The Florida Democratic Party is clearly getting the message on some fronts and doing certain things right. For years, the GOP has fostered a culture of cronyism, corruption and decadence in Tallahassee. Last week the FDP went on the offensive with effective campaign ads for Dwight Dudley and Frank Bruno as well as their well-timed efforts to highlight Mike Horner’s scandal and the hookers at a GOP fundraiser. The Democratic messaging is getting stronger and more concrete, yet much work is still to be done.
Democrats can easily further attack the hypocrisy of some Republicans who despite preaching morality have significant elements tied to gambling lobbyists who are committed to introducing Las Vegas style Casinos to the state. While Republicans talk about helping business, under their watch Florida has attracted fewer Fortune 500 companies to relocate their headquarters than any other southeastern state. In Chris Dorworth, the Republicans have designated a potential speaker that makes Ray Sansom look like a choir boy. Elements in the Florida GOP are working hard to make our state a cross between Louisiana, Nevada and Utah, far from the shining light we were in the 1970s and 1980s under Governors Askew and Graham.
Errors made by the party early on in the cycle continue to haunt the effort to maximize results in a Presidential year when the Republican brand is damaged. Decisions not to target more House seats in a redistricting year coinciding with a Presidential election is unforgivable. Many seats where Barack Obama is certain to get at least 48% of the two-party vote have been left uncontested or with poorly funded Democrats, many of whom are self-recruited. These candidates should be an inspiration to us all because against long odds and without so much as returned phone calls from party leadership they have soldiered on and some are in a position to knock of Republican incumbents despite minimal interest from the party.
The party continues to ignore many candidates, but some self-recruited candidates such as Andrew Morey and Eileen Game have been added to the list others are struggling to gain recognition from the party and potential donors. Many sit in seats where winning this cycle would be possible perhaps even likely if some minimal effort were made initially by the state party.
Based on our own Political Hurricane estimate, the Democrats have a very good shot of winning the House under the current map implemented thanks to passage of the Fair Districts Amendment. Of course, erasing a decade long 30 plus seat deficit does not happen in one cycle (currently the Democrats are in a 42 seat hole and would need to gain 21 seats to gain the majority) but considering the new map and the political winds, this cycle would have been a great opportunity to pick up the first large chunk of seats (10 to 15) needed to regain the majority. Sadly, the Democrats have set more modest goals and are likely to pick up somewhere between 6-8 seats, a nice gain but nowhere near what was possible.
So while the FDP’s messaging and general strategy has gotten much sharper and focused in the past few weeks, the mistakes of earlier this cycle means that 2012 will be partly remembered for missed opportunities.