Sunshine State News Blogs

Gov. Rick Scott will continue his statewide tour focused on jobs and job creation in Tampa tomorrow, per a press release from the governor's office.

In a more unique twist on inaugural celebrations, Scott's jobs-themed events will be informal evening barbecues hosted by Florida businesses and will highlight some of the state’s job creators. 

Scott has already made one stop in Miami as part of the "Jobs Jamboree" tour and will continue the tour in other cities like Jacksonville, Naples and Pensacola.

Wednesdays event will be held at 5:45 at USAA in Tampa.
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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., will step into the national spotlight this week as House Republicans push back at President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration while trying to avoid a government shut down.

Reports emerged out of Washington that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has agreed to let his caucus vote on Yoho’s proposal to prevent Obama from using an executive order to allow illegals a path to stay in the nation. When he unveiled his proposal in late November, Yoho insisted Obama was overstepping what the executive branch can do and hopes his “Executive Amnesty Prevention Act" will cut Obama off at the pass.

In return for letting conservatives in the Republican caucus vote on Yoho’s bill, Boehner has set the stage to pass an omnibus appropriations bill funding most of the federal government until September 2015 while funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which handles most immigration matters, until March through a continuing resolution. Conservatives might be able to defund Obama’s immigration action early next year as the GOP takes control of the Senate in January.

Yoho talked to the New York Times on Tuesday and said he did not expect the Senate, currently in Democratic hands, to pass his measure. However, Yoho insisted his bill will help undermine Obama‘s efforts.

“The simplest way this would work is, it will bring a stop to the action that the president wants,” Yoho told the New York Times. “He talks about how he has a pen and a phone. This will take the ink out of the pen.”


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Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, named former Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, as the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Gardiner also tapped Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, to lead the Fiscal Policy Committee.

“Each year we have a constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget,” Gardiner said on Tuesday. “Sound management and careful oversight of the year-round appropriations process is critical to meeting our obligation to craft our budget within the time-sensitive environment of a 60-day session.

“Having previously served as our Senate president, Tom has a great deal of experience and a keen understanding of the multifaceted appropriations process,” Gardiner said of Lee. “He will be a key member of the Senate leadership and will work to ensure all senators have the opportunity to play a role in drafting our state budget.

“While the committee on Appropriations will remain the primary vehicle to produce the General Appropriations Act, the committee on Fiscal Policy will provide an alternative path to the Senate Calendar for bills with a minimal fiscal impact,” added Gardiner before turning his focus to Flores. “I have served with Senator Flores for a number of years in the House, and now the Senate, and have witnessed her ability to manage complex policy and budget issues. Anitere is a strong leader and I am confident she will be an effective member of the Senate leadership in this important role.”

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Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad will be leaving his current post on Jan. 2. Gov. Rick Scott announced the departure on Tuesday and said the Florida Transportation Commission will start looking at candidates to replace him.

“Secretary Prasad has been part of my administration since the very beginning, and he has been pivotal to making sure we could make a record investment of over $10 billion in our transportation system this year,” Scott said on Tuesday. “Secretary Prasad has also helped Florida become a major force in international trade because of his commitment to expanding our Florida ports and airports. I am grateful for Secretary Prasad’s service to our state and we will continue making our transportation system a top priority as we select another excellent leader for this department.”

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Noting the Castro regime’s imprisonment of Alan Gross on espionage charges for helping the Cuban Jewish community get Internet access, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called for the Obama administration to do more to free him as she marked the fifth anniversary of his imprisonment.

“The commemoration of yet another shameful anniversary of the imprisonment of Alan Gross is once again disappointing and unacceptable,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Monday. “Mr. Gross’s mental and physical health have progressively deteriorated while imprisoned under the brutal regime that has no regard for the respect of human rights. The Obama administration must work expediently to secure the unconditional release of Mr. Gross and penalize the regime by tightening sanctions, as we continue to press for the release of Mr. Gross, and that of 11 million Cubans who are also subjected to the tyranny of the Castro regime.”

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Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in Washington, D.C., on Monday night, former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., promised a decision soon on whether he would run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 -- and insisted he would run on his own terms.

According to the New York Times, Bush said he was willing to stick to his guns and risk losing the “primary to win the general, without violating your principles.” That includes being “more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to be practical” instead of telling conservatives what they want to hear.

Bush has drawn fire from conservatives in recent months for his support of Common Core and immigration reform, including being critical of Arizona’s immigration law.

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U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced on Tuesday that he will not run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

“I have decided to run for re-election in 2016,” Portman said. “I am excited about continuing to serve, especially with the change in the Senate leadership.

“With the new Republican majority, I see a real opportunity over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington and actually get things done to help Ohioans and all Americans,” Portman added. “That's where I believe I can play the most constructive role. I don't think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time.”

Portman was not a factor in most polls and, on Tuesday, CNN released a new poll showing him trailing the other possible candidates with less than 1 percent. But hailing from one of the largest swing states, Portman should expect to be back in a familiar position come 2016: the shortlist of vice presidential candidates. Portman was considered by former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., to be his running mate in 2012.

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A new CNN/ORC poll shows former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., starts out the Republican presidential nomination fight with a slight lead if former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., does not run again.

Romney leads the pack with 20 percent followed by Dr. Ben Carson with 10 percent and Bush with 9 percent. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., takes 8 percent followed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., with 7 percent. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are tied with 6 percent. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., are knotted up with 5 percent each. Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, takes 4 percent while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pulls 3 percent. Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., take 2 percent each while two governors -- Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mike Pence of Indiana -- get 1 percent each. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who announced on Tuesday he will not run for president in 2016, takes less than 1 percent.

But when Romney is left out of the mix, Bush moves to the head of the pack. Bush takes 14 percent in that scenario followed by Carson with 11 percent and Huckabee with 10 percent. Christie and Ryan tie with 9 percent followed by Paul with 8 percent and Cruz with 7 percent. Perry and Walker get 5 percent each and Kasich and Rubio take 3 percent each. Santorum gets 2 percent, Jindal and Pence still pull 1 percent each and Portman lags again with less than 1 percent.

The poll of 510 Republicans was taken from Nov. 21-23 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent.

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Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, fleshed out the GOP leadership for the next two years, announcing his committee chairs on Monday.

Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who is scheduled to take over as speaker after the 2016 elections, will lead the Appropriations Committee. The various appropriation subcommittee chairs were named on Monday. Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchala, will take over the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations. Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, will chair Education Appropriations while Rep. Jeanett Nunez, R-Miami, will head up Government Operations Appropriations. House Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Hudson, R-Naples, will chair Health-Care Appropriations while Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, will lead Justice Appropriations. Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, will chair Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations.

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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) released a poll from On Message on Monday which shows how Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., was able to defeat former Gov. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., in last month’s general election.

The poll of Floridians who voted in November shows Crist and Scott ran close with Hispanic voters as 49 percent of them backed the Democrat while 47 percent supported the governor. Scott took 65 percent of Cuban-Americans while Crist only mustered 30 percent of these voters. Crist did better with Puerto Ricans, beating Scott among these voters 57 percent to 40 percent. Crist beat Scott among other Hispanic voters by the same percentage.

Scott took a majority of men -- 52 percent -- while Crist mustered 44 percent of these voters. Women went for Crist 50 percent to 44 percent.

Scott also took a majority of voters 66 and older, winning 52 percent of their votes. Crist garnered 45 percent of these voters. Scott took 51 percent of voters 55 to 65 while 45 percent of them backed Crist.

The poll of 1,000 Floridians who voted in the 2014 general election was taken from Nov. 10-12 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

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Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning and toned down speculation that he will run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

“I’ve thought about it, but no, I can’t get ready for 2016,” Patrick said. “I’ve felt it’s been two really challenging and fun terms but I didn’t run for the job to get another job. I ran to do this job.”

Patrick had been active on the campaign trail in 2014, including helping former Gov. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., in his unsuccessful effort to beat Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., in the Sunshine State.

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Newly-elected state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia announced Friday that he will be running against Leslie Dougher for the title of the chair of the Republican Party of Florida. 

Ingoglia has served as RPOF vice chairman since 2011 and Dougher was selected as the party's chairwoman in May.

The RPOF's next quarterly meeting will be held Dec. 5-6 in Tampa.
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On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott named Duval County Court Judge Angela Cox to replace former Chief Judge Donald Moran on the 4th Judicial Circuit, covering Clay, Duval and Nassau counties.

“As a county court judge, Judge Cox has demonstrated dedication to serving Florida families with dignity and integrity,” Scott said. “I am confident she will continue to honorably serve as a circuit court judge to families in the 4th Judicial Circuit.”

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Clifford Wilson will be interim secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as current Secretary Herschel Vinyard leaves his post on Dec. 1.

“Sec. Vinyard was instrumental in helping us protect Florida’s environment for future generations, and we are thankful for his service to Florida families,” said Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday. “As deputy secretary for regulatory programs, Cliff Wilson has helped lead DEP's efforts to protect Florida’s natural treasures. With his knowledge and experience, Wilson will ensure the department continues to support Florida’s environment.”

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Gov. Rick Scott and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Tuesday a saltwater license-free fishing day for Nov. 29.

On this day, Florida residents and visitors "can experience Florida’s unique saltwater fishing opportunities firsthand" without being required to have a recreational saltwater fishing license, according to a press statement from the governor's office.

Said Scott, “Florida is the fishing capital of the world and this saltwater license-free fishing day is a great opportunity to introduce friends and family to the joys of fishing during the holiday season. Florida has many natural treasures and I encourage all Floridians and visitors to head to Florida’s coast and experience Florida saltwater fishing.”

Florida offers eight license-free fishing opportunities a year, including four in fresh water and four in salt water.

An annual license for residents can be purchased at 1-888-FISH-Florida or at All fishing license fees are used to support Florida fish and wildlife conservation and help attain additional funding for Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration projects.

All bag limits, seasons and size restrictions apply on these dates. For fishing tips, locations and rules, visit

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U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for more sanctions on Iran, even as the P5+1 extended talks with that nation on its nuclear program after Monday’s deadline passed.

"A seven-month extension for 'negotiations' will provide Iran with $4.9 billion in sanctions relief and will give Iran valuable time to achieve its nuclear goals,” DeSantis said. “Iran has cheated on the interim agreement and has refused access to key nuclear facilities. Iran seeks a nuclear weapon, not admission to the diplomatic good graces of the so-called international community. The new Congress should put an end to this charade and enact enhanced sanctions that hold this nefarious regime accountable."

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Florida TaxWatch released an economic commentary on Tuesday showing holiday sales will be on the rise from last year but insisted online sales continue to hurt revenue.

"Florida's retail industry is alive and well, producing more jobs and bolstering state revenues, which enables our elected officials to fund necessary programs that benefit all Floridians," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch on Tuesday.

Jerry Parrish, the chief economist for Florida TaxWatch, said increased tourism will help Florida garner more revenue.

"Tourists visiting Florida have a huge impact on our state," Parrish said. "The tourism marketing investments Florida has made are paying off in many other industries, not just retail."

"Florida businesses lose out on sales and the schoolchildren and elderly residents who depend on programs funded through the state budget lose out on services, all because of Florida's antiquated remote sales law," Calabro said. "The businesses that are investing in our state's communities and providing jobs to hard-working Floridians should not be penalized, and consumers shouldn't face the burden of remitting their own taxes. It is past time to modernize the way Florida collects sales taxes."

The commentary can be read here.

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Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Sharon Helman was at the center of much of the firestorm that erupted after news emerged of altered waiting lists at VA medical centers across the nation. In Phoenix alone, at least 40 veterans on altered waitlists died while waiting for treatment.

On Monday, the VA announced Helman had been fired, bringing some applause from U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

“VA will never regain the trust of America’s veterans and American taxpayers until all of the corrupt senior executives who created the biggest scandal in the department’s history are held accountable to the maximum extent under the law,” Miller said on Monday. “Sharon Helman's removal is a positive step, but there are still many more VA scandal figures who also must be purged from the department's payroll in order for veterans and families to receive the closure they deserve."

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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, urged President Barack Obama to quickly replace Chuck Hagel, who is on his way out as secretary of defense.

“Through the Vietnam War, as a United States senator, and as secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel has devoted himself to our nation, and deserves our thanks," Crenshaw said on Monday night. "We only need look at the day-to-day headlines to understand that the world is a dangerous place. The Obama administration has no time to waste in putting forth a successor and well-defined national security strategy that will defeat the scourge of terrorism. America deserves nothing less."

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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Monday that Tim Cannon will lead the Florida Department of Corrections on an interim basis after Tim Crews resigned earlier in the day.

“Sec. Crews has worked hard to make Florida communities safer, and we appreciate his service to the state,” Scott said. “Tim Cannon has served at the Department of Corrections for over two decades, and his experience will provide the Department with the leadership necessary for keeping families and our correctional officers safe.”

Cannon is moving up from his current post as deputy secretary at Corrections. Before that, Cannon was assistant secretary of institutions and was the warden at Hardee Correctional Institution and Reception Medical Center (RMC).

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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led eight other Republican congressmen from Florida -- Ander Crenshaw, Ron DeSantis, Richard Nugent, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, Steve Southerland, Dan Webster and Ted Yoho -- in writing the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday. The congressmen took aim at proposed carbon emissions rules included in the Clean Power Plan (CPP) which, they insist, will lead to higher costs for Floridians.

“The EPA’s rule places a heavier burden on Florida than other states, despite the fact that Florida has reduced its carbon emissions by 20 percent since 2005,” Bilirakis said. “The CPP will result in Floridians paying more for their electricity. At a time when many Floridians are still struggling, they do not need their power costs increasing. We should be supporting an all-of-the-above energy strategy, unleashing America’s domestic, renewable and nonrenewable resources, to reduce the costs of groceries and the costs for heating and cooling your home.”

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From her perch as chairwoman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is not happy that talks with Iran on its nuclear program have been extended past the Monday deadline. Ros-Lehtinen called for Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran when Republicans take control of the Senate in January.

“The latest nuclear extension by the P5+1 defies logic because it illustrates that Iran is not serious about completely abandoning its nuclear program and only cares about gaining more access to funds to continue all of its nefarious activities,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “This is just a stalling tactic by the Iranian regime, and the Obama administration and P5+1 have fallen for it hook, line and sinker. There is no justification for offering an extension to the regime, in exchange for the status quo from Iran and its promise to continue with the negotiations. The regime never had any intention of reaching an agreement, and Rouhani has again bought Iran the time, and more importantly the sanctions relief it needs, to improve its economy and advance its nuclear program. This extension is nothing but folly, and the administration has failed to understand that the objective is to prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon and to dismantle and destroy its nuclear infrastructure, not simply pushing back its breakout time.

“The Obama administration should realize that the Iranians are not serious about these talks and should abandon the negotiations and with the Republicans in control of both the House and Senate come January, it’s time that we roll up our sleeves and get to work to pass new sanctions on the Iranian regime,” Ros-Lehtinen added.

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Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is calling on three Florida Republican congressmen -- Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan and John Mica -- to stand against increased wind subsidies. AFP is running ads in Florida newspapers urging the three congressmen to oppose these alternative energy subsidies.

“The lame-duck session has traditionally been a time when lawmakers sneak through big-government policies like these wind subsidies, thinking nobody is paying attention,” said Chris Hudson, AFP’s director in Florida, on Monday. “These ads are part of an effort to let Florida taxpayers know that billions have been spent on this corporate handout, yet this industry still hasn't made it in the market. Lawmakers have a chance here to signal that it's time to let the best affordable energy solutions work, rather than handing over more of our tax dollars to an industry that's had decades to deliver results to the taxpayer and failed."

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton starts out 2016 as the favorite to win the Florida primary for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Gravis Marketing unveiled a new poll this past weekend showing Clinton claiming 51 percent of Florida Democrats. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., stands in distant second with 18 percent followed by Vice President Joe Biden with 12 percent. Two governors -- Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Andrew Cuomo -- lag far behind. O’Malley takes 4 percent and Cuomo 2 percent.

The poll of 694 Florida Democratic primary voters was taken from Nov. 20-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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A poll released over the weekend shows former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., is the favorite son of Florida Republicans to be president in 2016.

Gravis Marketing unveiled a poll on Sunday which shows Bush out front with 33 percent followed by fellow Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio with 14 percent. Two Republican senators -- Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- are knotted up in third with 11 percent each.

The rest of the field is in single digits. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., takes 6 percent, just ahead of Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who claim 5 percent each. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., lags with 3 percent.

The poll of 811 Florida Republican primary voters had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

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A senior member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he was “saddened” that U.S. Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel is leaving the Obama administration.

“Chuck Hagel is a great patriot,” Nelson said on Monday. “And I believe he has been a very good secretary of defense. I’m saddened that the White House was unable to keep him.”

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, slammed the news that efforts to reach a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program have been extended past its Monday deadline.

“Iran was only brought to the negotiating table through tough sanctions and we need to once again increase the pressure on Iran in the weeks and months ahead to force the regime to abandon its nuclear weapons program,” Rubio said on Monday. “Papering over what appear to be significant differences and once again extending talks with Iran will not achieve the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free Iran. During the course of these negotiations, Iran has received billions of dollars in sanctions relief, bolstering its economy.

“The Iranian regime’s track record as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism and an abuser of the Iranian people has not changed,” Rubio added. “From the outcome of this latest round, it also appears that Iran’s leadership remains unwilling to give up their nuclear ambitions. None of this will change in the coming months unless we return to the pressure track that originally brought Iran to the table.

“Endless negotiations and additional concessions will not achieve the desired outcome of an Iran without nuclear weapons that is no longer a threat to its own people and its neighbors,” Rubio said in conclusion. “I will continue working in the Senate to significantly increase the pressure on Iran on all fronts -- nuclear, terrorism and human rights -- before it’s too late.”

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With Thanksgiving looming later this week, Florida TaxWatch noted on Monday that Floridians should give thanks for the Sunshine State not being one of 14 states taxing most groceries. Still, there are some grocery items which are taxed in the Sunshine State. Florida TaxWatch released a report on Monday showing which grocery goods -- from catered items to alcohol -- are taxed.

"Understanding Florida's tax laws can be very difficult for Florida shoppers, so Florida TaxWatch is helping taxpayers understand their tax obligations, and get a better sense of what they are buying this Thanksgiving," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Monday.

The report can be read here.

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Harold Ickes, a close adviser to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, spoke to the media on Friday and said if she runs for president in 2016, the Republican ticket that could give her the most problems would come from two perennial swing states: Florida and Ohio.

According to the Daily Beast, Ickes said Bush and Portman could win their home states and flip Colorado on Clinton, since the former Florida governor does better with Hispanics than most Republicans. But, as the article notes, a Bush-Portman ticket could cause headaches for conservatives as Bush supports Common Core and Portman backs same-sex marriage.

The article can be read here.


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A new poll shows former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., is a contender in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary, if former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., decides not to run for president in 2016.

A Bloomberg/St. Anslem College poll released Monday shows Romney remains the favorite in New Hampshire, which he won in 2012, with 30 percent. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., places second with 11 percent, followed by Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., with 9 percent, Bush with 8 percent and a gaggle of candidates polling in low to mid single digits.

But when Romney is taken out of the mix, Christie, Bush and Paul are all running close. Christie takes 22 percent when Romney supporters offer their second choice, followed by Bush with 20 percent and Paul with 19 percent. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., moves up from 5 percent to 8 percent while the rest of the field remains in low to mid single digits.

The poll of 407 New Hampshire Republican primary voters was taken from Nov. 12-18 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

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