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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz leads 'counter-convention'



Back in the day, a political party took a bit of a break when its rival party held a presidential nominating convention. Not anymore.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, and a host of other top Democrats are in Cleveland this week -- for the Republican Party Convention.

Every day, Wasserman Schultz holds a news conference to push back at the GOP's convention message. She's even made it into the convention hall, to sit on makeshift cable news sets.

"This is a counter-convention. That's exactly what we've termed it," she told reporters Wednesday, at the DNC's cramped conference room a few floors above a downtown Cleveland pub. "There's just too much at stake" to give the other party a week of uncontested press coverage, she added.

In her role as national Democrats' chief attack dog, Wasserman Schultz called Tuesday night at the convention "a fact-checker's dream." "It's unbelievable the negativity that is emanating from this convention," she said.

Asked about House Speaker Paul Ryan's reluctant embrace of nominee Donald Trump, Wasserman Schultz said her colleague looked "uncomfortable" -- and "Paul Ryan rarely looks uncomfortable."

"It's been painful to watch the process that he's been through, to get to that stage last night," she said.

Republicans, of course, will show up to the Democratic National Convention next week in Philadelphia.

"Our convention will be unrecognizable to the one you are seeing play out this week," Wasserman Schultz declared. She compared it to 2012, when Democrats took the stage shortly after Republicans wrapped up their convention with a memorable appearance by actor Clint Eastwood and an empty chair.

"We went to our very positive convention that didn't leave people scratching their heads," she said.

The only living Republican president or nominee present in Cleveland is former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole. Democrats will host President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton -- and maybe even former President Jimmy Carter, depending on his health, Wasserman Schultz said. (John Kerry can't participate in politics as Secretary of State.)

The congresswoman also said she plans to campaign with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on Friday and Saturday in Florida. Clinton plans stops in Orlando, Tampa and Miami.

"It's going to be a very key sign of how important Florida is," Wasserman Schultz said, alluding to the possibility that Clinton may name her running mate while in the Sunshine State. Whenever the announcement comes, "it will be dramatically different in terms of the roll-out" than with Republicans.

"There will be no recriminations or hand-wringing," Wasserman Schultz. "Unlike the Republicans, who almost hung their heads in shame."

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 3:44pm]


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