In an otherwise standard version of his latest stump speech, Barack Obama fine-tuned one paragraph for Monday's campaign stops in Tampa and Orlando, as presented in "prepared remarks" distributed to the media.
... 115,000 workers lost their jobs in Florida this year, more than any other state in this country. Wages are lower than they've been in a decade, at a time when the cost of health care and college have never been higher. It's getting harder and harder to make the mortgage, or fill up your gas tank, or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month. At this rate, the question isn't just "are you better off than you were four years ago?" -- it's "are you better off than you were four weeks ago?"
Monday's itinerary may represent one of the most strategically important battlegrounds in the entire country -- the "I-4 corridor" that cuts across the midsection of Florida is where George W. Bush won the state in 2004. I can remember with extreme clarity the sight of Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager, looking like the cat who swallowed the canary when he appeared on CNN early on Election Night 2004 and boasted that the campaign was exceeding, by large margins, its 2000 performance in the region. With 15 days to go before Election Day 2008, it's no accident that Barack Obama is reminding the I-4 locals of exactly how badly the current economy is serving them.