McCain hits Florida hard, Clinton campaigns with Obama

After the 2000 debacle, when we all watched stunned over hanging chads, the state of Florida seems to be gearing up as one of the major linchpins in Sen. Obama’s and Sen. McCain’s strategy for victory in 6 days. On Wednesday night, Obama wrapped up his 30 minute tv ad speaking from a Florida rally. Sen. McCain has also been spending time and resources in the state hoping to prevent a red/blue switch with the aid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

Report on McCain’s efforts from USAToday:

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — John McCain criss-crossed Florida on Wednesday, trying to keep the state in the Republican column as some supporters worried about whether he can catch the better-funded Barack Obama.

“I wish I didn’t feel like it was over,” said Dawn Poole, a McCain backer who saw him speak at a lumberyard in Miami. “It looks that way, but it’s not going to stop me from voting.

“Maybe we’ll be surprised,” she said.

Greta Rodriguez, a retired administrative assistant from Miami, is “hoping and praying” for McCain to prevail. While Obama is “a little bit ahead in the poll,” a “silent majority” could emerge and pull out Florida for McCain, she said. McCain needs to open the “Pandora’s Box” of Obama’s background to win, said John Piscola, a former New York school principal who lives in Miami Beach.

A series of Florida polls released between Monday and Wednesday showed Obama with anywhere from a 2- to a 7-percentage-point lead.

“We’ve got to win the state of Florida, my friends, and we’re going to win here,” McCain said in Miami.

Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez, who traveled with McCain on Wednesday, echoed his optimism about Florida.

McCain continued to hammer Obama on Wednesday on the economy and national security, saying the Democrat lacked the experience to handle either.

The question is whether Obama “has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and other grave threats in the world,” McCain said in Tampa. “And he has given you no reason to answer in the affirmative.”

Retired major general J. Scott Gration, an Obama campaign spokesman, criticized McCain for supporting a Bush foreign policy that has not captured bin Laden.

While Obama prepared a 30-minute commercial, which ran during prime time Wednesday, McCain taped an interview with CNN’s Larry King Live in Tampa.

Video report from the Associated Press of McCain hitting the hispanic vote in southern Florida:

Meanwhile, also in Florida, Obama has pulled out the big guns in the form of former President Bill Clinton, report from Yahoo News:

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Portraying harmony like never before, Bill Clinton hailed Barack Obama on Wednesday, a power pairing designed to inspire Democrats already smelling victory.

“Barack Obama represents America’s future, and you’ve got to be there for him next Tuesday,” Clinton, with Obama at his side, said to the cheers of a partisan crowd.

Heaping praise on President Bush’s predecessor, Obama said of Clinton: “In case all of you forgot, this is what it’s like to have a great president.”

Obama even prodded the crowd to cheer more, saying “Bill Clinton. Give it up!” And there was Clinton, laughing with gusto every time Obama jokingly mocked rival John McCain.

The joint appearance of the future president and perhaps the next one was the first of the campaign. It capped one of the most ambitious days of Obama’s White House run, including a 30-minute prime-time infomercial in which he tried to seal the deal with voters.

It wasn’t so long ago that Clinton, still a giant of his party, was publicly criticizing Obama as untested and unready for the job of president. His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, engaged in a grueling and ultimately losing battle with Obama for the party’s nomination.

The two men later smoothed over matters. And lately, Hillary Clinton has been out campaigning for Obama. Wednesday it was Bill Clinton’s time, in his element.

He clasped Obama’s hand and held it high when the men came on stage. Clinton made a methodical case for Obama, describing him as a strong thinker with smart policies.

In one of his testimonials, he praised Obama for seeking the advice of experts — including him and his wife — on how to handle the country’s financial crisis before acting.

“Folks, we can’t fool with this,” Clinton said. “Our country is hanging in the balance. And we have so much promise and so much peril. This man should be our president.”

Obama said of the two Clintons: “I am proud to call them my friends.”

Through the day, in two states, Obama unleashed a bleak portrayal of a McCain presidency and told a national TV audience that “the time for change has come.”

Ahead in the polls, flush with cash and blanketing himself all over television, Obama said he is counting down the days but not letting up. The election looms on Tuesday.

Video report on the Clinton/Obama rally in Florida, via CNN:

Local WALA Fox 10 report on Obama volunteers heading from Alabama to Georgia to help Obama’s efforts in the all-important swing state:

Florida is also dealing with a controversial new voting law, which CNN reports on here:

Florida went for Bush in 2000 by just 0.1% and then again in 2004 by around 5%, it isn’t a sure thing for either side. The one thing, which I think is to McCain’s advantage, is that he has Charlie Crist by his side who has been very popular in Florida. On the other hand, Obama has Bill Clinton who is popular everywhere with Democrats and many independents.

We’ll just see, but both campaigns are counting on Florida so it will be interesting to watch on Election Day.