to the Republican National Convention in New York remain upbeat
in the face of both political and tropical storms at home, the
worst of which may still be on the horizon.
after Hurricane Charley cut a devastating swath through central
Florida, another huge cyclone, Frances, is menacing the states
east coast. Forecasters have said Frances, a powerful category
four storm, could strike anywhere between south Florida and the
the Florida delegations Wednesday morning breakfast meeting
at the Hilton New York, Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings announced that
delegates from the states eastern coastal counties, where
the hurricane might strike first, should prepare to return home,
relinquishing their convention credentials to alternate delegates.
On top of
weather worries, the delegation has been roiled by a party-splitting
U.S. Senate primary and now faces an eight-week scramble to election
day in a closely divided state that could decide the presidential
Most of the
Florida delegates gathered in New York, however, seemed at once
calm about the weather and confident about the election.
In the absence
of would be delegation leader Gov. Jeb Bush, who stayed behind
to continue with recovery and cleanup efforts in the wake of Charley,
Bush family patriarch, former Pres. George H.W. Bush, offered
words of comfort and encouragement to the delegates.
you very much for being here, the former president told
the delegates, adding that his son, Jeb Bush, was sorry he wasnt
able to be in New York.
you know, hes doing the right thing, former President
Bush said. Its right that hed be doing his job.
president also said he knew some of the delegates would leave
early to take care of responsibilities at home. He offered them
words of encouragement and an endorsement of his son George W.
do whats right, he said. Hang in there and work
hard for the last
two months of this election and youll
elect a good man a good, honest man of integrity, as president
of the United States.
son, George P. Bush, also visited the Florida delegation.
[Gov. Jeb Bush] wants to send a personal message to yall
that he will work hard for the BushCheney campaign,
the younger Bush said. He continues to work hard for all
Floridians Republicans, Democrats, independents.
Bush added that the challenge of dealing with the storms gives
perspective to the political process.
not lose sight of the fact that sometimes, in the shuffle of politics,
that there are more important things such as faith in God, faith
in family, faith in community, which invariably is going to get
us through this unfortunate period, he said.
of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus said Gov.
Jeb Bush has gotten generally high marks from citizens and political
observers throughout the state for his handling of Hurricane Charley.
the governor appeared to be omnipresent immediately
after the storm and voters interpreted his push to speed relief
to the hurricanes victims as an apolitical effort to help.
In the midst
of the recovery operation the governor announced he would not
attend his partys national convention.
recovery phase of this is important to get started and to be aggressive,
Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters in Tallahassee, Fla., on Aug. 24.
Being up in New York is inappropriate.
added, "I just don't like all that big-dog, big-foot national
stuff I like my job here."
In New York,
Florida state Senate President-elect Tom Lee said the governors
decision was the right thing to do for the citizens of the state
and would benefit the national convention as well.
absent that hurricane I think it was appropriate for the governor
to let his brother have his day up here, Lee said. His
father and mother are here to support, as is Jebs son. For
him to sort of stay out of the limelight for a little while and
let his brother have center stage is probably a good thing to
do because, you know, you get too many Bushes in a place as big
even as Madison Square Garden and they suck the air out of the
Party Chairman Scott Maddox said on Wednesday that Governor Bush
is doing the right thing, adding that Democrats also stand ready
to do their part.
whether youre a Democrat or Republican you dont want
to see anyone hurt by a hurricane, Maddox said. We
will band together during a crisis.
When it comes
to the presidential election, however, the state couldnt
be more divided.
have show President Bush and John Kerry nearly tied. MacManus
said the polls have only shown swings of 2 percent to 4 percent,
and those small bumps are usually tied to candidate visits.
have said that energizing the party faithful and getting voters
to the polls will be two major components in a victory.
Secretary of State Glenda Hood said that Tuesdays smooth
primary showed that improvements undertaken after the 2000 election
debacle have been effective.
officials said Wednesday that they were mostly encouraged by statewide
voting system performance in the primary and would use the success
to convince reticent voters that their ballot could really make
a difference in the general election.
Democrats seem to have an advantage in voter registration while
Republicans are better at getting voters to the polls.
GOP Chairman Bill Bunting agreed, saying he is not worried about
getting out the vote, even in the face of hurricane damage. The
issue of the nations security is much more important, Bunting
said, adding that the campaign could get down and dirty
and would likely be close.
so far the president has taken the high ground and hasnt
taken any cheap shots, Bunting said.
Chairman Maddox couldnt disagree more. He said despicable
ads attacking Sen. John Kerrys war record, run by an ostensibly
independent 527 group made up former veterans, were responsible
for the president polling evenly with Kerry in Florida. Maddox
accused the president of condoning the ads and said President
Bush and Vice President Cheney exhibited the height of hypocrisy
because they did not serve in Vietnam.
has called for the end of all 527 ads, which he has said are generally
bad for the political process.
and Republicans said the personal attacks and debates over the
issues will continue, even amid devastating weather, making Floridas
political and meteorological future equally difficult to forecast.
that takes place in this country, right now, has an impact on
the election, Senate President-elect Lee said Thursday in
New York. Were very, very, close to election time
and the smallest occurrence or event can shape the way the public
feels about Democratic or Republican leadership in this country.
Lee said the
governors decision to stay home and deal with the aftermath
of Hurricane Charley combined with the states close relationship
with the White House have had positive political results.
however, that no one can predict what kind of challenges the state
government will face after two major hurricanes.
Lee said government
leaders need to stick the landing when it comes to
By Jason Manning, Online NewsHour