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Florida’s 2012 Wedge Issues

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As November 6, 2012 approaches, and both political parties begin posturing, their messages are becoming clearer. Every election has wedge issues. Issues will appear that drive voters to pick one candidate over another. Florida is a microcosm of America. Florida is a critical state to carry and I believe will determine the outcome of the Presidential election and which party controls the U.S. Senate.

I see three wedge issues in Florida, which will carry the day on November 6th. They are: the national debt, gay marriage and competence. I also believe two groups will have a major impact on elections in Florida at every level. Please bear with me as I explain.While the economy remains a major issue so does the burgeoning public debt at every level of government. This issue is a concern especially among women with children. The Washington Times reports, “The debate over whether to raise the legal limit on government borrowing has riveted Americans, with a large majority worried about the potential consequences regardless of whether Congress votes to allow the national debt to keep increasing. But when pressed to name their biggest concern, nearly half of respondents say they are alarmed by the prospect that the debt could grow beyond its current limit of $14.3 trillion, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll. Only 35 percent say they are more worried about the risk of default and economic destabilization if Congress does not raise the debt limit.” [My emphasis]

View Point Florida  found in a May 2012 poll that, “[W]hen asked whether or not deficit spending was necessary to grow the American economy, 30% of respondents stated that such spending was in fact necessary, while 61% said the economy could be boosted without deficit spending. . . We see similar numbers when voters are asked if raising revenue or cutting spending should be the primary focus of Congress or the Florida Legislature in dealing with budget deficits. Just 26% of respondents said the federal government should focus on raising revenue to balance the budget, to 67% who prefer it focus more on cutting spending. The preference for spending cuts rises to 72% when voters are asked the same question about Florida’s state government, with just 20% of respondents saying Tallahassee should focus more on raising revenue.”

Gays and marriage are a toxic combination in Florida. Used in the same sentence they create a very negative reaction for Floridians. Quinnipiac University did a Florida poll and found: On the issue of same-sex marriage, Florida voters, who have banned such unions in the State Constitution, now say they oppose them 50 – 40 percent. Men oppose same-sex marriage 55 – 35 percent while women are divided 44 – 46 percent. Support is 57 – 33 percent among voters under 35 years old. Opposition is 52 – 38 percent among voters 35 to 54 years old and 55 – 36 percent among voters over 55. When given a three-way choice: 36 percent favor gay marriage; 34 percent back civil unions; and 23 percent oppose all legal recognition.

Competence has become a wedge issue in Florida. Elected officials that pander or are incompetent are frowned upon by Floridians. According to Quinnipiac University, “Romney is viewed as better able to handle the economy, 50 – 40 percent.” Competent clearly trumps likable in Florida. Floridians are less concerned about what Mitt Romney did with his money than what President Obama is doing with taxpayers money. Comparing Bain Capitol investments to federal government spending is a loser here  in the Sunshine State.

Florida is a key swing state and a must carry for President Obama. Floridians are shifting towards traditional positions on the national debt, marriage and electing a competent leader. I believe this reflects the growing influence of two Florida groups: the TEA Party and Evangelicals. While the media wants you to believe the TEA Party is dead may I suggest it is very much alive and kicking people out of office. The TEA Party has matured and is now taking leadership positions in the Republican Party at the local and state levels. I am seeing the TEA Party supporting local candidates at the city, county and school board levels and having an impact on local policy decisions within the Republican Party infrastructure. There are still those old guard Republicans that are pushing back but the TEA Party is winning overall. We are three or four election cycles away from a complete constitutional conservative takeover of the Republican Party.

President Obama has decided to make social issues like gay marriage top of mind. By doing so he has already lost. Pollsters and media outlets are playing the “gay marriage will make no difference at the polls” record over and over. However, I will tell you that a few percentage point shift on social issues like gay marriage, the attack on religious freedom and abortion is energizing the one million Evangelicals who did not vote in the 2008 election in Florida. This group is energized, now more than it ever has been, with Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Ministers, Rabbis and Reverends energized and preaching the values in our Constitution from the pulpit.

The President has created these wedge issues in the hope of energizing those who voted for him in 2008. What he is missing is by creating wedges he has shown himself to be a great divider rather than the great uniter he touted himself to be.

I predict Florida will go deep red in November. What do you think?

RELATED COLUMNS:

USA Today: Real Federal Deficit Last Year – $5 Trillion

MassResistance.org: Two Men are Friends Not Spouces Catholic Chruch Sign