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Obama at a distance
By Adam C. Smith
Published October 1, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Nobody ever said campaigning for president is a dignified endeavor, but Barack Obama showed in St. Petersburg Sunday night how campaigning in Florida may border on the absurd in coming months.
That's because the leading Democratic presidential candidates have signed a pledge to the Democratic Party leaders in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Because those are the only states allowed by the national party to hold primaries or caucuses before Feb. 5, the candidates have agreed to boycott Florida's Jan. 29 primary. Raising campaign money in Florida is fine, but not campaigning among average voters.
But the pledge does not address whether talking to the media is to be considered campaigning.
The Obama campaign rejected a St. Petersburg Times request for a three-minute interview before he attended a $1,000-per-person fundraiser Sunday night at the St. Petersburg home of Tim and Donna Main. Here is the exchange, shouted from the street 100 feet away, as the Illinois senator left the Mains' Snell Isle home:
Times: "Senator, what's your position on a national CAT fund?" (No response.) Senator, can we talk to you about the Everglades! (No response, only uncomfortable looks from everyone within shouting distance.) Senator! If you'll only talk to people writing $1,000 checks, why should Florida Democrats support you? (More silence.) Will you take any questions?"
Obama (shouting back): "Why are you yelling?"
Times: "Because you won't let me talk to you! Will you talk about a national CAT fund?"
Obama: "I'm not allowed to talk to the press, guys!"
Times: "Isn't it up to you?"
Times: "Aren't you the guy trying to lead the country?"
Obama: "I signed a pledge!"
Times: "Why? (Silence) Why?"
And then he departed for Miami for more money-raising.