"Brett's Notes" on Florida ...

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Jan 22, 2008 7:55 AM
Yesterday, I interviewed Brett Doster, an unaffiliated Florida Republican strategist who is well respected in the state.  The last two cycles, he ran state-wide races:  In 2004, he served as executive director for George W. Bush's Florida campaign, and in 2006, he served as campaign manger for Florida gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher.  Doster currently is a media darling in Florida, being one of the few state political experts who is not involved in a presidential campaing... 

Regarding the horserace currently taking place in Florida, Doster implied he believes Giuliani and Huckabee may be starting to fade:  "I think it's close to coming down to a two-man race," Doster says, meaning the race will likey be a McCain vs. Romney contest in Florida -- and possibly beyond.

Though popular Florida Governor Crist may not officially endorse John McCain, Doster tells me:  "The word has kind of gotten out that there is some good will there."

Doster also reminds me that the Republican Primary is a very conservative affair: 
"For your really active Republicans, this is still a very conservative state ... I have a sense right now that conservatives in Florida believe there's only one viable conservative in the race -- and that's Romney."


Doster was also kind enough to give me a quick run-down of the state.  Here's how he sees things breaking down:

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Panhandle - This is the region of the state in that includes the westernmost counties.  Essentially, this is still the "Old South," the "Bible Belt," and the "Redneck Riviera."  It includes Tallahassee, Pensacola, and Panama City -- and consists of a lot of Veterans and social conservatives.  Huckabee, Romney, and McCain (because of the Veterans) could each do well here.

Northeast Florida - This is the Industrial area of Florida, and includes Jacksonville.  Look for Romney to do well here.

I-4 Corridor - This northeast-southwest Highway connects Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando, and Daytoa Beach.  This is the real battle-ground, where the candidates are on a pretty even-footing.  In short, this is an area to watch:  If one candidate starts running away with these votes, he will likely win.

Southeast Florida -- This includes Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach Counties.  This area is made up of a lot of transplanted North-Easterners.  Doster believes this is Rudy's area -- and adds that Rudy's strong stand on Israel will help him here.

Southwest Florida - This is the area on the west coast that is south of the Tampa Bay area.  It includes towns like Naples and Fort Meyers.  This part of the state is made up of a lot of transplants from the Mid-West.  Doster believes this part of the state will be good for Romney.