For Obama and Clinton, it's back to the future in Florida
Obama visits Wednesday to mend fences for the fall, while Clinton points to her Jan. 29 primary win.
Barack Obama's campaign swing through Florida this week is his first since last year, and local newspapers have billed it as nothing short of a peacemaking tour: a chance to mend ties with Democrats still sore that their primary, favoring Hillary Rodham Clinton, was nullified by the national party.Skip to next paragraph
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But if Senator Obama is hoping Florida voters forgive and forget, Senator Clinton made clear Monday night that she has other plans. Her campaign said she will show up to campaign in Florida on the same day – Wednesday – as Obama.
That forces him to share the spotlight with the Democrat who trounced him there in January. It reminds party leaders that she was the stronger candidate in the important swing state and throws up another hurdle as Obama tries to pivot toward the general election.
"Obama's hope was to assuage Floridians, that although their votes are not being counted directly, they were of great value to the Democratic Party and much loved by him," says Cal Jillson, a political analyst at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The timing of Clinton's visit "has got to be a major source of heartburn for the Obama campaign."
With Clinton's road to the nomination now all but closed off by Obama's lead in delegates, a decision to count Florida's Jan. 29 primary remains her best chance to slow – though in no way overtake – Obama.
On May 31, a rules panel of the Democratic National Committee is expected to decide whether, and how, to seat convention delegates from Florida and Michigan, whose primaries were held earlier than party rules allow. Clinton won both states. But in deference to the rules neither candidate campaigned in them and Obama withdrew his name from the Michigan ballot.
If the candidates' dueling visits this week foster a sense that Florida Democrats are too disaffected to unify, it could boost pressure on the rules panel to seat the state's delegates in proportion to the popular vote. The Obama campaign has resisted such a plan.
Clinton's Florida piggyback visit comes just as Obama was hoping to savor another milestone in his march toward the nomination: The primaries in Oregon and Kentucky Tuesday were expected to give him a majority of pledged delegates nationally.