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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

Winner of the week - Ron DeSantis.

The conservative congressman stands to benefit with fellow Rep. Jeff Miller of North Florida deciding on Thursday not to enter the primary for U.S. Senate. DeSantis, whose politics would play well in Miller's Panhandle district, boosted his profile with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for the impeachment of the IRS chief.

Loser of the week - Ken Detzner.

Gov. Rick Scott's appointee as the state's chief elections official is trying to dig his way out of another hole after an audit found widespread failings in his agency's oversight of the statewide voter database. Under fire from election supervisors for lax communication, Detzner met with them on a Thursday call and says he needs to "over-communicate."

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Donald Trump leads in another national poll

Donald Trump continues to lead the GOP, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.

Jeb Bush was first in the last WSJ/NBC poll in June and now sits third, just below Scott Walker. Marco Rubio may be a tad concerned.

Trump: 19%
Walker: 15%
Bush: 14%
Carson: 10%
Cruz: 9%
Huckabee: 6%
Paul: 6%
Rubio: 5%

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Governor Scott highlights infection problems at hospitals

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is using new infection control data released this week by a consumer magazine to provide further justification of his call to create a commission to review the state’s hospital system.

On Wednesday Consumer Reports said St. Petersburg General Hospital, UF Health Jacksonville and Venice Regional Bayfront Health were among the 12 worst hospitals in the nation in preventing infections. The magazine looked at infection rates for MRSA and clostridium difficile, two of the most common and deadly types of bacterial infections in hospitals. The used dates from October 2013 to September 2014, the most recent data available.

“The news that three Florida hospitals are the worst in America for preventing infections is troubling and unacceptable,” Scott said in a statement to the media. “The study also further demonstrates the importance of the work being conducted by the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding to shine a light on the services provided at these facilities.”  …

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Norman Braman gives $5 million to Rubio Super PAC

Miami billionaire Norman Braman contributed $5 million to a Super PAC supporting Marco Rubio while Oracle founder Larry Ellison kicked in $3 million, according to the group’s FEC filing.

Besilu Stables, the horse racing company in Miami, gave $2.5 million. Laura Perlmutter, wife of Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter, gave $2 million.

The big checks made up the bulk of the $16 million Conservative Solutions PAC raised – small compared with Bush’s haul but impressive nonetheless compared with other presidential candidates.

Rubio is aided by $15.8 million raised by Conservative Solutions Project, a nonprofit that does not have to disclose donors.

Braman, the auto magnate, has long been a financial booster of Rubio and is no friend of Bush.

"He knows the odds, and I know the odds, but when he comes in contact with individuals, he's impressive," Braman told the Miami Herald in March. "I think he's catching fire already."


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Hillary Clinton in Miami: Lift the embargo against Cuba

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for the lifting of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba Friday. 

A crowd of mostly enthusiastic supporters greeted Clinton as she gave a speech at Miami's Florida International University, although a few dozen protesters also demonstrated outside the event.

The Miami Herald has the story here

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Hillary Clinton goes after Jeb Bush while he tries to lure Democratic voters

FORT LAUDERDALE — Forget the primary. For a moment Friday, it seemed as though next year's general election had arrived in Fort Lauderdale.

Democrat Hillary Clinton took direct aim at Republican Jeb Bush — who in turn made a pitch to the voters whose support he would need to defeat Clinton.

Clinton didn't name Bush when she spoke to the annual conference of the National Urban League, a civil-rights organization that welcomed five 2016 presidential contenders.

But she referred to the "right to rise" — the name of a political action committee raising money for him — and to Bush's recent suggestion that the next president could "phase out" Medicare.

"Too often we see a mismatch between what some candidates say in venues like this, and what they actually do when they're elected," Clinton said. …

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Anti-Democrat Super PAC: Clinton flip flopped on Cuba embargo

When Hillary Clinton advocated for the lifting of half-century-old trade and travel sanctions on Cuba Friday, the Democratic presidential candidate didn't pull punches.

In a speech at Florida International University in Miami, long the home city of anti-Castro sanction supporters, Clinton called for an end to the "failed policies" of embargo.

But what about Cuba's regime is different from 2008, when Clinton warned now is "not the time to consider wholesale or broad changes to our Cuba policy?”

Jeff Bechdel, communications director of the anti-Democrat America Rising PAC, would certainly like to know. 

“In her previous political incarnations, Hillary Clinton laid out a very clear principle that Cuba needed to embrace democracy before lifting the United States’ embargo," Bechdel said in a release. "Nothing has changed since those remarks except her willingness to say or do anything to win an election."

In her speech, Clinton claimed her experience as secretary of state shed new light on the embargo issue.

"As secretary of state it became clear to me our policy of isolating Cuba was strengthening the Castros rather than weakening them," she said. …

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PolitiFact Florida: Rubio talks illegal immigrants, Bush touts Hispanic voting record

Both of Florida's presidential contenders ended up on the Truth-O-Meter over the past week.

Sen. Marco Rubio said that while people sneaking into the United States is a legitimate problem, the immigration system is so broken that almost half of all illegal immigrants came into the country through legal channels.

"We have a porous border, meaning not just the border with Mexico, but 40 percent of people in this country, illegally, are overstaying visas," he said on Fox & Friends on July 22.

If that’s a stat that sounds familiar, it’s because Rubio has said it before -- including during his 2010 Senate campaign. Former Gov. Jeb Bush has cited the number, too.

But is it true that 40 percent of illegal immigrants are people who have overstayed their visas? It turns out that we hear the figure so often because it’s the most commonly accepted estimate, although it’s getting a little long in the tooth.Full Story

Marco Rubio: People should be more 'fired up' about Planned Parenthood babies than Cecil the lion

Marco Rubio told TMZ that people should be more "fired up" about the babies shown in Planned Parenthood videos as they are about the Cecil the lion.

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Jeb Bush Super PAC outlines donors behind $103 million haul

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Longwood, Fla. A dozen million-dollar contributors account for at least 10 percent of Bush’s record-setting presidential fundraising haul. The big-money boosters propelled Right to Rise, a super PAC dedicated to helping Bush win the Republican nomination, to its $103 million total in the first six month of the year.

Associated Press

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Longwood, Fla. A dozen million-dollar contributors account for at least 10 percent of Bush’s record-setting presidential fundraising haul. The big-money boosters propelled Right to Rise, a super PAC dedicated to helping Bush win the Republican nomination, to its $103 million total in the first six month of the year.

By Alex Leary, Eli Murray and Kirby Wilson

The Right to Rise Super PAC supporting Jeb Bush has filed its report with the FEC this morning, showing the source of the eye-popping $103 million it has raised since January.

Of that, $29.4 million came from Florida donors. The committee pulled at least $8.5 million from New York, showing Wall Street power.

More than $90 million was raised before June 15, when Bush became an official candidate and was openly working with the committee. Campaign finance watchdogs have filed complaints with the FEC over that arrangement, but Bush's camp insists he is on safe legal footing.

Read it here as we comb through for details. If you see something interesting, please note it in comments.

Notable donors:

Miami billionaire Mike Fernandez is overall top donor with $3 million

Former President George H.W. Bush gave $125,000

Former President Geroge W. Bush gave $95,000

Brent Sembler, a St. Petersburg developer, gave $29,000

Mel Sembler gave $100,000

FSU President John Thrasher gave $10,000

State Rep. Dennis Baxley gave $1,000

State Sen. Jeff Brandes gave $1,000

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, now lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida, gave $5,000 …

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Bill Nelson vows to use 'all available procedural options' to block attempt on Gulf oil drilling

Sen. Bill Nelson sent a letter Thursday to Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid saying he would use “all available procedural options” to block a measure to repeal the ban on offshore drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The move comes after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved, by a 12-10 vote, legislation to lift the moratorium. “The GOP-backed measure would allow oil and gas rigs to operate as close as 50 miles to much of Florida’s Gulf Coast – which would undo protection of the state’s Gulf Coast dating back some four decades,” Nelson’s office said.

The current ban extends 125-235 miles off the coast and is in effect until 2022.

“If any measure to repeal the current moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico comes before the full Senate for a vote, I will use all available procedural options to block it,” Nelson wrote to McConnell and Reid.

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'Inclusive' Jeb Bush? Democratic group says no way

A "pre-buttal" memo in from the liberal American Bridge:

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Eddie Vale, Vice President, American Bridge 21st Century

RE: "Inclusive?" Jeb's Record Of Failing African Americans

DATE: July 31st, 2015

Jeb Bush is speaking today at the National Urban League conference in Fort Lauderdale, but he gave Americans a preview of his thoughts on African Americans last week when he dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as "a slogan." With twinges of the same Bush who said he'd do "probably nothing" for African Americans during his first run for governor, his record is chock full of indifference toward black Floridians. He repeatedly failed to respond to issues caused by his own administration's negligence. Bush's resume reads like the out-of-touch Republican he is: End affirmative action, purge voter rolls, disenfranchise voters, and sign a Stand Your Ground law.

With Bush's stump speech promise to campaign everywhere, including African American churches, here's a look at Bush's record that he'll have to defend: …

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Hillary Clinton in Miami: 'The Cuba embargo needs to go, once and for all'

Excerpts from Hillary Clinton's speech today in Miami:

"We have arrived at a decisive moment. The Cuban people have waited long enough for progress to come. Even many Republicans on Capitol Hill are starting to recognize the urgency of moving forward. It’s time for their leaders to either get on board or get out of the way.

"The Cuba embargo needs to go, once and for all. We should replace it with a smarter approach that empowers the Cuban private sector, Cuban civil society, and the Cuban-American community to spur progress and keep pressure on the regime.

"Today I am calling on Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell to step up and answer the pleas of the Cuban people. By large majorities, they want a closer relationship with America. They want to buy our goods, read our books, surf our web, and learn from our people. They want to bring their country into the 21st century. That is the road toward democracy and dignity. We should walk it together."

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Scott's chief elections official cites need to 'over-communicate'

Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, is taking steps to improve his shaky relationships with county election supervisors.

In the wake of a state audit that faulted his agency's oversight of Florida's critical voter registration system, followed by another round of complaints by supervisors that he's a poor communicator, Detzner held a conference call with the executive committee of the supervisors association Thursday and sent them a memo urging them to start planning for the 2016 presidential election.

"I recognize the need to over-communicate our planning at the Department," Detzner said, according to a script of his remarks obtained by the Times/Herald. Beginning in August, he told supervisors, will hold monthly conference calls with them, followed up by site visits to counties beginning in October.

"I applaud the fact that he recognizes that," said Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, president of the state association of supervisors.  "That's a positive step." …

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Senate Democratic leader wants Bush apology at Urban League

In anticipation of Jeb Bush's speech to a National Urban League conference in Fort Lauderdale Friday, Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, sent the former governor a letter and demanded that he acknowledge his "mistakes" in dealing with black Floridians. Here's the text of Joyner's letter:

"If you are serious about reaching out to the African-American community, then you should first address those aspects of your record that are most troubling to our community. Most prominent is your record on voting disenfranchisement of minority communities.

"As governor, you oversaw a purge of Florida’s voter rolls that denied thousands of African-Americans the ability to vote. You also continued Florida’s horrible record of denying former felons any meaningful access to restoration of their civil rights. …

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