Skip to comments.Harris -- finally -- hits her stride
Posted on 11/04/2006 8:09:47 AM PST by dukeman
Even critics are impressed with her debate performances, but experts say it's just too late
ORLANDO -- Virtually out of money, abandoned by state Republican leaders and ridiculed by her detractors, Rep. Katherine Harris is refusing to fade into the background in the final days of her U.S. Senate bid.
Instead, she is becoming more visible, scheduling one of her busiest series of public appearances in weeks and advertising on television for the first time in months.
Even Harris' critics say she has surprised them in her two debates against Sen. Bill Nelson, avoiding the gaffes that have dogged her in the past and showing a greater command of the issues.
"It was somewhat of a success for her," said her former spokesman Chris Ingram, who was one of several campaign staffers to quit the campaign during its struggles. "She did really well for Katherine."
If Harris had presented the public image voters saw in the final debate Wednesday, it is likely some staffers would not have bailed on her, Ingram said.
But most political analysts said Harris' efforts are too little, too late. She trails Nelson by as much as 30 points in the latest polls.
"There's no reason to think she can turn it around," said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Report.
"A large majority of voters in Florida have made up their mind about Katherine Harris. There's nothing she can do."
Jim Dornan, Harris' former campaign manager, who was part of a wave of staffers who quit a year ago, agreed that Harris has wasted too much time and needed to focus on rallying independent voters months ago.
"She's begun to get her campaign together, but it's entirely too late," he said.
But political experts said Harris probably won some votes Wednesday in the last of two debates with Nelson.
Seated across from Nelson at a table, Harris challenged Nelson's voting record on tax increases and defended her proposal to dismantle the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax.
When NBC host and moderator Tim Russert cited studies that say the plan only benefit the rich, Harris rebutted him, citing facts and figures that previously she has struggled to articulate.
"If only she could rewind the clock about eight months," said Aubrey Jewett, assistant professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, who attended the debate Wednesday.
Ingram, her former campaign spokesman, said Harris appeared more viable in the debates than the caricature trumpeted by her critics.
"To a less-informed voter, she probably came across certainly much better," Ingram said. "She didn't trip over herself and create new problems."
Harris' new strategy for the last five days of campaigning is to take her message to public forums for the first time in weeks.
After stumping at church gatherings and other events closed to the media, Harris plans to wave signs and shake hands on a college campus and a downtown business area in Lakeland today.
On Saturday, she plans to attend a Clearwater gun show and a "Harris for Senate" rally at Sumter County's GOP headquarters.
At the same time, Harris seems to be preparing her supporters for defeat.
She confirmed on Wednesday that she is writing a "tell-all" book about the conspiracy to undermine her Senate bid.
While she would not go into detail, Harris has said for months she has copies of former staffers' e-mails that prove they were working against her and for the competition.
"You'll just have to wait and see," she said, when asked about the book after Wednesday's debate.
But Ingram, who worked for Harris from April to July, said he saw no evidence of a conspiracy, even though he said Harris instructed him to help search for incriminating e-mails.
He noted the numerous staffers who bailed on Harris' campaign earlier this year are all die-hard Republicans who wouldn't work for a Democrat behind her back.
"It's just typical Katherine, playing the victim," Ingram said.
"Katherine, say whatever you want, I could care less. No one's interested. No one cares."
Just bringing up the book could be a mistake, because it reminds voters of the "soap opera" that has been surrounding Harris for months, Jewett said.
"It's a distraction," he said.
Well, one thing for sure, the gal's got balls.
I hope this fine woman wins...I truely respect her.
and breasts! Her mistake is not letting them out more during the campaign. Would have been good for at least 5% points! :P
They do seem like nice ones.
Well, too bad she wasn't more effective as a campaigner. The fact she is a lightning rod due to the 2000 election didn't help.
I like her too. It always bothered me that she didn't get more support from her own party.
They look friendly, too.
I voted for her. She would do a yeoman's job if elected.
balls that clank!
I watched the debate and thought she did great. I'm voting a straight R ticket anyway and am glad she's staunchly conservative.
I would love for Harris to win so she can shove her victory down the throats of the liberal FL MSM who has bashed her non-stop, the GOP elites who stabbed her in the back, and the FReeper hypocrites who scream about "GET OUT, GET OUT AND VOTE REPUBLICAN! WE MUST SUPPORT REPUBLICANS AT ALL COSTS!" but doesn't want it to apply REAL Republicans such as Harris. The abuse this woman has taken on this Forum is mind-boggling, and almost caused me to quit FR in disgust.
When you are down, that's when a lot of people can do their best. Nothing to lose. I hope she surprises eveyone and pulls it off.
I'd be so delighted if she won, just because of the nasty press she's had to endure for so many years.
Well now we are really in the gutter.
She could try to rack up some points.
No. Not in a state with a GOP super majority in the state govt and a Bush as Gov.