Democratic surrogates mix it up in Tampa

04/08/08 Mitch E. Perry
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It’s two more weeks before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton compete in another primary, but today in Tampa, surrogates for the candidates battled it out among fellow Democrats.

Frank Sanchez was named just last week as the National Latino Fundraiser for the Barack Obama campaign. Speaking at the Democratic Professionals Council luncheon, Sanchez was asked how long did he thought the campaign would continue.

Representing the Hillary Clinton campaign was Alan Clendenin, who is a pledged delegate for the New York senator. He gave the pitch for Clinton to receive the support from Superdelegates, who ultimately will decide which Democrat will face John McCain in the fall.

For viewers of cable news, much of the discussion between the two spokesmen was similar to discussions heard every night between analysts and surrogates. Upon hearing from Clendenin that Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat who has proven to win the critical swing states that traditionally Democrats have needed to win the electoral map, Sanchez challenged that proposition, saying he’s heard the Clinton camp’s rational for electability shift numerous times.

The meeting among local Democrats at Mise En Place restaurant in downtown Tampa has become a regular monthly event over the past year. There was rarely any sense of tension in a race that has become quite intense, but there was a pointed question to about comments that Clinton has made on at least two occasions during the campaign.

That is, that pledged delegates are not bound to stick with the candidate that they were elected to represent Herb Berkowitz is a pledged candidate for Clinton in the Ninth Congressional District. But he asked Clinton supporter Alan Clendenin if that meant is was okay for himself – a Clinton delegate- to switch then to Obama?

Clendinon said Clinton was just reciting the facts.

The surrogates also got into a spirited exchange when it came to the issue of Florida’s disputed and unofficial results of the Jan. 29 primary, in which Clinton defeated Obama as badly as he has lost to her in any contest of this election season, 50 percent to 33 percent.

One audience member asked both Clendenin and Sanchez why did both candidates agree to boycott campaigning in Florida, when they were under no obligation to do so. That resulted after the Democratic National Committee had already announced the January contest would not count. At one point late last year, all of the candidates then agreed on their own that they would not campaign in any state other than the first four on the calendar – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Clendinen said Clinton went along with simply signing a pledge that the other candidates had agreed to not to come to Florida – but Sanchez said she wasn’t so passive.

At the conclusion, the surrogates argued why their candidate will be better for the entire Democratic Party come November.

Meanwhile, two new polls show wild divergence in the race in Pennsylvania, but both show Clinton winning. A Quinnipiac poll has her up by only six points over Obama, but Survey USA has her up by 18 points.

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