Florida Sen. Bill Nelson plans to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton, a major gain for the Democratic presidential candidate in a state that’s at odds with the national party over its primary date yet remains a swing state in November’s general election.
Nelson is slated to make the endorsement on Tuesday, the same day as the primary, according to senior Democrats close to Clinton who spoke on condition of anonymity because the formal announcement was scheduled later in the week.
Word of the endorsement came on the same day that Clinton called for delegates from Florida and Michigan to be seated at the Democratic National Convention. The national party punished Florida Democrats for scheduling their primary before Feb. 5 by stripping all 210 delegates to the convention.
Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., had filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Democratic National Committee, but a federal judge ruled in favor of the DNC for stripping the state of delegates for the convention.
All the major Democratic candidates made pledges not to campaign in those states before their primaries.
Clinton could claim most of the Michigan delegates because she won that state’s primary after the other major candidates pulled their names from the ballot.
“I know other campaigns have tried to downplay the significance of these two states,” Clinton told reporters in South Carolina Friday. “I think that is not a good strategy for Democrats or any of us who cares about the outcome of this election.”
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Friday, “Now that Senator Clinton’s worried about losing the first Southern primary (in South Carolina Saturday), she’s using Florida for her own political gain by trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred.” Obama supporters in Florida had expected Nelson to endorse Clinton.
Nelson was elected to the Senate in 2000, the same year Clinton won her New York seat, and the two serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The moderate Democrat and former House member cruised to re-election in 2006, capturing 60 percent of the vote against Katherine Harris.