Experts analyze party differences after local Democratic gains

11/09/12 Janelle Irwin
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Political yard signs are disappearing, but analysts are still hard at work evaluating what happened this election and what it means for the future. At a Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting in St. Petersburg yesterday Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith and political scientist Susan McManus took a look at the changing demographics in Florida. Smith said Florida’s voting patterns have always been pretty predictable.

“The basic calculus is, Democrats win heavily, heavily in southeast Florida – the Democratic strongholds – Republicans win heavily in north Florida and then it’s a battle along the I4 corridor with swing voters.”

McManus joked that outsiders think Florida is a 95 and up retirement home and that all Cubans are old and Republican. McManus writes a lot about age demographics in politics and its the younger voters who tend to lean Democrat. She said they also are more likely to be last minute voters.

“We never can forget that there are people who are wavering and I’ll just say one thing about late deciders. Late deciders, beside being younger and more likely to be female, they also have to be pushed to vote. Most of them know what direction they’re leaning in. It really is not so much persuading them to go one or the other, it’s whether to vote. The independent vote split here were split toward the Democrats.”

According to McManus, the Obama and Romney campaigns both did a good job with Get Out The Vote efforts. She said it was the last minute push that gave Dems the edge.

“If you look at the weekend before the election, what did the Democrats do that was so powerful with those two portions of the electorate? They sent in their A+ team. They sent in President Clinton to go to some key parts of this state. They sent in, of course, the First Lady. I don’t know about Biden being the A-team with younger voters, but we’ll not go there.”

Voters can be swayed by outside circumstances too. Tiger Bay member Jerri Evans was turned off to Mitt Romney after Republican candidates for Senate like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock made comments about rape.

“Well I think that any Republican voter who looks at a candidate and supports a candidate who says that a forcible rape is God’s will if it results in a pregnancy is misguided.”

She said she wouldn’t be surprised if those kinds of gaffes contributed to widespread Republican losses in races across the country.

“I think it hurt them which is obvious where you had a dead heat in a presidential election that ended up with both a popular and an electoral win for the current president.”

And McManus, the political scientist from USF, agreed. She said she saw it in Florida when women came out in full force against an anti-abortion amendment.

“The other morning I had to go down to USF and I was at the polling location and the only signs that I saw – of course it was 8 a.m. on a college campus – but the only group that had signs out there were young women on Amendment 6.”

And then there was Hurricane Sandy - the super storm that made President Obama and New Jersey Chris Christie fast friends.

“President Obama got a chance to look presidential and to work with Governor Christie and show that he’s building bridges and forming bonds.”

That was Tiffany Faykus, a political enthusiast. She asked McManus and Smith why third party presidential candidates are still ignored. Smith told her it’s not going to change. McManus answered that it should, but not necessarily that it would. Faykus said the political atmosphere has changed and the two party duopoly isn’t working anymore.

“We’re able to make a more educated choice so we should be able to be given more choices and to do our own research. People say, ‘I’m either a Democrat or a Republican.’ They vote upon party lines not based upon the qualifications or the beliefs of the candidate. So, we need to be given a choice but that requires Americans to actually do a little bit of work and do a little bit of thinking and most Americans aren’t comfortable doing that which is why we still have a two party system.”

Both speakers, political editor Adam Smith and political scientist Susan McManus also made jokes about Florida not having a final vote count in the presidential election. Romney’s Florida campaign has said Obama won, but Florida still hasn’t been officially colored red or blue.

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