The latest Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald Florida poll found Mitt Romney with a commanding 7-point lead over Barack Obama, and the RealClearPolitics average of recent Florida polls shows Romney 2 points ahead. But senior Obama adviser David Plouffe tells Buzz he feels good about America's largest battleground state.
"We like what we see in terms of absentee ballot requests, not just the D's versus R's, but importantly how the independents have requested," said Plouffe, who dismissed the Times/Bay News 9/Herald poll as an outlier. "It's going to be an extremely close race. It's going to end up in a range I think of 2 or 3 points at the most. We think the exchange we've had over Medicare is one that we profited from in Florida. We believe we've done a good job under tough circumstances of registering voters in Florida. The electorate of 2012 is not going to be the electorate of 2010 obviously and we think it's going to closely resemble 2008."
Keys to Obama winning Florida, he said, include women voters and the growing Puerto Rican population in the Orlando area. Plouffe, who led the president's 2008 campaign, also believes Obama can win Miami-Dade by even more than the 139,000-vote margin he won it by in 2008.
"We think we can drive a pretty big gender gap in Florida, we think we can do better with the Latino vote than we did in 2008, which is a big piece of business down there in Florida. We think we can drive up some margins in Miami-Dade. We think this Medicare debate's been a good one for us in Florida," said Plouffe. "The policies that contributed to the recession (Romney) wants to go back to and in many cases double down on. I think as people are feeling a little better about the economy, that's going to be a very, very powerful message — that he's not some safe choice here. There's a risk involved, and if you're a member of the middle class or a senior citizen we believe you're going to pay the burden for what Romney wants to do, which is this top-down economic policy."
Republicans are more reliable voters than Democrats, which is much of the reason Obama has built a massive get-out-the-vote operation in Florida and across the country. "We're going to have to work harder for our turnout than Romney does. That's always been the case," Plouffe said.
Rich Beeson, national political director for the Romney campaign, contends the Romney/GOP grass roots campaign is keeping pace with the vaunted Obama machine. "Since the debate, we've seen a 63 percent increase in volunteer hours, a growing enthusiasm gap that continues to favor Gov. Romney, a strengthening of our already strong ground game, and we're seeing the effects of this in polling numbers across the battleground states," Beeson said in an email. "What the Obama campaign didn't tell you is that we are leading or even with them in early vote in key states across the country — FL, NC, CO, NV, and NH. Our early vote numbers are outperforming voter registration in battleground states, demonstrating the strength of our ground game and the excitement for the Romney/Ryan ticket."
While it's true Romney appears to be leading Obama among absentee ballots requested and cast so far in Florida, the numbers actually should be worrisome for the Romney campaign.
At this point in the campaign four years ago, Florida Republicans had requested 14 percent more absentee ballots than Democrats, an advantage of more than 220,000 absentee ballots. Republicans had returned nearly 17 percent more at this point four years ago. Through Thursday, Republicans had requested only about 68,000, or 3 percent, more absentees than Democrats. The Democrats have cut the GOP advantage on returned absentee ballots to 3.5 percent.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV will face off Wednesday for what is likely to be their only televised debate. The Leadership Florida/Florida Press Association debate takes place at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County, and in Tampa Bay will be broadcast on WFTS-Ch. 28 starting at 7 p.m.
The broadcast will be moderated by Michael Williams, anchor for WPTV NewsChannel 5 of West Palm Beach. The panel of journalists who will question the candidates includes Anthony Man, political writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel; Lissette Campos, director of community affairs for ABC Action News/WFTS in Tampa; and Toluse Olorunnipa, state/politics reporter in the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau.
Hot House race
One of the hottest congressional races in Florida pits U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, against Democratic former Orlando police Chief Val Demings in a district that includes Polk, Lake and Orange counties. Check them out today on Political Connections on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
For updates on Florida politics follow Adam C. Smith on Twitter: @AdamSmithTimes.