Congresswoman Karen Thurman, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party (FDP), titled a recent email “The Road to the Presidency Runs Through Central Florida”. Like most missives from a political party it was soliciting funds (which is to be expected). This one was for the Democratic challenger in the special election for a central Florida State House seat.
But, the email’s title spoke to me, because I’ve been thinking along the same lines recently. Let me explain.
Way back in December of 2006 James Carville and Mark Penn did an op-ed piece in the Washington Post that made the case for how Hillary could win the presidency:
Certainly she could win the states John Kerry did. But with the pathbreaking possibility of this country’s first female president, we could see an explosion of women voting — and voting Democratic. States that were close in the past, from Arkansas to Colorado to Florida to Ohio, could well move to the Democratic column. It takes only one more state to win.
And then in an interview with Tom Schaller, Carville added which state was the most likely to go Hillary’s way:
Carville puts Arkansas, Florida, and Virginia in Tier 1, with Louisiana and Tennessee in Tier 2. That makes sense in terms of ranking, but I pressed him to pick the one state he thought Hillary was most likely to flip, if she were to win only one. He picked Florida.
Now, I’m not exactly a fan of Hillary‘s, but if she does get the nomination, I still want her to win. Also, I think there would be a silver lining for Florida if she does get the nomination. Before I proceed, let me post a map of Florida showing the counties.
In a comment to a diary I wrote right after the election, GatorDem made the point that the key to winning a state-wide election in Florida for a Democrat was for the candidate to hold his or her own in the part of central Florida known as the I-4 corridor. I looked at this phenomenon in depth in my diary called What Can We Learn From the Florida State-Wide Races of 2006?
The only state-wide race in Florida for 2008 will be the presidency. That means that if Hillary wants to win Florida’s 27 electoral votes, she has to do okay in central Florida.
In 2006, the Democrat running for Chief Financial Officer, Alex Sink, did all right there. If we look at her totals for the central Florida counties (Brevard, Citrus, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Manatee, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, Sumter, and Volusia) we see that she bested her opponent Tom Lee 1,122,770 to 1,059,063 (51.5%-48.5%).
For comparison, the 2006 Democratic candidate for governor, Jim Davis, lost to Charlie Crist in those same counties by 954,960 to 1,221,558 (43.9%-56.1%) and Democratic candidate for attorney general, Skip Campbell, lost to Bill McCollum 973,653 to 1,220,365 (44.4%-55.6%).
In 2004 John Kerry lost the central Florida counties 45.8%-54.2%. In 2000 Al Gore also lost, but was closer, 48.6%-51.4%. Again, the point to be made is that if you’re a Democrat and you break even in this area, then you’ve won the state wide race.
But, in the last six years, the only two Democrats to do that are Senator Bill Nelson and CFO Sink. We know Nelson‘s situation is special, being a celebrity ex-astronaut (he won the area 60.8%-39.1%). And it’s possible that Alex Sink‘s case was also unique. She was perfectly qualified for the position, having been a bank executive, she has a lot of personal charisma, and the CFO position avoids the usual liberal-conservative issues that other races get mired in.
So, this is not exactly going to be a cakewalk for Hillary.
If Sen. Clinton wants to do well in the same area she needs to have a strong message and be ready to spend some money. Is there anything else she can do to help her chances?
Republicans control most of the US House seats through the area. Kathy Castor has the safe Democratic seat in FL-11 and Corrine Brown has the majority minority FL-03, but Ginny Brown-Waite is in FL-05, Cliff Stearns in FL-06, Ric Keller in FL-08, Gus Bilirakis is in FL-09, Bill Young is in FL-10, Adam Putnam in FL-12, Dave Weldon in FL-15, Tom Feeney in FL-24, and everyone knows what happened in FL-13.
The lop-sided result is due to the masterful gerrymandering (pdf map of districts) that the Republican legislature accomplished in 2002 and the sorry state of the FDP before Congresswoman Thurman took over.
Now the DCCC has said it is going to target FL-10, probably because they feel Young is going to retire (he’s 76 and has been in congress since 1971). And I’m sure FL-13 is going to get some attention. But what about the rest of them?
One way that Hillary can insure that she does well in central Florida, and thereby win all of the 27 electoral votes, and the presidency, is to make sure that the FDP and the DCCC find serious Democratic challengers for these seats. She can then help them along by funneling some of her megabucks into the races thru the DCCC.
The big advantage is that any challenger to these Republican US House members can still run against George Bush, since this bunch will be part of his rubber stamp congress. If a coordinated campaign against them can be mounted that nationalizes these elections in the same way that Ron Klein successfully did in beating 12 term congressman Clay Shaw in FL-22, then the Democratic vote thru the area will be highly energized.
Since the major media markets in the area overlap several districts, a Friends of Hillary PAC can hammer all the Republican incumbents at once for being stooges for George Bush and Tom DeLay. Why wasn’t proper oversight performed by congress while Bush was running the country into the ground during the six years they were in exclusive power?
You know as well as I do that everyone wants another chance to vote against our incompetent president. Hillary can give it to central Florida Democratic voters by following this strategy.
Another advantage to having Hillary as the candidate would be that she could get Bill to come down to fund raise and campaign with these Democratic challengers. Who would people in Hillsborough County rather see, Gus Bilirakis or Bill Clinton? If the former president shuttled back and forth across the center of the state a couple of times during the election, it would have a dramatic effect.
And when Hillary comes, she could make the trip with Alex Sink. This would allow Hillary to gain the immediate advantage of Sink‘s charisma and strong, fiscally conservative message, and also provide the added effect that having two women politicians appearing together would accomplish by energizing Democratic women to come out and vote.
Now, it’s not critical to Hillary‘s prospects for any of the Democratic candidates to win any of these seats, only that enough Democrats turn out and also vote for her so that she does well enough to win the state.
But, if some good candidates (like Rod Smith) can be recruited, and the FDP and DCCC can coordinate the campaigns so that they’re effective, and Hillary can divert enough money to them to get the message out, then it’s possible some of the Republican congressmen can be defeated as well.
Hey, a win-win. So, what’s Carville‘s email address?