The smack down between the Democratic National Committee and the state of Florida — over the Sunshine State’s Jan. 29 presidential primary date — only grows more contentious. Talk of voter disenfranchisement and the threat of a Democratic convention sans 210 Florida delegates has already resulted in a lawsuit. And pressured by the first-among-equals early states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – the candidates have pledged not to campaign past September in states — Michigan and Florida to date — that have defied the DNC-approved date of Feb. 5.
So what does a distracting controversy and a little intra-party fratricide mean to those helping run a presidential candidate’s campaign in Florida?
“It’s frustrating, but we’ll make the best of it,” says Tampa’s Frank Sanchez, a member of Sen. Barack Obama’s national financial committee and a key Florida fundraiser and volunteer organizer.
“The uncertainty doesn’t help when you have a message to get out, and this becomes the dominant issue and political story,” adds Sanchez. “And as a Floridian, it’s just very disappointing to see this.”
But Sanchez, who also advises Obama on Latin America, points out that fundraising isn’t impacted. “There’s no violation if we do fundraisers,” he notes, “so it won’t affect our ability to raise money.”
That’s because there’s a Mack Truck-size loophole that will allow candidates to appear at Florida fund-raisers, but not make generic campaign stops. As long as there’s a charge – even $10-$15 – it’s not “campaigning.” Political ATMs, yes; whistle-stop speeches, no. That’s the well-hedged pledge.
Any chance a bunch of loopholier-than-thou lawyers are behind this one?
Meanwhile, the Obama bandwagon has scheduled a high-end ($1,000 minimum) fundraising doubleheader here in the Tampa Bay Area later this month (Sept. 30). The first gathering will be in Hyde Park at the home of Tom and Linda Scarritt; the nightcap at the Pinellas home of Tom and Donna Marie Main.
But on into the fall, there will be more than an absence of “campaign” stops in Florida. Don’t look for the candidates, including Obama, to make many, if any, fund-raising appearances either. “Practically speaking,” explains Sanchez, “his schedule will be very limited outside those first four states.”