Amid the discussion over jobs and Social Security, a sensitive health issue played a role in Monday's Republican presidential debate in Tampa: whether to vaccinate young girls against a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer.
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was assailed for pushing mandatory vaccinations, a decision he reversed. He did not totally back down Monday, but said it was wrong to bypass the Legislature with an executive order.
Florida, you may recall, wrestled with the vaccines in 2007. Three Republicans pushed a proposal to make the vaccine mandatory for 11- and 12-year-olds. But the plan, pushed by drugmaker Merck, came under opposition from religious conservatives who said it was akin to promoting early sex.
"We're concerned about the age of the kids and the message we're sending," Bill Stephens, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, said at the time.
Skittish Republican leaders backed away, and the legislation effectively died.
"It was not a bill about sex," former state Rep. Ed Homan of Tampa, an orthopedic surgeon, told the Buzz on Tuesday. "It was about health. It was about saving lives. I'm a Republican, but I'm not stupid."
Immigration a touchy topic
The lineup of conservative speakers at a Heritage Foundation luncheon in Tampa on Monday was well received by a crowd of about 200 tea party activists — until one said something the audience didn't agree with.
The topic was illegal immigration. The speaker: Al Cardenas, a longtime member of Florida's Republican elite, former state GOP chairman, lawyer, lobbyist and current chairman of the American Conservative Union. After making obligatory comments about securing the nation's borders, Cardenas began to talk about the economic pragmatism of immigration.
He said it makes no sense for foreigners to get educated at America's best universities such as MIT and then return to their homeland nations to compete against America. "We'd rather figure out a way for you to work for Microsoft, here," Cardenas said, as the cavernous room turned silent.
Then Cardenas spoke of menial, low-paying jobs "working in chicken coops or washing dishes," and he questioned "whether enough Americans are willing to do those jobs," and the crowd turned on Cardenas, booing him and shouting "No! No!"
Speaking to reporters afterward, Cardenas said the crowd misunderstood him. "What I was saying was actually true," he said. "If you talk to people in the hospitality industry or the ag industry, they talk about all the efforts they undertake to go to our most needy communities to get workers, and they can't."
• A couple of high-profile surrogates were on hand Monday night touting their newly endorsed candidates: former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, now backing Mitt Romney, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, backing Perry.
• Pasco GOP committeeman Bill Bunting told the Buzz he is on board with the Perry campaign. "Everybody's talking about getting something done with the economy and jobs. His track record is out there with doing it."
Scott on the road up North
Florida Gov. Rick Scott attended a Tea Party Express rally in Jacksonville on Saturday, but wasn't at the group's presidential debate in Tampa.
He went to Philadelphia for Republican Governors Association meetings and had a dinner scheduled during the debate.
We're told Scott, who said he's watched "parts" of the previous GOP debates, was also planning to spend time in New York on Tuesday, where he'll attend a fundraising dinner, and Wednesday for some media interviews.
Times staff writers Steve Bousquet, Adam C. Smith and Michael C. Bender contributed to this report.