Florida, Florida, Florida...
When will a presidential election not be about Florida? Not this year.
Florida is by far the biggest battleground state and arguably once again thee most important in this election cycle. Its 29 electoral votes are significantly more than the next swing state Ohio (18 votes), where it appears President Obama has spent a significant amount of time campaigning; throw in Wisconsin (10 votes) and with both combined Florida is still more important. Putting aside other swing states like Colorado (10), Virginia (13), Iowa (6) and Nevada (6), let's forget the math for a sec. President Obama should truly be worried about Florida because from the view on the ground, honestly, it just doesn't look good for him.
Let's take a step backwards.
The 2008 presidential election in Florida was pretty darn close. President Obama won with only a 2.5 percent victory margin; far from a landslide. And now, after the 2010 mid-term elections, Florida is considerably even more Republican than it was four years ago. In fact, the mid-term elections were a near blow-out for Republicans who swept the congressional elections 19-6, brought Marco Rubio into the Senate, and Rick Scott into his governorship, not to mention the state legislature, which is nearly now two to one Republican. In addition to political gerrymandering, voter suppression controversies, Citizens United, massive outspending by Super PACs, and tense relations with Israel, by nature, at its core, Florida is still a Republican state.
Winning Florida was never going to be easy for the POTUS.
Look at it this way. There are three Florida's.
North Florida, sparsely populated and very southern, is undoubtedly Republican.
Central Florida (or the I-4 corridor) can go either way. In 2008, the suburban counties went for Obama (Hillsborough, Orange, Osceola) while more rural counties voted McCain (Pasco, Polk, Brevard, Lake). Central Florida is a virtual toss-up; in fact, considering the Republicans hosted their convention in Tampa, it is completely within reason to think Romney may do better than Obama this cycle. In addition, during the primaries Romney did very well in the I-4 corridor.
This leads us to South Florida. . .
Although there are Republican leaning counties on the west coast of South Florida, those districts pale in comparison to the massive population centers on the east coast. West Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-dade are the three biggest counties in Florida. If you look at the numbers, Obama absolutely crushed McCain in South Florida -- if the president wants to win Florida again, he needs South Florida. Yes, he has the Latino vote, especially after his stance on the DREAM ACT. Yes, he has women and 99 percent of the African-American vote.
There is just one problem. Enthusiasm down here is dreadful. There's no energy, momentum, or passion for this presidential cycle. It's like Biscayne Bay after a storm, completely calm and eerily flat. This bodes a major problem for President Obama. And these are intangibles that can't accurately be polled. Florida, let alone South Florida, is the most unique state in our union. We are extremely diverse, exceptionally spread-out, and unabashedly a bandwagon state. Study the attendance records of our sports teams. We don't stand by them in tough times.
We are not brought together by the pace of our culture and lifestyle, like up North. We are not brought together by tradition, like in the South--or by similar values like in the Midwest. We are not bound by convictions, like out West. Florida, and especially South Florida, more so than anywhere else in the country, is selfish, unmotivated and blasé. At the end of the day, we don't care. We're a tossed salad, an entrée filled with different ingredients that don't blend together -- and we love a good bandwagon, we eat it up -- the problem is the president's bandwagon is over.
In 2008, here in South Florida, just like the rest of the country, we ate up candidate Obama's message of hope and inspirational change. It was absolutely electric. It took two hours to cast a vote. In Little Haiti at the Lemon Branch library for Early Voting the line was out the door. Do you remember the free concert Jay Z gave for Obama as tens of thousands bum-rushed the park?
In '08, I personally volunteered for President Obama. My job was to distribute those iconic Obama "Hope" posters designed by Shepherd Fairey (incidentally the artist was sued for copyright infringement and is now facing jail time for obstruction of justice -- a pathetic irony of the old campaign of hope and change). To get the posters out, have them seen -- this was my duty. I had access to thousands of posters. Sometimes I plastered them up, late at night, on moonlit city streets, but it was moot, for by morning, they wore tore down as souvenirs. It was like that over here. Eventually, I canvassed small businesses and asked if they wanted to put a poster up inside, so they wouldn't be tore down. For my work, I received two autographed posters, personally signed by the POTUS. I didn't want anything, but it was certainly cool to receive it.
This year, you couldn't pay me to volunteer for President Obama. And it's not because I don't like him. I'm still enamored. There's a little rust on the surface of his shine, but I still believe in his policies. I sometimes feel he talks too much. But after listening to the Republicans during their convention, which is the respect I wanted to afford them, I found their ideas extremely vague and unconvincing. I will likely vote for President Obama, but he won't get my time for any extracurricular volunteering. He'd have to personally call me to action if he wanted help.
And it's for no other reason than I'm tuned out. This campaign is so different than the last; so negative in tone, so opposite from the inspiration of '08. All these ad buys -- we're inundated with them in Florida. The campaign season is way too long. All the obstructionism in Congress.
It's a turn-off. Literally. And it is legitimate to worry about voter turnout. If voter turnout is low in South Florida, President Obama will not win this state, and may lose the election. It's that simple. President Obama is no longer a fresh face. There is no bandwagon to jump on.