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On NPR, Bob Buckhorn promotes Clinton, defends free trade deals

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn introduces former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a campaign rally at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa last week. Unlike Clinton, Buckhorn supports the Obama administration's proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn introduces former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a campaign rally at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa last week. Unlike Clinton, Buckhorn supports the Obama administration's proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

15

March

On National Public Radio Tuesday morning, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn touted Hillary Clinton as the “best prepared” candidate to be president, but went past Clinton’s positions in his defense of free trade agreements.

Clinton opposes the Obama administration’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with nations on the Pacific rim, though she was secretary of state while it was being negotiated.

In contrast, Buckhorn has invested time and political capital supporting the agreement, often known as TPP, talking it up with national media and traveling to events to promote it.

Buckhorn has even acknowledged that promoting free trade won’t help him with traditional Democratic constituencies like unions if he runs for governor in 2018, but could help build political good will in Washington that could pay off when his city applies for federal grants in the future. As he put it in January, “relationships are mutually beneficial.”

On Tuesday, that support put Buckhorn in the position of listening to audio of an Ohio nurse blame her divorce on the fact that her ex-husband’s job at a Hoover vacuum cleaner factory was outsourced, then defending the economic strategy that allowed it to happen.

“I think that’s an unfair portrayal of trade in general,” Buckhorn told NPR. “I mean, why would we not want to knock down over 18,000 barriers to 40 percent of the world’s global economy? I think opening up trade is a good thing. We really ought to be focused on how the economy’s changing and how the workforce, the skill set needed to compete in a global economy, is changing. I don’t know that you could trade blame and opening up opportunities for American jobs and American businesses for that particular situation.”

“TPP,” Buckhorn said, “does correct a lot of NAFTA’s issues. I think moving forward, trade is a good thing. We just have to make sure that the impact on American workers is a positive thing.”

It is a position that also might put the mayor on a different page than Tampa’s City Council, which is scheduled to discuss a possible resolution opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Thursday.

And, Buckhorn acknowledged, voter opinion on trade could be hurting Clinton in some states. In Florida, Buckhorn said, Bill and Hillary Clinton have a 25-year relationship with Florida voters, many of whom are older or African-American -- two groups that tend to give Hillary Clinton strong support. But in Michigan, where Clinton lost the Democratic presidential primary to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, “obviously trade is a bigger issue,” Buckhorn said. “Globalization and the loss of jobs is a bigger issue in Michigan.”

During the NPR interview — you can listen to it here; Buckhorn’s part starts at 5:20 — Buckhorn also addressed:

• Whether Donald Trump could win Florida in the general election: “My sense is no, But we take Donald Trump very seriously. He has unfortunately tapped into a very ugly vein in the body politic. People that are supporting Donald Trump are largely angry and upset and have not received the benefits of the recovery of the Great Recession. I get that, and I think Secretary Clinton understands that. But I think supporting a candidate like Donald Trump and his racist and bigoted statements, to me, is un-American and demeaning to the office of the presidency. But there will be some people for whom that is appealing. That is unfortunate. That is not who we are as Americans. But for some, they are so frustrated with Washington, D.C., so frustrated with their elected officials, that they want to change, and they see in Donald Trump an opportunity to shake up the system.”

• The importance of the Latino vote in the general election: “In the state of Florida it’s going to be critical. Certainly, in the I-4 corridor, where we pick presidents, the largest percentage of growth is in the Puerto Rican community. The Puerto Rican community tends to vote Democratic. That Central Florida area and the Hispanic vote is going to be absolutely critical.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 1:42pm]

    

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