(Fort Lauderdale, Florida) – The "Brunch" is on the road this week looking at the world of politics from the Sunshine State where I spent a good chunk of my career reporting for WUFT-TV5 Gainesville; WCJB-TV20 Ocala/Gainesville; WEAR-TV3 Pensacola; and WFTV-TV9 Orlando (from Washington, DC). On radio, I was on WRUF-AM/FM in Gainesville. Anyway it's always fun to reminisce whenever I get back here. There is a lot of political fodder across the nation, and here in Florida. So, here goes:
"Going Postal" -- If you ever wondered why people despise the federal government, one need look no further than what happened at the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission on Christmas Eve. I was stunned when the bulletin crossed the AP Wire at my office in Providence the night before Christmas. The Postal Service was raising the price of a first-class stamp – again - this time by three cents. Look, I know the agency is in deep, deep financial trouble, but what does the timing say to the public? Good grief, couldn't the decision and announcement have waited until after the holidays?
"Peaking Duck" – A&E Television announced on Saturday, that the popular (but now controversial) "Duck Dynasty" show will be coming back this spring. I have never seen the show – nor had I heard about it – until the brouhaha over star Phil Robertson's remarks about gay people. I honestly thought it was a cooking show. In any case, a lot of people on both sides of the aisle were trying to make political hay of the issue this week, as if it were going to be a big issue in the campaign 2014 election cycle. It's not! Look, the show is highly rated and makes A&E a lot of money. In the world of broadcasting, money still trumps politics most of the time.
"ABSCAM Scammed" – My son and brother-in-law saw the movie "American Hustle" this week. I wanted to go - and probably will soon - but I am still disappointed I passed up being an actor in the movie. I was asked by the casting agent to read for the role of one of the Congressmen who was caught up in the fictionalized depiction of the ABSCAM bribery scandal. Many of you know that I work as a movie and TV show extra on occasion. But this was an offer to having a speaking part in a full-fledged bribery scene, with the star of the movie, Bradley Cooper. I wanted to do it so bad, but they said they would need me to be available for four weeks. I would love to "moonlight" as a Congressman, but I can't give up my day job. However, I will be in "Labor Day," with Kate Winslet, to be released in a few weeks.
"Where Are They Now?" – I know it's just a movie, but "American Hustle" was loosely based on the events surrounding the ABSCAM Congressional bribery scandal of the late 1970s. The most celebrated of that group was Democratic South Carolina Representative John Jenrette, and his Republican wife Rita. The good looking young couple was a big hit in the Washington, DC social scene. Rita even claimed she and the Congressman had sex behind a pillar on the steps of the Capitol late one night. "The Capitol Steps" political satire troupe takes its name from this event! Anyway, the Congressman went to prison; Rita posed for Playboy; and, they eventually divorced. Today, John Jenrette is 77 and works in real estate. Rita Jenrette is married to an Italian prince, and at age 64, is still quite striking.
"Christie v Clinton?" – A new CNN Poll has Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) leading former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 48 to 46 percent. Let me say, first, the poll means nothing. But, like many political junkies and voters I actually love polls. They are fun as an unofficial barometer of what voters might be thinking at this moment in time. But they are just that, a snapshot of the potential landscape today, not a predictor of Election Day 2016. Still, it is interesting to note that Christie was the only Republican who beats Clinton in a theoretical matchup. By the way, similar polls in December 2007 showed that Clinton would be the 2008 Democratic nominee, and that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani would be the Republican nominee. See what I mean about polls being one snapshot in time?
"Bush-whacked" – By the way, the CNN poll has Hillary Clinton defeating former Republican Florida Governor Jeb Bush by 21 points. That's stunning, but I think a Bush-Clinton rematch of the 1992 presidential race - with two new standard bearers for each political family – is still a very viable possibility. We have a long way to go until 2016.
"Sunshine State Showdown" – The wacky world of Florida politics makes a lot of national headlines, and 2014 will be no different. Current Republican Governor Rick Scott is facing a tough bid for a second term. Former Republican Governor-turned-independent Charlie Crist is now running for his old job as a Democrat. Crist is leading in most polls, but it's early and there are large numbers of undecideds. Voters don't always latch on to party switchers – e.g. Rhode Island Republican-turned independent-turned Democratic Governor Lincoln Chafee is not seeking a second term. Still, the Florida race is a toss-up according to many analysts and one to watch in 2013.
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© 2013, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.
Photo courtesy: U.S. Postal Service