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State of the Union

One narrative of the Obama political career is clear:  he knows how to take a shot and come back stronger.  Last night was no exception.

Even the most strident Obama supporter would admit that the first year has been tough, and quite frankly, some of it has been out of his control.  As much as the Republicans hate to hear it, the reality is this guy inherited a disaster.  Imagine being sixteen and your parents give you a car, except it is stuck in a ditch, missing two tires, with an engine that didn't work and out of gas.  In the GOP world, that kid would be a failure if the car wasn't driving in the Daytona 500 the next day. 

That being said, the administration has had their bumps and at times, did the one thing that would have been the cardinal crime during the campaign:  they lost control of their own message.  Its not that surprising, as most President's struggle initially to transition to the challenging of governing.  Plus this President suffered from unrealistic expectations. And to their credit, the GOP are masters at being in the minority.

But last night, the President took it all back, outlining a clear and optimistic vision for moving America forward---and moreover, challenged every patriotic American to sign up, saying that "Americans deserve a government that matches their decency."  Amen, Mr. President. 

Kennedy had his man on the moon moment, so did Reagan when he commanded the Soviets to tear down the wall.  Last night, our President challenged America not to quit, to put partisanship aside and work together to modernize our economy and workforce, and most importantly, rise to the occasion and grab firmly the mantle of being the world's greatest country---and never let go.  That is the challenge of this generation.  Our only choice is to embrace it.

Mr. President, count me in. 



Over the last few days, the punditocracy has lit up over the election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate, and as could be expected in the era of the 24 hour news cycle, pretty much everyone has overreacted.

I am not going to downplay the election, Brown's election is significant.  While Republicans winning in Massachusetts isn't as rare as some in the GOP want to suggest (anyone remember Governor Mitt Romney), it is consequential and yes, there are lessons to learn. 

That being said, everyone should underreact, take a deep breath and listen to what the voters are saying.

I know that hyperbole sells papers and gets you quoted, and the easy thing here is to say this is a massive repudiation of the Obama agenda and the start of a new GOP alignment.  But quite honestly, that is as ridiculous as those who said that Obama's election marked the end of the GOP. 

From where I sit, here are the main lessons of the Brown win.

1.  Candidates matter.  Brown was an excellent candidate who tapped into the populist (not conservative) anger in the country.  He was engaging, energetic and interesting.  He was a better candidate than Coakley in virtually every category.    Polls across the country show people are really looking at candidates more than parties (just look at polls in AL, GA Governor's races).   Parties can not just throw up warm bodies and expect to win.

2.  People are restless and want solutions.   No shocker here.  Average families are tired and worried, and they want their leaders to roll up their sleeves and get to work.   Brown didn't run as a rank partisan (nor did Governor Christie in NJ).  Republicans who read this as an endorsement of more partisanship will be sadly disappointed in November.

3.  Democrats did not react quickly enough.  I am shocked that national Democrats didn't see this coming.  I am not sure that earlier response would have made the difference, but that being said, Dems were slow to respond.  I am confident that the return of David Plouffe will ensure that better systems are in place to ensure this doesn't happen again. 

4. Basketball players from Tufts are winners.  Since they both went to Tufts and both play basketball, the Scott Brown win is definitely good news for Dan Gelber--a statement no less absurd than any of the other 1000 politicians trying to claim some shred that they are "the next Scott Brown"

So what comes next?  At the risk of being proven wrong, here goes:

1.  President Obama will come out of this stronger.  The short history of the President's political career does show one recurring theme:  this guy knows how to rally.  Every time he is being counted out---after losing his Congressional bid, early in his Senate race, in late 2007, after New Hampshire, after the primaries, after the Palin bump--you name it, he's come back stronger.   Moreover, voters like Barack Obama as a person, see him as an adult and want him to succeed. 

2. To my Republican colleagues who say he is done:  Remember Reagan.    There were a lot of similarities between Reagan and Obama's initial campaigns.  Both outsiders, both having to really prove themselves in the debates before cruising to election.  Now there Presidencies seem very similar.  Right now, the President's average approval is 49%, the same as Reagan's in early 1982 (it was an average of 42% in Gallup polls throughout 1982).  Yet he cruised in 1984, both because the economy improved and...

3.  Partisan purity loses.  Republicans, who right now are rushing to require partisan purity tests for party support, best heed history (Dems in 1984) and their own former party chair, Haley Barbour, and remember that "People are crazy if they think we win by getting more pure. We win by getting big."  Reagan found his feet, was helped by a recovering economy and ran against a perfect foil.  For a party that can't run to the right fast enough, they may well be teeing up the same ball for Obama in 2012.

4. Voter anger is aimed at both parties.  Right now the voters don't like either party, and that's bad for the party in charge. A recent poll showed 93% of Americans think there is too much partisan fighting and 61% blame both parties equally for the nation's troubles..  If I was a Florida Republican, I wouldn't be overjoyed by the Brown win, I'd be a little worried.  Look at the Governor's race.  One nominee is a relative newcomer who has a long business background and a reputation for getting things done, the other has fingerprints on almost 30 years of federal and state decision making.  Where do you think frustrated voters are more likely to land?

5.  The Democrats are better for the loss.  I know some in my party don't like to hear this, but the loss will do the body good.  I'd much rather be having the conversation on adjusting course and strategy in February of 2010 than after a bludgeoning in the late fall of 2010.  But that being said, Democrats over the next few months have to be bold (and bold isn't always ideological) in Congress, led by a President who is actively selling his agenda and bolstered by an engaged grassroots. 




Welcome back, Mr. President

In anticipation of President Obama and Vice President Biden's trip next week, now seems like as good a time as any to look at some fun political facts about Florida, Florida, Florida.

In the nation's current political alignment, especially for the GOP, Florida is a real make or break state.  There are very few scenarios where the GOP could win the White House without Florida's 27 (soon to be 28 or 29). As a result, Florida's electoral votes essentially assure a Democratic win. 

As I used to tell our young staff in 2008, it was win and you're in.

History tends to prove this point. 

Since 1928, Florida has only landed on the wrong side of two Presidential elections:  1960 and 1992 (the other big battleground, Ohio, has also been wrong twice:  1944 and 1960).  In both cases, Florida narrowly went for the GOP, while national Democrats won the ultimate prize. 

In fact, you have to go back to 1924 and the re-election of President Calvin Coolidge to find the last time that a Republican won the White House without an assist from the Sunshine State.

So if Florida is the epicenter of Presidential politics, what is the epicenter of Florida?  Simple:  Tampa, the place where the President will pay a visit on Thursday.

According to the Division of Elections, since 1948, the winner of Hillsborough County has won Florida all but one time (1960---that year, it voted for Kennedy, but Nixon won the state).

And since 1992 (the point where POTUS elections in FL became reliably competitive), the Tampa media market as a whole has selected the winner.

Year                Winner                 Tampa Market                 Statewide

92                   Bush                             +4%                            +2%

96                   Clinton                          +4%                            +6%

00                   Bush                             +2%                             Tie

04                   Bush                             +7%                             +5%

08                   Obama                          +0.5%                          +2.5% 

Certainly in 2008, the importance of the market wasn't lost on either the Obama or McCain campaigns.  We stuck our campaign state headquarters right smack in the heart of the market and made St. Petersburg the first public Florida stop of then Senator Obama's general election effort.  In fact, McCain and Obama both made four visits (and even more 'stops') to the market between August and Election Day, and sent their ticket-mate's there three times each. 

So what is it about this market?    

First, in terms of vote share, no market is bigger in Florida.  Nearly a quarter of all votes cast in a Presidential election will come from the Tampa market.  When you add the 20% that comes from the Orlando market, the importance of the I-4 corridor becomes obvious.

Secondly, I-75.  Migration to Florida, especially in the late 20th century tended to follow interstates, with the more liberal, northeastern voters migrating into southeast Florida and Midwestern voters ending up on the west coast.  As a result, while the politics of Broward look a lot like the politics of New York and Boston, the politics of Tampa feel a lot more like the more centrist and competitive politics of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.  If you don't believe me, count the Bears and Packers fans at a Bucs game. 

Lastly, it is a little microcosm of Florida.  It has some rural ag, a growing Hispanic population (and an established Cuban population), large urban African-American centers, traditional white working class communities, and a whole lot of soccer moms.  To do well in this market, you have to have a message with wide appeal---the key ingredient to winning across the state.

So welcome back to the Tampa area, Mr. President.  Personally, I hope we will see you here lots more over the next three years.


Five Takeaways from the Week

5. Dockery/Fetterman file more ethics legislation.   GOP Gubernatorial candidate Paula Dockery, along with first-term reform-minded Democrat, Adam Fetterman, have filed sweeping ethics legislation that would make it illegal for legislators to vote on an item that could personally benefit them.  Current conflict of interest rules are very narrow and have come under criticism from good government reformers.  Dockery's decision to push this issue again in 2010, especially after the state's growing public corruption problems, is certainly to create for interesting debate inside the walls of the Florida GOP.

4. Unemployment in Florida rises again:  Florida's service/tourism economy inevitably leads to it recovering slower than other states, and as if more evidence of Florida's economic woes was needed, the most recent Labor Dept statistics showed a continuing rise in the jobless rate.  Ideology aside, the bad economy is the number one drag on Crist's candidacy today, which is why this week at a meeting of the local Florida Public Relations Association chapter, I suggested that Crist should consider taking a 90 day (through session) hiatus from campaigning so Floridians could see him focusing on getting our state back to work.

3. Vice President Biden visits Miami:  The Vice President came to Miami this week to meet with Haitian and other Caribbean leaders in South Florida about the recovery effort in Haiti.  Biden's visit highlights the growing Caribbean population in South Florida and the region's strong ties to the devastated island.  On the heels of this visit, the administration announced it would extend temporary protective status (TPS)to Haitians taking refuge in the United States, something the Haitian community has made a priority in recent years.  And if there was any question whether Florida was important to this President, both Obama and Biden will be in Florida again next week, each making their third trip to the Sunshine State.

 2. Downtown Scotty Brown Wins.  This week, the Bay State sent Republican Scott Brown to the United States Senate, in an election that surprised man, though not this author.  Brown, who prior to public life was apparently second best known (no reason to repeat why he is best known) for knocking down baseline 15 footers over Florida's own Dan Gelber while at Tufts, ran a brilliant campaign and rode a wave of frustration in the country to victory.  As to be expected, already both sides are over reacting.  I'm going to write more on this soon, but for those wondering what to expect next, check your history for how Barack Obama bounces back from adversity. 

1. SCOTUS re-writes campaign finance laws.   This week, the United States Supreme Court officially returned America back to the political wild west, throwing out laws regulating corporate and union spending in federal races.    While clearly this is a win for media and mail consultants (economic stimulus for political vendors?), candidates who are cheering this decision should keep in mind that the net result could be that it is harder for candidates to control their own message, as deep pockets sped more to control outcomes.  

My suggestion for reform at this point is simple:  throw away contribution limits to make it harder for candidates to hide behind 'committees', require total transparency (24 hour reporting), eliminate outside groups or at least force groups to clearly identify themselves (no more "People for Mom and Apple Pie"), and let voters make the decision if they are comfortable with candidate X taking $XX,XXX sized checks from industry group Y.

1A.  The wedding of Lisa Schale and James Drake.  This last week, my youngest sister Lisa Schale was married in Portland, Oregon  (and if you are curious, it only takes one connection to get from Tallahassee to Africa, but two to get to Portland!).   While I am blessed to be one of five, I think we all agree that Lisa is our star.  A brilliant performer who has played key roles in a number of traveling Broadway plays (Evita, Cats, Little Mermaid), Lisa married fellow actor James Drake, who she met while on tour for Evita.  James is a great guy and they had a beautiful ceremony, complete with Broadway singers and even your's truly serving as a "bridal attendant."  Congratulations, Lisa and James.  I love you both, am proud of what you are doing, and wish you the very best in your new life together.


Dem Registration Gains- Trends in State House Seats

Earlier this week, I took a look at macro-level Florida voter registration trends, which showed that despite a difficult political climate, Democrats are continuing to grow their advantage over Republicans in statewide voter registration.

Today I want to look at it my favorite micro-perspective, State House seats

Certainly, State House seats are not a perfect cell to look at.  They are purposefully drawn, generally to try to guarantee a certain outcome, making cross comparisons a little tricky.  That being said, they are small enough to create some interesting comparisons.  And just like the statewide numbers, there is very little in the state house registration trends that wouldn’t make a Democrat smile.

According to district by district state house data from summer 2009, since the 2002 redistricting, Democrats have gained in terms of two-party voter registration in 81 of the 120 state house seats across the state, including some 41 seats held by the GOP. 

Some of these shifts have been quite striking.

For example, take House District 107, the Miami Beach-Little Havana seat held by Democratic Rep. Luis Garcia.  In 2002, the GOP held a 5500 voter advantage in registration.  Today, Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 2500, a shift of almost 11 percent.   In fact, nearly 90% of all growth in HD 107 registration has been Democratic or independent.

The impact showed up on Election Day, where in 2008, President Obama received roughly 8% more of the vote than did John Kerry.   Trust me, I caught a lot of flack in 2006 suggesting that a Democrat could win this seat.  Today, it is nearly a safe Democratic district.

Or the seat held by Speaker Designate Dean Cannon, a district that when he first ran, provided him with a 7300 voter advantage.  Today, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 1000 voters—and its growing, probably because less than 20% of the voter registration growth has been Republican over the last seven years. 

Not surprisingly, these trends tend to follow larger trade winds.  For example, of the six fastest Democratic trending seats currently held by the GOP, four are in Orlando:  Cannon (HD 35), Nelson (HD 38), Precourt (HD 41) and Einsaugle (HD 40), and five of the next nine are in the Miami media market (Bogdanoff (HD 91), Robaina, Rivera, Lopez-Cantera and Fresen).

What is unique about all nine of these districts?  In 2002 (and even 2006), arguably only two of them could be deemed competitive- HD 38 and HD 91, and in both cases, just barely.  Today, you could easily make the case that at least six and potentially eight are competitive.  

Also, in all nine of these cases, larger demographic and population shifts will almost certainly continue these trends for the foreseeable future.

One other thing worth noting:  Across the state, the data does show a lot of hardening of partisanship in base seats.  Generally  base GOP and really base Dem seats are just getting more that way.   But in those places where the trends are helping one party over another---largely in the 30-40 districts designed in 2002 to be just a few points too Republican to be competitive, districts are shifting from lean safe to lean swing, creating more opportunities. 

Now let me make this clear, I do not believe in any way this means the Democrats can or will win back the House in 2010, and without a lot of good fortune or luck, it is probably not going to happen in the near future. 

But I do believe that the state will continue to trend more competitive in the Legislature---and if I can be so bold, even if the GOP succeeds in a worst-case scenario map for the Democrats.  And just like a Cuban Democrat winning a Little Havana district, a scenario where the Democrats win back the House in the next decade isn't all that far-fetched anymore.   

There will certainly be more to come on this topic. 


Democrats in Florida- The Future is Bright

This is the first of many posts I am going to write about the state of the battlefield in Florida and the forward trajectory of the state's politics.

Recently, the Florida Democratic Party released the most recent voter registration numbers, which show despite all the media hand-wringing about the fortunes of Democrats across the country, that Democrats added about 40,000 more new voters in 2009 than Republicans. 

The Democrats now hold a seven point voter registration advantage over the GOP, for a raw advantage of nearly 800,000 voters.  This the largest advantage for Democrats since 1990

This alone is very good news for Democrats.

But the better news if you live on my side of the aisle:  There is no reason this trend should slow down any time soon.

First, the Democratic trends are most striking among younger voters (Dems hold a 16 point advantage among young voters) and among Hispanics (registering 3:1 Democratic).  In Dade County alone, between 2002-2008, the Democrats increased their voter registration advantage by more than 100,000 votes, largely on the back of changing Hispanic political behavior.

Since the last redistricting, the Democratic advantage has grown by some 500,000.  And the Democratic advantage is growing in places where the bulk of people live.

For example, as of the book closing in October 2008 (I have not seen the county by county for 2009 yet), the 25 or so counties where the Democrats made the bulk of their gains comprised some 75% of the total two-party vote in Florida. 

And even more good news for Democrats, in those counties that are electorally "swing counties" (ie- voted for Crist and Sink, or Bush and Obama), the gains are truly remarkable.  In fact, the largest voter registration gain for the GOP in any swing county is in Pasco County, where they have added roughly 2500 more voters than the GOP over the last seven years.   On the flip side, Democratic registration gains in places like Orange (plus 67.000), Hillsborough (plus 30,000) and Pinellas (plus 30,000) are all significant. 

Further, these changes are threatening to move two major counties, Orange and Dade (remember Jeb won the county twice), out of the "swing" category and into "base" Democratic counties.

Add to this, we will go into 2010 with our strongest top to bottom statewide ticket in years. 

I am going to have much more on this subject in the near future, but needless to say, from my perspective, the long term futures market for Democrats is very bright in Florida.


Five Takeaways from the Week

It has been a long few days of political operative world travel, so pardon the late and shorter version of 5 Takeaways from the week.


5.  Florida Emergency Management Director resigns.   It isn't every day that a key member of the state's emergency response team resigns with no notice, especially in the middle of the state's worst cold snap in years.  But given the accusations made about Ruben Almaguer, it should come as no surprise.

4. Rothstein to plead guilty.   Alleged ponzi schemer and occasional world traveler, Scott Rothstein will plead guilty to a variety of charges.  The question on the minds of many---did Rothstein give away anything for his plea deal? 

3. Meggs still after Sansom.  After courts threw out the other charges against former House Speaker Ray Sansom, Tallahassee State Attorney Willie Meggs came back with a few more creative charges.  Even if these don't stick, Sansom isn't out of the woods as a House Committee begins hearings on whether or not he will remain a member of that chamber---and he and future pols in his same boat probably should hope Dan Gelber's honest services bill doesn't become law. 

2.  John Thrasher to become new RPOF Chair.  With a resume that already includes House Speaker, State Senator, Alex Sink donor and Uber Lobbyist, John Thrasher now wants to be chair of the GOP.  Thrasher is a very organized and hard-nosed fundraiser who would surely bring order to the disorder of the Republican Party of Florda.  However, he is also the epitome of establishment, arguably even more 'establishment' than Jim Greer.  Will the grassroots accept that?  We will find out soon.

1.  The GOP Soap Opera Ends:  Greer is Out.  After months of hand-wringing, the GOP finally forced its embattled and controversial chair, Jim Greer, to resign.  Greer, known more for bluster than winning, had managed to alienate both donors and activists, all while running up an endless number of newspaper headlines around his party's credit card spending. 

Now here's the interesting part:  Greer still knows which GOP politicians had access to those credit cards and where they spent party money, undoubtedly with the chance to embarrass at least one or two.  My gut says Greer is a good party guy and holds his powder, but just the fear that he could drop a dime to a Bousquet, Caputo or Deslatte, is probably enough to keep a couple pols from sleeping well at night.


HONORABLE MENTION:  Me guest lecturing for Hse GOP Leader, Adam Hasner's grad school class.  I started this morning in Boca Raton (long day that included Miami, Orlando and now St. Augustine), giving a guest lecture for a class at Lynn University taught by Adam Hasner.  Needless to say, I was a little surprised when Adam called to ask me to join him, but I really enjoyed the opportunity.  He's got a good group of students at Lynn, has put together a fun course and I had a good bit of fun. I hope he'll invite me back next year.


More on Crist's base (or lack thereof)

This weekend, both the Times/Herald bureau and the Sentinel papers tackled this issue of Crist and his base.  Now that this is the political question de jour, I wanted to see if the data backed it up.

Yesterday's dismal Jacksonville Jaguars game provided the perfect opportunity.

I went back and looked at the Rasmussen data, starting in April of 2008.  I chose Rasmussen because it provided the most easily accessible data set (While I am not a big fan of robo-polls, I don't care for the R vs D polling company question- data is data, as long as it is collected using scientific standards). 

If I could figure out how to insert a chart, I could show this visually (still working on this). But generally, Crist has generally maintained a wide delta between his overall favorables and his very favorables.  

While his overall favorables has ranged from a low of 49 (twice 7/22/08 and 10/21/09) to a high of 74 (on 12/15/08), with two exceptions, his very favorables have never moved outside of a range from 14-19%.  Even if you factor in the two spikes (in Oct 08, his VF was 22 and in Dec 08, his VF was 34), his "very favorable" average is only 22, certainly not bad, but not worthy of the untouchable status that the media has given him over the years.

Moreover, even if every single point of very favorable came from his own party (which we know is not true), Crist's historic very favorables among Republicans would still be under 50%.  Hence, he has never really had a base.   For Crist, it was only a matter of time before he faced a challenge like this.

Can he still win?  Absolutely.  He is still one of the most popular public officials in recent Florida memory.  But without a doubt, it is going to require mustering all of his political skill and motivation to reintroduce himself to GOP voters and remind them why they have stood with him so many times before. 

Then he has to do it all over again in the general.



Top Ten Takeaways from 2009

Fortunately, politics had another slow week in Florida, so I will use this space for the obligatory end of year, top ten list.


10.  McCollum wants to sue over health insurance reform.  There is nothing particularly top tenish about this specific story, except that it highlights McCollum's clear strategy for election:  nationalizing the 2010 Gubernatorial election.  It may be the only play for a candidate who has run for office some 13 or 14 times in a year when it doesn't appear the electorate wants more of the same. 

9.  Jim Greer and the Florida GOP.   Personally,  I've never understood the choice or Crist's support for Greer, but I am sure glad he's around.  The bombastic and ever confident Chairman, Greer's greatest hits include proclaiming that Obama had no chance in Florida, renting his own plane to follow Sarah Palin around, while running up massive travel expenses, then losing the state in the Presidential election.  He then ran for Chair of the RNC after losing the White House and seats in Congress and the Legislature, floated his own name for Congress and suggested the President's motives in speaking to school kids was "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda."  Carl Hiassan couldn't have dreamed this guy up. 

8.   Barack Obama inaugurated President.  In a nation as closely divided as we are, competitive states are always special, especially when they are worth twenty-seven electoral votes.  Proof of the importance of Florida, the President has already made several stops in the state, including one that created an image that will partially define Florida's US Senate race, and another to deliver a large grant for green energy jobs.   Moreover, the President's election led to a budget stimulus package that bailed out the stateand created the impetus for the passage of commuter rail by the legislature.

7.  Commuter Rail passes.  As I wrote in Five Takeaways a few weeks back, the passage of commuter rail combined with the possibility of Florida receiving a significant high speed rail grant could redefine transportation in Florida, while creating tens of thousands of jobs.  It has also created a great wedge issue in the GOP Gov primary, between new Tea Party GOP types led by train opponent Paula Dockeryand more mainline GOPers, led by train supporter Bill McCollum.

6.  Obama Stimulus Bails out Florida budget.    It took them a week longer than allowed by the Constitution, but on May 8, the legislature passed a $66.5 billion budget, which thanks to some $5 billion from the federal stimulus package, averted many serious cuts--and real debate about Florida's budget and tax system. 

5.  Charlie's Not so Awesome Year.  Imagine being Charlie Crist.  Eighteen months ago, you thought you might be John McCain's running mate. Twelve months ago, you were unopposed for re-election and nearly 70 percent approval.   Six months ago, you raised 4.3 million in two months for the U.S. Senate race.  Now you are tied with a former State Representative whose support isn't much higher than his name-ID.  The big question:  Can you rally?

4.  Marco Rubio raises nearly $1 million in US Senate race.  Personally, I believe that most political process stories (polling, fundraising, staffing, etc.) are meaningless, other than to the circle of 500 people who live this stuff, with one exception:  Marco Rubio's 2009 third quarter haul.   The political world was writing off Rubio after his second quarter haul (case in point why process stories are not relevant), suggesting he might run for AG.   Then he raised a million, and now people are openly suggesting the race is over for Crist.  His money made him credible. 

3.  Public Corruption Arrests Rampant.  While news on the public corruption front focused on the case against former GOP House Speaker Ray Sansom, he was certainly not alone.  Prominent electeds in Broward and elsewhere received new professional photos, leading to a renewed call for tougher ethics laws.   One solution, proposed by Sen. Dan Gelber, would allow state attorneys to prosecute under honest services laws, which could open the door to many more investigations and arrests.

2.  Charlie Crist announces run for Senate.  The decision by Governor Crist to not seek re-election and instead run for the U.S. Senate has created the largest political domino effect in FL in generations.   Because of his decision, every statewide office will be on the ballot without an incumbent seeking re-election, something that hasn't happened in over 100 years.  History could look back at this cycle as the most significant in Florida since Chiles and Askew won in 1970.

1.  It's the Economy, Stupid. 


Near Misses:   Senator George Lemieux, Oil drilling, Florida to get one new Congressional Seat, the return of John Thrasher, Alex Sink outraising Bill McCollum.


Five Takeaways from the Week--Christmas Edition 

5.  Would You Like Grits or Potatos with your Waffles?  More egg for the Florida Department of Transportation this week as the stories about the breakfast-food coded internal emails regarding the central Florida commuter rail deal continued.  Now the Tampa Tribune is reporting that the DOT Secretary and other leading players in the investigation where communicating by Blackberry instant message, a form of communication that is much harder to track through public records.  Not a good revelation for an agency trying to argue that they weren't using words like "waffle" and "pankakes" to elude Florida's public record laws.

4.  Worst Week Ever: The Charlie Crist/Jim Greer Chronicles continued:  It was another bad week for Governor Charlie Crist and Jim Greer.  Crist announced this week that the Diaz-Balart brothers had withdrawn their endorsement, as Greer endured more calls for his resignation, efforts he called treason.  Things have gotten so bad that he even quoted my piece suggesting that a change in party chairs could be tough on the GOP as a justification for his remaining GOP Chair.    Thank God for Crist and Greer it was a short week.  However, for Greer, if he makes it another month, I'd be shocked. 

3.  More Sansom Troubles:  As the House gets ready to begin its hearings into former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom, new documents from the Governor's office clearly show that Sansom was behind the controversial airport hanger in Destin, though omits Jay Odom's involvement.  The St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald reports that the Governor's office document says: "According to House and Senate staff and the Department of Education, this is Rep. Sansom's project."

2. Florida to get One new Congressional SeatWhile nothing is confirmed, it looks as though Florida will gain one new Congressional seat after the 2010 census, bringing the total to 26 (Go Team 28!).  Last year, many were hoping that Florida would gain two, but slower growth rates brought it down to one.  Where that seat lands is the next great debate, though personally, I believe it will have to end up benefiting Central Florida, where the fast growth in Democratic leaning Puerto Rican voters will make it hard for GOP map drawers to create a new safe GOP seat.   One other note: with Ohio likely to lose two seats, Florida's role as the pre-eminent Presidential battleground state will only grow.

1.  God Bless the HolidaysFortunately, politics took a much needed break for a few days around Christmas (AMC's non-stop Griswold Christmas was much better than non-stop CNN).   Personally, my wife and I have enjoyed a few days in western North Carolina just getting away from it all) coming from a big family, my Holidays usually looks something like the Griswold family Christmas).  I hope you and your family are having a restful Holiday season and as we bring the door down on this year and decade, I leave you with this Holiday message from the Gelber kids.  Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!