At NASA, Giffords Staff Talks About Her Voice, Understanding Sarcasm

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May 16, 2011, 8:04 a.m.

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).

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

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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