Streams

Opinion: Why Each GOP Contender Thinks They Can Win Florida

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 03:24 PM

"My fellow Americans…" Those will be the first words of whomever takes the stage on August 30th, 2012 - exactly one year from today - in Tampa Bay, Florida, to address the Republican National Convention and formally accept the nomination as the GOP Presidential candidate.

Will it be said in the earnest tones and un-pinpointable (dare I say "flip-flopping") accent of a Michigan-Massachusetts-Utah-La Jolla wanderer? A Texan drawl, a little too reminiscent of the man who took that stage in 2000 and 2004? The flat upper Midwestern tone, with an enthusiasm that grates her political critics, of the only Minnesotan left in the race?

In some ways, that year seems short. With a half-dozen debates on the horizon and endless campaign stops and stories, it feels like we're already in the rush of the presidential contest.

With the work of the Super Committee looming, and even a fight over how to pay for disaster relief picking up, every action in Washington is as much a preparation for the presidential contest as it is an actual act of governance.

Yet that year is quite long for all that can change in the fortunes of the candidates, the make-up of the race and the factors that will determine how strong a platform he or she stands on when it's time for that speech.

In the next year, Michele Bachmann could win the Iowa Caucus and the media frenzy would turn it into a race between her and whomever becomes the anti-Bachmann. (Did perpetual-candidate Mitt Romney ever see himself merely as an "anti-Bachmann" as he positioned for this campaign?)

Or Romney, who has made clear his strategy is to avoid Iowa, can trudge along on his well-prepared course and pick-off larger, more-costal and industrial states with a consistent economic message.

Whatever happens, it's possible that Iowa and New Hampshire split, that Nevada and South Carolina don't tip the balance, and that many of the candidates will pin their hopes on Florida, which is angling to be among the first five contests.

Florida - where 2000 was decided. Florida - where Democrats flocked and failed in 2004 and doubled down decisively in 2008. Florida - where Republicans routed Dems in all contests in 2010. And now the state seems positioned to play kingmaker in the primaries, host the anointment ceremony in one year and, if the GOP has its way, play a crucial role again next November.

So, it's no wonder that Republican hopefuls are finding their way there now. And it's not surprising that they all think they have a chance.

A swath of Florida resembles the deep South, terrain that Rick Perry believes is his. There are plenty of Tea Party conservatives throughout the state who helped Marco Rubio to victory over Charlie Crist in the 2010 Senate Primary and who Bachmann and Ron Paul would love to court.

Then again, the state did elect former executive Rick Scott Governor, which shows Romney his pro-corporate constituency - more along the lines of the Jeb Bush boosters - is alive and well. And it is neighbor to Newt's homestate.

Florida is a delightfully chaotic mix of constituencies - which means all the candidates justifiably believe they stand a chance.

Candidates can play to their strengths: The GOP elites of Miami or the religious communities in the rural areas; the strong military presence, or the isolationist libertarians; fear-mongering about immigration, or outreach to the growing Spanish-speaking demographic. It could really be anybody's game.

But take note, GOP: Florida also a state that his been hit hard by the mortgage crisis, where the population has been victimized by foreclosure fraud, and where neither party in power has been able to offer relief. In that sense, Florida is a reflection of the U.S.

If you can tap into that frustration, harness that energy and win the state, you have a message that will resonate in the general, not just the primary. For all that GOP candidates want to be culture warriors, it's the economy, stupid.

And one year from now, if the GOP candidate is raging against gays, calling hurricanes God's wrath and demanding more church in the public sphere, that candidate may have won the Republican primary but will hand President Obama his second term.

But if, on August 30th, 2012, the person stepping to the podium speaks a few words in Spanish, tips a hat to the diversity of the Sunshine State, and sympathizes with Floridians about unemployment, foreclosures and an economic situation that has not improved under the Obama Administration - then Florida could make a winner yet again.

Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal."

Tags:

More in:

News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [1]

As far as the primary election goes, one of them will be right. I suggest that with a little patience we'll know with absolute certainty which one it is.

Aug. 31 2011 12:34 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.

Sponsored

About It's A Free Blog

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a blog, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at revsonfoundation.org.

Feeds

Supported by