Obama stirs fight with Florida memo

The Clinton campaign criticizes her rival's insistence that the state's votes won't count.

By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published January 16, 2008

Barack Obama doesn't care what Florida Democrats say on Jan. 29.

In a memo released Tuesday, he reiterated his long-standing view that their primary votes will be worthless. And he vaguely charged that Hillary Rodham Clinton may violate her pledge not to campaign in Florida by holding events here later this month.

"We signed a pledge not to campaign in Florida before Feb. 5, and we're not going to campaign in Florida," Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee said. "But it is disappointing that the Obama campaign continues to tell people that their voices don't count, that they continue to disenfranchise people. Hillary Clinton wants to be president of all 50 states."

The Illinois senator's memo stressed that the Democratic primaries in Michigan and Florida are meaningless because the states defied national party rules forbidding all but a handful of states from holding primary elections earlier than Feb. 5.

Because Florida set its primary for Jan. 29, and Michigan for Jan. 15, the Democratic National Committee stripped away all the delegates those states would have awarded toward the Democratic nomination.

What's more, the Democratic candidates signed a pledge to state Democratic leaders in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada not to do any campaigning in Florida and Michigan except to raise money.

"Our position and the position of the DNC is clear -- neither the Florida nor Michigan primaries are playing any role in deciding the Democratic nominee and we are not campaigning in either state," said the Obama campaign memo. It also said, "Clinton may be planning to campaign in the state -- inquiring about large venues and increased organizing activity -- ahead of the Florida primary."

Chris Korge, a top Clinton fundraiser, said the campaign is planning two Miami Beach fundraisers on Jan. 27, one at a bowling alley and one at the home of Michael Adler, a top money-raiser for former presidential candidate Joe Biden. But unlike some $25 events that are quasi rallies, the minimum donation to attend these events will be $1,000.

"Maybe we should send that memo to all the Democratic voters in Florida," Korge quipped of the Obama e-mail.

Technically, Florida Democratic votes don't count because they won't lead to any delegates. But many observers say Florida Democrats will have significant influence just by voicing the preference of party faithful in America's biggest battleground state.

Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, said it's simply a matter of following the primary rules. "We plan to compete vigorously in both Florida and Michigan in the general election."

Florida Republicans had half their delegates stripped away, but all the leading Republicans are competing hard here.