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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Winner and loser of the year in Fla politics

Pam and Jeb

Miami Herald

Pam and Jeb

We received a lot of strong nominations for winner and loser of the year in Florida politics — everyone from David Jolly, elected to Congress in a special election that most expected Alex Sink to win, to Gwen Graham, who unseated Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland despite a brutal climate for Democrats.

Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her hand-picked Florida Democratic Party chairwoman, Allison Tant, could be the most logical losers of 2014 given the drubbing Democrats took. But we tend to look more forward than backward and view each year's winners and losers more in the context of how the past year will affect politics in the coming year.

So, drum roll please …

Winner of 2014

Jeb Bush. A dozen years since he last appeared on a ballot, the former governor's late 2014 moves toward a presidential campaign demonstrated the enormous clout and goodwill he still enjoys in America's biggest battleground state. He dwarfs both Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in stature. …

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Want to read the Jeb Bush emails?

Jeb Bush has said he'll release them (and some news organizations have already obtained and reported on them) but the Democratic oppo group American Bridge has them for your viewing pleasure.

"[N]obody likes waiting for presents, so we’re going ahead and sharing them widely for him," the group said. "All of Bush’s publicly available emails, obtained via public records request by American Bridge from the Florida Department of State, are now available here. Happy holidays, and rest assured, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scrutinizing Jeb’s record."

Read them here.

The emails cover Bush's two terms, which saw major events like hurricanes and controversies such as Terri Schiavo.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas.

Dasher, Dancer,
Prancer, Vixen,
Eisenhower, Kennedy,
Johnson, Nixon,
Dasher, Dancer,
Prancer, Vixen
Carter, Reagan,
Bush and Clinton

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A special holiday message from Kevin Cate Communications

Kevin Cate Communications is out with its annual holiday video message, this one taunting all of us with the cold reality that 2015 is 2016. Every time the video is shared, the firm will contribute $1 to Feeding America, up to $1,000.

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Jeb Bush's emails depict a hands-on Florida governor

Washington Post:

The new governor of Florida was feeling exhausted and beleaguered.

It was after 10 o'clock at night, and Jeb Bush was still going through angry emails. He forwarded a message lambasting him as "NO CONSERVATIVE" to two top advisers, noting that he was answering such missives personally in absence of a better system.

"Kind of scary and I am very tired," Bush wrote in January 1999.

The message - part of a cache of tens of thousands of emails from Bush's eight-year gubernatorial tenure - underscores two constants present from the beginning of his political career: the challenges he faced with conservatives in his own party and an intense, detail-oriented engagement as an executive.

In the messages, the new governor personally responds to job applicants, presses aides for details on invitees to events and engages with hundreds of constituents. The documents, which Bush has said he will release early next year, were obtained by The Washington Post through a public records request.

Full story here.

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The softer side of Bill Nelson's pit bull

2014 Christmas painting

Dan McLaughlin

2014 Christmas painting

Florida political reporters know Dan McLaughlin as a tenacious defender of his boss, Sen. Bill Nelson. If you haven’t been on the receiving end of one of McLaughlin’s profanity loaded rants, you’re not doing your job.

But McLaughlin has a softer edge.

A former Tampa Tribune reporter who landed his share of big stories, McLaughlin has a passion for painting. In recent years he's sent around a Christmas scene. This year’s depicts the Three Kings traveling along a beach, a palm tree in the foreground.

“We were kind-a-poor in the '50s and '60s - five kids and all - yet my Mom and Dad still put out $600 for art lessons when I was a kid,” he told the Buzz in an email. “That would be thousands today. I also studied art a bit later in college before abandoning it. I always felt a bit guilty about that, because I know the $600 for that schooling was a big sacrifice.

“So, after my dad died in 2007, I dusted off my old travel box and took up painting again - with oils that were 37 years old. I love Florida landscapes, but also do an 'annual' Christmas card - which folks seem to like, actually.”

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Poll: Broad support for ending trade embargo with Cuba

ABC News poll

ABC News

ABC News poll

From an ABC News release:

Broad majorities of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll support establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, as well as ending the United States’ longstanding trade embargo and restrictions on travel to and from the Caribbean nation.

Sixty-four percent favor Cuban-American diplomatic relations, similar to its level in polls the last eight years. Two-thirds and three-quarters, respectively, favor ending the trade embargo and travel restrictions, both up considerably from an ABC/Post poll in 2009.

No more than three in 10 are opposed in each case. And strong supporters outnumber strong opponents on all three measures – by particularly large margins, about 2-1, when it comes to trade and travel.

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Chris Christie says — what else? — Jeb Bush won't factor in presidential decision

Not shocking that presidential hopefuls are saying Jeb Bush will play no role in their decision about running for president. The latest is Gov. Chris Christie, who was asked about Bush in an interview with NJTV, New Jersey's public broadcasting station.

“It’s not one of my three questions,” Mr. Christie said when asked about Bush, according to the Wall Street Journal.

On Cuba, Christie said: “It was an awful deal and it is typical of this president, unfortunately, in negotiations."

On Common Core, Christie said he has "real concerns."

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Castor to hold community forum on Cuba

Rep. Kathy Castor says she'll host community forum with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Tampa International Airport "to educate Tampa Bay families and businesses on the evolving landscape tied to President Barack Obama’s historic announcement last week to normalize relations with Cuba."

"We will engage the entire community and work toward positive change that America’s policy shift will provide -- whether it is travel, trade or cultural exchange opportunities," said Castor, D-Tampa. The forum date has not yet been set.

Tampa's reaction to the shift in Cuba relations is decidedly different from Miami, where feelings are more negative (but not universally) toward Obama.

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George Will says Rubio and Paul both right on Cuba

George Will talking Sunday on Fox News.

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Video: Rubio hits the Sunday shows, talks Cuba, Jeb Bush

UPDATE: Paul again took to Twitter. "@marcorubio forgot to mention his support for Obama's funding of Musl. Brotherhood, arming Islamic rebels, and Hillary's war in Libya." He then tweeted a photo of Thomas Jefferson.

Sen. Marco Rubio was all over the Sunday political shows, talking about Cuba and Jeb Bush. "Look, if Rand Paul wants to align himself and become a supporter of the Obama foreign policy, particularly towards Cuba, he has a right to do that," Rubio said on Meet the Press. "My interest here is singular and that is freedom and democracy for the people of Cuba."


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Winner and loser of the week in Fla politics

Winner of the week

Kathy Castor. No elected leader in Florida has pushed harder for normalizing relations with Cuba than Tampa's Democratic congresswoman. Others may see that position as too risky for a politician in Florida, but Castor saw a no-brainer potential economic boon for Tampa Bay and Florida, and she was persuasive at the White House.

Loser of the week

Marco Rubio. It's not easy being Jeb Bush's Mini Me in Florida political circles, especially when Bush is eyeing the same White House job. Rubio began the week facing questions about whether his potential presidential campaign is dead on arrival with Bush likely to run, and he finished the week basking in publicity as the defender of a Cold War Cuba policy most people think has failed. "I don't care if 99 percent of voters disagree with me" does not sound like a great campaign slogan. Runner-up: Rick Kriseman. City Council members rejected the St. Pete mayor's Rays stadium deal, and it's not clear there is a Plan B.

The full Sunday print version of The Buzz is here

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Just when you think Rubio's down ...

A few days ago I was talking with another reporter, who remarked that Marco Rubio has been quiet lately. It's a pattern that's developed - the up and down of Marco Rubio - and true to form, the Florida Republican exploded back into the open.

Unexpectedly. Over Cuba.

Rubio has been on TV in a fever pitch, and Sunday he'll touch all the bases, appearing on Face the Nation, This Week, Meet the Press, Telemundo and Univision.

Look for Rubio to expand on his criticism of Sen. Rand Paul, who has supported normalizing relations with Cuba, and to repeat that he'll make up his mind about 2016 no matter what Jeb Bush decides.

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Jeb Bush confronts DNC's 'silly talking points'

Jeb put a twist on the opposition research game.

After Demcorats circulated a list of "talking points" for officials to use against him (Politico has the story) Bush posted them on Facebook along with sermon in civility.

"Everywhere I go, people tell me how tired they are of the dysfunctional, squabbling silliness of politics today," Bush wrote. "These silly talking points, misleading and misinformed as they are, show you just how void of ideas the Democrats have become after six years of poor results in every area of our nation’s business, from our struggling economy to our weakening position on the world stage.

"If I do decide to run for President, I can promise you this: no more Kindergarten attack politics.  Instead, I would offer a substantive campaign that will present the fresh conservative ideas and meaningful reforms that will help all Americans to rise up, seize opportunity and pursue a better life for themselves and their loved ones."

UPDATE: Responds the DNC's @MoElleithee: "Thanks for sharing, Gov!"


December 19, 2014 …

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Data Targeting's Christmas card reveals its secret message

Data Targeting Christmas
Data Targeting, the Republican political consulting firm that went to legal war for the last year to keep its redistricting documents shielded from the public record, has had some fun this holiday season at its own expense. 

It's animated Christmas card comes with jingling bells and features Pat Bainter in a Santa coat with colleagues Matt Mitchell and Mike Sheehan at his side. It announces "But there's one 'secret' we've made sure they'll never get."

A countdown clock notes that the message will self destruct in 15 seconds, and the card then slides into a paper shredder and ends with: "Merry Christmas." 

For the record, the company lost its legal fight but won the redistricting war.  The Supreme Court ordered its shielded documents released, but only after the trial had ended and the congressional redistricting maps were redrawn with minimal changes. The docs, however, may shed more light on the legislative map and could cause some heartburn for the GOP leadership in the next legal fight over the Senate maps. …

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