With most political enthusiasts' attention riveted on the divisive GOP presidential race, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is urging the Democratic White House hopefuls to tone down their rhetoric.
Wasserman Schultz, who lives in Weston when she isn't in Washington or traveling the country as head of the Democratic National Committee, was asked about the increasingly sharp attacks against each other in recent days by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
"I think both campaigns really need to be careful about making sure that we don't do lasting damage," Wasserman Schultz told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" program Friday morning. "I don't think we're at that point, but I think it is important to be careful that at the end of the primary process, when we have a presumptive nominee, that we're able to easily reunify."
In advance of the April 19 primary in New York, which Clinton represented for six years as a U.S. senator before heading the State Department, Clinton has challenged Sanders' allegiance to the Democratic Party and questioned his preparedness to be president.
On Wednesday, Clinton told MSNBC that Sanders "himself doesn't consider himself to be a Democrat." Sanders, who lists his party for Senate votes as Independent but caucuses with Democrats, has at various times in his career described himself as a Socialist or a Democratic Socialist.
Clinton also criticized Sanders' repeated presidential campaign calls to break up big banks, again comparing her record as a pragmatist who gets things done.
"You can't really help people if you don't know how to do what you are campaigning on saying you want to do," Clinton said.
Sanders responded that night at a rally in Philadelphia.
"She has been saying lately that she thinks I am quote-unquote 'not qualified to be president,'" Sanders declared. "Let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton, I don't believe that she is qualified if she is, though her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds. I don't think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don't think you are qualified if you support the Panama free trade agreement."
Clinton didn't actually say the phrase Sanders attributed to her about his lack of qualifications, but that phrase or similar ones ran in headlines in some news accounts of her comments.
Despite the sharp exchanges, Wasserman Schultz said it doesn't compare to "the food fight and the civil war that continues to rage on the Republican side."
Wasserman Schultz, who some Sanders supporters have accused of favoring Clinton in the Democratic race, also said that Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama had a more hard-hitting contest in their presidential primary campaign in 2008.
"Right now I would characterize the tenor and tone of this party to be nothing like the intensity of where we (Democrats) were eight years ago in 2008 between then-Sens. Clinton and Obama," she said.
After Obama gained the Democratic nomination in that primary race and then defeated Sen. John McCain to gain the White House, he chose Clinton as secretary of state. The two established a close relationship, and she has been trumpeting his achievements during her current run.
On the Republican side, billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz have been engaged in a nasty war of words for weeks, with the fight intensifying two weeks ago when the Republican front-runner tweeted an unflattering photograph of Cruz's wife Heidi Cruz.
A dispute over access to voter data in a South Florida congressional race is highlighting a divide between the Florida Democratic Party and its progressive caucus.
For the second time this month, leaders of the progressive caucus are openly criticizing their party leaders, this time on behalf of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's primary opponent.
But the caucus' complaints were immediately rendered moot, though, because -- unbeknownst to them and independent of their grievances -- Florida Democratic Party leaders already agreed to make a special exception that addresses critics' concerns.
The controversy stems from a decision by party leaders earlier this month to deny Wasserman Schultz's challenger, Democrat Tim Canova, access to its voter database.
In an "open letter" sent Wednesday and provided to the Herald/Times, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida asked Wasserman Schultz -- a Weston congresswoman and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee -- to intervene to ensure her challenger has a fair shot in the primary race.
Party voter files are a treasure trove of data and information that campaigns collect, curate and share between their state and national political parties, and they're especially valuable to political newcomers -- if they can get access to them.
It's been the policy of the Florida Democratic Party for the past six years to withhold access to candidates challenging incumbent Democratic members of Congress.
But the party has changed its mind this week -- in this single instance -- and will now give Canova access to the voter file "to avoid any appearance of favoritism," Scott Arceneaux, the state party's executive director, told the Herald/Times on Thursday.
"This is a truly unique set of circumstances where we have an incumbent member of our delegation who's also our DNC chair," Arceneaux said.
According to the agreement, Bush was paid $468,901 between December 2007 and September 2010 for consulting “plus reasonable expenses.”
Bush and his company, Jeb Bush & Associates, are repaying the money to Soneet Kapila, a court-appointed fiduciary who is collecting funds Osorio stole from other people and used to fund business operations at InnoVida Holdings, his housing panel manufacturing business.
The Democratic National Committee also agreed to repay $51,525 that Osorio donated, according to another agreement filed Thursday.
Folks in the GOP blogo-Twittersphere were quick to point out that the story didn't list two other high-profile givebacks.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair and Broward congresswoman, returned $4,800 and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee returned $67,575.
His name: Antonio Villaraigosa.
Like Eastwood arguing onstage with an empty chair at the GOP convention, Villaraigosa provided an unscripted moment that led to mockery and political trouble.
Specifically, the Democratic convention chairman messed up a political no-brainer: rewording the party platform to reinsert a reference to God and another concerning Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The language got in the platform.
But it took three chaotic voice votes, all called by a flat-footed Villaraigosa — the mayor of Los Angeles — who was caught grinning in confusion after a surprising number of Democratic delegates repeatedly shouted “No!” on the convention floor as TV cameras rolled.
Suddenly, a pro-forma vote that normally garners relatively little negative attention turned into drama. Lots of drama. It was satirized roundly on the liberal-leaning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
A needless and unforced error, it was a gift to Republicans. Just as Eastwood’s performance allowed Democrats to try to cast the GOP as a party of angry old white guys, the Jerusalem issue allowed Republicans to try to cast the Democrats as too hostile to Israel.
Like his fellow Californian Eastwood, Villaraigosa refused to acknowledge any error. “Not one person objected. It’s more a media concern than a delegate concern. I can tell you this — the president of the United States said, ‘Wow.’ The president said, ‘You showed why you were speaker of the California Assembly,’” Villaraigosa later told The Los Angeles Times. “The president, the vice president, Mrs. Obama, all of them acknowledged the decisive way I handled that.”
Did the president say “Wow!” or “Wow?”
The way Villaraigosa managed the situation gives an indication of why California is so messed up. And if Obama thought he did a great job, it speaks volumes about Illinois and the Democratic Party in general — especially when it comes to handling Jewish voters.
At the least, the incident underscores the needless political risk the party took in omitting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Crist, meanwhile, was shmoozing in the luxury suites with the Democratic big wigs. We hear he also hung out at the Ritz for awhile with Kirk Wager, Florida Finance Chairman of the Crist campaign (who says he merely bumped into him at the bar, though "I do like him). Today CNN's Peter Hamby chatted with the former Republican as he left a DNC national finance committee meeting.
The former governor has steered clear of the delegates and party activists in Charlotte. Most of them show little enthusiasm for Crist, who generally show little enthusiasm for his running for governor, let alone getting a speaking gig on the final night of the convention. No, the enthusiasm for Crist mostly comes from the Obama campaign.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bill who? Nelson where?
The embattled senior senator from the nation’s biggest battleground state has almost no profile at the Democratic National Convention.
Bill Nelson neither asked for nor was offered a speaking role. He held no big public events. He didn’t appear at the Florida delegation breakfast.
But he did stop by and visit delegates on the floor, grant a handful of news-media interviews, attend a fundraiser and then hustle out of Charlotte N.C. after less than a day on the ground.
It’s vintage Nelson: low key and averse to overt partisanship — the essence of a political convention. Nelson, who has shied away from President Barack Obama while backing much of his agenda, didn’t have a speaking role in the 2000 convention, when he first successfully ran for Senate, in 2004 or in 2008.
“The campaign’s in Florida, not in Charlotte,” Nelson explained. “I start in Panama City and start working back from the Panhandle out east on Thursday. That’s where the campaign is.”
Nelson just isn’t the type of speaker a convention would feature anyway, according to those who know him.
“His style is more tailored to small groups, speaking with voters one-on-one,” said David Beattie, a pollster who works for Nelson.
“I don’t know all of the inner workings of how a convention is put together,” Beattie said, “but it all depends on who fits their messaging, what’s right for the hall.”
By that standard: Florida isn’t right for the Democratic National Convention.
It wouldn't be a convention without some Bain Capital bashing, and tonight the DNC will feature Cindy Hewitt, who was HR manager at a medical supply company Mitt Romney's firm held in the late 1990s.
As described in our story earlier this year, Bain shut down its Miami operations costing 850 jobs and a $30 million payroll in the community. "What bothers me most is that Romney's campaign says he was a creator of jobs," said Hewitt said in January. "I didn't see that in any way, shape or form. He didn't create jobs. He slashed and burned jobs."
Also speaking tonight is Floridian Johanny Adams, who became a citizen on Feb. 29, will cast her first vote for President Obama. "Her mom works as an overnight nursing assistant and they both “are trying to make ends meet every month," the DNC said. "Johanny is currently studying Political Science and Journalism at Miami Dade Community College and believes the Pell Grant program is a 'blessing' because 'every dollar makes a difference in college.' "
Here's something you don't see at the Republican National Convention: An activist holding up a sign calling for more travel to Cuba. President Obama loosened travel and monetary-remittance restrictions to Cuba. But under Helms-Burton, travel to Cuba isn't free and easy (and, of course, once you're in Cuba you're subject to the whims of the dictatorship).
Public opinion surveys indicate that support for Cuba restrictions is thawing. But the Republican base in Miami-Dade County, where 72 percent of the GOP is Hispanic and overwhelmingly Cuban, still favors a hardline stance.
Former Congressman Kendrick Meek is no Charlie Crist fan.
When the former governor decided to run for Senate, he ultimately left the Republican Party but stayed in the race, all but ensuring a win for Marco Rubio in 2010. That helped syphon votes from the Democrat in the race, Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek.
Crist allies leaked word that Meek was being pressured by top Democrats like Bill Clinton to leave the race. That hurt even more.
Now Crist is on the precipice of running for governor again, in 2014, as a Democrat. And Meek might want a little payback.
Sure, President Obama's campaign is giddy over Crist because he's scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention to drive home the idea that the GOP is too extreme. But Florida Democrats aren't pleased. Among them: Meek.
When asked what he thought of Crist at the convention, Meek smiled and essentially refused to comment.
"I'm not in charge," he said. "I'm going to go get my credentials (for the convention)."
When asked if he'd run for governor against Crist, he smiled: "I'm going to get my credentials."