Campaign Crawlers

Obama Underfoot

He's got this thing about Florida.

By 10.22.08

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TAMPA -- Obama and a bunch of his best-known surrogates have been barnstorming Florida for the past two days, and will remain underfoot here at least for another day. In addition to Himself and wife Michelle, others drumming up the Obama brand hereabouts include the nation's ex-wife, Hillary Clinton, and the best-known Hispanic politician with a Gringo name, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

Obama appeared with Mz Hillary at a rally in Orlando Monday evening. Then at a "Growing America's Jobs summit" (the Obama campaign's designation) in Lake Worth on the campus of Palm Beach Community College Tuesday morning, Obama and Richardson, along with Democratic governors Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Bill Ritter of Colorado, and Ted Strickland of Ohio, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, whooped up the idea that Obama has the answers for America's economic woes. Richardson also fanned out to events in Immokolee, an agricultural town near Lake Okeechobee, and in Port Charlotte on the Gulf Coast.

Michelle Obama ventured into red North Florida Tuesday morning with an "Early Vote for Change" rally at the Pensacola Civic Center. She also took her message to some military families in the base-rich Florida panhandle -- a tough sell. Obama took his populist message to a venue in Tampa named after a guy with as big an ego as Obama's, George Steinbrenner Stadium. The pair ended up at a rally in Bicentennial Park in Miami in the late afternoon.

One of today's events will be one of those call-in conference calls on the subject, according to the Obama campaign press release, of "dirty campaign tactics." (What's a politician's favorite whine?) McCain's of course. That should shed some heat, if no light. Team Obama is still sore that McCain faults Obama for an easy relationship with a guy whose idea of a good time while McCain was serving in the Navy was to try to blow up the Pentagon.

This week's events represent an extraordinary amount of time for a candidate to spend in one state with a national election just two weeks away. If Obama stays much longer he'll have to get a Florida driver's license. The announced occasion for the long, saturation visits here was the Monday opening of early voting in Florida. Obama wants Floridians to vote early -- for him of course -- and avoid the rush. And perhaps also avoid being affected by anything negative about Obama that might hit the fan over the next two weeks. Once you've voted you can't change your mind.

Another reason could be that the polls are once again tightening, both nationwide and in Florida. While Obama enjoyed a five-point advantage in Florida in the Real Clear Politics average of polls just a week ago, the difference in that much-watched barometer had shrunk to two points on Tuesday. A Fox News/Rasmussen poll on Monday showed McCain ahead in Florida 49 to 48.

The volatile nature of the political climate in Florida -- the lead has changed hands multiple times here since last summer -- hasn't escaped John McCain's notice either. He's scheduled to visit Tampa on Thursday. Every four years, 27 electoral votes can really focus the mind, and the campaign schedule. Both candidates know a McCain loss in Florida means Obama is home free. Obama really wants Florida, and McCain has to have it. So this may not be the last time before Nov. 4 they are both underfoot in the Sunshine state.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.