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Hey, this is Florida, so be skeptical of big poll leads for Obama

The latest New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac Poll shows Barack Obama trouncing Mitt Romney by 9 percentage points in Florida — 53 percent to 44 percent. But is there a single objective political professional in Florida who believes Obama is leading by nine points? In Florida?!

Maybe I'll eat my words on Nov. 6, but I loudly echo Florida GOP chairman Lenny Curry's sentiments on Twitter the other day: "If you believe this mornings Fl Q poll I have swamp land to sell you. Come on man! This is Florida."

This brings us back to a complaint we've heard constantly from Florida political consultants on both sides of the aisle: Too many polls are based on an assumed electorate that has zero chance of occurring and therefore give a flawed view of the political landscape.

A lot of pollsters, including Quinnipiac, stay away from partisan weighting — the effort to mirror or predict actual party registration or turnout — and that makes sense in many cases. But Florida happens to have some of the best and most reliable voter registration data in the country, and the state's most experienced pollsters do tend to weight their polls to reflect actual voting behavior, instead of merely asking people what party they consider themselves at any given moment.

Current voter registration in Florida is roughly 40 percent Democrat, 36 percent Republican and the rest independent or third party. In 2008 — likely a best-case scenario for Democrats — the electorate was 42 percent Democrat, 39 percent Republican and 19 percent other, a three-point Democratic advantage. In 2004, the electorate was 42 percent Democrat, 41 percent Republican and 17 percent other.

Now look at the partisan breakdown in some recent Florida polls:

Quinnipiac (Obama +9): 36 percent Democrat, 27 percent Republican, 33 percent independent/other.

PPP Poll (Obama +4): 44 percent Democrat, 36 percent Republican, 20 percent independent.

Washington Post (Obama +4): 35 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican, 32 percent independent.

Purple Strategies (Romney +1): 37 percent Democrat, 38 percent Republican, 24 percent independent.

Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald/Mason-Dixon (Obama +1): 44 percent Democrat, 39 percent Republican, 17 percent independent.

There is nothing automatically wrong with polls without partisan weighting, but I have been convinced by pros from both parties that, at least with Florida's excellent voter data, the sounder approach is to try to approximate the likely electorate.

It may be instructive that Quinnipiac and the Washington Post find more Florida voters today describing themselves as independents than Republicans. But Key West will freeze over before one in three voters in November is an independent — or Obama wins Florida by 9 percentage points.

My guess is Obama is slightly ahead in Florida — the RealClearPolitics average has him up by 3.2 percentage points. But a blowout? Chairman Curry is right: Come on, man. This is Florida.

Where's Bill Nelson?

We don't hear a lot from Sen. Bill Nelson these days, other than what he says in TV ads in Florida. The cautious Democrat is pursuing a cautious campaign strategy, sticking to small events and private fundraisers. The rallies he attends are when President Obama drops into the state. Nelson went to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., but was barely visible.

It's a striking difference from other big Senate races playing out across the country. Voters in Florida are not getting an up-close look at the two-term Nelson and hearing directly why he feels he deserves another six years.

But it's also not surprising. Nelson has a steady lead over Rep. Connie Mack, who has spent the past week barnstorming Florida in an attempt to raise his profile, and the approach seems to be "do no harm." Now Nelson may have less incentive to hit the road with Obama looking stronger in Florida, rallying the base on the senator's behalf.

"As for the question of where's Bill Nelson been lately — Bill's been doing his job in the Senate as well as campaigning," the campaign said.

'Political Connections'

Check out Florida Republican Party chairman Lenny Curry on Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Obama office 100 open

Saturday marked 10 days before the close of voter registration in Florida for the Nov. 6 general election, and the Obama campaign marked it with the opening of its 100th office in Florida (3825 Henderson Blvd. in South Tampa). The campaign said it held more than 1,000 grassroots events across Florida on "Multiply Your Voice Day of Action" and registered 10,000 Floridians to vote.

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@tampabay.com.

Winner of the week

Florida elections supervisors. Republicans and Democrats alike, they proved to be a reassuringly effective check and balance against Gov. Rick Scott administration's ham-fisted voter purge efforts — and for the Florida Republican Party's apparently fraudulent voter registration program.

Loser of the week

Lenny Curry. The GOP has spent years screaming about ACORN and elections fraud with little or no evidence of a widespread problem. Now we learn that the Florida GOP led by Curry paid a consultant with a checkered track record more than $1.3 million to register voters in Florida. The firm apparently submitted phony registrations across the state.

Hey, this is Florida, so be skeptical of big poll leads for Obama 09/29/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 1, 2012 10:41am]
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