Posted: October 23, 2007 5:30 PM
Gravel Hits the Road in Florida, Slams NBC for Debate Decision
As the rest of the Democratic field takes a pass on campaigning in Florida, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel is hoping his swing through the Sunshine State will boost his poll numbers and grab him more media attention.
Other Democratic candidates signed a pledge not to campaign in Florida after the state sought to move its primary into January. The candidates pledged to respect the rights of the four states designated by the Democratic National Committee to hold their primaries before Feb. 5. The DNC also ruled that Florida’s nominating delegates would not be seated at the Democratic National Convention.
Gravel’s campaign has seized the opportunity and made campaign stops across Florida all last week, spreading news of his candidacy and the National Initiative for Democracy to create a “government by the people.”
In Vero Beach, Gravel spoke before the Indian River County Young Democrats. He made two important points in his appearance: Promising that he would bring American troops home from Iraq immediately and that he would end America’s dependence on oil by investing heavily in wind power and hydrogen power for cars. The candidate also spoke at the University of Miami where he met an enthusiastic crowd of younger voters.
“My statements are made to shock you, but they’re based in accuracy,” Gravel said in his opening statement. “If anyone wants to challenge me, please do.”
Gravel also had speaking engagements planned in Orlando and Plantation.
The candidate traveled through Tampa Bay, where he had a chance to talk with the St. Petersburg Times. Asked about the other candidates, Gravel said that the friendliest candidates in the race are former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden. The least friendly? Gravel said it was Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, saying “He’s just not a warm person. And he’s got a fish handshake.”
Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Gravel supporters were dealt a blow when NBC announced that their candidate would not be invited to the next Democratic debate, held in Philadelphia on Oct. 30. The political director of NBC News, Chuck Todd, said that Gravel’s polling and fundraising numbers were too low for him to be included. Gravel cited different reasons for his exclusion.
Writing in his blog on “The Huffington Post”http://www.huffingtonpost.com, Gravel cited the “arbitrary polling and fundraising requirements specifically designed to exclude me” from the NBC debate when he had already participated in two NBC debates within the last year.
Gravel responded to the “arbitrary criteria” by saying that a recent CNN poll puts him even with several other invited candidates, and that he is proud not to have the money of the other leading candidates “because money has corrupted our democracy.”
Gravel also claimed that NBC’s decision to block his attendance at the debate is censorship, citing himself as “the most outspoken critic of the influence that the military-industrial complex holds over this great nation,” and General Electric, NBC’s owner, as “one of the world’s leading military contractors.”