By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
TAMPA — Following tradition, the Sunshine State is setting the stage for another unforgettable year of election politics.
That’s according to the latest Fox News poll conducted April 15-17, sampling 757 Florida registered voters in a telephone survey.
In the expected matchup between Democratic President Barack Obama and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Obama leads by less than two points, well within the poll’s 4 percent margin of error.
This spurs great concern for the Obama camp, which defeated Republican presidential hopeful Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain by more than 200,000 votes in 2008 and hopes to count on the Sunshine State in the fall.
Just last week, the president made his way across Florida to deliver several economic speeches on taxes and trade in Boca Raton and Tampa, finding time to attend fundraisers in Palm Beach, Golden Beach and Hollywood, where he collected about $1.9 million, according to his campaign.
At least one Florida lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-District 21, lambasted the president’s official visit, arguing that taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for a “campaign fundraising trip.” The congressman spoke to reports during a telephone conference call.
First lady Michelle Obama also contributed to the president’s efforts, giving a speech to more than 300 teenage girls at Jacksonville Naval Air Station last Thursday with Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.
Similarly, the White House announced Thursday that Biden will visit Miami next week, due to deliver a speech on the administration’s efforts to restore the Everglades National Park.
The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling gives the president better odds than the Fox News poll, claiming a 5 percent lead among 700 Florida voters with a 3.7 percent margin of error.
This poll also sheds light on the voting intentions of key groups this November — Latinos and moderates.
Even with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., floated as a potential Republican running mate, survey respondents in both polls still give a slim lead to Obama and Biden, ahead by five points in the PPP poll and only one in the Fox News poll.
For Tallahassee-based political strategist Steve Schale, who ran Obama’s 2008 campaign in Florida, the numbers don’t convey the whole message.
“Polls are meaningless now,” Schale told Florida Watchdog. “Florida is a margin of error state. If you add up all the Dems and Republicans who have voted in Florida in presidential elections since 1992, only 17 percent separate the two political parties. It’s going to be close.”
Schale added that Orlando, the center of the Interstate 4 corridor between Tampa and Daytona Beach, will be key in delivering the presidency, recalling his earlier analysis that population change eventually will “tilt the I-4 corridor in such a way that a push among swing voters will now go to the Democrats.”
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