RNC: Here's why Obama is toast in Fla
To: Interested Parties
From: Rick Wiley, RNC Political Director
RE: Obama’s Rainy Day
Date: January 31, 2012
It’s hard to imagine Florida not being the most contested prize along the path to 270 this year. Their 29 Electoral Vote haul is by far the largest among the states in play. The prototypical battleground state has given their Electoral Votes to the eventual winner of nine of the last ten presidential elections. And with so many other battleground states in the toss-up column this year, President Obama’s chances of winning reelection would amount to a four-cushion bank shot if he comes up short in the Sunshine State.
Unfortunately for Obama, Florida isn’t a walk in the park under any circumstances. Each of the last five presidential elections in Florida has been decided by 5 points or less, and three times by 3 points or less. The 537 vote margin of victory for George W. Bush in 2000 was among the closest in modern presidential history (only New Mexico in 2000 and Hawaii in 1960 have been decided by fewer votes). The president himself garnered only 51% of the vote in his 2008 victory over John McCain. He therefore has precious few votes to lose, and there are more than enough opportunities for him to lose them.
The challenge of winning in Florida is the diversity of its electorate. Florida was among the fastest growing states between the last two censuses, ranking 2nd in total population growth, and 8th in rate of growth. Florida ranks 1st in the nation in the percentage of the electorate over the age of 65. Florida has the 2nd largest Jewish population in the nation. Florida has the 3rd largest Hispanic population, and ranks 6th among states with the highest Hispanic percentage of population. Florida’s Hispanic population itself is diverse, with the largest Cuban and second largest Puerto Rican populations in the country. This diversity presents a mixed-bag of challenges for the president, and any of these challenges can jeopardize his chances.
ü While the state population is growing, the Democrat Party’s advantage in partisan registration is shrinking. The Democrat share of overall registration has declined in each of the last 26 months, and since the 2008 election, the Democrat registration advantage has dropped by almost 30% from nearly 700,000 to fewer than 500,000 today.
ü With the highest voter-participation rate among all age groups, Florida’s over-65 population is right now one of the weakest demographic groups for Obama. The most recent Quinnipiac survey shows a 38% job approval rating for the president among voters over 65.
ü After three years of a bumbling foreign policy toward Israel and several embarrassing statements made about Israel by his administration, Jewish voters are second-guessing their support of the president in the last election. As a “core” Democrat constituency, Jewish voters are important to Obama’s fundraising and activist base, as well as his electoral coalition.
ü Florida’s Hispanic voters have been unimpressed by the president. Resurgent Republic’s recent survey of Florida Hispanics showed the president running 11 points behind his 2008 performance. In addition, 56% of Florida’s Hispanic voters said Obama has been a weaker than expected leader, and 60% said his campaign promises remain unfulfilled. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Cuban voters said it is time to give someone else a chance.
ü Adding insult to injury, Independent voters, who represent the fastest growing partisan group in Florida, also aren’t buying what Obama is selling. Only 39% of “no-party” voters said they approve of the job Obama is doing in a January Suffolk University poll.
The most important change in Florida on Obama’s watch, however, has been the disproportionately high toll the nation’s weak economy has taken. Job loss has hit Florida harder than most states, especially among Hispanic voters and younger voters. Foreclosures are up, property values are down, and barely a quarter of Florida voters think the country is headed in the right direction. The president has to explain to Floridians why he’s placed a higher priority on campaigning than on fixing the economy.
Standing in Obama’s way in Florida is a rejuvenated Republican Party. Higher enthusiasm among Republican voters and strong support from Independents resulted in big wins for Republicans in 2010, including sending one of the GOP’s fastest-rising stars, Senator Marco Rubio, to Washington. Higher enthusiasm among Republicans continues to be the norm, with 51% of Republicans surveyed by Quinnipiac this month saying they are more enthusiastic about the upcoming election than they were four years ago (and for their part, only 33% of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic). Turnout in this week’s GOP Presidential Preference Primary is expected to be record-setting, and Tampa will host the Republican National Convention later this year.
Close elections are about momentum, and the momentum in Florida is moving in the direction of the Republican Party right now. In spite of its nickname, the Sunshine State looks awfully cloudy for Obama, and may very well rain on his parade in November.