Aug 09, 2012.
Sarah Palin, the tongue-tied queen of the Tea Party Republicans, doesn't have a spot. Rick Santorum, who thumped his Bible at Mitt Romney and got teary-eye over the thought of married gays raising kids, does. So does the Latina the left calls "Susana la gusana," New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who jeered Romney for his "self- deportation" immigration policy.
Even Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who's gone off the GOP farm with his message that the Sunshine State’s economy is in full-turnaround and picking up steam, gets a coveted spot on the Republican National Convention’s speaking list.
And that's the problem Mitt Romney faces at what's supposed to be his coming out party:
Instead of a pumped-up, get-'em-on-their-feet, Tony Robbins-style, Ol' Time Revival welcoming the leader-wannabe who can lead them to the White House, Romney faces a bunch of half-hearted warm- up speakers who have to bite their tongues or completely reverse what they've said in the past and come off as bigger flip-floppers than Mitt.
What's Rick Santorum going to say now? He emerged as Mitt’s biggest -- and bitterest -- nemesis during the fiercely fought primaries. He attacked Romney, and clearly struck a chord with hard-core Republican conservatives, with his anti-same-sex marriage, anti-gay parenting, anti-abortion, anti- contraceptives, "Faith, Family and Freedom" campaign.
In a bungled assault on Romney over his health care flip-flop (Obamneycare was great for Massachusetts, but not for the rest of the nation) Santorum famously called Romney "uniquely disqualified" to represent the GOP.
"Pick any other Republican in the country. He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama."
Later, clarifying his comment, he said Romney is "the one Republican in America who actually authored the blueprint for Obamacare."
What can he say now -- just kidding?
Martinez, the first Latina governor in the country, was considered a possible pick for Romney's VP -- apparently by just about everybody except her.
She kept insisting she wasn't interested, and putting her on the convention speaker list seems to be a clear indication that she's no longer being considered, if she ever was.
But there are other reasons she probably never was a real contender to run with Romney, and at least one of those is her Mitt- bashing comments about Romney's immigration stands (not to mention his list of anti-immigrant -- or is it anti-Hispanic? -- advisors).
"'Self-deport?' What the heck does that mean?" Martinez told Newsweek. "I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign. But now there's an opportunity for Gov. Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why."
Her thoughts both toe and stretch the bounds of the Republican mainstream, and clearly counter Romney's position of making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants that they'll leave on their own.
She calls for tougher border security and deportation of criminals, but also a guest-worker program that allows people "to go freely back and forth across the border to work." And, in what may be the toughest pill for Romney and his advisors to swallow, she told Newsweek she supports giving undocumented immigrants -- all of them -- visas that let them stay in the United States while they seek naturalization.
"I absolutely advocate for comprehensive immigration reform," Martinez said. "Republicans want to be tough and say, 'Illegals, you’re gone.' But the answer is a lot more complex than that."
Now, she says, her message will be aimed at Latinos.
"I think what is important is that Hispanic families want the same thing as Anglo families or another family, which is to be able to go to work and provide an education to our children," she said. "I don't see us being any different in the sense of what we want from our own families. We just have to have good, honest conversations with them in terms of what we are offering ... to turn America around."
Rick Scott poses a different problem. Romney's whole shtick has been the economy, economy, economy. It's Obama's weak point, no doubt. The recovery has been sluggish, millions remain out of work and the unemployment rate, while much improved from the disastrous tailspin the president inherited, remains above 8 percent.
But a sluggish recovery is better than none at all, and there are positive hints of improvement in certain sectors, and certain areas of the country.
Florida is one of them. And while Romney wants to keep shouting, "The sky is falling!" Rick Scott's message is -- and has been -- different.
In fact, Romney denies it, but Bloomberg News (a pretty trusted news source) reported that his campaign asked Scott to cool it with the sunny Sunshine State economy message.
"What's unfolding in Florida highlights a dilemma for the Romney campaign: how to allow Republican governors to take credit for economic improvements in their states while faulting Obama's stewardship of the national economy," the story pointed out. "Republican governors in Ohio, Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin also have highlighted improving economies."
The back-and-forth, or not, between Romney and Scott started in May, after the governor put out a press release saying the unemployment rate in Florida had dropped for 11 straight months. It asked people to "spread the news" on Facebook, Twitter and by e-mailing their friends, Bloomberg reported.
That came after the state's Republican party put out an ad in March that said, "Companies are hiring, expanding, putting more Floridians to work," the narrator said. "Florida's unemployment rate continues to get better."
It's expected that the governor of the state hosting the party's national convention speak during it, but Scott is going to have to do a real balancing act. He's already begun.
"Mitt Romney knows that it is the hard-working people of America who build businesses and create jobs, not the government," Scott said in a release posted on the national convention's website. "We share that same belief here in Florida where we continue our progress in helping to create jobs by moving government out of the way of our businesses. I look forward to telling our story to the world when we gather in Tampa in just a few weeks."
Should be interesting.
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