In presidential election years, there may be no story more overblown than the question of whether Florida Jewish voters will abandon the Democratic nominee. To hear some of the Washington pundits speculate, you would think we're talking about 20 percent of the Florida vote, instead of 4 or 5 percent of the electorate.
But it's the beauty of consistently neck-and-neck Florida that almost any demographic group might be decisive. If Al Gore had only reached out more to left-handed plumbers …
The campaign for the Jewish vote this year has some real money behind it. A group called Secure America Now says it is spending $1 million on a TV ad in South Florida featuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggesting America has been soft on Iran. The Republican Jewish Coalition is mounting an unprecedented $6.5 million campaign targeting Jewish voters in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Exit polls show that no GOP presidential candidate since 1988 has received more than 25 percent of the Jewish vote in Florida. A poll this month by the American Jewish Committee (margin of error 6 percentage points) found 69 percent of Jewish voters in Florida say they back President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, who pulls in 25 percent.
Getting it done
A Florida poll released last week by the bipartisan Purple Strategies group showed a razor-thin race between Romney and Obama, but had some good numbers for the GOP nominee. To the question of who "knows how to get things done?": Romney 43 percent, Obama 29 percent.
VP Joe Biden coming
If it seems like barely a day goes by without the presidential candidates, their running mates, wives or surrogates in Florida, you are not imagining anything. On Saturday the Obama campaign announced that Vice President Joe Biden will campaign in Florida next weekend, Sept. 28 and 29. No details were given.
Maybe he's working
U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, missed a candidate forum in Gulfport last week, and sent his son, Billy, to take his place. Democratic challenger Jessica Ehrlich of St. Petersburg was unimpressed and declined to stick around. A statement from her campaign said he "sent a placeholder so Young could continue to hide his vote from voters."
This raises a question: The House was in session late last week. Is Ehrlich really suggesting Young should make attending campaign events a priority over actually doing his job and casting votes?
It's a sleeper state House race in North Pinellas pitting Republican incumbent Peter Nehr against Democratic challenger Carl Zimmermann, who has a nice-guy reputation but is mounting a go-for-the-jugular campaign.
Check them out today on Bay News 9's Political Connections at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
"I'm a more honest person, and he's not," said Zimmermann, who struggled to name a single issue or vote on which he disagreed with Nehr. "He has been personally bankrupt twice. He opened up an Internet gambling cafe when the sheriff told him he'd run him out of town if he did. … It's really about character. That's what this race is all about."
Nehr said the fundamental difference is his conservative approach to taxes, spending and regulations.
Zimmermann has been passing out an anti-Nehr flier with a charge we haven't seen before: He accuses Nehr of debasing Old Glory.
"Disgraced the American flag? Ask him about when he put the flag on the ground and wanted people to walk on it," it says.
It's a reference to a University of South Florida political science project Nehr did at least a decade ago, in which he placed an American flag on the ground so that it was tricky for people to avoid stepping on it.
"I had it out there and they had the options of whether they wanted to walk on it or not," Nehr explained to Buzz. "We were just talking at that particular point about whether people are allowed to have freedom or not."
Nehr, not incidentally, used to run a store in Tarpon Springs selling American flags. And he was not amused about the matter coming up in this campaign: "That's a story from 10, 12 years ago. I was a student. I did a report, and now somebody's going to twist that whole thing around, where I was trying to show that America is the land of freedom and the American flag is a symbol of that freedom? Part of being American is that you have the freedom to choose different things."
This could make for an awkward Thanksgiving: Linda (Fitzgerald) Huber, sister of Democratic congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald of Sarasota, has endorsed Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan's re-election.
"Vern's background as a businessman is exactly what we need in Congress," Huber said in a release. "I support his agenda to grow the economy and create jobs while protecting Medicare."
Huber also donated to Buchanan's re-election campaign.
Take note, youngsters: Don't pick on your siblings. It could come back to bite you.
Follow Adam Smith on Twitter for Florida political news: @AdamSmithTimes.