- - Thursday, August 4, 2011

FLORIDA

RNC chief: Sunshine State ‘granddaddy’ of all

TAMPA — Florida is the biggest prize in the 2012 election, so it’s no coincidence that the GOP nominating convention will be in Tampa, Sen. Marco Rubio is being discussed as a possible vice-presidential pick, and there are Floridians in leadership roles at both national parties.

With 29 Electoral College votes, Florida is the largest of the swing states, and Republicans will put a heavy emphasis on carrying the state President Obama narrowly won in 2008.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that “Florida is the granddaddy of them all” and predicted Mr. Obama can’t win because of the economy.

His counterpart at the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, says the GOP will be hurt in Florida because of proposals to change Medicare and Social Security.

IOWA STRAW POLL

GOP’s Pawlenty to shift from TV to turnout

ST. PAUL — Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty plans to fade from Iowa’s paid airwaves just days from the critical GOP straw poll in the Hawkeye State.

Campaign spokesman Alex Conant said Thursday that Mr. Pawlenty’s sustained TV ad presence ends Wednesday, three days before the Iowa Republican Party straw poll in Ames, the first time voters express their preferences. The campaign long ago locked in commercial time slots through next Friday, but decided to scale back.

Instead, Mr. Conant said money will be spent on phone banks, direct mail and other tools designed to boost Mr. Pawlenty’s popularity for the straw poll.

One GOP rival, fellow Minnesotan Rep. Michele Bachmann, plans to keep her ads up throughout next week, spokeswoman Alice Stewart said. The third candidate with a commercial presence is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. An official with his campaign said ad plans are still being finalized.

Mr. Conant denied his candidate’s move signaled a campaign on the financial brink. Mr. Pawlenty started July with $1.4 million for his primary campaign, according to his Federal Election Commission report. Instead, Mr. Conant described it as a previously planned shift to make sure Republican voters committed to the former Minnesota governor actually show up.

 

VICE PRESIDENT

Biden to visit China, Japan and Mongolia

Vice President Joseph R. Biden is set to travel to China, Mongolia and Japan later this month.

Mr. Biden’s trip to China, the fast-growing economic powerhouse, will include meetings with President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. The U.S. has a complex but necessary relationship with China, which holds about $1.15 trillion in U.S. debt.

In Japan, the White House says Mr. Biden will express steadfast U.S. support for its close ally in the wake of the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency. Mr. Biden also will meet with U.S. civilian and military personnel who are in Japan assisting with the disaster response.

The White House says Mr. Biden will also underscore U.S. support for Mongolia’s two decades of democratic development.

The vice president is due to start his trip Aug. 16.

ELECTION 2012

Huntsman defends top campaign strategist

DERRY, N.H. — Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman Jr. backed up his chief strategist Thursday after a report of turmoil and dissension in his struggling White House campaign.

Mr. Huntsman defended John Weaver, who was the focus of a Politico story outlining complaints about Mr. Weaver’s aggressive style that came from a former adviser and Huntsman family friend.

“John Weaver is a critically important part of our team,” Mr. Huntsman told reporters while campaigning in New Hampshire. “He’s our strategist. Has been from Day One, and he will be. He’s a great friend, and he’s indispensable to this campaign.”

Mr. Huntsman, a former U.S. envoy to China and ex-governor of Utah, has gotten off to a slow start in his campaign. He has been mired in the low single digits in polls and generated little momentum since his June campaign launch.

POLL

Disapproval of Congress hits record high

Disapproval of Congress rose to an all-time high after weeks of rancorous partisan battles over raising the U.S. debt ceiling took the country to the brink of default, according a New York Times/CBS News public opinion poll published Thursday.

A record 82 percent of Americans now say they disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, compared with 14 percent who approve, the poll found.

The disapproval rating for Congress was the highest in the 34 years the question has been asked in the poll and up from the previous high of 77 percent set in May 2010.

Disapproval of Republicans was slightly higher, with 72 percent of poll respondents disapproving of how they handled the debt ceiling negotiations, while 60 percent disapproved how Democrats had acted.

From wire dispatches and staff reports