The fight for Florida in US Presidential Elections 2012

By: Nicole Best, Miami-Dade, Florida

The state of Florida could prove to be the clincher for the 2012 US Presidential Elections. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have been focusing heavily on this state which brings in at least 29 votes in the electoral college – votes that could push either Governor Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama into the White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama, has been doing her bit to garner support for her husband. She recently made an impassioned plea in Miami Florida for Democrat supporters to rally friends and family, go to the polls and vote her husband back into the White House.

“In just five days you’ll have the opportunity to reelect a decent, honest man; a man filled with integrity…the man that I have known and loved for the past 24 years, my husband, Barack Obama.”

It was her third stop on a rapid trip through the state of Florida on Thursday, appearing at Jacksonville and Daytona Beach earlier in the day.

“This is my third stop today in Florida and I am still fired up and ready to go,” said Mrs. Obama to a crowd of over 4,000 wildly cheering supporters at the James L. Knight Centre in Miami Dade County.

The First Lady’s visit followed closely on the heels of Republican Senator Mitt Romney who made a whirlwind visit to meet with supporters in this state on Wednesday. He visited Tampa, Miami Dade and Jacksonville.

He promised his supporters jobs and a better economy if they would go to the polls on Tuesday and vote him into office.

“America is counting on Florida; I am counting on Florida to have clear eyes, full hearts; we can’t lose. America is coming back with greater strength; the greatest, brightest future,” Romney said.

In her address to the grassroots supporters, Mrs. Obama appealed for them to spend the next few days volunteering with the campaign, knocking on doors and encouraging people to vote.

“What we do over the next five days would absolutely make the difference in waking up the day after election day and depending on what the outcome is, saying ‘could I have done more’ or fulfilling that promise of four more years,” Michelle Obama said on Thursday.

“Now until November 6th you have to keep on working and knocking and pushing like never before because I want people, especially our young people to remember, that is how change come about in this country,” said  Michelle the mother of two teenage daughters.

The state of Florida could be the deciding state for the next US President and winning the support and votes of the less than 2-million people left to vote in Florida, is crucial to both parties.

Latino Singer Marc Anthony and Gabrielle Union, a black actress and fiancé of US Basketball player Dwyane Wade were among the welcoming party for Michelle Obama, at Miami’s James L Knight Centre.

Her rally featured speakers from a wide cross section of the American grassroots, professional and ethnic groups, including a 67-year old Cuban American woman who introduced the First Lady to the platform.

In Florida the Cuban American and Latino votes are crucial to the outcome of the Electoral College votes as they are known to lean more to the Republican Party.

Mrs. Obama’s speech though not new, was slightly geared more to the women, as she presented her husband as a man who “will always have our backs” adding that he knows and respects the fact that women can make their own health decisions – a jab at the Republican Party’s outcry against abortion.

At Governor Romney’s rally, the supporters who came from all over as far south as Texas say they are convinced that they would win in the State of Florida.

But as the two parties spar over the limited votes left to be cast in Florida, there are repeated concerns in the black communities that attempts are being made to frustrate the voting process particularly for Democrats.

A major issue is the reduction of the number of Early Voting days from 14 to 8 with the exclusion of the Sunday before Elections, which has seen the largest turn out of Democratic voters over the years.

“Why would you change something that has been working ever since there has been early voting? Why all of a sudden in most states where you have Republican governors, Republican state attorneys, Republican legislators…those are the states where you have the early voting blocks being reduced or the voter ID problems that are being encountered?” questioned Debbie Dorsett a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., an all black sisterhood.

On Wednesday leader of the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition (HAGC) Jean Robert LaFortune, along with his counterpart from the Latino community wrote to Florida’s Governor, Republican Rick Scott asking for an extension of the voting time to Sunday to enable more black and Latino voters in Florida to vote.

They cited work commitments, long lines and poor translations of the ballot sheets,  among  issues that would disenfranchise voters in these minority ethnic groups should the early voting polls close on Saturday as is scheduled.

“What we are seeing is a general waste of time, combined with a breakdown in electronic equipment, is creating a lot of hardships; a lot of problems for voters to participate in the process,” said LaFortune, President of HAGC for 14-years.

But LaFortune’s plea has gone unheeded and polls closed as planned at 7pm (local time).

In Florida, more voters are registered as democrats than as republicans but a recent poll by the Miami Herald, published on Saturday (today) is showing that Governor Romney is leading in the State 51/45 or 6 percentage points over President Obama.

The poll which has a 3.5percent margin of error showed that Romney’s strong point was the independent voters and a high percentage of crossover Democrats.

It also showed that most of his support came from northern Florida which is rural and predominantly conservative.

However Trinidadian-born political consultant in South Florida Glenn Joseph says the polls this year cannot be trusted.

He describes them as an aberration adding that they are too many of them being done and they are for the most part skewed.

“The polling this year has been an aberration because there have been too many outliers that have been involved in the statistical analysis of this political campaign.”

This election campaign has seen a record number of over 100 polling organizations with varying methodologies.

The Consultant  who has been living in the US for over forty years and has successfully managed many political campaigns at county level,  says however that it is still not safe to take the aggregate of all the polls and find the mean, because the polls themselves are filled with errors.

“In order to get a close to truth synopsis, you would have to take an average of all the polls but even that is problematic because as you know if you take a sampling of a population that is skewed, the result is skewed.”

A number of Campaign advertisements supporting  the Republican Party, have in subtle ways alluded to ‘putting back a white man in the white house’.

He thinks that if President Obama loses the race to the White House, it would not be because of his handling of the economy, or foreign police or health issues, but because of racism.

“I know that this is a country of contradictions and I know that a lot of things are possible that you wouldn’t think are possible in this country,” Joseph told CMC.

“If all the things that this president has done is negated by that (speaking about his poor performance at the 1st debate) then it tells you something  fundamentally is wrong with this country…it fundamentally tells you that this country is the most racist country in existence.”

The fight over Florida is far from over as US President is schedule to return to the State on Sunday in a race around the country – touching Florida, Ohio, Colorado and New Hampshire, while Governor Romney will return to Florida on Monday.

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