Bill Nelson

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.

Watch Bill Nelson rail against health care vote

Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a former state insurance commissioner, urged his colleagues not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, but to instead work on a bipartisan fix.

Nelson’s comments on the floor came before Senate Republicans approved a measure that would advance floor debate on the repeal-and-replace proposal.

Nelson: Trump elex info request would make it “so easy for Vladimir” to hack

Concerned about President Donald Trump’s elections inquiry, voters are asking county supervisors to yank them from the rolls, ostensibly more concerned about keeping their personal data private than giving up their rights to cast ballots.

The whole effort is on hold right now, at least until a judge weighs in on one of a handful of lawsuits about the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

NOTE: Secretary of State Ken Detzner hasn’t transmitted any information to the commission yet.

More than 40 states refused to give the commission all or part of the data requested, which included partial Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers.

Speaking to reporters in Tallahassee Friday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — who’s been a critic of Trump’s commission — questioned the rationale for demanding the data.

“Why should the federal government collect every state’s information in one place so anybody that wants to go and hack that information? It makes it so easy for Vladimir (Putin) to suddenly go in and find out all kind of personal things and all in one place,” Nelson said when asked for his thoughts on the elections commission.

“Let me tell you, only the most sophisticated systems — and even they’re not fool proof — cannot be hacked. Only the most sophisticated systems. And I’m telling you, you think yours is foolproof, somebody’s going to get a way to get through,” Nelson said. “This is true in our most important secrets in the country. In our intelligence community, they’re having that problem.”

Scott still silent on Senate run

The president may be urging him to make it official, but Gov. Rick Scott is remaining mum about whether he’ll jump into the race for the U.S. Senate.

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 7.38.28 AMAsked about a 2018 run by Erin Burnett, anchor of the eponymously named CNN show Erin Burnett OutFront, Scott said yesterday his focus remains on his current job.

“I’ve always said the same thing. It’s 2017. The race is in 2018. I won’t make a decision until later,” Scott said. “Politicians seem to worry about their next job. I’ve got like 570 days left in this job.”

Burnett raised the question because President Donald Trump tried to put his pal Scott on the spot Friday while they were in Miami announcing the president’s policy on Cuba.

“He’s doing a great job. Oh, I hope he runs for the Senate,” Trump told the crowd. “I know I’m not supposed to say that. I hope he runs for the Senate. Rick, are you running?”

Scott remained silent on Friday.

On Monday, during the CNN appearance, he didn’t get to discuss his economic-development trip to Connecticut or the pending impact of a tropical system brewing off the Florida Panhandle.

Burnett turned to Scott with questions about allegations of Trump’s taping conversations in the White House — “I have no idea,” Scott said — and the president’s Twitter usage.

“I think he’s out trying to get his message out,” Scott said of Trump’s tweets. “He’s used it to get his message out. When I’m around him, I’ve talked to him about health care, about Cuba. I was there a week-and-a-half ago about infrastructure. He’s very engaged in the issue of the day.”

Burnett corrected Scott when he offered the line that Trump has “100 million Twitter followers.”

CNN estimates Trump has about 32.4 million followers to his main Twitter account, while across all social media his reach touches 87 million followers.

Posted by Jim Turner