Hillary Clinton says veep pick Tim Kaine is everything GOP ticket isn’t

Hillary Clinton debuted running mate Sen. Tim Kaine on Saturday as a can-do progressive committed to social justice and equality – “everything Donald Trump and Mike Pence are not” – at a boisterous rally ahead of next week’s Democratic National Convention.

“He is qualified to step into this job and lead from Day One. And he is a progressive who likes to get things done,” Clinton declared at Florida International University.

Kaine, a bilingual former Virginia governor, detailed his life in public service. “I like to fight for right,” he said.

And, as Clinton smiled broadly at her choice for vice president, Kaine greeted the largely Hispanic audience in Spanish. “We’re going to be ‘compañeros de alma,’ in this great ‘lucha’ ahead,” he said, or “soul mates in this great fight ahead.”

Trump, in a text to his own supporters, said President Barack Obama, Clinton and Kaine were “the ultimate insiders” and implored voters to not “let Obama have a 3rd term.”

At the splashy rally, Democrats sought to offer a contrast with Trump and Pence, whose first appearance together in a New York City hotel ballroom included a lengthy speech by the GOP businessman and much more limited remarks from Pence, the Indiana governor. The two only briefly posed for photos at their campaign kickoff.

Clinton chose to introduce Kaine as her running mate in the battleground state of Florida, waving to the large crowd of cheering supporters as they bounded on stage with their hands raised in the traditional sign of unity. Clinton sought to present the partnership as one built in optimism, panning the Republican convention, which ended two days earlier, as a display of “fear,” ”anger and resentment.”

She noted that Kaine had taken a year off from Harvard Law School to do missionary work in Honduras and had worked as a civil rights attorney specializing in equal housing. Clinton said Kaine as governor worked with Republicans and helped his home state navigate the Great Recession without sacrificing funding for education.

She also pointed to his work on gun control after the deadly Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, praising his efforts to curb gun violence before a nation still reeling from a series of shootings and violence against police.

“Behind that smile, Tim also has a backbone of steel. Just ask the NRA,” Clinton said.

Choking up, Kaine described the Virginia Tech shooting as the “worst day … of my life.”

Kaine, 58, was long viewed as a likely choice because of his resume in government and his time as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He also had a particularly powerful backer in Obama, whom Kaine endorsed in 2007. Obama considered him for vice president a year later.

Kaine showed a willingness to mix it up with the Republican ticket, assailing Trump as someone who had left “a trail of broken promises and wrecked lives wherever he goes.”

He also vouched for Clinton’s trustworthiness, a major liability with voters, telling the crowd, “She has always delivered.”

He pointed out that his father-in-law was a Republican governor of Virginia who had integrated the public schools. He called marrying his wife, Anne Holton, “the best decision of my life.” The couple planned to be back in Richmond on Sunday for 9 a.m. Catholic Mass.

Holton, who wiped away tears during the speech, is the state’s education secretary and a former state judge. The couple has three adult children, including a son, Nat, a Marine who is going on a deployment on Monday, aides said.

Kaine is likely to be a valuable asset for the Democratic ticket in appealing to Hispanic Americans turned off by Trump’s harsh rhetoric about immigrants.

Trump was not making public appearances on Saturday but took to Twitter to seek to undercut Clinton’s new addition, pointing to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and Wall Street as areas where supporters of one-time Clinton rival Bernie Sanders might split with Kaine.

Trump tweeted that Kaine “has been praising the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has been pushing hard to get it approved. Job killer!” In a tweet earlier in the day, Trump wrote that Kaine was “owned by the banks. Bernie supporters are outraged, was their last choice. Bernie fought for nothing!”

Kaine is viewed skeptically by some liberals, who dislike his 2015 vote to provide the president with “fast-track authority” on trade deals and recent stances on Wall Street regulations, including rules governing regional banks.

Clinton opposed the TPP during the primary against Sanders, citing concerns about job protections and national security. A Clinton campaign aide said Kaine made clear “in the course of discussions” that he shares Clinton’s opposition to the TPP in its current form.

But progressive groups said they want more assurances that the White House, which has pushed the trade deal, won’t try to ram it through after the November election.

“The selection increases the burden on Hillary Clinton to pressure the White House to take TPP off the table in a lame-duck Congress,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

But Larry Cohen, a former president of the Communications Workers of America union and a top Sanders adviser, said Kaine’s record needed to be considered in its totality.

“Most Harvard Law graduates don’t go into civil rights work in the South,” said Cohen, who first met Kaine when he served as Richmond’s mayor. “His life has been those kinds of choices. He’s never run after big money. He’s always run after ‘How can I make a difference?'”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Self-assured, Tim Kaine brings a steady hand to Hillary Clinton ticket

Tim Kaine has an Election Day tradition when his name is on the ballot. The avid outdoorsman votes early, then goes hiking in the woods with friends and family for a few hours of calm away from the nervous last-minute energy of political campaigns.

It’s a ritual that’s so far served him well: He’s never lost a race in his rise from a part-time city council member in a medium-size city to Democratic vice presidential running mate.

It’s also the mark of a man, friends say, who is not wedded to a political life and would be happy doing many other things.

“One of the wonderful things about Tim is that he does not need anybody’s title,” said Tom Wolf, a former law partner and longtime friend. “You could sit next to him on a cross-country flight, and he would never tell you that he was a Virginia governor or a U.S. senator.”

Instead of wealth or prestige, supporters and colleagues said the former missionary is a man motivated by deep convictions and his Roman Catholic faith.

“I do what I do for spiritual reasons,” Kaine, who declined an interview with The Associated Press, said on C-SPAN last month.

That grounded approach has helped explain Kaine’s appeal in swing-state Virginia, where he served as governor from 2006 to 2010 and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. And it’s why he was long considered a front-runner in the race to join Hillary Clinton‘s presidential ticket.

In Kaine, Clinton selected a steady and well-practiced politician. His supporters predicted that Kaine would excel in the national spotlight, and his down-to-earth persona, self-deprecating humor and habit of breaking out a harmonica at campaign stops would help him connect with voters around the country.

A whip-smart Harvard Law School graduate, Kaine speaks with ease while campaigning, rarely needing a prepared text. In 2007, his remarks at Virginia Tech the day after one of the worst campus shootings in modern U.S. history won wide praise.

Kaine is also fluent in Spanish, thanks in part to the year he spent in Honduras as a Catholic missionary before graduating from law school.

He speaks openly about his faith and its impact on his views on social justice. He and his wife, Anne Holton, are longtime members of Richmond’s St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, a predominantly black congregation in a poor part of town. And as a private attorney before he entered politics, he made a name for himself advocating for fair housing.

Raised in Kansas City, Missouri, where he often worked in his father’s welding shop, Kaine came to Virginia after meeting Holton at Harvard. She is the daughter of former Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton Jr. and serves as Virginia’s secretary of education. They have three children; their eldest son, Nat, is a Marine.

Kaine has had a somewhat charmed political rise. After serving as a Richmond city councilmember and part-time mayor, Kaine became the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor when the presumed candidate dropped out following a cancer diagnosis. And Kaine’s election to the Senate was only possible because the incumbent, Democrat Jim Webb, unexpectedly decided to leave after one term.

In one of the most divisive elections in recent history, Kaine’s political style would also stand in stark contrast to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s often incendiary rhetoric and aggressive, personal attacks.

Friends and colleagues describe Kaine as someone who prides himself on his ability to work with a broad spectrum of political adversaries.

“He’s a terrific listener,” said Mark Rubin, who was a senior adviser to Kaine as governor. “His style is to be collaborative and to work with friends and opponents.”

But beneath the nice-guy image, friends said Kaine isn’t afraid of throwing elbows while campaigning and has a strong competitive streak. He’s shown he can win close elections in a swing state, including a bruising and expensive Senate contest. And since arriving at the Senate, Kaine has been working to expand Congress’ role in voting for and declaring war, an effort that put him at odds with the White House. Kaine is a close ally of President Barack Obama, who seriously considered Kaine as his running mate in 2008.

It’s another example, friends said, of Kaine’s self-assuredness. John Watkins, a Republican former Virginia state senator, predicted that Trump “would have a hard time getting under Tim Kaine’s skin.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Hillary Clinton looks to steal Donald Trump thunder with VP pick

Hillary Clinton moved closer to introducing her running mate, snatching attention from newly crowned Republican nominee Donald Trump just hours after he closed out his convention with a fiery and foreboding turn at the podium.

Crews were still sweeping confetti from the GOP convention hall floor, as the Clinton campaign signaled an announcement was coming soon. In a tweet Friday morning, her campaign urged supporters to text the campaign to get the first word. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine had emerged as the leading contender, according to Democrats familiar with Clinton’s search.

The news could quickly steal Trump’s thunder. In a 75-minute speech Thursday night, Trump made forceful promises to be the champion of disaffected Americans, capping his convention on a high note for the party, not a moment too soon after shows of disharmony and assorted flubs before the four-day closer.

Speaking to “the forgotten men and women of our country,” the people who “work hard but no longer have a voice,” he declared: “I am your voice.” With that, he summed up both the paradox and the power of his campaign — a billionaire who made common cause with struggling Americans alienated from the system, or at least a portion of them.

The speech was strikingly dark for a celebratory event and almost entirely lacking in policy details. Trump pledged as president to restore a sense of public safety, strictly curb immigration and save the nation from Clinton’s record of “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.”

“I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves,” Trump said. He shouted throughout as he read off a teleprompter, showing few flashes of humor or even smiles.

Democrats offered a different assessment, with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta arguing that Trump “offered no real solutions to help working families get ahead or to keep our country safe, just more prejudice and paranoia. America is better than this. America is better than Donald Trump.”

Clinton opens a two-day campaign swing Friday in Florida and is expected to introduce her running mate either at a Friday afternoon rally at the state fairgrounds in Tampa or on Saturday at Florida International University in Miami.

Kaine, 58, appeared to be the favorite for her choice, according to two Democrats, who both cautioned that Clinton has not made a decision and could change direction.

In Cleveland, Trump’s acceptance of the Republican nomination capped his improbable takeover of the GOP, a party that plunges into the general election united in opposition to Clinton but still torn over Trump. Underscoring his unorthodox candidacy, Trump reasserted the hard-line immigration policies that fired up conservatives in the primary but broke with many in his party by expressing support for gays and lesbians.

Ever the showman, he fed off the energy of the crowd, stepping back to soak in applause and joining the delegates as they chanted, “U-S-A.”

It was an altogether smoother — and more scripted — chapter in a footloose convention shocked a night earlier by Ted Cruz’s prime-time speech, a pointed non-endorsement of the nominee by the Texas senator who finished second in the race and came to Cleveland harboring grievances — and future presidential ambitions.

During their convention, Republicans were relentless and often raw in demonizing Clinton. As fired-up supporters at Trump’s acceptance speech broke out in their oft-used refrain of “Lock her up,” the nominee waved them off, and instead declared, “Let’s defeat her in November.” Yet he also accused her of “terrible, terrible crimes.”

“This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness,” he said. “But Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy.”

In a direct appeal to Americans shaken by a summer of violence at home and around the world, Trump promised that if he takes office in January, “safety will be restored.”

He also said young people in predominantly black cities “have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America.” And he vowed to protect gays and lesbians from violence and oppression, a pledge that was greeted with applause from the crowd.

“As a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said,” he responded.

The Democratic convention in Philadelphia, which starts Monday, is expected to be a more orderly affair. Clinton is, if anything, disciplined.

Kaine has been active in the Senate on foreign relations and military affairs and built a reputation for working with both parties as Virginia’s governor and mayor of Richmond.

“I’m glad the waiting game is nearly over,” Kaine said Thursday.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a longtime friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton, is still in the mix, according to one of the two Democrats. Both Democrats are familiar with the selection process and spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Kaine’s selection would not be without complication. Liberals have expressed wariness of Kaine for his support of putting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on a “fast track” to approval, which both Clinton and primary rival Bernie Sanders oppose. They also note that Kaine recently signed onto a letter asking for less burdensome regulation of regional banks.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Mitch Perry Report for 7.22.16 – Donald Trump, your humble servant

One of the great ironies of the 2016 Republican presidential race is how the cult of personality regarding their nominee is probably the deciding factor in why Donald Trump is their nominee for president.

In 2008 and ever since, conservatives decried a similar cult that was built around Barack Obama. Remember the JohnMcCain campaign calling him (in a way meant to be derisive) that he was a “celebrity”? Well, The Donald is that squared, considering how often he’s been on televisions and tabloids for decades.

Last night at the Hillsborough County Republican Party convention watch party, a former New Yorker who now lives in Valrico told me that he (regretfully) voted for Obama twice, but is rock solid behind Trump this year. He’s a registered independent, sick of politicians, and absolutely loves Trump’s Tell it Like It is Ethos.

You know who doesn’t? The Republican establishment. We still don’t really know everything Trump believes in, because he doesn’t set out too many policy positions, seeming to improvise a lot of his answers.

But he seems pretty cool with LGBT rights, as he mentioned in his speech last night. And by giving Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel at 9:30 p.m speaking slot – where he announced he was a proud gay man, proud Republican and proud American, won lots of plaudits.

That’s a very different mindset than what a lot of Republicans believe in – particularly the ones on the platform committee that was responsible for what most observers who follow these things say is the most extreme GOP platform on LGBT rights ever.

The NBA just moved the 2017 All-Star game out of North Carolina because their lawmakers have not changed HB2, a bill that would allow transgender North Carolinians to use the bathroom. That outraged their Republican Governor, Pat McGrory, who said in a statement, that “American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”

I don’t want to say I know where the American people are with all of this, but I’m going to take Adam Silver’s side vs. McGrory. And apparently, so will Trump. And Republicans, independents, and yes, some Democrats, are getting on the Trump Train.

Trump never used the word “conservative” at all last night. That’s a fact. And when he heard the chant of,”lock her up,” the mantra of the week about how the GOP base feels should be done to Hillary Clinton, Trump stared the audience down and said, “Let’s Defeat her in November.”

His comments about NATO on Wednesday definitely shook up the GOP establishment. There’s still lots of divisions between the establishment and Trump – but the base is turned on by the 70-year-old NYC real estate mogul. If he were to win in November – well, that would really be interesting to see how the Republican Party adjusts.

Now on to Philadelphia.

In other news..

A sober minded Bob Buckhorn presented his fiscal year 2017 budget to the Tampa City Council yesterday, and he really wants them to approve a $250 million package of stormwater improvements.

Tampa state House Representative Ed Narain was at the University Village retirement home in North Tampa, and he wants to change the laws regarding such CCRC’s.

And seldom a day goes by the House District 68 race in Pinellas County without a candidate getting an endorsement. Yesterday it was Eric Lynn’s turn.

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Pam Bondi cheers on “Lock her up” chant to Hillary Clinton in RNC speech

Coming out to the stage by declaring her love for her native state, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi addressed the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, where she said that a Donald Trump presidency would return the country to the rule of law that has been absent under the past eight years of the Barack Obama administration.

“November 8 is a day of reckoning for all those who have abused their power,” she began, referring to Election Day. “It’s the day when we the people will take back our government from Washington bureaucrats playing doctor with our health care, to a president who’s been playing fast and loose with our constitutional rights, and Russian Roulette with our borders.”

Bondi endorsed Trump on the eve of the Florida primary in March, and there is speculation that she could be picked for a Cabinet position if the New York City business mogul wins in November.

Since being elected in 2010, Bondi has joined with her fellow Republican attorneys general to sue the Obama administration on a number of fronts, from the Affordable Care Act, to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to the president’s plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Shortly into her six-minute plus speech, Bondi then segued to perhaps the major theme of the first three nights of the RNC – bashing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“She deserves no security clearance. How do you become president of the United States with no security clearance?” Bondi asked. Republicans have promulgated the notion that Clinton would have a difficult time getting a security clearance after FBI Director James Comey said that she was careless in her handling of national security documents. The Justice Department recently concluded their investigation into the former secretary of state’s handling of classified documents, which ended with Comey chastising her in a press conference, without filing any charges against her.

“This lawlessness must stop. Right here. Right now,” Bondi said, before acknowledging a chant amongst some of the delegates that has become a mantra at the Cleveland RNC.

“Lock her up? I love that,” she said, repeating the chant that erupted during Chris Christie’s speech on Tuesday night at the convention.

There is no question that there likely be changes with the makeup of the Supreme Court in the next four years. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83. Anthony Kennedy will turn 80 by Election Day, and Stephen Breyer will be 78. Bondi said that Clinton will stack the next court with liberal justices.

“I know Donald, and I’m proud to know Donald. He will appoint conservative justices who will defend, rather than rewrite, our Constitution,” she said.

Bondi’s endorsement of Trump in March revived a storyline that she no doubt had been forgotten. That was the fact that she personally solicited a political contribution from Trump’s charitable foundation just three days after her office said it was “reviewing” fraud allegations against one of Donald Trump’s businesses in 2013. Bondi denied that the contribution had any bearing on her office’s decision not to open an investigation into Trump University, his for-profit-school.

The Clinton camp sent out a statement during Bondi’s address, entitled, “Scammed by Trump U? Don’t ask Florida AG Pam Bondi for help,” followed by links to negative stories about Trump U.

“If you believe it’s time for America to start acting like America again, there is only one choice in this election – Donald Trump,” Bondi concluded, to cheers from the audience.

Although Bondi was given a good time slot at 8:30 p.m., none of the three cable networks broadcasting the convention – Fox, MSNBC and CNN – covered Bondi’s speech live.

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President Obama tapes television ad for Patrick Murphy’s U.S. Senate campaign

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy will begin airing his first Senate campaign television ad, a 30-second spot featuring President Barack Obama.

The ad will begin airing statewide on Wednesday, and it features the president speaking directly to the camera.

Obama says Murphy is a strong progressive who stands up to the gun lobby and supports social security and protecting women’s right to an abortion.

Obama also acknowledges Murphy is targeted by opponents and tells viewers not to believe the negative attacks.

He ends the ad by saying, “I count on Patrick Murphy. You can too.”

“I am humbled and honored that President Obama is proudly supporting our campaign to fight for Florida families,” said Murphy. “The President knows that Florida needs a leader in the Senate who shows up for work and fights for our shared priorities, like protecting Social Security and Medicare, fighting for a woman’s right to choose, and standing up to the gun lobby to reduce gun violence.”

Murphy is facing U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in the Democratic primary Aug. 30. The winner will either take on Republican Sen. Marco Rubio or developer Carlos Beruff.

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Joe Henderson: After RNC day one — just not feeling it

If Democrats could have scripted the first day of the Republican National Convention, it would have looked a lot like the show on display Monday in Cleveland.

Start with the downbeat tone that basically told America their world is approaching the last exit on the highway to hell. Or, put another way, WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE IF HILLARY IS ELECTED!!!

Yeah, these are people I want to hang out with.

Throw in the floor fight by the #NeverTrump insurgents and the charge of plagiarism with Melania Trump’s speech … wow!

Oh, let’s not forget the clumsy rollout last weekend of the announcement that Mike Pence will be Donald Trump’s running mate. Put it all together and it looks like the GOP is driving with no hands on the wheel. That’s not the kind of infomercial it envisioned to convince skeptical voters they should buy into Trump’s philosophy of governance by the seat of his pants.

There were some high moments, of course. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani hit all the key GOP talking points in painting Hillary Clinton, paraphrasing here, as a conniving, devious, incompetent, lying hack who should be in jail.

And who couldn’t feel empathy for Patricia Smith, mother of Sean Smith, one of four Americans killed in the Benghazi attack in 2012, when she told the crowd, “For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton. I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.”

The problem, though, isn’t convincing Republicans to despise Clinton. They’re all in. The problem is convincing America to despise her enough to vote for Trump. Polls show they don’t trust Clinton, but they trust Trump even less.

And the strategy of tying Clinton to President Barack Obama appears flawed. Here’s why.

I’ll whisper now because this will make the GOP’s collective head ache. A majority of Americans actually like Obama. According to the most recent Gallup reading, Obama’s approval rating is 49 percent, its highest weekly average since January 2009. Forty-six percent disapprove while 5 percent have no opinion.

I think it puts Republican strategists roughly in the position of the knight in Monty Python as they try to tell Americans about the failed Obama (and Hillary) administration:

“You hate him.”

“No I don’t.”

“Yes you do.”

“No I don’t.”

If they can’t make Americans hate Obama, it follows that it will be tougher to make them hate the woman he has endorsed to succeed him.

Most of the things that went wrong for Republicans Monday won’t matter by the time they leave Cleveland — assuming they don’t more colossal screw-ups between now and Friday. The nationally televised floor fight that got so much coverage will be forgotten by the next news cycle.

The charge that Melania Trump’s otherwise well-received speech included eerily similar words and cadence to Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention won’t sink the campaign, although it does highlight her husband’s maddening inattention to detail.

What Republicans have thus far failed to do throughout Trump’s march to the nomination is explain why he is a better choice. His campaign is based on the notion of making America great again (implying that things suck now).

Put another way, he is saying, “I know how to run big things, believe me.”

This would be an excellent time for Trump to start proving that because from what we’ve seen so far, gotta be honest — I’m not feeling it.

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In Florida, a slow start for Donald Trump operation

Trump office closedFestooned with Donald Trump‘s name and his “Make America Great Again” motto, the awnings at the three-story commercial property advertise a famous tenant.

It’s vintage style for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee: a top-floor campaign office suite in an upscale shopping district, across the street from an automobile showroom of Bentleys and Aston Martins. But there’s a catch.

“Our office is TEMPORARILY CLOSED to the public, while our office works to prep for the National Convention in Cleveland,” reads a notice posted around the lobby. A call to the posted phone number gets an automated message: “Memory is full.” This is Trump’s Florida headquarters.

Just three months before the earliest voting begins in this state that awards 29 electoral votes — more than 10 percent of the 270 necessary to claim the White House — it appears Trump’s Florida campaign is not running on all cylinders.

In nearby Tampa in contrast, the Florida headquarters for Hillary Clinton buzzes with several dozen 20-somethings — paid campaign employees — manning phones and laptops, surrounded by maps and whiteboards covered in notes, names and numbers. Soon the Clinton team will move into a bigger space with room for volunteers, too.

“We’re running the race of our lives,” said Simone Ward, Clinton’s state director, whose staff includes veterans of the primary season, previous presidential campaigns and the Obama White House.

Certainly, disparate office scenes in July do not predict a November result in a state that is a perennial battleground. President Barack Obama won here by fewer than 75,000 votes out of more than 8.4 million in 2012. Overall, out of 41 million total presidential ballots here since 1992, fewer than 131,000 separate the combined totals of the Democratic and Republican nominees.

Yet more than a few Republicans wonder whether Trump will put up an effective campaign in the state.

Orange County Republican Chairman Lew Oliver, whose county includes Orlando, says he’s not “alarmed or terrified” about Trump’s prospects. “But I am concerned.”

Trump trounced his Republican rivals the March 15 primary, delivering the final blow to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio‘s already flagging White House bid. Republicans praise Karen Giorno, Trump’s lead Florida aide, for her work on the primary campaign and describe her as a skilled operator with all the right instincts and connections. She did not respond to requests for comment about his Florida operation.

“He has a message of security — economic security and keeping your family safe,” said Deborah Tamargo, who leads the Republican Party in Hillsborough County, a key swing county that is home to Tampa. “That’s an appeal for every community.”

Florida pollster Fernand Amandi argued such optimism isn’t justified yet. All of Trump’s national shortfalls are on display here: Polls suggest he is failing to rebuild even Mitt Romney‘s losing 2012 coalition as he lags badly among white women, and his struggle among nonwhites is acute in a state that is less white than the nation overall.

Amandi said Trump’s rhetoric on immigration hurts him specifically among Cuban-Americans, typically a GOP-friendly group. “The Cuban electorate is not immune to the Trump backlash,” he said.

Trump gave a nod to that reality recently, scheduling a speech in Miami and planning a private session with Cuban-American leaders. He canceled both after the sniper attack that killed five Dallas police officers.

Florida airwaves, meanwhile, tilt heavily to Clinton, with her campaign and Democratic allies already sinking more money into Florida ads than anywhere else.

Priorities USA, a super political action committee dedicated to electing Clinton, plans to spend at least $30 million in Florida by Election Day, Kantar Media’s campaign advertising tracker shows.

Also at issue for Trump is the GOP field operation — the “ground game” that uses data, employees and volunteers to identify supporters and get them to vote. The state Republican Party has about 75 paid field workers around the state, paid for mostly by the national party.

Florida GOP spokesman Wadi Gaitan said “there’s no county in the state” that’s not the responsibility of a paid field director, with many of them still training volunteers for fall campaign work. Gaitan also notes gains in GOP voter registration.

Trump has said he will lean on this operation, but the national party and the Trump campaign have yet to work out operating details.

“I’d like there to be some concrete, established offices,” said Michael Barnett, GOP chairman in Palm Beach County, a trove of Republican donors and voters. “We usually see that no later than July, and we’re in July.”

Barnett said he hopes movement will follow the convention, which ends Thursday. “I’m not nervous,” he said. “Not yet.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Running mate Mike Pence: Conservative but not angry about it

As a conservative talk-radio host in the 1990s, Mike Pence described himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”

Two decades later, Pence is the unflappable conservative governor of Indiana who’s being plucked by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump as his running mate.

Where Trump is impulsive, Pence is cool-headed. Where Trump makes conservatives suspicious, Pence has credibility. And where Trump struggles to draw evangelical Christians, Pence is well-regarded by them.

A favorite quote highlights how Pence might smooth some of the sharp corners of the Trump campaign and its supporters.

“I’m a conservative,” Pence says. “But I’m not angry about it.”

The former congressman also is a proven fundraiser with close ties to billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch and their network of wealthy donors, many of whom have been dismissive of Trump.

“One thing you can say about Mike Pence is he’s got a very calm, steady demeanor that in some ways is a little Reaganesque,” said Christine Mathews, a Republican pollster for former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. “He’s a counterbalance to Trump in that way.”

Trump announced on Twitter Friday morning that he’s selected Pence as his running mate, capping a wild 24 hours of speculation interrupted by the truck attack in Nice, France, that left scores dead.

Not so long ago, their relationship was a little awkward. Trump met privately with Pence before Indiana’s primaries, seeking his endorsement. Instead, Pence, under pressure from national conservatives, tepidly endorsed Trump’s rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, while still lavishing praise on Trump. Trump won that primary. Before the night was over, Cruz had quit the race.

For Pence, a former six-term congressman, Trump’s selection offers a return to national politics after his embrace as governor of conservative social issues sidelined his own presidential ambitions. Pence describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” In 2015 he provoked a national backlash after signing a law that critics said would have allowed businesses to deny service to gay people for religious reasons.

Even some Indiana Republicans have questioned his decisions, suggesting Pence has at times seemed more interested in appealing to national conservatives than doing what’s best for the state. Pence’s support of the state’s religious objections law led to a revolt from the business community, which joined gay rights advocates in successfully pushing for changes to the law.

Raised in Columbus, Indiana, in an Irish-Catholic family, Pence revered the Kennedys growing up and has said he voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980. He later identified as an evangelical Christian and was inspired to join the Republican Party by former President Ronald Reagan, whose “happy warrior” rhetorical style Pence has since tried to emulate.

After attending Hanover College, Pence graduated from Indiana University Law School in 1986. He met his wife, Karen, around the same time and twice unsuccessfully ran for Congress before taking a job at Indiana Policy Review, a conservative think-tank. In a 1991 essay titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” Pence swore off harsh political tactics he used in “one of the most divisive and negative campaigns in Indiana’s modern congressional history” while calling for “basic human decency.”

“That means your First Amendment rights end at the tip of your opponent’s nose — even in the matter of political rhetoric,” Pence wrote, though he backtracked in the face of a difficult re-election campaign in Indiana.

In Congress, Pence sponsored a few bills that became law as amendments in other legislation. But he built a national following among conservatives for his willingness to buck his own party after opposing President George W. Bush‘s Medicare expansion and the No Child Left Behind education overhaul. During the early years of President Barack Obama‘s administration, Pence helped lead the opposition to the Democrat’s agenda.

“He has a particularly strong talent, a gift if you will, for being able to stick to principle while making his political opponents or those who disagree with him feel like they are being heard and respected,” said Ryan Streeter, a former Pence aide and George W. Bush staffer who is now a public affairs professor at the University of Texas.

Pence’s congressional experience is one trait that Trump, who has never held public office, wanted in a running mate.

Marc Short, a former Pence aide and top Koch brothers operative, elaborated: “He’s worked with (House Speaker) Paul Ryan. He’s worked with the team in House leadership. He’s somebody who has deep relationships in the evangelical movement, and he’s somebody who has foreign affairs experience.”

Pence’s one term as governor has drawn mixed reaction, and he has managed to alienate moderate Republicans over social issues.

Groups threatened boycotts over last year’s religious objections law and late-night television hosts mocked the policy, leading lawmakers to approve changes.

This year Pence clashed with the local Catholic archdiocese by opposing the settlement of Syrian refugees in Indianapolis.

Pence was also slammed for the planned 2015 launch of “JustIN,” a state-operated news service that was ditched after critics panned it as “Pravda on the Plains.”

But he has also presided over Indiana’s improving economy and plummeting unemployment rate, which Republicans credit to the state’s low taxes, limited regulation and pro-business climate.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Rod Smith drops 3rd ad in SD 8, taking direct aim at Keith Perry

The Rod Smith campaign released its third ad in the Senate District 8 campaign Thursday, and this one takes direct aim at his opponent, Republican Rep. Keith Perry.

“In North Central Florida, our economy and way of life depend on safe water,” Smith says in the ad. “My opponent Keith Perry voted to ignore local communities and let polluters pump toxic chemicals into the ground, right next to the water we depend on and without disclosing the chemicals they’re using.”

“That’s not responsible, it’s just money talking in Tallahassee,” he said.

The Gainesville Democrat is referring to Perry’s vote for HB 191 in 2016 session, which would have allowed fracking in Florida. The bill cleared the House on a party-line vote, but ended up dying in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

“I’m going to fight to keep our water safe, because without that we won’t have anything,” Smith said to close out the ad.

The race for Senate District 8 has been heating up, with both candidates airing ads on Gainesville area television.

Through the June 24 campaign finance reporting period, Smith held the lead in fundraising with more than $547,000 on hand across his campaign and committee accounts. Perry, through the same date, has just under $199,000 in his campaign account.

The pair are the only candidates to qualify for the ballot in the newly redrawn SD 8, which holds a slight advantage for Democrats. Back in 2012, the district was carried by President Barack Obama by 1 point.

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