With all of the great Super Saturday numbers making news today, a couple people reminded me that Florida more so than most states is quite a different landscape for both Romney and Obama relative to 2008. If you will recall Obama only won Florida by 236k votes or just 3% which was well off his national margin of 7%.
What was interesting about Florida in 2008 was its popular GOP Governor was supposed to be a huge asset and he allegedly had a wonderful relationship with John McCain making it all the more likely the GOP would enjoy decided structural advantages over Obama in the Sunshine State. But that Governor was Charlie Crist and there was always something just not right about Crist that didn’t sit well with the the grass roots. First, he stabbed in the back his prior long-time friend Rudy Giuliani in the GOP primary whom he had previously promised to endorse. His endorsement for McCain on the eve of the primary effectively ended Rudy’s campaign (Giuliani had staked his entire ill-fated campaign on a good showing in Florida) and turned the race over to McCain.
What’s lesser know is how Charlie Crist was horse-trading his endorsement for a VP nod on the McCain ticket. But when he was passed over for Sarah Palin, Crist pulled all his support for McCain and let the state party apparatus flounder which greatly impeded McCain throughout the remainder of the campaign. It was for these reasons the famous Florida photo of the Crist-Obama post-inauguration embrace was such a powder keg locally. Everyone in the state knew Crist actively undermined McCain once he didn’t get the VP slot. This was part and parcel of the active recruitment by the grassroots — not hapless Sen. John Cornyn who wanted Crist — for a person to take down Crist in the 2010 Senate race. Everyone knew Crist was a scoundrel of the highest order — though little different from the political class of the day currently getting drummed out each cycle. And of course, today Crist has left the GOP, spoke at the Democrat Convention and is expected to run as a Democrat for Governor or similar in an upcoming election (my bet says he doesn’t make it out of the Dem primary).
But let’s take a look at exactly what hurdles Crist erected in front of the McCain campaign in 2008 that greatly assisted Obama:
- Republicans on the ground were told there were no more yard signs, stickers,and other campaign collateral weeks before the election only to find out a few days after McCain’s loss that tens of thousands of them sat unused in a Jacksonville warehouse
- Crist decided to go to Disney World instead of meeting McCain at a political rally near election day just before the University of Florida vs. LSU football game (i.e. large audience)
- Crist, to the shock and dismay of Florida Republicans, moved to extend early voting hours, a move expected to widen the Democrats’ lead under a program the Obama campaign had intensely focused. “He just blew Florida for John McCain,” according to one plugged in Florida Republican
- Crists’s hand-picked state party Chair (the since indicted Jim Greer) sat on $1 million in unused campaign funds while also lavishing himself with extravagant parties
- Crist restored felons voting rights which dramatically increased Democrat voters in Florida (maybe he just wanted to ensure Greer could vote?)
These are all just off the top of my head or from the great work by Christian Camara.
Today, we have a GOP governor who will rally with the candidate and isn’t actively undermining the candidate. At the same time, the GOP is enjoying a net gain in Florida voter registrations greater than Obama’s entire margin of victory in 2008.
2012 is not 2008 and by nearly every metric the GOP is dramatically outpacing its 2008 performance. When you combine that with an enthusiasm for Romney, antipathy for Obama and an extremely well-funded campaign, Florida looks ever more like the next state to fall for Team Romney.