Big time politics has found a small town stop on the campaign trail.
Following Janet Reno's visit to Dade City in February, fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride rode into town Thursday night, shaking hands and spreading his message voter by voter.
"I like small towns," McBride said. "I was born in a small town. Leesburg is an awful lot like Dade City."
Campaigning in small cities gives him an opportunity to meet people, and every voter he impresses along the way can spread the word to other voters down the road, McBride said.
"The range of influence of everybody here goes way beyond this room," he said. "I was talking to one lady, her daughter lives in Ocala. Another, her daughter works for the sheriff in Sumter County. People have e-mail lists and telephones. It spreads like that."
Thursday's cohost, Dr. Marcelino Oliva, said a small town visit has proven value. Oliva recalled meeting former president Jimmy Carter's wife, Rosalynn, at the Edwinola when the downtown landmark was a restaurant and Carter was a longshot Democratic candidate for president.
"No one thought he could win," Oliva said. "That's the way you win, you go out and you meet people."
Greeting McBride at Thursday's fundraiser were former Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Mary Morgan and former Dade City Mayor Agnes Lamb.
"You can make some good contacts in a place like this," Morgan said. "Everything spreads from person to person to person."
McBride, 57, had some Democrats questioning his low profile earlier this year. But he said Thursday that his campaign was cranking up and that he was confident he would win the party nomination and defeat Gov. Jeb Bush.
He told a crowd of about 40 supporters at Kafe Kokopelli that he was committed to better public schools, senior issues and the environment, as well as an economy that is fair to everyone.
"Everybody in Florida can succeed and do well if we all share a common purpose," he said. "I want to bring a sense of balance _ of importance _ to all of us. The table is big enough for all of us."
And he took a swipe or two at Bush.
McBride said the governor had commented earlier this month that he wasn't worried about McBride's candidacy, so McBride was intrigued to learn that he received equal billing with Reno in Bush's recent television ad targeting the pair.
"I'll be a good governor for everybody," McBride said. "I'll even be a good governor for Jeb Bush, because he hasn't had one in four years, and he deserves one."