Sorry Barack Obama, but the smartest political minds in Florida think Mitt Romney will win the state.
Our latest exclusive Florida Insider Poll of more than 100 of the most experienced and savviest political hands in the state found that 73 percent expect Romney will win the Sunshine State, while 27 percent predict Obama. Sixty percent of Democrats expect Romney will win Florida's 29 electoral votes and 95 percent of Republicans expect Romney to carry Florida.
What a difference a debate makes. Our last Florida Insider Poll, in August, found 95 percent of Democrats predicting Obama would win Florida, and 73 percent of Republicans betting on Romney winning.
"As of today Romney with the slight edge in Florida — but would not be at all surprised to see Obama driven by his field organization make a comeback in the Sunshine State. However, he has run basically a four-year-long re-election campaign down here, and if Romney holds him off in Florida, it will be well-earned and extremely impressive. Nationally, just so little margin for error for Romney he probably falls a couple states short of the White House," said a Republican.
The good news for Obama? Six in 10 of our Florida Insiders still think Obama will win a second term — including 37 percent of our Republican participants and 92 percent of the Democrats.
"The momentum Romney built from the first debate seems to have stalled — nothing in any current polling data would indicate continued movement on his part," said a Democrat. "That's left the race virtually tied with (Obama) clinging to leads in Ohio, Iowa and Nevada, which seals the deal for the re-elect. Final pushes in Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia and Colorado either keep the margins razor thin or result in an Electoral College blowout."
The Senate race is another matter entirely. A whopping 93 percent of our Insiders, including 98 percent of the Democrats and 88 percent of the Republicans, expect Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to beat U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers.
"Connie Mack is in trouble, yet when you look at how inept his campaign has been run this should be no surprise," one Republican said. "He was never a good candidate from day one — too many put too much faith in name recognition alone."
Said another Republican: "With Mitt Romney's continued rise in Florida, you have to wonder what exactly the Florida GOP was thinking when it allowed Connie Mack IV a free ride to the ballot. If Romney manages to win Florida — and it looks increasingly as if he will — and Bill Nelson skates back to D.C., the GOP has to hang its head in shame. There was a major breakdown in candidate recruiting and no one will admit to it. Unbelievable, actually."
This month's survey includes 120 Insiders, including 65 Republicans, 48 Democrats and seven independents or minor party types.
They are campaign consultants, lobbyists, fundraisers, a few political scientists and a recovering journalist or two. The list of Insiders who participated is on the Buzz blog: www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics.
We also sought predictions on a bunch of congressional races. No big surprises, except perhaps that 71 percent expect scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, to lose to Democrat Joe Garcia.
The biggest worry of Tampa Bay elections supervisors? That some voters may be shocked — and angry — at how long it may take to vote because of the length of the ballot.
Check out Political Connections today on Bay News 9, where Brian Corley, Deborah Clark and Earl Lennard, elections supervisors in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, answer a host of questions you may have about the mechanics of voting and counting votes this year.
It airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Tampabay.com has a cool feature that allows you to search who gave what — and who didn't to the Tampa Bay Host Committee for the Republican National Convention. One nugget we came across: The Tampa Bay Times contributed $25,000 to help organizers put on the convention in Tampa.
Neither the Tampa Tribune nor its former parent company, Media General, contributed a dime.
Glance at a general election ballot from any of Florida's 67 counties and you'll notice that Republican candidates are listed first in every instance. Mitt Romney's name appears above President Barack Obama's. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack is listed above incumbent Bill Nelson, a Democrat. And so on down the ballot.
This is because Florida has a rule dictating that whichever party gets more votes in the gubernatorial election gets to appear first on the ballot. Republican Gov. Rick Scott's 2010 win cemented Obama's No. 2 placement on ballots across the state.
Various studies have shown that the order of appearance does have an effect, helping the person listed first.
Gov. Rick Scott canceled his Thursday and Friday public schedules after announcing that he was traveling to Kansas City, Mo., where his mother, Esther Scott, has been hospitalized.
The governor sent out a Tweet saying that she is battling an infection and posted this note on his Facebook page: "Please pray for my mother, Esther. She is in the ICU fighting an infection. This has been a tough year for our family. Ann lost her father in January and her mother in September."
Connie Humburg and Anna M. Phillips contributed to this week's Buzz.