Nelson Absent for Obama's Visit to Florida; GOP Jeers as Democratic Senator Up in 2012 Cites a Previous Engagement

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 19, 2012 | Go to article overview

Nelson Absent for Obama's Visit to Florida; GOP Jeers as Democratic Senator Up in 2012 Cites a Previous Engagement


Byline: Susan Crabtree, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When President Obama arrives in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday for a quick one-day visit, two-term Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won't be among those there to greet him.

As Democrats in tough races in other swing states have done in recent months, Mr. Nelson - facing a tough re-election battle this year - has found a reason to be elsewhere when Mr. Obama comes to town. His office is telling reporters that a previous engagement two hours away in Sarasota will prevent the senator from appearing with the president at Disney World to announce a new plan to boost U.S. travel and tourism.

The White House on Wednesday tried to shrug off Republican jeers that the president's fellow Democrats were trying to distance themselves - figuratively and literally - from Mr. Obama for fear of what it might mean for them at the ballot box in November.

Asked during the daily White House briefing whether the president was disappointed that Mr. Nelson will not appear with him Thursday, Mr. Carney tersely replied, I'm not aware of any opinion he's expressed on that.

Mr. Carney also denied any political motive behind the president's trip to the critical re-election battleground state just days before Republicans presidential candidates turn their attention to the state after South Carolina's primary on Saturday.

You know, this is obvious, it's obvious when you're making a tourism and travel announcement that one of the premier sites of the U.S. tourism industry is Orlando. So, that seems pretty self-evident that you would do that, he said.

But Republicans said the White House's nonchalance and Mr. Nelson's explanation don't pass the straight-face test.

A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee contended that Mr. Nelson has been trying to run away from the president rhetorically for months, despite his voting record strongly in favor of Mr. Obama's agenda.

In Washington, Sen. Bill Nelson has voted with President Barack Obama over 97 percent of the time, and his absence will not hide the fact that he voted for Obama's $2.5 trillion health care bill, said NRSC spokesman Jahan Wilcox.

Adam Hasner, the former majority leader of the Florida House of Representatives, who is running for the Republican nomination for Senate, mocked Mr. …

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