Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Florida may decide front-runner of 2012 GOP race


     The political eyes of the nation are on Florida this week after the unprecedented shake-up and come from behind win by Newt Gingrich in last Saturday’s South Carolina primary election. Only a few weeks ago former Governor Mitt Romney was two for two in primary elections and slated for his third victory in South Carolina.

     Unexpected calculation errors were discovered last week for the original Iowa Caucus on Jan. 3. When the votes were recounted the winner was found to be the former Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum, and not a narrow victory by Romney.

     Past election results are used by political analysts to predict the final party nominee. Whoever wins the first two state elections goes on to be the nominee, or who ever wins in South Carolina goes on to be the party’s nominee. This is the first time the first three states have gone to three different candidates, and in an election where more than half of the voters are consistently undecided just days before going to the polls.

     Decisions of who people vote for are coming down to the last minute in the undecided majority. This shows that many voters are paying close attention to the debates and what the candidates really have to say about the issues.

     Some now equate the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina to be the result of a fiery response during the start of the CNN debate last Thursday, just 36 hours before the election. 

     Gingrich was asked by the debate moderator John King about accusations from his ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich, involving an alleged request for permission for infidelity or an “open marriage.” Gingrich adamantly denied this accusation in a scalding response that attacked the media, and the overall negative tone of his rivals’ campaigns through political attack adds funded by faceless super PACs.

     Gingrich, with his questionable past, ethics violations, and post-political ties to lobbyist in Washington, blew the assumed front runner Mitt Romney out of the water, and received a large majority of the vote totaling over 40 percent. This was partly explained by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, during an interview he gave on CBS Sunday Morning, where he said voters in his state want a candidate with strong convictions. So a candidate who is challenged on a strong issue and defends himself well enough can win over an undecided voter. And a weak or unsure answer -- like Romney on releasing his tax returns -- will cause a candidate to lose voter support.

     So with split winners in the first three states, the GOP is now set in an essential tie, starting from scratch going into the fourth state for the first time in history. All eyes and attention on this Republican election will be focused on the state of Florida.

     The Romney camp, which has spent millions in political adds over the past few weeks, will now be joined by all other candidates. There has been more high stakes mass-marketing political advertisement in these campaign than has been seen before, because this is the first election after the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows unlimited funding to political action groups under the right of free speech.

     The 2008 election results are often used during political analysis which favors McCain and Romney, but more recently on Sept. 24, 2011 there was a straw poll in Orlando. This can give some indication of the Florida vote, but results are also unreliable because the top two finishers were Herman Cain and Rick Perry -- who are no longer in the race.

     Gingrich, with his newly found momentum, will have to work hard and spend fast to repair his poor showing in the Florida straw poll, where representative delegates from every county in the state only gave him less than nine percent of the vote.

     Florida moved up its primary day for the reason, to have more political sway in the election process. As said by Florida Governor Rick Scott at the Republican convention last September, “The state of Florida has a larger population than the other primary and caucus states combined.”

     There’s over 10 million more, to be specific, with a population representing far more diversity in age range and ethnicity. This, on top of the undecided status of the election, leads Florida toward truly being the most important primary state in this election so far.

     With a smaller, more focused field of potential candidates, the attack adds will be flying, the accusations will get nasty, and the state of Florida gets a chance to reverse the preconceived notion that this is a state of confused centenarian voters, baffled by which lever to pull, having no real idea about political issues in Washington. 

     One of the more diverse and highly populated states in America, Florida now has the opportunity to determine who the Republican party nominee will be to face-off against President Obama’s re-election bid during the national election.

     Though considered a “swing state,” Florida has been a strongly Republican state in the past. This is a unique opportunity to not only help elect the party nominee, but also rally the GOP for the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this year in August, a sentiment that harkens back to the attention the state received during the 2000 national election between Bush and Gore.

     If the late, great broadcast journalist, Tim Russert, were still alive today, he would surely don his iconic whiteboard, proclaiming “Florida Florida Florida” at the forefront of the political limelight once again.

By James Tutten
info@jamestutten.com

(Published: Jan. 25, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 7.)

(Above photo by James Tutten)

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