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Speaking to Florida Republicans, Carrie Prejean tosses tiara into political ring

ORLANDO — She has butted heads with celeb blogger Perez Hilton and negotiated with Donald Trump. Surely Carrie Prejean is ready for a rough-and-tumble political career.

"I definitely have a high interest in politics," she said Saturday during a state Republican Party conference. "I love Sarah Palin. I think she's amazing."

The 21-year-old former Miss California won national attention after she was attacked for telling pageant judge Hilton that she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. She later lost her crown for allegedly failing to do the work she had agreed to as Miss California.

God works in mysterious ways, Prejean told Republicans gathered for a young voter conference in Orlando Saturday. Standing up for her principles drew attacks but helped her career. Rather than wearing a tiara, she travels the country speaking out on issues that matter to her.

"If you honor God, he will honor you," she said. "I don't need to be Miss USA. I'm not going to little ribbon cuttings and things that aren't meaningful to me."

Also headlining the youth conference was Olympics Gold medal star turned reality show regular Bruce Jenner. He gave a fairly nonpartisan motivational speech, and later told Buzz it was the first partisan event he had been to.

"I'm a conservative Republican, and I'm doing it for my kids," Jenner said. "I see what's happening in our country, and I decided I had to kind of come out of the closet. I don't want to have to tell my kids 10 to 20 years from now, that I didn't speak up when I could have."

Obama setting up shop

Look for Barack Obama's grass roots organization, Organizing for America, to open its statewide headquarters in Ybor City this week. Obama, of course, won Florida's 27 electoral votes, but these days that looks not so mighty in the Sunshine State.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found only 47 percent of Florida voters approve of his job performance, down from 58 percent in June. That's the lowest approval rating for Obama in any of the six states where Quinnipiac conducts statewide polls.

Perfectly understandable, you might assume, that Florida would be souring on the president, given that 23 percent of the home loans in the state are either past due or in foreclosure. But consider this: Gov. Charlie Crist enjoys a 60 percent approval rating in the same poll — 66 percent among Republicans, 54 percent among Democrats and 63 percent among independents. Call it the Crist magic touch.

Crist boos health plans

Meanwhile, the governor who hugged Obama while campaigning for his stimulus package, is now a U.S. Senate candidate strongly criticizing the new president. "Cockamamy" is how Crist described Obama's health care reform proposals.

"I'm very concerned about the directions the new administration has taken," Crist said Saturday night. "I'm the kind of guy who likes to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I did that. But it's taken a turn that I don't think a lot of us expected, especially as it relates to the health care proposals."

GOP finding confidence

Republicans clearly are feeling optimistic that anxiety and opposition to health care reform are giving them a big opening. And two new polls last week bolstered their argument that the Governor's Mansion may not be so vulnerable to a Democratic takeover. Quinnipiac had Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum leading Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink 38 to 34 percent, while a poll for the Republican-leaning Florida Justice Reform Institute found McCollum leading 48 percent to 37 percent.

Adam Smith can be reached with asmith@sptimes.com.

Winner

of the week

George LeMieux. Charlie Crist's former chief of staff, deputy attorney general and campaign manager wound up on Crist's short list to replace Mel Martinez in the Senate. A lot of insiders see him as the favorite, but even if he doesn't get tapped, he'll benefit mightily from the business and political world being reminded how much Florida's most powerful figure thinks of him.

Loser of the Week

Ray Sansom. Put aside the criminal charges facing the former state House speaker and even the news that Sansom spent $173,000 on his state party credit card. What earns Sansom loser of the week were the revelations that while traveling in Europe, Sansom chose to eat at T.G.I. Fridays, the Spaghetti House and the Hard Rock Cafe.

Speaking to Florida Republicans, Carrie Prejean tosses tiara into political ring 08/22/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 22, 2009 11:28pm]

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