Florida: Key in 2000, Crucial in 2008

By Courtney Clayton

Will Florida again decide the presidential election? In 2000, Al Gore lost the election to President Bush by 537 votes, and when a statewide recount was demanded by the Gore campaign, the Florida Supreme Court agreed. However, before all votes were manually recounted, the United States Supreme Court stepped in and declared Bush the victor in a 5-4 decision.

Democrats, especially Gore, have continued to rekindle controversy over the 2000 election. In Gore’s 2004 DNC speech, he told the audience how he wanted to have been speaking at the convention as a candidate up for re-election and emphasized the importance of making every vote count. “The first lesson is this: Take it from me, every vote counts. In our democracy, every vote has power. And never forget that power is yours. Don’t let anyone take it away from you or talk you into throwing it away.” In 2004, those words may have

lifted the spirits of disappointed democrats, but in 2008, those words have come to haunt the Democratic Party. Democrats were going to make history this year, either with Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton as their nominee. Democratic voters were disenfranchised when the DNC decided not to count their votes and seat Florida delegates after the Florida primary moved to Jan. 29. Hillary won Florida with 50% of the votes compared to Obama’s 33% out of nearly 1.8 million Floridian voters. Because zero of the delegates were seated right after the Florida primary, Hillary went into Super Tuesday without a gain in delegates. To put in perspective the impact a Florida win would have had, realize that Iowa had 57 delegates, New Hampshire had 30 delegates, and if Florida would have had its primary on Super Tuesday, it would have had one of the highest delegate count out of 23 states, with 241 delegates. Another contributing factor to the chasm amongst Hillary and Obama supporters is fairness. Sen. Obama pledged to not run advertisements in Florida.However, Obama’s nationwide advertisements were indeed played throughout Florida. Eventually, after Obama had clearly won the nomination, the DNC seated half of Florida’s delegates—a move that would enrage some Hillary supporters even more while bringing some Hillary supporters on board with Sen. Obama.

The DNC chose not to count every vote, and their decision may cost them the election. In her first national television appearance after being named the Republican Vice Presidential Nominee, Gov. Sarah Palin told women of America that there is still a chance “to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.” But will Florida Hillary supporters vote for McCain to shatter that glass ceiling? It does not look that way—yet. Rasmussen data indicated a seventeen point lead for McCain in February in Florida, a three point lead before both conventions on August 18, and after both conventions on September 7, both candidates were tied at 48% apiece. A recent Rasmussen poll has McCain up by 4% in Florida. Advertising is a key factor in contributing to the narrowing of the polls. Campaign Media Analysis group reveals Obama has spent 6.5 million dollars in advertising in Florida, (and more than any other state since the 2008 Democratic National Convention) while McCain just began spending on September 9, when the a media analyst for TNS Media Intelligence announced the campaign will spend 1.1 million dollars for Florida advertisements. And where does Obama stand with women? According to Rasmussen polling data, Sen. Obama is beating McCain amongst women with 50% to 46%, but these numbers may also be attributed to the lackluster campaign McCain has run in Florida since he wrapped up the nomination.

Florida has been and will continue to be a topic of debate for extreme environmentalists who would rather pay over four dollars a gallon than see oil rigs off Florida’s coast, even if drilling were the only option. The energy issue is precisely why the 2008 election may prove to be similar to 2000. The Green Party candidate of 2000, Ralph Nader, who is now the Ecology Party Presidential candidate for 2008, took 96,000 votes in Florida in 2000. Many say that because Gore lost the election by 537 votes, it was Nader who cost Gore the election. Because energy issues are probably more pressing right now then back in 2000, Florida environmentalists may choose Nader to emphasize the concern for staying green in Florida. If Sen. Obama continues to move to the middle on his drilling stance as part of comprehensive legislation, you can bet many environmentalists will turn to Nader for “green” change.

Sen. McCain also may have an issue with third party candidates. Ron Paul won 3.2% of the votes in the Republican primary, and whether they will flock to McCain in November or to Libertarian Bob Barr is uncertain. Gov. Palin may be McCain’s only chance to sway these voters this fall with the image of strong fiscal and social conservatism, reform, and less government.

Besides Hillary supporters and third party candidates, the Bush factor will likely affect voters. Floridians voted for the Reagan-Bush ticket in 1980 and 1984, Bush Sr. in 1988, and Jeb Bush in 1998 for governor; in 2000, Florida was the deciding state, ultimately responsible for President Bush’s victory. Until 2006, Floridians were under the leadership of one Bush at the state level and another Bush at the national level. Certainly, not all the Bush years in the eighties, nineties, and post 9/11 have been viewed unfavorably, but given the current outlook by most Americans, voters may want a fresh face. President Bush is viewed favorably by only 35% of Floridians according to a recent Rasmussen poll, and Sen. Obama’s attempt to juxtapose Sen. McCain and President Bush in T.V. ads may work. The ads refer Sen. McCain as a “third Bush term,” “more of the same,” and all of this is proven by the fact that Sen. McCain has agreed with Pres. Bush 90% of the time. Of course, Sen. Obama will never advertise his voting record with the current president. The facts are that McCain has agreed with President Bush 90% every time he has voted, yet studies by the Congressional Quarterly reveal Sen. Obama has agreed with President. Bush 40%-50% of the time. Another source, PolitiFact, shows Sen. Obama opposed President Bush only 51% of the time in 2006, and 60% in 2007.

McCain is no Bush, but his party is the GOP, and with less than a month until Election Day, some voters may hold McCain guilty by association based on Obama television ads. I know that this November my vote won’t be determined by T.V. ads, but if Sen. Obama keeps up his vigorous campaigning in the sunshine state, the current narrow race may turn out to be a big victory for the Obama-Biden ticket.

This entry was posted in Articles for Volume 2, Issue 1, Fall 2008. Bookmark the permalink.

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