Friday, June 22, 2018
Human Interest

Florida controls the road to the White House, so why not the White House?

You, as a Florida voter, hold the fate of the world in your hands.

If you've lived here for a while, you're probably used to this terrible responsibility. Every four years, the rest of the nation gives us the side-eye, wondering how we wound up holding so much power and how we'll drop the ball.

Thanks to our explosive population growth, we now control 29 electoral votes. Both major-party presidential candidates have said we're a must-win. The two of them have visited here so much, they now qualify for the Florida resident discount at Disney World.

Perhaps the surest sign of how important Florida is this year is that, according to the FBI, the Russians tried to hack one of our election registration vendors. Apparently they don't know how skilled we are at screwing up our own elections. No need for help from Mr. Putin.

Thanks to the 2000 election, nobody in Florida will ever again name a child Chad. And don't get me started on that 1876 election disaster! Those two weren't an aberration, either. We've often been an obstacle to presidents and presidential wannabes.

A Florida man, Lewis Powell of Live Oak, participated in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. He bungled his assignment, of course. The Watergate burglars were Florida men. They bungled their assignment, too, and brought down Richard Nixon. In 1987, Florida reporters caught the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, canoodling with a woman who was not his wife. A photo of her sitting on his lap and him wearing a shirt that said "Monkey Business Crew" scuttled his campaign.

If this year's presidential race seems particularly weird, it may be because we had four full-time Florida men and one part-timer running for the GOP nomination. (Meanwhile a Florida woman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, headed up the Democratic National Committee, until she ran into some email trouble.)

The four were ex-Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (now a Panhandle resident) and Dr. Ben Carson (who retired to West Palm Beach, where his neighbors include Rush Limbaugh). You could tell they were Florida men because they kept committing gaffes, hitting kids in the face with footballs, putting on a hoodie the wrong way, and trying to avoid questions about their finances and sketchy friends.

The part-time Florida man is — I don't know if you've heard of him — a developer named Trump. His current campaign CEO is a full-time Florida man, Steve Bannon, ex-editor of conservative website Breitbart, who, in classic Florida Man fashion, registered to vote with a home address nobody lived at. (He has since moved.)

Bush, Rubio and company are not the first Floridians to run for president and fail. Former Govs. Bob Graham and Reubin Askew flopped, too. They came across as too odd for the top job.

Despite our influence over the outcome of the presidential race, nobody from Florida has ever won the White House.

I say it's time we change that. It's time we Floridians come together to exercise our clout for our own good. Let's put a Florida Man or Woman in the White House in 2020!

If we start now, we can make this happen. Pick a candidate from here — preferably one with no outstanding warrants and only a few embarrassing relatives — and announce right from the get-go that that's who's getting all our votes. The other candidates are out of luck.

We should choose as our candidate someone who has done well in a field other than politics. Someone who has made money, traveled the world and is ready to try something new. Someone with strong name recognition who has been a Florida resident for a long time. For instance, Serena Williams, who has lived with her sister Venus in Palm Beach Gardens for 16 years. Or Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a University of Miami football player before he became a pro wrestler and hammy action movie star. ("Can you smell what President Rock is cooking?" would be a dynamite campaign slogan.) Or Jimmy Buffett, if he's willing to take a big pay cut.

We can do this, people. We can make 2020 our election, the one that's a win for Florida.

And if we screw it up, we can always blame the Russians.

Contact Craig Pittman at [email protected]tampabay.com. Follow @craigtimes.

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