What are Obama's chances in Florida in November? listen05/19/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:
The HBO film Recount airs later this week and is a reminder of how Florida used to be the swing state in presidential elections. But in 2004, Ohio was the state that decided the election, as George Bush beat John Kerry by 5 full points here in the Sunshine State.
Florida comes back in the spotlight this week when Barack Obama makes his first appearance in the state this year, including a noontime rally in downtown Tampa on Wednesday. If Obama is the nominee, he will be facing an opponent who has virtually lived in Florida for the past year. John McCainâ€™s scheduled appearance in South Florida tomorrow will mark the 45th day heâ€™s campaigned in the Sunshine state.
But other factors have led some to believe that Florida will not be as hotly contested in 2008.
University of South Florida at St. Petersburg Political Scientist Daryl Paulson believes if Obama decides to de-emphasize Florida, itâ€™s because he thinks he has a chance of winning other states that have voted Republican in recent years, like Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado, but have been trending Democratic over the past few years.
University of South Florida at Tampa Political Scientist Susan McManus says on paper Floridaâ€™s demographics play strongly in favor of John McCain.
Other factors also indicate that Florida might be a tough state for Obama, despite polls that currently show him tied with McCain in a November matchup. Those same polls show Hillary Clinton with a consistent 5 point lead or so. In Floridaâ€™s Jan. 29 primary, Clinton beat Obama by 17 points, which had been the largest margin of victory in the campaign before last weekâ€™s thrashing in West Virginia. Neither candidate campaigned in Florida, honoring a pledge they made to the earlier voting states.
Paulson says the stateâ€™s demographics make it an ideal state for the New York senator.
McManus says a key demographic that is up for grabs if Obama is the candidate will be the Latino vote. President Bush won 44 percent of it nationally in 2004, but much of it went nationally to Democrats in the 2006 congressional elections.
Obama could inherit much of that vote, but McCain has separated himself from much of the GOP establishment by his previous support for comprehensive immigration reform.
But for all of this, there are others who say that all indicators in Florida are trending Democratic this year. Such as the fact that as a voting group, Democrats have overtaken Republicans in voter registration among Latinos in the state, and overall lead the state among those newly registered to vote, surpassing Independents.
Florida Democratic Party officials were unavailable for comment on this story, but party spoksman Mark Bubriski recently told the St. Petersburg Times that "What we're seeing is the beginnings of a major sea change â€¦ When you add up all of the major factors that go into the analysis of an election, everything is going the Democratic Party's way."
But Obama as the Democratic candidate still might be a hard sell in the Sunshine state with older voters. After losing in Indiana and Pensylvania, Obama admitted that his message is not getting through to that key demographic.
Recently a Democratic political pollster in the Tampa area told WMNF he speaks to Democrats every day in Tampa and Hillsborough County who say they will not vote for Barack Obama in the fall. A Yahoo.Com poll released last month showed 8 percent of Americans acknowledge that race was a negative factor for them in the contest.
But when WMNF asked University of South Florida Political Science Professor Susan McManus if this is where the issue of a black candidate makes some older white voters hesistant, she disagreed, saying that it was experience, not race, that these voters are concerned about.
Barack Obama will be in Tampa at the St. Pete Times Forum at noon on Wednesday. Contact the Democratic Executive Committee in your county for information on how to obtain tickets.