In Florida, as in the rest of the country, Democrats “took a shellacking”

by Dave Roberts

Now that I’m back home in cold, damp Wiltshire, the heat and humidity of Florida seem along way off, as do the frenetic last days of the US midterm elections.  My endeavour to help rescue the Democratic congressional seat of Ron Klein failed spectacularly, and the Republicans have taken firm control of Floridian politics.

Republican candidates won all the marginal congressional districts, took the governor’s mansion, the Senate seat and the top three positions in the state legislature – attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.  The Democrats, as President Obama said “took a shellacking”.

Last Tuesday was a horrible night to be a Democrat.  I was in the Ron Klein campaign “boiler room” as results began to come in from across the country.  There were a few bright moments when extreme Tea party candidates Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware failed to win, but on the whole the mood was down beat.  Our own campaign in Florida district 22 had failed and the Tea party and Fox News favourite Republican Allen West won the seat.  The race for the Florida Senate seat was always going to be a shoe-in for the Republican favourite Marco Rubio, and Rick Scott narrowly beat Democrat Alex Sink to take the keys to the governor’s mansion.

Florida has become a Republican strong hold and it will take some serious work by the Democrats to win the state back in time to deliver it during the Presidential campaign in 2012.

However, all is not lost.  There was little sign that the majority of people in Florida had fallen in love with the new look Republicans and out of love with Obama and the Democrats.  This election was about motivation and turn out. In Florida the winning coalition that helped send Obama to the White House had stayed at home.  The motivation was with the Republicans, fuelled by a stagnant economy and unemployment in Florida that was at 12%, placing it in the worst 25% in the US.

Floridians were voting to protest about the economy and were fired up by the rhetoric of those like Allen West.  Still, some were sticking to their liberal principles and in parts of urban south and mid Florida the Democratic vote held up.  Others just stayed at home shrugging their shoulders and watching the Miami Heat get off to a wobbly start in the new NBA season.

Politics in Florida is hard to predict. The State has a mobile population, has struggled in the wake of successive hurricanes that have damaged the once buoyant real estate market and has been subjected to some highly contentious boundary changes under the direction of successive Republican governors. Florida is the largest swing state in the country and has a special place in Presidential campaigns.  It is also a state that seems to require huge campaign budgets. Rick Scott spent $100 million on his successful bid to be governor, and Marco Rubio spent an estimated $18 million becoming Senator.

For now, the pendulum has swung decisively towards the Republicans, but it could quite easily swing back the other way, especially if the Republican Party moves towards the right and adopts the hardline agenda of the Tea party.  Only time and maybe a hefty dose of luck, will tell.

Dave Roberts is a strategic communications consultant. You can read more about his time on the Ron Klein campaign here.

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One Response to “In Florida, as in the rest of the country, Democrats “took a shellacking””

  1. SoCalLiberal says:


    Thank you. I really appreciate the effort you put in helping the Democrats. I’m only sorry it didn’t work out better. I honestly thought Ron Klein would win (though I was not surprised to see the Republicans defeat Suzanne Kosmas, Alan Boyd, and Alan Grayson). What happenned was a nationwide temper tantrum and the result was an all around disaster for Democrats (except in California where voters decided to opt for sanity).

    I enjoy following UK Politics and I think Democrats have a lot in common with Labour (we both have blocked the 1980’s from our collective memories, we both like crediting our respective parties for creating great national institutions, and we both use Beautiful Day by U2 as our election night victory song). I also appreciate your Labour perspective on the Dems and on U.S. politics.

    Politics is very hard to predict and so who knows what will happen in 2012. But I do think there’s a strong likelihood the election will be different simply because the electorate is going to look drastically different (just as the 10′ electorate did not resemble the 08′ electorate). Also, the economy has been improving and the electorate may feel very differently. Either way, Obama will have to start working hard to take advantage of his executive powers in order to handle the Republicans in the House. The Democrats also are lucky in that Nancy Pelosi is refusing to run away and instead is likely to lead the party in the House again (which is needed).

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