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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bush, Rubio attempt to balance religious rights with government duty in response to Kentucky clerk case

Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush a speaks to employees at Foss Manufacturing during campaign stop Thursday in Hampton, N.H,

Associated Press

Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush a speaks to employees at Foss Manufacturing during campaign stop Thursday in Hampton, N.H,

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio both called for a middle ground in the controversial case involving the Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Their careful responses illustrate an attempt to balance pressures the situation has presented, with religious conservatives on one side and those (including Supreme Court Justice Scalia) who say the clerk, Kim Davis, has an obligation to uphold the law, like it or not.

"She is sworn to uphold the law, and it seems to me that there ought to be common ground, there ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience and for, now that the law is the law of the land for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is," Bush told reporters in New Hampshire on Thursday.  …

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Did Reince Priebus get Trumped?

Donald Trump, certifiable Republican

Associated Press

Donald Trump, certifiable Republican

On Wednesday, Donald Trump dug the GOP’s hole with Hispanics deeper, lashing out at Jeb Bush for using Spanish. On Thursday Trump got a personal visit from RNC chairman Reince Priebus and another huge wave of media attention.

Priebus was trying to smoke out Trump, who refused to rule out a third-party run during the first debate. Did he think the master salesman would take the bait? If anything the stunt handed a certificate of legitimacy to Trump, who has been accused by Jeb Bush of not being a true conservative.

“I was greatly honored that he did come up,” Trump said of Priebus at his news conference, carried on all the cable news channels – even CSPAN. Trump waved the pledge for all to see.

But what’s to stop Trump from discarding it and running as an independent? Nothing.

How hard Priebus will work on collecting the pledge from others? Not that it’s necessary. Any candidate seeking access to RNC data must make the pledge. Same with entering the South Carolina primary.

In validating Trump, Priebus has put other candidates on the hook for supporting the GOP nominee – even if that’s Donald J. Trump.

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Jeb Bush shores up Miami-Dade support, plans to open local office

Jeb Bush named a Miami-Dade campaign committee charged with winning Florida’s largest county in a presidential primary that could include another hometown favorite, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

AP photo

Jeb Bush named a Miami-Dade campaign committee charged with winning Florida’s largest county in a presidential primary that could include another hometown favorite, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Ahead of a likely long slog of a Republican presidential campaign, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush released a list of several hundred top backers in his hometown of Miami-Dade County.

Jeb Bush has been a friend to many a Miami-Dade County Republican. And now they’re returning the favor.

About 300 elected officials, political donors and community members have endorsed Bush for president, his campaign said Thursday.

Bush also named a Miami-Dade campaign committee charged with winning Florida’s largest county in a presidential primary that could include another hometown favorite, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. If Bush wins the GOP nomination, the committee leaders — Jeb Bush Jr., U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and longtime friends Jorge Arrizurieta and T. Willard Fair — will face the daunting task of diminishing Democrats’ advantage in blue Miami-Dade. …

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Today in Trump v. Bush

Trump's pledge, and Bush's

Images taken from Twitter

Trump's pledge, and Bush's

Today in Trump v. Bush:

-- Jeb Bush defended his use of Spanish and called Trump a divisive force who doesn't share American values.

-- Trump signed the RNC's pledge not to run as a third-party candidate and to support the GOP nominee. During a news conference he continued to attack Bush as "low energy" and a loser who has tanked in the polls.

-- Bush taunted Trump on Twitter by signing a card that read, "Voted Republican since 1972."

-- And Bush's Super PAC released this video online:

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Rep. Frederica Wilson becomes 100th House Democrat to support Iran deal

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson today became the latest Democrat -- and the 100th overall, according to her office -- to support the Iran deal.

That brings the Florida House Democrat tally to three for (Wilson, Corrine Brown and Patrick Murphy) and two against (Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings)

Here is Wilson's statement:

“After careful consideration of the arguments and analyses from all sides, I have decided that I will support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed upon by Iran and the P5+1.

“I believe that the JCPOA is the best option for our national security and international stability. The agreement – which is based on verification, not trust – blocks the pathways for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, ensures greater stability in the Middle East, and decreases the possibility of armed conflict. I do not want to alienate the United States from the international community and our allies, and we cannot afford to enter into another war. I cannot in good conscience send more women and men to war, and this country, especially my constituents, cannot afford the economic consequences of another military engagement. No deal is perfect but now is the time for diplomacy. …

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Obama rejects Governor Scott's federal disaster declaration request

President Barack Obama on Thursday rejected Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s request for a disaster declaration for Tampa Bay’s August flooding on the basis that the damage to the region was not enough to be beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments.

A federal disaster declaration would have triggered hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured-property losses, and other help for individuals and business owners affected by the storms.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, who advise the president on disaster declarations, said in a letter to Scott on Thursday that the damage from the storms that saturated the area from July 25 to Aug. 3 was not of such severity and magnitude that state and local officials cannot handle it on their own – a standard phrase used in past disaster declaration denials.

"It’s disappointing that the Obama Administration denied our request for federal assistance for those impacted by recent floods in the Tampa and West Central Florida areas," said Jackie Schutz, director of communications for Scott. …

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Under proposed law, people could break in to save pets, children, elderly from hot cars

If you see a helpless dog or baby or senior citizen trapped in a car in the heat, you could break in to rescue them -- assuming a bill in the Legislature for the winter 2016 session passes.

The proposal (HB 131) would allow any passerby to use a minimal amount of force to rescue children, pets, the elderly and disabled adults if they feel the individual could be in danger and they call 911 before doing so. It would provide immunity from being sued.

House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, filed the legislation, an unusual step for the majority leader. Last year, she filed one bill to legalize beer growlers -- her pet project -- and a handful for high-profile gambling reform.

In a statement released to the press Thursday, she said she was inspired to file the "Good Samaritan Act" by the high rate of death among children and pets trapped in cars under the hot Florida sun.

“Florida has the second highest rate of child vehicular heatstroke deaths in the nation,” Young said. “The time has come to empower ordinary citizens to come forward and help prevent these senseless tragedies.” …

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New ad from utility-backed group opposing solar power amendment

Consumers for Smart Solar, a utility-backed group opposing a constitutional amendment to stop regulations of some solar energy providers, on Thursday released an online ad attacking the amendment's supporters.

Called "Fine Print," it echoes many of the arguments utility companies made in the Supreme Court on Tuesday when they urged the justices to deny the group Floridians for Solar Choice access to the ballot in November. The ad walks through the language on the ballot initiative, which would prevent state and local governments from regulating a "local solar provider" -- a company that puts solar panels on someone's roof and then sells that power to them and their neighbors -- as a traditional utility company.

"This is ridiculous. Shady solar contractors would become constitutionally immune to state or local consumer protection laws?" the ad says. "They could price gauge, make false promises, overcharge or outright scam consumers?"

Supporters of the amendment, of course, disagree. They say the utility companies have an unfair monopoly over all energy production and that more competition in the market will encourage solar energy and lead to lower prices for consumers. …

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Joe Biden, Debbie Wasserman Schultz to meet with Jews about Iran deal in Davie

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is facing one of the toughest decisions of her career: vote for President Barack Obama’s key Iran deal and risk alienating part of her base. Or vote against the deal, and risk having her loyalty questioned as head of the Democratic National Committee.

This morning, one of the Iran deal’s key supporters, Vice President Joe Biden, is meeting with her and Jewish leaders in South Florida to push the president’s proposal at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie.

Wasserman Schultz, whose district runs from western Broward to Miami Beach, has not said whether she supports the agreement. But the Weston Democrat arranged the meeting, which suggests she wants the White House and Jewish leaders to hear each other’s opinions about the deal — even though by this point many have already staked out their position.

Wasserman Schultz turned down a Miami Herald request for an interview about the Iran meeting with Biden. Only a portion of the meeting, likely statements by Biden and Wasserman Schultz, will be public.

Keep reading here.

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Rubio backers among leading TV ad spenders so far

Marco Rubio's team is one of the biggest spenders far in the TV race, according to figures reported by NBC News' First Read.

We presume most of the $2.6 million for Rubio has come from the nonprofit Conservative Solutions Project, which has run Iran deal ads featuring the Florida Republican.

All told there has been $16 million in TV spending this cycle vs. $2 million at the same point in the 2012 election, according to NBC's ad tracker SMG Delta.

Jeb Bush is about to get in the game. His Right to Rise Super PAC is preparing $10 million in ads in Iowa and New Hampshire starting Sept. 15, then South Carolina the following week.

The top spenders (as of Sept. 1, 2015):

    Team Kasich: $3.7 million (all in NH)
    Team Rubio: $2.6 million (all on national cable)
    Team Clinton: $2.2 million (in IA, NH)
    Team Jindal: $1.6 million (all in IA)
    Team Christie: $1.4 million (all in NH)
    Team Perry: $1.4 million (all in IA)
    Team Paul: $470K (in IA, NH)
    Team Pataki: $314K (in NH)
    Team Carson: $297K (in IA, NH)

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Jeb Bush defends speaking Spanish, says Donald Trump doesn't share American values

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican presidential hopeful, speaks to students during a town-hall style meeting at La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Miami on Tuesday.

New York Times

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican presidential hopeful, speaks to students during a town-hall style meeting at La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Miami on Tuesday.

Jeb Bush this morning reacted to Donald Trump criticizing him for using Spanish, calling his rival a divisive, unserious person who "doesn't believe in tolerance."

"I think Donald Trump is trying to insult his way to the presidency and it's not going to work," Bush said on Good Morning America. "People want an uplifting hopeful message. People come to this country to pursue their dreams, sometimes they start without speaking English but they learn English and they add vitality to our country."

Yesterday, in an interview published with Breitbart News, Trump said Bush "set the example by speaking English while in the United States." He was knocking Bush for using his second language during a visit to a school in Miami.

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Stephen Colbert wants in on Jeb Bush's fundraiser

Jeb Bush has some explaining to do when he appears Tuesday on the first Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

(After the video below was released, Bush replied. Watch that here.)

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At Miami fundraiser, Joe Biden praises Bernie Sanders' populist appeal

Vice President Joe Biden at Miami-Dade College on Sept. 2, 2015

Associated Press

Vice President Joe Biden at Miami-Dade College on Sept. 2, 2015

Joe Biden praised Bernie Sanders at a DSCC fundraiser in Miami on Wednesday night but skipped mention of Hillary Clinton.

"He did say that Bernie Sanders was doing a great job exciting his crowds," a Democrat told pool reporter Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal. Biden, considering an entry in the Democratic primary, said specifically, "I’m not a populist like Bernie."

He said it in the context of 2016 Senate races and how important it was to get engaged. Biden was not asked about running for president and therefore did not answer, the Democrat said, adding he focused on the Iran deal.

About 40 people attended the fundraising dinner.

“You can love Joe and you can love Hillary at the same time," the Democrat inside the fundraiser said. "And I think there were a lot of people in the room that felt that way."

Politico's Marc Caputo has more detail here, including that Biden said Sanders is "doing a helluva job," making some Hillary fans a bit well ...

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In Miami, Joe Biden gets feel for what campaigning again would be like

Vice President Joe Biden smiles as he talks to Biotechnology students Wednesday at Miami Dade College in Miami.

Associated Press

Vice President Joe Biden smiles as he talks to Biotechnology students Wednesday at Miami Dade College in Miami.

Joe Biden came to Miami on Wednesday and sounded — at times — like a politician with another campaign in him.

Speaking at Miami Dade College’s North Campus about making higher education more affordable, the vice president touched on the sort of themes — immigration reform, the economy and the middle class — that presidential candidates like to deploy from the stump.

Biden isn’t running right now. But he’s thinking about it. And his two-day trip to Miami-Dade and Broward, the most Democratic counties in the country’s largest swing state, only stoked the fire among reporters and political observers that a Biden 2016 campaign could be for real.

“It’s amazing how good the school is. Look at all the press you’ve attracted,” Biden joked to about 150 people gathered at MDC’s Science Complex. “Their interest in community colleges impresses me. I hope that’s what they’re going to write about!”

He also made a reference to people unafraid to fail — a line that referred to the courage of older students returning to college that nevertheless could apply to potential candidates weighing a run for office. …

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Ted Cruz holds Miami fundraiser to woo Jewish voters

The Republican presidential candidate holding a top-dollar fundraiser Wednesday evening in Miami's ritzy suburb of Bal Harbour wasn't named Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came to South Florida to woo Jewish donors as Congress prepares to vote on President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. And while he didn't hold any public events -- and doesn't plan to anytime soon -- Cruz said in a phone interview with the Miami Herald that he hasn't written off the state just because two of his rivals live here.

"We have tremendous support in Florida, and I have been very, very encouraged. We've been down to Florida quite a number of times," he said. "We have raised a great deal from Florida."

Last quarter, Cruz trailed only Democrat Hillary Clinton and Bush and Rubio in Florida fundraising, pulling in $317,000 from the state -- more than two other Florida residents, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. …

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