Clinton in Florida

Florida is the fourth largest state in the US, with 27 electoral votes and 210 delegates to the Democratic national convention. It’s where George Bush (or Al Gore) won the 2000 elections. And depending on your point of view, it either is or is not holding a Democratic primary today.

Last spring, the Florida legislature voted to hold the primary on 29 January 2008 (it’s usually held in March). But the Democratic National Committee told it to change the date to 5 February or later because only four states would have the right to hold early primaries and caucuses (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina). Florida refused to budge, so the Democrats have said that it will have no delegates to the national convention in August — and no say in who becomes the party’s candidate. (Michigan is in the same situation as Florida.)
All the candidates agreed to support the party leadership on this one. On September 1, 2007, Clinton, Edwards and Obama signed a pledge to not campaign in Florida. So it’s a non-primary, getting no coverage, as we all await Super Tuesday next week.
Except that the latest opinion polls show Hillary Clinton with a commanding lead in the Sunshine State. One poll taken last week showed her winning over 50%, with Obama 25 points behind and Edwards trailing a distant third. Following the debacle of South Carolina, Clinton desperately needs a show of strength somewhere.
On Friday, she stunned the political world by declaring that she would ask her “delegates to support seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan.” And in an internal campaign memo sent out the following day, her communications director wrote “Despite efforts by the Obama campaign to ignore Floridians, their voices will be heard loud and clear across the country, as the last state to vote before Super Tuesday on February 5th.”
On Sunday Clinton campaigned in Florida, in violation of her pledge. Her presence in the state was widely covered by local media. She made sure to be photographed in front of palm trees in Sarasota. She insists she wasn’t campaigning, just attending a closed meeting. On Tuesday she will once again be in the state to welcome her expected primary victory.
A spokesman for Obama reacted furiously: “If the Clinton campaign’s southern strength rests on the outcome in a state where they’re the only ones competing, that should give Democrats deep pause.”
Clinton’s rule-breaking forays into Florida follow closely upon the controversial attacks on Obama made by her husband, and seem to confirm what many critics have long said about the Clintons — they will do anything to win.