Monday, May 21, 2018
Politics

As swing voters settle on choice, Romney's up in Florida

They are the swing voters of the ultimate swing state.

Florida's independent voters are either too conservative for the Republican Party, too liberal for the Democrats — or too, well, independent for either. They are all over the political map — an apt reflection of Florida, a state with a little bit of everywhere else.

But ultimately, they'll cast the deciding votes that guarantee President Barack Obama a second term or help Mitt Romney unseat him.

Public-opinion surveys have swung left and right with the mood of independents. But they're starting to settle on Romney.

A Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald survey found Romney winning 49-43 among independents.

An unscientific Miami Herald email survey of 2,051 registered no-party-affiliation voters who cast absentee ballots found they favored Obama 51-44 percent.

The responses generated from the email survey helped show what makes independents tick — and what ticks them off.

"I have vowed to never again vote for a candidate with a 'D' or an 'R' after their name. They are nothing but tools of the big corporations and their lobbyists," Bob Knott, a Freeport voter said.

"Unfortunately, some people in your industry incur a big portion of the blame for this situation."

Knott's sentiment spanned the political spectrum, with some calling the media too conservative and others thinking it's too liberal.

The email survey mirrored scientific polls in this regard: It showed Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson faring much better than Obama, beating U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV. A handful of voters said they were voting for Romney and Nelson, with one describing Mack's campaign as pathetic.

Many of the independents sounded as if they were more motivated to vote against a candidate — mainly Obama or Romney — and less interested in actually voting for their candidate of choice, whether it was Romney or Obama. "We need jobs and economic growth," wrote Chris Highmark, a Collier County voter, who cast his absentee ballot from Paradise Valley, Ariz.

"Obama's tax policies will not only lead to a recession in 2013," Highmark wrote, "but will suffocate future economic growth as both large and small businesses will not take the risks needed to grow the economy because the potential rewards will not overcome the risks."

The voices of independents have become increasingly important in Florida for two major reasons:

• No Party Affiliation is the fastest growing major party in Florida since 2008, even though it's not a party at all. Over the past four years, the ranks of NPAs have grown 22 percent to 2.6 million. That's 22 percent of the roughly 12 million people on the total active voter rolls, which increased just 6 percent overall. The Democratic Party, the largest in Florida, grew only 1 percent, and the Republican Party's ranks increased just 4 percent.

• The fastest-growing racial or ethnic segment of the electorate is Hispanic, with 14 percent of the total rolls and rising fast. Of the more than 300,000 new Hispanic voters on the rolls in the past four years, 46 percent became NPAs, 43 percent became Democrats and only 11 percent became Republicans. Less than 1 percent signed up with a third party, whose voters are typically considered independents as well because they're independent of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Untethered to a political party, however, independents are proportionately less likely to vote than Republicans or Democrats. As of Saturday morning, independents had cast about 690,000 absentee and in-person votes. That's about 18 percent of the total 4 million early ballots. Democrats have cast nearly 43 percent and Republicans about 40 percent.

The Florida independent votes are particularly crucial to Romney's national election hopes. The Republican needs to win Florida more than Obama because a Florida win for a Democrat gives him three of the four most-populous states — a nearly insurmountable lead in the Electoral College.

The major political parties still hold all the political power and clout because they're organized and have a grip on power in the Legislature and Congress, which allows them to continue raising money from the special interests that the lawmakers regulate.

Democrats hold a 4.5 percentage point edge over registered Republicans in Florida, but because so many North Florida Democrats vote conservatively, the state is more conservative than it appears, said Brad Coker, pollster with Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the latest Times/Bay News 9/Herald poll of 800 likely voters that was released Friday night.

The telephone survey showed Romney leading overall, 51-45 percent, and was conducted Tuesday through Thursday for the Times, Bay News 9, the Herald, El Nuevo Herald and Central Florida News 13. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

"It's almost impossible to win Florida without winning the independent vote," Coker said. "They are the swing voters."

And they swung wildly against Obama in October after his first debate, which the president lost badly to Romney.

Before the debate, Obama was nursing an inside-the-error margin lead over Romney in Florida, in part because the president was carrying independents by 11 points.

Then the debate happened.

Independents shifted a cumulative 24 points in Romney's favor, so that he then led by 13 among them. The president cut that lead to 6 in the last poll.

But it isn't enough to overcome the damage from that first debate.

"Fact 1: Received absentee vote same day as Romney vs Obama debate #1. Easy decision," wrote Gainesville independent Steven J. Black.

"Fact 2. Have watched Mack get his wrists get nailed through by the … media with no rebuttal," wrote Black, a military retiree, who suggested that Mack's campaign was like a soldier who went AWOL. "Mack's campaign is well beyond desertion."

Some who voted for Obama didn't sound motivated to support the candidate; instead they sounded as if they were spooked by conservatives.

"The Republican Party's behavior as a whole, including the methods used to purge the voter rolls nationwide, and the meddling in the judiciary in the State of Florida, really turned me off," Angela Roughton, a Miami Beach absentee-ballot voter, wrote.

"If I was a competitive sportsman, perhaps I would grasp the concept of winning at all costs," she said. "The center is the place for me."

Some who voted for Romney had similar concerns about some aspects of the conservative movement.

"I wish candidates would stay out of social issues like abortion and religion and stick to the economy and defense," wrote Dennis O'Malley, a Pinellas County resident who cast his ballot for Romney from Washington, N.H.

Sarasota independent Alan Boorstein couldn't bring himself to vote for either Obama or Romney. He voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson and Nelson for Senate.

Comments
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18