Hillary Stumps in Sunshine State

ORLANDO, Fla. – In her first joint appearance since July with Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton singled out her supporters Monday and urged them to “work as hard for Barack as you worked for me.”

“We can’t let anybody vote for the McCain-Palin ticket and condemn our country to four years of stagnation and falling backwards,” Clinton said a rally here that drew an estimated 50,000 people.

Obama and Clinton took the stage outside Amway Arena at 6 p.m., timed to be carried live on the local news in this critical swing region of this battleground state. As the early voting season started Monday in Florida, Obama and his surrogates blanketed the state in an effort to drive up support before Election Day arrives.

“We are 15 days from the finish line. And we cannot falter, we cannot stop, we cannot take a single vote for granted,” Clinton said, asking the crowd to reach out to family and friends. “Tell them Hillary sent you to vote for Barack Obama.”

With Obama standing behind her, his sleeves rolled up and his hands in his pocket, Clinton raised the mortgage foreclosure crisis and job losses, and argued that voters could not trust Republicans to improve the economy.

“Sending the Republicans to clean up the mess in Washington is like sending the bull to clean up the china closet,” she said. “We’re not buying that anymore.”

Monday’s rally marked the first time Obama and Clinton had reunited since the summer. After a long primary election, Obama and Clinton first appeared together in Unity, N.H., in June and later raised money in New York City in July.

A week ago, former President Bill Clinton boasted to a cheering crowd in Pennsylvania that his wife had made an eye-popping 50 appearances for Barack Obama since the primary ended. And as Sen. Clinton hit the campaign trail today in Florida, her aides said she had held “65 events.”

“She has not only done more to support him than any runner-up in the Democratic primary process in my lifetime, she has done more than all of the other runner ups combined,” Bill Clinton said during an Oct. 12 rally in Scranton, as he stood with another runner-up, Democratic vice presidential Joe Biden.

But the description is a bit misleading: Not all of the “events” were events. Clinton has hosted about two dozen rallies and meetings, according to schedules and news reports.

But the rest were conference calls, press interviews, donor calls and fundraisers – all of which are typically not considered “events” in political campaigns.

“We could come up with another word for them – ‘activities,’ ‘efforts,’ ‘campaigning,’” Clinton spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said. “There is a lot more that goes into campaigning than standing on a stage.”

As her swing Monday through Florida demonstrated, Clinton is devoting considerable energy to electing Obama. But by saying Clinton has held dozens of "events," her husband and aides left the impression of a surrogate who has hosted a gathering an average of every other day since June.

John McCain, meanwhile, campaigned Monday across Missouri, another competitive state, casting Obama as inexperienced and untested. The Arizona senator seized on a comment from Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, who said Sunday that Obama would be tested by an international crisis within his first six months in office and supporters would need to stand by him.

“The next president won’t have time to get used to the office,” McCain said in Belton, Missouri. “We face many challenges here at home, and many enemies abroad in this dangerous world. Just last night, Sen. Biden guaranteed that if Senator Obama is elected, we will have an international crisis to test America’s new president. We don’t want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars.”

Amie Parnes contributed to this report.

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