Lest anyone doubt the importance of Florida's 29 electoral votes to President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, consider the schedule taking shape for this week: Obama will speak Tuesday at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton about the so-called Buffet Rule that would apply to millionaires the same effective tax rate that middle-class Americans pay.
Then on Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama will give a speech to high school junior and senior girls and their families at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, part of a program to honor military families.
Now we're hearing that the White House is looking into the president stopping in Tampa on Friday for an official event. Nothing is confirmed yet, but the president would stop in the city on his way to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia.
Florida's GOP won't dodge punishment
The Republican National Committee has cut Florida's delegation from 100 to 50 and promises to limit the number of floor passes and other perks Florida receives to the convention in Tampa as punishment for moving its primary to January in violation of party rules.
Any chance for some last-minute mercy in the name of keeping activists happy in America's biggest battleground state? No way, predicts RNC vice chairwoman Sharon Day of Broward County.
"We're a two-time offender, so I don't see it happening," she said, referring to Florida breaking the same rules four years ago.
By moving the presidential primary to January, Florida blew up the entire 2012 schedule and by some accounts contributed to the protracted primary that has done little to help the GOP's standing with the public. And contrary to what most Florida leaders predicted, the primary here did nothing to settle the nomination.
"The country is going through this awkward, pained process because we jumped so early — and we had no impact," Day said.
Buckhorn fuming over handgun legislation
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is a lifelong gun owner and no knee-jerk liberal, but he's fuming over the Legislature's passing a law last year prohibiting local governments from enacting gun control ordinances.
It means that amid all the tight security surrounding the Republican convention in August, Tampa can do nothing to stop people from carrying concealed firearms in the area if they have permits.
"The fact that the Legislature … at the orders of the NRA, pre-empted our ability to do anything about guns in our jurisdiction is absolutely insane. We can't touch it," Buckhorn said in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. "You could conceivably walk down that protest route with a concealed weapon when we're banning squirt guns on the other side. It's absurd."
Online bookmaker gives Rubio good odds
The online bookmaker PaddyPower.com is taking bets on the Republican vice presidential pick. Marco Rubio leads the field with odds of 3/1, followed by Rob Portman, 7/2; Paul Ryan, 11/2; Chris Christie, 9/1; Bob McDonnell, 10/1; Susana Martinez, 12/1; Rand Paul, 12/1.
And the next president? Obama gets odds of 2/5 and Mitt Romney 15/8.
Meanwhile, the National Journal's latest survey of political insiders across the country also found Rubio named most often as the strongest running mate choice, although enthusiasm for Florida's freshman senator seems to be slipping. When asked the question in October, 60 percent of participants in the survey picked Rubio as the best choice, while last week only 34 percent picked him.
Mack's fundraising off to a good start
U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, the front-runner for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, says he raised more than $1 million in the first three months of the year. It's a healthy haul, though probably not nearly as strong as the Mack campaign suggests.
He is, after all, the son of a former senator, the heavy favorite for the nomination, and married to another member of Congress. Mary Bono Mack has her own fundraising network in California.
Mack raised eyebrows last week at a tea party forum in Orlando when he criticized the Republican U.S. House budget plan crafted by Ryan.
"You know that budget was a joke, doesn't balance the budget for years," said Mack, who missed the vote on the budget because he was campaigning in Florida.
A campaign spokesman gamely sought to walk back Mack's comment.
"He supports the Ryan plan but the process is a joke when the GOP House continues to do the right things and the liberal Senate under (Majority Leader Harry) Reid and (Florida Sen. Bill) Nelson continue to kill fiscally responsible measures," said spokesman David James.
Alex Leary and Marc Caputo contributed to this week's Buzz.