RAPID CITY, S.D. - Barack Obama selected St. Paul, Minn., where Republicans will hold their convention, as the site for a rally Tuesday night marking the end of primary season in the Democratic presidential contest. The decision to hold the rally on symbolic GOP turf telegraphed his confidence that the Democratic nomination was already his.
The decision was announced yesterday, even as Democrats wrangled in Washington, D.C., over how to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan, the two states that broke Democratic Party rules by having early primaries.
"It's the place where John McCain will accept the nomination. It's a good place for us to kick off the next phase of the campaign," said Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director.
Minnesota was a swing state that eventually went for Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.
Reacting to the Obama rally plans, Matt Burns, GOP convention spokesman, said, "We remain focused on planning the best possible convention - where Senator McCain will share his positive vision with the American people and, once again, show why he is the best person to lead our nation forward. We look forward to welcoming Senator McCain to St. Paul in September."
Obama made only passing reference to the drama unfolding in Washington over the seating of Florida and Michigan delegates.
"We're going to come together," he said at a town hall meeting in Rapid City.
Yesterday, was meant to be a joyous and celebratory day for the New York senator, who is widely favored to win today's Puerto Rico primary. She planned a long day of caravanning through small towns in the San Juan area, waving and smiling from the back of a white truck, a more accessible and festive version of the bus caravans through small-town America that helped her Bill Clinton win the presidency in 1992.
And while campaigns are used to planning back-up locales in case of inclement weather, the idea hardly seemed necessary today. It's the end of May; it's Puerto Rico. It's supposed to be sunny. Clinton campaign staff issued motherly warnings to reporters covering the eight-hour road trip to wear appropriate clothing and to bring sunscreen. But instead, Clinton encountered on-and-off showers, and she gamely continued her last hours of campaigning (sometimes with the aid of an umbrella).
"Campaigning in Puerto Rico is like one long Puerto Rican Day parade. It is incredible energizing," the Democratic contender told a crowd, referring to the popular New York City event.
While Democratic officials huddled in Washington, D.C., to determine how many - if any - of Florida and Michigan's delegates will be seated at the convention in August, a matter critical to Clinton's future in the race, the New York senator appeared unperturbed.
She blew kisses to supporters who lined up along the streets to see her caravan pass by. Women raced out of shops toward the truck, and others waved Clinton signs that read "Smart Choice." Loud traditional Puerto Rican music blared from speakers, drawing out the "Hillary! Hillary!" shouts from modest-sized crowds.
Earlier in the day, Clinton discussed healthcare at the San Juan Bautista Medical Center in Caguas, telling locals that Puerto Ricans - who pay the same Medicare taxes as fellow citizens in the United States - should get the same benefits. Puerto Rico is a US commonwealth, and while its residents are US citizens who serve in wars, Puerto Rico is not guaranteed the same rights and social services given to other US citizens.