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Hillary Clinton ridicules Donald Trump’s “dark and divisive division” in Tampa speech

(UPDATE: Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine to be her VP nominee. That occurred shortly after this post was originally written).

Hillary Clinton did not name her running mate at a rally in Tampa on Friday afternoon. Although that nonevent was probably the most newsworthy part of her campaign appearance late Friday afternoon at the Florida State Fairgrounds, it was also her first time in front of a partisan audience for her to weigh in on the past week of comments from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where she was bashed nonstop for four days, with several of the speakers participating in chants to “lock her up.”

“Did anyone of you watch that convention in Cleveland,” she asked after getting on taking the stage at 5:45 p.m. While the crowd of more than 3,000 lustily booed, she admitted that the bashing “was kind of perversely flattering.”

Referring to how Texas Senator Ted Cruz was jeered at the RNC for failing to endorse Donald Trump, Clinton said that “something has gone terribly wrong when one speaker says ‘vote your conscience and gets booed.'”

“I mean, I never thought I would say these words. Ted Cruz was right,” as the crowd erupted.

In what sounded like a preview of her acceptance speech next Thursday night in Philly, Clinton said the RNC was all about Trump’s “dark and divisive division,” with fear, anger and resentment being dosed out liberally, but with very few solutions offered.

She also blasted the GOP’s nominee for claiming that he can repair the country’s problems by himself. “I never heard of an American leader, or at least someone who wants to be an American leader, claiming that’s all we need. That’s not a democracy my friends, as I call recall, we had a revolution to make sure we didn’t have someone who said I can fix it alone!”

Clinton also mocked Trump’s comment in his 75-minute acceptance speech that “I am your voice.”

She claimed he didn’t speak for small businesses, for P.O.W’s, or people with disabilities, or immigrants or women or working families.

In some ways, Clinton sounded like Ronald Reagan in the 80’s bashing on Democrats who “blamed America first.” It is Clinton who is the sunny optimist, and Trump who “talks trash about America,” or describes the nation as “dystopian,” as Congresswoman Kathy Castor labeled it in her speech an hour before Clinton hit the stage.

Castor, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Senator Bill Nelson, incoming Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn were the elected officials who warmed the crowd up before Clinton arrived from her earlier stop in Orlando, where she met privately with the families and friends of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting more than a month after a gunman killed 49 people there.

Wasserman Schultz previewed what will be the theme of the 2016 DNC next week, “Stronger together.”

Clinton said the Democrats vision in Philadelphia will be about “building bridges, not walls between people.” Her biggest cheer came when she said that the county needed to stand for common sense gun control measures.

She also said that she could understand the thoughts of why some voters are supporting Trump, saying that “there’s a lot of angst about all the changes that are happening all over the world,” as she ticked off technology and globalization as two such factors. She said she respected those with such concerns.

 The suspense remains regarding her VP choice.

Lakeland resident Bill Deveau said he’d love to see Elizabeth Warren on the ticket, but realizes that two older females, both hailing from the Northeast, probably won’t work.

Sean Hayes from Ybor City said he’s good with Tim Kaine, acknowledging that his experience and Spanish language speaking skills will work perfectly.

Clinton will appear at a rally Saturday morning at Florida International University at high noon. We should know by then who will compete against the Trump-Pence ticket in November.

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.

Before Trump’s RNC speech, Marco Rubio feels the love in Tampa

Marco Rubio concluded his statewide tour of Florida on Friday by appearing at Port Tampa Bay in Tampa.

He actually began his Tampa experience on Thursday night, where he made a pop-up appearance at 81 Bay Brewing Company, a cavernous craft brewery off of Gandy Boulevard in South Tampa that the Hillsborough County Republican Party had taken over for an RNC convention watch party.

A host of candidates running for office in Hillsborough County were invited to speak, though the acoustics were horrible, and some speakers – like CD 14 aspirant Christine Quinn – challenged the audience to quiet down.

Shortly after 7:30 p.m., however, everything changed: that’s when Rubio entered the room. The Florida Senator only walked a few feet inside the building before he was swarmed by well wishers, all of whom wanted to take selfies with him.

While Rubio was posing for photos, I asked him if he approved of what Ted Cruz had done the night before in Cleveland. The Texas Senator engendered boos in the hall by not endorsing Trump in his speech, whereas Rubio had sent in a one-minute video giving his support to the GOP nominee.

“I wouldn’t have done that -” he said, before being cut off by another supporter. “We have two choices, Hillary Clinton and Donald Tump, and I’m never going to support anything she does.”

He added that “the best thing I can do for the Republican party is to keep the Senate in Republican hands. That’s why I’m staying in Florida, I’m trying to win.”

Although mocked by Democrats and some journalists for his flip-flopping decision to run for reelection after declaring throughout 2015 that he would not do so, Rubio seems to have not suffered that much back on the campaign trail. He has a huge lead over his only major GOP Senate opponent, Carlos Beruff, and has led in every poll against his two potential Democratic opponents this fall, Florida Congressmen Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson.

After posing for photos for another ten minutes or so, he took to the stage, where he gave a three-and-half-minute speech.

“The time for fighting against each other is over!” he shouted as the crowd, in part buzzed perhaps by the beer, slowly began to quiet. “It’s time to come together and win in November, because if we don’t win in November, then someone who is unqualified and disqualified will become commander in chief.”

Observing the other candidates in the audience, like Dana Young running for the state Senate District 18 seat, and Jackie Toledo in House District 60, Rubio said the crowd had to make sure to get out and support the entire GOP ticket on the ballot this fall.

“I will work side by side with everyone else on the ballot so in November we can win the White House, we can keep the Senate, we can keep the House and Senate in Tallahassee, we can keep our conservatives in local government, and we can turn this country around!”

There was more posing for selfies. He then engaged the press, taking a question in English and one in Spanish. Before he bolted, I asked him what he thought about Trump’s controversial comments in the New York Times regarding the NATO alliance. Trump said that if Russia attacked a NATO nation, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

“Well, I disagree with him on that,” he replied. “I obviously want to see our NATO allies contribute more, but that’s been a longstanding problem. But we can’t put the NATO alliance in doubt.I disagree with him on that. I hope he’ll change his mind. If he pursues that, as a senator I’ll oppose it. I don’t think that’s the right approach on that issue. But I think Hillary’s a disaster.I think she’s worse. I think Hillary Clinton has been a part of the most disastrous foreign policy presidency we’ve seen in a long time under Barack Obama.”

And with that he was off.

Rubio’s appearance in Tampa, a rare one in the entire five-and-a-half years since he was elected, was noted by both the Murphy and Beruff campaigns.

Marco Rubio barely acknowledged Tampa during his six years in the Senate and when it came time to fight for Tampa families on skyrocketing flood insurance rates, he abandoned them almost entirely,” said Murphy Campaign Spokeswoman Galia Slayen. “Tampa doesn’t need Marco Rubio showing up now to pander for votes. They need a Senator who shows up when it matters and cares enough to fight for them every day.”

“Considering how rarely he’s been in the Tampa Bay region over the last six years, he probably had to allow extra time in case he got lost going to the airport,” said Beruff campaign spokesman Chris Hartline. “An election-year epiphany won’t distract voters from the fact that Marco Rubio has ignored most of the state and ignored his duties as senator for the last six years.”

Hillary Clinton has more cash; Donald Trump forgives loans

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her party entered July with nearly $11 million more on hand than her Republican counterpart’s operations, a strong showing of fundraising as both campaigns dive into the general election.

Republican nominee Donald Trump also zeroed-out more than $47 million in personal loans he’s made to his own campaign since last year. Trump and the Republican Party, which officially selected Trump as its White House contender Tuesday, had $41 million cash on hand compared with Clinton and the Democrats’ $52 million.

New campaign finance reports released Wednesday reveal the state of the 2016 money race as candidates and their supportive groups turn their attention to the November election. Fundraising has historically been a key metric in a campaign’s financial health, with funds paying campaign staffers and pricey TV ads.

Despite being outraised by Clinton, Trump had more appeal among small donors. He raised more than $12.1 million from contributors giving $200 or less, since making his first-ever appeal for online contributions on June 21. That small-donor harvest was about double Clinton’s, despite Trump’s late start.

Trump’s haul comes after a disappointing May report, during which the billionaire’s campaign finished with only $1.3 million to spend. With Trump and Clinton now becoming the official nominees, they’ll be able to make use not only of their campaign funds but also much of the money raised by their respective parties.

On the GOP side, the Republican Party made up about half — or roughly $21 million — of the available cash on hand. For the Democrats, Clinton’s own fundraising accounted for most of the money left in the bank at the beginning of July. She had $44 million to spend.

Clinton is expected to be formally nominated next week at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

As with the 2012 election, “super” political action committees are adding to the financial might of both candidates. Outside political groups backing Clinton reported a money advantage over similar committees behind Trump.

Priorities USA, the main super PAC helping Clinton, had more than $40 million in the bank at the beginning of July after spending nearly $24 million last month, the bulk on advertising targeted at swing-state voters. It received $1 million each from the National Education Association teachers union and Working for Working Americans, the super PAC of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

On the GOP side, the National Rifle Association’s political fund, which has been airing ads backing Trump and opposing Clinton, reported $13 million cash on hand at the beginning of July after raising $1.3 million last month. The NRA group also gave $60,000 to the Republican Party last month, including $45,000 for its convention in Cleveland this week.

Rebuilding America Now, a super PAC supporting Trump, raised about $2.2 million in June, nearly all of which came from real estate developer Geoffrey H. Palmer. The majority of that money, about $1.4 million, went toward television ads attacking Clinton. Great America PAC, another group airing ads supporting Trump, brought in about $2.6 million in total.

Make America Number 1 reported about $1.1 million in cash on hand at the beginning of this month, but it took in only $97.86 in revenue — a $25 donation and $72.86 in bank interest. The group was formerly a super PAC backing Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz‘s presidential bid, and also benefited from nearly $14 million in contributions from hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer.

Conservative-leaning American Crossroads received its biggest single donation last month, $1 million, from a trust linked to Joseph Craft of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Craft is the president and chief executive of Alliance Resource Management GP LLC, which oversees coal production.

Democratic donor Tom Steyer, a former hedge-fund manager and climate-change activist, poured $7 million into the coffers of the Clinton-aligned NextGen Climate Action Committee. So far this election cycle, Steyer has given $18 million to the group. NextGen separately reported more than $9.4 million left to spend.

Super PACs like Priorities USA and American Crossroads benefit from the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case. The decision allowed corporations and unions to contribute in unlimited ways to political races, so long as that money comes through super PACs that are not directly coordinated with the candidates.

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Keep track on how much Clinton and Trump are spending on television advertising, and where they’re spending it, via AP’s interactive ad tracker. http://elections.ap.org/content/ad-spending

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Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 7.21.16 — Ted Cruz’s courage

One of the biggest surprises of how the Republican primary season played out to this reporter was how successful Ted Cruz was. When you looked at the panoply of candidates who had serious potential to go all the way in 2016, he was never at the front of my list (neither, of course, was Donald Trump).

But Cruz emerged over the much more hyped Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, et al. He’s a true believer, what Paul Ryan likes to call a “movement conservative.”

Trump is definitely not, which is one reason why the Republican Party as a whole has never, and will never, completely embrace the NYC business mogul.

Cruz is very conservative — too conservative to lead the country, some might suspect. Trump is not as conservative, which is why he could very well defeat Hillary Clinton this fall.

So while I suppose I sort of guess I understand the anger expressed by Republicans toward Cruz last night at the RNC for failing to endorse Trump, I sort of don’t. There was not one report from anyone beforehand that Cruz was going to endorse. Not one. Trump certainly knew that when he allowed Cruz to speak at his convention.

I actually think it was courageous of the Texas Senator to stick to his principles, and have the audacity to do so in front of thousands in the Q and millions worldwide.

Rubio has been all over the place in terms of whether he’d support Trump or not. He ended going halfway, sending an incredibly brief video saying Republicans should back Trump (Interesting, by the way, that Rubio is conducting a statewide campaign tour this week — a tour that could have been planned for next week, but gives him the cover that he’s too busy campaigning to actually travel to Cleveland).

True, Bush and John Kasich, two other major Republicans who don’t support Trump, have made sure to far, far war from the convention hall. But this is Ted Cruz, folks. There’s a reason he’s the most loathed member of the senate.

They say he (and Rubio) are already running for 2020. Some say he’s thrown that all away after last night. I’m not so sure.

It was Florida night on the stage Wednesday, with Rubio, Rick Scott and Pam Bondi getting airtime. Actually, Bondi’s speech wasn’t carried by any of the cable networks, but was captured in its entirety on C-SPAN. Including the part where she seemed to enjoy the refrain of the week regarding Hillary: “Lock her up.”

Meanwhile, if you want to watch the final night of the RNC with a group of Republicans, the Hillsborough County REC hosts a gathering at a South Tampa craft brewery.

In other news …

Hillary Clinton speaks at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa in the second of three Florida appearances before heading to Philadelphia to receive the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party.

The Hillsborough County Commission actually hung the Gay Pride flag from their building in tribute to the fallen victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last month, but don’t expect them to ever do that again.

We finally heard back from the head of the Tampa Firefighters Union regarding their endorsement of Luis Veira. Steve Suarez says Veira received their endorsement because he was the only one who asked, and he had no interest in the other candidates running.

Mark Kelly & Gabby Giffords‘ super PAC on gun safety is backing Patrick Murphy for senate. Neither Kelly or Murphy had much to say positive about Rubio’s record on guns.

Eric Lynn & Ben Diamond announce more endorsements in their HD 68 race.

Mitch Perry Report for 7.18.16 – Here’s the Trump-Pence ticket, America

Greetings, y’all.

My dateline is V.M. Ybor this morning in Tampa , not the Baymont Inn in Hudson, Ohio – some thirty minutes away from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, the site of this week’s Republican National Convention. Circumstances have dictated that I won’t be reporting from the RNC this week, but I certainly intend to observe from afar in this space all week about this week’s events.

It’s going to be entertaining, that’s for sure. Just look at the drama that took place over the weekend before the Trump campaign unveiled Mike Pence as their VP selection on Saturday morning.

I had a feeling on Thursday night when Trump said he was canceling his 11 a.m. Friday presser to introduce his VP that it was more than just being sensitive about (at the time) the latest tragedy in the world, the incident on Bastille Day in Nice. CNN’s Dana Bash reported on Friday that Trump was trying to get out of his selection of Pence midnight on Thursday, but Pence it is.

The two appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes last night, and there were plenty of awkward moments. Pence is a pretty doctrinaire social conservative, as most of you know. Trump is, well, all over the place on so many issues.

Trump was asked by Leslie Stahl regarding his declaration of “going to war against ISIS.” What does that mean, she asked? Does that mean”boots on the ground”?

“I am going to have very few troops on the ground,” Trump specified. “We’re going to have unbelievable intelligence, which we need; which, right now, we don’t have. We don’t have the people over there. We are going to use–

Donald Trump: Excuse me– and we’re going to have surrounding states and, very importantly, get NATO involved because we support NATO far more than we should, frankly, because you have a lot of countries that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. And we have to wipe out ISIS. And speaking of Turkey, Turkey is an ally. Turkey can do it by themselves. But they have to be incentivized. For whatever reason, they’re not. So we have no choice.

Lesley Stahl: But I still don’t know if you’re going to send troops over–

Donald Trump: Very little. I’m gonna–

Lesley Stahl: But declare war–

Donald Trump: –get neighboring states and I’m going to get– we are going to get NATO; we’re going to wipe ’em out. We’re gonna–

Lesley Stahl: But declare war?

Mike Pence: Lesley–

Lesley Stahl: What does that mean–

Pence then jumped in to state that, “This is– this is the kind– this is the kind of leadership that America needs and it begins with deciding to destroy the enemies of our freedom.”

Okay, so that’s good news for all of us who wants to see ISIS go away.

There were several other moments where it was, shall we say, a bit embarrassing if you think Pence is a standup, strong man in his own right.

PENCE: Clearly this man is not a politician. He doesn’t speak like a politician––

STAHL: He’s done pretty well.

PENCE: He speaks from his heart

TRUMP: Well, I––I speak from my heart and my brain. Just so we understand.

PENCE: Right.

TRUMP: This is [Trump points to his head] maybe more important.

Okay, so it wasn’t as good as Trump’s line during his press conference on Saturday in NYC that Pence’s endorsement of Ted Cruz over himself in the Indiana primary was the greatest non-endorsement of his life.

“He talked about Trump, then he talked about Ted, who’s a good guy by the way, who is going to be speaking at the convention,” Trump said. “Ted Cruz, good guy. But talked about Trump, Ted, then he went back to Trump. I said, who did he endorse?” Trump said Saturday. “It was the single greatest-non endorsement I’ve ever had in my life, I will tell you.”

This week is going to be something, that’s for darned sure.

]In other news..

A day before another shooting of police officers in America – Alan Grayson addressed a Black Lives Matter protest in Ybor City in Tampa.

And learn a little more about the candidates running for House District 70, which encompasses parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Former rivals, military leaders, actors to take stage at RNC

Former presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio — the latter by video link — are among those set to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Military leaders, members of Congress, actors, faith leaders and family members of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump are also set to speak in what the Republican National Committee calls “an unconventional lineup” that will challenge the status quo and press for Trump’s agenda.

Speaker highlights at the four-day convention, which begins Monday at the Quicken Loans Arena.

MONDAY

Theme: Make America Safe Again

Headliners: Trump’s wife, Melania; Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, U.S. Army; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.

Others: Willie Robertson, star of “Duck Dynasty”; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Marcus Luttrell, retired U.S. Navy SEAL; Scott Baio, actor; Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, killed in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya; Mark “Oz” Geist, member of a security team that fought in Benghazi; John Tiegen, member of Benghazi security team and co-author of the book “13 Hours,” an account of the attacks; Kent Terry and Kelly Terry-Willis, siblings of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent whose shooting death revealed the botched “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling operation; Antonio Sabato Jr., actor; Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden and Jamiel Shaw, immigration reform advocates; Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas; David Clarke, sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis.; Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.; Rachel Campos-Duffy, LIBRE Initiative for Hispanic economic empowerment; Darryl Glenn, Senate candidate in Colorado; Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Karen Vaughn, mother of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and Jason Beardsley of Concerned Veterans for America.

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TUESDAY

Theme: Make America Work Again

Headliners: Tiffany Trump, candidate’s daughter; Kerry Woolard, general manager, Trump Winery in Virginia; Donald Trump Jr.; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson; and actress Kimberlin Brown.

Others: Sharon Day, co-chairwoman of Republican National Committee; Dana White, president, Ultimate Fighting Championship; Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge; former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey; Andy Wist, founder of Standard Waterproofing Co.; Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Chris Cox, executive director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action; golfer Natalie Gulbis; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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WEDNESDAY

Theme: Make America First Again

Headliners: Former presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; Eric Trump, son of the candidate; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s pick to be vice president.

Others: radio host Laura Ingraham; Phil Ruffin, businessman with interests in real estate, lodging, manufacturing and energy; Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; retired astronaut Eileen Collins; Michelle Van Etten, small business owner; Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado Jr.; Darrell Scott, senior pastor and co-founder of New Spirit Revival Center Ministries, Cleveland; Harold Hamm, oil executive; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Lynne Patton, vice president, Eric Trump Foundation; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (by video); Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Callista Gingrich, wife of Newt Gingrich.

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THURSDAY

Theme: Make America One Again

Headliners: Peter Thiel, co-founder PayPal; Tom Barrack, CEO of Colony Capital; Ivanka Trump, daughter of the candidate; and Donald Trump, GOP nominee for president.

Others: Brock Mealer, motivational speaker; Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; Dr. Lisa Shin, owner of Los Alamos Family Eyecare in New Mexico; RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and evangelical leader.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

GOP team addresses America Saturday

After frenzied, final decision-making, Donald Trump announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate Friday, adding an experienced politician with deep Washington connections to the Republican presidential ticket.

Trump’s pick was aimed in part at easing some Republicans’ concerns about his temperament and lack of political experience. Pence spent 12 years in Congress before being elected governor and his demeanor is as calm as Trump’s is fiery. While some conservatives are skeptical of Trump’s political leanings, Pence has been a stalwart ally on social issues.

Yet Pence is largely unknown to many Americans. And his solidly conventional political background runs counter to Trump’s anti-establishment mantra.

The two men scheduled a news conference for Saturday in New York to present themselves to America as the Republican team that will take on Hillary Clinton and her Democratic running mate in November. The duo will head to Cleveland next week for the Republican National Convention.

As Pence arrived for a private meeting with Trump Friday, he told reporters he “couldn’t be more happy for the opportunity to run with and serve with the next president of the United States.”

In choosing Pence, Trump appears to be looking past their numerous policy differences. The governor has been a longtime advocate of trade deals such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, both of which Trump aggressively opposes. Pence also has been critical of Trump’s proposed temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the United States, calling the idea “offensive and unconstitutional.”

The reaction to the Pence choice from Republican officials was overwhelmingly positive — no small feat for Trump, given how polarizing he’s been within his own party.

“It was a pick that clearly shows he is pivoting to the general election,” said GOP chairman Reince Priebus, who was in the midst of an interview with The Associated Press when Trump announced his decision. “He is choosing a person who has the experience inside and outside Washington, Christian conservative, very different style that I think shows a lot of maturity.”

Pence, a staunchly conservative 57-year-old, served six terms in Congress before being elected governor and could help Trump navigate Capitol Hill. He is well-regarded by evangelical Christians, particularly after signing a law that critics said would allow businesses to deny service to gay people for religious reasons.

Clinton’s campaign moved quickly to paint him as the “most extreme pick in a generation.”

“By picking Mike Pence as his running mate, Donald Trump has doubled down on some of his most disturbing beliefs by choosing an incredibly divisive and unpopular running mate,” said John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Clinton spent Friday holding meetings in Washington about her own vice presidential choice. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of liberals and one of the Democrats’ most effective Trump critics, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, were seen in separate cars that left Clinton’s home. Housing Secretary Julian Castro also met with Clinton, according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private gathering.

Trump spent weeks weighing vice presidential contenders, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and only zeroed in on Pence in recent days. In fact, the selection process appeared on the verge of sliding out of control in the final hours before the announcement, sparking speculation that Trump might be changing his mind.

Word that Pence would be joining the Republican ticket began trickling out in news reports Thursday before Trump had made a final decision or called Pence to offer him the job, according to a Republican familiar with the situation. Trump was in California for fundraisers, separated from his closest aides, and was fuming about leaks that he viewed as an attempt to pressure him into the decision.

Still, Trump called Pence Thursday afternoon to offer him the job and ask him to fly to New York for a Friday morning news conference. Pence accepted and boarded a private plane, along with his wife.

A few hours later, a huge truck barreled through a crowded holiday celebration in Nice, France, killing more than 80 people. With Pence sitting in a New York hotel, Trump decided to postpone the announcement.

The billionaire businessman then went on Fox News to say he had not yet settled on his “final, final” choice. He also held a midnight conference call with his top aides to discuss the situation, according to two people with knowledge of the call.

By Friday, plans were back on track.

Trump sent out a Twitter message saying he was pleased to announce Pence as his running mate. Moments later, one of Pence’s aides filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office withdrawing him from the governor’s race.

Pence was up for re-election, and state law prohibits candidates from being on ballots in two contests. Trump’s formal announcement came about an hour before Pence’s noon Friday deadline for withdrawing.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, strongly rejected suggestions that the candidate considered changing his mind about Pence.

“Never waffled once he made his decision,” Manafort wrote in an email.

Gingrich, one of the finalists for the vice presidential spot, said he was “very comfortable” with Trump’s decision and praised Pence as someone who could help unite the party.

But as of Friday afternoon, Gingrich had yet to share his support with Trump himself. He told The Associated Press he had not received a call from Trump telling him he wasn’t getting the job.

Meanwhile, Trump did speak with Christie, according to a person familiar with their conversation. Ironically, Christie traveled with Trump to Indiana in April to help introduce the candidate to Pence when Trump was trying to win his endorsement ahead of India’s primary.

Pence endorsed Trump’s rival Ted Cruz instead.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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.

Large number of GOP senators skipping Donald Trump’s convention

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana will be fly-fishing with his wife.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he has to mow his lawn (yes, he has one even in Arizona).

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will be traveling her state by bush plane.

And Sen. John McCain of Arizona will be visiting the Grand Canyon, and joked that his friend Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina would be coming along and might even fall in (just kidding, an aide later clarified).

All are among the GOP senators who will be skipping next week’s convention in Cleveland where Donald Trump will claim the Republican Party presidential nomination.

A majority of Republican senators do plan to attend, and it’s not unusual for lawmakers to skip their party’s convention, especially if they’re up for re-election and need to spend time campaigning.

But the level of rank-and-file congressional defections from this year’s Republican convention is unusually high. Perhaps that’s unsurprising, given the GOP establishment’s well-documented discomfort with the man who stands on the cusp of becoming their presidential standard-bearer. But in the halls of the Capitol this week, some senators seemed to visibly squirm when asked about their convention plans.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the party leadership, gave a lengthy series of responses to questions earlier this week that ultimately left his plans unclear.

“I think it’s going to be a different and unique convention experience. You know I’ve been to a number of them in the past, and this year is different, and we’ll see how it goes,” Thune said. “For most people they go because it’s the Republican convention, and it’s our party’s effort in a presidential election year to talk about what we’re for and what we’re about. So that will go on.”

The next day, Thune said he was still “firming up” his plans.

Confronted for months with uncomfortable questions about Trump, some senators can still seem aggrieved to get asked about the presumptive nominee, and uncomfortable giving an answer. But at this late date, just days from when the convention will start on Monday, nearly all have at least decided whether or not they’re going to Cleveland.

Nearly all, but not quite all.

“I’m not sure yet,” Idaho Sen. Jim Risch said Wednesday, adding there are “other things going on and I’ve got to weigh where I can do the most good.”

Of the Senate also-rans in the White House chase, only Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas will attend the convention and deliver a speech. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Graham are skipping the event.

For the nearly two dozen GOP senators up for re-election this year, the considerations are particularly sensitive, and that’s especially true for the handful of vulnerable Republican senators in swing states. They must weigh sharing a convention hall with a nominee whose comments have offended women, minorities and others who can decide general elections. There are also concerns that given the “Never Trump” sentiments still nursed by some delegates, the convention could go off the rails and turn into a chaotic spectacle.

But few senators were interested in wading into such considerations on the record.

“No,” Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said tersely when asked if he was staying away from the convention out of a desire to distance himself from Trump.

Murkowski said she had only a month to visit the remotest areas of Alaska by plane before her Aug. 16 primary.

“For me, this was an easy choice” and “nothing to do” with Trump, Murkowski said.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, one of the most vulnerable members, said he could not go to Cleveland because “I’ve got to spend as much time in Wisconsin as possible.”

As for his views on Trump, Johnson said: “I support all of the areas of agreement … I’m supporting him. Let’s put it this way, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Even Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a vulnerable senator whose state is playing host to the convention, said he will only be dropping into the convention hall from time to time, but not delivering a speech or staying to watch speeches from others.

Instead, he’ll be spending his time on his own campaign events in and around Cleveland, including building a Habitat for Humanity home and holding a kayaking charity fundraiser, “Paddling with Patriots on the Cuyahoga River.”

“I’m not going to have much time to listen to ’em because I’ll be out and about,” Portman said of the convention speakers.

___

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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