I hope he runs for the Senate,” Trump said of Scott in Miami when the president visited to sign an order toughening trade and travel restrictions on Cuba. As Scott sat on stage smiling, Trump said, “I know I’m not supposed to say that. I hope he runs for the Senate. Rick, are you running?”

Nelson’s fundraising letter mentions Trump seven times and Scott five times.

“We know what Rick Scott and Donald Trump are going to do to try and win this election. Their playbook is all too familiar. They rely on big corporations and out-of-state billionaires to fill their Super PACs with money…That’s why I need your help — today. Please donate $35, $50 or even $100 if you can,” says the two-page appeal.

The letter asks donors to give before June 30, when the current quarter ends and fundraising activity must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

“Our report will reveal the strength of our campaign,” says Nelson’s letter.



Gov. Rick Scott says he’ll ‘fight for Florida’ in Washington next week

Florida Gov. Rick Scott during a January visit to Washington for President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he’ll visit Washington next week to “fight for Florida” on the details of a Senate health care bill.

Scott joins Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in publicly professing wariness over the health care bill, which was unveiled Thursday after top-secret talks among Senate GOP leaders. Rubio said he wants input from Scott and other Florida leaders before deciding whether to support the bill.

Details of Scott’s trip haven’t been released, but the governor often visits President Donald Trump, the part-time Palm Beacher who last week publicly urged Scott to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

Here’s what Scott said in a statement released by his office this afternoon:

“I would like to thank Senator Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans for working to eliminate the high taxes, fees and unreasonable mandates of Obamacare. I also want to thank President Trump for his commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare. I have been carefully reviewing the bill and next week, I will be traveling to Washington to meet with Congressional leaders to provide input on how we can make the bill better for Floridians. 

“First, all states must be treated equitably. Florida taxpayers deserve the same treatment as every other state under the Medicaid program. Second, every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. This will drive down costs and give people the flexibility and power to determine what they want to buy. 

“There seems to be a lot of people advocating for more government and higher costs in Washington and not a lot of people advocating on behalf of taxpayers. I look forward to traveling to Washington to fight for Florida families and ensure there is a health care proposal that dismantles the terrible, expensive mess of Obamacare. Let’s remember, costs have skyrocketed under Obamacare and we need a new health care policy that allows patients to have access to quality healthcare at an affordable price.”

Dem candidate says he talked to FBI, is ‘not the focus of an investigation’

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue gathering in Hollywood last week. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Tallahassee Mayor and 2018 Democratic governor candidate Andrew Gillum said he spoke to the FBI last week about  corruption allegations in his city and was assured he is “not the focus of an investigation.”

The Associated Press reported that the FBI is looking into deals involving the local Community Redevelopment Agency and local businesses and developers. A federal grand jury issued subpoenas seeking five years of records from the city and the CRA involving specific people and projects, the AP said. Gillum is a CRA board member.

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“The list of individuals, corporations and entities in both subpoenas include donors to Gillum and a political committee backing his run for governor,” the AP reported.

Gillum today pledged cooperation with the investigation.

His statement, released by the city:

“Last week the FBI approached me about several people and businesses here in Tallahassee. I spoke with them, and told them they could expect both the City and my personal cooperation with their investigation. They assured me I was not the focus of an investigation, and that they would be moving quickly with their work. 

“I take any allegation of corruption in the City of Tallahassee very seriously, and I am committed to rooting it out in its entirety. If corruption has taken place in our city, those parties must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We will not tolerate, enable, or turn a blind eye to corruption.

“While no one likes the City being under the FBI’s scrutiny, in light of what is happening nationally, we must remember that the FBI is here to protect us and we must aid them in their work. They have my full support and cooperation as the Mayor, and the full cooperation of the City of Tallahassee.” 

Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King have launched Democratic campaigns for governor. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan are other potential Democratic candidates.



Local lawmaker wants to help in Trump obstruction of justice probe

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are stepping up efforts to get their committee to look into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice in the ongoing probe over Russian influence in the 2016 election.

While House and Senate Intelligence committees are already looking into Russia’s role, Deutch and 15 other Dems on the Judiciary Committee say their panel needs to look into related aspects of the controversy.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Latest news on President Donald Trump

Rep. Ted Deutch,, D-Boca Raton, at a Judiciary Committee hearing this week.

The Democrats sent a letter this week to Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte,  R-Va., calling for him to schedule “hearings to examine events that now extend well beyond any investigation into Russian influence—including the firing of FBI Director James Comey, allegations of obstruction of justice, and the inconsistent application of the Attorney General’s recusal from these and related matters.”

Deutch also brought up the matter at a Wednesday hearing — and posted a video clip on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“When will we have a real conversation in this committee about what’s going on with the White House?” Deutch asked. “Will we – the members of the House Judiciary Committee – take a serious look at the evidence before the American public that the President may have obstructed justice? It’s simple. As Chair, this is your job, Mr. Chairman; as members of this committee, this is our job.”

Why Bill Clinton is coming to South Florida…

Former President Bill Clinton with U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, in Belle Glade in October. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

Former President Bill Clinton will be in Miami Beach on Saturday to address the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting.

Clinton will speak at the “City Livability Luncheon” at the Fountainebleau Hotel.

More than 250 mayors are expected at the 85th annual conference, which begins Friday and ends Monday. The conference includes mayors from cities with populations of 30,000 or more.



Health care: Marco Rubio wants Florida input; Bill Nelson slams GOP bill

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, left, and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will decide whether to support a Republican health care bill “on the basis of how it impacts Florida,” his office said this afternoon.

Rubio’s office characterized the just-unveiled legislation as a work in progress as four other Senate Republicans  — Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — issued a joint statement saying they are “not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor.”

Overturning former President Barack Obama‘s signature health care law was a top campaign pledge of President Donald Trump and much of the GOP. The House has passed a version that Trump initially celebrated but later reportedly called “mean.”

Republicans hold a 52-seat majority in the Senate, so more than two GOP defections will doom the bill if Democrats are united against it.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s up for re-election next year, blasted the GOP legislation and the way it was drafted.

“Now we know why they tried to keep this secret,” Nelson said in a statement released by his office. “This bill is just as bad as the House bill, taking coverage away from millions of people and making huge cuts to Medicaid. If that weren’t enough, it also allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans. Fixing our nation’s health care system shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We should be working together, not plotting behind closed doors to make it worse.”

Rubio has already spoken with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and invited their staffs to Washington “to help us formulate changes and amendments to this proposal,” said a statement released by Rubio’s office. Rubio also wants to hear from health care providers, insurers and patient advocates, his office said.

Here’s the full statement from Rubio’s office:

“Senator Rubio will decide how to vote on health care on the basis of how it impacts Florida. He has already spoken to Governor Scott, Senate President Negron and Speaker Corcoran about the first draft of this proposal. He has instructed his staff to share with state leaders the first draft and has asked them to run numbers and provide input on how this initial proposal would impact Florida’s Medicaid program and individual insurance marketplace. He has invited them to send staff to Washington next week to help us formulate changes and amendments to this proposal. He will continue to reach out for input and suggested changes from Florida providers, insurers and patient advocate groups.”