September 04, 2008

Through thick and thin with McCain

MINNEAPOLIS -- Remember one year ago when John McCain seemed as likely to be the Republican nominee as Sarah Palin was likely to be a contender for vice president?

For a small circle of Floridians who stood by the Arizona senator even when everybody counted him out, the Republican National Convention is sweet vindication.

Fundraiser Ana Navarro remembers when McCain would fly in to Miami and no one from the media would show up at the airport. Or when she had to "beg, borrow and plead'' for $250 checks.

"When I think about where we were, and where we are now, it's surreal,'' said Navarro, who is staying at a hotel reserved for McCain's family and close friends. "It struck me last night when he came into the hall for the first time. I can't believe we are actually here."

Political consultant Carlos Curbelo worked for McCain in South Florida until his cash-poor campaign was forced to fire a slew of people last summer.

"This has to be one of the greatest comebacks in the history of politics,'' he said. "The campaign didn't just bottom out last year. It disappeared."

McCollum slices and dices the New York Times and "the bad guys"

BLOOMINGTON - Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum rallied the Florida delegation with a call to arms at breakfast, warning that even though Sarah Palin delivered a "home run" many voters weren't tuned in.

"Don't think for a minute we can walk out of this convention -- even after Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani sliced and diced -- that it means we're going to win this election," McCollum said. "We've got to go out and work very hard for it."

Holding a New York Times, McCollum bashed the news media: "This is the Bible for all the liberal media and they're going to keep trying to find a way to tear Sarah Palin down."

And he warned the stakes in the election couldn't be higher: "We got Russia on the move again," he said. "It may not be communism...but it's going to be a big problem and we don't need an amateur dealing with it."

Soccer mom Wasserman Schultz takes on hockey mom Palin

As a former Hillary Clinton supporter well-known in the Jewish community, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston is a valuable surrogate for Barack Obama in South Florida.

Now that Sarah Palin has been added to the Republican ticket, Wasserman Schultz becomes an even more important voice for the Democratic party. Like Palin, she's a mother of young children, except that hers play soccer and baseball instead of hockey.

"I only heard from Sarah Palin negative partisan attacks,'' she said in a conference call with reporters today arranged by the Democratic Nationaal Committee. "There was no substance, no vision of where she thinks the country should go."

Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Florida delegation has an extra spring in its step this morning thanks to Republican vice presidential nominee's Sarah Palin's feisty speech last night.

"Home run'' said Debbie Ressler of Inverness. "Grand slam,'' added Linda Grier of Kissimmee. "We were standing on our chairs. It was electrifying.''

Gail Hebert of St. Petersburg admired Palin, a total unknown until a week ago, for displaying such poise and confidence. "She walked on to that stage last night like she owned it,'' she said. "She even winked at the cameraman.''

Many of the female delegates at the convention serve as the backbone of the canvassing and phone bank operations back home, and the addition of Palin to the ticket is going to keep them working overtime.

The GOP mantra: "Drill, baby, drill"

When they're not shouting Sarah Palin's name, delegates at the GOP convention have a new chant: "Drill, baby, drill."

From President Bush's televised remarks to the plastic ID tags the delegates hang around their necks, offshore energy exploration appears to be a top priority.

With polls suggesting that Florida voters may be more receptive to lifting the ban on offshore drilling, the GOP believes it has a winning strategy -- even in a state that has long been viewed as staunchly opposed to offshore oil and gas exploration.

Palin took up the charge Wednesday: "Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems -- as if we all didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing. . . . We need American energy resources, brought to you by American ingenuity, and produced by American workers.''

Read more here.

September 03, 2008

Raves for the GOP runners-up

For Florida Republicans whose first choice was not John McCain, tonight offered a chance to cheer for one of the other guys at the national convention.

First came Mitt Romney, whose campaign was heralded by former Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas. Cardenas cited a not-so-scientific National Journal poll of "78 Republican insiders'' that found that 55 percent think Romney should be the next nominee. (By the way, former Gov. Jeb Bush came in second, with 8 percent.)

Cardenas on Romney: "He is a gracious team player, a loyal Republican, and an inspiring leader who showed his talent again tonight."

House Speaker Marco Rubio on Mike Huckabee: "He is probably the best communicator in the party at talking to the mainstream."

Broward Republican Party Chairman Chip LaMarca on Rudy Giuliani: "Rudy was on fire! His speech was laser direct on the issues. He was intense, yet found his voice, and this voice had humor."

Obama sides with Martinez in aid to Cuba

Barack Obama is seconding Raul Martinez's call to temporarily lift restrictions on travel to Cuba -- to help family members help victims of Hurricane Gustav.

Martinez cited news reports that suggest 100,000 houses, schools and workplaces were damaged by Hurricane Gustav, and at least 6,000 homes are considered beyond repair.

"We have a moral obligation to allow families to help each other in a time of dire need," said Martinez, who noted that under current Bush administration restrictions -- imposed before the 2004 election -- Cubans in the U.S. are limited to taking trips to Cuba once every 3 years and sending a max of $300 to family members every three months.

Obama sided with Martinez -- though he took pains to emphasize that he wasn't calling for lifting the embargo.

"This is a time when the Cuban people – not Castro – need and deserve American compassion and assistance," he said. "The Cuban American community stands ready to directly assist their family members in this time of need. A failed Bush administration policy, however, stands in the way of moral and necessary aid."

Martinez is challenging Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who supported the administration's restrictions and signaled in a press release that Gustav hasn't changed his mind. The subtitle on the release: "US law does not need to be changed in order to help the victims of the hurricane."

Continue reading "Obama sides with Martinez in aid to Cuba " »

Ladies night at the GOP convention

ST. PAUL -- Osceola County Commissioner John "Q'' Quinones made the mistake of sitting in Florida's  front-row seat on the convention floor at the Republican National Convention.

"She kicked me out,'' Quinones said, pointing to Orange County Commissioner, Mildred Fernandez. "But I was gracious. It's ladies night."

Fernandez, waving orange, star-studded maracas, won't budge from her prime perch until vice presidential contender Sarah Palin, the first woman on the Republican ticket, takes to the stage.

"She's going through that glass ceiling,'' Fernandez said. "I can't wait for her to tell everyone on TV who she is."

Quinones predicted her speech would be the "highlight'' of the convention. He quickly added, "Other than the nominee, of course."

On to Ladies Night...

Field trip!

Florida Reps. John Mica and Mario Diaz-Balart donned hard hats and florescent safety vests for a tour and progress report of the Minneapolis highway bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River last August.

Standing on the new span, the Republicans hailed the new construction as a product of bi-partisan cooperation. The old bridge fell into the river in August 2007, killing 13 and injuring more than 100. Congress quickly passed an emergency bill to fund recovery and rehab.

"This highlights not only the tragedy but what happens when everyone comes together," said Diaz-Balart. Both he and Mica, who sit on the House transportation committee had words of praise for the chairman, Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn.