After campaign visits to Ohio and Texas this week, President Obama returns to Florida. Again. When Air Force One ascends into the skies Thursday, it will be the president’s third visit to the Sunshine State since June 22. Mr. Obama’s fundraising foray this time around includes stops in Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, then it’s on to Fort Myers and Orlando on Friday, the words “middle class” figuring prominently in the campaign message.
Why such intense interest? Four years ago, the president won Florida and its 29 precious electoral votes with 51 percent of the vote. Things aren’t quite so warm and sunny these days: A new poll of Florida voters released by the bipartisan pollsters at Purple Strategies give Mitt Romney a 48 percent favorability rating, compared to 45 percent for Mr. Obama, who also received a 54 percent disapproval rating on his job performance. The voters weren’t quite done yet, though. Half of the respondents also cited Mr. Obama for not curing an ailing economy and called him a “failure as a president.”
In exactly 40 days, Florida’s biggest party begins, courtesy of the Republican National Committee, which will stage its most bodacious presidential convention ever in the 670,000-square-foot Tampa Bay Times Forum beginning Aug. 27. The hammer-wielding troops have already descended into the behemoth space, says Alec Poitevant, chairman of the nuts and bolts arrangements. Some 300 workers will be on site every day until the doors open.
“Planning ends and the construction begins,” Mr. Poitevant says, noting that carpenters, electricians, glass installers, movers, painters, stagehands and laborers will transform the site “into one of our democracy’s greatest icons — the site of a national political convention.” That includes adding a new entrance, removing 3,000 existing floor seats, upgrading acoustics and power capacity, retooling hospitality suites for broadcast use and, most importantly, constructing a Mitt Romney-worthy stage.
Things appear to be going swimmingly, unlike the Democratic National Convention, where organizers tried to “rebrand” their primary convention venue in Charlotte, N.C., as “Panthers Stadium” rather than “Bank of America Stadium,” its official name since 2004. Democrats prefer to be associated with a sports team rather than a bank in this hyper-sensitive era, apparently. Not so, a convention spokeswoman tells Politico’s Maggie Habermann, claiming that locals say “Panthers,” and that the names can be used interchangeably. Well, not really.
“We’re looking forward to hosting the event at Bank of America Stadium,” Danny Morrison, president of the Carolina Panthers football team, told the reporters Tuesday. And that was that.
TWEETING OF NOTE
Time and technology march on. From Joe Deoudes, broadcast marketing guru for The Washington Times, comes a brief missive. “Look who’s on Twitter,” he tells Inside the Beltway, sharing a recent email.
“Former President of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf has begun to send personal tweets using the Twitter handle, @P_Musharraf. Please consider following his tweets, which are simultaneously appearing on his personal Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pervezmusharraf,” says an adviser to Mr. Musharraf.
AN ELVIS MOMENT
A custom Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver that Elvis Presley owned once upon a time has come up for auction at Moments in Time, a California-based auction house. The sale is not without a few political underpinnings.
“The pistol has leaf and scroll engraving outlined by sweeping borders of inlaid gold and silver with carved ivory handles and bearing the serial number 688344. Five images of animals including a bear, a bobcat, a moose, a mountain lion and a puma are inlaid in gold. The ivory grips are carved with a deer on one side and an antelope on the other,” says the official description of the revolver, which comes with a leather case, plus registration papers and an investigation report from the Beverly Hills, Calif., Police Department.
“There are four photos of Elvis with the gun. There are numerous articles in several books regarding Elvis giving the pistol to Vice President Spiro Agnew on Dec. 1, 1970. Vice President Agnew returned the pistol to Elvis because he was under investigation for wrongful acts. The provenance is as good as it can get. The pistol was later given to the Sheriff of Shelby County, Gene Barksdale. The value of this artifact is almost priceless,” the auctioneer says.
Well, almost priceless. The asking price is $275,000, “sure to make all but the most avid Elvis fans wince,” observes Edward Pierz, a contributor to Outdoorhub.com, a sportsman insider blog.
“RELEASE THE RETURNS”
“If he releases more returns, Romney will be in a better position to resist the inevitable demands for even more disclosures. More important, he will be in a better position to pivot his campaign to what should be its focus — telling a story, through a series of detailed, substantive speeches, about where he wants to take the country. It is to President Obama’s advantage to fight the election out over tactics and minutiae. By drawing out the argument over the returns, Romney is playing into the president’s hands. He should release them, respond to any attacks they bring, and move on.”
(From a National Review editorial titled “Release the Returns,” advising Mitt Romney to make all of his tax returns available for public scrutiny.)
POLL DU JOUR
• 44 percent of Americans say more tax hikes on incomes of more than $250,000 would “help the economy”; 27 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats agree.
• 22 percent overall say the hikes would “hurt the economy”; 41 percent of Republicans and 11 percent of Democrats agree.
• 24 percent overall say the hikes would “make no difference” on the economy; 24 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of Democrats agree.
• 44 percent overall say the tax hikes would make the U.S. tax system “more fair;” 25 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats agree.
• 25 percent overall say the hikes would not affect the tax system; 30 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Democrats agree.
• 21 percent overall say the hikes would makes the tax system “less fair”; 36 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll of 1,015 U.S. adults conducted July 12 to 15.
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