Thursday, January 26, 2012

Novel idea: Florida primary analyzed by actual Floridians!

You may have heard that we are having a little election here in Florida next week.

Interesting, after many of the talking heads insisted that we had doomed ourselves to irrelevance by losing half of our delegates for moving our primary date to January 31, we find ourselves basking in the warm glow of a national media spotlight, as everyone now seems to be in agreement that the Florida election is a pretty big deal.

New York City: Not acceptable for salsa
or Florida political punditry
What puzzles me is that the talking heads start out each discussion by saying how large, diverse and complicated Florida is...but then they turn to some pundit based out of Washington or New York for analysis. It reminds me of the Pace Picante Sauce ads: "That stuff's made in New York City!"

Is it that strange of a concept that it might be easier to analyze this big complex state by talking to some actual Floridians?

Yeah. Anyway, Amy Kaufeldt at Fox 35 Orlando interviewed me regarding the South Carolina primary results and what to expect in Florida this week:

[Heh. Gotta love the joys of live TV. We had a little trouble with my earpiece and didn't get it hooked up until about 5 seconds before I was on the air. Oops.]

Earlier this week, Fox 35 also aired a detailed report on the candidates' activities in the Sunshine State so far (see the full article here).

Political strategist Mark Mills, was a guest for this report and had these comments regarding Rasmussen polls which showed Gingrich surging after the South Carolina reports:
The race is extremely fluid. This poll doesn't mean as much today. Look for polls to start meaning something this weekend. 
Here's a little free advice: when the talking heads try to tell you what is going to happen this week in Florida, if they don't acknowledge that the situation continues to be very volatile and highly likely to shift, they just told you that they don't know a darned thing.

On Tuesday, I had a telephone conversation with fellow blogger Robert Stacy McCain, who writes at The Other McCain and also contributes articles for American Spectator. Here's some excerpts from his article, titled "No Need to Rush in Florida:

Florida is not South Carolina, and neither is it Iowa or New Hampshire, and the pundits rushing to early judgment about the likely result of next Tuesday's primary in the Sunshine State should take a deep breath and calm down. Such was the advice offered by Florida GOP activist Sarah Rumpf yesterday, and I feel obligated to share her advice with people whose knowledge of Florida politics is less direct and extensive than hers.
"These people in New York and D.C. are looking at it from 30,000 feet up in the air and you can't do that," Rumpf said. Currently involved in Republican Adam Hasner's Senate campaign and not allied with any of the remaining GOP presidential contenders, Rumpf was an early supporter of Marco Rubio's successful challenge of former Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2010 Senate primary, a crucial battle for the Tea Party movement.
Rumpf called me Monday to warn against underestimating the strength of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign organization in Florida. Romney endorsed Rubio in 2010 and campaigned with him, garnering respect from Tea Party activists and also from the Cuban-American community that is an important GOP constituency in South Florida. Furthermore, Rumpf said, Romney has a large staff of experienced Florida operatives who have been working in the state for months, and have been especially active in pushing Romney's supporters to submit early absentee votes, a process that began over the weekend. Most of all, Romney has a vast funding advantage which allows him to advertise heavily in Florida's expensive TV marketplace.

Rick Wilson (yes, THE Rick Wilson) was a guest on John King's CNN program last night and pointed out that Gingrich's surge is already starting to fade and he was seeing signs that Romney's major investment of time and money were beginning to payoff. [Note: if anyone has the video for this, please send it to me or post in the comments.]

Finally, I'd like to wrap up with a few details about Florida that you may not know, and the New York media are not necessarily going to be able to point out:
  • Florida is a lot bigger than you realize. If all you've done is fly in and out of Orlando or Miami, you are missing the detailed geographical knowledge that comes from actually driving around the Sunshine State. True, we're never more than about an hour and half from a beach, but there's a lot of land stretched out between all that coastline.
  • Accordingly, while we have a campaign-crushingly large number of major media markets, they are spread out and isolated from each other, and from markets in other states. Many news reports cited Gingrich's Georgia roots helping him in neighboring South Carolina, and that makes sense. The two states share a long border and many local news stations in the area will share news from both states, increasing familiarity with the politicians in each other's states. This rarely happens in Florida; in fact, I would argue that the Panhandle and South Florida are more isolated from each other (both by the 600 mile drive and culturally) than other areas within the same state. 
  • We are also a lot more diverse than you are going to hear from the talking heads. In a general sense, you can classify North Florida as more rural and Southern and South Florida is more metropolitan, but there are wide variations. Our warm weather also means that major agricultural areas are scattered throughout every part of the state.
  • As I mentioned on Sunday, absentee and early voting are hugely popular here. Absentee ballots first went out in December, and early voting started this weekend. Election after election has shown clear benefits to the campaign that has a strong and organized "absentee chase" program, to identify the voters who requested ballots and have not yet returned them, and successfully persuade them to vote for your candidate. In this all too important category, Romney has a overwhelming lead, because his campaign was the only one with the manpower and financial resources to chase them for awhile before the others.
  • The "Mormon issue" is less of an issue here than it might have been in South Carolina, because Florida has a significant Mormon population, numbering over 100,000 and the Church is one of the major landowners in Central Florida. There were always a few Mormon students in my classes when I went to school. I'm honestly not an expert on the Mormon faith, so I'm not sure what exactly causes this, but all the Mormons I've ever met were friendly, down-to-earth, kindhearted, family-oriented people. Knowing people, and knowing that they are good, kind people, makes it impossible for any rational person to fear them.
  • Helpful pronunciations: Kissimmee (town in Osceola County near Disney World): "Kuh-SIM-ee" (not Kiss-uh-me!). Okeechobee (both a Lake and a County): "Oak-uh-CHO-bee." Ponte Vedra (beach near Jacksonville, where the debate is tonight): "PAWN-ta VEE-dra." 


  1. I think organization, feet on the ground, is overrated. We have the internet and television covering these candidates 24/7.

    Last election Ron Paul had more money than McCain and lost. The message gets out and people form opinions in the primaries based on what they see on cable TV, not a commercial, unless its a home run out of the park negative ad.

    I think Romney might win, but because Newt is so flawed as a candidate. Who wants the Republican version of Bill Clinton and all the zipper gate crap?

    Good interview, excellent speaking style. A+

    Who did the makeup? I don't know anything about makeup but you looked really white/pale.

  2. Organization is still a factor, especially regarding chasing absentee ballots. And comparing Ron Paul to other Republican candidates is a troublesome analysis. He is just too different in his positions, his strategies, his motivations, etc. Apples and Oranges.

    And I looked really pale because I am really pale. That's the German-Irish glow :)

  3. Maybe it's time you got a better earpiece!

    1. I'm pretty sure the TV stations provide those earpieces. It's in their control.


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