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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

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 and true to form, Rubio 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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Poll: Cuban-Americans split on Obama’s Cuba policy, divided along generational lines

Cuban-Americans nationwide are almost evenly divided over support for the embargo and for President Obama’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba, according to a new poll that shows a vast generational divide in reaction to this week’s historic announcement.

The poll by Bendixen & Amandi International also showed that Cuban-Americans are nearly split on whether Obama should have exchanged prisoners Wednesday with Raul Castro’s communist government.

But they strongly disapprove of Obama’s foreign policy overall and his approach to Cuba specifically, according to the poll of 400 Cuban-Americans conducted for the Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

Among the strongest responses from Cuban-Americans: Whether the United States should remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror. That move is opposed by 60 percent, with only 22 percent in favor. The Obama administration is reviewing Cuba’s designation.

“The Cuban people will not see any benefits,” poll respondent Gabriel Rivera, a 40-year-old Miami resident, said of Obama’s announcement. “They will remain in the same condition because the Cuban government doesn’t grant any freedoms.” …

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Supreme Court denies stay in Florida gay marriage case; couples could marry after Jan. 5

From our friends at the Associated Press:

MIAMI — Same-sex weddings may soon begin in Florida after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block them. 

The court said Friday it wouldn’t block the marriages. A federal judge previously declared Florida’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional and said same-sex marriage licenses could start being issued in the state after Jan. 5 unless the Supreme Court intervened. 

Most federal judges and appeals courts have ruled against state bans and gay marriages are occurring in about three dozen states. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has upheld the right of four states to decide whether to allow gay marriage. 

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has fought to uphold the state’s ban.

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Rubio says Paul has 'no idea what he's talking about' on Cuba

UPDATE 12:46 p.m. : Paul just fired his own salvo via Twitter:Full Story

How Jeb could snuff out Rubio's presidential hopes: 'We love Marco. We've loved Jeb longer'

  Rep. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, holds a sword presented to him by Gov. Jeb Bush, right, during ceremonies designating Rubio as the next Speaker of the House, on Sept. 13, 2005, in Tallahassee. Rubio's term begins in 2006

Associated Press

Rep. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, holds a sword presented to him by Gov. Jeb Bush, right, during ceremonies designating Rubio as the next Speaker of the House, on Sept. 13, 2005, in Tallahassee. Rubio's term begins in 2006

From Alex Leary and me:

Marco Rubio has a big Jeb Bush problem.

More than a decade after Bush helped cultivate Rubio as a star in the Florida Legislature — literally giving him a sword as a symbol of maintaining the conservative flame — the two are on an awkward collision course over running for president in 2016.

Former Gov. Bush crushed speculation he would not pursue a campaign by announcing Tuesday that he is "actively" exploring a run and setting up a political committee that will help him travel the country and fill out a political team. He huddled with donors in Miami on Wednesday then did the same in Chicago on Friday.

The move, earlier and more aggressive than anyone expected, was instantly cast as the end of Sen. Rubio's aspirations.

Don't count on it.

Rubio is staging his own bid and his allies were keen to inform reporters that Bush would not deter those long choreographed plans. Rubio said he will base his decision on his own accord. And the following day, he seized the spotlight, diving into the battle over President Barack Obama's decision to normalize relations with Cuba. …

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Rick Scott appoints Jim Boxold as next Florida DOT secretary

Jim Boxold, Florida's new DOT secretary

Jim Boxold, Florida's new DOT secretary


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Political Connections Sun: Charlie Crist campaign manager on what he would do differently

Omar Khan, the former Obama administration official and pride of USF who led Charlie Crist's gubernatorial campaign, appears Sunday on Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay. The full interview can be seen at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, but here's a clip.

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Move over Miami, Tampa now has big say on Cuba policy too

Kathy Castor

Tampa Bay Times

Kathy Castor

Turn on cable TV and you won't have to wait long to see images of Cuban exiles outside the Versailles restaurant in Miami denouncing President Obama for restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. It's easy for anyone outside of Florida, or even in most of Florida, to assume those images reflect Florida as a whole.

They don't.

Tampa's deep ties to Cuba go back many generations, at least to the days when the Apostle of Cuban Independence, Jose Marti, was in Yboir City talking up the Cuban revolution in the late 19th century. Many Cuban-Americans settled in Tampa before the 1959 revolution and are less consumed with the rise of Castro than exiles in south Florida.

And while Miami politicians and campaign donors may have dictated U.S. policy to Cuba for decades, this time Tampa's political and business leadership - and large Cuban-American community - were more persuasive and helped make the historic change in policy possible.

"This is such a remarkable accomplishment for Tampa," said U.S.. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, who has repeatedly pressed the Obama administration to lift the embargo and travel restrictions. …

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PSC gives approval for FPL to invest in natural gas fracking

The Public Service Commission gave approval Thursday to a request by Florida Power & Light to charge customers for its exploration of natural gas using fracking technologies.

The panel concluded that the project, which allows the company to invest $191 million in a joint venture with PetroQuest Energy, Inc., would help to stabilize volatile energy costs and save customers more than $100 million over 30 years – about two cents a month -- and stabilize a fraction of the company's energy costs. 

The measure was opposed by the lawyers who represent the public in rate cases, as well as the state’s largest industrial energy users, the Florida Retail Federation and several environmental groups. The PSC postponed a decision until March on the question of whether FPL will be allowed to charge customers up to $750 million a year in similar projects without PSC approval.

The opponents argued that there was no guarantee that the risk of shouldering the costs of oil and gas drilling in an uncertain regulatory environment would produce benefits for ratepayers and could backfire in higher costs. They argued the decision to allow the company to use customer dollars for speculation was something that should be left to the Legislature.

“FPL will shift all risks of investing in gas reserves to the customers in exchange for promises of potential customer fuel savings and guaranteed trued-up profits (or returns) for shareholders,’’ the public counsel said in its brief. It noted that it is not opposed to guaranteeing fuel savings to customers however, "FPL simply cannot guarantee those savings to customers over the next 50 years.”Full Story

Rick Scott reacts to President Barack Obama's Cuba announcement (video)

The Tampa Bay Times caught up with Gov. Rick Scott in Tampa on Wednesday, where Scott discussed President Barack Obama's decision to move toward normalizing relations with Cuba.

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Obama says Jeb has 'every right' to run for president

ABC News: President Obama says he “loves” the Bush family personally and that former Florida governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush has “every right” to run in 2016.

“The Bush family, I love personally,” Obama told ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir. “They are good people. Jeb's father, George H.W. has been here many times, in some cases with Jeb. And they are a great family, wonderful people. Obviously I have a lot of disagreements with Jeb and his brother on policy. But I think they have every right to do what they think is best.”

But Obama praised Hillary Clinton. "I’ve said before and will continue to say I think she'd be an excellent president.”

More ABC News Videos | ABC World News

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Scott set to quickly replace FDOT's Prasad

The Florida Transportation Commission recommended three men to Gov. Rick Scott for the replacement of outgoing FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad on Thursday.

That’s pretty quick turnaround considering that Prasad announced he was leaving on Dec. 2. Also, keep in mind that the $10-billion agency is the state’s biggest builder, overseeing 6,500 employees and a work plan through mid-2019 that has nearly 7,000 projects, including 762 new lane miles, 7,345 repaved miles, 190 repaired bridges and 76 replaced bridges.

With the possible opening of Cuba for trade, perhaps this would be a good time to slow down and consider the direction of a Florida transportation system that’s in dire need of new revenue.

Instead, it was full speed ahead for the nine member advisory board, which unanimously (!) chose three finalists from a field of eight that was culled only in a quickie job posting in the past two weeks.

The finalists are:

-- Jim Boxold, who since 2013 has been Prasad’s chief of staff and director of legislative affairs. Previously, he served 10 years as the director of cabinet affairs for the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture. …

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On Cuba, Rand Paul differs from potential rivals Bush, Rubio

WASHINGTON (AP) - Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul says starting to trade with Cuba "is probably a good idea" and the lengthy economic embargo against the communist island "just hasn't worked."

Paul is the first potential Republican presidential candidate to offer some support for President Barack Obama's decision to seek to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba.

Paul says in a radio interview Thursday with Tom Roten of News Talk 800 WVHU in Huntington, West Virginia, that many younger Cuban Americans support opening up trade with Cuba. He says many U.S. farmers support open trade with the country because it would be a new market for their crops.

The senator says if the goal is regime change, the embargo doesn't seem to be working. Other Republicans accused Obama of appeasing the Castro regime.

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