Not so long ago, a lot of politicos were talking about Florida being a cakewalk for John McCain, and Barack Obama writing off the state. Not anymore.
Obama is shattering the mold for Democratic campaigns in Florida. One-hundred days out from the election, Obama already has — brace yourself for this — about 200 paid staffers working in Florida, with more on the way. On Saturday, the Obama campaign held more than 100 organizational meetings with 5,000 people to initiate a "Florida Neighborhood Teams for Change" program.
"We're capitalizing on a desire for a change in Washington by mobilizing neighbors to talk to their neighbors, whether they be Democrats, Republicans, independents or even first-time voters. We're leaving no stone unturned," said Obama's general election director Jackie Lee.
McCain and the state GOP have an estimated 60 staffers on the ground, but enjoy a historic voter turnout advantage in Florida. They aren't resting either. On Saturday, state GOP Chairman Jim Greer helped open six campaign offices across the Panhandle.
The latest average of Florida polls compiled by RealClearPolitics shows Florida a tie. Karl Rove keeps a running electoral map analysis, and this week he shifted Florida from a McCain state to a tossup. Pollster John Zogby also switched Florida on his electoral map from Republican red to unpredictable purple.
"Seniors and whites provide McCain a cushion over Obama. However, no one should count votes here too soon," Zogby said of Florida.
Bottom line? Buckle up for a presidential roller coaster in Florida.
Possible McCain VP
Check out Political Connections on Bay News 9 today to see one of the oft-mentioned VP candidates for McCain, South Dakota Sen. John Thune. The show airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
A memorable tie
The Palm Beach Post's social writer was at the Breakers on Thursday at a big GOP fundraiser/Charlie Crist 52nd birthday bash (donors paid $5,200 to sponsor each candle) and caught up with Crist and Carole Rome: "Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's sexy betrothed gave him a tie for his 52nd birthday Thursday. And a beautiful one it was. Light blue and pink. Expensive looking. But a tie — for the first birthday that Crist spends with fiancee Carole Rome? "Well, it's a ...," started Rome, about to reveal its brand. As a former New York City socialite, she did spend some time on Madison Avenue. "Oh, let's just keep that to ourselves," Crist said, rolling his eyes, as he gently caressed the tie. "I hope it's from Dillard's."
Where there are presidential battlegrounds, there are celebrities. On Friday, McCain is scheduled to campaign in Panama City with John Rich of the Big & Rich band ("Big" Kenny Alphin has contributed to Barack Obama). The same night in South Beach, Hollywood A-listers Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Matt Damon are scheduled to headline an Obama fundraiser. The minimum donation is $250, and Buzz is confident many people will pony up to hear Affleck and Co. more fully explain Obama's plans for dealing with Florida's reinsurance woes.
Amendment 5 a big relief or train wreck?
The Florida Association of Realtors last week launched its campaign to pass Amendment 5: "This is the biggest form of major property tax relief the citizens of Florida will have ever seen," said Rep. Frank Attkisson, R-Kissimmee.
Florida TaxWatch had a different view: "At best, Amendment 5 is a risky gamble with Florida's future; at worst it's an economic and fiscal train wreck waiting to happen," said TaxWatch's Dominic Calabro.
Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.