02/29/2016 06:58 AM EDT

By Marc Caputo ([email protected]; @MarcACaputo) with Kristen East ([email protected]; @kristenicoleast)

VOTERS ARE VOTING!!! Your daily reminder that voting in Florida’s presidential primary is going on now, even though Election Day is March 15. More than 516,000 people cast absentee ballots by Friday morning in the presidential race, 276k by Republicans (54%) and 240k (46%) by Democrats. There are more registered Democrats in FL, but they tend to vote in heavier numbers during in-person early voting before Election Day. Republicans generally prefer absentee ballots, relatively speaking. The top counties for casting absentee ballots (Republican and Democratic ballots only): Pinellas (60,000); Miami-Dade (47,000); Lee (44,000); Hillsborough (32,000); Broward (25,000) and Orange (21,000). Florida has a closed primary, so independents can’t vote in the presidential race. There are some local races in some counties. Including those independent ballots cast in those races, about 530k people have voted.

EVEN MORE VOTING — Today’s number of absentee ballots totaled should be a lot bigger because Monday’s count includes ballots that arrived over the weekend and the election is getting closer. Also, early in-person voting begins today in Baker, Calhoun, Charlotte, DeSoto, Duval, Hendry, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Liberty, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Polk, Santa Rosa and Taylor counties. The rest of the state’s counties begin in-person early voting March 5. In-person early voting ends March 12 in many counties, although some of the larger counties will keep polls open March 13 as well. County list is here: http://bit.ly/1KVVqO4

Good Monday morning. And happy Leap Year Day. The budget is grinding to a close in Tallahassee and Gov. Scott, at least right now, isn’t getting the tax and economic-incentive package he wants. Bill Clinton was in Miami yesterday and Rubio, Trump and Hillary are heading to South Florida to be here on Super Tuesday. And a new Rubio is born on the campaign trail, one who goes insult-for-insult with Donald Trump in the hopes of making it a one-on-one race.

RINGMASTER RUBIO – “Rubio Funny, Exciting, and Emotional in Virginia,” by The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren : “At one point, a pair of protesters behind the stage held up signs that read ‘Rubio is an empty suit.’ As the crowd booed and one overzealous Rubio supporter tried to rip one of the men’s signs, the candidate laughed it off. He opened his suit jacket to look inside.

“My suit wasn’t made in China,’ he deadpanned. ‘It’s not a Trump suit!’ As the protesters continued to shout, and before they were escorted out, Rubio kept going. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the valedictorian of Trump University!’ he said to loud cheers and laughter.” http://tws.io/1QnkBWD

LOW BLOW – From a speech Rubio gave later in Virginia on Trump for making fun of him for sweating: “He doesn’t sweat ’cause his pores are clogged from the spray tan that he uses. Donald is not going to make America great. He’s going to make America orange. … He’s always calling me little Marco. And I’ll admit. He’s taller than me. He’s like 6’2,” which is why I don’t understand why his hands are the size of someone’s who’s 5’2.”…

“And you know what they say about men with small hands? You can’t trust ’em.http://bit.ly/1Qmq0AC

– “On the Campaign Trail: G.O.P. Race Grows Cruder and More Aggressive,” by The New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters and Ashley Parker: http://nyti.ms/1Lp5yyJ

–@NateSilver538: “Rubio is getting about 2x Ted Cruz’s Google search traffic since the debate; usually they’re about tied. http://bit.ly/1QbiJ5p

Harry Enten @ForecasterEnten: “Media declaring Rubio is in the gutter seems to forget that Trump has been in the gutter for how many months and is *WINNING*.”

WHAT TOOK SO LONG? The pearl-clutchers aside, many Republicans who despise Trump have one overriding question for question for Rubio: What took so long? For starters, all the campaigns and their super PACs saw the GOP presidential primary race as one that would become a contest between Trump and the not-Trump candidate. So they all effectively left Trump alone as they battled each other to see who could become number 2. That might be the biggest strategic miscalculation they all made. Now the field is smaller and Trump looks like he’s closer to cinching the nomination. Here’s how Rubio World (right or wrong) sees how it got here:

HOME-COURT DISADVANTAGE – Rubio started the election at a disadvantage: his home-state money and infrastructure were hoovered up by Jeb Bush. And then some of that money (a lot) was used by Bush’s super PAC to attack Rubio. Ted Cruz and Chris Christie pitched in. So why would Rubio attack Trump, too, when he already had his hands full? Much of Rubio’s super PAC money was used to defend the candidate. So the answer Rubio World has to the establishment is: Why didn’t you clear the field earlier?

NEW HAMPSHIRE FLUB & SC COMEBACK – As the anti-Rubio spending started to peak in NH, Rubio self-inflicted the most damage on his candidacy when he crashed and burned at the debate there. Attacking Trump had to wait. Not only was Bush alive for one more race, but Cruz was close to second in SC. Rubio needed to stop them both. Rubio won second there as well as in NV. So in the campaign’s eyes, with three second-place finishes, he’s the alternative to Trump (something Cruz World finds laughable, considering he’s the only candidate to beat Trump, in Iowa).

THE CHANGE — Rubio knew from Bush and Cruz that attacks on policy don’t work with Trump. And the cable networks don’t care. But insults? Oh, that means news coverage. Whether this works or not is another matter; Trump is expected to win big Super Tuesday and Rubio could come in second or third again and trail Trump and Cruz in delegate counts. And some are tut-tutting about Rubio’s tactics….

–@MarcACaputo: “Democrats on CNN seem to agree Rubio shouldn’t try to emulate Trump. Under game theory in a GOP primary, it means he should”

–Kellyanne Conway @KellyannePolls: “..I prefer the Rubio of 72 hours ago, not ridiculing spray tans & speculating about bodily fluids. Unpresidential”

–@MacStipanovich: “…This Rubio may not win but the other Rubio was going to lose….”

–@ananavarro: “In politics today: On D side, Hillary gave best speech of her campaign. On GOP side, Trump & Rubio engaged in a ‘Yo Momma’ contest. Not good”

–jon gabriel @exjon: “The point of Rubio’s mockery isn’t simply ridicule. It’s to provoke Trump into bad decisions. It’s working like a charm.”

DELEGATE PROJECTION — “Breaking down the GOP’s Super Tuesday map,” by POLITICO’s Kyle

–CNN’s John King on likely Super Tuesday delegate allotment: Trump 344; Rubio 187; Cruz 183 (w/TX win); Kasich 12 http://bit.ly/1Tg2zM5

— “Inside the Republican Party’s desperate mission to stop Donald Trump,” by The New York Times’ Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin, all Politico alums: http://nyti.ms/1QaKI5h

** A Message from Nuclear Matters: Nuclear energy plants play a vital role in achieving our clean-energy and carbon-reduction goals. Florida&;s nuclear energy fleet supports more than 2,270 jobs and provides $1.9 billion to the state&39;s GDP. Learn more at NuclearMatters.com. **

TRANSPARENCY. SORT OF — “Rubio, Cruz release partial tax returns,” by POLITICO’s Brian Faler: Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have repeatedly demanded that front-runner Donald Trump release his tax returns, but both stopped well short of fully disclosing their own returns. Each on Saturday released brief summaries of their recent returns that described their income and tax bills in broad terms, but both provided few details on things like which deductions they claimed and why, or how much they gave to charity. That may undermine their repeated demands that Trump provide his returns, something he’s refused to do because he says he’s being audited. http://politi.co/1XSgebb

–@RichardRubinDC: “Since he was elected to the Senate, Rubio has paid the IRS over $18,000 in interest and penalties: http://on.wsj.com/1LmkRZ3 via @WSJ”

–Says the left (American Bridge): “What is Marco Rubio hiding by not reaching the bar he’s setting for Trump and releasing his full tax returns?"


— “Rubio to campaign ‘as long as it takes’ to beat Trump,” by POLITICO’s Eli Stokols: http://politi.co/1SaN9av

— “Trump mocks Rubio, Romney,” by POLITICO’s Nolan D. McCaskill: http://politi.co/1OBh2Km

— “Rubio suggests Trump wet his pants on debate stage,” by POLITICO’s Eliza Collins: http://politi.co/1n1sgS6

— “Conservative Hispanics back Rubio,” by POLITICO’s Eliza Collins: http://politi.co/1QFq5uZ

–“Marco Rubio Says It’s Unfair For His Surrogates To Know About His Accomplishments,” by Huffington Post’s Igor Bobic: http://huff.to/1oHxZgX

–“Marco Rubio Blames The Media For The Rise Of Donald Trump,” by Huffington Post’s Sam Stein: http://huff.to/1QPS9Ce

— “New anti-Trump ad hits him for hiring undocumented immigrants,” by POLITICO’s Nolan D. McCaskill: http://politi.co/1LOkJfL

–“Rubio super PAC launches fresh attacks on Trump,” by POLITICO’s Eliza Collins: http://politi.co/1RyiOk3

‘HIJO DE MIAMI’ – Conservative Solutions is also boosting Rubio in Spanish-language ads that began airing Friday in Miami: http://bit.ly/21tWdgt

KRAZ, KRAZY, KRAZY – “Trump declines to condemn Ku Klux Klan: Later, however, he said he had previously rejected support from David Duke,” by Kristen East: http://politi.co/1LnHqwv

–@marcorubio : “We cannot be a party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.”

STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED — “The laughable idea of Vice President Rick Scott,” by The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam C. Smith: “Okay, I’ll bite. With all due respect to Chris Cilizza and Bill Cotterell, who have suggested recently that Florida Gov. Rick Scott could make a logical running mate selection for Donald Trump, that idea is utter nonsense. There may be worse choices for Trump’s vice presidential nominee, but I struggle to think of many. … Okay, Bill Cosby. Perhaps someone from Trump world is floating this notion with an eye toward playing Scott for an endorsement the way McCain played then-Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008, I don’t know. But ask yourself what putting Rick Scott on the ticket gets Trump.” http://bit.ly/214sPbm

“After Chris Christie, Will Rick Scott Be the Next Governor to Betray the Republican Party?” BY PJ Media’s Henry Gomez: http://bit.ly/1UsYbbR

SUPER TUESDAY SPOT — “Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio all converging on South Florida to await Super Tuesday results,” by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Anthony Man : “Trump will be in Palm Beach County, where the New York developer lives part time at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. Clinton will be at Ice Palace Films Studios, 1400 N. Miami Ave., in Miami as she awaits returns from states holding Democratic primaries and caucuses on Tuesday. Rubio will be at the Ronald Reagan Equestrian Center at Tropical Park, 7900 SW 40th St. in Miami.” http://bit.ly/24vU17e

–Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn headlines the official opening/kickoff ceremony Wednesday at 6 p.m. of Hillary Clinton’s Tampa field office. Location: The Cuban Club (bottom floor) 2010 N Avenida Republica De Cuba.

MINORITY VOTES MATTER — “Minority voters help Clinton dominate Sanders in Florida poll,” by POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo: The strong minority support underpinning Clinton’s 54-24 percent lead over Bernie Sanders in the University of North Florida poll bears a resemblance to her outsized backing by black voters in South Carolina, where the former Secretary of State beat the Vermont senator by taking an astonishingly high 74 percent of the vote in that state.

Clinton’s support with African-Americans was highest over Sanders, 67-12 pe
rcent. Hispanics favored her over Sanders by 66-22 percent. Non-Hispanic white voters backed her 48-30 percent, according to the poll. http://politi.co/1XTVorV

BIG DAWG RETURNS – “Bill Clinton and black officials highlight policing issues at Miami Hillary event,” by POLITICO Florida’s Joey Francilus : “Former president Bill Clinton stumped for his wife in Miami’s largest black suburb Sunday ahead of early voting Monday in Florida’s largest county…. Clinton invoked the rash of youth shootings in Miami’s inner city and the endorsements of the families of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.

“The shooting death of six-year-old King Carter should be more than enough to remind us that we are not just divided by income in America," he said. "We’re always divided by income inequality. We get that. The question is, what are we going to do about it?” http://politi.co/1OGua0N

FL MAN V. FL WOMAN — “Roger Stone Responds To CNN Banning Him And Details How A Trump Campaign Would Beat Sanders,” by The Daily Caller’s Alex Pfeiffer: “Media Matters announced Tuesday that it received a statement from CNN that Stone [a Fort Lauderdale resident] will be banned from appearing on the network due to tweets featuring disparaging comments toward TV political analysts Ana Navarro [a Coral Gables resident] and Roland Martin.” http://bit.ly/1piSkK6

–@realDonaldTrump: “. was just banned by @CNN – their loss! Tough, loyal guy.”

DL REFORM DOA? — “Some Florida lawmakers want reform of driver’s license suspensions,” by the Sun-Sentinel’s William March: “As the Florida legislative session nears its end, some lawmakers are in a race against time to correct what they say is an injustice to the working poor: the suspension of driver’s licenses for reasons unrelated to driving violations. License suspensions can result from a minor infraction and can lead to thousands of dollars in debt as collection charges pile up and people can’t get their licenses back, said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. ‘The stories are heartbreaking of individuals who got a minor fine or a fee and it snowballs,’ Brandes said. ‘Then they can’t get to work or get their kids to day care,’ without risking more fines for driving with a suspended license.” http://bit.ly/1SaOb6u

PROFILE OF A DARK HORSE — “‘Street fighter’ Beruff vies for Senate seat,” by Herald-Tribune staff: “Those who spoke to the Herald-Tribune characterized [GOP Senate candidate Carlos] Beruff as a ‘street fighter,’ an unforgiving foe and hard-nosed negotiator who bulls his way toward his goals, steamrolling critics and opposing viewpoints. He doesn’t hesitate to use the courts to get his way and battled through two recessions to become one of the wealthiest homebuilders in Southwest Florida.

“But those who have been on the other side of Beruff’s business and political tactics see him as an opportunist, motivated more by greed than conviction. They point to examples such as his handling of the SCF president as an abuse of power. Companies he co-managed defaulted on more than $40 million in loans along the way and contributed to the demise of at least one bank.” http://bit.ly/1TLyCmT

— “Beruff could benefit from Cuban heritage in U.S. Senate race,” by Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson: http://bit.ly/1SaOnT7

— “Remembering the last time a U.S. president visited Cuba,” by Miami Herald’s Glenn Garvin: http://bit.ly/1UsO2vu

NOT SO RED — “Cuban-American vote no longer a GOP given,” by The Arizona Republic’s Dan Nowicki: “At first glance, the Little Havana neighborhood here looks pretty much as it has for decades. Older Cuban-Americans gather at Maximo Gomez Park for intense games of dominoes. Cuban rhythms emanate from the Ball and Chain, a legendary jazz spot on Calle Ocho – Eighth Street – the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare. The famous Versailles Restaurant, a landmark for the Cuban exile community, continues to serve its Cuban and Midnight sandwiches and Cuban coffee. But a closer look finds demographic changes that also are transforming South Florida’s political landscape.” http://newspr.es/1oRdP4O

GETTING REDDER — “GOP voter registration up ahead of Florida primary,” by AP’s Gary Fineout: “The number of registered voters in Florida is growing and there has been a last-minute jump in the number of registered Republicans. … [T]here are now 4.27 million registered Republicans and that more than 82,000 Republicans have registered since the start of the year. There were about 4.17 million GOP voters during the 2014 election.” http://apne.ws/1KVHd3I

DOCS V. GLOCKS — “Battle rages over Florida law limiting doctors’ gun speech,” by AP’s Curt Anderson: “[T]housands of physicians, medical organizations and other groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union [have] challenged the law, formally called the Firearm Owners Privacy Act, in a lawsuit known popularly as ‘Docs vs. Glocks.’ The law, passed in 2011 amid strong support from the National Rifle Association, is the only one of its kind in the nation, although similar laws have been considered in 12 other states, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“The legal battle, which has raged since the law’s inception, is a clash between the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms, amid a national discussion about the role and availability of weapons across the U.S.” http://apne.ws/1piL68U

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In Florida, nuclear energy plants provide 12 percent of the state&39;s electricity and a large majority of our carbon-free electricity. The existing nuclear energy plants in Florida also support more than 2,270 jobs and provide $1.9 billion to the state&39;s GDP. To help keep Florida working, we need the state&39;s technologically advanced nuclear energy plants continuing to work for all of us. Join us at NuclearMatters.com. **

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