2012 predictions and Rod Smith's soothing consultants
We heard a lot of interesting insight Friday from pollsters, operatives, academics and journalists at the post-election conference organized by University of Florida's excellent graduate Program in Political Campaigning. Among the speakers? Veteran Republican pollster David Hill. He expects the next cycle will see more tea party influence, more debate about immigration, a tougher fundraising climate and perhaps more Rick Scott-like political newcomers with business backgrounds. He also expects some candidates, including for president, won't rush to jump in.
"It's very possible we don't have the field set here until maybe February, March of next year," Hill said.
Democratic pollster Dave Beattie, whose clients include Bill Nelson and Alex Sink, noted the low turnout among Democrats in strongholds such as Palm Beach and Broward County last year and blamed it partly on Charlie Crist's battle against Kendrick Meek for Democratic votes in the Senate race. Democrats lacked a clear choice, he said, and uncertainty is one of the biggest problems when you're trying to drive up turnout.
Ultimately, Scott's spending proved insurmountable, Beattie said, noting that Scott and the GOP outspent Sink and the Democrats on TV — $96 million to $36.5 million — by more than Barack Obama spent on Florida TV during all of 2008. In the Orlando market alone, Scott spent more than Nelson did statewide in his 2000 campaign.
State Democratic chairman Rod Smith said Florida will be front and center again in 2012, and the Obama political team is planning an aggressive push for Democratic-leaning Hispanic voters, among other groups. Smith predicted Republicans pushing for tougher anti-immigration laws will help drive Hispanics away from the GOP.
We tried to coax Smith, Sink's running mate in 2010, into discussing mistakes made in that campaign, but he wouldn't bite: "After the election, I sat down with my consultants, and their names were John Walker, James Beam and Jose Cuervo, my Hispanic consultant. When I finished with them I was done with that consultation."