It’s not often that we pause to take pity on the politicians who are shilling for our votes and money in hopes of becoming the next president of the United States. However, when think about what it must be like to try to plead and pander for votes in a state like Florida it’s hard not to feel at least a bit of sympathy for these poor saps. While trudging around Iowa or tramping through New Hampshire is by no means a picnic, compared to Florida these smaller, relatively homogeneous states have fewer of the potential pitfalls and challenges to candidate consistency poised by the Sunshine State.
Take Iowa (please) for instance. Who do you have to appeal to Iowa? Farmers and maybe three different groups of Christians (Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Evangelicals). I mean really what else is there? Sure there’s a few thousand votes to be had in Maharishi Vedic City, but I don’t think any serious candidate is going to spend a lot of time tailoring their pitch to that particular demographic.
Then you have Florida. Start with all the groups that have ended up there after starting someplace else. Snowbirds from the Midwest. Jews from the Northeast. Cubans from Cuba. Others from pretty much every other country in Latin America. To say nothing of a fair amount of Speedo-clad Euros and friendly Canadians who have sought exile in the state’s warmer climes. And you have the natives. Rednecks in the panhandle. Born again Christians in the lengthy mid-section. Laid back layabouts throughout The Keys. Urban organizers in Miami.
And the industries (at least the legal ones). Tourism, fishing, military contractors, NASA, theme parks, citrus growers, sugar famers, swamp boat manufacturers, etc. Throw in the facts that a fair number of Florida homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, that the state’s usually months away from the next natural disaster, and that there are more Del Boca Vista-like retirement communities per capita than anywhere on earth and the challenges facing any candidate are daunting. Who do you pander to first, next, and last? How do you possibly reconcile all the promises you make, which at some point inevitably have to come into conflict with each other? How do you avoid stepping on any of the dozens of land mines strewn throughout the state that can be set off by the slightest slip of the tongue? Campaigning in Florida means keeping your head on a swivel at all times.
Based on the latest polling, it appears as if Mitt Romney has managed to find the right balance of pandering in Florida and will win tomorrow’s GOP primary. But Newt Gingrich’s last minute proposal to use the moon as a military base to overthrow Castro and defend Israel and also as a research facility to study ways to combat the effects of aging is intriguing for its potential to sway last minute voters.