With the final tally showing President Obama winning Florida by 74,000 votes. Over the next few months, the blame game, the purging and the Monday morning quarterbacking will continue to press on in Florida Republican circles on how and why Mitt Romney lost Florida. The answer can be summed up in two words: Ground game.
But there are deeper lessons to be drawn from the 2012 presidential results for both parties. Democrats got a validation of what can work in the next election season; Republicans got a look at a playbook that beat them at the state and national level.
What both parties do with these lessons remains to be seen.
So let’s break this down logistically.
The Florida 2012 election results had fewer people voting this year than in 2008 and in 2004. But other states that Romney won also had lower turnout. Texas saw a 12 percent decrease. Could this have been predicted? Maybe. After Presidency 5 in September (that is the big Republican presidential straw poll event in Orlando) the story from conservative blogs and conservative talk radio was that Republicans in the Sunshine state were pumped and enthused about coming out and voting against Obama. Those same voices predicted the Jan. 31st 2012 Republican presidential primary would draw huge numbers.
They were wrong.
In fact, the 2012 Republican presidential primary was down by 14 percent from 2008.
Two weeks leading up to that primary, Newt Gingrich was in the lead. But that lead diminished from the Romney super PACs that ravaged Gingrich and his credibility and Romney came out as the big winner.
Florida GOP and the independent vote
In early 2012, the Florida GOP had some huge bragging rights. In press releases sent to the media,
the state party pointed out that the Florida Division of Elections website showed that in just 15 months, over 100,000 registered democrats had left the Florida Democratic Party. What the Florida GOP didn’t say or admit was that not all those Democrats registered Republican.
The majority of them registered as independents or otherwise known as NPA’s. Non Party Affiliation . But to the Florida GOP, that was fine. Their mentality was that if voters left the state Democratic Party, there was no way they would vote for Obama. Poll after poll showed a double digit lead for Romney over Obama when it came to independents.
But that assumption was one of their biggest downfalls. In Florida, the independents didn’t come out for Romney as predicted. Nationwide, Romney only won the independent vote over Obama 49 percent to 45 percent.
The Romney campaign and the state Republican Party assumed that with the Democrats leaving the Fl. Democratic Party and registering as NPA’s it would help them tremendously in November.
Thursday November 1st, 5 days before election day, state-wide political commentator Tres Holton was interviewed on the radio. To many in, m Florida political circles, Holton is one of the best numbers guy when it comes to analyzing election turnout. Holton said in that interview, after looking at the absentees and the early votes, that the independent numbers weren’t there for Romney, meaning they wouldn’t show up as many were predicting.
Minority and student voters
With the weak economic recovery, many predictions were made about young people not voting for Obama. Recall in the second debate, when a college graduate told President Obama he voted for him last time, but asked him why he should vote for him this time when he couldn’t find work in his field.
Republicans believed that the enthusiasm among young people would be low. They were wrong. Young people support for Obama in Florida was higher in 2012 than it was in 2008. With unemployment in the black community still high, Romney and the state GOP believed their enthusiasm would be low as well. But that proved to be wrong.
Failure of the GOP outreach
Whether it’s Hispanics, blacks, students or any minority group, even if they don’t overall support your candidate you must have a presence. The Romney campaign and the Florida GOP had virtually no presence.
In the spring of 2012, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Jewish voters weren’t happy with the Obama economy. One Jewish Democratic activist told the paper that Jewish voters in her precinct
probably wouldn’t vote for Obama. That should have been a sign for the Romney camp to dispatch staff to those areas. But they didn’t. In several Florida congressional races where the races were tight, the Florida Obama machine made calls to Hispanics in Spanish encouraging them to vote and in several areas sent two to three mailers in Spanish, connecting with the Hispanic community. This was something done in 2002 and 2004 by the Florida GOP.
But over the last few years, it’s been non-existent.
Registering Republicans; turning them Democrats
With high unemployment, huge deficits, and a weak economy, Romney and the Florida GOP seemed to play more defense than to play offense. And why not? The Romney camp and the Florida GOP was boasting of how many registered democrats left the state Democratic party. But it seems that they were turning a blind eye.
In early summer, election numbers were showing Florida Democrats out-registering Republicans. Something that hadn’t happened for a long time. But still, Romney and the Florida GOP shrugged it off as tho it was accidental. Everything was in their favor. No president had ever been re-elected with unemployment over or near 8 percent. And with Romney showing a strong display in the first debate, their numbers slowly showed Romney was not only gaining on Obama but was beating him in Florida. It was like the 12th round and Romney was going to win with a split decision.
The signs that Romney may not win Florida were right in front of them. Organizing for America, The Obama front group, was registering new voters at every local library and outlet. In some counties, they were registering more Republicans than Democrats. Then after registering new Republicans, they would turn around and send them Obama material followed up by a phone call.
The Florida GOP registration drives? Barely on life support. In several Florida counties the Obama machine outshined the Romney camp on getting out the vote. A Republican political pundit (Romney supporter) reported on a local radio talk show that he had received 10 phone calls from Democrats to make sure he got out and voted early for Obama. And in the same sentence he said, he only received one phone call from Republicans encouraging him to early vote for Romney.
So in the next several weeks, you will hear and read from the experts on why Obama won and why Romney lost. Was he too liberal, was he not conservative enough? And yes, those will be part of the answers to some of the questions. But the bottom line is, Obama had a better grassroots, better social media, better phone banking, better voter drives. And most of all kept his base enthused.
Remember, in sports, teams can have better-looking athletes, with great physique, better-looking hair and better manners. But if they aren’t using the basic fundamental on how to win the game, then they might as well just stay home. Just like some of the Romney “supporters” did.