Florida Debate: First Blood

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jan 24, 2008 6:50 PM
What will we see tonight?

We better see a damn sight more from Rudy than we have lately. He knows how to work voters in Florida, who moved their primary date up partially to bring attention to the idea of a national catastrophe fund. He's the only guy supporting it outright, mostly because it's a system by which Floridians get to live in beautiful, beachy, high-risk hurricane areas while subjecting the rest of the nation's taxpayers to the costs of that risk. Any conservative should think hard about how to devise a plan that would help Florida while sticking to some basic free-market principles.

The RCP average puts Rudy at a distant third right now, so he better talk it up tonight and take some swings at McCain, or he'll be needing some catastrophe insurance of his own. Har. Here's his slick ad on the subject. It's got an edge to it, like the music.

McCain, who's holding onto a very slim lead despite a recent Mitt surge, will undoubtedly trash the catastrophe fund, since he's wont to trash whatever's close to the hearts of the given electorate. They call that irascibility, I think. But, cheers, because while it may not be smart campaigning, I appreciate that he's spoken out against ethanol subsidies in Iowa and hurricane subsidies in Florida. One of few times I've appreciated McCain, political tin ear and all, but there you go.

Given that he's never shy about going after Republicans, he should do it tonight on the issue of earmark reform, where Congressional Republicans are determined to drop the ball.

Mitt's surge, seen across several polls lately, turns on the immigration issue, so McCain will undoubtedly be defending himself at times on how he got the message about border security and he never really supported amnesty anyway, while talking up the idea that we're all God's children to the state's 16 percent Hispanic population.

Mitt will likely benefit from the fact that the news of the day is a Congressional deal on an economic stimulus plan, giving him some time to wonk it up for the folks at home and assert his ability to "turn businesses around." The Florida economy is a small-business economy-- 98 percent of businesses have fewer than 100 employees-- and he'd do well to connect with those business owners about taking on challenges, using it as a chance to say what he'd do for small businessmen and what the stimulus package does or does not do for them.

Some of the highlights:

The deal will double the amount small businesses can write off their taxes for new investments made in 2008, from $125,000 to $250,000. It also lifts the cap on businesses eligible for the deduction, expanding it to businesses making up to $800,000 (up from the current $500,000 limit).

Another provision will allow businesses investing in new plants and equipment to speed up bonus depreciation provisions, so that firms can write off 50 percent for investments in 2008.

Huckabee will be there tonight. Despite the fact that he's not running TV ads in the state, Huckabee declared rumors that he's backing off of Florida "crazy," then some unfortunate imagery to make his point.
"We're not pulling out, we're pushing in," he added later.
He won't be there for long:
Aides said he will leave Florida, where his top rivals are competing aggressively, on Saturday to campaign in Mobile, Ala. and Savannah, Ga. That reflects a decision his campaign has made to focus most of its time on primaries in the South and Midwest on Feb. 5, looking to turn Huckabee from the candidate of evangelical Christians to the Heartland's Man. A sweep of a group of states that also includes Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma on Feb. 5 would make the ex-governor a true contender for the nomination, although his odds of success are low, as his campaign is nearly out of money.
Will McCain make a decent Rambo joke? Will they gang up on Hillary or Obama, since no one knows who the winner will be? Will Mitt praise the changiness of Obama? Will they ask Mitt why no one likes him? Will Rudy summon his charisma again? Will Huck's charisma do him any good?

Oh, the suspense!