Posted: May 21, 2008 12:11 PM
After Dueling Victories, Democrats Focus on Florida's Future
Days before Senator Barack Obama seized an easy victory in Oregon, he announced a long-delayed trip to Florida.
The Illinois senator is expected to fill the 20,000-seat St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa for his first campaign event in the Sunshine State in nine months, and his message to Florida voters is clear: No matter if or how the Democratic Party decides to deal with delegates selected in the state’s invalidated January vote, Democrats must come together for the general election.
“My campaign is actively working with the (Sen. Hillary) Clinton campaign, the Florida Democratic Party and the DNC, which is responsible for setting and enforcing these rules, to reach an agreement that will give Floridians a voice at the convention,” Obama told The Associated Press.
Clinton, who won about 50 percent of the state’s 1.7 million Democratic voters in the Jan. 29 primary, compared to Obama’s 33 percent, continued her call that the original delegates be seated at the national convention when she holds her simultaneous event in Boca Raton Wednesday.
Florida, as well as Michigan, was stripped of its 210 delegates as punishment for holding an early nominating contest, and all major Democratic contenders promised not to campaign in the state ahead of its primary. Unlike Michigan where Obama and other candidates had their names removed from the ballot, all the major candidates appeared on the Sunshine State ballot.
Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe called Michigan and Florida “two of the five remaining events that are going to be very important to determine who the nominee of the Democratic party is,” according to the AP. McAuliffe also said the New York senator will probably be heading to Michigan after her Florida trip.
The DNC rules committee meets May 31 to determine how to settle Michigan and Florida, both key swing states in the general election.
“The party will try to seek a delegation that both reflects the fact that she participated and that he’s the nominee,” Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report told the Online NewsHour Wednesday.
Clinton’s has made the fate of these two dispute delegate groups the linchpin of her continued campaign for the nomination. Tuesday night, Senator Obama clinched the pledged delegate majority — if Florida and Michigan are not counted, and he needs fewer than 70 delegates to secure the nomination. With 86 delegates at stake in the remaining Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota primaries and over 200 super delegates yet to choose, Clinton’s options are shrinkinge.
“It’s nearly 100 percent clear now that she will not win,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia told the Sarasota Herald Tribune. “The fraction of one percent is if a giant scandal breaks and Barack Obama is forced to withdraw.”
Rothenberg expects a swell of uncommitted super delegates to make their choice after the end of the primary season on June 3 “so they can say they waited for everyone to vote,” he said.
While the Democratic nomination may finally be coming to a close, Clinton’s landslide Kentucky win Tuesday night, coupled with her victory in West Virginia last week, have pundits wondering if Obama’s weakness among white, blue-collar voters will be his downfall come November.
“He’ll have to focus on the economy, raise doubts about (likely GOP nominee John) McCain’s ability to deal with economic issues and simply portray him as part of the past,” Rothenberg said, adding that Obama certainly has the financial resources to be able to deliver that message.