Economy, immigration top issues in Florida primary

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, left (source: Wikimedia Commons/Photographer's Mate 1st Class Dawn C. Montgomery)

Florida GOP leaders said this week that the economy is No. 1 in the minds of Florida voters and that their party’s presidential candidates must be aware of how they address immigration.

According to Bloomberg News, former Gov. Jeb Bush said he will not endorse any GOP presidential candidate in the Sunshine State’s Jan. 31 primary. Bush said Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are all “credible candidates” to face President Obama in November, but warned “his party’s candidates to leave the ‘circular firing squad’ of their debates behind and start appealing to a broader audience.”

“In Florida, as in the rest of the nation, Bush said, voters this year are most mindful of the economy,” Bloomberg wrote, adding that “Florida’s economic health has declined by 12.4 percent since the first quarter of 2009, when Obama was inaugurated, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States. The state’s home prices have declined 22.5 percent in the period.”

Bush, who will host the Hispanic Leadership Conference in Miami this week, told Bloomberg that “the debate over immigration laws in the Republican Party could be a problem for its nominee.”

“In swing-states, Hispanic voters are increasingly the swing voters, and if you, by your tone more than anything else, send a signal that ‘you’re not wanted on my team’ — and I’m not saying any candidate has done that — you could alienate voters that could be part of the winning” formula,” Bush said.

Newt Gingrich said in November he supports immigration enforcement without citizenship but, “by finding a way to create legality so that” immigrants “are not separated from their families.”

Romney has said he loves legal immigration but will not support any form of “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. He says he would veto the DREAM Act, the proposal to give undocumented young people who were brought here as children a path to legal residency.

Politic 365 reported Sunday that GOP Sen. Marco Rubio “expressed concern for the plight of undocumented immigrants, posing questions about the future of immigration reform. ‘What do you do with nine to eleven million people that are here without documents?’ Rubio asked rhetorically. ‘What do you with that population?’”

According to the site, Rubio said there is no easy solution, “because in one hand you can’t grant nine million citizenships and on the other hand you can’t deport nine to eleven million people.”

Gov. Rick Scott, who has chosen not to endorse anyone (which many have speculated might actually be helpful to candidates, due to his unpopularity) told Fox News today that he applauds Romney and Gingrich for taking on the jobs issue, adding that “it’s going to really be important that this week [Romney] gets out there and says, ‘This is very simply what my plan is.’”

Scott added that national candidates should say, “These are the three, four, five, six things I am going to do, and this is what is going to change the national economy.”