Candidates do last minute stumping in S.D.by Cara Hetland, Minnesota Public Radio
The Democratic presidential hopefuls continue to blanket the state of South Dakota Monday in the last day of campaigning before Tuesday's primary.
Over the weekend the state was awash in political events. From a pancake breakfast by invitation only, to a small town rally, the candidates or their surrogates made the final push for votes. South Dakota and Montana hold primaries Tuesday which are the last of the primary campaign season.
Former President Bill Clinton stopped in more than a dozen small towns over the weekend. Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama each made stops at a number of cities and towns.
St. Paul, Minn. — President Bill Clinton stood on the steps of the Canton library and addressed a few hundred people scattered around the small town park. Clinton talked to people sitting on folding chairs under the shade trees just about the same time the Democratic rules committee met in Washington.
He said the delegates in Michigan and Florida should count. The party's rules committee decided to give delegates half a vote each. But Clinton said the goal should be about Democrats regaining the White House.
"As long as everybody gets to vote and every vote is counted and the process is fair, then whether we win or not, we expect to unite the Democratic Party and work toward victory in November," Clinton said. "We've got to turn the economy around, got to bring the troops home from Iraq, rebuild the military and restore our standing in the world. We have veterans to take care of and we've got a country to build here."
Many in the crowd said they were there to see the former president rather than to support Sen. Clinton.
President Clinton is a big draw, even in this primarily Republican state. According to Bill Anderson, director of the Government Research Center at the University of South Dakota, South Dakotans remember the good economic times under President Clinton. But he says there's one group that may be the deciding factor in the South Dakota primary.
"Farmers in South Dakota remember a Clinton administration where corn was at some of its lowest prices in years and probably more than that, remembering NAFTA which was a huge galvanizing force in agriculture country against the Clinton administration," Anderson says.
On Sunday morning, 125 veterans and their families gathered for an invitation-only pancake breakfast with Sen. Barack Obama. Obama spoke for about ten minutes focusing only on veteran's issues. He said the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration need to do a better job of screening for what he calls the unseen wounds of battle.
"We know that psychological injury increases with each additional tour of duty. Our troops are not getting the support they need," Obama said. "Too many are falling through the cracks in the system."
Obama mingled in the crowd shaking hands and posing for pictures. He was there he said to get to know people.
Carl Baldwin was one of the first to meet Sen. Obama. Baldwin said he was a little star struck and didn't know what to say but he got a good picture. He said he's not sure if Obama can really do everything he promises but that he's impressed with the candidate nonetheless.
Baldwin says Obama showed character this weekend by resigning his membership at his church in Chicago. Controversial remarks made by a visiting priest once again made news headlines.
"That shows me right there he's got some guts. It's going to take a lot of guts for him to do what he's promising," Baldwin said. "It's going to take a lot of hard work, but I think he can do it."
Many of the weekend events were about gathering names of potential voters and for the campaigns to recruit volunteers for their get out the vote efforts on Tuesday.
South Dakota has seen an increase in the number of registered Democrats. Most of them are new voters. South Dakota also allows early voting. County auditors report a high number of absentee votes.
USD political analyst Bill Anderson says South Dakota's primary isn't going to offer much in terms of delegate numbers with only 23 at stake, but it will have a much larger impact.
"South Dakota does matter. It does help continue to color super delegates perspectives about the way that convention may go," Anderson says. "It certainly helps color public perspective about strength of candidacy overall."
Anderson says if Clinton wins South Dakota undecided super delegates may take a second look. If Obama wins, Anderson says many of those same delegates will likely support him.
- Morning Edition, 06/02/2008, 7:20 a.m.