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Following the Currents that Guide Florida's Future
Will staging its national convention in Tampa give the Republican Party a Florida advantage in November?
Frank Bentayou
Next week's 2012 Republican National Convention will focus intense attention on the host city, Tampa, and the state. It also will attract more than 4,400 GOP delegates and alternates, 15,000 media people and 30,000-plus other politically wired visitors. They will drop money by the bucket-load providing an economic stimulus to a metro area and state that need it badly. If the RNC is this year’s big gift to Florida, will voters in the largest swing state in the U.S. reciprocate by throwing their weight to presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney? Our respondents just can’t seem to agree.
Lenny Curry
Republican Party of Florida Chairman

Next week, Florida will host the national convention that sets the Republican Party on the road to victory. With this year’s convention being held in our own city of Tampa, Florida Republicans are even more enthusiastic about the upcoming presidential election and casting a vote for Mitt Romney on election day. 

During this year’s convention, our country’s top Republicans, including Gov. Romney himself, will have a unique opportunity to deliver their message of less taxes, smaller government and reduced spending directly to pivotal Florida voters, especially those in the crucial Interstate-4 corridor. Since 1960, Hillsborough County in particular has called every single presidential election except one, and the population here typically mirrors the demographics and swings of the national electorate. Reaching out to and winning over the voters here is key and helps to ensure success this November. With the Republican National Convention in their backyard, these voters will learn firsthand how our party and candidates have a plan to finally put our national economy back on the right path.

As the largest swing state in the nation, Florida is a must-win state this November, and the top issues for all Floridians are absolutely jobs and the economy. We have seen great improvement in our state over the last 18 months thanks to the common-sense policies implemented by Florida Gov. Rick Scott.  Some 127,200 private sector jobs have been added throughout the state, and unemployment is down from 11.1 to 8.6% as Floridians get back to work. 

However, there’s more that could be done to help Florida’s economy thrive. That starts with having a national partner in the White House who will help fight overregulation, reduce the tax burden on families and small businesses and stop outrageous deficit spending. President Obama has made it clear that these are not priorities for his administration, despite the fact that they prove to be working in numerous states across the country.

As a nation, we simply cannot afford four more years of this President’s failed policies. We need a new direction, and that’s exactly what Mitt Romney is offering. He understands the economy and the free-enterprise system. He knows what businesses need to be able to create more jobs. And just like Governor Rick Scott’s policies have turned around Florida’s economy, Romney will get our national economy headed back in the right direction and get Americans back to work. 

Every day, the RPOF, the RNC and the Romney campaign are working hand-in-hand, reaching out to voters and spreading this message. Holding this year’s Republican National Convention in Florida will only help to solidify the support we are already seeing for our candidate across the state, and particularly in crucial Hillsborough County. This November, we will deliver Florida for Romney.

Rod Smith
Florida Democratic Party Chairman

Mitt Romney and the GOP should get ready for a very awkward August in Florida.

All eyes will be on our state during the Republican National Convention in Tampa – which means that the scandals, conflicting messaging and toxic brand of the Florida Republican Party and Gov. Rick Scott will be on full display.

According to a recent Quinnipiac survey, a staggering 52 percent of Florida voters disapprove of the job Scott has done, earning him the unenviable distinction as the most unpopular Republican governor in the country. Mitt Romney has been forced to duck, dodge and weave around Scott’s toxic brand during each of his 50-plus visits to Florida, but there will be no escaping the long shadow of the home-state governor’s rock bottom approval ratings during their convention. 

Scott has compounded his party’s problem in Florida by undercutting Mitt Romney’s central message -– trumpeting Florida’s positive economic growth under President Obama. These conflicting messages from Scott and Romney only confuse the voters the GOP is attempting to persuade – and the convention’s home-state governor will once again undermine Romney as he attempts to make his case.

Finally, while the trial of former GOP Chairman Jim Greer has been delayed, the scorned operative has made clear his intent on ensuring that Florida voters do not forget the long list of scandals plaguing the top leaders of Florida’s Republican party. Greer has been nothing if not vocal in discussing the lurid details of his party’s financial scandals, attempts to suppress African-American voters and attempted bribery, further damaging the Republican’s already toxic brand under Scott -– and more is sure to come.

All eyes will be on Rick Scott and the Florida Republicans during the convention. And it’s going to be a very, very awkward for Mitt Romney.

Richard Scher
Professor of political science, University of Florida

Of course, the answer to your question is: Nobody knows what effect having the Republican National Convention in Tampa will have on Florida voting. What we do know is that when a political party choses its site, if nothing else, it is making a symbolic gesture that says to the people in the region, “We’d like to have your votes. We’re reaching out to you.” But that is a symbolic gesture. No one has ever demonstrated in studies a correlation between the site of the convention and the voting behavior of people who live near there.

Beyond that, what exactly are you going to measure to determine if there is some logical connection between the location of a convention and what people will do? How do you establish an independent correlation? Maybe people were going to vote the way they did anyway, wherever the convention was held.

Here’s what we know: The Republicans certainly want to win Florida. They say, "We’re going to come down there and hold this convention, and we really want your votes." And what we absolutely know is that having conventions like this is a tremendous economic boon to a region. There's no doubt that Hillsborough County clearly could use that economic boost. It is not irrelevant that the GOP is coming to Florida, but there’s no way I can say what the result will be. 

Of course, how the event unfolds could affect voters’ response to the Republican Party. The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago is a good one to look at. (Anti-war protestors dramatically disrupted that convention, and Chicago police and party security responded harshly. Scholars and historians suggest the close media scrutiny of the riotous event helped propel Republican Richard Nixon to the presidency in that year’s election.) 

But the effect of all that disruption wasn't confined regionally. It was far more important nationally than in Chicago or in Illinois. Since then, we’ve never had a convention that got out of control. In fact, now, these things are completely scripted.

But both conventions, the Republican in Tampa and the Democratic in Charlotte, N.C., will uncover for the politically engaged observers some important matters. Mitt Romney still has a problem with the party’s right wing, and he still has a problem with the level of enthusiasm from Republicans. President Obama has his problems with convincing voters he can improve conditions in our country. He must get people to believe in him once again.

Peter Butzin
Volunteer State Chair, Common Cause, Florida

Of course it will help the GOP.  Crazies currently may control the Republican Party, but it isn’t so stupid that it wouldn’t strategically site its convention in a non-swing state . . . and one with 29 electoral votes at that.

But, the real question is, who cares anymore about the national conventions?

I’m old enough to remember staying up into the morning hours to see whom the parties would end up nominating. But with the increase in presidential primaries, the conventions became much less interesting and much more silly. Even an unprecedented number of prominent politicians are skipping this year’s conventions.

So, in 2012’s iteration, the primaries of both parties will be little more than opportunities for the party faithful to get a few seconds of TV time displaying their silly hats on National TV networks that fewer of us are watching.

The bottom line? Sure, having the convention in Tampa may get Republicans a few more votes, and, more important, inspire the party faithful. But its greater impact will be felt on Tampa Bay’s beaten-down economy, infusing, albeit very briefly, a needed boost in a state where its Governor has done all in his power to decimate common-sense regulations in the name of illusive job creation.

I say, “turn off your televisions America!” or at least record its content and skip through all those negative political commercials where the wealthy 1 percent is autonomously trying to buy the public policy-making process in the name of “free speech”.

An estimated 2.18 million people will cast votes in November after being pounded by as much as $9.8 billion in campaign adds. Thanks mostly to the Supreme Court’s outrageous Citizens United case, most of the 26% increase from the 2008 election will come from unregulated, or minimally regulated Super PACS, very wealthy individuals and business groups.

The rest of us simply don’t have a fair chance to play in this obscene game. And we won’t have a fair chance until we amend the U.S. Constitution to specify that corporations don’t have the same rights as people and that money is not the same as free speech.

Bob Buckhorn's picture
Bob Buckhorn
Mayor, City of Tampa

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, certainly no Republican, did not respond to Florida Voices’ question about what advantage in Florida the GOP might gain from holding their national convention in Tampa. He has brushed against the topic publicly at least a couple of times in recent weeks.

City Hall suggests he is most excited about the RNC from the standpoint of a city leader whose community is about to open its show on a much bigger stage than in the past. He launched a national public relations effort that area government enterprises and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce helped finance that took him to New York and Washington, D.C., for newspaper interviews and broadcast appearances aimed at raising “positive awareness of the community” before the Republican convention, according to a release.

A story that appeared July 18 in The Washington Times honed in on security issues and crowd control. But it also addressed the mayor’s own political persuasion:

“Mr. Buckhorn, a Democrat, says it makes no difference to him which party hosts the convention in his city, though he says he’s taken some good-natured ribbing from friends and acquaintances of both parties.

“‘Our mission is to be the best host  (the GOP) has ever had,’ he said. ‘For me, it’s not about the partisan nature of it -- it’s an economic development opportunity, and that’s how I treat it. I don’t care what goes on in the (convention) building.’

“And while he says he would be open to helping President Obama’s re-election campaaign after the convention, ‘in terms of partisan politics I’m agnostic for the next 40 days.’”

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