Frankel upstaged at anti-Limbaugh eventby George Bennett | March 31st, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH — A Democratic billboard campaign against Rush Limbaugh succeeded today in sparking a high-decibel sidewalk political debate that managed to upstage Mayor Lois Frankel.
The Democratic National Committee is paying an undisclosed sum for a truck to drive a mobile billboard around Palm Beach County for two days bearing the message “Americans Didn’t Vote For A Rush To Failure” and featuring a cigar-chomping likeness of the conservative radio talker and Palm Beach resident.
The slogan, crafted by a New Jersey man for a contest that Democrats say drew 80,000 entries, refers to Limbaugh’s January comment that he hopes Obama fails.
“I’ve been listening to Barack Obama for a year-and-a-half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don’t want them to succeed,” Limbaugh said on his Jan. 16 show. He later added: “I would be honored if the drive-by media headlined me all day long: ‘Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.’ Somebody’s gotta say it.”
To launch the anti-Limbaugh campaign, the truck from Mobile Billboards of Lewisville, N.C., parked on Clematis Street downtown for a photo-op featuring Frankel. Frankel is known for making herself heard, but as TV cameras rolled she quickly found herself off to the side while a Republican passerby, developer Leo Balestrieri of Palm Beach, became embroiled in a heated debate with Democratic activist Allen Mergaman.
“I’m just tired of the liberals blaming the Republicans for everything,” said Balestrieri, who gestured with an unlit cigar and called Frankel a “communist.”
Mergaman countered that former President George W. Bush and Republicans “destroyed this country.”
The pair shouted opinions on economics, immigration, Israel and each other. Later, they smiled and shook hands and Balistrieri asked for insurance agent Mergaman’s business card.
Frankel, a fiery Democratic state legislator who has adopted a more moderate persona since becoming the city’s nonpartisan mayor, called the billboard “good-natured” and said she attended because “Americans support our president. We want him to succeed.”
Watching all of it with a satisfied expression was Zeb Williams, owner of the mobile billboard business. His truck was promoting a Tampa financial-services group a few days ago and will advertise his own whitewater rafting business when the Limbaugh campaign is over. Williams says he’s been hired to promote a variety of businesses and political viewpoints.
“I’m not affiliated when it comes to the political messages,” Williams said. “It’s not my job to scrutinize that message. It’s my job to take that message to the masses.”