JACKSONVILLE, Florida – The last Florida GOP Presidential Primary debate will take place at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville tonight at 8:00 p.m. E.S.T. The debate will air on CNN and CNN en Espanol and is co-sponsored by the Hispanic Leadership Network and the Republican Party of Florida
Tonight will be the final opportunity for Mitt Romney to break Newt Gingrich’s momentum ever since Gingrich won the January 21st South Carolina Primary by double digits. After the withdrawal of Rick Perry just before the South Carolina primary, the field is down to to only four GOP candidates remaining: Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney.
Some of the Florida topics that may be brought up during this debate are the future of the U.S. Space Program at Kennedy Space Center, the U.S. housing crisis and unemployment which hit Florida especially hard, and off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
|Gingrich announces moon base during Space Coast rally.
It appears that Gingrich is trying to take the political lead when it comes to U.S. manned space flight. Gingrich met with aerospace industry representatives on Florida’s Space Coast yesterday and also held a town hall rally in Cocoa, Florida where he said, “By the end of my second term … We will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.”
But Gingrich isn’t the only Republican candidate making a stop on the Space Coast this week. Mitt Romney is scheduled to hold what his campaign calls a ‘Space Coast Event’ in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Friday at 5 p.m. at the Astrotech Space Operations, Inc. building, 620 Magellan Road. This event had been tentatively scheduled to previously take place in Titusville, Florida.
Rick Santorum has canceled his visit the Space Coast at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday to speak at a Tiger Bay Club luncheon in Viera, Florida. His campaign announced that Santorum will be leaving Florida after tonight’s debate.
All four candidates will have to balance their dual message of cutting federal spending while also supporting a U.S. manned space program during tonight’s debate. This will probably be done with the argument that U.S. supremacy in space is vital the the country’s national defense.
HOUSING AND ECONOMY:
Florida has remained in the top four states hardest hit by the housing collapse. Florida is a judicial foreclosure state with due process like any other lawsuit. This due process ultimately led to the discovery of widespread fraud on the part of some ‘foreclosure mill’ law firms, loan servicers, banks, and ultimately the mortgage securitization that took place on Wall Street. Not only do Floridians want their economy back, they want to see prosecutions of the perpetrators on Wall Street who caused so much widespread economic misery in this state.
This topic is where the Romney 2012 campaign continues to attack Gingrich in political ads and press releases. The overriding message that the Romney campaign is trying to convey is that Gingrich profited as an influence peddler for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while Floridians suffered from the housing collapse due to market manipulation by those quasi-governmental corporations.
But the housing issue cuts both ways. An anti-TARP Republican Florida voter doesn’t need to have a Master of Laws in Taxation to get upset about the recurring name of Goldman Sachs appearing in Romney’s tax returns. Both Romney and Gingrich supported bank bailouts known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program while Santorum and Paul came out against TARP.
During the last debate on Monday in Tampa, Romney referred to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as someone taking the lead in cracking down on fraud related to housing in Florida. Curiously, foreclosure fraud was one major issue left out of Romney’s press release when he announced that Bondi would become part of the Romney campaign team:
“Attorney General Bondi will serve as the Chairman of the Romney for President State Law Enforcement Relations Policy Committee. In that role, Bondi will help facilitate a dialogue and work to develop solutions for a variety of law enforcement issues that involve both federal and state agencies, including border security, human trafficking, illegal prescription drug distribution, and terrorism.”
It should also be noted that Bondi has come under sharp criticism by some Florida real estate attorneys and anti-foreclosure fraud groups as being too slow and unwilling to prosecute easily provable frauds committed by banks and their attorneys.
Here, the Republican candidates will have to balance a pro-energy, pro-job national Republican policy while trying to woo voters who just suffered the worst man made environmental disaster ever to hit Florida. This topic will probably generate unified attacks by the GOP candidates at President Obama’s refusal to go forward with the Keystone XL pipeline.
While the candidates have eaten a wide range of food from corn dogs to spaghetti at countless campaign stops in other states, noticeably absent are the plentiful photo ops of the candidates eating seafood freshly caught from Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Granted, only ten days are available to campaign in Florida versus months or weeks in the prior state primaries, and campaign food stops are time consuming – but a candidate’s seafood photos would quickly make their way around Florida sports fishing websites and message boards within the few remaining days leading up to Election Day (just don’t claim to have eaten over limit Red Fish like Governor Rick Scott mistakenly did last year).