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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

President Obama kicks off Miami fundraising bonanza



President Obama just landed in Miami where he’s planning to pick up some campaign money and take a few potshots at Republicans.

The president’s trip, on the day that his potential Republican rivals debate on CNN, underscores the importance of the nation’s biggest swing state. It’s not just a cash cow, Florida is a must win for Republicans due to the vagaries of the Electoral College.

“If president Obama carries Florida, he’s re-elected for a second term,” said Peter A. Brown, a pollster for Quinnipiac University, which released a survey in late May showing a majority of Florida voters approve of the job Obama’s doing.

But how long Obama’s approval ratings will last in the bleak economy is anyone’s guess.

Though the state’s job market appears has slightly improved, Florida’s 10.8 percent unemployment rate remains stubbornly higher than the nation’s. The state’s home-foreclosure rate is also among the highest in the nation.

Florida, however, also has one of the nation’s most unpopular Republican governors, Rick Scott, and pollsters say the president could use that to his advantage.

“Rick Scott is his best hope,” said Matt Towery, pollster with Atlanta-based InsiderAdvantage.

Towery said Obama needs to be careful not to appear as if he’s running against Scott but is instead running on his record. Still, Towery said, he expects Democrats to use mailers and television ads pairing Scott with the ultimate Republican nominee.

Obama’s scheduled to leave Miami on Tuesday for Puerto Rico, marking the first time a sitting president has visited the island in 50 years. Puerto Rican voters are a key Democratic voting bloc in Central Florida.

As with any campaign, money is crucial – and it’s plentiful enough in Florida, despite the economy. Obama won’t directly use all the money raised tonight. Some will be used by the Democratic National Committee, which is managing the events. (And sometimes, raising money means dealing with donors who think they should get a little ear/face time in return for their bucks)

Obama begins his evening at a private fundraiser hosted at the Miami home of former President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Singapore, Steven Green, who’s a former CEO of Samsonite luggage. Price: $10,000 per person.

Later in the evening, Obama’s expected to address a full house at the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center, where tickets reach $2,500.

Finally, Obama has an even pricier dinner and fundraiser at the Coconut Grove of Magalie "Maggie'' and Dr. Jean-Philippe Austin. Price: $35,800 per plate.

This is the first time that the couple is hosting a current president of the United States in their home. The Austins were among a small group in February 2007 that co-hosted a fundraiser for then senator Obama at attorney Roy Black's home. In May, the couple hosted Michelle Obama at a fundraiser at their home.

Dr. Austin is a radiation oncologist; Maggie is executive director of Konbit for Haiti, a local organization aimed at managing the Haitian diaspora.

Marc Caputo, Times/Herald writer

[Last modified: Monday, June 13, 2011 6:58pm]


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