Pres. Obama recorded a radio ad for Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-17). Full script:
OBAMA: “This is Barack Obama and I want you to know why I strongly support Kendrick Meek for U.S. Senate. Kendrick’s been a powerful voice for Floridians: standing up to special interests, to hold Wall Street accountable, fighting the insurance industry to make sure health care isn’t denied to our children because of a preexisting condition, working to eliminate subsidies to banks so young people can afford a college education, and Kendrick strongly opposes extending tax breaks for the wealthy and has worked tirelessly to expand the middle class and support small businesses. So please join me in supporting Kendrick Meek for Senate. Because if we work together, he will win.” ANNCR: “Go to KendrickMeek.com to learn more. Or text ‘join’ to 35736. That’s join’ to 35736 to get involved today.” MEEK: “I’m Kendrick Meek, candidate for senate, and I approve this message” (release, 10/11).
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Meek is also appearing with Obama during his FL swing this p.m. (release, 10/11). Meek spoke on MSNBC on the report saying he’s could drop out: “Absolutely not. This Wall Street Journal columnist wrote an article. I guess he wanted a little attention and nothing further from the truth. Today I meet the president landing here in Miami. Next week I have Bill Clinton in two cities on the i-4 corridor. Endorsed by the veterans of foreign wars. … We’re moving full steam ahead.”
Meek, on if Gov. Charlie Crist (I) should drop out: “That’s up to the governor. I can live within my skin and stay on my two feet saying that I’ve done everything that I was supposed to do. Qualifying by petition, first candidate in the state to do that through signature” (“Daily Rundown,” 10/11).
So Many Papers, So Little Time
Cristwas endorsed by the St. Petersburg Times (10/8) and the Tallahasse Democrat (10/10). Ex-state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) was endorsed by the Tampa Tribune (10/10).
Crist was in the “Situation Room” on 10/9 p.m.
Crist, on how he’ll “turn this around” in the final weeks of the race: “I think polls are going to be all over the place. There was a Florida Chamber poll that came out last Friday had the split between Marco Rubio and myself at 7 points. Then Zogby, a very respected poll, came out a couple of days ago, had the spread at only 6 points. The reality is I think that it is closing. I really do. And you’re going to see these things bounce back and forth.”
Crist, on Rubio: “I think when you start to analyze the issues here in Florida, issues like Social Security, where he literally talks about raising the age of eligibility, changing the COLA benefits and cutting benefits for our senior citizens in Florida. He also talks about, in terms of women’s rights, that he wants to overturn Roe v Wade, and take away a woman’s right to choose as it relates to personal decisions about her body.”
Crist, on whether a deal is in the works to get Meek out of the race to boost his chances: “Well, number one, I think we’re going to beat him anyway because of the issues I just talked about. … But beside that point, I think what they really want in Florida, and frankly America, is a common sense, you know, person, who wants to have consensus be able to be made, make progress in Washington, DC …”
Crist, on his opening pitch at the Rangers-Rays game: “Well, I’m an old quarterback. I never did play baseball. But I sort of felt like, what’s that movie, Major League with Bob Uecker and Charlie Sheen? A little outside to the right. Probably more symbolic of my Republican opponent than going right down the middle which I’m trying to do in Florida for my fellow Floridians” (CNN, 10/9).
Meanwhile, Crist told the Florida Times-Union ed board that he “can’t decide” who to vote for in the GOV race, but he knows CFO Alex Sink (D) better and thinks she is “honest, impressive and straight-forward” (10/8).
Mackin’ On It
Ex-Sen. Connie Mack (R) recorded a robocall for Rubio hitting Crist. Full script:
MACK: “Hello, this is Senator Connie Mack. I used to be Charlie Crist’s campaign chairman, and we’ve been friends a long time. But his attacks on Marco Rubio crossed the line, and I had to speak out and set the record straight. Charlie’s attacks are just plain false. Marco would never cut benefits for anyone on Social Security. Check the facts at Marcorubio.com. Charlie’s last minute scare tactics are disappointing to me, and a disservice to you. Marco will protect Social Security. And he’s the only candidate for Senate who will challenge the direction Washington is taking our country. I hope we can count on your vote for Marco Rubio for Senate. Thank you for your time. Paid for by Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate” (release, 10/8).
Rubio stumped in Punta Gorda 10/8 and said he “is not ready to rest easy, even though polls consistently” show him ahead. Rubio: “How do we know we’re far ahead? There are these polls, but we don’t pay attention to them. These were the same polls that showed I was so far behind” (Wallace, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/11).
St. Petersburg Times’ Leary profiles “Rubio’s meteoric rise,” as “a story of unremitting ambition, natural talent and powerful connections.”
“Rubio is a political jock: popular, good-looking, charismatic. His campaign speech about fulfilling the American dream for his Cuban exile parents is so steeped with emotion and pride, it brings audiences to tears. His story is also one of contradictions and uneven results. As charming as he is calculating, Rubio projects the freshness of an outsider but is a career insider. He preaches fiscal restraint but as a legislator on the rise, he spent lavishly from political funds filled by special interest money and used” a GOP credit card for personal expenses.
“Against it all, Rubio continued his trajectory, defying critics who view him as more flash than substance and the doubts of even his most ardent supporters” (10/9).
A Little Bitter-Sweetener
St. Petersburg Times’ Smith profiles Crist’s staffers, who include his “big sister, a longtime Tampa Bay GOP organizer, a veteran Democratic strategist and college buddy and a New York City political hotshot with no Florida experience” (10/10).
With apologies to T.S. Eliot, February was the cruelest month for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Republicans’ hopes of ousting President Obama.
In the tumultuous four weeks since Romney seemingly sealed the nomination in Florida, momentum in the GOP race has careened between the buttoned-up former Massachusetts governor and the voluble former senator from Pennsylvania, who displaced Newt Gingrich as Romney’s principal challenger. But even many Republicans privately agree that the past month’s one consistent winner was Obama.
Early on, many Republicans (including Romney) argued that a lengthy primary battle could strengthen the eventual nominee. Such talk has died down since Santorum’s three-state Feb. 7 sweep upended the race.
Since then, the two men’s fierce struggle has widened ideological and class divisions in the GOP coalition, highlighted each candidate’s weakness as a campaigner, and, above all, sent both hurtling away from the political center as they pursue voters in the party’s ideological vanguard. “For the past two or three weeks, this has been a very bad period for the Republican Party and swing voters,” acknowledges Peter Wehner, the former White House director of strategic initiatives for President George W. Bush.
Romney regained the advantage this week with his twin victories in Arizona and Michigan. But he didn’t win decisively enough to suggest that he can close out the contest anytime soon — or without further bumps and reversals.
Even in securing these wins, Romney continued to struggle with the most conservative elements of the GOP coalition. Voters who identified as strong tea party supporters or evangelical Christians preferred Santorum narrowly in Arizona and by double-digit margins in Michigan, where he contested Romney more vigorously. By themselves, those deeply conservative voters are not enough to propel Santorum to victory. From Iowa on, Romney has established a solid hold on the GOP’s managerial wing — voters who are better-educated, more affluent, centrist, and secular. To overcome Romney’s strength with those voters, Santorum must reach more successfully than he has so far into the party’s populist wing, the broader range of working-class Republicans who are cooler to the former governor.
But for all of Santorum’s visceral cultural and economic populism (like calling Obama a “snob” for encouraging more college education), he hasn’t shown that he can connect with those voters consistently. Although Santorum is Catholic, he has run behind Romney among Catholic voters, for instance, in every state where there have been enough of them to measure in exit polls. For now, Santorum is attracting Republicans from too narrow a bandwidth to become the nominee.
But Santorum’s coalition is big enough to allow him to continue winning states in which the Republican electorate clearly tilts right. And it is clearly large enough to exert a gravitational pull on the front-runner. Romney has responded to each challenger who has emerged to his right (Rick Perry, Gingrich, Santorum) by finding a handful of issues on which that opponent has deviated from conservative orthodoxy and then pounding those issues to drive home the argument that right-leaning voters can’t trust him.
It’s a nervy strategy for a candidate whose own greatest vulnerability is the sense, especially among conservatives, that he has systematically reconsidered his own positions for political advantage. But Romney’s maneuver has worked well enough to prevent any of those rivals from consolidating most conservative voters against him for more than a short time.
Outflanking those rivals, though, has required Romney to stake out unflinchingly conservative positions on an array of issues such as immigration that could present general-election liabilities. In just the past 10 days, he has stiffened his opposition to the automaker bailout (in the process, possibly conceding Michigan); sharply escalated his rhetoric against organized labor (which could help unions hold members who are disenchanted with Obama); and moved to preempt conservative economic criticism by unveiling a plan to cut marginal tax rates for all income-earners by 20 percent (which could be difficult to sell at a time when polls consistently show that about two-thirds of Americans support raising taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit).
Romney should also probably learn how to say “a model” in Spanish because if he wins the nomination, he’s probably going to hear the phrase (“un modelo”) incessantly in Democrats’ Spanish-language ads after he used it last week to describe Arizona’s tough anti-immigration law.
And amid all this, Romney has displayed a rich guy’s Tourette’s syndrome, fueling Democratic hopes of blue-collar gains by awkwardly babbling about his wealth. “He is taking almost all of the swing constituencies where he would need to improve on John McCain’s performance and making it much more difficult,” says Democratic pollster Geoff Garin.
None of this guarantees that Romney could not be rehabilitated for November or that Obama’s own vulnerabilities will not provide openings. (Santorum would face a far rockier path after his serial eruptions on social issues last month.) But this leap-February did not end one day too soon for Republicans who are nervously watching Romney’s favorability ratings decline with both independents and the most conservative voters. “My hope is that when we get to the general election,” sighs one senior party strategist backing Romney, “there is a reset button.”
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