Sunshine State News Blogs

With the exception of the Skyway Fishing Pier, Florida State Parks will be open for free on Tuesday in honor of Veterans Day.

“This Veterans Day, I encourage all Florida families to get out and enjoy Florida’s natural treasures at our wonderful state parks,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “We also honor our veterans and thank them for their service and sacrifice they gave to protect our state and nation.”

“Veterans Day is a perfect opportunity to visit Florida’s award-winning state parks,” said Donald Forgione, the director of the Florida Park Service. “Spend the day hiking, biking or picnicking with a veteran – and most importantly, thank them for their service.”

The Florida Park Service noted that the Orman House Historic State Park in Apalachicola has a replica of the Three Servicemen Statue honoring Vietnam veterans in the Mall in Washington, D.C., but there are plenty of other state parks to pay homage to American veterans, including Olustee right off I-10 where the largest Civil War battle in Florida took place and the Dade Battlefield off I-75 which marked the start of the Second Seminole War.

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A prominent Republican congresswoman insisted the GOP will not accept a “weak deal” with Iran over its nuclear program.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, said on Friday representatives from the P5+1 meeting in Vienna at the end of last week should note the GOP would put American security first in any deal with Iran.

“As the P5+1 representatives meet today in Vienna to discuss the looming deadline for the Iran nuclear negotiations, it is imperative that they recognize that a Republican-controlled Congress will not accept a weak deal that threatens U.S. national security interests,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “As the author of the toughest set of Iran sanctions currently codified into U.S. law, my objective has always been, and will continue to be, Iran’s complete cessation of uranium enrichment and the dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program infrastructure, and that includes its ballistic missile program. If Iran continues to stall and balk on its enrichment program, the P5+1 needs to recognize Iran isn’t serious about giving up its nuclear weapons pursuit and should have the courage to walk away from the negotiations and work with the U.S. on implementing even tougher sanctions that will ultimately compel the regime to abandon its pursuit of the bomb.”

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Former Gov. Jeb Bush’s presidential prospects are increasingly the focus of the national media and he clearly has a big supporter in his brother, former President George W. Bush.

With a book on his father, former President George H.W. Bush, coming out on Tuesday, George W. Bush is in the national spotlight. Appearing on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, he said his brother was considering running and it was a “50-50” at the moment.


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No Labels, a group trying to claim the political middle and calling for bipartisanship, pointed to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's, D-Fla., big win over former state Rep. Carl Domino as a sign of optimism. Murphy drew the notice of former Gov. Jon Huntsman, R-Utah, the co-chairman of No Labels.

“"Problem solvers are going to set the tone in the 114th Congress,”” Huntsman said on Wednesday. ““With the end of the divisive nature of an election season comes a fresh start and real opportunities to solve some of the nation'’s most pressing problems. We'’re looking forward to working with members of Congress like Murphy as part of a growing, bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to take on the issues that we know have consensus,— like immigration and tax reform."”

Huntsman worked for President Barack Obama as ambassador to China. In 2012, Huntsman ran for the Republican presidential nomination, taking third place in New Hampshire but generally failing to make a dent in the primaries.There has been speculation that Huntsman could run again in 2016, either as a Republican or independent, but he has downplayed the possibility. 

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Despite former Gov. Charlie Crist going down to defeat, none of her party’s other Florida Cabinets even coming close to beating Republicans and losing seats in the Florida House, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant insisted her “bench is stronger” after the elections.

Tant sent out an email on Wednesday night to supporters admitting “last night's results weren’t what we’d hoped for” but they “will never stop fighting for the people of Florida.”

“Charlie Crist and Annette Taddeo ran a campaign of optimism and compassion for the people of Florida,” Tant wrote. “Against the most difficult challenges, for the most important reasons, Charlie and his team worked their hearts out. I'm so proud of them -- and so is every single Florida Democrat.

“But Florida Democrats aren’t resting,” Tant added. “Our bench is stronger today, with fresh faces to meet tomorrow’s challenges. We’re not giving up the fight, because the stakes are too high.”

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Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Adrian Wyllie finished far behind Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s general election but he insisted his team did “something extraordinary” in the campaign.

By noon on Wednesday, the state Division of Elections noted Wyllie pulled in 222,660 votes, just less than 4 percent of the total votes cast. Some polls in October showed Wyllie polling in the high single digits but he was pleased with his showing.

“I want to thank the 220,000-plus Floridians who took a stand with me and cast their vote for liberty in this election,” Wyllie noted late on Tuesday. “And, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the 3,000-plus dedicated campaign volunteers who achieved so much with so few resources. I am honored and humbled by your support.

“Though we didn't achieve our goal of victory, we accomplished something extraordinary,” Wyllie added. “We received more votes than any third-party candidate in Florida history, and we have laid the foundation that will eventually end the corruption of the two-party system.

“This is just the beginning of the Libertarian Party of Florida movement,” Wyllie insisted.

Wyllie is correct about his claim for winning the most third-party votes in Florida history. Ross Perot exceeded Wyllie’s take in Florida back in the 1992 and 1996 presidential races though both times he was an independent on the ballot, even as he championed the Reform Party’s cause in 1996. When he ran for the U.S. Senate in the 2010 general election, Crist had no party affiliation. Prohibition Party candidate Sidney Catts beat Democrat William Knott in the 1916 gubernatorial race but he only had 39,546 votes.

Wyllie far outpaced recent Libertarian candidates in Florida. Alex Snitker took just less than 0.5 percent in the 2010 Senate contest while former Gov. Gary Johnson, R-N.M., took 1 percent in the 2012 presidential race.

Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer was the Libertarian nominee in the attorney general race. He took 168,757 as of noon, just less than 3 percent of the total vote.

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On Wednesday, incoming Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, named Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, as Senate majority leader.

“Over years of serving together in the House, and now the Senate, I have witnessed Bill’s strong work ethic, innate intellect and willingness to tackle tough issues,” Gardiner said on Wednesday. “Bill has proven he has the support of our caucus and is ready to lead in this important role.”

“I know Bill will fight tirelessly to further the success of the Senate’s priorities, as well as those of our Republican caucus and Republican senators,” Gardiner added. “Together with our Democrat leader, Senator Joyner, Bill will work to ensure a smooth operation on the Senate floor where all Senators will have the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

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With Republicans taking over the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s elections, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential presidential hopeful for the GOP in 2016, called for backing a “reform agenda” he was pushing.

“Voters across the country have sent a clear message that they are not ready to give up on the American dream,” Rubio said on Wednesday. “The American people have elected a new crop of reformers to go to Washington, end the dysfunction and achieve real solutions to the many obstacles standing in the way of all people who are trying to achieve a better life.

“I hope President Obama will listen carefully to the message the American people sent him in this election, and work with Congress to solve the pressing issues facing all Americans. The American people deserve it,” Rubio added. “In the coming months, I look forward to working in a Senate Republican majority to advance the reform agenda I’ve presented this year to promote job creation and higher education, help people save for retirement, improve our anti-poverty programs, and rebuild and modernize our military to meet the challenges we’ll face throughout this century.”

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Will Abberger, campaign manager for Florida's Water and Land Legacy, released a statement Tuesday night thanking voters for their resounding approval of Amendment 1.

The amendment that will provide a third of the state's doc stamp revenues to buy conservation land for the next 20 years needed 60 percent of the vote but received 74.72 percent, or 4,218,651 votes.

"This should send a clear message to the governor and Legislature that Florida voters overwhelmingly support increased state funding for water and land conservation, management, and restoration," said Abberger.

“On behalf of our campaign, we especially want to thank each of the citizen volunteers from across the state who volunteered countless hours to raise awareness about the need to conserve Florida’s water and land."

His statement also made the following points:

  • Winning Amendment 1 would not have been possible without the support of millions of Floridians.
  • More than 4,000 volunteers worked to gather signatures for our petition and to educate voters about Amendment 1.
  • Over 400 diverse nonprofit and civic organizations and businesses endorsed Amendment 1, joining the campaign, endorsing Amendment 1.
  • Nearly 1 million Florida voters signed petitions to place Amendment 1 on the ballot.
  • More than 50,000 Floridians signed up to get involved in our Vote Yes on 1 campaign.
  • More than 20 editorial endorsements from Florida's leading newspapers endorsing Amendment 1.
  • "Over 50 respected elected officials at every level of government, Republican and Democrat alike, endorsed Amendment 1.
  • Over 4,500 individuals contributed to our campaign.
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Former Gov. Jeb Bush cheered Gov. Rick Scott who defeated former Gov. Charlie Crist in Tuesday’s election.

“Floridians made the right choice,” Bush said. “Congratulations to my friend Rick Scott on a well-deserved victory! Rick Scott delivered on the promises he made when he campaigned for his first term, and I know he will continue to work hard for our state every single day. Under four more years of Rick Scott’s leadership, Florida will remain the best place in the nation to live, work, start a business, raise a family and retire.”

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In his role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., was a constant presence on the campaign trail with Gov. Rick Scott in Florida in the final days of his battle with former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate despite spending most of his political life in the GOP.

On Tuesday night, after Scott beat Crist, when the smoke cleared, Christie was quick to congratulate the Florida governor.

“Gov. Rick Scott’s leadership in his first term brought Florida back from the brink, and with four more years to enact his low-tax, pro-jobs, pro-growth agenda, the Sunshine State’s future just gets brighter from here,” said Christie. “Gov. Scott’s message in this campaign was one of true progress, and his victory is a testament to the real results he has achieved for Florida. The Republican Governors Association congratulates Gov. Rick Scott on his re-election.”

Christie is a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

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Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo flipped a congressional seat over to the Republicans as he defeated U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., on Tuesday. Reports from South Florida note that Garcia has conceded to Curbelo.

With 88 percent of the vote in, Curbelo had 52 percent while Garcia had 48 percent. After two defeats running for Congress, Garcia beat U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., to claim the seat in 2012. Curbelo beat Rivera and other candidates back in August in the Republican primary.

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Amendment 2, a proposal to expand medical marijuana use in the Sunshine State, failed to meet the 60 percent threshold to be added to the Florida Constitution. The proposal came up short, reaching 57 percent at the polls.

Tom Angell, the chairman of the Marijuana Majority, said some of the blame falls on Amendment 2‘s campaign which showcased prominent trial lawyer John Morgan.

"While it's disappointing that patients in Florida won't be able to find legal relief with marijuana just yet, tonight's result does show that a clear majority of voters in the Sunshine State support a new direction,” Angell said on Tuesday night. “We didn't get the 60 percent needed to pass medical marijuana as a constitutional amendment, but patients and their supporters will keep pushing until the law reflects what most voters want. The campaign this year faced several key challenges, including that it took place during a midterm election in which turnout dynamics don't favor marijuana reform. Next time medical marijuana is on the ballot, organizers should put patients and medical professionals at the forefront of the campaign rather than relying on a well-meaning but much less sympathetic political donor as the chief spokesperson."

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Democrat Gwen Graham was a rare bright spot for her party on Tuesday as she defeated U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla.

With 98 percent of the vote in, Graham, the daughter of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., took 51 percent of the vote while Southerland pulled in 49 percent. Southerland first won his congressional seat in 2010.

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Gov. Rick Scott won a second term as governor of Florida on Tuesday, besting former Gov. Charlie Crist who, after spending most of his political life as a Republican, won the Democratic nomination in the primary.

With 97 percent of the vote in, Scott had 49 percent and Crist garnered 46 percent of the vote. Sunshine State News is calling the race for Scott. With a lead of more than 122,000 votes, Scott will win as Crist can only make up between 90,000-100,000 votes in South Florida counties where some of the vote is still outstanding.

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U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., kept his congressional seat on Tuesday though by a smaller margin than he won in 2012. With 96 percent of votes in, Grayson took 54 percent while Republican Carol Platt stood with 43 percent. Marko Milakovich, who was running with no party affiliation, took 3 percent.
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Winning his seat in a special election earlier this year, U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., is headed back to Washington after his win on Tuesday over Libertarian Lucas Overby. With 96 percent of the vote in, Jolly had 75.5 percent while Overby took 24.5 percent.

“I cannot express my gratitude enough for the support and confidence that you have continued to place in me to represent you, and the people of Pinellas, in the United States Congress,” said Jolly. “It is because of your support that we have been able to accomplish so much already for our Pinellas County community, and I look forward to continuing to advance policies in Congress that are right for the future of our nation and our district.”

“I pledge to honor your trust by working tirelessly with a commitment to serve everyone in our community, to advance common-sense constitutional principles and with a spirit of advocacy that every voter should expect of their representative,” Jolly added. “We are in this together. And, together, we can continue on this path of advancing and supporting our Pinellas County interests in Congress.”

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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater cruised to an easy victory in his re-election campaign on Tuesday.

Atwater clinched the win over Democrat William Rankin, taking 59 percent of the vote as of publishing time. Rankin took 40 percent.

Atwater’s win doesn’t come as a big surprise -- he was heavily favored in several polls to stay in Tallahassee as Florida’s CFO.

Rankin, a 54-year-old businessman from Delray Beach, switched from being a Republican to an independent in 2004 and eventually registered as a Democrat in 2012.  Despite his party affiliation, Rankin didn’t enjoy much support from the Democratic Party -- he was repeatedly left out of many Democratic campaign events and failed to raise significant cash for his campaign.

Atwater, on the other hand, has been a prominent figure in Florida politics for nearly 15 years. In 2000, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. In 2002, he ran for the Florida Senate against Democrat Bob Butterworth. Atwater eventually served as Senate president from 2008-2010. When former CFO Alex Sink decided to run for governor in 2010, Atwater made his first run to replace her, defeating state Rep. Loranne Ausley by a whopping 57 percent.
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U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., represents a district where Republican voters outnumber Democrats. But, on Tuesday, Murphy scored a big win over Republican hopeful former state Rep. Carl Domino. National outlets called the race for Murphy who, with 15 percent of the vote in, took 60 percent while Domino trailed with 40 percent.
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With 43 percent of votes in, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., will continue his time on the Florida political stage. First elected to Congress in 2000 after a long career in Tallahassee which saw rise to become president of the Florida Senate, Crenshaw won big on Tuesday, taking 78 percent of the vote. Crenshaw did not face a Democratic foe but did have two challengers running with no party affiliation: Paula Moser-Bartlett who took 16 percent and Gary Koniz who garnered 6 percent.
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First elected to Congress in 1992 and representing the most Democratic district in North Florida, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., won another term on Tuesday. With 4 percent of the vote in, national media outlets called Brown a winner over Republican challenger Glo Smith. Brown stood with 64 percent of the vote while 36 percent backed Smith.
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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who won a North Florida congressional seat in 2012 in one of the biggest upsets in Florida political history, kept his seat with ease on Tuesday. National media outlets called the race for Yoho who, with 4 percent of the vote in, took 62.5 percent of the vote against Democrat Marihelen Wheeler who took 35 percent. Term limits activist Howard Lawson, who was running with no party affiliation, took 2 percent.
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In addition to covering the elections at the site, your humble blogger will be offering insights and analysis on the radio on Tuesday night. Tune into 1300 WMEL which can be heard all across the Space Coast where Ed Dean will be covering the elections on Tuesday night. I'll be joining Ed and his panel of guests throughout the night to offer updates. 

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Democrats have the advantage in Duval County by almost 5.5 percent but Republicans are currently outvoting them by almost 9,000 votes, giving the GOP a leg up of more than 4.5 percent, by 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

The question is, will this help Gov. Rick Scott stay in office against former Gov. Charlie Crist. Scott beat Democrat Alex Sink by 6 percent in Duval County back in 2010 so it’s certainly in the ballpark. Whatever the final tally is in Duval, neither of the two congressional representatives -- Republican Ander Crenshaw and Democrat Corrine Brown -- will be sweating it out on Tuesday. Nor will any of the state legislative delegation who are all expected to win easily.

But keep an eye on Jacksonville and the area in the weeks to come. All eyes will be on the First Coast in the special elections resulting in the aftermath of Sen. John Thrasher’s, R-St. Augustine, expected vacating of his state Senate seat to lead Florida State University (FSU) and for an already vacant state House seat. Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is running for a second term with the likes of former Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman Lenny Curry trying to knock him off. This is one part of Florida which will simply shift from one election to another.

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It's dark, dreary and windy in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Tuesday and those counties have already been wet with rain.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist's hopes to return to Tallahassee pin on the chances that those blue county voters will turn out to the polls for him, especially given the deficit he's already seeing in Democrat vs. GOP voter participation.

Will the storm clouds and their chance of rain keep voters home in those all-important counties where Crist has spent the most time and money? 

Around 3 million voters had already turned up to the polls even before Election Day, with the GOP leading in absentee and early voting by 3.3 percent. But Crist will need to rely heavily on Democrat voters turning out at a higher rate than Republicans. Judging on previous elections, that scenario isn't too likely as GOP turnout tends to always be higher than Dems. 

Polls close at 7 p.m. 
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Former Gov. Charlie Crist is getting a little help from the president himself this Election Day -- on Tuesday, President Barack Obama featured in a new radio ad urging voters to cast their ballots to send Crist back to Tallahassee. 

The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that the ad has been airing since Monday on a Miami radio station. 

"If you want to raise Florida's minimum wage, go vote," Obama says in the ad. "If you believe that every child deserves a fair shot, and that it's wrong to cut scholarships and funding for schools, go vote. If you want a governor who will fight for you, not just the wealthy and the powerful, go vote for Charlie Crist."  

Virtually every poll has Crist and Gov. Rick Scott in a dead heat. Voting ends at 7 p.m. ET.  
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Roll Call released its updated list of the 10 most vulnerable congressional incumbents over the weekend and two Florida congressmen made the list.

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., placed No. 3 on the list. Roll Call notes:

Garcia’s re-election was always a concern for the national party, but his bid took a rough turn in 2013, when two former staffers garnered horrific headlines amid a voter fraud scandal.

For a most of the cycle, Garcia seemed to stabilize the situation with his powerhouse fundraising, and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo did himself no favors when he compared Social Security to a Ponzi scheme.

But as national Democratic operatives pored over October internal polling, Garcia’s name rocketed to the top of their “worry lists.”

In the end, operatives from both parties say that Garcia’s saving grace may be GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s anticipated down-ballot drag in Garcia’s South Florida district.

Rating: Tilts Republican

U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., ranked fifth. Roll Call notes:

Democrat Gwen Graham waged a fierce campaign against Southerland, and he had no room for error this cycle.

But he made more than a few mistakes. Southerland hosted a controversial male-only fundraiser. Subsequently, his campaign bore the brunt of Democrats’ “War on Women” attacks.

Even so, both national parties are downplaying expectations in North Florida.

Rating: Tossup

The rest of the list can be read here.

H/t Politicalwire.

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Former Gov. Jeb Bush went to bat for Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Monday at a rally in Sarasota. Putnam is a favorite to beat Democrat Thad Hamilton on Tuesday.

“We need to elect conservative leaders who believe in limited government, believe in entrepreneurial capitalism and believe that individuals acting together can create a better America,” Bush said on Monday. “One of those people we need to elect is a great friend and a spectacular leader, and his name is Adam Putnam.”

Putnam called on voters to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and, of course, himself, noting they presided over an economic turnaround.

“After the New York Times and Time Magazine wrote Florida’s obituary during the height of the recession, conservative leadership in Tallahassee cut unemployment in half, paid off $4 billion in debt and put another $3 billion in the bank,” Putnam insisted. “If given another four years, we can help secure Florida’s future – and make sure Florida’s residents have a shot at the American dream.”

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Gov. Rick Scott will be teaming up with Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday to make his final push for his second term in Tallahassee. 

Perry will join Scott all over the state, making stops in Miami, Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Pensacola. 

The governor's race between Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist is set to be a nail-biter -- both candidates have been traveling statewide with other high-profile politicians -- last week, former President Bill Clinton attended rallies for Crist while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a stop in Ormond Beach to show his support for Scott's re-election.
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., made his final pitch to conservatives across the nation on Monday as the GOP hopes to flip the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s elections.

“Barack Obama and Harry Reid have made our nation less safe and less prosperous,” Rubio emailed supporters of his Restore America PAC. “Obamacare is a disaster. Regulatory agencies are out of control.

“We're working hard to take back the Senate,” Rubio added, pointing to “candidates like Scott Brown in New Hampshire, Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Joni Ernst in Iowa, and Cory Gardner in Colorado” he thinks will win on Tuesday.

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