Political Hay

Coming Up ‘R’

Florida is such a GOP stronghold this year that even Republican-created Democrat districts are in play for Republicans like Mike Prendergast.

By 10.27.10

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TAMPA -- When the votes have been counted next Tuesday, Florida will almost certainly have come up R -- not roses, Republicans. And conservative Republicans at that.

In a state where Democrats have about five percent more registered voters than Republicans, those outnumbered Republicans are early-voting at a rate 20 percent higher than Democrats. And there's no end of the "enthusiasm gap" in sight here. Republicans also out-voted Democrats in the primary here in August. 

Polls show Republicans with statistically significant to comfortable leads in every state-wide race save that for governor, where Florida CFO Alex Sink and former health care executive Rick Scott are within the margin of error. Even in this race the latest Rasmussen Poll, an outfit which had a good record of predicting races in Florida in 2008, gives Scott a six-point lead.

Republican candidates for all four Florida cabinet posts, all of whom are running on conservative platforms, are taking poll leads into the final week of the campaign. If they win, they will work with a Florida Legislature that now sports Republican advantages of 26 to 14 in the Senate and 76-44 in the House, and shows no signs of being bluer after next Tuesday.

Republican strength is being felt down the ticket as well. Two east-coast liberal Democratic Congressmen are getting strong competition from conservative challengers. Even Florida's 11th Congressional District -- Tampa and bits of St. Petersburg and Bradenton -- is in play this year. This is remarkable as Florida 11 was drawn by the Republican state legislature to be a sump to pour Democratic voters into so the adjoining districts could remain comfortably Republican. No Republican has ever represented Tampa in the U.S. House since this seat was created in 1962.

To win in Florida 11 a Republican must get all the Republicans to the polls, virtually run the table with independents, and convince some moderate Democrats to go R. Normally this would be out of the question. But 2010 is not a normal political year.

Incumbent Florida 11 Congresswoman Kathy Castor has a straight Obama voting record -- "Stimulus" slush fund, cap and trade, ObamaCare, the entire disaster -- and she's arrogant and complacent into the bargain. In "public hearings" into ObamaCare Castor was disdainful of those who spoke against what was clearly very unpopular legislation in her district. She suggested that those who opposed it were stooges of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. 

This has given retired Army Colonel Mike Prendergast, an articulate, informed, and energetic conservative, a shot at the impossible. He's been endorsed by still popular former Florida governor Jeb Bush and by Mike Huckabee. His campaign has created a lot of buzz in a district where even a fair number of Democrats believe Obama and Company have gone too far.

There's some debate over which office and which race is most important. But there's little doubt that the top of the Florida Republican ticket this year is former Florida House Speaker Marco's Rubio's run for the U.S. Senate. The articulate and conservative 39-year-old Rubio has created a lot of excitement among national as well as Florida conservatives. There's already debate among savvy political observers on the question of what year Rubio will wind up on the national ticket. He's that good.

Rubio's campaign has tried to keep a cap on this kind of feverish talk. After all, he hasn't even won the Senate seat yet. But almost all polls show him with a double-digit lead in Florida's curious three-way Senate race. The latest Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Rubio with 42.5 percent, Florida's independent governor Charlie Crist, who a few months ago was sort of a Republican, at 30.8, and liberal Democratic Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek trailing badly at 19.5.

Clearly Obama's two-point win in Florida in 2008 was a one-off, an unforced error, not part of a trend from red to blue. Florida was then and remains a majority center-right state. Obama's leftist core was hiding in plain sight in '08, but voters didn't get much help from the left-stream media in recognizing this, so lots of Floridians cast votes in November of 2008 that they soon came to regret. They don't appear to be in the mood to be fooled again in 2010.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.