November 01, 2012 at 12:57 pm
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson spent much of his South Florida campaign swing Wednesday trying to garner support for the candidate at the top of the ticket.
Nelson held a rally with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the Century Pines Jewish Center in Pembroke Pines on Wednesday morning. While the rally was an official campaign stop for Nelson and Wasserman Schultz — who is also seeking re-election and whose new district includes Century Village, the predominately Jewish retirement community where the event was held — both candidates spent much of their time talking about the need to re-elect President Barack Obama on Election Day.
“We’re six days … from what I would say is the most important election of our lives, and in this room, that’s saying a lot,” Wasserman Schultz said to a crowd of more than 225 senior citizens Wednesday morning. “If you look at the clear contrast, and the stark choice in the two directions we can go, I think the choice is clear. In the race for president, Barack Obama deserves your support.”
But Wasserman Schultz said a vote for the president isn’t enough. The Westin Democrat also said South Florida voters need to vote for Democrats in all races, to ensure the president has the support he needs in his second term.
“We need to make sure he has a Congress that is going to back him up,” she said. “Not spend every waking moment, like the Congress Sen. Nelson and I serve in, with Republicans not focusing on job creation, not focusing on getting the economy turned around, but focusing on one job, Barack Obama’s job.”
Wasserman Schultz introduced Nelson, calling him “one of the best United States senators this state has ever had,” and urged the crowd to vote for him on Nov. 6.
But with this crowd, Wasserman Schultz’s goading was likely unnecessary. State election results show Nelson in 2006 won Broward County — where Century Village Pembroke Pines is located — with 293,758 votes to Republican candidate Katherine Harris’ 102,847 votes. Six years earlier in 2000, Nelson trounced Republican Bill McCollum with 377,081 votes to McCollum’s 174,902.
“Thank you for the great privilege of the huge vote margins you’ve given me, here in Century Village and in Broward County,” he said. “If we have a big vote coming out of Broward … that makes the difference.”
Nelson spoke to the group for about 20 minutes, highlighting the work he’s done on issues important to seniors — like Medicare and Social Security — and funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. That issue hit close to home for everyone in the community center, especially in light of Superstorm Sandy, since many of the residents once lived in New York or New Jersey.
Anita Steinberg, a 78-year-old Century Village resident, said she was thrilled to hear Nelson speak and said he has her vote. Steinberg also said she thinks it is important for Broward County residents to vote for Democrats next week.
“We have to get the Democrats back into power to do the right thing,” she said.
Voting Democrat may be an easy sell at Century Village, but 30 minutes away at Versailles Restaurant in Miami, Nelson had a little more work to do.
Nelson dropped in to the famed restaurant during the lunch hour Wednesday and was met outside by supporters of Republican opponent Rep. Connie Mack waving signs and encouraging people to vote for Mack. Once inside, Nelson chatted with patrons as costumed waiters and waitresses bustled about.
Nelson’s visit came just as the Miami Herald reported that in a poll of likely Hispanic voters in Florida, Obama clings to a 51 percent to 47 percent lead over Republican Mitt Romney. That Florida International/Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll showed if Cuban voters weren’t factored in to the equation, Obama would win likely Hispanic voters in Florida 65 percent to 32 percent.
The Miami Herald reported, however, the polls showed Mack would lose by 10 points among Hispanics to Nelson.
Nelson told reporters Wednesday he is confident he will carry the Hispanic vote in Florida, and said it is “a misnomer to say Cubans don’t” vote for Democrats.
Coral Gables resident Isabel McCormick said she’s pleased Nelson is trying to debunk that myth. McCormick, a Cuban American, said she went to lunch at the Versailles just to catch a glimpse of Nelson.
“I want him to know Cubans support him,” she said.
Nelson spent about an hour at the restaurant shaking hands with supporters before ordering ropa vieja, black beans and sweet plantains and getting back on the road.
“We’ve got the upward momentum,” Nelson told supporters earlier in the day. “And I suspect if we all will do our part, come next Tuesday night, we’ll be singing happy days are here again.”
– Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Naples Daily News