Denver Diary, Pt 3– Politigames?

Some memorable Monday night scenes for the prime-time TV audience– Michelle Obama telling America why she loves her husband and country… a surprisingly robust-looking Ted Kennedy, vowing to be back in the Senate next January when he says Barack Obama will be sworn in.

But some behind-the-scenes maneuvers provided intrigue for Florida watchers.  For instance– why was Miami Mayor Manny Diaz bumped?

Diaz aides said he’d be on at 5, Denver time (7PM back home), right after a “young delegate” from North Dakota, a retired Rear Admiral, and a teachers’ union president.  They all spoke,  but no Mayor Manny.

Aides said they weren’t sure why he was sliding down the program, but still thought he’d be on soon, speaking as President of the US Conference of Mayors about the urban agenda.  It wasn’t until 7 PM Denver time that they sent out a terse e-mail, saying his speech to the convention was delayed until Wednesday at 5.

Payback for Diaz’ refusal to endorse Barack Obama, thus far?  He’d backed Hillary Clinton in the primary, and said months ago he didn’t think Republicans had anything to offer suffering cities like his.

It seems unlikely anyone in the Obama campaign wants to offend Diaz.  Most Democrats believe that, while Diaz will attend next week’s GOP convention, he’ll probably wind up endorsing Obama.  “Just playing hard to get”, laughed State Rep Luis Garcia.  Ex-State Rep Elaine Bloom figures an October Diaz endorsement will mean more, anyway.

Still, the “scheduling conflict” that party officials blamed for the postponement of Diaz’s speech is unconvincing.  We were on the floor, awaiting his appearance.  We listened to song after song– “Respect”, “Celebration”– several minutes of Motown moments.  We watched delegates dance.  It felt like, if anything, convention organizers had extra time to fill.

Another south Florida political drama playing out in Denver is the race for Congress in District 21.  Incumbent Lincoln Diaz-Balart is here, providing convention critiques for the Republican National Committee, sitting in a TV studio a half-mile from the Pepsi Center, tearing into the Obama-Biden ticket in satellite interviews with reporters and anchor around the country.

The challenger, ex-Hialeah mayor Raul Martinez, is here as a super-delegate, ready to nominate Obama-Biden.  His campaign’s emailing taunting press releases, challenging Diaz-Balart to a debate in Denver, saying the Congressman has yet to accept any of 5 invitations to debate, back home.

Each candidate hopes his opponent will be hurt by association with his party’s national ticket.  Diaz-Balart portrays Barack Obama as a liberal, out of touch with ordinary Americans, and says Martinez is in lock “out-of-step”.  I did ask Martinez if there was anything in the party platform or in any of Obama’s speeches with which he disagreed.  “Not yet”, he replied.

He calls Diaz-Balart a Bush rubber stamp, and everyone at this convention delights in calling the GOP standard-bearer “John McSame”.

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