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News Clash

Debbie Does Tampa

By Sean Daly, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Monday, August 27, 2012

TAMPA — There are not-so-goodie bags in Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s “war room” a few blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, this week’s GOP stronghold.

Call them the Democratic National Committee chair­woman’s anti-party favors.

Inside each bag are water bottles and tchotchkes adorned with Mitt Romney’s face, the word “Wrong” and related nay-saying. Outside this just-say-boo enclave on Tampa Street is parked a moving billboard with the same message: “Romney Economics — Wrong for the Middle Class.”
Wasserman Schultz is a lot of things — one of President Barack Obama’s brassiest mouthpieces, proud Jewish mom and wife — but subtle is not one of them. Of course, that’s a bonus when your main job this week is to rabble-rouse. She’s a party pooper, and proud of it.

You could even call her the best-dressed protester in town.

Looking tan and typically go-go-go, with her “emphasized curls” (her words) photo-op-ready, the 45-year-old U.S. representative for Florida’s 20th Congressional District showed off the war room to fans, friends and supporters at a shindig Saturday.

When asked what will be more fun — being a beacon of hope at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., starting Sept. 4 or being a giant fly in the ointment in Tampa — Wasserman Schultz said this about being here during the RNC: “There’s a lot at stake in this election. We can’t afford to take a step back.”

When asked that same question again, her polite smile broke into a wide one: “I love every bit of it. … It’s going to be crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Wasserman Schultz’s “counter-conventioning” will be shortened by the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac; a Sunday news conference was scratched so she could fly home to Broward County. But she’ll be back in Tampa Bay on Wednesday — and look out.

War room guest and former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, one of Tampa’s own, said of his host: “What’s the winning formula in politics these days? Being yourself. She just shows up and she’s herself. I don’t know what it is about her, but she always goes full-throttle.”

Wasserman Schultz followed that with a dig at Romney “reinventing himself” on the RNC’s big stage: “They might as well put the biggest Etch a Sketch behind that podium.”

There was no one to fight back. No one to rebut. Not in here. No one dwelled on Wasserman Schultz’s Thursday spat with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who took her to task for misquoting the Los Angeles Times in a DNC fundraising email. No one nudged her about her possible dreams of becoming the next governor of Florida.

Instead, in the calm before the storm (and the storm), people ate fancy-looking pizza. And laughed. And, for the most part, small-talked. For Wasserman Schultz it was a time to mingle. After all, she said, “I don’t think I’ll get invited to too many parties this week.”