Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Political Hurricane hopes Florida’s Democrats remember the lessons of recent history and understand why Florida performs so well for national Democrats:
Florida’s Democrats could advocate a certain brand of economic populism that would appeal to the base of the party while encouraging other Democratically-inclined voters to turn out. But what we have witnessed instead is a party that has promoted candidates tied to the insurance industry, banking sector, and those who oppose strong environmental regulations. Bill Clinton won Florida in 1996 by running aggressively on gun control and environmental protection. Al Gore’s popular economic message resonated with Florida voters in 2000, and Barack Obama, perceived (wrongly perhaps) to be a liberal, carried the state in 2008.
Florida’s Democrats have been wrong so many times about “swing” voters. We were told in 1998 to nominate Rick Dantzler because Buddy MacKay was too liberal. In 2002, we were told that Buddy MacKay’s liberalism gave us Jeb Bush and we needed to nominate a moderate. Janet Reno, who generated enthusiasm among the most activists was rejected for the traditional institutional Democrat, Bill McBride. What ensued was a Republican landslide. In 2004 Betty Castor occupied the middle ground against Mel Martinez who, despite a moderate record as Orange County Chairman (County Mayor), decided to run to the hard right. Castor lost. In 2010 moderate Alex Sink, the wife of McBride, questioned President Obama’s Health Care plan, positioned herself to the right of Governor Charlie Crist on insurance and banking and tried to appeal to “swing voters” against a pathetically weak GOP nominee. Sink, like McBride and Castor, was defeated.
The Democrats should understand that the continued positive poll results in 2012 prove one thing: politics has changed irrevocably and firing up a party’s base is now far more important than appealing to theoretical “swing” voters. Part of the reason “swing” voters played such a role in the 1990s, in retrospect was because voter turnout was significantly lower than it had been in the 1960s and lower than it is today. . Moderate/swing voters are minimal in numbers and efforts to appeal to them are offset by losing potential voters or workers on the left. The Democrats have botched up repeatedly over the past decade.