Sheer speculation for argument purposes only. No wagering.
It's Wednesday morning, and the election results are clear. Two years after the Democrats won the White House with rhetoric of "hope" and "change," voters across the nation and in Florida resoundingly handed power back to the Republicans.
The Grand Old Party recaptured control of the U.S. House, gaining at least 55 seats, fought the Democrats to a near-draw in the U.S. Senate, and picked up at least seven governor's chairs.
In Florida, Republican Marco Rubio held on for a single-digit victory over his independent challenger Gov. Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek, while Republican Rick Scott won a tight governor's race over Democrat Alex Sink with a last-minute surge.
Republicans swept all three seats on Florida's state Cabinet (attorney general, chief financial officer, agriculture commissioner) and expanded their majority in the state Legislature, despite several controversial measures and scandals over the past two years.
The Republican tide across the state resulted in the ouster of at least two Democratic members of Congress in Central Florida, with a third incumbent in the Panhandle locked in a close race.
"The Democrats got their hats handed to them," said Susan McTroxler McSabato-Paulson, a political expert at the University of Southernish Florida.
"The Republicans were able to stick the Democrats with President Obama's stimulus and health-care bill, and the Democrats neither stood up and fought for it, nor got far enough away from it."
In further victories for the ruling Republicans in Tallahassee, voters rejected three controversial amendments to the state Constitution — the "Hometown Democracy" amendment that would have required local voter approval for growth decisions, and two "fair districts" amendments that would have imposed new standards for voting districts in Florida.
Voters narrowly passed Amendment 1, abolishing Florida's public financing for candidates, and Amendment 2, a tax break for military families. But they rejected Amendment 8, which would have relaxed the limits on school class sizes that voters passed in 2002.
Especially dispiriting for Democrats was the loss in Florida's race for governor, where Sink had clung to a narrow lead in some polls.
Scott, an outsider when he entered the race a few months ago, won despite a record-high negative rating among voters from a Medicare-fraud scandal involving the hospital chain he founded and built, Columbia/HCA.
Among the factors cited in Scott's victory were a strong Republican lead in early voting, a nationally energized GOP electorate, a last-minute gaffe by Sink in the final debate of the campaign, and internal Democratic squabbling over whether the party's U.S. Senate nominee, Meek, an African-American, should have dropped out to give independent Crist a better chance against Rubio the Republican.
"Democrats went out of their way to insult and demoralize their most loyal constituency, African-American voters, right before the election," said McSabato-Paulson.
In Hillsborough County, a much-watched vote on a transit tax to move the county and the Tampa Bay area toward light rail was defeated, a bitter blow for supporters who had argued it was the region's last, best chance for mass transit.
"In the end, Democrats could not make a case for themselves," said McSabato-Paulson. "In an objective sense, you could argue that the stimulus actually worked, and if anything wasn't big enough, and that we are just starting to see benefits of the health-care law that will play out over the long term.
"But Democrats basically punted and ran on a defensive platform of, 'We're not as bad as they say we are.' In the end, this was not persuasive."