Pelosi Power

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It's getting serious in Miami. With Democratic challengers Joe Garcia, Raul Martinez, and Annette Taddeo closing in on their Republican opponents, the Democratic Party sent out its biggest gun (next to Barack Obama) to Little Havana to recruit elderly Cuban-American voters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dressed in an impeccable cream suit with a blinged-out, diamond-studded Obama 2008 brooch on her lapel, was at the Little Havana Activities Center yesterday, wooing el exilo's geriatric set, many of whom are registered Republicans. The center is in the heart of GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's district. She is being challenged by Colombian-American Taddeo, who has pulled within six points of the 19-year incumbent, according to the latest poll.

Flanked by the troika and Democratic Reps. Kendrick Meek and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Pelosi -- with Garcia translating in Spanish -- took a page out of the Republican's playbook by ominously reminding the 100-plus seniors that George W. Bush wants to privatize Social Security. Thankfully, she noted, Congress defeated the president's ploy this past summer. "Can you just imagine if we had had not won that fight?" Pelosi said. "Our Social Security would be at the mercy of Wall Street."

Once the stump was over, the predominantly Cuban-American grandpas and grandmas formed a line for their free lunch, where 66-year-old Celia Garcia, a die-hard Republican who voted for Dubya in 2000 and 2004, declared she was voting for Obama. Her friends nodded in agreement and thus dispelling the notion that Cuban seniors are loyal to the GOP. "We need change," she said. "I've had enough of the Republicans. This country is sinking and there are too many people losing their home."

Still, the Dems have a lot of work on their hands. Although she supports Garcia and Martinez, the 30-year Miami resident said she will vote for Ros-Lehtinen over Taddeo. "Ileana has been very good to us," Celia said. Well, at least Taddeo will have more cash to win over Garcia and others like her. Later in the evening, Pelosi hosted a fundraiser for the first-time candidate in which guests had to pay $1,000 a pop to get in.

-- Francisco Alvarado

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