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Presidential Candidate TrackingResearch Paper

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Florida's Significance To The 2012 Presidential Candidates Analyzed

A Systematic Analysis of How the Presidential Candidates View the Battleground in Florida Based on their Presence and Strategy in the State

Florida Rural Voting Sign[footnoteRef:1] [1: (Smith)]

GOP Strategies Discussion

Incumbent Challenges

The battleground in Florida's for political leverage is heating up. Florida is a top priority for many of the candidates since the state represents one of the biggest swing states in the country. Not only does Florida contain a rather diverse range of political views but in this election the level of frustration has reached heights that have not been felt in decades. Elements of each party are organizing extremist segments which have acted to further polarize the dialogue. Furthermore, as the drama unfolds Florida is positioned to be at the center of the debate given its unique mixed of diversity. This report will systematically analyze the 2012 presidential candidates' visits to Florida between September 5th and November 9th to provide insights into the strategies that are in play to influence the Florida electorate.

Figure 2 - Obama's Performance in 2008[footnoteRef:2] [2: (Inoljt)]

Introduction

In theory, all states are created equal. However when election time rolls around this isn't necessarily the case. There are four states that are generally considered to be swing states. If politics is the business of winning elections, and winning elections is contingent upon working crowds in important locations, then it is essential to focus on Florida as well as the Midwest over the entire duration of the political campaign. Despite the imminence of Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first primaries are held, swing states are far more important to consider. The ultimate swing states are Ohio, Missouri, and Florida, which have a mesh of racial and political cultures and therefore often tend to vote with the most active candidates in their areas.

Missouri has voted on the winning side in virtually every presidential election since 1904. There are two exceptions to the trend: 1956, when they voted for Adlai Stevenson in his loss to the incumbent Eisenhower, and 2008, when they voted for John McCain. As the key to the west, and the crossroads between the North and the South, Missouri retains its station as the gateway to the Presidency despite recent struggles. Ohio likewise contains a large contingent of Southern voters, who cross the river from Kentucky. But its geographic location in the Midwest subjects it to liberal influences which counteract the conservative Southern vote. Additionally, Ohio contains Cleveland, with its economic shortcomings, and Cincinnati, which is relatively affluent.

Both of these states provide no specific route to victory. But Florida, with its population of the aged, offers a clear path through which to attain publicity, gather momentum, and raise funds. The aged have specific demands but also disposable income, and they turn out in droves for elections. As perhaps the most engaged state in the political process, it is essential for candidates to deliver the goods in speeches to Florida residents. These goods come in the form of tax reform, entitlements, and the rebuilding of economic confidence.

Some candidates, however, fail to travel to Florida, instead seeking to gain momentum later on by wooing voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. The outcome of the primaries in these two states determines the future of all campaigns, and it is indeed a dangerous game to play to ignore them. In essence, some candidates feel that Florida may boost their short-term prospects, but New Hampshire and Iowa are the real prizes. Yet given the reformation of districts and Florida's gains in electoral votes, this may act to make Florida a more popular destination for aspiring presidential candidates.

Figure 3 - GOP Debate in Tampa[footnoteRef:3] [3: (Cillizza)]

Analysis Summary

A total of fifty six total candidate trips were identified from presidential hopefuls in both parties. These events were nearly all hosted by Republican GOP party candidates and Obama, being the only Democrat in the group, only represented three events which were subsequently conducted all within a day. However, it should also be noted that even though Obama did not appear himself with great frequency other members of the Democratic Party have come on his behalf; examples of this are Joe Biden and his wife, Michelle Obama.

Figure 4 - Summary of Visits Recorded

Candidate

Visits

Cain

12

Perry

11

Gingrich

7

Romney

7

Santorum

5

Bachman

4

Paul

4

Huntsman

3

Obama

3

Total

56

Herman Cain lead the GOP field in the total number of events held. However, this may be somewhat misleading considering the fact that several of the events were held to promote his book. Newt Gingrich also held one event which was focused on his documentary film. However, it was determined that these events should be included since they represented an alternative way for the candidates to promote their messages which are related to their visions for the future of the United States. Many of the events were also in close proximity to the debates which is a reasonable strategy considering the fact that candidates would make the best use of their time in Florida.

Figure 5 - Illustration of Total Visits

GOP Strategies Discussion

One of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination in 2012 is Mitt Romney, who has thus far been a leader in the number of Florida events. After initially sojourning to Florida for a debate on September 22, in early October Romney trekked to the Villages, a retirement community just outside of Orlando, to speak about Social Security and other possible reforms.[footnoteRef:4] Robert Walker detailed the visit in an October 6 article discussing the impact of elderly voters on coming elections, attributing the following to Romney: "Let's get Social Security working for the coming generations as it has worked for the current and past generations. Let's solve and save Social Security [.]"[footnoteRef:5] [4: (Miller)] [5: (Walker)]

Figure 6 - Romney's Speech at the Villages

Social Security, the critical issue for many seniors, has come to determine the fate of candidacies over the last two decades. As the system of social welfare for the elderly looks increasingly more frail than the elders themselves, efforts at reform have been continually thwarted by those who benefit in the most immediate short-term, the current elderly, without regard for those whose benefits may yet be exhausted. Tackling the issue, therefore, is exceedingly tricky. A transformational leader must first win the support of the aged, then subtly shift course. Romney made his visit to Florida, then, primarily with the purpose of winning the support of older Americans.

As of early October, Romney was confronted with several competitors for the Republican nomination: Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, and others were also vying for the nomination. As Perry's campaign began to falter, Romney chose to use his visit to Florida as a subdued opportunity to attempt to knock the governor of Texas out of the race altogether. Perry had bashed Romney's campaign in the debate in Orlando in late September, and paybacks are tough. Romney spoke at length about the flaws with Perry's plan to the audience at the Villages, adding heat to an already weakened Perry bunch.

The governor of Texas, Rick Perry has campaigned for the Republican nomination on an image of charm and truthfulness, a candidate for the common man approach. Perry's appeal to the old Southern political majority, which retains its ideal of very limited federal government, low taxation, and heavy individualism and self-reliance, combined with his appeal to the religious right, temporarily pushed him into a pack with other frontrunners such as Romney and Herman Cain. His appeal to voters, much like his appeal to Floridians, comes from "being open and honest with the people of Florida and letting them know what he is planning to do with the issues that are important to them."[footnoteRef:6] [6: (Associated Press)]

In late September, the 21st through the 23rd, Perry traveled to Florida to discuss his plans for tax reform and Social Security and to take part in the major presidential debate in Orlando. Perry visited Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach on the 21st, took part in the debate on the 22nd, and stayed put in Orlando for the 23rd.[footnoteRef:7] Perry used the opportunity to discuss a broad array of issues, attacking Romney's middle-class, "Everyman" image and noting the distinction between an unemployed Romney -- with a net worth estimated at close to $250 million -- and the unemployed masses, which comprise 10.7% of Floridians, not including students, the retired, and the despairing who have given up searching for work.[footnoteRef:8] [7: (Broward)] [8: (Getty)]

Figure 7 - Perry's Reaction to the Straw Poll Results

Perry's focus, in contrast with Romney's, was on tax policy, which likely cost him. Though the issue is hugely relevant, it can be discussed at any time, and despite a large class of wealthy Floridians with disposable income, there yet remains an equally large class of less-well-to-do minorities. A stronger focus on a specific issue… [END OF PREVIEW]

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