Campaigning in Florida this week, President Barack Obama shared his plan for creating jobs and told voters that Republican Mitt Romney does not have the compassion to lead the nation.
Obama spoke to voters in Jacksonville and West Palm Beach on Thursday and plans to address residents in Fort Myers and Orlando on Friday. Florida is the largest battleground state with 29 electoral votes—which is considered a must-win for Romney.
“He plans to roll back health care reform, forcing more than 200,000 Floridians to pay more for their prescription drugs,” Obama told a cheering crowd at a convention center in Jacksonville. “He plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program. So if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the health insurance that’s on the market, you’re out of luck. You’re on your own.”
Obama’s two-day visit to Florida comes as new polls show that Florida is now up for grabs: The latest Herald/Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll, released last weekend, showed 46 percent of likely Florida voters backing Obama, 45 percent supporting Romney.
Florida’s black, Hispanic and senior voters are critical voting blocs and Obama campaign aides say they are organizing an unprecedented grassroots voter outreach initiative in Florida.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Democratic National Committee chair and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Ben LaBolt, Obama campaign spokesman, did not spend time dissecting media polls.
"We have no expectation that either candidate will get to the point of 10 points up or down,'' LaBolt said. “Florida is always a close state, and we don’t expect that to change between now and November. At the same time, Mitt Romney has to win Florida to be elected president. The last Republican to win an election without Florida was Calvin Coolidge.”
Meanwhile, the president told supporters in Jacksonville that he plans to restore middle-class security by paying down the nation’s debt in a balanced way that ensures everyone pays their fair share while also investing in education, energy and growing the economy.
“We are here today because we recognize that this basic bargain, this essence of who we are …is at risk like never before,’’ Obama said. “What’s standing in our way is not technical solutions…what’s standing in our way is our politics.’’
Obama is traveling across Florida during an embarrassing, and bizarre, scandal involving Florida Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a black Republican who has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a former female aide, Carletha Cole, an African Methodist Episcopal minister.
"When she entered the office, she found the Lieutenant Governor and her travel aide, Beatriz Ramos, in what can only be described as a compromising position," according to a motion filed by Cole's lawyer, Stephen Webster.
Carroll, 52, a former Naval officer who is married with three children, defended herself by creating even more controversy.
"I will be fighting back against these blatant lies," Carroll told reporters. “Black women that look like me don't engage in [lesbian relationships]."
Carroll’s perplexing comments have prompted Florida’s Democratic Party to demand an apology from Carroll.
"Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll has embarrassed our state with her public comments insulting the gay and lesbian community," said Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith. "Her generalities about what black lesbians 'look like' were ignorant, irrelevant and unnecessarily hostile."
The scandal has rocked Florida’s political world and has proven embarrassing for Republicans who are trying to portray themselves as good government leaders in an extremely tight presidential race.
To make matters worse, Carroll made her peculiar remarks during a Romney campaign office opening in central Florida.
"For 29 years, I'm the one that's married for 29 years,” Carroll said. “The accuser is the one that's been single for a long time. So, usually, black women that look like me don't engage in relationships like that."
Angry voters have posted numerous messages on the GOP’s official Facebook page, insisting that Carroll apologize and questioning her judgment.
"We lesbians don't look like you? What's that supposed to mean? Are you calling us ugly?" asked another writer on Facebook. "Get a clue woman… You need to apologize!!"
"It is disappointing that a successful black female politician can be so woefully ignorant of black history and how many LGBT people fought alongside their hetero family for the rights we enjoy today," another commenter wrote on a black lesbian advocacy website. "For you to say that a black woman who loves another woman can't be beautiful is to perpetuate the same kind of misogyny that the slave masters uses to strip our foremothers of our femininity."
In the meantime, while Florida Republicans are struggling with the public relations nightmare created by Carroll, Obama stayed above the fray and talked to voters in Jacksonville about moving America forward.
“It’s wrong to ask seniors to pay more in Medicare just so millionaires and billionaires can pay less in taxes,” Obama said. “We shouldn’t be squeezing more money from seniors who are just barely getting by right now.”