Tuesday, July 31, 2007

War Critics are Reversing Course

From Monday's NY Times:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Ok, so maybe Ken Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon are not completely admitting that they've been wrong all along - but this is a start.
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

Despite the doom and gloom that one hears through the mainstream media every evening, Pollack and O'Hanlon report the truth about troop morale. It's about time!!

And finally they send a strong message to Congress (emphasis added):
But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

This just goes to show that if you wait long enough even the naysayers will come around.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Death of an Anti-communist: Mstislav Rostropovich, R.I.P.


From the BBC

The celebrated Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich has died at the age of 80.

A master musician, Mr Rostropovich was also renowned for his backing for human rights and opposition to Soviet rule.

He spent much of his career abroad, in self-imposed exile from the Soviet Union over his support for Nobel prize writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

But he returned as communism collapsed and performed a Bach suite as the Berlin Wall came down.

A month ago the Kremlin lavished praise on him as he celebrated his 80th birthday.

President Vladimir Putin said then the musician was not only "a brilliant cellist and gifted conductor," but also "a firm defender of human rights".

He died at a Moscow clinic after a long illness, his spokeswoman said.

Exile overseas

Mr Rostropovich studied at the Moscow Conservatoire under composers such as Sergei Prokofiev and Dimitry Shostakovich, rapidly building a reputation for himself.

But his support for dissidents such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn - declared in a letter to state-run newspaper Pravda - made him a target for the Russian authorities.

He left the Soviet Union and spent several years in the West with his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, and their children, as he continued to build an international career. In November 1989, he gave a spontaneous performance amid the rubble of the Berlin Wall, an image that was shown around the world.

A few years later, the cellist was rehabilitated by then Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and he returned there on several occasions to perform.

He latterly divided his time between Russia, the US and France.

In an interview with the BBC World Service in 2002, he said that the letter to Pravda was the best thing he had done in his life.

"The best step was not found in music, but in one page of this letter," he said. "Since that moment my conscience was clean and clear."

_________________________
Read the BBC obituary here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Now it's time to focus on property taxes

Now that the special session on property session is in the history books, it's time to start focusing on property taxes.

Be assured, liberals and the MSM will tell you that cutting property taxes will gut local budgets. They'll tell you that tax cutters are taking valuable education dollars out of the hands of educators. Don't fall for it!

Property tax reform will help ease the burden on homeowners and renters. It will also force local governments to cut the wasteful spending and inject some fiscal discipline into their budgetary processes. This is the thrust of Governor Crist's message:

His new pitch: Property taxes must come down, partly because city and county commissioners spend too much money.


Because state and local taxing power is controlled by the Florida Constitution, and thus requires a voter driven amendment to change, Crist and House Speaker Marco Rubio are advocating a special election as early as this summer.
Holding off until the next regular election in November 2008 would mean reforms
likely could not take effect until the following fiscal year, which would begin
Oct. 1, 2009, for many local governments.

"I always feel patience is a virtue, but on this issue I hope we'll be a little impatient," said Rubio, R-Coral Gables.

Under Rubio's scenario, a special election would be held this summer, followed by a special session in September for lawmakers to pass implementing legislation. That way, the reforms would be in place before city and county budgets take effect Oct. 1.

Senate Finance and Taxation Committee Chairman Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, had previously advocated a special election.

Florida Senate leaders have also begun to work on the tax issue. Legislators have scheduled a series of public hearings to give citizens an opportunity to ask questions and give opinions. The first meeting was held today in Panama City. See the complete schedule here.

The Florida Senate has also posted a property tax test to help educate taxpayers. They have also setup an email address for citizens to submit comments.

Governor Crist campaigned on doubling the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. This would be a good start.

We will continue to follow this issue, and we'll also bring you proposals as they come available.

More proof that Donald is right - she's not very bright!

Thank you Rosie. One more example of Rosie at her best.



FYI Rosie - The United States is a constitution-based federal republic, with a strong democratic tradition. That means we elect people to make the tough decisions, not conduct polls.

Monday, January 22, 2007

FL-13 Saga Continues - now its getting pathetic

It's been a while since we reported anything on the FL-13 situation, but we thought that you all should see this.

Tomorrow evening, while the President delivers his State of the Union address with Rep. Vern Buchanan in attendance for the first time, Christine Jennings will also be watching from inside the House chamber. U.S. Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-CA) gave her one ticket allotment to Jennings, saying:

“I have invited Christine to attend the State of the Union because she should have a seat in Congress. Period.”

This sad affair has hit a new low.

Related News - Would Jennings be this bad?

Rep. Vern Buchanan is already earning high-praise in D.C., it's just not the kind of praise we would have expected.
Sure the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Americans for Tax Reform aren’t very pleased with Rep. Vern Buchanan’s early voting record. After all, he voted to raise the minimum wage and to repeal tax cuts - cardinal sins for those two groups.

But the Longboat Key Republican is already picking up new (and unexpected) friendship from environmental groups, liberal bloggers and labor unions.

Speaking of Americans for Tax Reform, just a few weeks into his first term Buchanan has already broken the ATR tax pledge that he signed:
January 18 -- Today, the House of Representatives voted to raise taxes nearly $8 billion. This is the first vote to raise taxes in 13 years and the first time a Republican has voted to raise taxes in 16 years. All four of the Democrats who pledged to their constituents not to raise taxes broke their pledge (100%). Of the 192 Republicans who pledged not to raise taxes, 28 members broke their pledge (14.6%).

That's right, Vern was one of those 28 Republicans (Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen also broke the pledge). Not what we would call a great start.

Hillary plays Hardball - not really!! But funny!

Hat tip Allah at YouTube




Don't expect much more from the MSM once she hits the TV circuit.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hillary's in....but is she the new Thatcher?

Attempting to grab the attention of the American people on Saturday morning, which is unusual for this kind of announcement, Hillary Clinton has officially entered the race for 2008. So, why Saturday morning? The Hotline asked the same question:

Simple, says a senior adviser to Clinton.

Announcing today virtually guarantees that Clinton will be the Democratic Party's de-facto foil on Tuesday night, when Pres. Bush gives his State of the Union address.


Hillary chose the now favorite medium for announcing a run for the presidency - online video. Hillary promises to hold online video chats beginning this week. American Idol or Hillary - boy, that's tough.

You'll be particularly interested in the part of the video where she talks about national healthcare. Remember the last time Hillary was excited about healthcare?

Hillary as the new Thatcher?

I know, it sounds crazy. My first tip on this story was over on You Decide 2008. The original story is from today's Sunday Times of London:
HILLARY CLINTON is to be presented as America’s Margaret Thatcher as she tries to become the first woman to win the White House. As she entered the 2008 presidential race yesterday, a senior adviser said that her campaign would emphasise security, defence and personal strengths reminiscent of the Iron Lady.

“Their policies are totally different but they are both perceived as very tough,” said Terry McAuliffe, Clinton’s campaign chairman. “She is strong on foreign policy. People have got to know you are going to keep them safe.”


If your smart enough to be reading this blog, then you probably already know why this is, perhaps, the most ridiculous statement ever made by Terry McAuliffe. And he's made quite a few.

Not even close!!


On the behalf of the people of the United States: We're sorry Lady Thatcher. Terry McAuliffe doesn't know any better.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

MKH brings us Da Bears (and the Fridge)

Now that it's Saturday, just sit back, relax, and enjoy a look back.



And if you get tired of watching some idiot pull out his cell phone after scoring a touchdown this weekend, just come back and watch it again.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mel sails through - Now it's time to move on

Well, we expected, perhaps naively, that the opposition to Mel Martinez would prove more strenuous than it was. Martinez sailed through will only a hand-full dissenting in the voice vote. We will now find out if Republicans can move beyond this episode, and come together to face the challenges of '08.

In his speech following the vote, Martinez talked about expanding the Republican base to include more Hispanics and African Americans. Those assembled gave their approval with a standing ovation. Read the entire address here. Will give you the high points:

I want to congratulate Mike Duncan. I know for a fact that without Mike’s hard work and support in running the day-to-day operations of the RNC, it would be impossible for me to take this position as General Chairman. Mike is already a good friend, and I know that our relationship will continue to grow and be a strong one as we strive together to lead our party.

_______________

My life and my experiences are why I share those ideals with you, and why I am so proud to be able to serve this Party.

My story is like so many other American stories. A story of hope, and the promise of the American Dream. A story of trying to create a better life for the next generation, so that they might have opportunities to succeed in ways that their parents and grandparents were not able to succeed.

_______________

The American Dream might take different forms for different people.

To the young families who are the roots of our society, it might mean owning their very first home.

To the single mom who needs medicine for herself and her child, it might mean health care you own and can take with you when you switch jobs.

To the small family business owner who dreams of growing his business, it might mean lower taxes and less regulation.

To our seniors, including members of that Greatest Generation, it might mean knowing that they can control their own retirement.

But to all of them, it means opportunity, and a limitless future. And that is what our Party is all about.

__________________

To be the Party of the future means that we also have to be a party that opens the door wide-open so that all Americans feel welcome. There are too many Americans who do not understand that the principles of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan speak to their hopes, their dreams, and their aspirations. I will take the message of our Party to all Americans.

As a member of the Cuban-American community, it was easy for me to understand that the Republican Party, the party of Ronald Reagan, was a party for us.

I want to make sure that we take that message to the broader Hispanic community, to the African-American community, and to all communities that may never have believed that Republican ideals spoke to them. So they, too, understand that if they care about education for their children, accountability in their schools, if they care about entrepreneurship, about beginning a small business and growing it into a large business, if they care about a Party that stands for less government, but more individual freedom … then we are the party for them and their American Dream.

_________________

It would be tempting today for me to talk to you about our strategies and tactics as we plan to retake the Congress and elect a Republican president in 2008.

But not today. What I am going to do over the next two years is assist our Party in a renewal of the principles that have made us great: lower taxes, limited government, individual responsibility, freedom here and abroad, and the power of faith. I am going to carry those principles to the American people, explaining why the Republican way of doing things is the best way to solve America’s problems.

And if I do my job right, if we all are successful in communicating our message, if we stand for our principles, we will be rewarded with success … and the high responsibility of governing.

I am going to concentrate on talking about a Republican Party that is the party of optimism, the party of the future, the party that stands for solutions to the American people’s problems. I want to describe my passion for a Party that speaks to America’s hopes, aspirations, and dreams. I want to lead the Party of a bright future.



All in all, a good start. I can only hope that my conservative brethren, those that opposed Martinez, can look beyond any differences that they may have with the new chairman. Without a unified party, we will surely repeat the disaster of 2006.

2008 Prez Primary News

Rep. Feeney Putting His Mouth Where the Money Is

Congressman Tom Feeney has decided to enter the 2008 fray early with his endorsement of Mitt Romney. The addition of Feeney to the Team Romney gives the former Mass. governor a bona fide conservative supporter/defender in Florida. Romney has made some serious financial strides in the state (see this and this), and now he starting to line-up some important political contacts.

In announcing his support for Romney, Feeney focused on fiscal matters:

"With his record of fighting for lower taxes and balanced budgets, Gov. Romney is the right kind of leader to bring fiscal sanity back to Washington,'' Feeney said in a statement.


It will be interesting to see how Feeney, known for his social and fiscal conservative credentials - handles the questions that will surely arise about Romney's past positions on the big social issues. See our post: Potential problem for Romney

McCain spending the weekend in South Florida

Naked Politics reports that Sen. John McCain is heading to Coral Gables this weekend. McCain will be trying to round-up campaign cash and support during a private meeting at the Biltmore.

McCain will follow-up the event with an appearance on Meet the Press via satellite from Miami.

It will be interesting to see who is seen emerging from the Saturday meeting. McCain is playing catch-up in the Sunshine State, following Mitt Romney's early moves in the Florida.


See also:
Peer Review FL's - Romney vs. Brownback

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Pick on Hillary day at the Sentinel


Hillary's Obama Problem

Bill Garner

Bill Garner @ WaTimes

Mel Martinez debate intensifying

On Tuesday, we posed the question, "Is the Martinez RNC chairmanship in Jeopardy?" Just two days later the debate has intensified and the rhetoric is soaring from both sides.

From the WaTimes:

Texas RNC member Denise McNamara said the attempt by Mr. Bush's supporters in the national committee to name Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida as general chairman "is like pouring gas on an already smoldering electorate," citing Mr. Martinez's role in promoting last year's "comprehensive" immigration bill in the Senate.

"Choosing an RNC chairman who supports amnesty [for illegal aliens] is tantamount to telling the conservative majority of Americans that they do not matter."
________
One of Mr. Martinez's supporters, Florida RNC member Paul Senft Jr., told the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper: "With some people, the issue of amnesty is a litmus test and anything short of a concentration camp is amnesty."
The vote is scheduled to take place today, and Republican leaders are bracing for rebellion:
"The question is whether the Martinez fight will be a skirmish or a full-scale rebellion," said New Jersey RNC member David Norcross, a former RNC general counsel who oversaw the 2004 Republican presidential nominating convention in New York. "I think it will be a skirmish, but I am preparing for a full-scale rebellion."
We gave our opinion here on Tuesday. In the interest of the party, during these critical times, we think it best to move beyond this by removing Martinez from consideration. We also expressed a bit of regret, as we feel a Martinez chairmanship would be good for Florida. Now the day has come and we too are bracing for the fallout.

Unfortunately, the situation is not lost on the other side. Daily Kos is relishing the fight:

The proudly bilingual Latino in me cringes at the English First attacks and the embrace of Tom Tancredo-style xenphobia. But the partisan Democrat in me applauds their efforts. Unlike their covert "Southern Strategy", which kept the Dixiecrats' racism hidden from plain view, the anti-brown people hysteria is out in the open and hard to miss.

So I hope they keep it up. I liked winning the 2006 elections. I want to win more. And mass alienation of the largest growing demographic in the country is a fantastic way to making that happen.

Let's hope his optimism is misplaced.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Education: Crist's biggest challenge is before him

With the resignation of Education Commissioner John Winn last week, Gov. Charlie Crist faces the first big test of his governorship. In what direction will the state education system go? Will Crist, as he vowed in the campaign, continue the course of accountability set by Jeb Bush and John Winn, or will he retreat from accountability and move in a different direction?

As a teacher (that's the first time that I've mentioned that here), I would urge the governor to stay the course. Admittedly - and I think that former-Gov. Bush would be the first to say this - adjustments and improvements can be made to the current policies. But Crist must not submit to the whims of teachers and parents - yes, parents - and scrap testing and high standards. Right now, testing is a major burden for all involved. That is not because testing is inherently bad, but because we have failed for so long at "teaching" and "demanding" a higher level of work from our students.

The St. Pete Times, reporting on Winn's address to the dropout prevention task force, mentioned the dissatisfaction with current policies:

His (Winn's) fingerprints are all over high-stakes use of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to grade schools, retain third-graders and award teacher bonuses - all policies that polls show are unpopular with most Floridians.
Yes, parents are also a major - if not the major - part of the problem. Higher standards demand more from parents. Parents must take an active role in educating their children. Perhaps Stephen D. Marshall, headmaster of Christ Classical Academy in Tallahassee, put it best when he said that all parents should consider themselves homeschooling parents.

It is hard work to sit down with your child and do homework every night, but it must be done. It is time consuming to institute a summer reading and summer bridge program in your home, but it must be done. Ask a bookseller in your local bookstore about the parents that rush into their store over the last couple weeks of summer to buy summer reading books, because they failed to develop the structure in their homes to get it done earlier. You may be surprised at the answers you'll get.

It is not often that you'll read anything on this blog suggesting that you read Thomas Friedman of the NY Times. But if you doubt anything that I'm saying, read is latest book, The World is Flat. Friedman does an admirable job at explaining just how high the stakes are for our kids.

This is the issue that we at the Sentinel are most passionate about, so look for more as the governor starts answering some of these critical questions and challenges.

Finally, we want to thank Commissioner Winn for beginning to move Florida in the right direction. While there is much work to be done, Winn has made the hard decisions and taken the predictable fire from the education establishment. We urge Governor Crist to appoint an education commissioner as courageous as Commissioner Winn. More importantly, he should select one that will pickup the course set by the Bush/Winn team.

2008 Update

Here's some video of the Tancredo and Obama announcements:

First, Tancredo:



Here's the TeamTancredo.org

And now, Obama:



You'll also want to take a look at Hot Air's post on Obama's announcement:

Messiah reappears; forms presidential exploratory committee

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is the Martinez RNC chairmanship in jeoperdy?

President Bush's choice for chairman of the RNC, Sen. Mel Martinez, is coming under serious fire from party conservatives.

(Washington Times) Rebellion is brewing among conservatives on the Republican National Committee over President's Bush's attempt to "impose" Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida as "general chairman" of the party, who favors "amnesty" for illegal aliens.

The WaTimes article documents concerns of some party members that vow to fight the Martinez appointment:

"I will be voting against Senator Martinez if he is nominated for any chairmanship of the RNC," Tina Benkiser, Texas Republican Party chairman, told The Washington Times yesterday.

Bill Crocker, the elected national committeeman from Texas, says that when the RNC convenes here tomorrow, "Absolutely, I will vote against Martinez."


There is also some doubt over whether the post for which Martinez has been tapped - general chairman - is even a legitimate position under party rules:
The conservatives -- one of whom accused the Bush White House of "outsourcing" party leadership -- say the general-chairman post does not exist under RNC rules, which can be changed only at the party's presidential nominating convention.

Organized opposition to Martinez is also picking-up steam. Ads for StopMartinez.com are popping up on conservative sites like National Review Online.

The conservative blogosphere continues to sound-off. We brought you some of the early reaction back in November when the Martinez announcement was made. Florida bloggers, including this one, have been torn between those same concerns that other conservatives are voicing and the prestige a Martinez chairmanship may bring to the state.

In November, we brought to you the endorsement of our friends over at Peer Review FL. Jim Johnson over at State of Sunshine was unsure whether Bush's pick was the right move.

Oak Leaf over at PoliPundit.com is calling on the party to "Toss Martinez!!"

So what do we at the Sentinel think? The Martinez flap is a distraction that will probably cost Republicans over the next two years. Fundraising under ideal situations will be more challenging now that Republicans are in the minority in Congress. Add to that divisions in the party over a Martinez chairmanship and you have a recipe for disaster. For these reasons alone, we call on Sen. Martinez to step aside and help the eventual chairman build for 2008.

GOP Bloggers Straw Poll Results - Romney and Gingrich on top

The results of the January straw poll are in, and Mitt Romney has come out on top. GOP Bloggers has posted full results, including some interesting cross tab numbers.

Romney pulled in 27.4% of the 12,794 votes cast, followed closely by Newt Gingrich with 24%. Rudolph Giuliani finished 3rd with 20.9%. Full results can be seen by clicking here.

Perhaps more important to Floridians are the state numbers. Of the 622 votes cast by Florida voters, Gingrich took the top spot with 34.1%. Giuliani finished 2nd with 22.5%, and Romney rounds out the top 3 with 21.9%. Full Florida results are here.

On candidate acceptability, Gingrich led both the national and Florida polls.

This leaves only one last detail - and that's for Newt to throw his hat in the ring. We'll keep waiting.

Money well spent

Florida political blogs are abuzz today over bonuses paid to top campaign staffers for Charlie Crist's gubernatorial campaign.

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Charlie Crist is proud to call himself "cheap," sharing tales of patching his shoes rather than replacing them and comparison shopping for generic products in drugstores.

But Crist was generous in handing out nearly $600,000 in bonuses to about two dozen employees of his campaign.
That is money well spent. In a year when Republican fortunes around the country came crashing down, the Crist campaign was one of the few GOP bright spots. Campaign staffing is hard, and often thankless, work.

Reports have George LeMieux receiving the largest of these winning bonuses. LeMieux was rewarded for his work with checks of $50,000 for the September primary win, and another $150,000 for the big win in November. More importantly, he is now on the GOP map and will certainly be called on by national candidates in 2008.
"They earned it. I'm grateful to them, and I thought it was appropriate," Crist said Tuesday. He noted the bonuses were "a lot less" than what some other governors paid their campaign workers. (from the Buzz)
Mr. Governor, we agree.

Tom Tancredo forming an exploratory committee

Tom Tancredo announced on Fox and Friends this morning the creation of his 2008 presidential exploratory committee.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, said Tuesday he will form an exploratory committee for a possible presidential campaign.

After making a weekend trip to Iowa, home to the first nominating caucus in January 2008, Tancredo said voters told him other presidential candidates don't share their views.

"They believe that there is a void in this race that none of the other candidates are willing or able to fill," he said.


His website is here.

Posting pause over

We have been under a posting pause over the long MLK weekend. I spent the weekend on a Cub Scout camp-out. It was great, but now we're back to work.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Florida primary may be moving to January

We have been clear about our support for an earlier primary election in 2008.

Florida was a rare bright spot for the GOP this election year. It should be an obvious place for Republican presidential hopefuls to stake their claim on the nomination. It also makes sense for Florida to move its presidential primary to a date that will put it in play.

Florida Republicans have earned the right to help determine which candidate will head the national ticket. Gov. Crist should get on board and actively support an earlier primary.
It now looks as if Florida lawmakers are moving toward making that a reality. A bipartisan bill has been introduced that would move the Florida presidential primary from early March to lat January. This would position Florida in the same class as South Carolina in terms of primary importance.

The AP is reporting that both the Republican and Democrat national parties may fight the move:
But the national Democratic and Republican parties have consistently opposed the idea to prevent a race between the states to have the earliest primary. And some have said Florida's size makes it impossible for underdog candidates to raise enough money to compete at such an early stage.

The Democratic and Republican parties could punish Florida for moving its primary earlier than Feb. 5 by taking away half their state party's delegates to the nominating convention. The Democratic National Committee could also decide that candidates who campaigned in Florida for a primary earlier than Feb. 5 should not get the state's delegates if they win, according to DNC rules.
This would be a bad move by the national parties, particularly the Republican Party. It is clear from moves by current contenders that Florida is a significant GOP battleground state, both in terms of the grassroots and financial support. Florida Republicans have earned the right to have a greater stake in determining the party's presidential nominee.

We again call on Gov. Crist and the House and Senate leadership to get behind this movement - or better yet, get in front of it and lead.

Yet another Romney post

I know it must seem as if we've become an "all Romney, all the time" blog. This is, of course, not the case. In fact, the Sentinel has yet to endorse any candidate for '08. The number of posts dealing with the Romney candidacy is a testament to the early work he has done to gain control of the momentum in Florida. In this, Gov. Romney is doing an incredible job. So now we get to the meat of this post.

William March of the Tampa Trib is reporting the addition of two more Florida GOP operatives. He also points out that, like other early Romney recruits in Florida, these two have ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush:

Romney announced that Mandy Fletcher and Marc Reichelderfer will join his exploratory presidential campaign committee.

Fletcher has been executive director of Bush issue advocacy organization, the Foundation for Florida’s Future; and was political director of the Bush-Cheney
‘04 campaign and a field coordinator for the Bush-Brogan ‘02 gubernatorial re-elect campaign.

Reichelderfer, a veteran party operative, was Florida field director for Lamar Alexander’s presidential campaign during Alexander’s all-out effort in the Florida party’s Presidency III presidential primary straw poll.


And the Romney train keeps rolling.

See also: Potential problem for Romney - w/ Update

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Potential problem for Romney - **Updated** Mitt Responds w/video

**Update**
Mitt Romney used an appearance on Instapundit.com's "Glenn and Helen Show" to respond to the YouTube piece on the 1994 debate (see below). (hat tip to reader Jason)

Hugh Hewitt credits Romney for his rapid response, and warns of things to come:

Romney's push-back at the YouTubing of his '94 debate with ted Kennedy --happening in rapid response fashion-- means an entire news cycle on a somewhat significant story has played out before even one newspaper reported it, with the anti-Romney forces (clearly worried about the big $ Monday and the deMint Tuesday) trying to put a stick in the spokes, and Romney's team finding a way to knock it down in the same cycle.

That's a preview of what it will be like all year.


Here's a clip of the Romney response:




Good job Governor.
___________________________


We've posted a few times over the last week or so (here and here and here) on the early surge that Mitt Romney has enjoyed. Most of what we have had to say has revolved around his early fundraising success. It now looks as if Romney may have to use some of that cash to combat his early record of liberal positions.

We heard the criticism before this - Mitt has recently flipped to the conservative side on some issues - but now the YouTube attacks have begun. Hot Air had this film posted a few days ago, and now it has hit the MSM with its arrival on the FoxNews.com site. The montage video is from Mitt's 1994 Senatorial debate against Ted Kennedy.

Here it is (I apologize to my friends over at Peer Review FL):



This is certainly not an insurmountable obstacle, but it will require the expense of time and funds. With so much good news lately for Mitt, he was bound to have a story like this sooner or later. Sooner is probably better.

GOP Bloggers' 2008 GOP Straw Poll

GOP Bloggers has a Straw Poll working for the 2008 GOP Primary probables/possibles. You can participate right here.

Much Ado About Nothing

Special session. Property insurance. New direction in Iraq. Property tax cuts. Gators are national champs. Even Trump vs. Rosie. There is obviously much to talk and write about this week.

So why spend so much hot air on a non-story? I'm, of course, talking about Gov. Crist's decision to make his own appointments in his own administration.

Here's a selection of what was produced yesterday on the topic:

Crist Rejects Roster of Appointments - Orlando Sentinel
Crist rejects all of Bush's picks - Miami Herald
Crist withdraws 283 Jeb appointees - Naked Politics
Crist yanks 283 Bush appointees - The Buzz
Crist makes room for his own team - St. Pete Times
Crist to replace Public Service board members - Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Crist nixes Bush appointments - Tallahassee Democrat
Crist rescinds 283 Bush appointments - Palm Beach Post

You get the idea. The overriding tenor of the reporting is of Crist departing from the Bush path. Is there a rift? Is Charlie the anti-Jeb? All silly questions, but you get the idea when reading most of the stories that these are the kind of questions being formulated in the writers' minds.

The real "story" is that Gov. Charlie Crist is doing exactly the same thing that all newly elected governors do. He's putting his own mark on his new administration. Period. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now, can we please get back to Donald and Rosie!

Iraq: Malkin's first report from the field

Michelle Malkin has posted her first photos and comments from her current embed assignment in Iraq. Michelle is providing us with a view of the challenges operating in Baghdad:

Yes, there is danger and chaos and unspeakable bloodshed in parts of Baghdad. Sectarian violence--compounded by everyday street crime and tribal conflict--is rampant. Corruption, incompetence, and apathy infect the Iraqi government. You've gotten endless news coverage of all that. But there are also pockets of success and signs of hope amid utter despair. (read more)

Michelle, and her Hot Air colleague Bryan Preston, are reporting from the heart of the conflict in and around Baghdad. Brian's report can be found over on Hot Air. Given the current environment concerning last night's "troop surge" speech, I think their reporting and perspective are especially important. Just a bit from Bryan's report:
Without hesitation, I can say that this fight is the most intricate and complicated mission our military has ever faced. Our troops are daily engaging in missions that their military training never prepared them for, but they are performing those missions with amazing thought and skill. (read more)

As new reports are posted, we will let you know.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

FL House Leaders Unveil Property Insurance Plan

The Florida House weighed in today with its plan to reform property insurance laws in the state. The House plan moves away from the free-market environment in which property insurance now exist in favor of move government control.

From the Miami Herald:

Insurance rates would be frozen for Citizens Property customers for one year and private insurance companies could buy state-subsidized back-up insurance as long as they passed on all of their savings to consumers and dropped rates at least 25 percent.

Those are two of the top money-saving ideas included in six sweeping insurance proposals to be unveiled by the Florida House this afternoon. Other ideas include firing the board of directors running Citizens, repealing the Citizens rate increases set to take effect this year and allowing Citizens' policyholders to make insurance payments on an installment plan.

The draft bills are a hybrid of proposals that emerged last fall in the House Republicans' ''100 Ideas'' book, the House Democrats' plan, as well as suggestions pushed by Gov. Charlie Crist or made by the insurance industry.

Absent from the package of ideas is the proposal pushed by Senate leaders to expand Citizens, the state-run insurance company, so it could spread its risk and better compete with the private insurance market by letting it write more than just windstorm insurance.


View the six House bill proposals here.

The House plan is closer, in some ways, to proposals discussed by Gov. Crist than it is to some positions taken in the Senate proposal.

Unlike the Senate, the House embraces two ideas pushed by Crist during his election campaign. They want to require insurance companies to factor in national profits when their Florida subsidiary requests a rate increase and prohibit the creation of future ''pup'' companies, in which national companies create subsidiaries that can isolate their losses to Florida.

The House also embraces Crist's proposal to ban the practice of ''cherry-picking,'' when an insurance company writes homeowners policies in other states but only writes other lines of insurance in Florida.

The House package also includes bills to allow homeowners to receive credits on their insurance bills for strengthening their homes from wind damage, a bill to include the Panhandle in the statewide building code and a bill that asks Congress to consider creating a national catastrophe fund.

Despite some differences between the Senate and House plans, look for the real fight to be between the Legislature and the insurance lobby. Will come that fight as it develops.

Taking resonsibilty and charting a new course

The principles and specific points of the President's address on strategy adjustments in Iraq are, by now, well known. The White House has posted an exhaustive review on their website - Highlights of the Iraq Strategy Review. The six fundamental elements of the new plan, as enumerated by the White House, are:

  1. Let the Iraqis lead;
  2. Help Iraqis protect the population;
  3. Isolate extremists;
  4. Create space for political progress;
  5. Diversify political and economic efforts; and
  6. Situate the strategy in a regional approach.
The full text of the President's address is here. The following includes some key excerpts of the speech.

The President claimed personal responsibility for mistakes made in Iraq.
When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together, and that as we trained Iraqi security forces we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq -- particularly in Baghdad -- overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause, and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra -- in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.

The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

The thrust of troop increases and the focus of the new effort are aimed at the Baghdad area:
The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

Bush's major steps to confront these problems:
Now let me explain the main elements of this effort: The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations -- conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.

This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

Bush made clear to Iraqis that it is time to step-up and beginning taking control of their own country:
I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act.

The President also addressed the Syrian and Iranian problems:
Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

And he addressed Iraq's neighbors that can help stabilize the region:
We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists and a strategic threat to their survival. These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, and they must step up their support for Iraq's unity government. We endorse the Iraqi government's call to finalize an International Compact that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform. And on Friday, Secretary Rice will leave for the region, to build support for Iraq and continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.

Though I was among those that did not believe an increase in troops was necessary, I do think that we can succeed in Iraq with this new direction. However, success is contingent upon the Administration allowing the military to do the job on the ground. That means adjusting the cumbersome rules of engagement now in place.

Most importantly, Congress should put aside the ridiculous partisan rhetoric that is poisoning the political well over Iraq. (see Gingrich below)


______________________
Right now on H&C:
  • Giuliani agrees with Bush plan. He calls for "sincere" bipartisan involvement.
  • Vilsack disagrees with Bush and Giuliani - big surprise. It's "not the time to escalate in Iraq." He calls Bush's speech the same old plan, dressed up in new language. He believes U.S. troops should leave Southern Iraq and the Baghdada region, redeploy to the north, and prepare to withdrawal completely.
  • Gingrich believes made some steps in the right direction, including pressure on Maliki and beefing-up security forces around Baghdad. Overall, a solid speech. Gingrich challenges Dems that oppose the war effort to vote to defund the war and admit their position of defeat. Congress should give the President and the military a chance to win the war.

FL-13 Update: No, it's still not over!

We had hoped to be done with this by now, but, sadly, we have more to report - some good news and some bad news.

First, the good news:

Buchanan gets his commitee assignments (from Sarasota Herald-Trib)

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, finally got his committee assignments
today.

Buchanan has been named to the Transportation Committee and to the
Small Business committee.

Buchanan has been talking about getting on the Transportation Committee, hoping he can change federal funding formulas for highway money. For every dollar Florida sends to Washington, it only gets back 87 cents in funding for roads.

Buchanan signs onto first bill

Buchanan has signed onto his first piece of legislation, a bill sponsored by fellow FL Republican Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (Crystal River). The bill is calls for the creation of federal reinsurance catostrophic fund to assist citizens victimized by natural disasters. (read more)


Now, the bad news:
The ACLU is sticking its nose in the FL-13 mess

Voters represented by the ACLU added their support to Democrat Christine
Jennings' cause this week -- asking an appeals court to allow Jennings to look
at the programming code in the electronic voting machines used in the disputed
congressional election in Sarasota County. A lower court already ruled against
Jennings. (read more at the Buzz) . . .

The ACLU Foundation of Florida, VoterAction, People for the American Way Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are representing 11 Sarasota voters. The coalition wants a revote and a thorough investigation of the voting machines.


I guess it was onlt a matter of time before the ACLU moonbats began poking around. If nothing else, it should give us something to poke fun at. Stay tuned.

It's Official: FL Legislature Headed for Special Session

House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt made it official yesterday - the Florida Legislature will convene in special session. The aim of the week-long session will be to tackle the issue of property insurance.

There are many solid previews of the session that have hit the MSM and blogosphere already, so we will try and give you the best of these. Here goes.

Though Governor Crist has not yet proposed a detailed plan, he has renewed his pledge to bring relief to Florida homeowners.

"Big insurance has a new day coming, and it starts the 16th."
While Crist warns against unreasonable expectations, he says that "people deserve high hopes...and I have them."

Governor Crist from a press release yesterday:
“Finding relief for Floridians burdened with skyrocketing insurance costs is my top priority,” said Governor Crist. “I pledge the full resources of my office to work with the leaders of the House and Senate to solve the insurance crisis.”

The Senate has introduced a draft bill that aims to reduce, or rollback, rate current rate hikes; allow for greater access by insurers to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund; and provide homeowners the right to forgo wind damage coverage and/or coverage for the contents of their homes.

For customers of the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the Senate bill calls for a one-year rate freeze.

For more details on the Senate plan, go over to Q at PBP for a pretty good summary.

A group called The Florida Hurricane Crisis Coalition has also issued its recommendations. The FHCC, while optimistic that a solution can be found, is cautioning against overblown expectations:
“Members of the Florida Hurricane Crisis Coalition applaud the new administration and legislative leaders as they prepare to find long-term solutions to our property insurance crisis. All Floridians must recognize that this crisis did not occur overnight and there is no single silver bullet solution. But with a focused and thoughtful approach, this state can work toward providing a viable, competitive private insurance market to benefit residents and business owners in Florida,” said FHCC co-chair John Sebree.
FHCC is a coalition created by the Associated Industries of Florida, and comprised largely of business groups. In issuing their final recommendations for the special session, they warn against short-term solutions:
The preeminent concern for the business community is that our elected leaders take a long-lasting approach in providing for a viable, competitive, private insurance market. Such a market is essential to ensuring available andaffordable property insurance.
The principles that they have adopted are essentially those of Rep. Don Brown (R), who will oversee insurance legislation in the House. View the final recommendations of FHCC here. Here is a brief overview given to us by the Daytona Beach News-Journal:
A business group known as the Florida Hurricane Crisis Coalition released a plan Thursday for dealing with the state's property-insurance problems. Lawmakers could consider the plan during a special legislative session that starts Jan. 16. Here are some key recommendations:

· Expand a program that provides inspections and grants to residents who want to fix up their homes to better withstand hurricanes. The coalition calls for spending as much as $500 million a year on the program, with much of the money coming from a tax collected on insurance premiums.

· Give homeowners more choices in their insurance coverage, which could help lower premiums. This would include allowing homeowners to choose between a wide range of deductibles.

· Allow insurance companies to buy more reinsurance from a state fund. Reinsurance is a crucial type of backup coverage that insurers use to help pay claims during hurricanes. Buying reinsurance from the state fund would be cheaper for insurers than buying it on the private market, which could lead to savings being passed on to
consumers.

· Require the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to charge "actuarially sound" rates that are designed to cover hurricane losses. Citizens ran up deficits paying claims in 2004 and 2005, which forced property owners throughout the state to help subsidize it.
We will continue to study this issue and report back as news arises.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More good news for Mitt

Mitt Romney held a one day fundraising push yesterday that yielded staggering results:

(AP) Mitt Romney easily surpassed his goal of raising $1 million with a major call-a-thon on Monday, raking in $6.5 million for his presidential campaign.

Just four days after leaving office as Massachusetts governor, Romney flew his national fund-raisers to Boston and had them call their network of friends and colleagues to begin collecting the estimated $100 million he seeks for a run in 2008.

We reported just a few days ago (here and here) Romney's move to secure major GOP fundraisers in Florida. Yesterday's take proves that his financial dominance is really nationwide.

While both Giuliani and McCain lead Romney in early polling, they both know that campaign cash will make the difference as the primaries draw closer. Be assured, neither McCain nor Giuliani is comfortable today.
___________________________
Take a look over at FL Peer Review for their take on how the Mormon issue will play-out. Interesting.

Related story: Ex-Gov. Gilmore Eyes GOP White House Bid

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Jim Gilmore, Virginia's former tax-slashing Republican governor, on Tuesday took the first step in a long-shot bid for the presidency.

Gilmore filed papers with the Federal Election Commission in Washington to form the Jim Gilmore for President Exploratory Committee, said his aide, Matt Williams. (read more)

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Democratic plan to lose in Iraq

Just as it appears that the President is set to announce plans for an increase in troops in Iraq, Democrats are threatening to force an American withdrawal.

(AP at Breitbart) In a blunt challenge to President Bush, the leader of the Senate's new Democratic majority said Monday he will "look at everything" within his power to wind down the war in Iraq, short of cutting off funding for troops already deployed.

"I think we've got to tell the president what he's doing as wrong. We've got to start bringing our folks home," said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, in remarks that portend a struggle if, as expected, Bush announces plans later this week for an increase in troop strength of 20,000.

Meanwhile, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said one option under consideration would be for Congress to vote on denying the use of funds for such an increase in the U.S. deployment. Several officials said the Massachusetts Democrat was hoping lawmakers could register their views before any increase in troops was implemented.

More broadly, Reid signaled that Bush's expected call for an additional $100 billion for the war would receive close scrutiny from newly empowered Democrats.

"We have a platform we didn't have before, Leader Pelosi and I, and we're going to ... focus attention on this war in many different ways," said Reid. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested over the weekend using Congress' power of the purse to restrain any troop buildup.


That should come as good news to those on the far-left, who have been dissatisfied that it has taken the Democratic Congress so long to act on the war. After all, they been in control since last week.

You knew it was coming!

Property tax talks coming to a town near you

Members of the Florida House are taking the discussion of property tax reform on the road. Sen. Mike Haridopolos (R-Indialantic) and Rep. Frank Attkisson (R-Kissismmee) are heading up the traveling town hall meeting tour.

Those spearheading the effort insisted, "everything is on the table," when it
comes to reviewing Florida's tax system, said Sen. Mike Haridopolos,
R-Indialantic, chairman of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee.

The first meeting will take place later this month in Panama City. And while the idea is to get input from Florida citizens, the organizers certainly have ideas of their own:

Namely, both said that they're not in favor of redoing the Save Our Homes
tax cap, which has shifted more of the tax burden from homeowners to business
and investment property owners over the years. The cap has also created great
disparity in property taxes paid by newer homeowners compared to longtime
homeowners.


We look forward to the feedback that will surely surface.

The Good Side of Celebrity

That's right, there is a good side. They're not all like Rosie.

Michelle Malkin uses today's Vent to highlight some of the "Patriotic Celebrities."

Check it out.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Florida Preview - Things to look for this week

Gov. Crist is considering the recall of some Bush appointees:

Florida Times-Union - Crist wants change from utilities group

"That commission has been kind of an industry lapdog," Crist said. "It's supposed to be the Public Service Commission, not the phone or power service commission. ... I'm reviewing the options. Appointments are where I have the most impact."


It looks like the two commissioners that may be on the chopping block - Ken Littlefield and Isilio Arriaga - are both Bush appointees. This will, of course, be played in the MSM as Crist moving away from Bush.
St. Pete Times - Crist may boot some tapped by Bush

By the middle of next week, Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to dismantle a small part of the Bush legacy when he cancels some of Bush's late-term appointments.

Mark it down as the start of cutting the umbilical cord.

Crist won't say exactly how many Bush picks are in peril. "There's quite a number, I think," he said. "We're not sure yet. I have to make that decision over the weekend."


Why the Bush recalls? St. Pete Times' Steve Bousquet asked the same question:

What does Crist have against Bush appointees? The answer is nothing, in most cases. But Crist wants appointees loyal to him, not to the old boss.

He also does not want his administration to look like a warmed-over third Jeb term. People perceived as Jeb Kool-Aid drinkers are particularly vulnerable to being recalled.


See also: The Buzz - Jeb's endangered appointees
____________________________
Is Crist's property tax plan in jeopardy?

It is being reported that Gov. Crist may have trouble getting his way on property tax cuts. Some are worried that deep cuts - or any cuts for that matter - would gut local and county budgets. Property tax revenue is used by local governments for services such as education, police, and fire safety. This is what the papers are saying:
St. Pete Times - Rumble below Crist: Critics of his tax pledge

Crist wants the Legislature to amend the state Constitution to allow each county to double the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000.

But for Crist, this promise will be difficult to keep. In the first week of his term, he already faces strong opposition on a signature issue of his campaign.

Resistance is mounting among counties, cities, school boards, taxing authorities and business groups. Their unified opposition could be formidable in the Legislature.

Counties say doubling the homestead exemption would so sharply cut the flow of revenue that programs would have to be cut. Rural counties are most anxious because many of them already collect property taxes at the highest rate allowed by law.

Businesses say a tax break for homeowners would worsen the inequities built into a property tax system that heavily favors residential property by capping the yearly growth of tax bills at 3 percent for homesteaded properties.

Taken together, the critics of Crist's plan say doubling the homestead exemption would not solve the tax problem but would shift more of the tax burden to renters, snowbirds who own vacation homes and to businesses.


We will keep an eye on this as the week progresses, but we are inclined to side with Crist here. Local governments should be forced to evaluate spending and efficiency.
___________________________
What will Carole Jean do?

As reported here on Friday, there is some question about what current state GOP Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan will do vis-a-vis Crist nominee for the post. Though Jordan has said that she would not accept the nomination if it comes, she has yet to endorse Crist nominee Jim Greer.

The Tallahassee Sentinel has joined other Republicans in calling on Jordan to throw her support behind Greer. After speaking with a source from within the Party, I've learned that a rift has developed between those that believe it is the prerogative of Crist to choose the party leader - this has traditionally been the case - and those that prefer an open race for the #1 spot.
St. Pete Times - Outgoing GOP chief is leaving, right?

There's Buzz in Republican circles that state Republican Party chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan wants another term as GOP head despite Gov. Charlie Crist tapping a little-known pal, Jim Greer of the Orlando area, as his preferred choice.


Is Carole Jean ready to flip-flop on a run for the top post?

"I'm not," she said on a special inauguration episode of Political Connections airing on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. today. "It's always exciting to listen to the rumor mill, isn't it."


We'll see. With the race for 2008 already gearing-up, we've got a message for the chairwoman: Stop playing games and get on board!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Florida: Key battleground state in '08

Florida is shaping up to be one of - if not the - key battleground states in the race for 2008.

As reported here on Thursday, Mitt Romney has picked-up some important early supporters in the state. Beth Reinhard (Miami Herald) is expanding on the list we gave you.

Romney has enlisted several big-name Florida Republicans in record time. In addition to Herberger, Romney has hired Sally Bradshaw, Bush's former campaign manager and chief of staff. Former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Al Cárdenas and former state House Speaker Allan Bense are members of his steering committee.

This week, Romney announced that two top Florida money men -- Mark Guzzetta and Mel Sembler -- would be national fundraisers.

''Is it impressive? Absolutely,'' said Kirk Wagar, a Democratic fundraiser for former and possibly future presidential contender John Kerry. ``On the Democratic side, we have a lot more people playing footsie.''

Miami businessman Chris Korge, who is committed to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton if she runs for president, said: ``The gun has gone off, and Mitt Romney is a smart guy who is trying to lock down Florida.''

Beth added that McCain is also busy in Florida:
John McCain has signaled he will not let Romney have the run of the place. When Romney was in Miami-Dade County recently for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, the Arizona senator quietly swept participants away to his own reception. He has hired Melissa Shuffield, a former spokeswoman for Sen. Mel Martinez, and Kathleen Shanahan, Jeb Bush's former chief of staff and campaign manager.

**Related story: (from Americans for Tax Reform)

Romney, Brownback Sign Taxpayer Protection Pledge
Presidential candidates begin new year with resolution to fight tax hikes.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (R) and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R), candidates vying for the 2008 presidential nomination, have jumped out early in the new year and signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). The Pledge commits signers to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses … and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

Gov. Romney signed on December 31, 2006. Sen. Brownback signed the pledge January 1, 2007.

ATR has offered the Pledge to all candidates for federal office since 1987. To date, President George W. Bush, 43 U.S. senators, and 197 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed the Pledge. Seven Governors and over 1,300 state legislators have signed the Pledge as well.

“America needs leaders who are committed to protecting taxpayers, and signing our Pledge demonstrates that kind of leadership,” said Grover Norquist, president of ATR.

“By signing the Pledge, Sam Brownback and Mitt Romney demonstrate allegiance to hard-working taxpayers nationwide. It is now up to the other candidates in the race to stand up to the challenge.”

“I strongly encourage every Presidential candidate to sign the Pledge,” Norquist continued.

Copies of the Pledge are available at www.atr.org or by calling (202) 785-0266.

Cooking with Ham

Mary Katherine Ham is setting the fiscal record straight - and doing a little cooking:

Friday, January 05, 2007

Crist orders special election to replace Holly Benson

Gov. Charlie Crist called today for a special election to replace Rep. Holly Benson, who resigned her seat to serve as head of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The governor's order calls for a primary election to be held on February 6, and a general election on February 27.

The Buzz has offered a list of potential candidates:

Possible candidates include Republican George Scarborough, brother of former
U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough; Democrat Elizabeth Campbell, who was defeated by
Benson in November; and former Democratic state Rep. DeeDee Ritchie, who has
said she's been courted by both parties but would stick to her party.

I spoke with a source from within the Republican Party of Florida this evening who said that Scarborough is the likely GOP nominee.

Pensacola businessmen Lyn Hart , a Republican, has committed to run and says he has already raised $75,000.

Florida Dems are looking at District 3 as an opportunity to get a jump on 2008.
This race needs to be made the top priority for Democrats state wide. All county
party organizations should look to mobilizing support in any way they can. A win
in the District 3 special election is a key to winning in 2008.


Related stories:
Pensacola News Journal - Benson's successor to come next month
Tallahassee Democrat - Crist orders special election

Americans for Tax Reform Calls Paygo a Vote Against Taxpayers

One of the first House votes under Democratic leadership included the "Paygo" rule, which requires Congress to immediately identify new funds to pay for any new spending. Grover Norquist, president of ATR, calls this a license to raise taxes, as well as a prohibition on future tax cuts.

Simply put, PAYGO is measure designed to stop further tax cuts. Since 2003, more than $600 billion of tax cuts have been implemented which has worked to increase economic growth, job creation, investment, job creation, and household wealth. As a result of this growing economy tax revenues have soared witnessed by the past two fiscal years experiencing the two largest increases in federal tax revenues ever. PAYGO ends these pro-growth tax cuts.

Though Norquist says he supports earmark reform, which included in the same bill as paygo, he believes the two measures should have been voted on separately.

Republican members say that today's action - rules put in place by Democrats to shut Republicans out of the legislative process - signal how the Democratic leadership intends to conduct business. "This solidifies the fact that this is a closed shop," said Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.).

The Democratic version of paygo eliminates the requirement of a 60% supermajority in order to raise taxes. The supermajority measure was adopted by Republicans in 1995.
(The Hill) "On the first day that Republicans took majority control of Congress in 1995, one of their first actions was to establish a protective rule requiring a 60 percent supermajority to approve federal tax increases," Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a release. "On their first day in control of Congress in 2007, Democrats are blocking efforts to maintain that protection, making it easier to raise taxes."

ATR adds:

Simply put, PAYGO is measure designed to stop further tax cuts. Since 2003, more than $600 billion of tax cuts have been implemented which has worked to increase economic growth, job creation, investment, job creation, and household wealth. As a result of this growing economy tax revenues have soared witnessed by the past two fiscal years experiencing the two largest increases in federal tax revenues ever. PAYGO ends these pro-growth tax cuts.

At the same time, this provision does nothing to slow the growth of spending. PAYGO only applies when spending exceeds the baseline which is already growing due to rising entitlement costs. Pulling this altogether, PAYGO is a mechanism that will finance higher levels of spending with tax increases, while at the same time ending all tax cuts from here on in.

I guess the bright side is that Democrats are showing their colors from day one. Grist for the 2008 election mill.

Gov. Crist faces early political challenge

The Miami Herald is reporting that Gov. Crist may face a challenge over his selection to lead the state party:

Just days after his inauguration, Gov. Charlie Crist is facing the first challenge to his leadership -- and it's coming from the leader of his own party.

Carole Jean Jordan, chairwoman of the Florida Republican Party, was expected to endorse the governor's choice to replace her: Jim Greer, vice mayor of Oviedo and an energetic leader of Crist's campaign in Central Florida.

Instead, Jordan has distributed a letter extolling her own accomplishments -- and failing to mention Greer's name. A few of her supporters are sending out e-mail missives tearing Greer down.

Though Jordan's letter does not explicitly say she is running for reelection, it notes that the governor's choice to lead the party is only a consideration, not a mandate.

The Sentinel joins Republican officials that are calling for the chairwoman to do the right thing, stand behind the new governor.

The Miami Herald is suggesting that Jordan is hinting at her own run for reelection. This would contradict what the Buzz reported on Tuesday:

"If nominated, I will not accept"

We'll continue to follow this issue.

FL Sen. Mike Bennett Proposes Election Fix

18,000 undervotes!! That's the basis of Christine Jennings' challenge of the FL-13 election results. The big question remains: Why so many undervotes?

Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) is proposes a measure to help clear-up the mystery behind this question. Under his proposed bill, all ballots would have to carry the option "I choose not to vote."

Certainly a large number of those 18,000 undervotes in Sarasota would have fallen into this category.

Ah, the beauty of simplicity.

Rep. Duncan Hunter already on TV

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a 2008 GOP hopeful, is already hitting the airwaves with ads through his Peace Through Strength PAC. Here's the latest:

Cindy going to Gitmo!!

Rahm Emanuel must be relieved.

American activist Cindy Sheehan will join an international delegation traveling to Cuba next week to protest treatment of terrorism suspects five years after the first prisoners arrived at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, organizers said Thursday.

Cindy has been busy over the past few days shouting at Democrats. Though I must admit that its been fun watching her turn her rage toward the Dems, it will be nice to get rid of her for a few days.

**Update: Democrats are finally alarmed at Sheehan's behavior. This from Lanny Davis, former Special Consul under Bill Clinton:

I painfully watched TV excerpts of Cindy Sheehan and her anti-Iraq war group’s conduct yesterday at the House Democratic Party Leadership press conference and I could only think of the 1960s, during the best (and worst) days of the anti-Vietnam War movement. . .

If you really want to end U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, then you need to make friends, not enemies, among those who are not 100 percent in agreement with you; you need to be civil and respectful of those who disagree with you; and especially, you need to support your friends and allies who are critical of the war, even if they don’t agree with your call for immediate withdrawal.

That is, if you really want to change policy -— rather than venting anger and steam.

Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer should be your allies. To act the way you and your colleagues did yesterday is counterproductive and, in the final analysis, assists the very political forces supporting the war and, indeed, supporting the greater U.S. military presence in Iraq that you are dedicated to oppose.


This, of course, leads us to ask - Where have you been for the last two years Lanny? Where was the outrage when Cindy hounded the President's outside of his home in Crawford? Back then she was the poor mother of a soldier killed in Bush's evil war.

What's that about chickens coming home to roost?

FL-13 is not the only contested seat in Florida

**Update: Bradenton Herald tell Jennings: "Time to move on"

"Christine Jennings has made her point. It's time to accept the outcome and
move on."


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As Congress opened yesterday, three Florida Democratic candidates asked the House administration committee to investigate their losses (one other Democrat from Louisiana is also asking for an investigation). While much has been written - here and elsewhere - about the FL-13 debacle, little has been reported from the other two races.

The three Democrats that are petitioning Congress are: Christine Jennings, who lost to Vern Buchanan; John Russell, who lost to Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Brooksville); and Clint Curtis, who lost to Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Oviedo).

Few are giving the appeals any chance of success:
Since 1993, about 105 such cases have been sent to committee but only a
handful have made it to the full House for a vote. Usually the committee
dismisses the case, though it could recommend to the full House that it order a
new recount or new vote. (The Buzz)

Including these three races, a total of six Florida Congressional races are being challanged:

Besides Buchanan, the Nov. 7 triumphs of Republican Reps. Virginia "Ginny"
Brown-Waite, of Brooksville; Ander Crenshaw, of Jacksonville; Gus Bilirakis, of
Tarpon Springs; Lincoln Diaz-Balart, of Miami; and Tom Feeney, of Oviedo are
being disputed in state court by losing Democratic opponents or voters.


Despite news of these other races, Rep. Vern Buchanan and the FL-13 debate remain the most visible - and the prime target of Congressional Dems: Dems put freshman lawmaker on notice (Orlando Sentinel), Buchanan Takes Oath, but Dispute Isn't Over (Tampa Trib), Sarasota congressman is sworn in - but not quietly (Miami Herald), Buchanan seated amid dessent (Bradenton Herald).

See yesterday's post: FL-13 Update: Buchanan takes his seat

Related story: Go to Peer Review FL to catch-up on the Feeney trip payment issue.

More Disgraceful Behavior on Campus

Sometimes you just have to let them talk. I really believe that these campus crazies are providing a service to us all. The more video they put out, the more obvious it is that they are just plain nuts.

I just stumbled upon this footage - shot by the wacko himself - of an October visit to the University of Texas by Bill Kristol.




This one is complete with 9/11 conspiracy garbage.