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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

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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PolitiFact Florida: Did Donald Trump propose the biggest tax hike in American history as Jeb Bush says?

Republican candidates continue to attack Donald Trump on his past positions, claiming he is not the conservative he says he is today.

Jeb Bush picked up the attack by taking on Trump over tax policy.

"I cut taxes every year," Bush said at an Aug. 20 rally in New Hampshire. "He’s proposed the largest tax increase in mankind’s history, not just our own country’s history."

The next day Bush repeated the basic claim in a fundraising email: "Trump proposed enacting the largest tax increase in American history."Full Story

Trump to Bush: Habla inglés, por favor

“I like Jeb. He’s a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States.”

-- Donald Trump, as quoted today by Breitbart News.

"Experience should be in a luxury hotel of 400 rooms or more. Effective supervisory skills. Bi-lingual English/Spanish desired. Should be detailed and highly organized. Must have flexible availability."

- Trump International (Miami) job description.

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U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown supports Iran deal

Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, said this afternoon she will support the Iran nuclear deal.

That makes two Florida House Democrats for the deal (Brown and Patrick Murphy) and two against (Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch). Six others have not yet stated their position.

Here is Brown's statement:

“Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was announced, I have been closely scrutinizing the text of the agreement. I have sought the insight of experts and the judgement of trusted leaders. I’ve sat with and heard from passionate constituents on both sides of this issue.

“Having assessed the details and weighed the alternatives, I have concluded that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action represents our best, long-term option to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. I will vote in support of the agreement, and if necessary to uphold a veto of the resolution of disapproval. …

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Meet the Florida pol who went to school with 'loud and showy' Donald Trump

Charlene and Pat Neal

Charlene and Pat Neal

A lot of Florida politicos have crossed paths with Donald Trump over the years, but one prominent Republican who knew him long before he was The Donald, was Sarasota Republican Pat Neal. The former state legislator, Florida Christian Coalition chairman and top Republican fundraiser widely seen a leading candidate for Chief Financial Officer in 2018, was two years behind Trump at business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

"He is the same Don Trump then as he is now.... He was just a rich, obnoxious, high roller," said Neal, acknowledging he and Trump were not close enough to even say hi when passing one another in Dietrich Hall. "I just knew there was a rich kid from New York who transferred in from Fordham, and that he had a white Austin Healey and he made a big swath wherever he went." …

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Rubio wants to end ban on crude oil exports, turn back energy industry regulation

Marco Rubio in a speech in Oklahoma City will join calls for an end to the ban on crude oil exports and stop the EPA's Clean Power Plan. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery (2:30 p.m. eastern)

As many of you know, I’ve based my campaign for president on the question of how we can make the 21st century a New American Century. And the topic we’re here to discuss today is a crucial component of my plan to achieve that goal.

The energy industry is central to our future in every way – in terms of our economic growth, in terms of the financial security of our families, and in terms of our strength as a global leader.

The fortunate truth is that America is uniquely blessed with energy resources, more than we realized we had even ten years ago. There are multiple nations on earth with a great deal of oil and natural gas. There are multiple nations with access to important oceanic and hydroelectric resources. There are multiple nations with lush forests and tillable land. But there is no nation that has all of these at the same time and to the same extent that America does. …

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Congressman Bilirakis pushes FEMA for disaster declaration for Tampa Bay flooding

A month after hundreds of Tampa Bay area residents were forced from their homes because of flooding, the region still doesn’t have a federal disaster declaration and that is not going over well with U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.

Bilirakis, R-Safety Harbor, spoke to Federal Emergency Management Agency director Craig Fugate on Wednesday morning to press him on the need for the disaster declaration.

“He shared with him the horror stories of constituents who are still suffering,” said Elizabeth Hittos, chief of staff for Bilirakis in Washington, D.C.

A federal disaster declaration would trigger 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.

Bilirakis, R-Safety Harbor, represents all of Pasco County, which was the hardest hit of five counties that Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency on Aug. 6.  …

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He's Trump; He's Trump; He's in your head...

Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald writes about a Donald Trump parody that has surfaced out of Miami Beach, complete with a cameo from his ex-aide, Roger Stone.

Steve Berke ran for Miami Beach mayor twice and makes a living producing videos on a You Tube channel dedicated to marijuana. His latest project: teaming up with Roger Stone, a former top aide to Donald Trump, in a video celebrating the Republican front-runner.

"He's Trump, he's Trump, he's in your head... " Berke sang in a Trumpian wig to a pop-punk beat. "In the first debate Trump was singled out. They said he'd eat his words, but he ended all those doubts."

Read more here.


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Don Gaetz promises more testing reform in 2016

In 2016, expect standardized testing reform to be front and center among the Legislature's education deliberations yet again.

After an effort in the 2015 session eliminated some tests students have to take that lawmakers said were duplicates, state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, the education budget chairman and former Senate president, says he's going after even more.

It doesn't make sense for the state to require students to take tests proving they have mastered a subject that has already been tested on a well known, national exam like the SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate, Gaetz said. A bill he says he will introduce would allow those exams to replace other mandated tests.

But he's also trying to inspire more reforms down the road and make it clear to Education Commissioner Pam Stewart that the Legislature is focused on the issue.

"We weren't able to get the commissioner of education's attention last year," Gaetz said. "But maybe if we pass a law, maybe we could get her attention." …

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Scott and Cabinet got 'casual' about Sunshine Law, CFO says

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida's three elected Cabinet members are going back to school next month.

They have agreed to give themselves a refresher course in public records and open meetings laws after months of controversy involving multiple allegations that the laws were skirted or violated, resulting in the payment of more than $1.3 million in taxpayer money to settle several cases, mostly against the governor. The "sunshine" training will be given at a Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee on Oct. 27 by Assistant Attorney General Pat Gleason.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater told the Times/Herald the extra training is overdue.

"I think there has become a casualness about communicating," Atwater said. "How are people sending signals, 'Is this okay for an agenda item? Where's your guy at?' That's not how this was ever meant to be designed ... We are called together as a Cabinet to discuss public business and that should be done in public. So I think it's a very good refresher." …

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Marco Rubio talks tough on Iran while choosing words carefully about Donald Trump

Marco Rubio was on Fox News this morning and talked tough on Iran. "If I'm the president of the United States, in my first day in office, we will lift what the president is doing, we will re-impose sanctions," Rubio said, adding he would increase sanctions and back them up with the threat of military force.

Rubio, however, was less strident when talking about Donald Trump and did not directly answer if he thinks the New Yorker is a conservative (Jeb Bush of course has been launched a war on Trump’s bona fides).

“Well that’s why we’re going to have these debates … if in fact he’s changed his positions on these issues and wants to join the conservative movement, we welcome that.”

Do you think he’s had a change of heart? I asked the question pretty simple ...

“Well I hope so,” Rubio answered. “Again we’re going to have a series of debates and a long campaign. Voters are going to make that decision.”

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Hillary Clinton emails reveal how Diana Nyad got clearance to swim from Cuba

Our Miami Herald colleague Michelle Kaufman has a great story out of the Hillary Clinton emails:

In 7,000 pages of Hillary Clinton emails released by the State Department, amid a trove of notes on Middle East policy and gefilte fish and the TV show Parks and Recreation, is an exchange involving South Florida and Cuba ties.

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, attempting a 103-mile Cuba-to-Key West swim at age 60 in the summer of 2010, reached out to then-Secretary of State Clinton in a “desperate plea’’ to help her get her expedition cleared by the U.S. State Department so that she could begin the swim on Cuban soil.

On July 4, 2010, Clinton received an email on Nyad’s behalf from Hilary Rosen, a political pundit and Democratic lobbyist. In the memo line: “A unique request for your help from Hilary Rosen.’’

The note went on to explain that Nyad needed help to get clearance for her swim. “I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think taking it to your level is the only way to get it done,’’ Rosen wrote. “Thanks so much in advance for looking into this. I know it is a busy month for you. You are just the best!!!’’ …

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Trump: Bush 'had no choice' but to attack me

Bush v. Trump continues today.

Trump was on Good Morning America saying Bush “had no choice” to attack him. And Jeb Bush was on Twitter pushing this survey that compares his record with Trump's. Neither has a great fav/unfav ratio. From today's Washington Post poll: Trump is at a 37–59; Bush is 38-55.

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Biden has strong Florida ties, but few see plausible path to presidency

....But for all of the vice president's Florida ties and contacts — including top money-raisers and political strategists in his corner — it's far easier to find Democrats who love the idea of the feisty, shoot-from-the-hip Biden running for president than Democrats who see a plausible path for him outside of the Clinton campaign falling off the tracks.

"I don't hear anybody jumping off the Hillary Clinton ship. She has virtually every name in Florida," said Chris Korge, a top Democratic fundraiser and longtime Clinton supporter in Miami. "Hillary's got a hard-core group of supporters, a majority of which are women that are not shaking loose."

Biden, 72, has significant Florida ties, including a younger brother in Palm Beach County; Miami developer Michael Adler, who was national finance chairman for his 2008 presidential campaign; Patrick Baskette of Tampa, a veteran Democratic consultant who worked on Biden's U.S. Senate staff and his 1988 presidential campaign; and Tallahassee lobbyist Steve Schale, who ran Barack Obama's 2008 Florida campaign and is now advising the Draft Biden 2016 Super PAC. …

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