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Mitch Perry Report for 3.30.15 — Mike Pence’s big moment

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Happy Monday to y’all.

If you could only watch one public affairs show on Sunday, that show was ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, where two men with possible presidential aspirations gave interesting interviews.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said several times in his live one-on-one that he was grateful to get the opportunity to explain Indiana’s extremely controversial “Religious Freedom Act.” But you have to wonder if he felt that way after the interview ended, since the big news at its conclusion was how Pence could not answer the question if it effectively gave Christians a legal defense for discriminating against same-sex couples.

“Is Advance America right when they say a florist in Indiana can now refuse to serve a gay couple without fear of punishment?” Stephanopoulos asked.

Pence said that the purpose of the bill that he signed was to “empower” religious people.

This would go on for awhile. The ABC host asking if the bill allowed for discrimination against the LGBT community, and Pence dodging big-time.

“And so yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?” Stephanopolous asked. “Yes or no?”

“This is where this debate has gone, with misinformation,” Pence replied. “There’s been shameless rhetoric about my state and about this law and about its intention all over the Internet. People are trying to make it about one particular issue. And now you’re doing that, as well.”

“That was one of your supporters who was talking about the bill right there,” Stephanopolous pressed. “It said it would protect a Christian florist who — against any kind of punishment. Is that true or not?”

“George, look, the issue here is, you know, is tolerance a two-way street or not?” Pence replied. “I mean, you know, there’s a lot of talk about tolerance in this country today having to do with people on the left. But here in Indiana, steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith and families of faith in our state and this avalanche of intolerance that’s been poured on our state is just outrageous.”

Outrageous or not, Pence has a lot more convincing to do. Business leaders don’t like what they’ve heard about the law, none bigger than Indianapolis-based Angie’s List, which has put off a planned $40 million expansion.

Pence has been discussed as being a possible presidential candidate. Is he still being talked that way today?

The other presidential aspirant on the program was former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who looks like he is the first serious contender to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president (if she declares, as is expected next month).

“The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families,” the former Maryland governor told Stephanopoulos.

“I think that our country always benefits from new leadership and new perspectives,” O’Malley said, adding, “We need a president who’s on our side, a president who’s willing to take on powerful, wealthy special interests” to restore the economy.

Asked if Clinton would take on special interests, O’Malley said, “I don’t know. I don’t know where she stands. Will she represent a break with the failed policies of the past? I don’t know.”

But the confident talking former governor began dancing furiously when asked a question that apparently nobody else has as he visits Iowa and other early voting states.

The question ? What is the top foreign threat faced by the U.S.?

“Uh, the greatest danger that we face right now on a consistent basis in terms of man-made threats, is uh, is uh, nuclear Iran and related to that, uh, extremist violence. I don’t think you can separate the two,” he said.

Was that bad? Yes. Obviously as a former governor, O’Malley has never had to deal with foreign policy issues. That puts him in the same camp as Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Rick Perry.

But some of those men sound more authoritative when discussing terrorism and/or the Middle East than O’Malley did yesterday. They’ve also had more practice. In any event, no doubt he’ll have to work harder on that as he steps up his campaign.

In other news…

Speaking of the LGBT community, folks in Tampa celebrated their first Pride event in the city in over a decade on Saturday.

And on Friday night, David Jolly and CEO Jeff Atwater delighted the more than 400 Republicans who attended the Pinellas Lincoln Day dinner in St. Petersburg.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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