Florida’s Hispanic vote

This week, Need to Know’s report Yo Decido shows how the hotly-contested Hispanic vote in Florida is far from a monolith — one size appeal will not fit all. The Pew Hispanic Center‘s figures help us illustrate just how diverse the Florida Latino vote is:

‘Counter-jihad’ movement may be small, but its rhetoric has seeped into public discourse

Herman Cain at the state capitol in Des Moines, Iowa in March, 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore

This week, Herman Cain finally apologized.

The businessman turned Republican presidential candidate had made opposition to Islamic extremism a key plank in his platform, suggesting that he would be “uncomfortable” appointing a Muslim to his cabinet. He later clarified, helpfully, that he was referring only to “violent” Muslims, and would specifically bar “the ones that are trying to kill us” from serving in his administration.

Then, earlier this month, Cain traveled to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to oppose the construction of an Islamic center there, characterizing it as a disguised attempt to subvert the Constitution and implement Shariah law. “I think it is an infringement and abuse of our freedom of religion, and I don’t agree with what’s happening here because this isn’t an innocent mosque,” Cain told reporters, according to The Tennessean. “This is another way to sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that.”

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As lawmakers push rival debt plans, only one person is still seeking compromise: Obama

President Obama addresses the nation on the debt crisis from the East Room of the White House Monday night. Photo: AP/Jim Watson, Pool

We are now less than a week away from what many economists, ratings agencies and the International Monetary Fund have warned could be a calamitous default on U.S. government debt if lawmakers fail to authorize new borrowing. And yet, we are no closer to a solution than we were last night, when President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner delivered dueling national addresses seeking to blame each other for the crisis.

Neither speech was all that surprising, and neither seemed to move the needle on Capitol Hill. Democrats in the Senate are moving ahead with a vote on their plan to cut $2.7 trillion in spending to offset an equivalent increase in the debt ceiling through 2012; Republicans will hold a vote on Boehner’s proposal to raise the debt ceiling in two steps, first by $1 trillion coupled with $1.2 trillion in immediate cuts, then again early next year with another $1.8 trillion in cuts to be agreed upon later.

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Maryland governor promises renewed gay marriage push, just in time for 2012 election

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 21, 2011. Photo: AP/Susan Walsh

As expected, Maryland is taking shape as the next battleground in the fight over same-sex marriage — just in time for the 2012 election.

Gov. Martin O’Malley said this week that he would prepare a more aggressive campaign to pass a measure legalizing same-sex marriage when the state’s next legislative session begins in January. O’Malley told Talking Points Memo that he would borrow elements of the strategy used by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and supporters to pass a gay marriage bill there just over a year after it had failed in New York’s Democratic State Senate by a wide margin:

“I think every state tries to learn — I think we all try to learn from one another. I’m sure there were things that they learned from our inability to get this done. And similarly we will learn from what they did.”

That means a more central role for O’Malley himself. “What can we try differently that we haven’t already done in order to get this passed,” he said. “We thought the right approach last time was to allow a less partisan space to resonate around the issue.”

As Need to Know has reported, Maryland’s first attempt at legalizing same-sex marriage was just a few votes shy of passing the House of Delegates when it was withdrawn earlier this year. A key Republican supporter of the measure, the former Republican caucus leader in the Maryland State Senate, told Need to Know that he believed Republicans could provide a handful of crucial votes, but only if O’Malley invested his political capital in courting conservative donors and protecting Republicans who vote for the bill.

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Splitting California in two

Most Californians will acknowledge (with some amusement) the informal, usually friendly antagonism that exists between the northern and southern halves of the state. Southern residents tend to scoff at northern cities like San Francisco and Berkeley, historically beacons of progressive politics, and northerners often cringe at the thought of the mostly conservative suburban sprawl of southern enclaves like La Jolla, Riverside and Orange County. In the midst of such vastly different cultures and political divides, jokes about splitting the state in two have always abounded.

Now, a Republican county official wants to make such a split happen.

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone has proposed a plan for 13 southern California counties to secede from the rest of the state to form “South California,” a mostly inland area dominated by conservatives. Stone called California in its current state an “ungovernable” place suffering from economic mismanagement by Sacramento, with too much state spending on prisons and too lax a policy toward undocumented immigrants. Last week, Stone launched a website, CaliforniaRebellion2012.com, which outlines the movement’s many grievances against the way that California’s government has managed the state.

The proposed new state would encompass about 13 million residents, with the conspicuous exclusion of Los Angeles for having what Stone calls “the same liberal policies that Sacramento does.”
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Photo: Hoofing it in Pamplona

Bulls run the streets of Pamplona, Spain, to help ring in the San Fermin festival. Photo: AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos

The San Fermin festival kicked off in Pamplona, Spain, this week to honor Saint Fermin — co-patron saint of the northern Navarra province of which Pamplona is the capital city. Besides street parties and religious ceremonies, the Running of the Bulls forms part of the celebrations. Known as the “encierro,” or enclosure, this week-long bull run also serves a practical purpose: getting the bulls from their corral into the bullring for an evening “corrida,” or bullfight. The bulls run behind thrill-seeking forerunners, but sometimes they can fall while turning corners. The final encierro of the festival will take place on the morning of July 14.

Republicans supported gay marriage in New York. Will they do the same in Maryland?

Allan Kittleman, a Republican, speaks in support of the gay marriage bill on the floor of the Maryland State Senate in February. Photo: AP/Gail Burton

When a bill legalizing same-sex marriage came up in the New York State Senate in 2009, the measure was defeated by a wide margin. Democratic leaders, who controlled the chamber, failed to muster enough votes on their side, and the entire Republican caucus opposed the bill.

Last week, when the Senate considered legalizing same-sex marriage for a second time, it was the Republicans who made the difference: Four of them joined 29 Democrats to approve the measure, giving the bill enough votes to pass. That startling turnaround capped weeks of intensive lobbying and personal anguish, especially among the Republicans, all of whom had either voted against the bill in 2009 or vowed during their campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage.

Now, fresh off their victory in New York, gay rights advocates are turning to Maryland, where same-sex marriage is “on the verge” of becoming law, according to Patrick Wojahn of Equality Maryland. And some are hoping a similar change of heart among Republicans will tip the balance.

“I think the Republicans can provide crucial votes,” said Allan Kittleman, a Republican member of the Maryland State Senate. “It could be very similar in the Maryland House of Delegates as it was in the New York State Senate, with the final margin being the Republicans.”

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Are bad voters like drunk drivers? New book says they are, and that they should stay home on Election Day

A federal government that spends 50 percent of its budget on “waste,” 30 percent on foreign aid and 10 percent on public pensions. A president who is both secretly a Muslim and a socialist. A Congress that can repeal a law — in this case, the 2009 health care reform — simply by a majority vote of one chamber.

This, according to substantial numbers of Americans, is our government.

And if that scares you, consider this: Regardless of whether you believe the facts above, you are allowed — even encouraged — to vote.

But should you? Not everyone thinks so.

Polls have shown routinely that large numbers of Americans know very little about how our political system works. And it’s not just a lack of factual knowledge — Americans’ skewed understanding of how the government functions (or fails to function) also influences their proposals for how to fix it.

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Rent Is Too Damn High Party founder, now a Republican, has a new slogan

Jimmy McMillan is no longer a one-issue candidate.

The longtime New York gadfly and founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, who rocketed to Internet stardom last year with his performance in the New York gubernatorial debate, announced recently that he will run for president in 2012 — as a Republican. And the rent that is “too damn high” is no longer his sole focus.

“I’m registered Republican now,” McMillan told me in an interview this weekend (which I recorded on my phone and uploaded to YouTube). “I was a Democrat, but I changed my line so that I can get the issues to the front that Obama’s not addressing.”

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