Al Gore lost Florida by 537 votes in 2000, and John Kerry by 281,000 in 2004. The Barack Obama strategy to win Florida in 2008 is pretty basic and relies on big spending and big enthusiasm among supporters:
1. A massive voter mobilization effort to register and turn out a good chunk of the 5.1-million eligible, unregistered voters, and mobilize the nearly 1-million registered African-Americans and 18- to 29-year-olds who did not vote four years ago.
2. An equally huge, volunteer-driven effort to win over the roughly 20 percent of undecided Florida voters who won't make up their minds until well into the fall.
"John McCain is going to own the George Bush economy around his neck in this election. He was central to its architecture, he was one of its fiercest defenders in America. Florida has lost more jobs over the last year than any other state in the country," Obama's national campaign manager, David Plouffe, said Friday in Tallahassee, sounding decidedly unintimidated by the Florida GOP's proven get-out-the-vote machine, given the intensity of Obama's support.
"It doesn't take much. If our … supporters are turning out at a rate of 74 percent, 75 percent, 78 percent, and McCain's are turning out at 68, 70, 72, that doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is the whole ball game," Plouffe said. "Bush had an advantage over Kerry because of their intensity. … We think McCain is going to have trouble replicating Bush in 2004."
History on our side, Republican leader says
On the other hand … there is no state that has better mastered getting out the votes for Republicans.
“We don't take Florida for granted, but we do have a good history here. Even though we're outnumbered in this state, our voter turnout effort has been extremely good in Florida," Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan said in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
"Florida once again is the epicenter of the political universe. … We're very confident that Florida continues to trend as Republican, going back to Jeb Bush, Mel Martinez, Charlie Crist, of course the President Bush elections. We've got a good mature organization on the ground."
Both candidates point to grass roots numbers
The McCain Florida campaign reports that more than 200 locations across the state participated in a "McCain Nation" national organizational conference call last week that featured Cindy McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Verifying such grass roots activity is tough, but it may or may not be reassuring to Republicans that Florida McCain supporters consistently dismiss the Obama campaign's claims of activity as smoke and mirrors or outright lies.
But for what it's worth, some numbers to mull: 185,000 — the number of Obama campaign calls claimed over 48 hours as part of a challenge to make 50,000; 10-12 — the number of Obama field offices expected to open across the I-10 corridor in north Florida; 1,100-1,200 — the number of neighborhood teams in place out of 1,500 planned to organize up to seven voting precincts apiece; 179 — the number of grass roots organizing events planned for Obama this weekend in Florida.
Lost Florida by 537 in 2000
Lost Florida by 281,000 in 2004
What will it take to win Florida?