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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fla Democrats at rock bottom. What happened?



TALLAHASSEE — The state of Democratic politics in Florida is so incongruous it borders on surreal.

On any given week, thousands of Barack Obama volunteers in every corner of America's biggest battleground state are working phone banks, attending training sessions and reaching out to deliver Florida's 29 electoral votes to the president. In Tampa, Mitt Romney's Florida campaign headquarters is shuttered.

But step inside Florida's Capitol, where the levers of power are housed to shape statewide policies. There, Democrats are more invisible and irrelevant than ever: Not a single statewide office-holder and such small minorities in both chambers that Democrats can't even use procedural moves to slow the Republican agenda.

"It can be very frustrating, it can be depressing, and it certainly is very challenging," said state Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg.

How far has the Democratic Party fallen in Florida?

So far that it's hard to name strong prospects to challenge Gov. Rick Scott, the country's most unpopular governor, in 2014.

And when you ask veteran Florida political observers to name the state's most influential Democrats, they're apt to mention Bob Graham, who is 75 and has been out of office for seven years. Or Charlie Crist, who isn't even a Democrat but could run for governor in 2014 as a lifelong Republican-turned independent-turned-Democrat.

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[Last modified: Saturday, March 3, 2012 9:04pm]


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