|First Congressional District Congressman Alan Mollohan (above) of West Virginia lost the Democratic nomination for his seat to state Senator Mike Oliverio. (Associated Press)|
Tampa wins GOP nod to host 2012 convention
OXON HILL, Md. — Republicans chose Tampa as the site of their 2012 presidential convention yesterday, hoping the swing state of Florida will help them defeat President Obama.
A Republican National Committee panel recommended the Gulf Coast city during a closed-door meeting, rejecting GOP strongholds of Salt Lake City and Phoenix. The decision came amid calls from Hispanic groups and others to boycott Arizona after it adopted a law to crack down on illegal immigrants, although party members insisted their decision against Phoenix was not linked to that legislation.
“We got it!’’ RNC Secretary Sharon Day, a Floridian, shouted into a hotel hallway as she danced out of the closed-door meeting. “I think that we are one of the bellwether states. . . . We’ll be stronger for 2012. It will give us an opportunity to strengthen our volunteer base.’’
Florida, with its hefty 27 electoral votes, decided the 2000 election for George W. Bush. Obama won the state in 2008.
“This is a very important state politically,’’ Al Austin, chairman of the host committee, said in Tampa. “There are also a lot of people who can step up and make the kind of contributions we need.’’
Political conventions are a logistical test for any city, as thousands of people flock into the region, test infrastructure, and bring in millions of dollars. Tampa officials said transportation plans and security top the list of priorities.
“The host committee’s hard work and dedication resulted in a tremendous bid that we are confident will produce a successful event,’’ Michael Steele, RNC chairman, said.
Walking away from reporters after the meeting, Steele insisted the Arizona immigration uproar played no part in the convention choice. He said it was “purely a business decision.’’
Holly Hughes, a national committee member from Michigan who led the selection process, told reporters that it was a decision based on technical requirement, not politics, or personalities
“That was not part of our decision whatsoever,’’ she said. “It’s hotel space, the delegate experience — are we going to be able to accommodate the media; will the venue hold what we need it to hold?’’
Personalities, though, are the sideshow of the event slated to be largely staged at the St. Pete Times Forum.
As the committee was rejoicing over the announcement, Governor Charlie Crist of Florida was changing his party affiliation from Republican to “none’’ in his hometown of St. Petersburg. That cleared the way for Crist to seek the open Senate seat as an independent without first winning an uphill Republican primary campaign against tea party favorite Marco Rubio.
As governor, Crist will be the honorary event chairman for a party he left. He said he would work on the convention “as much as I can.’’
“Whether it was a Republican convention or a Democratic convention, it wouldn’t matter to me. As a Floridian, I’m really proud it’s in our state. That’s what matters first,’’ Crist said.
The last Republican convention in Florida was in Miami in 1972 when the party nominated President Richard M. Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew.
It toppled longtime Democratic congressman Alan Mollohan from West Virginia on Tuesday, and several White House-favored lawmakers elsewhere are confronting liberal voters who do not want party elites telling them what to do.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic voters are considering President Obama’s pleas to embrace former Republican Arlen Specter in next Tuesday’s Senate primary. Specter’s nomination seemed virtually assured last year when the Democratic establishment, including Governor Ed Rendell, backed him in exchange for his switch from the GOP. But Representative Joe Sestak, who bills himself as the contest’s true Democrat, has erased Specter’s big lead in the polls.
The May 18 vote is expected to be close, and Obama has cut a last-minute TV ad for Specter in hopes of avoiding an embarrassing upset.
Should Specter lose, he would be the third prominent politician in a month to fall in intraparty contests dominated by restless voters who show little respect for well-established figures and party leaders.
In Florida, Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican, was expected to cruise into the Senate, with barely a thought to his party’s primary. But conservative Marco Rubio and Tea Party movement activists drove Crist out of the GOP, and he is running as an independent.
In Utah, Bennett, a 17-year Senate veteran, fell victim Saturday to the once-unthinkable claim that he’s not conservative enough for the Republican Party. His sins, according to Tea Party activists who taunted him at a GOP convention, include voting for the 2008 bank bailout pushed by President George W. Bush.
In Democratic races, Senators Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Michael Bennet of Colorado are battling viable primary opponents attacking them from the left. Obama supports both incumbents, but their challengers portray themselves as more faithful to Democratic priorities.
In West Virginia, Mollohan, a 14-term representative, lost the Democratic nomination for his seat to state Senator Mike Oliverio, who had attacked Mollohan from the right, rather than the left, and focused on the lawmaker’s history of ethics investigations.
In today’s climate of angry voters, “being an incumbent or defined as the establishment is the political equivalent of wearing the scarlet letter,’’ said Chris Lehane, a California-based consultant who worked for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.
In other elections Tuesday, Jason Carter, the eldest grandson of former president Jimmy Carter, easily won a seat in a special election for the Georgia Senate. He is the first Carter elected in Georgia politics since the 1970s.
Beau Biden, 41, was being treated at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, a renowned neuroscience hospital in Philadelphia, a day after suffering the stroke.
“He will continue to follow standard protocol and receive medical therapy over the coming days, as is typical for any patient recovering from an event like this,’’ the Delaware Department of Justice said in a statement. “He looks forward to returning to his duties as attorney general in the near future.’’
The vice president and his wife, Jill, were in Philadelphia yesterday morning. Outside the hospital, the vice president held up a cheesesteak and yelled to reporters, “My son’s doing great!’’
Beau Biden was admitted to Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del., on Tuesday. Later in the day he was transferred to Thomas Jefferson, about 45 miles away.