When it comes to battleground states, Florida has a history of unpredictability, controversy, and razor-thin wins by presidential candidates. In 2000, Florida was the deciding state in George W. Bush’s controversial victory over Democrat Al Gore. In 2012, President Barack Obama aims to hold on to the state that he won by a slim margin four years earlier. In addition to the presidential election, Republicans are also eying a nationwide takeover of the US Senate and feel that Florida Democratic incumbent, Sen. Bill Nelson, is vulnerable. As an added bonus, the Republicans have decided to hold their national convention in Tampa, Florida, hoping to gain extra attention from the important swing state.
Presidential BattleWhile Obama won by a hefty margin nationwide in 2008, his victory in Florida over McCain was by fewer than 3 percentage points. Republicans feel that any state that Obama had a tough time winning in 2008 should offer the best opportunities for a pick-up, and Florida is no exception. Florida (29 electors) ties New York as the third largest electoral prize behind California (55) and Texas (38). It could easily be the most expensive state as it is the truest battleground of the four, and the candidates will heavily invest there. California and New York are usually sure bets for Democrats while Texas typically votes Republican. This leaves Florida as the big get and both parties believe they can win the state. And like in 2008, Florida could very well be the deciding state for the eventual winner.
Senate BattleBill Nelson is the Democratic incumbent who won elections in 2000 and 2006 by portraying himself as a moderate Democrat. In 2010, Obama-care-voting and supposedly moderate Democrats were shown the door by the tea party uprising. In a Republican-leaning state, rubber-stamping the Obama agenda, including Obamacare, probably does not help his moderate image or his re-election efforts much. Adding to the competitiveness is a famous name on the Republican side. Connie Mack the IV is looking to win the seat held by his popular father who retired in 2000. Should he win the nomination, Mack would offer the stiffest challenge to Nelson yet, and Nelson will have a hard time running as a centrist once again now that he has a record that aligns with the policies of the most liberal president in US history.
Electoral TrendsIn presidential election history, Florida is likely best known for President George W. Bush’s controversial 537 vote win over Al Gore in 2000. But the state is usually more red than blue up and down the state. Bush won re-election in 2004 by five points, and Republicans have won the state in six of the past eight elections. Bill Clinton scored just 39% in 1992 in losing and just 48% in 1996 in winning, as Reform Party candidate Ross Perot drained enough votes from GOP candidate Bob Dole. Obama won the state by just three points in what was a huge Democrat year in 2008.
While presidential races have been close, Republicans have otherwise dominated the political scene in Florida. The GOP holds a 19-6 US Congressional delegation advantage, including a 4-seat pickup in 2010. Republicans also hold greater than 2-1 margins in both the state house of representatives (81-39) and state senate (28-12), have elected three GOP governors in a row, and gave US Senator Marco Rubio, a potential VP option for Mitt Romney, a huge victory in 2010. The recent trends have certainly favored Republicans.
Major IssuesAs of the 2010 US Census, Florida continues to have the largest per capita elderly population in the country, where they make up 17.3% of the total population. Social Security will once again be a major issue as Obama and the Democrats attempt to scare seniors into believing that Republicans want to take away their retirement and health benefits. The attempt to repeal Obama’s health care law will be a major campaign issue in Florida, just as it is in most other states.
Another big issue in Florida will be the on-going foreclosure crisis. Mitt Romney has criticized Obama for “slow-walking” the foreclosure crisis by refusing to let it play out so a recovery could happen. Romney’s message has been to “allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up,” as opposed to delaying and prolonging the inevitable when it comes to the crisis.