FORT LAUDERDALE, FL –- The Democratic National Committee announcement over Labor Day weekend that Vice President Joe Biden will speak at Florida’s Democratic Convention next month shows that the White House understands the importance of this swing state in the 2012 presidential elections, Florida Democrats say.
Although their state convention is still more than eight weeks away, Florida Democrats are already organizing full-steam ahead for the 2012 campaign, noting that the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes – two more than in 2008 -- could be important for President Obama.
Local party leaders were energized by a slew of official DNC emails announcing that Biden will be the featured speaker at the State confab and indicating that other party VIPs also would be in attendance at the convention, to be held this year at the Disney resort near Orlando, Oct. 28-30. Although it is too early to finalize the convention program, rumors persist that local Democrats are still pushing for the President or Mrs. Obama to show up for the “party faithful.”
“The fact that the vice president will be in attendance reassures Floridians that the leadership in D.C. understands this state’s importance,” said Barbara Miller, who is organizing “Team Broward,” a new Democratic group being structured to bring out voters in the county. Broward County had the largest plurality in the 2008 election and is considered the leading indicator for the strength of Democratic voters. There are several million voters in South Florida and the vitality of the Democratic turnout usually is an indication of how Florida will go in a general election. The Broward vote (the county seat is Fort Lauderdale) along with Miami-Dade and the Palm Beach vote are keys to any statewide victory.
“We will win,” said longtime Broward Democratic chief Mitch Ceasar, who is often credited with turning out the huge number of Democratic votes in the many condos and retirement communities in the county as well as middle class and upper income suburban voters. This latest RSVP from Washington “just reaffirms that Florida is the ultimate swing state and will get the greatest focus from national,” Ceasar said. “The October state convention will be the official start of our organizing.”
Ann Zucker, an ardent Democratic Party member from suburban Weston, an upper-middle class suburb on the fringe of the Everglades, said that the Republican Party’s efforts to destroy President Obama through the recent budget debacle should only be a boon to the Democrats.
Zucker, a school teacher and president of the Weston Democratic Club, said, “I will be at the party convention to help get out the message.” Citing “people who watched on TV as the Congressional House Republicans sabotaged our economy,” she said: ”They won’t forget.”
That message is already filling the Internet with an almost daily barrage of pro-Democrat/ anti Republican posts from local activists, including groups such as Contract for the American Dream, Obama for America, Broward Young Democrats, Team Broward, Awake Broward! , Democracy for America, Rebuild the Dream and numerous official party and unaffiliated Democratic online blogs.
“I have never seen so many online groups for an incumbent president,” said Young Democrats leader Evan Ross, of Miami. “The Obama people obviously understand the importance of social networking.”
Despite a drop in the number of people on the record as registered voters in the area, local online blogs and journalists all claim that Broward may still be the key to the 2012 campaign. Buddy Nevins, veteran reporter for the Sun-Sentinel and a respected political journalist, recently reported that Broward election officials may cut 150,000 voters from the rolls because of moving or non-responsive activity, but that the “GOP is still a loser.”
Nevins reported that ”removing inactive voters from the registration list in September will decrease Broward's total number of voters from over one million to approximately 900,000.”
That’s a ten percent drop in the number of voters, but despite the decrease in total constituents showing up on Election Day, “Democrats will continue to dominate Broward,” he wrote. Of course, there may be new registrants as the calendar progresses into the new year.
Ceaser, who also has a seat at the State party level, noted that despite the perceived strength of Republicans in North Florida, the GOP in the Fort Lauderdale and suburban Broward county area “won't regain the numbers it had 10 years ago.” The number of Republicans in Broward has dropped significantly in numbers over the past decade, he said.
"I guess it's harder to hold a registration drive at a country club," quipped the Broward Democratic boss in widely circulated print, online and video reports.
Nevins explained that the voter decrease is [the result of] a “semi-annual cleaning of the registration records“ to remove those who died or have moved. The process is mandated by Florida law. Insiders report that there are currently 1.06 million voters in Broward. Of these, an estimated 150,000 have not answered three letters from the Supervisor of Elections and will be dropped from the rolls. Reports from other vote-rich counties in South Florida have not yet reported their “cleansing” of the voter rolls, a process being widely watched by both Democrats and Republicans. Most indicators recognize, nonetheless, that populous South Florida from Miami to West Palm Beach will be where any statewide election is won or lost.
Despite the expected decrease in registered voters, population growth continues throughout the Sunshine State, particularly in the south, a factor that has import for the national election: Florida had 27 electoral votes in 2008 and now has 29.
No matter to whom one talks, there is general agreement from Democrats, Republicans and Independents: Florida is one of the keys to the presidency in 2012.
Ron Levitt, a former United Press Staff correspondent and Florida freelance writer, reported for Off the Bus during the 2008 presidential campaign. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to contribute to the Huffington Post's OfftheBus 2012 coverage of the campaign season, sign up at offthebus.org