Finally in Florida!

   In person or by satellite, I saw three Democratic presidential rallies in FL today, and the Clinton gatherings in south FL couldn ‘t have been more different than Obama’s arena shindig in Tampa.

   “I am here with a very simple message,” she told a packed meeting room at the Sunrise Lakes condo, Phase 4.  “The people of Florida deserve to have their votes counted.”

   She said the same thing in several different ways in Sunrise, and earlier at a Boca Raton synagogue.  “You didn’t break a single rule and you should not be punished for matters beyond your control,” she said to cheers in Boca.  At both gatherings, “Count our votes” was a popular chant.

   Although many of the Clinton fans in the crowd said they’d never vote for Barack Obama (both of her stops would be hotbeds of what’s come to be known as “Obama’s Jewish Problem”), she did not disparage her Democratic opponent.  That makes sense– her slim hope of getting the nomination rests on convincing super-delegates she’s a better bet to defeat John McCain in the fall, and super-delegates tend to be very sensitive to any rhetoric that might weaken the party in ’08.

   More surprisingly, she didn’t mention John McCain much either.  The main foci of her ire were Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee, for stripping  Florida’s delegates as punishment for moving our primary in front of Super Tuesday.

   The DNC Rules Committee is slated to meet 5/31 in Washington to has out the controversy over delegates from FL & Michigan.  Clinton’s stirring public sentiment for seating the delegates according to the 1/29 primary results (she’d pick up 38 delegates on Obama if it happened).  Obama backers have long argued- no primary campaign preceded the primary vote, so FL & MI didn’t yield meaningful results.

   In Tampa, Barack Obama glossed right over the delegate controversy that’s kept him from holding any rallies or giving public speeches here since last September.  “I know you guys have been holding down the fort.  It’s good to be back,” he told the enthusiastic throng in the St. Pete Times Arena (15,000 estimated).  With that, he breezed right by the kerfuffle that might well cost him Florida, in November.

   He didn’t mention Clinton much, either.  “She’s run an outstanding campaign”  or “She’s a formidable opponent” is his standard reference nowadays.

   Obama is focussed on John McCain, still intent on rebutting McCain’s assertions that he’s too raw and inexperienced to guide US foreign policy.  He once again talked about his stated willingness to meet with antagonistic foreign leaders like Iran’s (one of the prime sources of his “Jewish problem”).

   He sought to clarify his starting point with Ahmadinajad– “You’d have to be clear– ‘You’d have to give up nuclear weapons.  You’d have to stop threatening Israel.'”

   Tomorrow, Obama starts his day with a synagogue town hall meeting in Boca– a setting where he might find skepticism about his willingness to deal with anti-semitic foreign leaders, about his ex-Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and perhaps about his youth, as well.

   And we’ve been promised a few minutes (3-5 minutes, to be precise) to question the candidate.  What would you ask Obama?

 

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