FLORIDA Perception vs. Reality
Politics in Florida: Always courting voters
The state's reputation lags recognition of its importance as a swing state.
Strategies that play well in one part of Florida may not work in other parts of the state. Television advertisements that work in Tampa, for example, have to be tweaked to appeal to voters in Miami or in Jacksonville, says Mo Elleithee, a partner with Hilltop Public Solutions, a Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm and a Democratic political strategist. "It's not a one-size-fits-all state," he says.
With a half-dozen major media markets, each with its own demographic flavor, candidates can easily spend $2 million a week courting Florida voters, says David Johnson, former executive director of the Florida Republican Party. Some candidates, including Ron Paul in this year's GOP primary, simply avoid Florida because of the cost of running here.
Hispanics comprise 11% of all Florida Republicans. Cubans account for 29.7% of Florida's
Hispanic population. Puerto Ricans make up 20%. "What has really changed over the last 15 years is the great influx of the migration from Puerto Rico," Johnson says. He credits President Obama's Florida win in 2008 to his outreach to non-Cuban Hispanics in central Florida.
The state's seniors aren't one bloc, either. "Although Social Security is very important to seniors, there are different nuances and ways of talking about it. The folks in Fort Myers and Naples are different from the voters in Broward County in the same age bracket, and that is what makes Florida different. It's not so much where you live, but where you come from," Johnson says.
Florida is a big source of political donations — for both Democrats and Republicans. In 2008, Florida donors contributed about $53 million to presidential campaigns, ranking the state fourth in the nation for fundraising. During that cycle, Obama raised $15.9 million from Florida donors, while his opponent, Sen. John McCain, raised $13.9 million. Republican fundraiser Mel Sembler, founder of shopping center developer Sembler Co., says at a recent Republican National Committee fundraiser in St. Petersburg he was told 70% of the RNC's donations come from four states: Florida, New York, California and Texas. But half of that 70% comes from Florida. "That tells you that people outside of Florida are looking to come to Florida to get the money," Sembler says. "We have great fundraising and people interested in politics down here. Florida is where the money is."
is the I-4 Corridor?
Nearly half of the state's 4 million registered Republicans live in the media markets of
Tampa Bay (25%) and Orlando (20%).
More than half of the state's Republicans are in 10 counties — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Orange, Duval, Lee, Brevard, and Polk.
— total itemized campaign contributions from Florida in 2009-10 to all political parties
$49.3 million — to Republicans
$36.4 million — to Democrats
In recent years, south Florida has become home to a raft of conservative media figures, including Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter, Dick Morris and Lou Dobbs.