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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida's battleground status has created a record television ad war

Fueled by cash from outside political groups, the arms race over political advertising has reached a crescendo in Florida, where more than $133 million has poured into the state since April to finance a record-breaking barrage of television ads.

The presidential race alone has shattered Florida’s previous records and nationwide “this election year will go down as a record pulverizing year for political advertising,’’ said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project which tracks political ads.

Since June 1, more than 915,000 presidential ads have been aired on broadcast and national cable television across the nation, the group reported last week. That is a 44.5 percent increase over a similar period in 2008 and a 43.7 percent increase over 2004.

What’s surprising however, is that the millions spent on advertising in Florida’s 10 top media markets in the final week will not be not aimed at persuading voters who to pick in the high stakes presidential contest. Instead the goal is to get people out to vote — and influence media coverage. More here.


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At Romney's events in Florida, no sign of Rick Scott

Mitt Romney held three high-profile Florida campaign events Wednesday in three vitally important markets of Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. But as usual, Gov. Rick Scott was nowhere to be seen.

Scott has said it's not true that he's deliberately avoiding appearing in public with his party's presidential candidate. "As governor, you do have a job to do," he has said. But Scott's popularity with Florida voters remains a problem and his message that Florida's economy is improving is at odds with Romney's gloomy assessment of the economy. In terms of messaging, the two Republicans are an odd couple. 

In Scott's absence, another Florida governor, Jeb Bush, shared the spotlight with Romney in Tampa and later on the Coral Gables campus of the University of Miami. In Tampa, Romney heaped praise on Bush, calling him "the education governor," at a time when Scott has been striving to be perceived as an ally of public school teachers, parents and students. 

Read the full story here.


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Thousands descend on Florida, swing states to monitor polls in Obama/Romney showdown

 TALLAHASSEE — It won't just be voters heading to the polls this week in Florida and other swing states, but thousands of lawyers and volunteers scrutinizing how ballots are handed out, scanned and stored inside precincts. Thousands more will stand outside to detect efforts to intimidate, disenfranchise or reward voters.

In the post Bush vs. Gore era, this is what Democracy looks like.

"The 2000 election scared the hell out of people," said Nate Persily, a political science professor at Columbia University who has studied election law. "Campaigns are now armed to the hilt with lawyers beforehand so they aren't caught off guard."

Read more here.

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Greer's wife threatens to spill the beans

The dishwasher is broken, the sink is leaking and Lisa Greer, wife of former GOP Chairman Jim Greer says she is about ready to spill the beans on people who could have helped them.

In a mid-afternoon posting on Facebook, Mrs. Greer described the family’s “Difficult situation,’’ saying they cannot afford repairs.

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Obama returns to Florida on Sunday

President Obama will campaign in Democratic stronghold Broward County on Sunday, an official said.

No other details at this point. UPDATE: Obama's schedule for Sunday shows Fort Lauderale as his only Florida stop.

His day: Concord, New Hampshire; Ft. Lauderdale; Cincinnati, Ohio and Aurora, Colorado.

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More than 2.6 million votes cast in Florida

Total Absentee and Early Votes Cast: 2,675,711

Early Voting:

Total = 1,099,633

Republicans = 399,687

Democrats = 517,909

Other = 182,037



Total = 1,576,078

Republicans = 689,206

Democrats = 620,652

Other = 266,220

Source: Florida Division of Elections.

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GOP in Palm Beach frets about Obama ground game: 'They're cleaning our clock'

There's a sense of worry among Palm Beach County Republicans. They're not just outnumbered 44-29 percent by Democrats. The Democrats are "cleaning our clocks" in both early and absentee ballots, according to a GOP email obtained by WPTV.

The Democrat-over-Republican spread: 54-27 percent as of yesterday morning. That's about 30,000 ballots. And there's a good chance that margin could be even bigger after another day of early voting.

From WPTV:
A memo obtained by NewsChannel5's Evan Axelbank, from an adviser to a local GOP campaign, says that the Democratic turnout effort is, "cleaning our clock."
The memo says, "The early and absentee turnout is starting to look more troubling."
It also says, "Even if Romney wins the state (likely based on polls), the turnout deficit in PBC will affect our local races."...

...The text of the memo is:

The early and absentee turnout is starting to look more troubling.

As of yesterday, Republicans made up only 22% of early voters and 30% of returned absentee votes.

This is closer to (and worse than) 2008 where we saw 19% EV and 38% of the absentees. 2010 (our blowout year) was 33% of EV and 45% of AB. …

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Obama campaign touts early vote strength

The spin from Republicans and Democrats over who's winning the battle for early votes in Florida is growing tiresome, but the Obama campaign is scoffing the talk from Republicans that they are underperforming. From the Obama campaign's Florida spokesman Eric Jotkoff:

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Florida's disaster veteran Craig Fugate back in spotlight


Former Florida emergency director Craig Fugate is back in the public spotlight, leading FEMA's efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Fugate flew today with President Obama to New Jersey, where they will survey damage with Gov. Chris Christie.

Since Obama tapped Fugate to take over the beleaguered Federal Emergency Management Agency he has received high marks in turning around the organization and responding to disasters. Now he has another to contend with.

"Craig lives and breathes this stuff, making sure we're providing the help that people so desperately need," Obama said this afternoon in Brigantine, N.J.

Fugate expects to return to Florida at some point. "I'm a Gator," he told the Tampa Bay Times last year. "As soon as the president says I am done, I will be on the way back home as fast as I can get in my vehicle and crank the ignition."

Photo: AP

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In Tampa, Romney tries to balance storm sympathies with campaigning

TAMPA — Mitt Romney asked Floridians to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy before pivoting to his standard campaign stump speech this morning at a Tampa airport hangar rally, the first of three stops planned in Florida.

"This is a quite a time for the country, as you know," said Romney, wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a striped tie. "We're going through trauma in a major part of the country. "It's interesting to see how people come together in circumstances like this."

Romney then drew a connection between Sandy and the tight presidential contest. "People coming together is what's also going to happen on Nov. 7," Romney said, referring to the day after the election. "I will bring change and real reform and a presidency that brings us together."

The transition was an awkward but inevitable side effect of Romney's decision to continue campaigning while the Northeast reels from the superstorm, which has killed at least 55 people. Romney canceled campaign appearances Tuesday but did hold a quasi-campaign/relief event in Ohio. (Story here)

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New Priorities Super PAC ad seeks to 'connect the dots' between Gov. Rick Scott and Mitt Romney

This new TV ad from the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action is a hard-hitting attempt to link Gov. Rick Scott with Mitt Romney over Medicare fraud.

Scott's former company, HCA, paid a record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud while a company Romney sat on the board of was charged with fraud as well. That's true, but Romney was never implicated. More background from PolitiFact.

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Group's pro-justices mailer cites 'personal freedoms'

justicesmailer.jpgA new mailer by the liberal group America Votes urges Florida voters to "make sure you vote all the way down the ballot," and puts in a strong pitch for the merit retentions of Supreme Court justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

The historically long Florida ballot has prompted concern that many voters will skip sections of the ballot, including the retention of the justices, who have been target for removal by the Republican Party of Florida and conservative interest groups for some of their decisions.

America Votes' 8 1/2 X 11 inch mail piece, which reached Florida households this week, said the justices rule on cases involving "jobs, worker rights and personal freedoms."

America Votes' web site says it is "fighting for progressive values across the country in 2012."  


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Robert Redford seeks to rally support for Bill Nelson

Fundraising email from Robert Redford.

I'm writing to ask for your support for Bill Nelson on Election Day, Nov. 6th, in Florida's U.S. Senate race.

There's a lot at stake, not the least of which is the continued protection of the Sunshine State's environment and economy.

Over the years, I've been a strong supporter of many noteworthy environmental causes including restoration of the Everglades and protection of Florida's beaches. And, as some of the state's newspapers have recently noted, perhaps no U.S. politician has defended Florida's beaches as staunchly as Bill Nelson.

Bill helped obtain billions of dollars in federal funding to restore the "River of Grass." And he led the effort to get the United Nations to put Everglades National Park back on a list of the World's most treasured or endangered sites. We need Bill Nelson in the Senate, because he's made a difference.

Thank you for helping to make a difference.

Robert Redford

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Ahead of merit retention vote, Times/Herald charts controversial Supreme Court decisions

Three Florida Supreme Court justices up for merit retention votes are being opposed by conservatives, who argue that the justices have displayed liberal philosophies in their decisions. It doesn’t help that the justices -- R. Fred Lewis, 64, Barbara Pariente, 63, and Peggy Quince, 64 -- were all appointed by Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, although Republican Gov. Jeb Bush also had a hand in selecting Quince.

The question is: Are these justices too activist and how can you tell?

While about 80 percent of all the court’s decisions are unanimous, conservative groups and the Republican Party of Florida -- which are opposing retention of the justices -- point to specific cases where they say members of the state Supreme Court crossed the line.

The Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau looked into nine specific examples cited by opponents of the justices as judicial activism so you can see the case, how the seven-member court ruled and, when there was dissent, why justices disagreed.

Read further to see the chart detailing these cases.

Tia Mitchell, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

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If Fla had early voting in 2000, Al Gore would have been president

iorio_pam.jpgbutterfly-ballot.gif"Early voting is the greatest change that has happened to our elections," says former Hillsborough County Elections Supervisor Pam Iorio. It may not increase overall voter participation, but she said it ensures more people can vote - especially hourly workers and people without transportation who often have to miss voting election day if something comes up, say a broken car or a sick kid.

What's more, the Democratic former Tampa Mayor notes, early voting is "a fantastic way to make sure that any problem that comes to light can be fixed." Like, say, a confusing ballot design that might prompt people to vote more than once or for the wrong person.

"Had we had early voting in 2000, Al Gore would have been president,'' said Iorio, who is no rabid partisan.

She made another provocative point: Contrary to popular believe that Florida is the ultimate purple, swing state, she argues that in fact, its electorate leans Democratic. …

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