WASHINGTON -- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz stopped by Tampa last week while Republicans were holding their convention. How could she resist?
It was in Florida, after all, said the congresswoman, who for the past 16 months has also headed up the Democratic National Committee, and who will figure prominently in her own party’s convention in Charlotte, N.C. this week.
"I was proud to roll out a little blue carpet for my friends in Tampa and welcome them to my home state," said Wasserman Schultz, whose district sits between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. "It was really important, because there was so much at stake in this election, to draw the really clear contrast and show voters the choice that they have."
Republicans just couldn’t ignore her. "The only hitch in an otherwise perfect week was the awful noise coming from the hotel room next door to mine," former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told the crowd gathered Wednesday night at the GOP convention. "Turns out it was just Debbie Wasserman Schultz practicing her speech for the DNC in Charlotte next week. Bless her heart."
The job has given her "alligator skin," said Wasserman Schultz, 45, who campaigned across the country in 2008 for then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign even as she battled breast cancer.
Her polarizing style as one of President Barack Obama’s chief surrogates hasn’t been for everyone, though, including some Democrats. An electronic book on the election put out by Politico last month reported that some inside the Obama campaign questioned Wasserman Schultz’s effectiveness after a consultant’s focus group ranked her last in popularity among the surrogates stumping on the president’s behalf.
She also got into an on-air spat last month with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who challenged whether she was being truthful when she used selective pieces of a Los Angeles Times article to characterize Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s stance on abortion in a fundraising appeal. Conservative media outlets seized on both the spat and the Politico imbroglio as a sign of diminishing clout.
She shrugs it off — although not before calling the Politico book "anonymous baloney" and pointing out that she’s been a fixture of the Sunday talk shows nearly every week for the past two months. Getting a little dinged up in the rough-and-tumble political fray comes with the job the president asked her to do, Wasserman Schultz said.
"I signed up to be the head of the Democratic National Committee," she said. "It’s in the job description. I’m not supposed to be the neutral, bland, you-don’t know-where-she-stands surrogate. I’m the one that’s the political voice for the president. That’s something I’m incredibly proud of."
Her aim in Tampa, Wasserman Schultz said, was to talk about Obama’s accomplishments for the working class and for families, women, and immigrants.
"But also to talk about how harmful Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s politics would be for those same groups," she said. "That we shouldn’t go back to the failed policies of the past that nearly crashed our economy and got us into the worst economic crisis we’ve faced since the Depression."
In Charlotte, her role will be more as standard bearer and cheerleader for the Democratic base. And expect to hear plenty about what a second Obama administration would tackle, if he is re-elected, Wasserman Schultz said.