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Political events casualties of hurricane, too

HURRICANE IVAN SHELVED plans for President Bush to visit Snell Isle in St. Petersburg this week.

The president was supposed to headline a $25,000 per person fundraiser for the Florida GOP at the home of developer Jim MacDougald, founder and former head of ABR Information Services. Instead, Bush will visit the Ivan-socked Panhandle today and is expected back in the Tampa Bay area as early as next week.

This is the second time in recent weeks a hurricane forced Bush to cancel Tampa Bay campaign activities.

It's not the only political event to become a hurricane casualty. Actor and longtime environmental activist Robert Redford was supposed to be at Coachman Park in Clearwater on Wednesday to criticize the president's environmental record. It was arranged through a political arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council but postponed because of Ivan.

Democrats say they hope an amendment on the Nov. 2 ballot to raise the minimum wage will increase turnout. Look for a group called Floridians for All, which is pushing the ballot initiative, to start raising its profile soon.

"You're going to start seeing a lot more," said Megan Scott, the group's new spokeswoman.

The campaign will include a "huge radio buy" and a 10-day bus tour. Former President Clinton's chief of staff John Podesta, president of the American Progress Action Fund, is scheduled to be in Florida soon to support raising the minimum wage in Florida by $1, to $6.15.

IN CASE THERE are any doubters left, here's the latest reminder of Florida's importance for President Bush's re-election: The Republican National Committee on July 29 transferred $659,720 to the Florida GOP. The Center For Public Integrity calls it the single biggest financial transaction this year.

What will it be spent on? Things like this recent recorded call from George P. Bush, urging voters to send in their absentee ballot requests sent to them by the party:

"Unfortunately, our state has been through a lot recently. But we Floridians know better than anyone that every vote counts," the governor's son says in the recording.