Thursday, October 23, 2008

Graham Says Florida, Iowa Close

Graham Says Florida, Iowa Close

Former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, visits with a volunteer at Democratic headquarters in Iowa City Wednesday.
Former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, visits with a volunteer at Democratic headquarters in Iowa City Wednesday.

Iowa and Florida both represent strong chances for Democratic pickups in the presidential race, but both states remain competitive, former Florida Sen. Bob Graham said Wednesday in Iowa City.

"I think Florida is going to go Obama, but it's going to be very competitive," Graham said. "Florida may be a little more tense than Iowa. It's a state that takes a lot of effort to go Democratic." Nominee Barack Obama was in Florida Tuesday, and Graham gave an introduction at the event.

"Obama said to tell you his appreciation and the importance of Iowa" to his nomination and the general election, Graham told volunteers and staffers at Iowa City Democratic headquarters.

"Iowa and Florida are both still yellow for undecided on the CNN map," he said.

"Florida has gone Republican four of the last five elections," said Graham, who then added a qualifier: "Well, there were actually two times it went Democratic." He said the disputed 2000 Florida result remains a sore spot and a motivator for Democrats in Florida and nationwide.

Florida and Iowa are both early voting states, and Graham said Florida Republicans were suppressing votes by cutting early voting hours from twelve hours a day down to eight. "It's hard for working people to go vote on a Tuesday," he said, adding that statistics from the first two days of Florida early voting showed a Democratic lead of 58 percent to 35 percent Republican and 7 percent independent.

Graham was, briefly, a fixture on the Iowa political scene. He spent two weeks in the state in the summer of 2003 running for president, but ended his campaign long before caucus night when fundraising fizzled. "We had an absolutely fantastic two weeks," he said of the RV tour of the state with his extended family, " and we think we might have gotten a few votes."

Wednesday's visit to Obama headquarters in Iowa City was Graham's first campaign stop outside Florida this election season. He was in Iowa City on a business trip and planned to visit Cedar Rapids on Thursday.

"In my five runs for office," said the two-term governor and three-term senator, "I was never asked as a candidate during the campaign about the issue that became the major issue during the term of service. So the thing you're really voting for is judgment."

"The challenges this next president will face, you have to go back at least to 1932 and FDR to have equivalent challenges," Graham said.

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