Florida Democrats Begin To Unite Against McCain

06/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

MIAMI -- Florida Democrats turned to the airwaves and cyberspace to pummel the presumptive GOP nominee while, aware of the state's potent position for November, many of them also nourished the possibility of a unity team for November.

Twenty-seven electoral votes! A swing state which could go to either candidate! These are the comments heard time and time again as once again, Florida -- which had been sidelined in the nomination process -- took center stage, or more accurately, center in "the eye of the storm."

It was preparedness for natural storms, however, that brought Democrats together in Miami this week to protest Sen. John McCain while he spoke to a group of newspaper editors. In addition to the protest signs and placards, TV viewers up and down the peninsula were being reminded by a new commercial that McCain had opposed a national catastrophe insurance fund while all Florida Republicans and Democrats in congress and the cabinet support it... even Florida's GOP governor Charlie Crist, supposedly on McCain's veep list. And Democratic bloggers and party officials burned up the Internet reminding Floridians about McCain's "storm position."

"McCain's policy positions and his disregard for the people of Florida are a disaster waiting to happen," is the analogy presented by the party chiefs in Tallahassee in an email blast. The messages reminded voters that McCain's position on the flood insurance fund is exactly the same as President Bush, who also opposes the bill. Proponents say it could "ease the pain inflicted by a major storm."

Meantime, Florida's party big whigs -- now, certain Sen. Obama is the nominee-in-waiting -- made a strong show for him while unleashing an effort to induce the Illinois senator to put Sen. Clinton on the ticket as his vice president. They repeated the belief that "this dream team" would be the best means of securing Florida's important electoral vote in November

Even Jon Ausman of Tallahassee, the highly regarded activist who brought the case to give punished Florida delegates a half-vote -- as a superdelegate -- cast his for Clinton even though Obama had already reached the magic number to become the nominee. He said it was just a symbolic gesture to show how the party could be united if both senators were on the ticket.

Newspapers reported this week that state-wide polls taken the end of May -- prior to Obama campaigning in Florida -- had him losing to McCain while the same poll had Clinton beating the GOP standard bearer by a few percentage points. Sen. Obama did a quick stopover in South Florida last week to talk to seniors in the West Palm Beach area.

The protest while McCain was in Florida was aimed at all 50 states. "A national catastrophe fund is a common sense, bipartisan solution that would strengthen Florida -- and all 50 states -- before and after a disaster, from hurricanes to tornadoes to terrorist attacks. It's a measure that would stabilize insurance costs once and for all, but McCain loves to brag about his opposition. That's unconscionable." That was one of a handful of messages which hit the Internet.
Florida -- because it held an early primary -- was punished, receiving half a vote but it was too late for an impact in selecting the nominee. Clinton had won Florida by a huge margin in the January primary.

But unity has been the dominant Democratic theme the past few days as McCain barnstormed Florida for money and votes and was met everywhere with protests. Some old-timers reflected that the protests were reminiscent of the 2000 "stolen election" when the Supreme Court refused to count all Florida votes and gave the presidency to Bush, an event which caused demonstrations nationwide.

"It won't happen again," one activist said.

Despite the realization that Obama will make his own decision regarding a vice presidential running mate, there were indications Floridians were letting everyone in earshot know that Clinton is the one person with political supporters ready to jump on a dream team bandwagon. Indeed, talking to Floridians, it's as if the term "dream team" has come to stand for Obama-Clinton.

"Sen. Obama has a lot of ground to cover...and with her on the ticket, she would help him make up the ground rapidly, " U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Weston told the Miami Herald.

Of particular note, several newspapers reported viewpoints that the state's heavy Latino and Jewish populations would be enthusiastic to have Clinton on the ticket. Sen. Clinton carried both constituencies in Florida in the disputed January primary when a record 1.75 million voted.

Headlines in major South Florida papers concentrated on the Obama nomination and the importance of Clinton to the party. The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel -- with a page one banner -- "Women Speak Out" -- noted that Clinton's run for the presidency came close to choosing a woman and that her candidacy inspired women of all ages.

Meantime, McCain tried to steal a little of the spotlight. He is expected to remain in Florida for a third consecutive day and scheduled to appear with Gov. Crist to discuss energy and the environment with the Everglades as a backdrop.

Political pundits, however, seemed to be paying most attention to the growing number of superdelegates reportedly endorsing Obama. These include such prominent names as former Sen, Bob Graham, U.S. Rep Ron Klein of Boca Raton, 10 of the 13 Florida delegates which had been pledged to former Sen. John Edwards, as well as County Party chair Mitch Caesar and state Committee Woman Diane Glasser, considered the two key players in the state's most Democratic county -- Broward (Fort Lauderdale).

Many others like former Congresswoman Carrie Meek and U.S. Rep. Wasserman Schultz were considered Clinton supporters but spoke highly of Obama as he was named the nominee.

But dozens of email blasts indicated Obama still has s lot of work to do in the Sunshine State.

Some seniors who had been visible in the Clinton campaign said that they might vote for McCain rather than support Obama. They were encouraged, however, when news reports erupted Thursday evening that the Clinton and Obama were meeting privately in Washington.

"We might change our minds, if she is the V-P nominee."