TAMPA — If the election were held tomorrow — but then it isn’t, is it? And that’s a pity. It would save the republic months of agony. This one will almost surely be the nastiest election year in living memory.
For the moment the conservative cause is once again competitive in Florida, even though the GOP, perversely, has put up a surprisingly weak presidential field this cycle. According to a Quinnipiac poll released last week, the likely Republican presidential candidate would beat Barack O’Barnum 46 to 43 in Florida if the election were held when these likely voters were quizzed. (OK, Mitt Romney hasn’t sewed up the nomination yet, but whom else would you want to put the mortgage money on just now? The Republican boyfriend-of-the-month club has yet to produce anyone who shows any prospect of heading him off.)
Liberal incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is in a virtual tie with Fort Myers Congressman Connie Mack, the Republican who leads in that party’s primary race by a mile. According to Quinnipiac, Nelson is the current choice or 41 percent of respondents, Mack the choice of 40. Mack has compiled a conservative voting record in his three terms in the U.S. House. Nelson is an Obama rubber stamp, who has voted for O’Barnum’s stimulus slush fund, cap and trade, ObamaCare, spending without end, amen. The whole disaster.
It’s way too soon for Republicans to start high-fiving. But mere months ago Nelson and O’Barnum led in the polls in Florida. Now Obama’s popularity is underwater, with 54 percent of respondents saying they disapprove of the job he has done as president. Only 44 percent of respondents in this poll say he should be re-elected while 52 percent say he should seek another job (perhaps this time one in the private sector, which O’Barnum, with fingers crossed behind him, claims to love).
The fine print on O’Barnum’s Florida support holds no surprises. Among black voters he’s the people’s choice. These folks favor him 92-4 over Romney. Young voters go for our rookie president by 51-39. White voters give Romney a 21 point advantage. Hispanics are evenly split. Men favor Romney by 52-40 percent while women fancy O’Barnum 46-41. The important independent vote, about 20 percent of the electorate in Florida, goes to O’Barnum 47-39.
While O’Barnum wins among the youngsters, seasoned voters go for Romney. Floridians 50 to 64 chose Romney by 49-40, over 65s are for Romney by 53-39. These mature folks are important in Florida where voters over 50 make up 62 percent of the electorate.
The importance of all this is that there is no path to a Republican presidential victory (for better or worse, the conservative political agenda is in the hands of this often timid and feckless party) that does not go through Florida with its 29 electoral votes. O’Barnum can win re-election without carrying Florida. Romney, or whichever of the boyfriends turns in an upset between now and August, cannot. If you don’t believe me, run the numbers yourself. Now Florida is in play.
Until 2008, when so many Florida voters got rolled, as did many millions elsewhere, by the post-racial, post-partisan, kumbaya moonshine of the little hustler from Chicago, Florida had been reliably red. (Who picked these colors for the political philosophies and parties anyway? Shouldn’t the far left party be red?) In the last 10 presidential elections Florida has gone Republican seven times. The only Democrats to win in the last decade have been O’Barnum in ’08, Billy-Bob in ’96, and Jimmy-Bob in 76.
The losing Republican presidential candidates in Florida have been John McCain, Bob “Bob” Dole, and Gerald Ford. I won’t attempt to discourage any readers who believe they spot a trend here.
Conservative candidates ran the table in Florida in 2010, from an assertively conservative Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate, through the entire Florida cabinet, the governor’s office, and countless members of the Florida Legislature. The Quinnipiac poll give some evidence that conservative enthusiasm is still here.
The late great Alabama football coach Bear Bryant said a tie is like kissing your sister. And a tie is what we have now in Florida if the Quinnipiac sample is representative. But the trend is toward the right over a few months ago. The way is here for Florida to return to the red column. But only after a brutal 10 months. A 10 months, win or lose, that most of us may wish to forget. Tomorrow can’t get here soon enough.