President Obama will campaign Thursday and Friday in Florida, where polls show he is in a dead heat race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who will get a huge in-state stage for a few days next month at the Tampa GOP convention.
Obama will mostly be talking about the economy, reminding Floridians – as Gov. Rick Scott has been doing – that things are looking up and jobs are returning. Obama also will likely talk about the Bush-era tax cuts, which he is proposing to keep in place for most Americans. Obama will stump in battleground areas: Jacksonville on Thursday morning and West Palm Beach on Thursday evening. Obama will, however venture into heavily Republican Fort Myers on Friday and then hit Orlando. The campaign isn't saying yet where his Friday events will be, but the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday that Rollins College may be a stop.
Defense Cuts May Hit Florida Hard
Florida will lose nearly 80,000 jobs if Congress cannot agree on a deficit-reduction plan by the end of the year and automatic spending cutbacks kick in, according to a report released on Tuesday. The impact would be especially severe on scores of small military subcontractors in South and Central Florida, bringing another blow to the battered job market, defense industry analysts warned.
Marco Rubio's VP Chances Look Dim
Alex Leary offers another reason why Marco Rubio won't be VP: If Romney is vetting Rubio, he has not left footprints in an obvious spot: Tallahassee, where Rubio served nine years in the House, including two as speaker. No one from the Romney campaign - or anyone else this year - has requested documents from the House.
Despite suggestions Mitt Romney might pick a running mate this week, sources close to the Romney campaign tell the New York Daily News the working plan "has been to announce the pick after the Olympic Games, which begin next week and conclude Aug. 12 -- two weeks before the Republican convention in Tampa."
Is Connie Mack a Well-Dressed Lawbreaker?
CONNIE MACK: THE BROOKS BROTHERS CANDIDATE by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald and Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times
Connie Mack's Senate campaign charged nearly $470 for clothing at a Brooks Brothers in Jacksonville, FEC records show, an apparent violation of law.
"... It's the second issue that has come up with Mack. Earlier this year we reported how he has sent official House mail, paid for by taxpayers, to Florida residents far outside his district. That was a violation of House rules and a vendor, who took the blame, repaid the treasury. Subsequently, the Republican head of the Franking Committee said Mack was in the clear.
"Mack's campaign didn't name the staffer who allegedly made the questionable purchases. While the expenditure is small and the apparent violation minimal, the incident speaks to a broader problem with the Mack campaign, which spent more than it took in last quarter. Mack spent $863,757 but took in $779,7981 and has $1.4 million cash on hand. Bill Nelson hasn't yet reported, but as of last quarter he had $9.5 million cash on hand."
At a media avail on Tuesday, Mack refused to answer Tampa Bay Times' political reporter Adam Smith's questions, telling him: "When you decide to be a real journalist, I'll be more than happy to talk to you."
Chris Christie to Give Keynote Address at RNC Tampa
"The word is going out quietly to Republican activists across New Jersey: If you're going to the GOP convention in Tampa next month, be sure to be there by Tuesday night, Aug. 28, because Gov. Chris Christie is going to be giving the keynote speech that night," the New York Post reports.
Said one party activist: "We've been told that's the night to be there, that's when the governor is going to speak. They're saying he's the keynoter."
BUT: Republicans say that, contrary to these reports, Christie has not been confirmed as the keynote speaker. Neither the Romney campaign nor the Republican National Committee would confirm those reports.
Is Florida Spoiling for a Fight Over BP Money?
The payoff may be years away, but Florida stakeholders are already coordinating efforts to make sure the state gets its share of BP oil spill compensation in what could be the largest Gulf restoration effort in history, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.
Two weeks after President Barack Obama signed the RESTORE Act into law, organizations that are traditional opponents of each other are working toward the same goal of securing billions of dollars from the company for damage done by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which sent nearly 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf. It was the worst such spill in U.S. history.
Calling it an unprecedented opportunity to use private money for public good, environmental supporters say it should be used to restore and purchase strategic parcels of environmentally sensitive lands from willing sellers in the Big Bend and along the eight-county region most severely impacted by the spill.
The Facts Behind Jobless Claims
State economists have cast a cloud over Florida's sunny economy recovery picture, releasing data showing nearly 70 percent of the drop in the state's unemployment rate since December has been due to discouraged workers, reports the News Service of Florida.
The Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research estimated in a report Tuesday that Florida's unemployment rate of 8.6 percent would be 9.5 percent if workers who have stopped looking for jobs were added to the picture. The rate would still be lower than the 9.9 percent posted in December. The figures provide some analytical backup to anecdotal information that much of the state and national recovery is due to a smaller labor force and not to job growth. Florida releases its June unemployment rate on Friday.
County Medicaid Bills Shrink
The amount of money that counties will have to pay to the state in a controversy about Medicaid bills has been substantially reduced, according to the Florida Association of Counties via the News Service of Florida.
Lawmakers said early this year that counties owed $325 million in back payments, a figure that counties disputed. Counties are required to share a portion of the costs for certain hospital and nursing-home care for residents enrolled in Medicaid. But the association said on its website that the state has reduced the outstanding total to $172.3 million.
Officials from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration traveled to counties throughout the state after the legislative session to discuss the Medicaid bills. The association of counties said AHCA reduced the outstanding total because of issues such as being unable to verify the counties where some Medicaid beneficiaries live. The association and most counties have filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court challenging the constitutionality of a law aimed at recouping the money.