Obama To Lakeland On Friday?

There are rumors afoot that Barack Obama is coming to Lakeland on Friday, perhaps for the First Friday gathering downtown. (I know what you’re thinking, but the source for this is not the woman I’m married to, who happens to organize First Friday. I’ve asked her, and she’s heard nothing official or unofficial from the campaign.) I first heard these rumors this afternoon, before I saw this post from the St. Pete Times Buzz blog, which notes that Obama is likely to be in the Bay area Friday prior to a speaking engagement in Orlando on Saturday. That adds an awful lot of credence to the Lakeland scuttlebut, I would say.

(Update: My former colleague William March with The Tribune is reporting that Obama will be in St. Pete on Friday for a rally. The venue is as yet undetermined. But it hardens up the Times report.)

So, if Obama shows up Friday, you read it here first. And hey, Obama campaign, how about a little something for the effort, if I’m right. 5 minutes for a washed up reporter? I have a question about rail policy I want to ask.

If Obama doesn’t come, well, it’s always fun to print rumors…

One thing that is not rumor is the strength of the Obama organization in Polk County. I attended an organizing meeting headed on Saturday morning. (I can do that now in good conscience.) About 75 people showed up. But more impressively, the campaign plans to deploy at least 10 field organizers in Polk and East Hillsborough. Six are earmarked for Polk County. By contrast, local Democratic party officials told me that the Kerry campaign deployed exactly one field organizer to Polk in 2004, just weeks before election day.

This adds on to the grassroots PolkforObama group that already exists, with about 100 members. Local businessman and activist Frank Kendrick is one of that group’s leaders.

The campaign is looking to build five regional grassroots teams for the Lakeland area. Its offering training in phonebanking, organization, canvassing, data manipulation and all the unglamorous dirty work that makes campaigns go. It’s also looking for someone to host an Obama house party next week. If you find any of this exciting, email field organizer Laki Eassey at leasssey@floridaforchange.com

(Story Updated: July 30, 2008)

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