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Obama Comes to Florida; Republicans Gleefully Ready

March 19, 2014 - 7:00pm

President Barack Obama came to Florida on Thursday to promote a new program to help women and working families succeed and do some fundraising. While he was here, Republicans at the national and state levels had a field day with him.

Obama gave a speech at Valencia College in Orlando Thursday afternoon before heading to South Florida for fundraising events for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DNCC). Former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning hosted the DCCC fundraiser in Pinecrest.

In his remarks at Valencia College, Obama pointed to a gender gap on wages, noting that for every dollar a man makes, a woman earns 77 cents.

"That's wrong, Obama said. This isn't 1958. This is 2014.

Upside down in the polls and looking like a lame duck despite having more than two and a half years to go in his second term, Obama showcased his family as he made his pitch for more gender equality in the workplace.

I've got a personal stake in seeing women get ahead," Obama said, reminding listeners of his two daughters. "First of all, women make up 80 percent of my household, if you count my mother-in-law, and I always count my mother-in-law."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney talked to the media on Wednesday afternoon on what Obama aimed to do in Orlando.

The president will kick off a series of regional events we will hold across the country to explore how we can continue to expand opportunity for all Americans by helping women and working families succeed, Carney said. These events will take place over the next few months, leading up to our White House Summit on Working Families on June 23rd. Thats our White House Summit on Working Families on June 23rd.

There is another way the president will make 2014 a year of action by bringing together business leaders, economists, labor legislators and other stakeholders to find innovative solutions for building 21st century workplaces that meet the needs and realities for a 21st century workforce, Carney continued. Each of these forums will focus on key issues. And tomorrow, at Valencia College, the president will discuss how we can better equip our students and workers with the skills they need for good jobs and to advance in their careers.

Obama met with former Gov. Charlie Crist during the DNC fundraiser Thursday night. Despite spending most of his political career as a Republican, Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott come November. Crist endorsed Obamas federal stimulus which hurt his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010, causing the then-governor to leave the GOP to run with no party affiliation. After endorsing Obamas bid for a second term in 2012, Crist changed party affiliations again when he joined the Democrats.

Scott welcomed Obama to the Sunshine State with a few jabs. Rising to political prominence by opposing Obamas federal health-care law, Scott went after Obama for taking funds from Medicaid Advantage to fund the law.

"Today, President Obama is coming to Florida to raise money and do a campaign-style event, Scott said. No one knows specifically what hes going to talk about, but its safe to say he wont be addressing the 1.3 million Florida seniors who are in danger of losing their health care benefits, doctors and hospitals as Medicare Advantage plans are being raided to fund Obamacare. The president probably wont tell the story of Floridians losing access to cancer centers. The president probably wont bring on stage seniors whose co-pays and premiums have increased. Day-by-day, real Florida families are being affected by the presidents policies and his administration has continued to change the rules and stick their heads in the sand. Thats not acceptable to families who are being impacted, and thats why, in the coming months, Im going to meet with families to hear their stories on what they had, and what theyve lost. Hopefully, this administration will get the message that raiding Medicare Advantage is harming our seniors and change course. Stay tuned.

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) also took aim at Crist on Thursday for defending Obamas federal health-care law. The RGA pointed to former state CFO Alex Sinks loss to Republican David Jolly in last weeks special congressional election in Pinellas County, insisting her defense of the health-care law helped lead to her defeat.

Nearly four years to the day since Obamacare passed, Charlie Crist has fallen head-over-heels in love with Obamacare, going so far as to say God bless President Barack Obama for this odious law, said Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for the RGA, on Thursday. As Alex Sink just learned the hard way, Floridians do not like Obamacare. Families and single parents dont like losing their insurance plans. The elderly dont like being cut out of Medicare Advantage. And no Floridian wants to hear there will be less jobs available to them in the future. Sorry, Charlie, once again you are on the wrong side of the voters."

While he defended the law on Wednesday, Carney admitted that Democrats will have problems come November and went after the Republicans on health care.

Im not diminishing the fact that, as is the case every election cycle, there are challenging races, and certainly in midterms that can be doubly so for Democrats, Carney said. But this president believes and what those Democrats who voted to extend affordable, quality health insurance to millions of Americans believe is that its the right policy, and that the alternative Republicans have proposed, which is repeal, it means higher premiums; it means insurance companies dictating to you whether or not you get coverage for your condition or whether your sister gets charged double what you get charged, whether you can see your insurance coverage cancelled arbitrarily and capriciously, and whether or not premiums can go up exponentially. Thats the alternative theyre proposing.

What I think youll see as more and more people enroll and as the year progresses is that the arguments for repeal are going to be arguments made to individuals who have insurance coverage, sometimes for the first time, who are being told by Republican candidates that they would prefer that insurance companies deny them coverage; that they would prefer that those with pre-existing conditions be denied coverage, and that those with existing conditions find out when they need medical attention that the fine print in their policy carves out coverage for that particular condition, Carney continued.

All of those, of course, are forbidden under the Affordable Care Act. So this is going to be an important debate on policy grounds and on the impact to the lives of millions of Americans across the country. The president feels, and I know that Democrats feel they have the stronger case. And I'm sure that this will be debated in races across the country. Again, Republicans are going to have to explain why the alternative is better, why they would rather have insurance executives dictate to individuals across the country whether they get coverage as opposed to the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you get coverage and that your conditions are covered.

We're in the real world now, as opposed to the theoretical world, prior to implementation of ACA, Carney insisted. And candidates who make that case for repeal are going to have to make it to Americans who have concretely benefited from the Affordable Care Act. And we'll see what happens.

Reach Kevin Derby at

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