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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Why the 'Pawn Stars' host is backing Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio celebrates his 44th birthday in Las Vegas on Thursday and what better way than a fundraiser? Rubio is getting a hand from Rick Harrison of “Pawn Stars.”

The two bonded over lunch in Los Angeles recently. “The entire time I talked to him, all he wanted to talk about was people and he never mentioned the party once. Which was a really big deal to me," Harrison told Fox and Friends.

“This guy honestly cares about American people and free enterprise. … This guy wants to make it easier to do business. It will bring people out of poverty. It will do things for the economy, so I’m behind him.”

Rubio lived in Las Vegas for a number of years as a child.

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What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of May 25

What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of May 25.

Rubio is attending fundraisers in Chicago and Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday then heads to Nevada on Thursday and Friday. Rubio turns 44 on Thursday and he’ll celebrate with a Las Vegas fundraiser hosted by Rick Harrison of “Pawn Stars” and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who his chairing Rubio’s effort in the state.

Bush will deliver a keynote speech Thursday before Republican groups in Bath, Mich. On Saturday, Bush will land in Nashville to address the Tennessee Republican Party’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner. We assume Bush will fit in time for fundraising during the week.

Previous week here.

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Romano: Is this a new way for people to take back the power in state government?

ICYMI over the holiday weekend: Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano suggests a way to give folks outside Tallahassee more power.

People occasionally say the political process in Florida is broken.

Not to sound disagreeable, but that's a wimpy euphemism. As if we accidentally dropped Tallahassee on its head.

The problems of this state were not born of fluke or chance. The corruption of Florida was planned. Carefully. Deliberately. Cynically.

The process didn't just break.

It was rigged.

How else do you explain elected officials who hold their constituents in such contempt? Legislators who defy the electorate, and a governor who routinely makes up bogus facts?

It's all been made possible by absurd campaign finance laws, gerrymandered voting districts and politicians whose ambitions dwarf their consciences.

So how do we fix it?

By taking back what should rightfully be our ours.

Read more here


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'New Yorker' cover features Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and 5 other GOP candidates

The June 1 issue of New Yorker magazine

New Yorker

The June 1 issue of New Yorker magazine

The June 1 issue of New Yorker magazine explores potential Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential race. Here’s how the magazine describes it:

How many Republicans are running for President? It’s a trick question. Some of those who are clearly running—Jeb Bush, for example—are still pretending that they aren’t, mostly because declaring would change the fund-raising rules. And if you counted everyone who, against all evidence, takes himself (or herself) seriously as a candidate, the locker room depicted in Mark Ulriksen’s “Suiting Up,” this week’s cover, would look as crowded as the departures hall at Penn Station, and almost as disconcerting.  As it is, Ulriksen presents seven contenders with seven varieties of preening. 

And preening they are. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is represented by only a pair of black boots with his initials and a red, white, and blue outline of Texas. Here is how the others are described: …

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Jeb Bush getting a vacation home in Maine

A rendering of the home being built for Jeb Bush.

KW Architects, via Boston Globe

A rendering of the home being built for Jeb Bush.

The following is from the Boston Globe:

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — Jeb Bush, who has a longtime relationship with this seaside town where generations of Bushes have vacationed, is having a house built for him at the family compound on Walker’s Point, with a wraparound porch and expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean.

The home, on a 1.3-acre site assessed by the town at $1.4 million, was initiated for him by his mother and father, who have tried to preserve the family ties to the picturesque property.

But as he tries to appeal to middle-class Americans in his likely Republican presidential campaign — and distinguish himself as his own man, distinct from the legacies of his father and brother — having a vacation home erected on a spit of land in coastal Maine could be a vivid reminder of the complications facing his campaign.

Already, his opponents are emphasizing his last name — and the old-money New England clan that helped build the Republican Party establishment — as a way to highlight a brand that has fallen out of favor with the newly empowered, anti-elite activists who may have an outsized voice in choosing the next Republican nominee. …

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Winner and loser of the week in Fla politics

Winner of the week: Lenny Curry. It's not easy to unseat an incumbent mayor, especially when few locals know much about you. But the former state GOP Chairman and a strong campaign team led by Tim Baker, Brian Hughes and Brian Swensen pulled off a huge win in unseating Alvin Brown, who had been hailed as a Democratic rock star four years ago.

Runner up: Jeb Bush, his TV ad Curry was decisive to moving votes to the Republican. You'd be hard-pressed to name many prominent Republican elected officials in Jacksonville who don't owe a big debt to Bush for his support. Just ask John Thrasher, Aaron Bean, and assorted mayors.

Loser of the week: Marco Rubio. He cashed in a $70,000 retirement fund so he can afford a new fridge and air conditigruioner? Nobody begrudges him for not having millions in the bank but let's hope the presidential contender has better ideas for managing America's finances than he's using for his own household.

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Florida GOP's plan to win 2016

Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, writes about "Project 29" in the Tampa Tribune:

At our recent spring quarterly meeting, I introduced our plan for 2016: Project 29. Our first goal of Project 29 will be to fully engage with all communities, Hispanics and African-Americans, seniors and millennials, students and taxpayers, to talk about the issues facing our nation.

Project 29 will help shape how our party operates during the 2016 elections, and it is my hope that these changes will make a lasting impression on our state.

We are not only fighting for Florida’s 29 electoral votes, but we are fighting to keep control of Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, increase Florida’s Congressional majority and maintain majorities in the Florida House and Senate.

Our Party will accomplish these goals by being present and embedded in communities where we have been absent in the past. We plan to engage with churches and faith leaders, local community leaders and organizations. We plan to have one-on-one conversations about the future of our economy and discuss your concerns and ideas for the future of our country. …

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PolitiFact Florida focuses on Jeb Bush three times over the past week

PolitiFact Florida has been checking all sorts of statements by and about former Gov. Jeb Bush in the last week, ranging from state spending to the history of the Iraq War to the VA care scandal.

At a town hall meeting in Reno, Nev., Bush said, "We had an agreement that the president could have signed that would have kept 10,000 troops" in Iraq. We rated that Mostly False. Read that item here.

Emily's List president Stephanie Schriock said in an essay that Bush "once held $1 million in family planning grants hostage until the programs receiving the money agreed not to discuss birth control at all." We called that Mostly False. To read why, click here.Full Story

Jeb Bush: Republicans need to 'get outside of our comfort zone'

Jeb Bush played up his reputation as “Veto Corleone” in a speech today and said Republicans need to “get outside of our comfort zone” and reach Hispanics, African-Americans and college students.

“I think we need to get beyond preaching to the choir,” the former Florida governor said at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma. “Get outside of our comfort zone,” and into the Latino barrios, black churches and college campuses.

Bush also said he supports reauthorization of the Patriot Act, now before the U.S. Senate, saying there is “ample evidence” it has protected Americans.

In touting his record as governor, Bush is attempting to show Republican voters that he has accomplished things and draw a contrast with elected officials in Washington. He mentioned how he vetoed projects sought by Democrats and Republicans.

One of those projects explains why billionaire Norman Braman of Miami loathes Bush, and loves Marco Rubio.

In 2004, Bush vetoed $2 million for the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at the University of Miami. “I wasn’t too happy with that veto,” Braman recently told our colleague Patricia Mazzei. …

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Will Republicans finally make big inroads with Fla. Jews? Probably not

TAMARAC — Republicans can't win the White House without winning Florida, so every presidential election cycle they look longingly at Florida's Jewish voters.

It's such a tantalizingly obvious key to locking down 29 electoral votes: hundreds of thousands of Florida Jews who overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

Just reason with them, the thinking goes. They are disproportionately affluent and well-educated. Surely these Floridians can be persuaded that voting Republican is more in their self-interest, through lower taxes and unwavering support for the conservative government in Israel.

The difference between three-quarters of Florida Jews voting for the Democratic nominee and two-thirds voting Democratic could be 50,000 votes — enough to decide the election.

"We're looking to do whatever we can," said Mark McNulty of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which spent $6.5 million in 2012 trying to sow doubts with Jewish voters about President Barack Obama's commitment to Israel. "In places like Florida and Ohio with substantial Jewish populations, a couple percentage points can mean the difference in an election." …

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Fox News host says of Rubio's finances: 'Who cares?'

Fox News host Neil Cavuto accused the news media of beating up on Marco Rubio for writing about his personal finances, and revelation Rubio cashed in a retirement account to pay for a refrigerator and other things.

“Who cares?” the host asked during a segment Thursday. (Apparently another Fox News host, among others.)

Cavuto and a guest said reporters were essentially doing an inverse version of the scrutiny paid to Mitt Romney’s wealth.

“If you’re going to go after that, go after it,” Cavuto said. “Regardless of party just have at it, but be consistent about it.”

Rubio’s financial disclosure, filed last Friday, did generate stares. It showed he cashed in an ABA Retirement Funds account on Sept. 1, 2014, netting him $68,241. On Sunday Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Rubio about that

“It was just one specific account that we wanted to have access to cash in the coming year, both because I'm running for president but also my refrigerator broke down, that was $3,000,” Rubio said. …

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Florida unemployment rate falls to 5.6 percent

A Times staff report:

Florida's unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent in April as the state added 25,800 private sector jobs.

The jobless rate was at 5.7 percent in March and stood at 6.4 percent in April 2014.

The state's unemployment rate still lags behind the nation's, which is 5.4 percent.

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties reported a jobless rate of 4.8 percent, down from 5.1 percent the previous month. Pasco reported a 5.6 percent jobless rate, down from 6 percent the previous month, while Hernando had a 6.6 percent unemployment rate, a drop from 7 percent in March.

The four-county area gained 39,100 jobs year-over-year, led by leisure, hospitality and trade jobs that tend to be low-paying.

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Jeb Bush finds a way to distance himself from W

On Wednesday in New Hampshire Jeb Bush embraced his family. On Thursday he gently put some distance between him and brother George, saying the former president spent too much money.

Spending did accelerate under Bush, helping lay the foundation for the tea party (which really took off after Barack Obama was elected)

“I think that in Washington during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money,” he told a questioner in Concord. “I think he could have used the veto power. He didn’t have line-item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, D.C. That seems kind of quaint right now given the fact that after he left, budget deficits and spending just like lit up astronomically. But having constraints on spending across the board during his time would have been a good thing.”

He went on: I don’t feel compelled, though, to go out of my way to criticize Republican presidents. Call me a team player here. It just so happens the last two Republican presidents happened to be my dad and my brother. But you’ll never hear me complaining about Ronald Reagan, either.”

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Florida Speaker Crisafulli: federal money 'should not be tied to' Medicaid expansion debate

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said in a statement Friday that the announcement that Florida could see up to $1 billion in federal LIP money would "greatly" help the Legislature finalize a budget during the special session set to begin June 1. 

However, Crisafulli said the federal money does not completely relieve the pressure on budget talks.

"From the beginning, the House has maintained the...LIP should not be tied to the Medicaid expansion debate," he said. "I appreciate CMS providing this information in a timely manner for Special Session and for separating LIP funding from Medicaid expansion."

The Florida House of Representatives adjourned its annual session three days early April 28 after a weeks-long impasse between Senate and House Republicans over Medicaid expansion. 

The Budget Committee is set to meet June 6 through June 10, according to a tentative schedule released by the Legislature. 

Here's the full statement from Crisafulli:  …

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Obama to visit National Hurricane Center in Miami

President Obama will visit the National Hurricane Center next Thursday, the White House said, to receive the annual hurricane season outlook and preparedness briefing.

The stop follows fundraisers he'll do in Coconut Grove on Wednesday.

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