It sounds like a tricky assignment: blast Congress for squabbling over the budget, and then say some kind words about the local congressman. Marilyn Quayle carried it off with ease.
The wife of Vice President Dan Quayle blamed the current budget fiasco on the Democrats, and said Americans would be far better off with more Republican representatives such as Rep. Michael Bilirakis of Palm Harbor.
Democrats "believe that government is the answer to everything, that taxing the American people will get things done," Quayle said.
She urged the 300 guests at the Kapok Tree restaurant to re-elect Bilirakis, who aides said could not attend because of duties in Washington.
Bilirakis is running against Cheryl Davis Knapp, a Democrat in her first campaign for public office. The district includes northern Hillsborough, western Pasco and northern Pinellas counties.
Quayle arrived in Pinellas County on Thursday to campaign for Bilirakis and St. Petersburg-area state Senate candidate Don Sullivan. She also toured a cancer research facility at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. Afterward, she was scheduled to campaign for Republican candidates in Miami and Palm Beach before returning to Washington.
In Clearwater, Quayle said it was the Democrats who wanted higher taxes _ not President Bush, who agreed to tax increases despite pledging in his campaign not to do so.
"Taxes were forced upon the American people by the Democratic Party, and that's something the people should not forget," Quayle said.
She said Congress' tendency to pass higher taxes probably will not change "until we get a Republican Congress. Until Mike Bilirakis is chairman of a committee."
In St. Petersburg, Quayle toured a research laboratory at All Children's Hospital and spoke to Noorbibi K. Day, who is researching the role of diet on breast cancer.
Then she walked into a luncheon sponsored by the Sullivan campaign, and spoke about the issue in more personal terms.
"My mother died about 16 years ago of breast cancer," Quayle said.
More than 44,000 women die of the disease each year, she said. "It makes you realize that the work of Dr. Day is all that more important."
She urged women and men to increase awareness about the dangers of breast cancer.
Quayle said Sullivan's medical expertise would help make him a good state senator. Sullivan, a Republican who is an orthopedic surgeon, is challenging incumbent Sen. Jeanne Malchon, D-St. Petersburg.
Quayle also spoke about her work on disaster preparedness and to help deaf people.
After hearing about her work with the deaf, Sullivan joked that he was glad to learn about her lip-reading skills.
"I was so relieved there's someone in the White House who can read George's lips," he said.