In a new twist on rapid response, Florida Republicans today launched a tongue-in-cheek “Florida Dems” website the day before the Florida Democratic Party kicks off its annual convention in Orlando (Oct. 25-27 at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort).
The move is part of a concerted effort by the Republican Party of Florida to ridicule the Democratic Party as often as possible, with the Republicans’ Susan Hepworth, the party’s chief spokeswoman, leading the charge through frequent blast emails. The strategy places Democrats on the defensive while masking the Republicans’ own gaffes, Gov. Rick Scott’s continuing low approval ratings, and the party’s questionable tactics–as when Republicans doctored an image of the Miami herald’s front page to tout a Scott ad. “Not only is it a fraud on the public,” Rick Hirsch, managing editor of the Miami Herald, told the Republican Party of Florida, “but it is trademark infringement for use of our masthead in a fake edition, and copyright infringement for those portions of the front page that were not fabricated.”
The Republicans’ attempts at political satire, mockery or self-advertising should, in other words, be taken with a considerable stash of salt.
The Republican Party of Florida’s mock www.FloridaDems.com site appears straightforward enough at first blush, with a “Florida Dems” banner featuring a bucking red-white-and-blue donkey on the main page. The domain name is noticeably similar to the Florida Democratic Party’s www.FloridaDems.org, but the content — highlighting a number of Democratic gaffes — is worlds apart.
Drop down menus at the top of the page feature “party” team members Allison Tant, Darryl Rouson, Allie Braswell and Nan Rich.
Democratic Party Chairwoman Tant is pilloried on the site as “dysfunction junction,” and state Rep. Rouson, ousted as the next House Minority Leader by his caucus last month, is labeled “the largest non-voluntary contributor to the Florida Democratic Party” who “doesn’t get along with Allison Tant.”
Rouson handed over to the FDP more than $140,000 he collected in a secret campaign account before he was un-elected as the House’s future caucus leader. Tant revealed that Rouson, who backed Tant’s opponent for party chair, had created the political committee and she later fired two FDP staffers who worked for House campaigns.
In another embarrassing episode, Braswell, endorsed by Tant, ran a brief campaign for state chief financial officer but four days after announcing his candidacy withdrew from the race after it was reported that he filed for bankruptcy three times.
“While his campaign for CFO lasted less time than it takes to watch all three Lord of the Rings extended edition DVDs, he was a strong voice for the principles of the Florida Democratic Party: fiscal irresponsibility, dysfunction, and desperation,” a blurb beneath Braswell’s photo reads.
The site also features what has become a long-running theme for the RPOF regarding Tant’s perceived snub of gubernatorial candidate Rich, who served as Senate minority leader until last year. Tant refused to give Rich any stage time at the party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser in June.
“Team member not found. (Insert bio here),” is the description beneath the image of a question mark substituted for a photograph of Rich.
The state Republican Party bought the domain name several months ago and the party’s in-house digital team created the site, which includes “Join Us” and “Contribute” links redirecting viewers to the RPOF’s own web site.
Earlier this year, the Republican Party acquired the “EmptyChairCharlie.com” website once operated by the Democratic Party attacking then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. After changing parties, Crist is expected to run for governor in 2014 as a Democrat.
RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry said the availability of both domain names demonstrates Democrats’ disorder. The Democratic Party starts its “We Are Florida” convention Friday. Saturday’s main sessions will include discussions on education, marriage equality and health care access, with meetings on labor, the environment, voter registration and message training, among others.
“It’s incompetence,” he said. “It further exemplifies the dysfunction and disarray of the Democratic Party as they go into their weekend. The party infrastructure is completely disorganized. We see time and time again the FDP just tripping over themselves.”
–News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive