Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Democrats boycott Florida race
From early to irrelevant? Clinton and Obama pledge not to campaign in the jump-the-gun primary.
By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published September 2, 2007
All of the major Democratic candidates for president abruptly agreed Saturday to boycott Florida's primary because it is scheduled on Jan. 29, too early according to national party rules.
Top-tier candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama on Saturday joined a boycott that began Friday among the lesser-known candidates, who probably couldn't have afforded to campaign in the Sunshine State anyway.
Now, Clinton, Obama, John Edwards and the others will not make campaign appearances in Florida, or any other state that breaks Democratic National Committee rules by scheduling a primary before Feb. 5. Michigan is considering such a move.
The candidates will continue to raise money in Florida, and they will attend next week's Univision debate in Miami. But the bottom line is Florida stands to be irrelevant in the presidential primary.
Florida Democrats already were being pressed by the DNC not to count the votes from Jan. 29 and instead award the state's delegates to candidates later, based upon some still-undecided method such as party caucuses around the state.
At a time when leading Republican candidates already are campaigning feverishly to build Florida support, the Democrats' surprise move will do nothing to help them ultimately win Florida's 27 electoral votes in the general election in 2008.
"It is treating the largest swing state in the country in a way that makes it harder for the nominee to win in the fall," said Democratic pollster Dave Beattie of Jacksonville. "And if Democrats are going to write off Florida, that makes it easier for Republicans to compete in other states."
State Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Broward County Democrat who joined the Republican push to move Florida's primary from March to January, promptly yanked his endorsement of Barack Obama for signing the boycott pledge, saying it ensured Florida issues would not be front and center for Democrats.
"What scares me the most is the Republicans are still going to campaign here, and they're going to have a six-month head start on us," Ring said.
The Florida primary meltdown started Friday evening when underdog Democrats Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden signed a "four-state pledge" to campaign only in the small states permitted to hold nominating contests in January: Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
But on Saturday morning, Edwards and Obama signed the pledge. Florida front-runner Clinton did, too, rather than antagonize voters in crucial states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
"We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process," came the statement from the Clinton campaign at 4 p.m. "And we believe the DNC's rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role."
Both parties are struggling to maintain some control over the presidential nominating schedule and process, as more and more states, jealous of the outsized influence of small states like New Hampshire, try to move their primary elections earlier and earlier.
After hearings last year, the DNC set a calendar aimed at preserving the traditional importance of Iowa and New Hampshire, while adding some racial and geographic diversity with Nevada and South Carolina. The Republican National Committee approved a similar schedule that also barred larger states from setting elections before Feb. 5.
Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature, however, set the primary for Jan. 29. The Florida GOP is trying to avoid losing half of its delegates to the national convention, but that fight has been nowhere near as antagonistic as the Democrats' dispute.
On Aug. 25, a DNC panel voted to strip Florida of all its delegates to the convention unless the state party declared the Jan. 29 election nonbinding. Instead, the national party wants Florida Democrats to hold party-run elections later, perhaps a series of congressional district caucuses, to allocate presidential delegates.
No way, said Florida Democratic leaders. They threatened lawsuits, saying the DNC directive would disenfranchise Florida Democratic voters and cost millions of dollars. Then, late last week, Michigan's Legislature voted to move its primary to Jan. 15, and the presidential candidates started signing the pledge to boycott any state violating the Feb. 5 window.
Edwards said in a statement: "Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina need to be first because in these states ideas count, not just money. These are places where voters get to look the candidate in the eye and measure their policies, ideas, and integrity."
The pledge bars the candidates from campaigning for votes in Florida, but not trolling for campaign dollars. Florida has a deep pool of Democratic donors, and the campaigns are not sacrificing there.
It's unclear how the fundraising will work now. Some of the candidates, particularly Obama and Edwards, have made a hallmark of hosting fundraisers that charge as little as $15 per person, making them more like campaign rallies than true fundraisers.
It also is an open question just how receptive donors will be given the boycott. One top Democratic fundraiser, trial lawyer Wayne Hogan of Jacksonville, already was so angry about Florida losing its delegates that he called Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean last week to cancel a DNC fundraiser.
"Any candidate that boycotts Florida and thinks that they will raise money here will be sadly disappointed," said state Senate Democratic leader Steve Geller. "And it is my prediction that any candidate who boycotts Florida and thinks Florida will welcome them later will be sorely disappointed."
Not everyone's complaining.
"When I signed onto Barack, I signed on to help him become president of the United States, not president of the Florida primary," said Tampa businessman Frank Sanchez, a top Florida Obama supporter. "We've got to put our best foot forward and that's what we're going to do."
Florida Democratic leaders no longer sounded as defiant Saturday as they had in recent days, declining to say whether they would reconsider a caucus later in February. Sen. Bill Nelson did not respond to a request for comment, nor did state Democratic chairwoman Karen Thurman.
"No matter which cards we're dealt," said state party executive director Leonard Joseph, "Florida Democrats are going to win the state's 27 electoral votes and elect a Democratic president in 2008. The country needs us."
Sen. Ring, the Democrat who sponsored the move to Jan. 29, found a silver lining: "We weren't relevant before this, but if we did anything here we blew up the primary process so it will finally have to be fixed."
Check today's Perspective section and you'll see a column I wrote headlined "Primarily, Florida is just too important," predicting that Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama would campaign for Florida's Jan. 29 primary even with no presidential delegates at stake.
Today, I can only repeat the sentiments of Homer Simpson: "D'oh!"
The piece was printed before any of the Democratic candidates started signing a pledge to bypass Florida's primary, proving me wrong even before the papers hit the curb. Politics is humbling.