Once again, all eyes are on Florida. As a Florida Republican, this has become routine to me. For the last month, the state with the third-greatest number of electoral votes has been the subject of intense campaigning on the part of not only GOP presidential hopefuls but also the president, who has visited Florida more times in January than he did in all of 2011. Especially in the primaries, where Florida’s winner-take-all structure would award the winner 50 delegates, Florida is a crucial state for presidential candidates.
At a structural level, it also reflects the country most closely. South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa are far from representative of the states Republicans will have to court in order to defeat Obama in 2012. They also poorly reflect the demographics of our country as a whole — none have a significant Hispanic voting block, a group that both parties will have to appeal to if they hope to win.
The most important Hispanic block for Republicans in Florida is the Cuban vote. My grandparents have been constantly preoccupied with the primaries since January. Cubans have come out en masse in every Republican primary since they supported Reagan in 1980.
Romney has made sure to follow a strategy that connects to them. As a result, he has garnered the support of three major Cuban-American congressmen from Florida: Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. They’ve campaigned for him in many of the Spanish-speaking enclaves in the southern part of the state, and their support is likely to translate into an overwhelming victory tomorrow.
Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have filled their speeches in South Florida with vicious anti-Castro sentiment, something that will surely rouse the older exile community. But most Cuban-Americans simply want an alternative to Obama rather than the typical rhetoric politicians use to bolster their Little Havana credentials. They want someone who is electable.
While we’re considering electability, Florida is also closest to the nation’s average in indicators such as income level and unemployment — factors that will play into an election that will be centered on the state of the economy. Romney’s experience as governor of Massachusetts will play to his favor in a state where voters strongly support candidates with executive experience. All points converge on Florida, as they surely will again in nine months.
In a swing state with closed primaries, the moderate voice of the party will win over the ideologues. Romney’s disciplined and well-organized campaign will win over the cacophonous crowds that Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have used to keep their own campaigns afloat. Romney’s four-to-one campaign spending advantage in the Sunshine State will also help; Florida’s large size also poses a problem for smaller-scale campaigns like those of Paul, Gingrich and Santorum. Unlike Republicans in states like South Carolina, the Florida GOP has followed a trend of supporting the party establishment. And in a swing state, the most electable candidate tends to win over fringe members. Romney will be the clear victor.
Marco Rubio, who is probably one of the most promising young members of the Republican ranks, has yet to publicly support any of the candidates. Florida’s winner would also be posed to gain an exciting running mate in Rubio. Rising stars in the party seem to be waiting before declaring their support, and Rubio is no exception to this rule. In any case, a Romney-Rubio ticket would make many Republican mouths water. The Cuban-American junior senator would likely deliver a Republican victory in Florida in the general election.
Florida also holds a particularly important strategic point for the GOP. The 2012 Republican National Convention will be taking place in Tampa Bay, and a victory in Florida would surely bolster Romney at the convention this summer. The other candidates will probably attempt to hold on until Super Tuesday, when their chances of victory may be somewhat higher in states like Nevada, Alaska and Georgia. Romney’s 20-point lead in a recent poll in Florida is likely to translate to more votes in his favor in Florida than all of the other candidates have accumulated in the last three states combined. Tonight, a Romney victory will likely pave the way for his eventual nomination.
Christian Vazquez is a junior in Branford College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.