Barack Obama launched his 3-day FL swing 5/21, "saying he is confident he can win the state despite its heavy concentration of voting blocs that have yet to embrace him."
Obama, in an interview, said the dynamic will change when his opponent is John McCain instead of Hillary Clinton. Obama: "People here in Florida, when it comes to the fall campaign, are going to be focused on bread-and-butter issues. We can persuade an awful lot of folks, both Democrat and Republican, to move toward the future intead of looking toward the past."
Obama said campaigning in FL during the primary was "just not a realistic option." Obama: "Obviously, the situation has changed, and we've pivoting to the general election. I intend to compete vigorously and to spend a lot of time and money" in FL. "And I intend to win" (Stratton, Orlando Sentinel, 5/22).
Obama also "stressed" to the St. Petersburg Times that he intends to win, "and doubted the controversy" over the primary would "cause any serious damage to his prospects." Obama: "I don't think that the average Floridan is spending all their time thinking about this."
Obama also "brushed off" Clinton's emphasis on counting FL's primary "as a meaningful indication of the popular vote." Obama said seeing as how he "didn't campaign at all" in FL, "It's pretty hard to make an argument that somehow you winning what is essentially a name recognition contest in Florida was a good measure of electoral strength there."
Obama also noted Clinton has captured about 8% of the black vote, which "tells you nothing about how she'd do in the general election, right? The same is true here" (Smith, St. Petersburg Times, 5/21).
Obama "will appear before Jewish voters" today in West Palm Beach, and holds a "major rally" in Fort Lauderdale. Obama travels to Miami 5/23 to "address Cuban voters" (Orlando Sentinel, 5/22).
No, We McCan't
During his first campaign stop in FL, a 5/21 rally in Tampa before a crowd of 15K, Obama "hit McCain on his position on lobbyists and accused him of flip flopping on the issue" (Gavrilovic, CBSNews.com, 5/21).
Obama said McCain has hired "some of the biggest lobbyists in Washington" to help run his camp, despite offering a bill in '96 to can candidates from paying registered lobbyists. Obama: "John McCain then would be pretty disappointed with John McCain now" (Bender, Palm Beach Post, 5/21).
McCain's camp "was quick to respond." McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds said in a statement, "It's absurd, despite his own rhetoric, Senator Obama still refuses to disclose the list of lobbyists advising his campaign. What is Senator Obama hiding?"
Obama spokesperson Jen Psaki: "Anyone who was a former lobbyist had to file termination papers, that has been the case since the beginning" (CBSNews.com, 5/21).
Obama also told the Tampa crowd that under a McCain admin, Americans would "wake up in four years and still be talking about an energy crisis and still be talking about a health care crisis and still be talking about a tax bill that's not fair to you. I don't want to wake up that way. Neither do you" (Palm Beach Post, 5/21).
We're In A Giving Mood
In Tampa, Obama "didn't talk about the fight over delegates and again offered praise" for Clinton, saying she "has run an outstanding campaign" and "deserves our admiration and respect" (Palm Beach Post, 5/21).
In an interview with NPR 5/21, Obama strategist David Axelrod said Obama's camp is "willing to go more than half way" on a compromise for FL and MI's delegates. Axelrod: "We're willing to work to make sure that we can achieve a compromise. And I guess the question is: is Senator Clinton's campaign willing to do the same?"
More Axelrod: "Well, obviously, any compromise is going to involve some give, and that means if there's something on the table, we're willing to consider it. That may include us yielding more delegates than perhaps we would have, simply on the basis of the rules" ("All Things Considered," 5/21).
Clinton supporter/Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL): "We have very raw nerves left over from the 2000 recount. We are very sensitive in Florida about getting our votes counted. And Barack Obama said absolutely nothing today when he spoke to 15,000 Floridians ... about getting our delegation seated. That's unacceptable.We can't expect to be successful and win Florida in November if we show disrespect, if our potential nominee shows disrespect for Florida's voters. It's just unacceptable" ("Hardball," MSNBC, 5/21).
Obama supporter/Tampa (FL) Mayor Pam Iorio: "I was at the rally today. There were 20,000 very enthusiastic voters. I don't think any of them felt that they were disrespected. Certainly we hope that this works out in some way. ... Senator Obama gave a futuristic talk about where this country needs to go and how we all need to get together and solve the issues of our nation. And that was what his speech was today. And I can tell that you people were wildly enthusiastic. And the point is to get behind the nominee. Focus on November. And then after this election is over, the Democratic Party needs to blow up its current process and start over" ("Hardball," MSNBC, 5/21).
It's A Mixed Up, Jumbled Up, Shook Up World
Meanwhile in FL, Obama "is beginning to realize that may voters want to learn about him in his own words." Introducing himself to a "predominately Hispanic and African-American crowd" of 1.5K 5/21 in Kissimmee, Obama talked about his "mixed up" background. Obama: "When you get my family together, you've got people who look like Margaret Thatcher. You've got people who look like Bernie Mac. You've got my sister, she looks like Salma Hayek. I don't know if you've seen her. She looks Latin."
More Obama: "Since I'm somebody who comes from a working class, middle class family, and my wife does too, I don't forget that I was raised by a single mom, I don't forget that we had to get food stamps for a few years while she was still going to school" (Gavrilovic, CBSNews.com, 5/21).
And St. Petersburg Times' Lake notes Obama "passed the day-job-test," drawing more than just students and retirees to the Tampa rally. Massage therapist T Collins: "I'm losing 65 an hour" (5/21).
My True Identity Politics
Obama FL finance chair Kirk Wagar said Obama can win FL by focusing on Puerto Rican voters and black voters (Cooper, Wall Street Journal, 5/22).
Speaking on WNYC's "The Take Away" 5/21, Axelrod said of the notion that Obama has trouble attracting support from working class white voters, "Those numbers vary, of course, from state to state. The larger point is when you look at general election polling, there isn't a great deal of difference between how Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are polling among that particular group of voters" (Paybarah, "The Politicker," New York Observer, 5/21).
Meanwhile, HRC's "biggest supporter in the labor movement," AFSCME pres. Gerald McEntee said Obama has "got to reach out to the white working class, these type of folks. He hasn't been able to make good contact with them." McEntee "said it was doubly important" that Obama figure out a way to do this, because McCain "can reach these people." Obama "has to relate to these people. He's having a hard time doing it" (Greenhouse, "The Caucus," New York Times, 5/21).
Plenty of others had something to say on the topic, too:
• Cook Political Report's Charlie Cook said FL will likely be competitive, but "I'd be surprised" if Obama wins it. The "single biggest reason: 'White voters over 60.'" Cook: "They have a problem with Obama." But while McCain "cant win without" FL, "Obama can" (House, Tampa Tribune, 5/21).
• Chicago Tribune's Gibson writes, Obama is "an unknown quantity to Floridians, especially to Clinton loyalists who still hope lightning strikes." To win FL, Obama "must close a generation gap. His charismatic style will be tested by wary senior citizens who wonder if he has the experience and toughness to get elected and deal with a turbulent world" ("The Swamp," 5/21).
• Jewish voters, meanwhile, "hold two competing views" of Obama, according to Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judiasm: There's "Obama the scholar, the social justice advocate, the defender of Israel with a close feel for Jewish concerns garnered through decades of intimate friendships." There's also the version "defined by" the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, "worries" about Obama's "past associations and questions about his support for Israel and his patriotism." As Obama's "overtures to Jews have been limited," it's "early to know" how it will play out (Kantor, New York Times, 5/22).
• Politico's Smith/Martin write, the questions about whether Obama is "un-American" being asked by reporters and "plainly on the minds" of voters "are the fruits of an unprecedented, subterranean e-mail campaign" that "generally portrays him as a threat to mainstream, white America." This "has forced Obama to embark on a campaign to Americanize his image and his biography." Obama "has begun to affix the stars and stripes to his suit coat," and "he's begun to talk about the side of his family that more Americans can relate to" (5/21).
• MSNBC's O'Donnell: "Bottom line, what we learned last night, Barack Obama does not have a problem with the white working-class, an inherent Democratic problem. It's actually more geographic. And because we've had a lot of states voting in the Appalachia region, we see he does have a problem with the white, working class-there. But he has won whites in states like Oregon, Wisconsin and Iowa. And I think it is important to point that out because a lot of our analysis, and I think a lot of the rhetoric in this campaign has been, white people won't vote for Barack Obama" ("Hardball," 5/21).
• Michael Dukakis, asked if he's worried about exit polls showing a lack of support for Obama among white voters: "Well, they're worrisome, but not if my party does what I hope it will do. And that is organize every single one of the 200,000 precincts in all of the 50 states of the United States, something we haven't done since Jack Kennedy ran for the presidency. I didn't do it very well. ... I think we've got to stop buying into this red/blue nonsense" ("Situation Room," CNN, 5/21).
• New York Magazine's Keating writes, "for cultural as well as racial reasons, working-class whites across Appalachia and southward have viewed Obama" with "extreme suspicion," but working class white voters in the Northeast and northern Midwest will "probably vote along economic lines" and vote for Obama in the general. "Bottom line: Obama isn't likely to get NASCAR dads, no matter what he does, but he is likely to get Joe Sixpacks, whatever he does." He's also polling even with HRC nat'lly among working-class white voters ("Daily Intel," 5/21).
• Christian Science Monitor's Sabar writes, Dems "may have an easier time uniting behind Obama than some exit polls suggest." If Obama's lead in nat'l polls "holds, it would suggest that a growing number of Clinton supporters no longer see her as a viable candidate and are coalescing around" Obama (5/22).
Foreign Policy De-Tangling
In Tampa 5/21, Obama reiterated his argument that "We have to communicate with countries if we want to make a difference. That's what John Kennedy did. That's what Ronald Reagan did. That's what Barack Obama will do" (Smith, St. Petersburg Times, 5/21).
Obama's camp "has been working overtime to finesse his nettlesome" debate answer on the topic (James, "The Swamp," Chicago Tribune, 5/21), and there were also more responses to Obama's foreign policy:
• New Yorker's Lizza, on Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) saying Obama is right about engaging with America's enemies: "I think he may be sending a message to the Obama camp that 'Hey, if you guys are serious with this post-partisan era, take a look at me, consider me as perhaps, if not a V.P. material, maybe a Cabinet member'" ("Countdown," MSNBC, 5/21).
• Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), "who has long championed sit-downs with enemies," told the Allentown Morning Call 5/21 that the country needs "a very fundamental shift in our thinking in our international diplomacy. I'm not going to disagree with McCain, I'm going to tell you what I think." More: "I don't know exactly how Obama is going to handle it. Obama does not have my experience or McCain's experience" (Drobnyk, "The Swamp," Chicago Tribune, 5/21).
• Karl Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal, Obama "has added to his problems with ill-informed replies on critical foreign policy questions." If Obama "believes he can change the behavior of these nations by meeting without preconditions, he owes it to the voters to explain, in specific terms, what he can say that will lead these states to abandon their hostility." If he doesn't voters "may come to believe that he is asking them to accept that he has a 'Secret Plan," and that he is hopelessly out of his depth on national security." Obama should also read some history about the preparations that went into the past presidential meetings he cites (5/22).
• AP's Woodward recaps how Obama this week has "qualified his past statements that he would meet the Iranian leadership directly and without precondition by saying he did not necessarily mean Mahmoud Ahmadinejad" (5/22).
• Washington Times' Lambro: "This week Mr. Obama deployed a twisted logic worthy of the fulminations of his former pastor" (5/22).
• Atlantic Online's Ambinder: "It IS clear that Obama would meet" with Ahmadinejad "without forcing" him to suspend uranium enrichment. "It's also clear that Obama would be more willing to meet with these leaders than McCain" (5/21).
Here Comes The Welcome Wagon
The Republican Jewish Coalition "bought ads in three South Florida newspapers" to coincide with Obama's visit to the B'nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton today, criticizing Obama's "dangerously naive foreign policy thinking" (Clark, Miami Herald, 5/22).
FL GOP Chair Jim Greer also "wanted to welcome" Obama 5/21, saying, "I'm glad he found us on the map. He hasn't been here for a year-and-a-half except to take our money. I'm glad he's read a social studies book and understands what democracy is." Greer also "likened Obama's popularity to a rock star with a few hits -- but no staying power" (Kennedy, Orlando Sentinel blog, 5/21).
Obama wrapped up his first day in FL 5/21 with a fundraiser in Maitland that brought in about $475K from 900 people. "Some apparent Clinton supporters protested" outside (Bender, Palm Beach Post blog, 5/22).
Half Superdelegates, Still Worth More Than You Or I
Superdelegate/MS Dem Chair Wayne Dowdy endorsed Obama 5/21, saying Obama "has shown that he has the strength, skills and the leadership to be our Democratic nominee and take on the failed policies of the last eight years." Dowdy is the 308.5th superdelegate to endorse Obama, and according to the camp, Obama is "61 delegates away from securing" the Dem nod (release, 5/21).
Patience, My Pets
Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on "NewsHour" last night to talk about the Dem race, and she was asked whether there will be a "rush" of superdelegates to Obama in the coming days.
Pelosi: "I have not had any conversations that would lead me to believe that there will be a rush. ... June is right around the corner. It's very soon. I think we can all be patient."
Asked if she is worried about racial divisions within the party: "On the same evening in Oregon, white voters overwhelmingly voted for Senator Obama. Now, should he become the nominee of our party, with a message of change and what that change means for worKing families in America, I think those same people will see that their interests are served by a Democratic president. So I'm not worried. It needs to be attended to, but I don't think it's a worry."
Asked if she's worried about Clinton voters not being willing to vote for Obama if he's the nominee: "At the end of the day, I believe that the contrast between the status quo, the special-interest politics of John McCain versus the interest of the American people and the message of change for the better, for the American people, the people's interest versus the special interest will be the message that will win the day" (PBS, 5/21).
The Dodd Squad Is Ready To Deploy
Chris Dodd "will visit" SD 5/23 on behalf of Obama, headlining an "education town hall" in Sioux Falls and "Change is Coming" conversations in Huron and Aberdeen (Rapid City Journal, 5/22).
You've Got To Roll Me
While Obama "bulks up" his MT organization ahead of its 6/3 primary, "he's also looking ahead to the general election." Obama mgr. David Plouffe told MT reporters on a 5/21 conf. call, "We're pretty much going to roll (our effort) right into the general election. We believe Montana will be a competitive general-election state" (Dennison/Rave, Missoulian, 5/22).
The IRS has told the United Church of Christ, Obama's denomination, "that it didn't violate tax laws" and "hadn't engaged in prohibited political activity" when Obama addressed 10K church members in June in Hartford, CT. The church "retains its nonprofit status" (Sataline, Wall Street Journal, 5/22). The IRS "said it found the UCC had taken the necessary steps to avoid any appearance that Obama's appearance was of a political nature" (AP, 5/22).
Thanks, Mike Huckabee, For Making Us Look Bad
The Roswell Beacon, "a nascent free weekly" in GA, "is defending a controversial cover illustration that placed" Obama "in a rifle's cross hairs." The article looked at "how law enforcement agencies were handling the increased number of threats lodged against Obama by white supremacist groups." Publisher John Fredericks and senior ed. Tim Altork "said there was little internal debate over the appropriateness of the imagery, though they were aware it was likely to create a stir." Altork: "We knew we were on the provocative edge. But it's a very fair piece, a smart piece."
Altork also said the coincidence with Mike Huckabee's recent joke about someone aiming a gun at Obama was "a bad break for us" (Boone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/21).
Poetry, Sheer Poetry
The New Yorker's Trillin writes in defense of Obama's "eloquence," a "congressman contemplating whether he wanted to cross a President Obama would be thinking not 'he can fill a stadium' but 'he can fill a stadium in my district.' That would come close to governing in poetry" (5/22).
This article appears in the May 22, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.