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US Elections 2002: Florida - The Exceptional State

Notes From The Campaign 2002 Trail


By Barbara O'Brien

Florida The Exceptional State

The Bush family is rallying to re-elect little brother Jeb as Governor of Florida. Late last week big brother George W. made a $1.7 million fundraising swing that included a visit to our most electorally dysfunctional state.

To the Bushes, familial loyalty knows no bounds, including ethical ones. The George W. Bush Administration banned oil drilling off the coast of Florida while pushing it elsewhere. It lavished money on saving the Everglades while ignoring other environmental crises.

The White House stopped a move to open Cuba to American grain shipments, which enraged farm-state Republicans but pleased the Cuban exile community in Florida.

According to Florida Democratic Party chairman Bob Poe, "They've used the [federal] treasury as their own political piggy bank."

Most polls still show Jeb slightly ahead of challenger Bill McBride, but Zogby puts it close enough to be a statistical dead heat.

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Another Bush Aiding Terrorists?

On Thursday Gov. Jeb Bush's 25-year-old daughter, Noelle, was sentenced to ten days in prison for possession of crack cocaine. Noelle had been caught with the crack while at a drug rehab center, to which she had been sent because of an earlier drug possession mishap.

One wonders what the sentence would have been ... oh, never mind.

The Guardian pointed out that Noelle's Uncle Dubya is accusing all drug users of aiding terrorists, which means ... well, you get the drift.

Neither of her parents attended her hearing last Thursday, which may be a clue ...

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Money Machine

The President has not abandoned other Republican politicians. This year he has been the star attraction at 66 Republican fund-raisers, raking in more than $140 million. (It's remarkable that he has so much time for fundraising, what with war on terrorism so pathetically adrift. Our President is quite a guy.)

Another boon for Republicans comes in the form of "independent" ads. Interest groups put together powerful advertising campaigns to elect candidates who are "good" on their issues. These ads are not sanctioned by the parties (or they are not supposed to be), but they have a big impact.

This year the traditional "Democratic" organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club are being outspent three-to-one by "Republican" organizations such as Citizens for Better Medicare, which is funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

The Council for Better Government has spent about $1 million for ads on black radio stations urging African Americans to vote Republican. The Council for Better Government has not revealed who is supplying its funds.

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Shootout on the Plains

South Dakota is famous for being south of North Dakota, which is celebrated for being south of Canada. The last interesting thing that happened in South Dakota was the Battle of Wounded Knee, in 1890. But the Republicans are sending out the cavalry to take a Senate seat away from renegade Democrats.

The South Dakota seat is desired by Republicans because the other Senate seat, the one not up for grabs this November, is held by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

The Republicans fear Daschle as a possible Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, and want to take him down. The two parties have spent about $14 million, mostly on television ads, in a state with a total population of about 756,600.

T.R. Reid wrote in the October 22 Washington Post, "The [South Dakota] races are so close, and so well-funded, that virtually every known voter has been identified, targeted and contacted by one or more campaigns."

The Democrats are raiding the several reservations in South Dakota and registering as many Sioux as are eligible to vote. The Sioux tend to vote for Democrats. The FBI is investigating Republican allegations that some of the new voters are buried at Wounded Knee.

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Updates: Be Careful What You Wish For

In New Jersey's wonderfully entertaining Senate race, the new Democratic candidate, 78-year-old former Senator Frank Lautenberg, continues to widen his lead over the Republican candidate, Doug Forrester. As you may recall from previous columns, Forrester was sailing to a victory over incumbent Robert Torricelli, who is under a cloud (but not convicted) of allegedly accepting money and gifts in violation of Senate rules. In September Forrester called for Torricelli to resign -- and he did.

However, Senator Torricelli is sitting on $5.1 million in campaign contributions that Democrats want released to the Lautenberg campaign. Torricelli and Lautenberg dislike each other intensely; it was reported that Torricelli asked that anybody but Lautenberg take his place on the ballots. Torricelli says he needs most of the money to pay legal bills.

The Minnesota Senate race is still close, but incumbent Paul Wellstone now has a tiny bit of breathing room in a new lead. Wellstone seems to have benefited politically from voting against the President's Iraq war resolution.

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- Barbara O'Brien, creator of The Mahablog!, is a New York resident and a freelance writer. She will be providing a regular column for Scoop on the US Elections. Readers are invited to visit The Mahablog! and see the Timeline of Terror!

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