Campaign '08

Nelson on presidential candidates and space policy

During his speech Thursday at the Washington Space Business Roundtable, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) also spent some time talking about the presidential election and the relevance of space policy to the campaign. He is convinced that space will be critical to winning Florida, and thus the White House. “I am banking on the fact that I believe that Florida is going to be critical again in this presidential election,” he said. “And therefore I am going to take this opportunity to educate the two presidential candidates that if they want to win Florida, this [space policy] is mightily important.”

Nelson said he has already talked about this issue to the Democratic candidates, including just earlier that day with Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who were in Washington to vote on the supplemental appropriations bill. Nelson also referred to Obama’s recent comments about space in Florida. “You will see he made a different statement, and I thanked him for that this morning, and he said, ‘I’ve been listening to you,'” he recounted. “And I said, ‘I know how to win in Florida.'” He added he had similar discussions with Clinton, who he described as having “the best position of all three of them on the space program.”

He also said he had a good relationship with Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, despite McCain’s reputation for being “prickly”: “I know how to deal with a porcupine.” Nelson said he had some discussions with McCain on space, “and it is my intention to lean on him pretty hard” on the subject. Nelson said he was concerned about McCain’s proposal for a domestic spending freeze if elected. “The thing that worries me about John is that John gets into these rigid positions and it’s hard to get him off of it,” Nelson said. “If that’s his position, I want to make sure the people of Florida know that, and especially the people of east-central Florida. So maybe we’ll have a chance to get a little more flexibility out of him if Florida becomes key.”

Nelson added that another battleground state in the general election is likely to be Ohio. “And guess who I’ve been talking to: John Glenn,” he said. “I think he is prepared to do the same thing in Ohio” if the state becomes key to the election.

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