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Sarah Palin Lights A Fire In The Florida Sun
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Sarah Palin Lights A Fire In The Florida Sun

Politics

Sarah Palin Lights A Fire In The Florida Sun

Sarah Palin Lights A Fire In The Florida Sun
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With voting in high-profile Senate and gubernatorial races under way in Florida, Tea Party star Sarah Palin goes to Orlando to rally the troops.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

In many states across the nation, voting in the midterm election is already under way. In Florida, in the first week of early voting, Republicans turned out in larger numbers than Democrats. Democrats say that difference won't matter in the end.

Joining us from Miami now to talk about what's ahead in the last week of politicking in the Sunshine State is NPR's Greg Allen.

And, Greg, Florida has several interesting races, but the one everyone has been talking about is in the Senate. Tell us more about it.

GREG ALLEN: Yes, that's right, Liane. And I think that's in large part because it's a three-way race. As you might remember, Florida's governor, moderate Charlie Crist, was pretty much chased out of the Republican primary by - and the party, in fact - by Tea Party activists and other conservatives who didn't like his moderate ways. He's running now as an independent.

The polls show both the Democrat in the race, Kendrick Meek, and Crist well behind the frontrunner. And that's Republican Marco Rubio. Rubio's done a good job solidifying his Republican support, and he got a hand this weekend from a popular national figure.

Ms. SARAH PALIN (Former Republican Governor, Alaska): Orlando, let me ask you: Aren't you proud to be American, and don't you love your freedom?

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

ALLEN: Former Alaska governor and vice president candidate Sarah Palin was in Orlando yesterday for a Get Out the Vote rally. She slammed President Obama and said the 2010 election would be a referendum on his policies. But her main message was for Florida Republicans.

Ms. PALIN: It's up to you, as volunteers, to get that vote out, doing all that you can for November 2nd to get the vote out in order to put our government back on the side of the people, to turn things around and get America back growing, thriving and prospering.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

ALLEN: That message is similar to one Marco Rubio has been campaigning on, and which he hammered home in a recent debate.

Mr. MARCO RUBIO (Republican Senatorial Candidate, Florida): We are literally deciding what kind of country our children are going to inherit. We are on the verge of being the first generation of Americans to leave the next generation of Americans worse off. And we're not going to fix that by sending typical politicians to Washington that are willing to look into a camera and say or do whatever they have to say or do just to win the next election.

ALLEN: The other marquee race in Florida for the governor's seat is much closer. In fact, it's a dead heat. On one side is Republican Rick Scott, a former hospital executive who's pumped well over $50 million of his own money into the race. He's likely to end up spending six or seven times as much as his Democratic opponent, Florida's Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

Sink has spent much of her money on ads telling Floridians about Scott's history, especially his time as CEO of Columbia HCA, a hospital chain that paid a $1.7 billion fine to the federal government for Medicare fraud.

At a rally this week at Miami-Dade College, the mere mention of Scott's name brought boos from Sink's supporters.

Ms. ALEX SINK (Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, Florida): A man who has a very questionable business background, a man who newspapers describe as being unprepared and unfit to be Florida's next governor.

ALLEN: Sink has received the endorsement of at least a dozen major newspapers in Florida. Scott, meanwhile, has refused to meet with any newspaper editorial boards, saying he prefers to take his campaign directly to the people.

But despite that and Sink's attacks, Scott is holding his own in the polls. He's done it in large part by attacking Sink, a moderate Democrat and a former banker. Scott calls her an Obama liberal.

Mr. RICK SCOTT (Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, Florida): If you believe Obama's plan is the right plan for the country, then you should vote for my opponent. I don't believe it is. His policies have failed us. Obamacare's a disaster. His stimulus is a disaster.

ALLEN: In a race as close as this one, turnout may be the key. And that brings us to the enthusiasm gap. Polls show Republicans are much more motivated to vote this year than Democrats. So Democrats have mobilized their own big guns.

(Soundbite of cheering)

President BILL CLINTON: Good morning.

(Soundbite of cheering)

ALLEN: Former President Bill Clinton spent much of his week in Florida, campaigning from Tampa to Miami. At Miami-Dade College, he said he'd heard from experts that they expected 25 percent fewer Democrats to turn out this election than two years ago. Mr. Clinton said that's what Rick Scott is counting on.

Pres. CLINTON: This guy's up here spending this money, going out of his way to call her names because he thinks you're not paying attention and you won't vote. On Election Day, I want you to show Mr. Scott that you were paying attention and you want Florida to have a good governor.

(Soundbite of cheering)

ALLEN: Along with the governor and the Senate races, there are also at least five congressional races in Florida that are going to be very important to Republicans if they want to regain control of the House of Representatives. And four of those races involve incumbent Democrats who are considered vulnerable.

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