Barack Obama/Bill Clinton Florida Rally Thread

As I said when the event was first announced, the Barack Obama/Bill Clinton rally in Orlando is a major coup for the Obama campaign, an opportunity to dominate the news coverage for an extra day. Indeed, it looks like both CNN and MSNBC will run the event live (that's a lot of Obama for the evening!), as may some of the local stations in Florida, and coverage of the joint appearance should continue well into tomorrow.

Obama and Clinton are chatting backstage as Florida's senior Senator Bill Nelson warms up the crowd. The main event should start soon.

Update [2008-10-29 23:21:5 by Jonathan Singer]: Oh, it's on. Don't have cable? Check out the rally on CNN.com.

Update [2008-10-29 23:24:11 by Todd Beeton]:Here ya go:

[UStream embed removed]

Update [2008-10-29 23:30:28 by Todd Beeton]:Barack Obama: "In case you all forgot, this is what it's like to have a great president." Wow. "Bill Clinton, give it up! Nobody makes the case for change that helps the middle class like Bill Clinton. Nobody."

Update [2008-10-29 23:32:51 by Todd Beeton]:I see a McCain ad in our future: Bill Clinton telling the crowd "He talked to his advisors and said 'Tell me what the right thing to do is.'"

Update [2008-10-29 23:37:54 by Todd Beeton]:It was interesting to talk about Barack in the same terms that he used to speak about Hillary, when he said Barack will be the sort of president who "makes positive change in people's lives."

Update [2008-10-30 1:28:11 by Todd Beeton]:Look at this absolutely glowing coverage of the Obama/Clinton event tonight:

Portraying harmony like never before, Bill Clinton hailed Barack Obama on Wednesday, a power pairing designed to inspire Democrats already smelling victory.

"Barack Obama represents America's future, and you've got to be there for him next Tuesday," Clinton, with Obama at his side, said to the cheers of a partisan crowd.

Heaping praise on President Bush's predecessor, Obama said of Clinton: "In case all of you forgot, this is what it's like to have a great president."

There's more...

McCain's Palin Problem in Florida

According to Pollster.com, three of four most recent surveys out of the state of Florida show John McCain and Barack Obama exactly tied -- not the type of showing the Republicans were hoping for in the Sunshine state. Indeed, after months of not investing in the state, the McCain campaign is now spending big dollars there, to the tune of over $1 million per week on air. This might be part of the reason for the increased expenditures and tightening numbers:

Five weeks ago, the St. Petersburg Times convened a group of Tampa Bay voters who were undecided about the presidential election. Their strong distrust of Barack Obama suggested it was a group ripe for John McCain to win over.

Not anymore. The group has swung dramatically, if unenthusiastically, toward Democrat Obama. Most of them this week cited the same reason: Sarah Palin.

[...]

Of the 11 undecided voters participating in the free-wheeling discussion one recent evening at the Times -- four Republicans, five Democrats, and two registered to no party -- only two Republican men applauded the selection of Palin.

Nobody had finalized a choice, but seven of the panelists said that McCain's running mate selection had made them more likely to vote for Obama, and in several cases much more likely.

The quotes from these voters are brutal. "I'm truly offended by Palin," said one Republican. A Hillary Clinton supporter who had been leaning towards voting for John McCain, a decision that has been called into question by McCain's pick of Palin, explained the Palin choice "ticks me off because I do not want Obama." Said another  Clinton supporter, "Do they think we're really stupid? ... I'm definitely leaning toward the Democratic side now. Sarah Palin scares the crap out of me."

Pollster.com still gives McCain a 4.1 percentage point edge in Florida, and Real Clear Politics pegs McCain's lead at 4.5 percentage points. But with Palin seemingly turning off a whole lot of voters who were reluctant to back Obama and were leaning towards voting McCain, and Bill Clinton soon to stump in the state for the Democratic ticket, I wouldn't be too quick to write off Florida just yet.

There's more...

Bill Clinton to Campaign for Obama in Florida

Mark Halperin today reports that the former President will campaign on behalf of Barack Obama on September 29.

A couple thoughts. First, someone said to me at the convention, and it sounded quite apt -- particularly by that Wednesday night -- that the Clintons are masters of managing expectations. The speeches by both Bill and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention seemed so much more important, meaningful, memorable and effective because the media obsessed over whether the speeches would be sufficiently supportive (which they were, and then some). Bill Clinton campaigning on behalf of the Obama-Biden ticket is bigger news because of the speculation over if, when and where he would do so. There is no doubt that the Florida event will be huge.

Second, the choice of Florida was not accidental. As I noted earlier this week, there is real reason to believe that Florida is more on the map today than it had previously been -- perhaps even since the outset of the general election. In short, the pick of Sarah Palin throws a serious wrench into Republican efforts to woo Jewish voters, who make up an important bloc within the Florida electorate, and the race overall in the state has tightened to the point that the McCain campaign has now abandoned its strategy of not advertising in the state. Having the former President, who is popular in the state -- he carried it in 1996, and narrowly lost it in 1992 -- campaign in Florida could provide Obama with just the extra boost he needs to get an edge.

There's more...

Movement in Florida?

The actions of a campaign speak more loudly than any spin -- and even the public polls -- so the fact that Florida has been added to the mix of Republican states the McCain campaign is now advertising in but previously wasn't is well worth noting. Here's The Miami Herald:

Republican John McCain has launched his first television ad in Florida, a must-win state already leaning his way despite a $9 million advertising blitz by Democrat Barack Obama.

McCain and the Republican National Committee held out until about one week ago when a joint fundraising committee dropped about $1.1 million in the state, according to media analyst Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG. Tracey said Obama has recently narrowed his advertising campaign to Central Florida, a bastion of uncommitted voters.

''There's no reason to spend the money if they can't move the needle,'' said Tracey, who pegged Obama's investment since June 20 at $9 million. ``Florida may be kind of frozen right now . . . If there's a late break of undecided voters there's not much they can do with advertising dollars right now.''

Here's what we know out of Florida right now: The McCain campaign for months seemed content with allowing Barack Obama to have the stage largely to himself in Florida, but no longer does.

Here's what else we know: The two most recent polls from the state show McCain leading 50 percent to 45 percent (PPP [.pdf]) and the race tied at 48 percent apiece (Rasmussen), and overall Pollster.com pegs the race as 47.0 percent to 44.9 percent in favor of McCain, with the race tightening, and Real Clear Politics finds a similar 47.6 percent to 44.6 percent McCain lead.

Now for the circumstantial evidence: There is real reason to believe that the Sarah Palin pick, while playing well in many parts of the country, is not necessarily playing well in Florida, and may actually be detrimental to McCain's efforts in the state. Here's Ben Smith, for instance, on Ed Koch, the former Democratic mayor of New York City who in 2004 was a key supporter and surrogate for George W. Bush's reelection campaign in South Florida.

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who endorsed and worked for George W. Bush in 2004, is endorsing Obama today, NY1 first reported.

I asked Koch just now what prompted the move.

"The designation of Palin to be vice president," he said. "She's scary."

[...]

Koch is a member of a set of secular, swing-voting Jewish Democrats who may have been pushed away by the selection of Palin, and his endorsement may be a marker of an opportunity for Obama to strengthen his campaign among older Jewish voters in Florida.

Nate Silver actually picked up on this even before Koch came out today in favor of Obama.

The best micro-level news for Obama is in Florida, where there are a couple of favorable dynamics in play:

(i) the Joe Biden selection probably went over well there;
(ii) the consolidation of the Clinton vote is also valuable in Florida, and
(iii) something is likely to be lost in translation between Sarah Palin and swing groups like Jewish voters and Cubans; moreover, Floridians tend to be fairly socially liberal but more conservative on fiscal and foreign policy, not necessarily the best match for Palin's politics.

We need more evidence to confirm this, but at this point, it feels to me like Florida is a better target for Obama than Ohio.

I'm not ready to join Nate in the conclusion that Florida is a better target for Obama than Ohio just yet -- but it's an interesting thought, and I might be there in a couple weeks depending on how things play out. But what I will say is that all of this evidence, both direct and circumstantial, leads me to the conclusion that Florida is not as much of a waste of time and money for Obama as I had previously believed -- that it would be more likely to get him to 300 or 325 electoral votes than it would be to get him to 270 (it would be the gravy, not necessary for victory) -- and that it could realistically be a part of Obama's path to 270.

There's more...

Obama Leads in Pennsylvania; Races Tight in Florida and Ohio

Tough news for John McCain. Despite the fact that McCain, along with the Republican National Committee, invested at least $6 million in Pennsylvania on advertisements, outspending Barack Obama by roughly a 3-to-2 margin, MccCain's numbers aren't budging upward one bit, according to new Quinnipiac polling.

Pennsylvania (8/17-24, 1,234 LVs, MoE +/- 2.8%)

John McCain (R): 42 percent (42 percent on July 31)
Barack Obama (D): 49 percent (49 percent on July 31)

The numbers out of Florida and Ohio, unlike those from Pennsylvania, are within the margin of error.

Florida (8/17-24, 1,069 LVs, MoE +/- 3.0%)

John McCain (R): 47 percent (44 percent on July 31)
Barack Obama (D): 43 percent (46 percent on July 31)

Ohio (8/17-24, 1,234 LVs, MoE +/- 2.8%)

John McCain (R): 43 percent (44 percent on July 31)
Barack Obama (D): 44 percent (46 percent on July 31)

No doubt it would be nice to see more favorable numbers for Barack Obama in Florida and Ohio at this juncture, though it's likely the case that the race will be tight in both states all the way through November, and a blowout in either direction is not terribly likely. In Florida, in particular, the fact that Obama appears to be losing ground despite the fact that he has been on the air while McCain has not is at least somewhat worrisome (even if Florida is not by any means a necessary part of the Democratic coalition and road to 270 this fall). That all said, that McCain is utterly failing in making Pennsyvlania a real race should be of equal concern to his campaign, especially considering that Iowa, which George W. Bush carried in 2004, leaning towards Obama and other red states -- including Colorado and Virginia, and even North Dakota and Alaska -- definitely in play).

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