The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, in Texas, says terrorists training in Syria could attack U.S.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio warned Tuesday that terrorists training in ungoverned swaths of Syria could "soon" attack American interests around the world — or even on the nation's home soil.

The tea party darling and possible 2016 presidential hopeful gave a foreign policy speech sponsored by various groups at the University of Texas. That meant heading onto the home turf of two other potential future White House contenders: Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rubio's Senate colleague and fellow grass-roots conservative champion Ted Cruz.

Rubio serves on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees and has long advocated for more U.S. engagement with the forces opposing the Syrian government. The senator from Florida told a crowd of around 250 students, dignitaries and invited guests that the Obama administration failed to lead during the early stages of the conflict in Syria, creating a void that allowed foreign fighters to gather and train there. …

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Scott to Crist: debate Nan Rich, then we'll talk

“Give me Scott.”

Democrat Charlie Crist issued that implicit debate challenge to Gov. Rick Scott during an impromptu caught-on-video meeting with Lieutenant Governor Carlos-Lopez Cantera.

But Scott said Tuesday that he’s not ready to take up the challenge, noting that Crist has refused to debate his fellow Democrat, former Sen. Nan Rich.

“That’s laughable. Think about it. He has a primary,” Scott said.

“I’m sure it’s going to be enjoyable watching his debates with Nan Rich,” he said.

Rich appreciated Scott’s comments.

“It’s the first thing Scott has said in almost four years that I agree with,” Rich joked, before referencing how Crist used to be a Republican when he was governor.

“Since Charlie is new to the Democratic Party — especially because Charlie is new to the Democratic Party — he owes it to the voters to debate and talk about the issues to show where he stands,” she said.

Crist, however, has said that voters from all parties know his record. And, previously, he said he “wasn’t even thinking about” debating Rich. …

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Survey USA: Crist 46%, Scott 41%

A new SurveyUSA poll shows Democrat Charlie Crist leading Gov. Rick Scott by about 5 percentage points --and despite $5.2 million in ad buys from the Republican.

The likely voter poll, conducted for Tampa's WFLA station, jibes with about a dozen other recent public surveys except two:

1) An early April poll by Voter Survey Service, which often works for Republicans and was hired by conservative Sunshine State News. It showed Scott with an inside-the-error margin lead of 45-44 percent over Crist, the only survey showing Scott out front.

2) A mid-March poll by University of North Florida (which until the Voter Survey Service was the outlier) that showed Crist with the narrowest of inside-the-error-margin leads, 34-33 percent.  No recent survey has found both candidates pulling less than 40 percent of the vote.

In between those two surveys, St. Leo University released a poll in late March that Crist led Scott 43-39 percent.

And the day after the Voter Survey poll, liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling released its own numbers showing Crist ahead of Scott 49-42 percent.

Considering all those polls, SurveyUSA's numbers of Crist leading Scott 46-41 percent is no shocker. …

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Scott picks fight with Senate over child welfare but defends gaps in his proposal

Scott opa lockaGov. Rick Scott visited a Department of Children and Families service center in Opa-locka on Tuesday to tout additional funding and staffing for the troubled agency’s child protection system.

Surrounding by child abuse investigators and supervisors, Scott pledged again — as he did earlier this year — to commit about $39 million in new dollars to hire more staff and lower caseloads. He then chastised the Florida Senate for not including the money in its budget but defended gaps in his own child welfare budget proposal that advocates say leaves holes in the state's safety net.

“I am asking the Senate to do right by our children,” Scott said, after praising the work of local investigators.

The Senate has allocated $33.5 million in new money for child welfare programming but has not identified where the money will be used. The House has set aside more than the governor -- $44.5 million, enough to hire additional child protection investigators and provide $4.5 million in new money for support services. Both sides will meet next week to work out their differences. 

The budget increases have come in the wake of a Miami Herald investigation, Innocents Lost, that chronicled the deaths of 477 children over six years whose families had a history with DCF. The Herald review of the state budget over thath six-year period also found that as the state budget grew by $10 billion, the resources devoted to child welfare dropped by $80 million.

Senate President Don Gaetz has told reporters repeatedly that that he believes more money is needed for child welfare but has refused to specify if he will go beyond the Senate's initial budget. Senate leaders say the final numbers will be worked out during the negotiating process.

"The Senate set aside funding for child welfare reform from day one of our budget planning,'' said Katie Betta, Gaetz spokeswoman. She said child welfare reform has been a priority of Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford and they have not waivered.

“As such, President Gaetz has communicated this point throughout session, as have the other senators working on this legislation,'' she said. "Final allocations for specific workforce initiatives will be determined in the budget conference.”

But neither the governor's budget, nor the Senate budget, provide any additional money for the support services needed by child welfare organizations to help families receive mental health and drug abuse treatment or parent skills and other services to help them become better parents. Full Story

Iowa poll shows Jeb Bush near front of GOP field

Loras College (Iowa) Poll for potential 2016 potential candidates.

Mike Huckabee---14.7 percent                       
Jeb Bush---10.7 percent
Rand Paul---8.5 percent
Paul Ryan---8.3 percent
Chris Christie---8.0 percent
Ted Cruz---6.2 percent
Marco Rubio---4.7 percent
Rick Santorum---4.7 percent
Scott Walker---4.7 percent
Rick Perry---3.0 percent
John Kasich---0.7 percent
Other---0.7 percent
Undecided---23.8 percent

"The inaugural Loras College Poll surveyed 600 likely Iowa GOP primary voters, creating a 4 percent margin of error.  The survey was conducted April 7-8, 2014 using telephone interviews, including both landlines and cell phones.  In addition, the survey was balanced using historical voting patterns for age, gender and geography.  The sample here is of likely 2014 primary voters and not simply of likely caucus goers (although there is much overlap between the two groups). Script development and methodology used for the survey received input from Republican campaign consultant, Steve Grubbs, and Democrat campaign consultant, Dave Heller."

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Rick Scott campaign: We're killing Crist on the ground

FROM: Tim Saler, Deputy Campaign Manager
TO: Interested Parties
SUBJECT: First Stages of the 2014 Ground Game

As you may have seen, Charlie Crist’s campaign announced that they will be opening their Broward County office this week. While the details seem to change by the minute – a third personal residence for Crist in Fort Lauderdale became a field office opening Tuesday, which then turned into a South Florida headquarters opening Saturday – I thought this would be a good opportunity to update you on the early stages of our campaign’s ground game activities.

We have every expectation that, if the Crist campaign is serious about following the Obama playbook, they will deploy nearly 100 campaign-funded field offices around the state. After all, when Terry McAuliffe followed that same playbook in Virginia, he opened 41 offices in a state less than half the size of Florida. But field infrastructure needs to be deployed early in the campaign in order to maximize effectiveness, and the Crist campaign is already behind the eight ball compared to the Obama strategy. …

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Crist seeks to replicate Obama's email fundraising

Charlie Crist campaign email


Charlie Crist campaign email

Boom. Roasted.

That's the subject line of an email this afternoon from Charlie Crist's campaign, which plays off a video of Crist surprising Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera at an event. It's the kind of tactic popularized by Barack Obama and now used by virtually every campaign, Democrat or Republican, at dizzying frequency.

Crist is overmatched by Gov. Rick Scott's fundraising but is trying to tap into the small dollar, grassroots market. His email today asked for $5. The email was sent by Jessica Clark, who was Obama's 2012 Florida finance director.

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RPOF says it doesn't play in primaries but its money has in Benacquisto race

How $300,000 moved from RPOF to a Super PAC

Alex Leary | Times

How $300,000 moved from RPOF to a Super PAC

The Republican Party of Florida says it does not engage in GOP primaries, but nearly $300,000 of its money has landed in a Super PAC supporting congressional candidate Lizbeth Benacquisto, newly filed campaign finance records show.

The money passed through several committees, illustrating how difficult it can be to trace, let alone determine an agenda. RPOF's response: We have no control once it leaves our coffers.

"How dare the party act stupid now like they don't know," said former Rep. Connie Mack, who held the District 19 seat until 2012 and is backing Benacquisto's rival, Curt Clawson. "I think the people of Southwest Florida will reject the idea that a Super PAC funded by the party is going to tell us who our next member of congress is going to be."

The money trail runs like this: Liberty and Leadership Fund, the pro-Benacquisto committee, took in $289,469 from another Super PAC called Liberty4Florida, which in turn got money from Free Speech PAC on Jan. 24. Free Speech PAC, a state committee chaired by Republican consultant Randy Nielsen, got $300,000 from RPOF on Dec. 26, 2013. …

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Ros-Lehtinen, who had Rubio as intern, says she's with Bush

UPDATE 12:20 p.m.: Ros-Lehtinen tweets: "I'm w/Marco also. Wasn't either/or. Both."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, told the Hill newspaper that if Jeb Bush decides to run, "I'm with him."

The comment says a lot about where Florida Republicans lie in a possible clash between Bush and Marco Rubio, who interned for Ros-Lehtinen many years ago. ("I was a lot thinner and he had a lot more hair," she told CNN. 'But it's the same old Marco.")

Ros-Lehtinen told the Hill that Rubio would likely opt against running in 2016 if Bush runs. "Maybe some folks don't think that [Bush is] as conservative as he should be, but he's a very pragmatic conservative and compassionate man as well," she said.

The Tampa Bay Times Florida Insiser Poll revealed overwhelming sentiment that Bush will run.

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Democratic spin ignores Jolly's vote against Ryan budget

DCCC spin on Alex Sink's decision not to run for Congress again:

“Pinellas residents have voted time and again for commonsense solutions instead of reckless partisanship, which is why we are confident our Democratic nominee can prevail on Election Day," DCCC chairman Steve Israel said in a statement.

“In the last few weeks, Congressman David Jolly has become the latest face of the most reckless Republican Congress in modern history and he will be forced to campaign under the full weight of his party’s toxic brand in November: raising taxes on middle class families, ending the Medicare guarantee for seniors, and jeopardizing economic growth for businesses – all to give more to corporate special interests and the ultra-wealthy.”

But Jolly's "weight" isn't as weighty. Last week he was one of 12 Republicans to vote against the Ryan budget.

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In SW Florida congressional race, who matters more: Palin or Paul?

Endorsments can be overrated but in a conservative primary with a lot of noise and mud, could a high-profile name give a candidate the edge?

Congressional District 19 candidate Lizbeth Benacquisto recently got the backing of Sarah Palin, who held a fundraiser and sang the candidate's praises on Fox News.

Yesterday, Curt Clawson scored the endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul, among the first tea party backed candidates to make it big.

"Washington is desperate for outside leadership," Paul said. "Curt Clawson is an outsider who will bring refreshing ideas to the halls of Congress. Today, I proudly stand with Curt Clawson in his quest to restore fiscal stability and common sense government. Curt will stand with me in defending the Constitution."

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Alex Sink will not run for Congress again this year

Democrat Alex Sink, with daughter Lexi Crawford after delivering a concession speech March 11, says she will not run for Congress again in November.


Democrat Alex Sink, with daughter Lexi Crawford after delivering a concession speech March 11, says she will not run for Congress again in November.

Democrat Alex Sink has decided not to run for Congress again this year, meaning there will not be a rematch of the nationally watched and extraordinarily costly campaign that Sink lost in Pinellas County a little over a month ago by less than 2 percentage points.

“I am so honored and humbled by the outpouring of support our campaign received, but after reflection with my family I have made a personal decision not to run for the 13th Congressional District seat in the 2014 election,” Sink said in a statement. “I want to thank every voter, volunteer and  donor for their support – we can all be proud of the strong campaign we ran. I look forward to finding new, rewarding avenues where I can continue to effectively serve the people of Florida. In the words of Bill, I look forward to continuing to do good. I remain totally convinced that a Democrat can and will win this congressional seat in the fall, and I look forward to helping the Democratic nominee.”

Republican David Jolly narrowly defeated Sink in the March 11 special election that was held following the October death of longtime Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

Read more here.

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Rick Scott's "American Comeback" as told by RGA

From an email:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Republican Governors Association today launched the next video of the American Comeback project, a national advertising effort designed to tell the success stories and accomplishments of Republican governors.

The newest video of the American Comeback project features Florida Governor Rick Scott. As governor, Scott readily calls upon the struggles his family experienced throughout his childhood as a driving force behind his resolve to create more jobs, more opportunity and more prosperity for the people of Florida.

View Governor Scott's video here:

"€œI don't know my natural father. My mom got remarried a year or so after I was born. My adoptive father had a sixth-grade education. They struggled for money. I grew up in public housing," said Governor Scott. "€œBut I lived in America, and I had every opportunity there was."€

"I want our state to be number one:  the number one place for your family to get a job, the number one place for your children to get a great education," added Governor Scott. "€œWe'€™re going to have the jobs. We'€™re going to have the most growth. …

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"Give me Scott"

Charlie Crist can'€™t resist small talk, a few cameras and a campaign stunt.

His one-time ally and current opponent, Lieutenant Governor Lopez-Cantera, found that out that hard way on Monday when he was assigned to shadow Crist at a Palm Beach County event and give Gov. Rick Scott’s response.

Crist stepped all over Lopez-Cantera's message, however, as made plain in a 30-second Palm Beach Post video of an awkward exchange between the two. The Democrat interrupted the lieutenant governor's press gaggle, shook his hand and then basically declared Lopez-Cantera not good enough to debate.

"€œGive me Scott,"€ Crist said as he walked away.

Basically, Crist disrupted the disruptor.

Here's the breakdown, from the beginning:

Lopez-Cantera: "€œCharlie's willing to say whatever you want to hear to get elected. But when it comes down to the facts, to the record, when it was time to stand up and make a difference, he left."

At that point, Crist appeared in the background, and offered his handshake to Lopez-Cantera.

Crist: "Good to see you."

Lopez-Cantera: "€œHey. How are you?"

Crist: "Doing well. Say hi to your family for me."€

Reporter: "€œGovernor, he says you'€™ve told lies about Gov. Scott?"€ …

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Hall-of-famer's lawsuit exposes limits of gaming compact

Brooks Robinson nowRenowned baseball hall-of-famer Brooks Robinson plunged six feet from an unsecured stage during a charity event at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood two years ago and is now suing the Seminole Tribe for nearly $10 million for his permanent injuries.

But whether the 76-year-old Baltimore Orioles superstar will collect enough to even cover his medical bills is an open question, said his Miami attorney, Jack Hickey, because under state law the tribe’s liability is limited.

Robinson still experiences bleeding on the brain, cracks in his spine, and has lost five inches in height as a result of the injuries, Hickey said. He requires constant care and “has aged ten years since the fall.”

Under the state’s legal agreement with the tribe, if someone is injured at a tribal casino and wants to sue, the tribe’s payment is capped at $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident, the same limits enjoyed by the state when it is sued for negligence.

A victim suffering from serious injury “can blow through that pretty quickly,” Hickey said. But, unlike the state, victims who sue the tribe can’t appeal to the Legislature for more money when a jury awards more than the liability limits. Story here.  …

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