President Barack Obama swooped into Florida for less than three hours Wednesday to pick up $700,000 for the Florida Democratic Party, and two corned-beef sandwiches on rye from a Miami Beach deli — to go.
Obama's unannounced stop at Jerry's Famous Deli brought crowds streaming onto Collins Avenue and allowed him to give an extra backslap to Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek, who joined him at the deli counter.
Obama cheerfully posed for a picture with deli employees, just minutes after leaving a Fontainebleau hotel reception where a photo with him cost donors $10,000 apiece.
For Alex Sink, the Democratic frontrunner for governor, the potential price for embracing the increasingly unpopular president was too steep. The state's chief financial officer did not join Obama at the deli or greet him at Miami International Airport, and she had stepped off the stage by the time Sen. Bill Nelson introduced the president at the hotel.
Her distance from Obama contrasted with their dual billing as "special guests" for the fundraiser, which fortified the Democratic Party for a turbulent election year in which five powerful statewide posts are up for grabs.
"Alex knows what it takes to change business as usual in Tallahassee," Obama told about 650 people in the hotel ballroom. "She's not afraid to take on the status quo."
Obama's visit to Florida comes on the tail end of a three-day, five-state fundraising spree for Democratic candidates. Florida is among the most competitive of 37 states with gubernatorial contests in November, not to mention crucial to the president's reelection in 2012.
"The power, the energy that is generated in this room can help us make the difference in this year and in the year 2012," Nelson told the crowd.
Sink thanked Obama for coming to Florida and for vacationing this past weekend on the Gulf Coast, which is grappling with economic uncertainty after the massive oil spill.
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