(Fort Lauderdale, Florida) – We’re on the road this week in the key battleground state of Florida, where I spent fifteen years as a political reporter. Once again the Sunshine State could be the Presidential kingmaker. It’s a must-win if the Republicans are to take back the White House. In 2000 I predicted it would be the most important state in that election cycle; and it was. I will make the same prediction right now that Florida will be the crucial Electoral College state in 2016. Let’s brunch on that this week:
“History” – Florida is a very good predictor of who will become President. In my lifetime (which began in 1959), the Sunshine State has been on the losing side only twice. In 1960, when it had a mere ten Electoral College votes, Florida went for losing candidate Richard Nixon. In 1992, Florida went to President George H.W. Bush, who lost nationally to Bill Clinton. Today, Florida has 29 Electoral College votes and - as we saw in 2000 - can be the deciding factor.
“Jeb Bush Statewide” – He may be white, but it bears noting that in 1998 - in his first successful bid for Governor of Florida - Jeb Bush took home 61 percent of the Hispanic vote. Four years later, his reelection bid garnered 57 percent of Latino voters. Yes, Bush has a Mexican wife and three mixed-race children; he speaks fluent Spanish; and Cuban-Americans love Republicans. But, wow! Sixty-one percent of the Latino vote in Florida? That’s a huge, huge asset as he pursues the race for the White House. One word of caution to Republicans, though: They only do well with candidates who have strong ties to the Latino voters. In 2014, incumbent Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) won only 38 percent of Latin votes.
“Rubio Statewide” – While he has only run once statewide in Florida – and he won – Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has very telling poll numbers. He won 55 percent of the state’s Hispanic vote (and he is a well-known Cuban-American politician); but he also won 55 percent of the white vote in Florida. Rubio – if he is the GOP nominee – will be formidable in his home state.
“Hillary Money Lead” – According to Associated Press analysis of Federal Election Commission documents, Hillary Clinton leads in cash from Florida donors with $3 million. Jeb Bush has collected $2.6 million from Sunshine State donors; and Marco Rubio is in third place with $1.8 million in donations. This is critical because Florida has ten television markets where advertising dollars are crucial; and the Clintons have strong pockets of popularity here. While Bill Clinton lost Florida (but still won the White House) in 1992, he did take Florida in 1996 in his reelection bid over Bob Dole.
“VP Bill Nelson?” – If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she will likely consider some prominent Floridians for the Vice Presidential slot on the ticket. Topping the list might be Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who has won statewide in Florida five times. Even though he is 72 years old, Nelson has to be considered if he’s in good health. The fact that he once flew a mission as an astronaut on the Space Shuttle doesn’t hurt. He has 15 years in the U.S. Senate, 12 in the U.S. House, six as the State Insurance Commissioner plus six years as a State Representative. He has a long Florida resume!
“Latino Vote” – The Hispanic population in Florida is critical. It is 24 percent today, more than double the Latino population when I moved there in 1984. One of the biggest subgroups is the Cuban population, which surged in South Florida in 1959, when people fled Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power. Cuban-Americans have traditionally been one of the most conservative voting blocks in the state, giving candidates such as Marco Rubio and the Bush brothers a huge boost.
“George W. Bush” – George W. Bush won Florida in 2000 by a hotly-contested 537 votes. But the real tale-of-the-tape is how he did among Hispanic voters. According to Roper Polling, nationwide in 2000, he won 36 percent of the Latino vote; in 2004, he won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote and won a second term. By comparison, John McCain won just 31 percent of Latino voters in 2008, and Mitt Romney won a mere 27 percent in his losing effort in 2012. Republicans don’t have to win the Hispanic vote to win the White House; they just have to be more competitive. If they get 40 percent Latino support nationwide, they will likely be back in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Where it Stands Today” – Most of the recent polling is focused on intraparty contests in 2016. Needless to say, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Marco Rubio are the top three choices for Florida primary voters. The most recent theoretical November, 2016, poll from Public Policy Polling has it Hillary Clinton 47 percent, to Jeb Bush 44 percent; and Hillary Clinton 48 percent, to Marco Rubio 46 percent. At best, that tells you it’s too close to call; and Florida is clearly up for grabs as a top prize in the 2016 Presidential election.
Who is your choice? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com and let us know who you would like to see next in the Oval Office!
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