Florida's claim to fame for being critical to victory in the November battles for the presidency became legendary in the 2000 presidential contest. This column went into syndication in 2001. In those days, many in syndication either worked for or had an affiliation with a major newspaper. My relationship with the Florida Times-Union has given me the added value of getting a taste of Florida
In 2008, Florida reversed its course of voting for Republican nominees and gave its electoral votes to Barack Obama. By the time of that election, the collapse of the housing market had hit Florida with full force. Confused by a financial meltdown just weeks before the election and stunned by economic woes, Floridians gave the edge to the man who promised change.
The fact that the change has been slow, and in many cases counterproductive to the best interest of the nation, should not lull Republicans into a false sense of comfort as to their chances of knocking Obama off in November. The most recent poll conducted in Florida by the group PPP, which identifies itself as a Democratic affiliated firm, but has a good record for accuracy, shows Obama five points ahead of Mitt Romney. But there are many variables, beyond the obvious such as the state of the economy in November that will influence the likely result of the contest in Florida.
First, there will likely be a spirited contest to determine the Republican nominee who will take on incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. The strength of the ultimate Republican nominee in that contest will be critical to GOP chances overall. Then there is the question of whether a national convention being held in a state, this year the Republicans come to Tampa, Fla., helps or hurts a potential nominee.
Add to the mix furor in the African-American community over the Trayvon Martin case and the wildcard of a Romney pick of Florida's popular Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as his running mate and there are plenty of reasons to believe the vote in Florida could be a photo finish this year. Make no mistake, both sides will be pushing like never before to win the now golden prize of presidential politics.