A survey of voters who cast early ballots in the Miami area suggests that Republican Mitt Romney may win Florida in the Nov. 6th election. Four years ago, Floridians helped elect Obama.
Where four years ago 67 of the 100 Miami early voters I interviewed as they came out of the polls told me they favored Obama, over the past several days at the same polling place, only 54 of 100 voters said they favored Obama. This is a significant drop in Obama's strength. Traditionally, Democrats must come out of South Florida with a commanding margin in order to win the state's 29 electoral votes.
The decline in voter enthusiasm I found for Obama was visible. In a page one story in today's New York Times, the reduced size of Obama's crowds and their enthusiasm nationally was also mentioned.
Democrats traditionally do well in the big cities of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa while the Republicans do best in the northern, central, and western parts of the state that are largely rural and agricultural, plus metropolitan Jacksonville, in the northeast.
In 2008, Obama got 4,282,000 votes in Florida compared to Republican John McCain's 4,045,000, or 50.9% compared to 48.1%. So Obama got all the State's 27 electoral votes. Because Florida's population has gone up, this year the state has 29 electoral votes. Only California, with 55, and Texas, with 38, have more electoral votes than Florida today.
I found Obama's support significantly reduced this year compared to 2008. In that election this reporter found seven Republican voters who were switching to the Democrats but this week there were more Democratic voters switching to Romney than the other way around. Four of the switching voters interviewed had voted for Obama in 2008 but switched to Romney, compared with just two Republican voters in 2008 who switched to Obama in this election. Several voters who switched from Obama told me they blamed him for the condition of the economy.
The polling place where I interviewed voters coming out of the polls was located in the public library of the well-to-do suburb of Coral Gables, just west of Miami. The city contains many fine mansions, an upscale shopping center, and the University of Miami, a private university whose students come largely from affluent families around the country, Latin America, and Asia..
Slightly more women voted than men and my sample showed them to be the greatest source of Obama's strength. By contrast, white males were the greatest source of Romney's strength. All the African-Americans in the survey, 6%, voted for Obama. Young voters casting ballots for the first time, 5% of my sample, favored Obama four to one.
Florida elections traditionally have been close, meaning the state can "swing" either way, Democratic or Republican. In 2000, Republican George W. Bush won the White House by beating Democrat Al Gore by 537 popular votes in Florida in a bitterly contested election rife with charges of vote-stealing and denial of voting opportunities to minority voters who vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
Professional pollsters are saying this presidential election is too close to call and that since the first Obama-Romney debate the campaign's momentum has shifted to Romney. Obama's lead in states such as Pennsylvania, traditionally Democratic, has shrunk. Currently, the Cable News Network poll puts Romney ahead of Obama nationally by 49% to 48%; Rasmussen Reports poll put Romney ahead by two points, 49% to 47%; and the ABC/Washington Post poll finds Romney with a one-point lead, 49% to 48%.
Based on my sampling of early voters, it appears that Obama is still slightly ahead in South Florida but by a significantly reduced margin compared to 2008. The question is whether his narrow lead here will be sufficient to enable him to carry the state. I tend to doubt it. At this point I can only guess about the outcome but it appears that Romney has the momentum to carry Florida. Whether Obama's "presidential" actions during Hurricane Sandy----which pretty much washed Romney out of the headlines----will impact the outcome remains to be seen. Ditto for the impact of the last minute Republican TV advertising blitz.