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Looking at 2010? Gelber slams Martinez

Which Senate is Dan Gelber running for?

The House Minority Leader - and state Senate candidate - sent an open letter to Sen. Mel Martinez today, slamming the Florida Republican for siding with President Bush and opposing a Democratic-led children's health insurance bill.

"As chairman of the Republican National Committee, I recognize your role and responsibility to defend and endorse President Bush's legislative agenda..." the Miami Beach state representative wrote. "However, the rhetoric of "entitlements" and "socialized medicine" seems designed to fire up the president's political base rather than honestly helping your colleagues figure out how to fix a system that has left more than nine million American children without health care."

Party insiders have talked about Gelber as a potential challenger to Martinez who is up for re-election in 2010. Gelber said it would be "presumptuous" to talk about a U.S. Senate bid while he's running for state Senate, but added, "you don't have to be running for office to see that Sen. Martinez's unthinking allegiance to President Bush does a disservice to Floridians."

Martinez said he supports extending the childrens' health program - but not as Democrats propose.

"I support the program with the original mission of covering low income children who do not have health insurance," Martinez said today on the Senate floor. "This bill is not that program... It isn’t even close."

"It is bad policy to take a program designed to help poor children and create a new entitlement for families making $80 thousand dollars a year," Martinez said. "By expanding coverage further up the income scale and to new populations, this bill takes away needed resources for those most vulnerable, low income children."

Democrats suggest the GOP is shooting itself in the foot by opposing the childrens' program and say it will be an 08 campaign issue. And 2010?