Friday, December 15, 2017
Politics

Democrats hammer Republicans taking convention spotlight

TAMPA — It's supposed to be the biggest night of their political careers: A speaking slot at the national party convention.

It also turns a candidate into a bull's-eye.

Opposition fire is now trained on even the most obscure down-ballot candidates — most of whom have secondary roles at the Republican National Convention, appearing on stage before delegates at sparsely-watched moments — who are getting hammered for taking the microphone.

Even before he took the stage Tuesday night to deliver a two-minute speech, Rich Hudson, a North Carolina congressional candidate, found himself under attack from the state Democratic Party, which sent out a press release saying that it was "no surprise that Washington insider Richard Hudson wants to run off to Florida to mingle with Washington elites and special interest groups that have bankrolled his campaign."

He wasn't alone. From the moment Gov. Brian Sandoval began his primetime speech, just after 9 p.m., the Nevada Democratic Party began flooding reporters' email boxes with press releases taking him apart. For full effect, when Sandoval exited the state at around 9:20 p.m., the state party sent out another one.

For Delaware Republican Sher Valenzuela, a lieutenant governor hopeful who spoke on Tuesday night, the attack took on a more personal form. On Friday, a parody website launched highlighting the ways Valenzuela's textile business had benefitted from government funds. The site was designed to paint Valenzuela, who spoke on the "We Built This" theme night of the convention, as a hypocrite.

It's not the first convention where featured speakers have taken heat from the opposing party. But to many political veterans, the magnitude of the assault is taking place on a much broader scale. And, they say, it underscores what's become a dominant theme in American politics: In a divided country where hyper-partisanship and an unrelenting 24-hour news cycle reins supreme, everyone — everyone — is fair game.

"When I spoke in 1996 and 2000, I was put in such an early hour that no one cared what I had to say," said former Democratic Rep. Martin Frost. "It was barely a ripple. My mother might have been the only person who was listening to what I was talking about."

"But this is a different campaign," Frost added. "You're in the middle of an intense campaign."

The biggest difference might be the presence of aggressive news outlets that are covering every corner of the campaign — including those lesser known pols who are looking to break out at the convention.

Mike Duncan, former Republican National Committee chairman who has attended 11 national conventions, said he couldn't remember a convention when so many speakers came under attack.

"You can explain that change because of the fact that there's a 24-hour new cycle," Duncan said. "There's just a lot of content to fill — and people fill the content."

Chris LaCivita, a former National Republican Senatorial Committee political director who is involved in an array of congressional races this year, predicted that Democrats would see the tables turned on them during their convention in Charlotte, N.C., next week.

"It's become the norm in the day and age of constant coverage," he said. "The people who are speaking at 2 o'clock this week and the people who speak at 2 o'clock next week will be getting attacked, and it's because they are being covered. They didn't used to be this covered."

As the Republicans scamper up to the podium, just about every one of them, it seems, is getting whacked. On Tuesday, the Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC released TV ads slamming Republican congressional hopefuls Mia Love and David Rouzer just hours before they took the stage.

Perhaps no one took more heat than former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, the Democrat-turned-Republican who, before overjoyed delegates, hammered away at President Barack Obama. On Tuesday, the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to Davis expressing their "disdain over several recent comments you have made about the important issues facing voters in November, your total distortion of President Barack Obama's record, and your complete flip-flop on certain core principles you once held dear." Davis himself was a former CBC member.

Democrats and Republicans say attacking down-ballot candidates over their convention speeches presents perfect opportunities to attach them to national parties, both of which are unpopular with the public.

So at a time when many candidates are trying to paint themselves as independent-minded outsiders, Duncan, the former RNC chairman, said hopefuls might be better off staying home and avoiding the inevitable attacks.

"If you're a candidate running in a vulnerable district, you have to decide whether it's worth being here or should you go home and be in your district," he said. "A lot of candidates decide it's not worth being on a primetime schedule and being on that stage."

Comments
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Published: 12/14/17
William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

Ideological divides in Florida’s Republican attorney general primary race are producing some early negative campaigning, with a strong Tampa Bay area flavor.State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, one of four candidates, has attacked the early frontrunn...
Published: 12/14/17
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Published: 12/13/17
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Published: 12/13/17
Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama enough to spur an automatic recount, the state’s election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore...
Published: 12/13/17
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Published: 12/13/17
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Published: 12/12/17