Hillary Clinton has decided to rewrite the rules of the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
Like other candidates, she pledged not to campaign in Florida after the state jumped ahead on the schedule of caucuses and primaries set by the Democratic National Committee. She had to make that pledge if she hoped to compete in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses and the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary, as Iowa and New Hampshire zealously guard their starting status on the political calendar.
But Iowa and New Hampshire are history and, after a landslide loss in South Carolina on Saturday, Clinton needs a win.
So she has begun appearing in Florida in anticipation of Tuesday’s Democratic primary there.
Clinton’s move insults not just the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire who trusted her pledge but also the voters of all the states that respected the DNC’s outline for the nominating process. Effectively, she is saying to Democrats in states that will participate in February 5th’s “Super Tuesday” primaries and caucuses and in the two dozen states that have scheduled later votes: You may follow the rules if you please, but I write the rules as I please.
That’s the raw political reality of Clinton’s move, even if she is spinning it as an embrace of participatory democracy.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have already voted in Florida and I want them to know I will be there to be part of what they have tried to do to make sure their voices are heard,” said Clinton before jetting to Sarasota and Miami for events on Sunday.
The Clinton campaign claims that the senator from New York is abiding by the no-campaigning pledge because Sunday’s two Florida events were technically closed to the public. But the stops were treated as major news events in a state where many Democrats have expressed anger over the absence of the party’s presidential candidates during a period when Florida is overrun by Republican contenders.
The truth of the Clinton strategy was writ large in a memo from top strategist Howard Wolfson, who announced on the day of the campaign’s dismal showing in South Carolina that, “Regardless of today’s outcome, the race quickly shifts to Florida, where hundreds of thousands of Democrats will turn out to vote on Tuesday. Despite efforts by the Obama campaign to ignore Floridians, their voices will be heard loud and clear across the country, as the last state to vote before Super Tuesday on February 5.”