The Bizarre Saga of Florida Politics 2010

Florida is one of those states that Democrats erroneously believe is “purple.”  It isn’t.  While it may be true that certain sections are becoming rather reliable areas- the Miami area and the growing Orlando area- the concentration is, like most other states, in the urban areas.  And the races this year have been very, very interesting.

The Governor’s race to replace suntan poster boy and Republican turncoat Charlie Crist is between Alex Sink for the Democrats and Ron Scott for the Republicans.  While the Republican establishment in Florida much preferred Bill McCollum as their candidate, the voters have spoken.  I recently read where Scott won because of low voter turn out.  If 1.283 million Republicans is low turn out, then I don’t know what this particular analysis was talking about.  Must have been a liberal analysis since Democratic turn out was considerably lower in the primaries in Florida this year.  Some pundits have written Scott off by comparing his numbers to those of Rubio in the Senate race.  For example, they note that as Rubio has surged, Scott has been in this back-and-forth tussle in the polls with Sink.  These are two different races and while it is true that Sink holds an average 1.6 point lead over Scott on the RCP average of polls, clearly the race is far from decided and may very well be decided by turn out.  If that is the case, then Sink is in trouble because decidedly more Republicans showed up for the primaries than did Democrats.  And they too had competitive races, so that excuse cannot be used.

In the end, I believe this race centers around health care reform and unemployment.  Acceptance of Obamacare remains very low in the Sunshine State while unemployment exceeds the national average (11.4%).  Normally, this would be a bad sign for the incumbent party, but Crist’s flip-flopping political opportunism fixed that for Scott.  Additionally in his favor is the fact that he was a health care professional at one time and knows the subject.  I believe that in the end, Scott will prevail in what remains a fairly Republican state.

Then there is the Senate race.  And a three-way race at that.  And to anyone who says race plays no role in politics, they are seriously mistaken.  The problems started when Crist, realizing he was in trouble against Marco Rubio, decided to pursue an independent run for the Senate.  Instead of manning up and taking his loss in the primary, he bowed out.  At one time, he actually led Rubio and hypothetical Democratic opponents.  Until, that is, the Democratic primary.  I am quite sure that Democratic operatives, given Crist’s flirtation with hints at caucusing with them should he be elected, were seriously hoping Kendrick Meek would give up his attempt at the Senate nomination.  But Meek prevailed in the primary.  In the Democratic candidate, they got someone who had never been involved in a competitive race in his district, let alone statewide.  He was little known outside his district.  There was a serious money disadvantage to both Rubio and Crist.  Most importantly to the hypocritical Democratic Party- who are quick to paint Republicans as white bigots- Meek was black.  That meant that Meek would siphon the black and some Hispanic votes from the more electable Charlie Crist who would be their de facto Democratic victory and “pick-up” (this is an open Republican seat).  In effect, it is a no-win situation for the Democratic Party in Florida.  Two things strike me as funny in this race.  The first is that Charlie Crist will hopefully be resigned to the dustbin of political history.  He has burnt bridges within his party and his only hope is to go crawling to the Democrats.  Either way, he is a hypocrite of the highest order.  Secondly, I am amused and appalled by the Democratic Party’s bald-faced reliance on the minority vote and attempt to steer an Afro-American candidate away from the race.  While they hypocritically criticize the GOP for its lack of minority and women candidates- despite the political reality this year- they continue to use the black vote as a political bargaining chip, taking advantage of the color of their skin and assuming they will fall in line behind their chosen candidate, even if he is an independent and not a Democrat.  The bottom line is that neither Meek nor Crist will win this race because, as expected, they are fighting each other, not Rubio, for votes.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Meek actually overtakes Crist on Election Day.  Let that be the exclamation point on Crist’s career.

In the Congressional races, Republicans are on target to pick up at least three seats.  They currently have 15 of Florida’s 25 seats.  In four of the 15 districts, the Democrats are putting up no opposition.  Two are open seats- that of Ginny Brown-Waite in the 5th and Mario Diaz-Balart in the 25th.  Both districts are Republican strongholds and they should stay in Republican hands.  Additionally, Mario Diaz-Balart is simply moving to and running in the very Republican 21st district replacing his brother, Lincoln, and is running unopposed.  Of the remaining Republicans, all are safe bets to win although two districts need to be mentioned- the Tenth and the 18th.

In the 10th District, incumbent Republican Bill Young is facing Charlie Justice.  This district is Piniellas County and is weakly (+1) rated in the Republican column.  Additionally, it is one Republican district that voted for Gore, Kerry and Obama although not by great margins.  Part of this is due to the changing nature of the district which is essentially a suburb of Tampa Bay.  Young should prevail this year although all bets are probably off from this point forward.  The 18th District includes part of Miami and Dade County along with the southern suburbs of Miami.  It is a Hispanic-majority district that went for Obama in 2008.  Currently represented by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, they should win re-election against Democrat Rolando Banciella.  But one thing is certain here, in order to win one must be of Hispanic heritage.  It is also weakly rated Republican (+3).

Except for these two races which bear watching for future trends, Democrats have bigger trouble at the district and statewide levels.  Starting in the Second District,  incumbent Allen Boyd is facing a serious challenge from Steve Southerland and trails his Republican counterpart by two points in the polls.  This is conservative territory in the Florida panhandle along the Georgia border.  Perhaps the only things saving Boyd this year is high Blue Dog status, his votes against the stimulus and his vote against Obamacare.  If nothing else, the closeness of this race illustrates the trouble Democrats are in this year.  And should he prevail, it will not be by much and may be a loss the Republicans can live with.

Thus far, the race for the 8th District, which includes the growing area around Orlando, has been nothing short of brutal and desperate.  Incumbent Democrat Alan Grayson, sensing defeat to Daniel Webster (great name for a candidate), is acting like a cornered raccoon.  He currently trails by eight points in the polls which should say something here given his recent remarks.  No doubt, Grayson may be the darling of the liberals in the Democratic Party, but this remains a Republican district at heart.  Although it voted for Obama in 2008, the margin was not as great as that for Bush in his two runs.  While the district has a large Hispanic population, they swept Grayson in with Obama at the top of the ticket.  Simply put, Grayson may be a better candidate in more liberal districts of Florida and perhaps he should have moved to the 17th and run for the seat of Kendrick Meek.  But in central Florida, despite its growing Hispanic population and changing character, it is Grayson who is still way too far outside the character of that district.  Perhaps a show on MSNBC is a more likely venue for Grayson.  And good riddance.

Another likely loss for the Democrats in Florida is that of Suzanne Kosmas in the 24th district.  She currently trails Sandy Adams, the Republican nominee, by eight points in the polls.  Again, like Grayson, she represents a Republican-leaning district that she won mainly because of Obama’s coattails.  Running against her is the fact that she ran as a fiscal conservative then voted for cap-and-trade, Obamacare, and the stimulus.  Thats three strikes against.  And a campaign lie to boot.  Thankfully, the voters of the 24th district are not falling for that line this year.

One race Republicans thought they could pull out was in the 22nd District where they thought they could unseat incumbent Ron Klein, who is opposed by Allen West.  Klein leads by 6 points in the polls.  This is a weakly rated Democratic district that barely voted against Bush and McCain in Presidential politics.  However, given the polling data I have seen, Klein should prevail in a close race.  There is one open seat- the 17th being vacated by Meek- but this black majority district is out of reach for Republicans as they have no candidate running.

In the end, I believe that despite the little pockets around the urban areas, Florida remains a largely Republican and conservative state.  Those factors favor Republicans especially this year.  Unemployment remains high in the state.  Approval of the Democratic health care overhaul remains low.  Candidates like Grayson are acting like caged animals in their death throes.  They will be looking like opposums on the side of Alligator Alley come November 3rd.  This will be a Republican trifecta of sorts in Florida.  They will retake the Governor’s office (because one cannot consider Crist a Republican), they will retain their Senate seat with a young, dynamic face in Marco Rubio, and they will definitely pick up at least two seats in the House out of Florida.

One final note, although I realize it is not in the cards, but can someone in the 20th district please step forward and defeat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz so that her mug is no longer on television.  Please?