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425 posts from January 2008

January 29, 2008

Traviesa: Win one for the new Gipper, Mitt

At a Romney ralley at the Tampa Convention Center, the hits against John McCain kept coming.

Rep. Trey Traviesa of Hillsborough County, who led the crowd of roughly 200 in chanting "Mitt is it!", said McCain resembled a "liberal Democrat," echoing a frequent refrain of the Romney campaign in recent days.

"He took a left," said Traviesa, who brought up another motif of the campaign: Comparing Romney to the Gipper. "He's going to reenergize the party of Reagan," said Traviesa, setting off another round of chanting and cheers.

Romney, flanked by four of his five sons and wife Ann, took to the stage for one last stump speech before the polls close today.

The former Massachusetts governor has made his business acument a main focus of his campaign, saying he alone among the Republican field has private-sector experience in the private sector needed to guide the country through shaky economic times.

"You cant just send back Washington politicans who've spent their whole careers there," said Romney, referring to McCain's decades-long career in politics and comments the senator made acknowledging national security, not economy, is his forte.

"Well, it's my strong suit," said Romney who made no mention of the other Republican rivals on the ticket, a sign of a tight contest that has narrowed to a two-man race in the past week.   

--- Tere Figueras Negrete

McCain: squabble with Mitt is a "picnic"

John McCain visited the St Petersburg polling station this morning where his supporter Gov. Charlie Crist cast his vote.  A small crowd waited for the Arizona senator outside the Mahaffey Theater, chanting “Mac is Back!” as he joined Crist outside.

Saying that he felt that Florida Republicans would be prioritizing national security as they head to the polls.

“The real key, I think, here in Florida is who can keep America safe, who is it that has the background and experience to take on the challenge of radical Islamic extremism,” McCain said. “Gov. Romney has no experience there; in fact he wanted to have a timetable for withdrawal. I think that’s why the people of Florida will make the judgement on my behalf.”

He said the past few days of back-and-forth with the Romney campaign still looked “like a Sunday school picnic compared to what the Democrats are doing.”

McCain said he feels confident going into what has become a tight two-man race with Romney. “I’m feeling good,” he said as Crist looked on. “Endorsements matter . . . after Gov. Crist endorsed us we did see an uptick of support.”

“I’m always going to be extremely grateful to him for that courage because it would have been very easy for Gov. Crist to just say, ‘look, I’m not going to get into contested primary,” McCain said.

McCain had his lucky penny in his pocket, and planned on going to the movies in the afternoon though he didn’t know yet what flick he wanted to see. “I don’t know yet but it certainly will not be  . . . “No Country for Old Men,” he said.

--Casey Woods

Ralph Reed says it's all in the family

The increasingly caustic fight for the GOP nomination, evidenced by the insults flying between Mitt Romney and John McCain in Florida, is all good, says Ralph Reed.

The conservative political activist, best known as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition, showed up at the Tampa event for Romney. (Although he hasn't endorsed anyone officially.)

"Don’t over-interpret the healthy intra-family, back-and-forth in a party," said Reed. "I’m a big believer that competitive, hard fought primaries, as long as you can get back together again afterward, are healthy. They’re good for the party. What’s wrong with having a nice vigorous, competitive primary? It’s good.”

Asked how the evangelical Christian community would respond to a nomination for McCain, who has been criticized as not conservative enough by some Republicans, Reed said:

"I'm not going to speculate."

He did speculate, however on a hypothetical pairing of the current neck-and-neck rivals.

"Don't rule out a McCain-Romney ticket or a Romney-McCain ticket," he said. "Funny things happen."

Hey Rudy, want some fries with the doubting crowds?

Rudy Giuliani made an unexpected stop at Bonefish Mac's in Lighthouse Point, where he sat with local officials for a quick steak and fries.

But even some of the people who turned  out to see him were not optimistic about his chances. It's as though his slide in the polls and the intense media coverage of it had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"I'm a very big fan of his," but I'm just not quite sure if I'm going to waste a vote," said Lonny Castino, a former Chicago resident who has lived in Florida for 35 years. Castino was eating a mexican tortilla salad, and wearing a Rudy sticker on his shirt.

"If you look at the  polls and look at where he is at number three, it's a tough situation. You may really like someone, ut do you vote for that person even though he may not even have a chance?"

First day as an American, and they meet a presidential candidate

Next door to the Romney rally at the Tampa Convention Center: A swearing-in ceremony for some 700 newly naturalized Americans.

They got a surprise visit from Romney, who has said he supports legal immigration but not special pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The GOP hopeful, followed by  a swarm of photographers, reporters and campaign aides, swept through the lobby where a long line of newly minted U.S. citizens stood in line waiting to fill out paperwork.

"This is the day I became an American, and I also met a presidential candidate," said Cuba native Lazaro Diaz, holding an American flag in one hand and an autograph from Romney in the other. "It's a really big day."

Alka Gardner got a photo with Romney, prompting a little jealousy from husband Alain, who had to make do with an autograph.

"I wanted a photograph with him, but she ended up getting it," Gardner said.

The couple and their son, Josh, a biomedical engineering student at the University of Miami, are from India. All three became citizens today. Too late, of course, to vote in today's primary.

But come November, they'll be at the polls -- although they're staying mum on who they're pulling for.

"My lips are sealed," said Alain Gardner.

Gay marriage showdown at the polls? "Show them the love of Christ"

Opponents of a proposed gay marriage ban plan to go to the polls today to try and convince voters to say no to the proposal, should it make the ballot in November. (Backers must come up with more than 600,000 voter signatures by Friday and they've been running short.)

"Our campaign has been successful in letting voters across the state know the real and dangerous impacts of the (amendment) and today let us reach out to this active and energized group," said Amy Rose, field director for Florida Red and Blue. "When voters learn how this amendment lets government take an even larger role in their personal lives, they join our campaign."

Florida Family Action, which is pushing the amendment, urges its members "meet and greet our homosexual opponent at the polls today.

"Their latest strategy is that they are trying to be at the polls near precincts around the state approaching voters to 'educate them' about the impact of the amendment," an e-mail 'action alert' from the group says. "If you come across them at the polls when you are voting today, please respectfully greet them and show them the love of Christ. If you feel led, share the Gospel or offer to have a cup of coffee with them. The issue is not 'gay marriage.' On a personal level, the issue is God's love and forgiveness and the real freedom that only he can give."

Crist donors urged to come to McCain fundraiser today

So what do you get with an endorsement from Gov. Charlie Crist in the presidential primary? You not only get help at the polls, but you also get access to his fundraising network. Meredith O'Rourke, Crist's incredibly successful fundraiser, has asked donors to come to a noon lunch reception today at The Tampa Club in honor of Sen. John McCain. Tickets are $1,000.

Not only is Crist scheduled to be there but so is U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, Al Hoffman, Phil Handy and former Gov. Jeb Bush chief of staff Kathleen Shanahan.

In her e-mail to donors, O'Rourke writes: "As you already know, Governor Crist is proud to stand by his good friend Senator John McCain as he seeks our party's nomination for President. Senator McCain's experience, integrity and consistent conservative values are precisely what we need to lead our nation in the days ahead. Governor Crist firmly believes Senator McCain is the only Republican candidate who can beat any Democrat in November."

Recount anyone? Browning wants rules changed

Secretary of State Kurt Browning, while saying that so far voting has gone relatively smoothly except for some problems in Palm Beach County, said Tuesday morning that he favors changing recount rules in time for the fall election.

Browning said that once Florida switches over to paper ballot systems that then the recount rules should be then changed that during a manual recount that all ballots are counted. Right now if the margin falls under one half of one percent it triggers a machine recount. If that recount shows that the margin is under one quarter of one percent then there is a manual recount of overvotes and undervotes only. (Which is of course useless with electronic machines since the manual recount would be the same.)

Browning said that if there's a manual recount the law should allow for all votes to be recounted.

"I feel very strongly that we need to be able to do something with those paper ballots in the event we have close contests,'' said Browning. "That way it provides finality to the race.''

Crist wants candidates to adopt "more civil tone"

In an interview on Fox & Friends this morning, Gov. Charlie Crist was asked what he felt about the accusation that John McCain was too liberal.

"I don't believe in labels and I don't think that's appropriate frankly,'' Crist scolded. "It think what's important is we stay focused on what people stand for, on what their vision is for the future of our country, a more civil tone if you will. But it's important to have that strength.''

Rudy in the Rascal House

At the Wolfie Cohen’s Rascal House in Sunny Isles, Rudy Giuliani sat down for some cereal and coffee, and said he was heading toward victory in Florida, despite polls that show him lagging behind at a distant third.
He took a few questions from reporters.
“We are concentrating on today, and today alone,” he said. “We are not going to deal with hypothetical questions. It is counterproductive to do that. We are going to win today.”
Even some of the people who showed up to see him there were hoping the polls had been wrong and some Florida magic would bless the campaign at the last minute.
“He lost a lot of momentum when he skipped those early states,” said Barbara Connor, an Aventura resident who moved to Florida in 1972 from New York. “The polls might be wrong. I hope they’re wrong.”