If anyone doubts that Barack Obama is shifting his attention from Hillary Rodham Clinton to John McCain and the general election, just consider where he'll be the next three days: Florida, Florida, Florida. Obama must overcome real challenges to win Florida's 27 electoral votes, and his tentative schedule seems to acknowledge that, as he's reaching out to key demographics. Here are four of Obama's hurdles, and what he's doing to address them:
McCain is a proven vote-getter among Hispanics, who could account for 15 percent of the electorate. Obama has struggled to win over Hispanics in places like California and Texas, and unlike Clinton, he has no history with Florida's diverse Hispanic community. On tap: Town hall meeting today in Orlando targeting non-Cuban Hispanics. Also, he's speaking Friday to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami.
Republicans have been cutting into this once overwhelmingly Democratic bloc, which is about 5 percent of Florida's electorate. Obama has to contend with an Internet smear campaign depicting him as a closet Muslim, bad for Israel and the preferred candidate of Hamas. On tap: Campaigning with Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, including a stop with Jewish voters in Palm Beach County.
Many Clinton supporters remain genuinely livid about Obama refusing to acknowledge votes from Florida's disputed primary. "He's dug his heels in the sand, and it's hurting him here,'' said Millie Herrera, a Clinton supporter who leads the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida. On tap: Rally Friday night in Broward County, a Clinton stronghold.
Democrats lose Florida when they get crushed in North Florida, and so far there's little sign of enthusiasm for Obama (or Clinton) among white Panhandle voters. If he can't at least get near 40 percent in places like Escambia County, he'll lose the state.
On tap: It will have to wait for another trip.