Inside the numbers in Jolly vs Sink – Was the targeting flawed?

We have heard various theories as to why Democrat Alex Sink was defeated by Republican David Jolly in a high-profile nationally watched Congressional special election last month. We’ve written extensively about the failures of the Sink campaign, who blew double-digit lead to lose on Election Day. The role of the Florida Democratic Party and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the defeat have been examined in detail multiple times on this site.

One factor that has seemingly escaped serious discussion is the failure of the Democrats to turnout younger voters. Pinellas County has a reputation of being senior heavy and the Democrats seem to have failed to “hunt where the duck were,” in targeting younger voters by trying to spike turnout among more independent minded people aged between 31-50.

The failure to work closely with local operatives that know Pinellas County well might account for part of the disconnect on the part of the Democrats to properly understand the likely turnout model in the race.

Let’s look closely at the numbers put together for TFS by local St Pete-Clearwater area Democratic activist leader and numbers cruncher Hal Alterman.

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Is SunRail the right choice for Central Florida? – Part One

200px-SunRailLogoThis is Part One of a two-part series on the SunRail project in Central Florida. While many are happy that some form of passenger rail has finally reached the Orlando area, it the type of service they are providing (which is commuter rail) beneficial? Today’s section will look at the history of the light rail/commuter rail debate in Central Florida. Part Two will examine the cost effectiveness of the new SunRail project.

Over the last couple of decades, the debate regarding whether a mass transit rail system should be implemented in Central Florida has had its ebbs and flows. With progressives advocating for mass rail, and conservative taxpayer watchdog groups fighting against any mass transit proposals, the Orlando Metropolitan Area remained without a rail system. But in 2004, with the completion of the first Commuter Rail Environmental Assessment report, the idea of mass rail transit in was becoming more of a reality. After a number of preliminary project approvals, the new mass transit project, called SunRail, received full funding from the Federal Transit Administration in July 2011. On May 1st, 2014, SunRail will start offering transit to fare-paying passengers.
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The Rise of the Republican Party of Florida & the Decline of Work

Since the year 2000 the Republican Party has exercised dominant control of Florida’s government. A recent study finds that during this time Florida’s standard of living has declined and middle-class Floridians are working harder for less.

The good news is that the size of Florida’s economy increased by more than $200 billion between 2000 and 2012.

The bad news is that Florida’s employment rate and standard of living declined over this same time. Although worker productivity increased, wages fell. While Floridians’ income was going down, consumer prices went up by more than 30 percent. Not surprisingly, inequality expanded and the number of Floridians living below the poverty line increased by nearly 50 percent.

According to the study’s authors, “Declines in standard of living negatively impact future growth and social mobility as well as the pace of the current economic recovery.”

The “State of Working Florida 2013” study found that Florida main employers were in low wage industries like retail, food service, waste management and tourism. It noted that while workers were more productive, their employment options and pay declined.

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Hillsborough Democrats pass debate resolution

Tonight at the monthly meeting of the Hillsborough Democratic Party, the local party in the state’s fourth largest county passed a resolution urging the Florida Democratic Party to push for a debate to be held between Democratic Gubernatorial candidates after the conclusion of candidate qualifying. Several other local DECs are considering similarly worded measures.

Whether or not a debate where issues and public policy is discussed occurs before the primary, the “debate about debates” certainly is increasing in volume and scope in recent weeks.

Wall Street Journal – GOP Beats Democrats to Spanish-Language Airwaves

Former Miami Herald writer Beth Reinhard who is now based in Washington has an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal regarding the aggressive courting of Hispanic voters via TV ads by Republican Gubernatorial candidates across the country. Including in this Governor Rick Scott who began similar ads last cycle in October. Full article here.


Florida House Democrats – What is the plan for 2014?


TFS Deputy Editor Ryan Ray contributed to this story

The word coming from many in the Florida Democratic Party is that 2014 will be at best a “hold” cycle when it comes to State House seats. While the dynamics of this particular election year are currently not favorable to the Democratic cause, the party is dramatically underrepresented in the lower chamber of the legislature based on recent electoral trends and the most recent reapportionment maps.

The excuse of reapportionment has been given time and again by Democrats in explaining poor performances at the legislative level. While the State Senate map remains problematic for the Democrats much as it was in the 2002-2012 period, the House map was drawn just about as fairly as you could imagine and that is why we have chosen to focus on the House in this analysis.

The 2012 election cycle was marked by missed opportunities by Florida’s Democrats at the state level.  Briefly reviewing the 2012 cycle, several seats that were beyond reach were targeted while others that could have been flipped with minimal effort were ignored. Included in those seats that could have been flipped with minimal party effort were HD-41 (Wood), HD-59 (Spano), HD-114 (Fresen), and HD-115 (Bileca). Several other seats that were on the party’s radar were underfunded or mishandled.

Mark Danish’s victory in HD-63 took place without the Democratic party’s direct help and largely on a low budget, with volunteers staffing the campaign. Danish’s district is instructive. When the new redistricting maps were approved, Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison was thrown into one of the most difficult seats a Republican could be asked to defend. Yet the party didn’t show a great deal of interest in the seat and Danish relied mostly on amateurs to craft a winning campaign strategy.

Candidate recruitment was also flawed in 2012. The Pinellas County seats that were targeted and lost (HD-66, HD-67, HD-69) suffered from poor campaigns and candidate recruitment. The party did wisely intervene late in Carl Zimmerman’s race (HD-65) but his success has largely hinged on his deep local ties, not help from Tallahassee.

As we approach the heart of the 2014 cycle, worrying signs have appeared that the Democrats again lack the ambition or understanding of the map to be competitive in House elections.

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Should Russia be considered a state sponsor of terrorism?

This week I have been reading heavily about the Ukraine crisis from multiple news sources. Particularly useful have been the Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek who have both had excellent coverage. But one particular article stood out by Rutgers University Professor Alexander J. Motyl.

Motyl argues that the involvement of Russia directly and indirectly in Eastern Ukraine including the breakaway “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Kharkov People’s Republic,”  rise to the level of what constitutes state terror sponsorship under the United States code.  Judge for yourself based on the law -

Here is Section 2656f(d) of Title 22 of the United States Code:

Section 2656f(d) of Title 22 of the United States Code defines certain key terms used in Section 2656f(a) as follows:

(1) the term “international terrorism” means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country;

(2) the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents; and

(3) the term “terrorist group” means any group practicing, or which has significant subgroups which practice, international terrorism.

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Remembering the “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” and its media component

Those of us who come of political age in the 1990s as Democrats had to deal with schizophrenia of the Clinton Presidency and all of the scandals associated with that era. Yesterday Politco revealed the emergence of the infamous  “conspiracy commerce” memo. This memo basically outlined the links between elements of the media and various right-wing funding sources.

Having lived through that period I saw the proliferation of numerous right-wing publications. Joining the old-guard National Review were new magazines such as the Weekly Standard, Insight (published by the Washington Times, a conservative daily), The American Spectator, Newsmax, Western Journalism Center and others. FOX News was launched also launched during this period, in 1996. In the era before large scale newspaper websites and political blogs, magazines on the newsstand at Barnes & Noble or Borders were a common source of political information and commentary. As a political nut, I would often buy these right-wing publications just to read about DC politics. I am sure I was not alone.

The way things would work was that publications funded by the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife or Rupert Murdoch would pay for “investigations” of various aspects of the Clinton’s personal life or financial affairs, which would be dissected to an incredible level. They would then be published in these political magazines, which then led to publication in the Washington Times and New York Post and appearances on FOX News. Once the Internet became mainstream, the Drudge Report would “break” the news to an online audience. If the stories weren’t picked up domestically, Murdoch-owned tabloids in the UK such as the Sun and the News of the World would circulate these stories, thus reifying them, and often guide them through a backdoor into the US media. Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, then at the peak of its influence, also served as a willing outlet for this aspect of the conservative press.

Stylistically, these conservative publications would find and fixate on the raunchiest details of these scandals. Allegations of murder, drug running, and interracial romantic affairs were published and sold to a mass audience, often via evangelical Christian ministries.

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The Pulp: Why Charlie Crist Won’t Debate Nan Rich; Spoiler Alert: He’s Not Chicken

Earlier this week, the Florida media and Florida Democrats were circulating a Palm Beach Post video of Charlie Crist engaging with Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera  at the Forum Club in West Palm Beach, in which Charlie Crist interrupts the LG’s interview, and takes a question from the press pool, to which he responded with the tagline “I don’t get to debate the Lieutenant Governor Candidate… Give Me Scott.”  It’s an ironic position and punchline because Charlie Crist and his team are repeatedly ducking debate challenges from State Senator Nan Rich. In addition to debate dodging, the Crist Press Shop continue to site how early we are in the electoral calendar to be having discussions on policy, ideas, and solutions that separate the Democratic Party from the Republicans. They’ll continue to tell us that their main focus is raising money, attacking Rick Scott’s record and labeling him out of touch without establishing their own policies that our base can rally around. As we’ve previously discussed at The Florida Squeeze, this method has proven to be a losing one not only in Florida politics, but also national elections- just ask Governor/Congresswoman Alex Sink and President Mitt Romney. 

Today, Congressman Ted Deutch while not taking sides in the Governor’s race (at this point) was quoted by the Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett as saying:”

“I think it would worthwhile for the people of Florida to be reminded of the issues that most people in the state care about, which would be the issues that are debated that night, instead of being forced to watch millions of dollars in commercials funded by outside groups that support the governor.”


While I certainly agree with Congressman Deutch’s analysis that a primary debate between Charlie Crist and Nan Rich would be worthwhile, and certainly such a fruitful debate would give the democratic nominee an advantage going into the general election, as much of the dirty laundry about the nominee would have already been exposed in a series of rigorous debates, there is a bit of smart campaign strategy in Crist’s approach to a primary debate. In fact, I would argue it would be entirely against Charlie’s best interest to debate Nan as this point (or any point) in the race for that matter. Why? It’s not that he’s afraid of Nan, quite the contrary. It’s simple. Charlie Crist has nothing to gain, and everything to lose in a debate with Nan Rich.  As my colleague Dave Trotter explained in an earlier post, Nan Rich’s campaign has some fundamental issues:

Unfortunately for the Rich campaign, very few voters know who she is. Without going into every demographic, let’s just look at those that Rich should be doing well with. 68% of Obama supporters have no opinion of Rich. 69% of very liberal voters and 79% of somewhat liberal voters have no idea who Rich is. 72% of women don’t know who Rich is. 67% of Democrats don’t know who Rich is. Basically nobody knows who Nan Rich is. This can easily be looked at as a failure of the campaign to make Senator Rich nothing more than the alternative to Charlie Crist. This tactic never works and does not seem to be working in this case. If none of the voters know who Nan Rich is, she will have a hard time winning the primary. Basically, she needs to define herself more than just being the other option to Crist.



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Calls for Democratic Primary debates growing

Former Governor Charlie Crist made headlines earlier this week when he refused to engage Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera in a debate. Governor Rick Scott responded to the awkward event by stating Crist ought to debate his Democratic Primary opposition former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich first.

In the past few days calls for a Democratic Primary debate have grown. Activists have been abuzz throughout partisan and progressive circles as Crist’s campaign rhetoric appears to be positioned towards a general electorate and his campaign continues to experience some rocky times.  Activists in the party are concerned about Governor Crist’s unwillingness to take a strong stand against private school “choice” proposals working their way through the legislature and some still find his two month old comments about Jeb Bush troubling.

As the calls grow from activists, Democratic leaders have been caught in a tough position. Congressman Ted Deutch responded to a question at a town hall meeting that a debate between Crist and Rich would be worthwhile. Additionally, many within the party who are active at both the state and local level have taken to social media this week to promote the idea of debates between the candidates in the Democratic Primary.

Obviously Governor Crist has little incentive to debate. Front runners who are presumptive nominees and have the deck stacked in their favor tend to not ever want to give the opposition a forum for their views. It is particularly risky in Crist’s case because he is untested as a Democrat debating on issues of importance to the party. His slip-up on Bush shows that despite his teflon image and his propensity for political reinvention, he can make very big mistakes when tested.

Historically, front-runners have dodged debates.

After Lawton Chiles had used a televised statewide debate to turn the tide against a seemingly young looking, arrogant and unprepared Jeb Bush in 1994, the Republicans were reluctant to engage Democrats in debates during the 1998 cycle. Much like 1994, Bush led in the polls throughout 1998. But in 1994, Bush’s debate performance had been a contributing factor in his defeat. Chiles had drawn even with Bush in public polling after the debate and was reelected by a narrow margin.

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