2018 U.S. Senate race

Scott & Nelson: Is it a tie?

A pair of new polls show U.S. Sen Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott either neck-and-neck or give the long-serving Democratic senator an edge over the Florida guv, who hasn’t officially entered the race yet.

A Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey showed Nelson and Scott virtually tied at 45-44 percent (a result that’s within the poll’s +/- 4 percent margin of error). The match-up hasn’t budged much since October, when likely voters were evenly split, 44 percent, between the pair.

But in a competing poll, the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab shows Nelson with 48 percent, compared to 42 percent of respondents saying they plan to vote for Scott. Seven percent of the registered voters surveyed were undecided.

“Even though it appears Nelson has a reasonable lead in the poll, the election results will ultimately get determined by who shows up in November,”  Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF, said in a release. “Historically, Republicans have enjoyed a turnout advantage in midterms, but with the current mood of the country, and a large number of Republican retirements, Democrats are optimistic about an impending blue wave.”

Read more on the UNF poll here.

Hulk Hogan v. Scott: “Flat-out no” … for now

Clearwater resident Terry Bollea, better known as the retired professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, is already playing the politician.

Asked by celebrity media outlet TMZ if he will enter the U.S. Senate contest possibly take on Gov. Rick Scott, he gave the “no at this time” reply.


“Right now, this moment, it’s a flat-out no,” said Bollea, adding that he’d run as a Republican despite once supporting President Barack Obama, said. When prodded if he’d ever change his mind, Bollea added, “I’m saying no in this moment.”

The contest is being pushed by prominent Republican strategist Roger Stone.

Bollea said he “doesn’t want to run,” that he has a great life on the beach, but has been fielding calls about running for governor, U.S. senate and mayor.

Pointing to President Donald Trump’s success and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, another retired wrestler, Bollea predicted he’d win any contest.

“In the state of Florida, I got a feeling it wouldn’t be that hard,” he said.

By Jim Turner

Rick Scott to docs: Get involved. Somebody’s going to win the next election.

Addressing the Florida Medical Association last week, Gov. Rick Scott encouraged doctors to “get involved in the political process” because “somebody is actually going to win” the next election.

Scott, who’s leaving office next year due to term limits, noted that the legislative session that kicks off in January will be his last.

“I’ve got about 458, 459 days to go,” he told a group of doctors attending a day-long opioid summit in Tampa on Friday.

“I don’t say that because I don’t like the job. This is a great job. And there’s a lot of people trying to get it,” he joked, before giving the docs some advice.

“I would recommend that everybody get involved in the political process, because somebody is actually going to win. And it’s better that you’re involved in the process and you understand what they think and how they’re going to govern and you participate in it,” Scott told the physicians at the event hosted by the FMA.

The influential doctors’ group has a lot of clout in the Capitol, with a cadre of top-shelf lobbyists and a reputation for being able to kill legislation it views as unfriendly. The FMA’s PAC has contributed over $4 million to candidates and committees over the past six years, and that doesn’t include separate contributions made individually by doctors or their practices.

Scott, who’s mulling a run for the U.S. Senate next year, then went on to make a pitch for the job he’s done since he took office in 2011.

“If you like to try to have a positive impact on people’s lives, I don’t think there’s a better job than being governor of a state like Florida,” he said. We’ve been able to, because of people like you, we’ve added over 1.4 million jobs. We’ve paid off 25 percent of the state debt. I’ve cut 5,000 regulations. We have about 20,000 new jobs a month. We have about 350,000 people moving here a year. One hundred thousand of those people are moving from another country. We’re the best melting pot around. We’re at a 46-year low in our crime rate. So this state is absolutely on a roll. There is no place like Florida right now.”

Then he veered back to encouraging the docs to get involved.

“It’s really important that you guys are politically active because somebody will win the next election. If you’re not active, it might be somebody that you disagree (with), so I’d do everything you can to get the person that you believe in is going to do the right things for this state elected,” he said.

Scott on DACA: “I do not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents”

President Donald Trump is expected to reveal whether he will end DACA, the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program launched by President Barack Obama, on Tuesday.

The program allows undocumented individuals who entered the country before their 16th birthday to remain in the U.S. for two years.

Trump campaigned on a hard-line anti-immigration stance, but it’s unclear whether he plans to scrap the program or amend it.

In a statement released Friday evening, Gov. Rick Scott said that Obama was “wrong to address the Dreamers issue by Executive Order.”

But, the governor added, “I do not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents.

Scott is considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year, in a state where Hispanic voters can make or break elections.

Here’s Scott’s full statement:

“President Obama was wrong to address the Dreamers issue by Executive Order. He should have done it in conjunction with Congress, which is how we make laws in our democracy. But this issue must be addressed. I do not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents.

These kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream, and Congress must act on this immediately. I am encouraged by the approach Congressman Carlos Curbelo and Senator Thom Tillis are working on to address this problem.

I want to be very clear: I oppose illegal immigration, and everything else that is illegal. We must secure our borders and the federal government is irresponsible in not doing so. Every single bit of immigration policy becomes much simpler once we secure our borders and put an end to illegal immigration. We must also not allow so-called sanctuary cities to defy our nation’s laws and we must vigorously vet every potential immigrant. Failing to do that is irresponsible.”

Nelson-Scott in the crystal ball

Florida’s 2018 U.S. Senate contest still leans towards the Democratic incumbent, but that could change depending upon when — not if — Gov. Rick Scott jumps into the race, according to seers at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Here’s the latest summary of the contest from the school’s weekly online political newsletter called Sabato’s Crystal Ball released Thursday:

Even though Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is a proven vote-getter, Democrats are deeply worried about the likely candidacy of outgoing Gov. Rick Scott (R). There are two ways of looking at the potential Nelson-Scott matchup.

The first is that while Nelson has won his last two races by convincing margins, Scott barely squeaked by in his two victories in 2010 and 2014, failing to win a majority of the vote either time in what were optimal Republican years and despite dramatically outspending his rivals thanks to his immense personal wealth.

That’s the pro-Nelson view.

The pro-Scott view is that his personal largesse, combined with that of pro-Republican outside groups, could overwhelm the combined Democratic effort, and that Scott is arguably more appealing now than he was in 2010 and 2014 (Morning Consult pegged his approval recently at a decent 52%) and a more formidable Nelson opponent than the incumbent’s weaker challengers in 2006 and 2012.

Nelson is favored for now but this could be a Toss-up in the future.

One danger for Republicans is that if Scott decides to not get in, they may be without a backup plan, although the GOP bench in the state is strong. And it seems like the main question for Scott is not if he runs, but when he announces.

By Jim Turner

National Republicans target Nelson, en español

The National Republican Senatorial Committee doesn’t have a high-profile GOP candidate in the race — yet — but it’s  got a bullseye on incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

The national Republicans unleashed a Spanish-language radio ad in Miami, accusing  Nelson of having “aligned himself with communists and dictators.”

The ad equates Nelson’s support of President Barack Obama’s detente with Cuba to encouraging others like Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and notes that Nelson “even visited Hugo Chavez” in the now- embattled country.

It’s the kicker that really hurts: “If Bill Nelson supports murderers, I can’t support Bill Nelson.”

There’s been a lot of speculation that Gov. Rick Scott is preparing to run against Nelson next year, but Scott — who’s assembled a campaign team headed by Melissa Sellers Stone — hasn’t said yet what his plans are.

Here’s the translation of the radio ad:

Let’s see what’s happening in the world today
Look at this. Another horror in Venezuela.
Our government in Washington has to stop Maduro and his accomplices.
What has our Senator Bill Nelson done?
In the past, he has aligned himself with communists and dictators.
Look at him with Cuba. He supported Obama when he negotiated with the other terrorists, the Castro brothers.
When Nelson supports the Castros, that only reinforces and encourages others, like it did with Chavez and now with Maduro.
In 2005, Bill Nelson even visited Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
Here it says Nelson went to Venezuela to admire Chavez’s revolution.
If Bill Nelson supports murderers, I can’t support Bill Nelson.

Nelson sweeps through Panhandle


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson with supporters in Tallahassee Tuesday.

Congress has gone on its August recess, giving U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson the opportunity to spend two days working on something he’s specialized in throughout his lengthy career: retail politics.

Starting early Monday morning in Pensacola, the three-term Democratic senator hit more than a half-dozen spots in the Florida Panhandle before flying back to Orlando on Tuesday evening from Tallahassee.

After leaving Pensacola, Nelson made two stops in Walton County and two in Bay County,  and visited Bonifay and Chipley before winding up in Tallahassee.

He can tell you about dredging plans at the Port of Panama City as well as roads and a sewage plant “in desperate need” of repair in Esto, a town of fewer than 400 in Washington County.

But that’s classic Nelson, the Democrats’ only statewide office holder, who has never shied away from the rural conservative regions of the state even though voters there have become increasingly stalwart Republicans.

He’s comfortable in the Panhandle, a region where his great-great grandfather got off a boat in Port St. Joe and made his way to Orange Hill, a tiny farming community in Washington County.

He explained his campaigning style during his successful 2012 re-election campaign against former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers.

“People wonder why I do well in North Florida — where a lot of national Democrats don’t necessarily do well — because I work it like a dog,” Nelson said at the time. “I go into those little rural communities and hold those town hall meetings so that I can hear from them.”

The efforts don’t mean Nelson will carry many counties west of Tallahassee in his 2018 re-election bid. But based on his prior results, he can keep the vote close in places like Gulf and Washington counties and perhaps reduce the margin in counties like Bay.

Nelson is expected to face Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s formidable money and messaging machine next year, with some suggesting this will be Nelson’s greatest challenge.

Asked to give odds on next year’s race, Nelson demurred — sort of.

“I’m not one to go around and crow and huff and puff and beat my chest, but I know how to campaign. I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

By Lloyd Dunkelberger.