Politics & Government

Obama says Fla. Dems will be at convention, but how?

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama says Florida's delegation will be at the national Democratic Party's convention this summer, ''happy, with their party hats on,'' two uncommitted Florida superdelegates said Thursday.

But with the Democratic presidential nomination undecided, the details remain muddled: Rep. Tim Mahoney, a Palm Beach Gardens Democrat, said Obama is leery of seating the delegation in a way that reflects the state's unsanctioned primary.

''He understands it's important that the Florida delegates get seated and he's committed to doing that,'' said Mahoney, among the uncommitted superdelegates who were courted by Obama Thursday. ``At the same time he's concerned that the primary wasn't reflective of how well he could have done.''

The personal assurance from Obama came as Hillary Clinton renewed her push to see that the state's delegation is represented at the convention in a way that mirrors the Jan. 29 primary, which she won — though she too had agreed not to campaign in the state.

''In 2000, the Republicans won an election by successfully opposing a fair counting of votes in Florida. As Democrats, we must reject any proposals that would do the same,'' Clinton said in a letter addressed to Obama.

Obama, who hasn't been in Florida since November, is planning a Florida campaign swing later this month, to include fundraising stops in Orlando on May 21 and Hollywood on May 22. Some Democrats suggest he's got to mend fences with Florida voters who may be disappointed he hasn't joined Clinton's call to seat the delegation.

''Floridians are going to be a very important part of this election process and we've got to make sure that they're happy,'' said Mahoney, who also met with Clinton. ``He needs to take the same tack on this issue that he has on so many issues, which is rising above the inside-the-Beltway politics, and that message was delivered to him.''

Rep. Ron Klein, another uncommitted superdelegate who met with both candidates, said he understands Obama's problem with counting the January primary.

''The election was not a perfect situation,'' Klein said.

Kirk Wagar, Obama's Florida finance chairman, acknowledged the Illinois senator ``needs to introduce himself to the state.''

''It is absolutely true we need to come down and let people know his views, on Social Security, housing, the economy education, the environment,'' he said.

Florida's Democratic congressional delegation met Thursday and sought to keep up the pressure on Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean to see that the situation is resolved.

A DNC committee is to meet May 31 to take up the appeal of the decision that stripped Florida of all its delegates because the state party participated in an unauthorized, early primary.

The delegation fired off a letter to Dean.

''Seat the Florida delegation, that's the upshot,'' said Rep. Alcee Hastings, the Miramar Democrat who convened the delegation meeting.