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  1. Florida Politics

Jolly's proposal to ban fundraising calls on the job fits his MO from previous races

The Tampa Bay Times was among numerous outlets that gave Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly glowing publicity for his long-shot proposal to ban federal officials from directly asking for campaign contributions and his pledge to abide by that ban as he runs for office. Having members of Congress spend more time working to fix problems than raising money for re-election is an idea we all can embrace.

Before we start treating Jolly like Mr. Purity in the realm of political fundraising, however, let's remember that he is not sacrificing a great deal with this promise not to personally twist arms for campaign checks.

Why? For one thing, Jolly has never been a powerhouse moneyraiser. In his 2014 special election against Democrat Alex Sink, he raised $1.3 million and she raised $2.7 million, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

For another thing, Jolly from the start has been happy to leave the heavy lifting of financing his campaigns to outside groups. In that 2014 election, outside groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and RNC spent nearly $5 million on Jolly's behalf, while Democratic outside groups spent about $3.7 million helping Sink.

"The influence has grown so strong with unlimited, unchecked money that we're probably within 10 years of a candidate not needing to raise a single dime because the fate of that candidate will actually be controlled by the outside groups, who at a factor of 100 to 1 are able to outraise and outspend the very candidate they are supporting," Rep. Jolly said at Eckerd College in October.

He knows his Senate campaign will depend far more on independent groups spending money on his behalf than his own dialing for dollars ever will.

That's why he is hoping the U.S. Chamber helps him again this year and why his allies have set up an independently operating super PAC committee, called FloridAmerican Conservatives. Financial backers of that group include South Florida billionaire health care executive Mike Fernandez and St. Petersburg businessman James MacDougald, whose advocacy group, Free Enterprise Nation, used to employ Jolly as a lobbyist.

Bikers rally for Trump

A lot of Republicans are terrified that Donald Trump would be general election poison as the Republican presidential nominee. But ask yourself: Can you imagine hundreds of leather-clad bikers turning out to rally for Marco Rubio? Or Jeb Bush? Or Hillary Clinton?

Trump? Perhaps. In a sign of Trump's potential for expanding the GOP electorate, a grass roots group called Bikers for Trump is organizing a series of pro-Trump rallies across Florida, starting today at 3 p.m. at the High Octane Saloon in Homosassa.

Chris Cox, a 47-year-old chainsaw artist from South Carolina, said he spent several months surveying fellow bikers, and found overwhelmingly their top issues include fighting ISIS, combating illegal immigration and standing behind America's veterans. Overwhelmingly, he said, they see Trump as the best candidate on those issues.

"Bikers are citizen-crusaders. They're very active in their communities, but they haven't been that active in (presidential elections). It's taken Donald Trump to unite them," Cox said.

Bush defends Review

Bush criticized the RNC's punishment of the National Review, which has published an entire issue about how Trump is bad for the party. The RNC announced it was removing the conservative publication as a sponsor of the Feb. 25 debate in Houston.

"The National Review is a cherished conservative mouthpiece. It's been in existence for two generations, consistently conservative, and I think the fact that they would have all of these distinguished journalists and thought leaders of the conservative cause joined together to say that Donald Trump is not a conservative is … they're just telling the truth," Bush said Friday. "And to punish them when — look, there are a lot of other people who are critical of me and other candidates for specific things — that's fine, that's fair game, they're not being kicked off the debate stage. I just think it was the wrong thing to do."

Trump 'fooling' voters

Florida's John Stemberger is joining the evangelical effort to defeat Trump, saying voters are being fooled.

"The problem with Donald Trump is just like Barack Obama — he sounded good," Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, said Tuesday on Newsmax TV.

"We fell in love with the romantic idea of the first black American president. So the idea of Barack Obama was much better than what we actually got. I'd submit that the same thing is with Trump. The biggest predictor of who a candidate's going to be is his past behavior, his record, his statements. And his statements are deplorable, in terms of the kind of issues that Christians are concerned about. He favors the 'good stuff' of Planned Parenthood. He's in favor of gay marriage. He uses the f-word openly and other four-letter obscenities that the FCC would have to bleep out. This is a man who's very undisciplined and it's going to be a disaster."

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.

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