Sunday, July 22, 2018
Politics

Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll: I-4 voters back Romney 51-45

It has been a fundamental rule of Florida politics for decades: Statewide campaigns are won and lost on the I-4 corridor.

Today that celebrated swing-voter swath stretching from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach is poised to deliver Florida's 29 electoral votes to Mitt Romney.

An exclusive Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll of likely voters along the Interstate 4 corridor finds Romney leading Obama 51 percent to 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided.

"Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida," said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll for the Times and its media partners. "Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney's going to win Florida.''

The formula for Democrats to win Florida has long been simple: win big in the Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, avoid overwhelming losses in conservative North Florida, and stay close to even along the I-4 corridor. Obama and John McCain essentially tied in the battleground four years ago.

"Being that this is I-4, the Florida battleground, the region of the state that usually tells you how it's going to come out, for Romney to be up 6 points right now … they should be able to call Florida as soon as the polls close in Pensacola if they do their exit polling right," Coker said.

The Oct. 22-24 survey focused only on voters in the I-4 corridor, but Tampa Bay on the western end has an uncanny knack for almost exactly matching Florida's statewide results. Four years ago Obama beat John McCain in Florida and Tampa Bay — defined as Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Polk and Citrus counties — by the same margin, 51 percent to 48 percent.

Today? The poll shows Romney leading Tampa Bay 50 percent to 46 percent.

"I truly was looking for Obama to go in and bring in some Republicans and say we are going to do things together. The very idea that this country is run without a budget is a shame. How many households can run without a budget?" said Republican David Stratton, 67, a retired home builder in Valrico, one of the voters surveyed. "I blame Obama for that. I'm sorry … he's supposed to lead the country. He's the one who promised hope and change. Not only didn't it happen, he's proven it's nothing more than rhetoric."

Central Florida on the eastern end of the I-4 corridor skews more Republican and includes Orange, Osceola, Lake, Brevard, Sumter, Marion, Seminole, Volusia and Flagler counties. Romney is leading in Central Florida 52 percent to 44 percent.

The telephone survey of 625 registered Florida voters in the I-4 corridor — all likely to vote in the November election — was conducted Oct. 22-24 for the Times, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13. The poll, which included respondents using land lines and cellphones, was conducted by Mason-Dixon, a nonpartisan, Jacksonville-based company. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Both campaigns have concentrated relentlessly on the I-4 corridor. The nation's top five media markets for presidential campaign ads through most of October include Tampa (No. 3) and Orlando (No. 5), according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Obama campaigned Thursday in Tampa and returns to Orlando on Monday, while Romney campaigned Saturday in Pasco County and Kissimmee.

"I'm satisfied with the way things are going. They're moving slow, but you can't expect a whole lot too fast, especially with the Republicans standing in the way every step of the way," said Democrat Nicholas Ficarrotta, 59, a retired electrician in Tampa who was surveyed and supports Obama. "It would be nice if everybody looked out for one another."

But the poll underscores deep disappointment in Obama in the main battleground region of America's biggest battleground state. Fifty one percent of I-4 voters disapprove of the president's job performance, 54 percent see the country on the wrong track, and 55 percent say they are not better off today than four years ago.

Asked who they trust more to improve the economy, Romney leads Obama 52 percent to 44 percent. Likewise, 52 percent trust Romney more to look out for the middle class and 46 percent trust Obama more.

"The country is heading in the wrong direction," said Richard Invinjack, a 70-year-old retired IT specialist who lives in the Villages and is voting for Romney. "Too much debt, too much deficit, bad foreign policy, too much making people dependent on the government, too many handouts, which I call buying votes, the country is going down the wrong track 100 percent of the way."

Only on the question of foreign policy were Obama and Romney roughly tied in terms of voters' trust. Last week's foreign policy debate in Boca Raton did little or nothing to shift views, and the economy is the overriding issue this year anyway.

One in three voters feel the economy is getting better in Florida, while 22 percent feel it is getting worse and 44 percent say it's staying about the same.

"The same in Florida is not good," Coker said.

The poll shows stark divisions along racial and ethnic lines. Six in 10 white voters in the I-4 corridor are backing Romney, virtually all African-Americans support Obama, and the president is leading among Hispanics by nearly 20 percentage points. African-Americans and Hispanics accounted for about 20 percent of the I-4 voters surveyed.

Romney leads Obama among crucial independent voters 49 percent to 41 percent, and he leads among men by 16 percentage points. Obama leads among women 50 percent to 46 percent, but that's not nearly as much of an advantage as Democrats have hoped for.

Overall, 52 percent of the voters have a favorable view of Romney and 39 percent have an unfavorable view. Forty-seven percent have an unfavorable opinion of the president and 44 percent a favorable one.

Few Americans receive as much attention from the presidential campaigns as those living around I-4. Campaign commercials flood their TV airwaves, and rarely a week goes by without a visit from one of the candidates or their top surrogates.

You might think these all-important swing corridor voters relish their outsized influence.

Wrong.

Only one in four say all the attention is a good thing, while seven in 10 consider it annoying.

Don't worry folks, it's almost over.

Times staff writer Brittany Alana Davis contributed to this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Trump’s Putin fallout: Inside the White House’s tumultuous stretch of walk backs

Trump’s Putin fallout: Inside the White House’s tumultuous stretch of walk backs

WASHINGTON - Executive time began early on Thursday, just after sunrise.Feeling exasperated and feisty as he awoke in the White House residence, President Donald Trump firedoff his grievances on Twitter about how the media had been covering his Helsi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

TAMPA — Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and other countries are beginning to push up prices and depress demand in spots around the Tampa Bay area and Florida, business executives say."We’ve definitely seen that the tariffs have increased ...
Published: 07/20/18
March column: Is Congressional District 16 more flippable? What about District 15?

March column: Is Congressional District 16 more flippable? What about District 15?

In the wake of good fundraising news for Democrat David Shapiro, who is running against Rep. Vern Buchanan in Congressional District 16, political analysts are upping their odds of Shapiro’s winning. But what about Congressional District 15, where Re...
Published: 07/20/18
Trump says he’d have no problem beating former VP Biden in 2020

Trump says he’d have no problem beating former VP Biden in 2020

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast Thursday that running against Joe Biden in 2020 would be "a dream," claiming that Barack Obama "took him out of the garbage heap" to make him his running mate in 2008.Trump was asked ...
Published: 07/19/18
At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

ST. PETERSBURG — Linda and Jack Miller braved the humidity at Demens Landing on Wednesday night for a simple reason: "Treason," said Linda Miller, 66. The St. Petersburg couple joined more than 100 protesters toting signs, pins and megaphones...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/19/18
Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

During the summer of 2012, Cody Wilson hung around J&J, a car-repair shop run by two "goofy" guys in their late 20s. The Austin warehouse was crowded with engine blocks, car parts and Pelican boxes that never seemed to have been opened, but the 24-ye...
Published: 07/18/18
‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

WASHINGTON - For nearly five years, the young Russian political-science student was an unusual fixture at the most important events of the U.S. conservative movement.Maria Butina, who was indicted this week on charges of being a covert Russian agent,...
Published: 07/18/18
PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin made inaccurate statements to the media following their one-on-one talks in Helsinki about election meddling, global terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation.Here’s a rundown of our fact-checks.Trump:...
Published: 07/17/18
Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

JOHANNESBURG — Former U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday took aim at "strongman politics" in his highest-profile speech since leaving office, urging people around the world to respect human rights and other values now under threat in an imp...
Published: 07/17/18
Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but you’re a hypocrite

Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but you’re a hypocrite

Hypocrisy, thy name is Rick Scott.And, yes, I owe Shakespeare an apology.But I think Florida’s governor owes all of us an apology.This isn’t about one man’s opinion, and it isn’t about philosophical differences. This is about a politician who is publ...
Published: 07/17/18