Around the South for Feb. 17: AL, KY & FL

Alabama: Bentley goes bold. Reporting on a recent speech by Gov. Robert Bentley (R) before a large audience of prominent Alabamians, writer Charles J. Dean lauded the governor for saying, “[A]fter four years of saying we are not going to raise taxes … and we have not, I’m telling you the next four years we are going to raise taxes.” After what Dean described as “a sprinkle of applause,” Bentley added, “We have to face the problems… Somebody has to take the lead and I am going to take the lead.” ……. Kentucky: Rand Paul loses his place. Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza periodically ranks potential Republican presidential contenders for their chances of winning the nomination. Rand Paul has always been either first or second, but in his latest ranking Cillizza puts Paul in fourth place, noting that Paul’s sympathetic comments about folks who don’t vaccinate their children against communicable diseases “continue to baffle us.” While acknowledging some GOPers might agree with Paul’s statement (before he walked it back), “a much bigger portion of the party … will look at his vaccine flap and see Ron Paul.” ……. Florida: Curbelo vulnerable, but … Freshman US Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) won the 26th District (Miami) by a  narrow 52% to 48% last year, but, writes Sunshine State News journalist Jeff Henderson, the Democrats will need a fresher face than ex-US Rep. Joe Garcia (D), who failed to hold the seat beyond one term, or Annette Taddeo, who has a history of losing elections. Plus, Curbelo is “young, charismatic and  hard-working.” Stay tuned …….