McCain gets DB’s, but no RL

      The brothers Diaz-Balart, both embroiled in tough re-election campaigns to Congress, are always on hand to welcome John McCain to south Florida in these home-stretch days.

     At FIU a couple of weeks ago, and again at a lumberyard in Flagami yesterday, the Diaz-Balarts did yeoman’s duty, orating to warm the crowd up while McCain’s motorcade was on the way.  Mario very nearly lost his voice, in an energetic peroration before the FIU crowd.

    But South Florida’s third Cuban-American Congresista, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen?  Conspicuously absent from both McCain events, though I did spot a Ros-Lehtinen aide at the back of the lumberyard crowd yesterday.

   Back in January, as the GOP primary approached, she was everywhere with McCain– sipping cafecitos at Versailles, celebrating his win on the night of the 29th.

   Now, she’s running as her own “brand”, almost as an independent. Her TV commercials do not contain the word Republican– not even in the fine print at the end.  One is full of firefighters praising her efforts to help them.  The other features Ros-Lehtinen recounting her efforts on non-controversial issues like health care for small businesses and developing alternative-energy sources.

   She’s stayed away from her opponent almost as zealously as avoiding McCain.  She appeared at a candidates’ forum– questions known to the candidates in advance– with Annette Taddeo a month or so ago.  Since then, nothing.  She’s declined several offers– ours included– to debate on TV, not even bothering to cite “scheduling conflicts”, the usual dodge for a candidate.

   Her rationale for declining debate, as reported by WPLG’s Michael Putney– “My constituents know me.  They don’t need to see me debate.”

   All this, of course, frustrates her opponent, Annette Taddeo.  The political newcomer (owner of a translation firm) says her own polling shows her within four points of Ros-Lehtinen, but independent organizations that monitor these things disagree.  Congressional Quarterly rates the 18th CD “Republican Favored”, while the Cook Political Report deems it “Likely Republican”.  In other words, an upset isn’t likely, but isn’t out of the question.

   The District is basically 50-50 now; 131-thousand Republicans, 130-thousand Democrats (just 2 years ago, Republicans held a 128k-105k edge).  Taddeo’s campaign theme is to tie Ros-Lehtinen to George W.  Her best-known ad is a bit of cartoonery that dubs them “two peas in a pod.”

   For Ros-Lehtinen, staying away from the current President is a no-brainer.  I’m just a little surprised she’s a no-show when the Republican who would be President comes to town.

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