Why the 2012 election could all come down to Florida
The nation's premier swing state, younger and more diverse than you think, will be vital in deciding who wins the White House. Along the way, Florida could determine the GOP primary, too.
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"I don't like the fact that he's catering to the Arabs," says Ms. Hochhauser, a schoolteacher from Brooklyn, N.Y., who retired to Florida 26 years ago. "It bothers me. But it bothers me more that seniors are hurting and people are having to walk away from their homes." So, she says, she's for Obama, but "he could be a little more emphatic."Skip to next paragraph
Mr. Wilens, who retired here from New Jersey, is active in the Sunrise Democratic Club. On a recent visit to the club, his congresswoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), spoke of Obama's support for Israel and handed out fliers about Obama and Israel.
"There's quite a bit of doubt," says Wilens.
Still, Obama has no better advocate among Florida's politically active Jewish community than Representative Wasserman Schultz, who also chairs the Democratic National Committee.
"Debbie's the sweetest thing," says Hochhauser.
* * *
The joke in Florida is that instead of having the whole state vote for president, it would be a lot easier just to ask a moderate suburban white woman under age 50 from the Tampa Bay area – the ultimate swing demographic in the state's ultimate swing region – to choose.
So we found one. In 2008, April Smith was an enthusiastic Obama supporter who donated money and put an Obama sign on her car window. But she's been disappointed in his performance, and her vote is up for grabs. She's tired of all the Obama fundraising e-mails flooding her in-box, and wishes the president would explain better what he's done and what he would do with a second term. She has removed the Obama sign.
"The fact that he didn't have a plan to address unemployment until recently was very upsetting to me," says Ms. Smith, a graphic designer and a transplant to the area, like many in Tampa. "Maybe someone with Romney's business experience actually has some ideas."
Smith also mentions Americans Elect, a nonpartisan online effort to select a presidential candidate who transcends party politics. She plans to take part.
The idea has been the subject of pundit chatter in recent months. The theory is that Secretary Clinton could help Obama with moderate women voters in key swing states like Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – all states that Clinton won handily in the 2008 Democratic primaries.
"If she was on the ticket, I would definitely feel better about reelecting him," says Smith. "I've not seen anything from Biden. He seems like a cardboard cutout."
Smith's assessment of Obama captures the mood of many one-time supporters – a feeling of being let down after such high expectations. But Republicans are worried that once the general election campaign begins in earnest, his personal popularity will change the equation.
"That's going to be our challenge," says Leonard Curry, Florida's new Republican Party chairman. "We have to recognize that people like Obama as a person, but just because you like someone doesn't mean they should be president."
IN PICTURES: Florida and the presidential election
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