The Obama campaign has been aggressively targeting Florida, but many have been skeptical as to whether Obama has a legitimate shot at that state.
I was surprised when I heard over the weekend that Hillary’s first appearance after the convention would be in Florida. After looking at the issue more closely, the campaign’s optimism regarding Florida makes much more sense.
First, the Joe Biden selection was as much about Florida as any other state, including Pennsylvania. Biden has huge support in the Jewish community, particularly with older Jewish voters, due to his long history as a supporter of Israel in the Senate. I always knew Biden was popular with older voters, but I didn’t realize how much support he had in the Jewish community. The fact the the Obama campaign immediately sent Biden to Florida after he was selected as Obama’s running mate underscores the point.
Today, Ben Smith reported that Ed Koch has decided to endorse Obama. In 2004, the former mayor of New York endorsed Bush and campaigned for him. This time, the selection of Sarah Palin pushed Koch into Obama’s camp.
Koch is a member of a set of secular, swing-voting Jewish Democrats who may have been pushed away by the selection of Palin, and his endorsement may be a marker of an opportunity for Obama to strengthen his campaign among older Jewish voters in Florida.
Koch is still very influential in the Jewish community, and he indicated a willingness to campaign for Obama in Florida.
The stories about the Jews for Jesus speaker at Palin’s church will not help McCain’s campaign with Jewish voters. The speaker suggested that attacks on Israel represented punishment from God.
Voter registration numbers also favor Obama in Florida.
Democrats also have done a better job of registering voters. In the first seven months of the year, Democrats increased their numbers by nearly 253,000, compared with slightly more than 98,000 more Republicans. Overall, Florida has about 4.4 million Democrats, 3.9 million Republicans and 2.3 million voters who aren’t registered with either party.
The Democrats estimates about 600,000 registered black voters stayed home in 2004, more than Bush’s margin of victory in the state. And nearly 600,000 black Floridians aren’t registered to vote.
Finally, the issue of social security will be huge. John McCain supported Bush’s efforts to privatize the program, and the Obama campaign will likely hammer McCain on this issue in the state as well.
For all these reasons, it’s not surprising to see Rasmussen’s poll yesterday that showed a dead heat in Florida.
With 27 electoral votes, a win by Obama in Florida would practically seal the election for Obama. McCain has not spent much at all in the state, so perhaps things will change once McCain starts running ads, but the Obama campaign has reason for optimism.