Florida Republican Candidate Reveals Rape in TV Campaign Ad

Photo Courtesy - votelizbeth[dot]com(LOXAHATCHEE, Fla.) -- With just days to go until Election Day, a Florida state senate candidate has used a televised campaign ad to drop a very personal bombshell.

"When I was 19 I was raped," Republican Lizbeth Benacquisto reveals to viewers. "And until now I've dealt with this privately."

The eleventh-hour advertisement attacked her opponent, Democratic State Rep. Kevin Rader, for what she said was his assertion, made in his own televised ad, that Benacquisto's stance on abortion rights made criminals out of rape victims.

"For anyone to go so far in a political ad to characterize or claim that victims of rape or incest would become criminals crosses a line," she told Friday. "I couldn't stand for any woman hearing that and thinking any of that was true."

Benacquisto's ad, which began airing Wednesday in Florida, has earned both praise and criticism.

"I'm at peace with any criticism that comes my way," she said. "I did it despite the fact that people, especially him, would criticize me."

Rader could not be reached for comment, but his campaign released a statement to ABC's West Palm Beach affiliate WPBF saying his "heart breaks for anyone who has been the victim of rape."

"It's stories like Ms. Benacquisto's that have led me to be so passionate about defending victims' rights and a woman's right to choose," the statement read, in part.

At issue is the candidates' debate over abortion rights, specifically an amendment that was passed this year by the Florida legislature and then vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist that would require a woman to see an ultrasound of her fetus before an abortion.

Rader has been quoted as staunchly opposed to the measure. Benacquisto said she supports the idea of an ultrasound before a woman chooses to have an abortion. She does not want the same rule applied to sexual assault victims because "they come to that choice from something that was forced on them."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Virginia Is For Allies

Photo Courtesy - Tom Perriello for Congress(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia) -- What does one race and one campaign stop say about the entire 2010 midterm election season? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

President Obama heads to Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday evening to stump for embattled Democrat Tom Perriello in the state's 5th district.

Perriello is facing a tough challenge from state legislator Robert Hurt, and it's notable that this will be the first exclusive, public visit from the president on behalf of a House candidate.

Perriello is one of the few congressional Democrats who might actually want Obama by his side in a year when so many others are running away from the president and his agenda.

And it's a symbolic pat on the back for Perriello who Obama has used as a poster child for "courageous" public service in his speeches on the campaign trail.

"There have been a surprising number of folks who have been willing to stand up," Obama said at an event earlier this month, giving a shout-out to Perriello, specifically. "There have just been some folks who really stood up knowing that they might be putting their congressional careers at risk.

And that's been a pleasant surprise." The latest polls show Hurt out in front of Perriello, but the freshman lawmaker is hoping that a presidential visit will help boost his prospects in the home stretch.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Tea Party or No, Palin's Popularity Still Lags

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) – Sarah Palin’s interest in the presidency is not being reciprocated by most Americans. Two-thirds of registered voters in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say she’s unqualified for the job, and more than half continue to rate her unfavorably overall.

Those results come after Palin, in a television interview this week, said she’d run in 2012 “if there’s nobody else to do it.”

The poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, suggests steep challenges. Palin appears to have gained little luster from the success of the Tea Party political movement with which she’d aligned: just 39 percent of registered voters see her favorably, the most basic measure of a public figure’s popularity. That’s essentially the same as her lows of 37 percent last winter and spring.

Even fewer, just 27 percent, see her as qualified for the presidency, also essentially unchanged. Sixty-seven percent say she’s not qualified; this peaked at 71 percent in February.

In only two groups do majorities see Palin as qualified -- conservative Republicans, by 55-40 percent; and “strong” supporters of the Tea Party movement, by a broad 73-22 percent.

While 82 percent of Democrats and 84 percent of liberals see her as unqualified, as do 70 percent of swing-voting independents and 77 percent of self-described political moderates.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Kendrick Meek: Never Agreed to Quit Florida Senate Race

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Florida Senate race was thrown into turmoil this week when it became clear that Bill Clinton had encouraged the Democrat, Rep. Kendrick Meek, to drop out of the race.

Meek has been locked in a three-way race with Republican Marco Rubio, a Tea Party favorite, and independent Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate who left the Republican Party early in 2010 rather than face Rubio in a primary.

Two sources confirmed to ABC News that Clinton had encouraged Meek to drop out of the race. Politico reported that Meek was close to agreeing to drop out.

"I never told President Clinton or any of his staffers…or Charlie Crist or anyone else that I was going to get out of the race," Meek told ABC News on Friday. "I guarantee you that I did not say I am getting out of the race."

Rubio has led in polls recently, followed by Crist and then Meek. Crist is thought to have a better shot at defeating Rubio in a two-way race because he could pull Democratic and independent votes.

Crist has tried to appeal to Democratic voters, arguing he has a better shot to defeat Rubio and head off conservatives in Washington. But the argument has taken some political yoga by Crist, who was on John McCain’s short list for vice president in 2008 and has moderated his positions on social issues like abortion.

Clinton had been an ardent supporter of Meek’s, campaigning several times for him. Meek had supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2008.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Facebook Users 'Like' Republican Candidates Over Democrats by Landslide

Photo Courtesy - Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- If "liking" a political candidate on Facebook is any indication of how active users of the world's largest social network will vote Nov. 2, Republicans could be in for a landslide victory.

Among U.S. House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates who have Facebook profiles, Republicans have more than twice as many fans as their Democratic opponents, according to the latest Facebook tabulation of nationwide data.

Eight of the top 10 candidates with the most Facebook fans are Republicans, with Arizona Sen. John McCain, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman taking the top three slots.

Whitman's support on the social network has also been the fastest growing of any candidate, with an average 5,200 fans "liking" her profile each day, the survey shows.

Meanwhile, Tea Party-backed candidates for Senate showed the most robust momentum toward building their online fan base heading into the final week of the campaign.

Nevada Republican Sharron Angle has added more than 6,700 fans since Oct. 20, giving her nearly 10 times as many Facebook fans as Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"It boils down to momentum and enthusiasm, and tried-and-true measures for predicting elections," the Facebook Political Team wrote in its analysis. "If the online world translates into real world votes, Angle definitely appears to be the favorite coming down the home stretch."

Angle and Reid are neck and neck, with the Republican holding a slight advantage, according to the most recent polls.

In 190 competitive U.S. House races tracked by Facebook, Republicans can claim a Facebook fan advantage in 127.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Carly Fiorina: Out of Hospital, Back on Campaign Trail

Photo Courtesy - Carly for California(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- One day after California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina left the hospital after being treated for an infection following reconstructive surgery, the breast cancer survivor thanked opponent Barbara Boxer for her well wishes, but said the Democratic incumbent's record was one of failed policies.

Calling the three-term senator a "career politician," Fiorina said Boxer also needed to be held accountable for policies which she said were contributing to losses in American manufacturing. For her part, the 69-year-old Boxer has criticized Fiorina -- the former Hewlett-Packard chief -- as being a poor CEO who laid off more than 30,000 workers, brought company stock down and was fired.

Fiorina has been endorsed by a number of prominent Republican politicians, including Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Palin, too, has endorsed Fiorina, but during a recent visit to California, the former Alaska governor didn't campaign for the senate hopeful.

Fiorina underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy last year. She has said she is cancer-free.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Christine O'Donnell's Camp Joins Condemnation of Gawker Story

Photo Courtesy - Christine2010 [dot] com(WILMINGTON, Del.) -- Christine O'Donnell is adding onto the National Organization for Women's condemnation of a story that tabloid website Gawker published about a man's sexual encounter with the Republican Senate candidate three years ago.

O'Donnell's campaign released a statement Thursday, saying, "This story is just another example of the sexism and slander that female candidates are forced to deal with.  From Secretary Clinton, to Governor Palin, to soon-to-be Governor Haley, Christine's political opponents have been willing to engage in appalling and baseless attacks -- all with the aim of distracting the press from covering the real issues in this race.  Even the National Organization for Women gets it, but Christine’s opponent disturbingly does not."

NOW had previously condemned Gawker on Thursday, saying that “sexist, misogynist attacks against women have no place in the electoral process, regardless of a particular candidate’s political ideology.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Democratic Closing Argument: Personal Attacks

Photo Courtesy - Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee/YouTube(WASHINGTON) -- It's not just the "Aqua Buddha" and David Vitter's prostitute, Democratic candidates across the country are closing out the campaign with personal attacks on Republican candidates, sometimes digging up decades-old legal problems.

In one typical example, Democratic ads have transformed Kentucky Republican House candidate Andy Barr into "a convicted criminal" -- complete with images of yellow police tape and a fuzzy video of crime scenes.  Not mentioned is his crime: As a college student 19 years ago, he was caught using a fake ID during spring break.

Watching this year's ads, viewers will notice a striking difference between Democratic and Republican attack ads: Democrats are attacking over personal issues, Republicans are attacking over policy.

There are, of course, many exceptions, but the overall trend is clear.  Democrats are hitting their Republican opponents over past legal transgressions, shady business deals and even speeding tickets.  Republicans are hammering Democrats over "Obamacare," Nancy Pelosi and the economy.

A recent study by the Wesleyan Media Project actually quantifies this.  They looked at 900,000 airings of political ads this year and concluded: "Democrats are using personal attacks at much higher rates than Republicans and a much higher rate than Democrats in 2008."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Bush Talks Alcoholism, Faith and 9/11 in New Book

Photo Courtesy - The Crown Publishing Group(WASHINGTON) -- While President George W. Bush's upcoming memoir, Decision Points, has been described as "strikingly personal," it takes few shots at his critics, and even steers clear of his successor, President Obama.

"I decided to take an untraditional approach," Bush said in a video promoting his book, which is set for a Nov. 9 release.  "I wanted to give readers a glimpse of the presidency from my perspective."

Indeed, the book, which Bush has been working on since leaving office in 2008, reveals intimate details about the decisions he faced as the 43rd president, the first to serve his full term in the 21st century.  It also covers the former president's personal travails, such as his battle with alcohol.

The book's first chapter is called "Quitting."  In it, Bush writes that he was asked, "Can you remember the last day you didn't have a drink?"

In the book, Bush also discusses his controversial decisions to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his opposition of stem cell research -- a decision the book says prompted Nancy Reagan to write to Bush about her "wrenching family decision" to support the research.

An article by says Bush was the one who gave the order to shoot down the hijacked planes on Sept. 11, and that he at first thought that crashed Flight 93 had been shot down over Pennsylvania.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Fact Check: President Obama's Record on Jobs

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza | The White House(NEW YORK) -- On Wednesday night, President Obama mounted a vigorous defense of his administration's record on jobs, a key issue as voters prepare for the midterm elections. But was everything the president said factual?

"The problem was we lost four million jobs before I was sworn in," Obama said. That's true. From December 2007 to January 2009, while President Bush was in office, the nation lost a total of 4.3 million jobs, more than half of the nearly eight million jobs that have disappeared since the recession began.

"Most of the jobs we lost were lost before the economic policies we put into place had any effect," Obama added. That, again, is true, but with a catch. More than half of the 7.6 million jobs lost disappeared before Obama was in office, and monthly job losses did begin to decline markedly last April. However, Obama is wrong to imply that the stimulus plan he pushed through Congress is the reason things began to turn around. Very little of the stimulus money had been spent when the job situation first started to get a little better.

"The Recovery Act took a lot of time to get into place, and the biggest criticism is that the spending has been inefficient and slow," said conservative economist Doug Holtz-Eaken in a Washington Post video. "So it's not the Recovery Act that's causing this."

On the Republican side, candidates have been quick to blame the president for the job losses, driving the message home in debates and on television ads with accusations that the Democrats are "killing" jobs. Looking at just this year, that would be false. While unemployment remains stuck at around 9.5 percent, the economy has added more than 600,000 jobs through September.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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