Florida matters in 2012 presidential election - a lot

BRENT BATTEN
Rod Smith

Photo by Photography 35

Rod Smith

Rod Smith

Photo by Photography 35

Rod Smith

Actress Ashley Judd wasn't able to make it to breakfast Thursday with Florida's delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

If she had been there as scheduled, she no doubt would have told Floridians that their state is key to winning the election in November. That's what every other speaker to join the group has said.

But her absence gave state party Chairman Rod Smith a chance to get in a little dig while introducing the morning's other featured guest.

"Getting David Plouffe for Ashley Judd sounds like a trade the Magic usually make," Smith quipped, referring to Orlando's National Basketball Association team.

Plouffe, a senior adviser to President Obama, didn't disappoint, delivering the message Judd surely would have: Florida matters. A lot.

After admitting, "I am a poor substitute for Ashley Judd," Plouffe foreshadowed the months to come, announcing the president plans to visit Florida right after the convention.

"You're going to be seeing a lot of the president, the vice president, the first lady," Plouffe said.

Such visits may energize the base and sway some undecided voters but the manager of Obama's heralded 2008 victory said the campaign's grass-roots strategy will rely on the people in the room.

"It's all going to come down to you," he said.

Like Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, another Obama campaign leader who spoke to Florida delegates Wednesday, Plouffe predicted a tight race in November.

"We've got an absolute, realistic shot to win Florida's 29 electoral votes. We could be up late that night. It could be a lot easier if we put those 29 votes up early," he said.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who on Tuesday addressed the full convention, tailored an abbreviated version of his talk for Florida on Thursday morning.

Repeating the "Forward, not back," theme that had the Time Warner Cable Arena echoing, O'Malley argued that the country is making progress in terms of job growth, health care and security.

"General Motors is alive and hiring and Osama bin Laden is not," O'Malley said..

He challenged the delegates to carry their enthusiasm back to their communities for the last two months of the campaign.

"Remember how in your heart when you saw Julian Castro give our keynote," he said, concluding, "Florida, the eyes of the nation are upon you."

At least as long as Ashley Judd isn't around.

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