Democrats feeling convention blues, but RNC has its awkward notes: Greer, Paul, Scott

Published July 1, 2012

Republicans have been crowing about some of the struggles facing organizers of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., who last week scrapped plans for a much-touted public Labor Day bash at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But before they get too glib, it's worth considering some of the potentially awkward story lines for Republicans when they converge Aug. 27-30 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

• The convention will come on the heels of the criminal trial of former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, charged with stealing more than $100,000 from the party. Greer has made it clear he won't hesitate to highlight dirty secrets of Florida Republican leaders as he defends himself.

• Ron Paul will have hundreds of delegates at the convention, and it's anything but clear how happy they will be to stay on message touting Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, thousands of Paul supporters are expected at three different festivals planned before the convention, one of them organized by Paul himself at the USF Sun Dome on Aug. 26.

• Gov. Rick Scott remains one of the most unpopular governors in America, and convention organizers have to figure out how high a profile he will have at the convention.

• For violating the officially sanctioned primary calendar, Florida Republicans are supposed to have lousy seats in the convention hall and limited guest passes. They're appealing to Romney to cut them some slack, but Republican National Committee members ultimately make the call and so far have shown no interest in giving the Sunshine State a pass for busting the schedule two election cycles in a row.

It's worth noting that a number of Democrats are planning to skip their convention, not wanting to draw too close a tie to President Barack Obama as they face tough re-election battles back home. Some say they just can't spare the time off the campaign trail. But Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson plans to attend at least some of the DNC events in Charlotte, his office says.

New poll of Hispanics

Latino Decisions last week released a June 12-21 poll of 2,000 Hispanic voters in the battleground states of Florida, Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for the overall sample and 4.9 percentage points for Florida.

Overall Obama was leading Romney 63 percent to 27 percent. In Florida, with a much different Hispanic electorate, Obama was leading 53 percent to 37 percent.

Good news for the president? Not necessarily. Exit polls showed he won 57 percent of the Hispanic vote in Florida four years ago when he narrowly won the state.

Sixty-two percent of Hispanic voters in Florida approved of the president's performance and 24 percent disapproved. Also, 63 percent said they were enthusiastic about voting in the presidential race.

With its large population of Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans who don't face deportation issues, immigration is not the hot-button issue in Florida as it is elsewhere. Still, the poll found 39 percent considered immigration the top issue, 35 percent said the economy and 21 percent said jobs. Forty-five percent in Florida said they know someone who is an undocumented immigrant, far fewer than those in other states polled.

Poll of Florida voters

Quinnipiac University's latest Florida poll found Obama with 45 percent support and Romney with 41 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Obama led 81 percent to 7 percent among Democrats, 44 percent to 37 percent among independent voters, and trailed among Republicans 86 percent to 8 percent.

The U.S. Senate race looks like a dead heat between Nelson, who had 41 percent support, and Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, who received 40 percent.

Forty-eight percent of voters disapproved of Scott's performance as governor and 35 percent approved.

Scott appoints Nichols

Scott appointed Craig J. Nichols as the new secretary for the Department of Management Services, the state's administrative arm.

"As we work during the next two years to launch major productivity and efficiency initiatives, Craig will bring to the agency a combination of large-organization experience, strong operational and strategic focus, and executive leadership," Scott said in a news release.

Nichols replaces Jack Miles, who resigned in February. Since 2010, Nichols has been an independent consultant assisting Right Management Inc. with talent management and leadership development.

Times staff writers Alex Leary and Brittany Alana Davis contributed to this week's Buzz. For the latest Florida politics news, follow Adam Smith on Twitter: @AdamSmithTimes.