By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
TAMPA — It is a standard claim that has become irrefutable mantra in Sunshine State politics.
“As goes the Tampa media market so goes Florida,” Tallahassee-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale told the New York Times during the Republican presidential primary in January.
“As I4 corridor goes, so goes Florida,” wrote the Washington Times editorial board at the beginning of the 2008 presidential cycle.
“As goes Florida Hispanics, as goes Florida,” penned the Tampa Bay Times in March 2011.
“As goes the I4 corridor and its swing voters, as goes Florida and maybe the whole thing,” Schale told Florida Watchdog in April.
“As Pasco (County) goes, so does the state of Florida and so does the nation,” former Gov. Jeb Bush told local Republicans when he endorsed Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate in May 2010.
“If you win in Tampa Bay, you’ll win the state of Florida,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at POLITICO‘s “Playbook Breakfast” on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Easily summarized, the claim made by any self-important group states that a particular region or populace will decide the outcome of an election — foregoing all other electoral shifts in other parts of Florida.
That notion is perpetuated exponentially once “bellwether” status is donned on the Sunshine State, as the close elections in 2000 proved quite easily, and the larger-than-normal electorate of swing-state voters is taken into consideration by polling experts and quantitatively minded campaign strategists.
This special status allows any hometown mayor, group president, ethnic media outlet or party chairman to stake their claim to the key to the prize.
It creates the incentive for so many regions, electoral districts and demographics to claim superiority and importance, irrespective of regional or larger state concerns.
The nation at large already suffers from a similar gripe during primary season, in which a handful of states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — which contain less than 3 percent of the country’s population — are given preference.
Informed by their savvy strategists, candidates of both aisles are making the rounds of every restaurant, barber shop and country club in hopes of picking up that key electoral vote that no one has deciphered or fundamentally agreed upon.
Will it be Tampa Bay, Orlando, the entire I4 corridor, Hispanics, Cuban exiles, retirees, blacks or the Native American vote?
Just as most things in politics, no prediction is worth more than another. It all comes down to perception as reality.
It is no mistake, therefore, that President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney have virtually signed six-month leases in either in Tampa or Orlando. They’ve succumbed to the idea that their very next job depends on it.