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  1. Florida Politics

Race defies Florida's pattern — or does it?

Newly elected Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant of Tallahassee is hoisted almost off her feet Saturday by Vice-Chair Alan Clendenin of Tampa after the 587-448 vote that ended their hotly contested race for the party's top spot at the party convention Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Lake Mary, Fla. Clendenin shouted, "Make no mistake, GOP, this team is coming for you." Party parliamentarian Helen McFadden is seated at the head table. (AP Photo/Tallahassee Democrat, Bill Cotterell) FLTAL105
Published Jul. 31, 2016

Anybody who knows anything about politics in Florida knows to count on high-profile statewide races to be close. Barack Obama won Florida by less than three percentage points in 2008 and less than one in 2012. Rick Scott won by one percentage point in 2014 and just over that in 2010.

That said, an awful lot of veteran Florida political pros for months have quietly been questioning whether Donald Trump can even come close here considering how he has antagonized nonwhite voters who make up 30 percent of the electorate.

It's been a few weeks since the last credible Florida poll, but as of July 11 RealClearPolitics.com polling had Trump averaging 43.8 percent support in Florida and Hillary Clinton 43.5 percent. We've heard of recent private polls showing Trump especially strong in areas of Tampa Bay and gaining ground in Miami-Dade, but we've yet to hear a clear and confident analysis of why Trump is so far defying conventional wisdom and demographics in America's biggest battleground state.

"I didn't think so two months ago. I do now," former Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas said when asked if he thinks Trump can win Florida's 29 electoral votes.

We should have a better sense of the landscape after Labor Day, when the general election begins in earnest, but at this point it seems a lot of Florida Democrats may be overconfident. Democrats have spent at least $15 million on TV ads promoting Clinton and tearing down Trump and the race still seems to be a dead heat.

"Florida is traditionally close. It's a large state, so we know that if we're in there with our organizing program, TV — everything — it's going to take a full dose, so we're going to be in Florida till the end," said Marlon Marshall, the Clinton campaign's director of state campaigns and political engagement.

Trump has little campaign organization in Florida so far, while Clinton has dozens of offices open and more than 200 paid staffers on the ground.

"What I have not seen from Donald Trump yet in these (battleground) states is a comprehensive ground game," Marshall said. "At the end of the day, if it comes down to being a close race, our organizing program will pull us over the top."

David Plouffe, who helped lead Obama to victory twice, is among those who think Clinton may be better positioned to win states like Florida given Trump's weakness with Hispanic voters and suburban women. He sounded skeptical of some recent Florida polls.

"There were polling outfits that stopped polling in Florida in '12 because they thought (Mitt) Romney had won," Plouffe said, referring to Suffolk University, which declared Florida a lost cause for Obama in early October 2012.

"Our own polling often showed us struggling. Florida is a really hard place to poll. We won it by one (percentage point) in '12, and it may be that close again. But I also wouldn't be surprised if Clinton won Florida this year by four or five," said Plouffe, now a top adviser to Uber and volunteer adviser to Clinton.

"Florida, to me, is the most fascinating state," he said, noting that in addition to the likelihood of strong turnout and margins of victory for Clinton in the Democratic strongholds of South Florida, she probably will perform better than Obama did in north Florida and perhaps better in suburban corridors along I-4.

"I think for Trump to win this election four things would have to happen: Historically bad Democratic turnout, historically good Republican turnout, Trump over-performing even (Ronald) Reagan in some rural areas and Clinton underperforming in suburban areas," Plouffe said. "I don't think any of those things are going to happen."

Subhed

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff is out with a new Web ad again accusing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of being afraid to debate him. Rubio has yet to agree to any debates with Beruff ahead of their Aug. 30 GOP primary.

"He won't show up because he's afraid to debate Carlos Beruff," a narrator says in the 30-second video.

Beruff has agreed to attend at least three debates, but his campaign said Rubio has yet to confirm any. Ironically it was Beruff who was accused of ducking debates earlier in the campaign before Rubio jumped into the contest. In June when he faced three lesser-known opponents, Beruff skipped a forum where he would have faced them.

When pressed days later during an interview on a Sarasota television program about why he didn't agree to debate them, Beruff said he'd debate when "there's somebody worth debating. At this point, I don't think there is any."

Subhed

A dark-money conservative group with ties to the Koch brothers has launched an ad attacking Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy for a vote supporting the Export-Import Bank. The $1.5 million ad buy is targeted to channels popular with Democrats, such as MSNBC, according to the Washington Post, which suggests American Future Fund wants to help Democrat Alan Grayson beat Murphy in the primary.

Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen called the ad "just another misleading attack by Republicans to distract from Marco Rubio's record of skipping work and missing many important closed intelligence briefings."

Jeremy Wallace and Kristen Clark contributed to this week's Buzz.

Anybody who knows anything about politics in Florida knows to count on high-profile statewide races to be close. Barack Obama won Florida by less than three percentage points in 2008 and less than one in 2012. Rick Scott won by one percentage point in 2014 and just over that in 2010.

That said, an awful lot of veteran Florida political pros for months have quietly been questioning whether Donald Trump can even come close here considering how he has antagonized nonwhite voters who make up 30 percent of the electorate.

It's been a few weeks since the last credible Florida poll, but as of July 11 RealClearPolitics.com polling had Trump averaging 43.8 percent support in Florida and Hillary Clinton 43.5 percent. We've heard of recent private polls showing Trump especially strong in areas of Tampa Bay and gaining ground in Miami-Dade, but we've yet to hear a clear and confident analysis of why Trump is so far defying conventional wisdom and demographics in America's biggest battleground state.

Can Trump win Florida's 29 electoral votes?

"I didn't think so two months ago. I do now," former Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas said.

We should have a better sense of the landscape after Labor Day, when the general election begins in earnest, but at this point it seems a lot of Florida Democrats may be overconfident. Democrats have spent at least $15 million on TV ads promoting Clinton and tearing down Trump, and the race still seems to be a dead heat.

"Florida is traditionally close. It's a large state, so we know that if we're in there with our organizing program, TV — everything — it's going to take a full dose, so we're going to be in Florida till the end," said Marlon Marshall, the Clinton campaign's director of state campaigns and political engagement.

Trump has little campaign organization in Florida so far, while Clinton has dozens of offices open and more than 200 paid staffers on the ground.

"What I have not seen from Donald Trump yet in these (battleground) states is a comprehensive ground game," Marshall said. "At the end of the day, if it comes down to being a close race, our organizing program will pull us over the top."

David Plouffe, who helped lead Obama to victory twice, is among those who think Clinton may be better positioned to win states like Florida given Trump's weakness with Hispanic voters and suburban women. He sounded skeptical of some recent Florida polls.

"There were polling outfits that stopped polling in Florida in '12 because they thought (Mitt) Romney had won," Plouffe said, referring to Suffolk University, which declared Florida a lost cause for Obama in early October 2012.

"Our own polling often showed us struggling. Florida is a really hard place to poll. We won it by one (percentage point) in '12, and it may be that close again. But I also wouldn't be surprised if Clinton won Florida this year by four or five," said Plouffe, now a top adviser to Uber and volunteer adviser to Clinton.

"Florida, to me, is the most fascinating state," he said, noting that in addition to the likelihood of strong turnout and margins of victory for Clinton in the Democratic strongholds of South Florida, she probably will perform better than Obama did in north Florida and perhaps better in suburban corridors along I-4.

"I think for Trump to win this election, four things would have to happen: historically bad Democratic turnout, historically good Republican turnout, Trump over-performing even (Ronald) Reagan in some rural areas and Clinton underperforming in suburban areas," Plouffe said. "I don't think any of those things are going to happen."

Beruff on the attack

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff is out with a new web ad again accusing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of being afraid to debate him. Rubio has yet to agree to any debates with Beruff ahead of their Aug. 30 GOP primary.

"He won't show up because he's afraid to debate Carlos Beruff," a narrator says in the spot.

Beruff has agreed to attend at least three debates, but his campaign said Rubio has yet to confirm any. Ironically, it was Beruff who was accused of ducking debates earlier in the campaign before Rubio jumped into the contest. In June, when he faced three lesser-known opponents, Beruff skipped a forum where he would have faced them.

When pressed days later during an interview on a Sarasota television program about why he didn't agree to debate them, Beruff said he'd debate when "there's somebody worth debating. At this point, I don't think there is any."

Ad targets Murphy

A dark-money conservative group with ties to the Koch brothers has launched an ad attacking Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy for a vote supporting the Export-Import Bank. The $1.5 million ad buy is targeted to channels popular with Democrats, such as MSNBC, according to the Washington Post, which suggests American Future Fund wants to help Democrat Alan Grayson beat Murphy in the primary.

Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen called the ad "just another misleading attack by Republicans to distract from Marco Rubio's record of skipping work and missing many important closed intelligence briefings."

Jeremy Wallace and Kristen Clark contributed to this week's Buzz.

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