With 72 hours left in the 2012 election cycle, many of us are feeling like this little girl who was caught on camera crying and saying she was “tired of Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney.” No matter your party affiliation, that video probably captures the sentiment of the nation right now. This has been probably the longest campaign cycle in history – or at least in my lifetime. It has also been a very long four years. The hope and change that was promised to us by candidate Barack Obama has not only not delivered but things have seem to have gotten worse.
As of this writing, 23 million Americans are unemployed and 46 million are on food stamps. We have a national debt that is over $16 trillion and counting, and the average price of gas in the country is at $3.64. It’s certainly a time for change. We need our hope back.
So, with 72 hours to go, I’m keeping an eye on a few things. First, there’s the Presidential race. It’s going to come down to some key states. Then, there’s the battle for control of the U.S. Senate – again a few key races will either hold the line for the Democrats or tip the balance of power to the GOP. The U.S. House of Representatives will stay in Republican control – it’s just a matter of by how many seats. There’s a few Senate and House seats that are of personal concern to me and I’ll get to that below. And then, here in Florida, I’m keeping an eye on a few key state senate and state house races as well as some amendments and other items on my very lengthy ballot – they say the longest ballot in the history of Leon County, Florida.
Presidential swing states
Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado – if Mitt Romney wins all of these states, he wins. Game over. But at the very least he needs Florida and Virginia. Without those two states, it is hard for me to imagine him winning. With 72 hours to go, I am very confident he takes these two states. I am also fairly confident he’ll win in Colorado. Remember, that first debate where Romney handed an ass-whipping to Obama took place in Denver and the demographics there still favor Republicans. I also think he will edge out Ohio. But if he can get Florida and Virginia and some combination of Colorado and one or two of the states below, he can win without Ohio. While Republicans have never won the Presidency without Ohio, it is different this year. After redistricting, Florida and Texas each gained two more electoral votes and New York and Ohio each lost two.
Iowa, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire – there are a lot of independent voters in these states (especially New Hampshire). Iowa and Wisconsin border each other. A lot of Republican ground troops have been in Wisconsin since the battle for Governor Scott Walker’s recall election earlier this summer – which he won, handily. And let’s not forget, Wisconsin is the home of Paul Ryan. In Iowa, the Des Moines Register endorsed Mitt Romney – that’s the first time they’ve endorsed a Republican for President since 1972. New Hampshire borders Massachusetts, where Romney was Governor – and he also owns a home in the Granite State. With all of these factors combined, I think Mitt takes at least two of these three states, but I personally believe he could very well sweep them all.
Michigan and Pennsylvania – these are much longer shots for Mitt Romney, but not improbable. My belief is that if you see Romney take either Michigan or Pennsylvania, that is VERY good news. He will likely win the election.
Looking at all the polling information and other intangibles, right now it is without a doubt that Republicans have 42 safe Senate seats and Democrats 43 safe seats. By “safe” I mean they are either a shoe-in to win or those seats are not up this year. Our system is designed in such a way where every two years only one-third of the seats in the U.S. Senate are up. So there are 33 elections for U.S. Senate taking place this year. Of those, 12 are completely uncompetitive. That leaves us with 21 real races – but of those, seven would be a real stretch for the GOP to win. So that leaves us looking at just 14 U.S. Senate races.
Those 14 races to watch are in the following states: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin.
The one race I’m watching most closely involves my friend Josh Mandel in Ohio. He is currently the State Treasurer of Ohio and a former U.S. Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq. At the age of 35, he is taking on the most liberal Senator in the country, Sherrod Brown. It’s a nail biter. I went up to Cincinnati for a weekend in September to campaign for Josh. My gut tells me he wins. If Romney wins this state, I think Josh gets the victory too.
The next race I’m watching is closer to home – here in Florida. I think it’s an uphill battle for Connie Mack to take the seat currently held by Bill Nelson. All the polling suggests Nelson will win, but Romney is looking strong in Florida. I personally think Romney needs to carry Florida by about five points for Mack to ride his coattails. A Miami-Herald poll released Friday night shows Mitt ahead by 5 points in Florida. I personally think Romney will win Florida by 4 (as I said before the first debate) and Mack will narrowly lose to Nelson. We need at least either Florida or Ohio to have the GOP take control of the U.S. Senate or have a 50-50 Senate. We could get one, both, or neither. These states matter in a big way. Either way, when this election is over, the national conservative movement should really invest heavily in Florida and Ohio. They are the big prizes.
Other GOP hopefuls who can retake a U.S. Senate seat for the Republican Party: George Allen in Virginia, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, and Todd Akin in Missouri. Tea party favorite Richard Mourdock in Indiana took out incumbent Republican Dick Lugar and is now fighting to hold Indiana in Republican hands. The same goes for Massachusetts – Scott Brown who took Ted Kennedy’s old U.S. Senate seat for the GOP in a special election in early 2010 – is trying to hold off a challenge as well.
Republicans have a strong chance to take seats from Dems in Montana and North Dakota. There’s a little bit longer shot in Connecticut. But the GOP is also trying to narrowly hold on to seats they currently have in Arizona and Nevada as well. It’s going to be a nail biter for control of the U.S. Senate!
U.S. House of Representatives
All indications have the Republicans firmly keeping control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The current makeup is 241 Republicans, 191 Democrats, and 3 vacancies due to early resignations. There will likely be some shift over to Democrats, but not by much. I’d assume the makeup of the new House will be something like 235 Republicans and 200 Democrats.
A few key races I’ll be watching:
First, my own Representative Steve Southerland is up for re-election. He ousted 7-term incumbent, Democrat Allen Boyd, two years ago by double digits. Redistricting did not favor Steve, but he will still maintain an edge and I expect him to win re-election by about 6 points.
Down in South Florida, there are three key races. First, Adam Hasner is competing in a swing district that is a mix of Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Adam is also Jewish and I think with the independent vote favoring Republicans this year, he will likely squeeze out a victory against former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel. Winning that seat would be a strong pick up for the GOP, but it will be very close. The other race to watch is in Miami, where Republican incumbent David Rivera is likely going to lose. He has been hammered by a number of allegations over the past two years and his challenger, Joe Garcia, is poised to take a GOP seat. I think these two races cancel each other out as far as the larger picture of the Florida delegation and the overall Congressional picture. The third race is between current incumbent Allen West - who has become a national star for the tea party, the Republican Party, and black Republicans everywhere. He is very outspoken and is in a very close race. But I think he squeezes out a victory by just a few points.
A few other Florida races I’ll be watching: Dan Webster has a challenge in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, but he should be able to bring home victory. However, the one sad part of Election Day 2012 is we will likely be sending Allan Grayson back to the U.S. House. He was defeated two years ago by Dan Webster, but is now running in one of Florida’s two new congressional districts. Grayson has tons of money he can spend on his own race and that is likely bad news for his Republican challenger Todd Long. Grayson is not only very far to the Left, he is just not a nice person. The other new Congressional district is solidly Republican, so this again is a wash as far as pick ups for either party. Florida’s current Congressional delegation includes 19 Republicans and 6 Democrats. But this year, Florida picked up two new Congressional districts after the 2010 U.S. Census. I expect after Election Day, the delegation will consist of 20 Republicans and 7 Democrats.
I’ll also be cheering on victory for Trey Radel. He won a very tough Republican primary back in August to replace Connie Mack (who ran for U.S. Senate). That is a very safe Republican seat and Trey will cruise to victory on Election Day. We’ll be sending a very strong conservative and a good friend of mine to Washington. Another “tea party” Republican, Ted Yoho, is headed to Congress. He took out incumbent Republican Cliff Stearns in the August primary and is slated to also coast to an easy victory on Election Day.
Florida will once again have a strong conservative coalition of Congressmen. With strong conservatives like Allen West, Steve Southerland, Dan Webster, Trey Radel, Dennis Ross, Ted Yoho, Adam Hasner, and others, Florida is poised to be the envy of conservatives across the nation. These aren’t just great conservatives, they’re great men.
Florida State Senate
Two races I’m watching: Ellyn Bogdanoff was already in a tough district for a Republican to win and redistricting made things tougher for her. Six months ago, I thought there was no way she could win. Today, it’s a 50/50 chance. If she pulls that off, you can look at other good signs for Florida Republicans on election night. Down in Miami, there is a young conservative who has never held elected office before: John Couriel. Again, when I heard the race he was up against against longtime Democrat Gwen Margolis, I thought: no chance. Margolis was a Senate President in the early 1990s and is now back for another run for the Florida Senate in a district where a Democrat should win handily. Surprisingly, though, John Couriel is close to victory. He has the opportunity to be one of the rising leaders of the Republican Party in this state and is a good sign for a rising tide of conservatives in Miami.
Two races I’m watching: First, my own district 9 that includes my area of Leon County. My neighborhood of Southwood has been represented by Marti Coley since I’ve lived here. But redistricting has now included this very Republican community as part of District 9. That does not favor incumbent Michele Rehwinkle-Vasilinda. And my friend Bradley Maxwell, who is also the Chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, is running a very great campaign here, with lots of boots on the ground, knocking on tens of thousands of doors. It’s going to be close and I’m hoping he’ll pick this seat up for the GOP. The other race I’m watching is Scott Plakon’s in the greater Orlando area. He is a good conservative (with the exception of a few questionable votes this past session) and has a real fight on his hands, but I think he will win.
Right now, Republicans control the Florida House and the Florida Senate with supermajorities, meaning they hold at least 2/3 of each body. They may lose a net one or two seats in the House, and should remain about even in the Florida Senate. But the biggest flaw in these numbers is the fact that while Republicans have a super-majority in the Florida Senate, conservatives do not even have a majority there. There is a group of seven or so moderate to liberal Republicans who often vote with Democrats on key issues – blocking conservative reforms in education, property insurance, and paycheck protection, among other issues – often siding with unions and other liberal special interest groups. Our hope is that some of the new Republicans replacing the term-limited Senate Republicans will be more conservative than their predecessors and we can actually make some progress towards more economic freedom in Florida. As for some “inside baseball” from Tallahassee: the makeup of the Florida Senate will also determine the leadership race for future Senate President. Will it be led by strong conservative Joe Negron or liberal Republican Jack Latvala? The primary races in August were good for Negron, but some things that happen this Tuesday and in the next election cycle will continue to play out in this leadership race.
Amendments on the Florida Ballot
There are 11 proposed Constitutional amendments on the Florida ballot this year. I’ll be voting YES on most of them – with the exception of Amendments 9, 11, and 12. I have very strong opinions on Amendments 1, 3, 5 and 6 – voting YES on all of them is key. For any of these amendments to be added to the state constitution, they must garner 60% or more of the vote.
As for my “YES” votes:
Amendment 1 protects health care freedom – essentially it would prohibit anyone from being forced to buy health insurance (if passed, Florida’s state constitution would prohibit the implementation of ObamaCare, possibly sparking another confrontation at the U.S. Supreme Court). Amendment 3 puts a cap on state spending. Amendment 5 proposes a change to the way judges are appointed to the Florida Supreme Cout – putting it more in line with the way they are appointed for the U.S. Supreme Court – appointed by the Executive (in this case, the Governor) and confirmed by the Senate. Amendment 6 prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions.
Amendment 8 is great for religious liberty – and I can’t vote against it – my only concern is that churches and other faith-based organizations will become dependent on any government funds they may receive. But this amendment ultimately repeals the antiquated “Blaine Amendment” which many argue would be a road block to allowing educational vouchers (in the future) to be used for students to attend religious schools.
Amendments 2, 4 and 10 I am indifferent on and could live without, but overall I will lean towards extending the homestead property tax discount to disabled veterans who move from another state to Florida (this discount is already there for existing veterans in Florida) in Amendment 2, property tax limitations at the local level in Amendment 4, and tax breaks for small businesses in Amendment 10. I’m not sure these all need to be Constitutional amendments, so I won’t get too excited one way or the other if they pass or not.
As for my “NO” votes:
While Amendments 9, 11, and 12 might have good intentions behind them, I don’t see them as necessary to be put into the state constitution. One of them has to do with the student representative on the Board of Governors (what’s wrong with the current system? And do we really need a constitutional amendment to solve this?) and two of them involve carving out tax exemptions for special interests. Looking at all the “tax exemptions” being offered for various special groups, I think it’s clear Florida (and the nation at large) needs across-the-board tax relief. Instead of making more pages in the tax code for groups that can afford lobbyists in Tallahassee and Washington, let’s make the tax code at the local, state, and national levels more fair, clean, easy, and transparent. After all, we supposedly believe in “equal justice under the law” regardless of race, sex, class, or income level.
To make your own decisions on all of these amendments, I urge you to consult a fantastic voter guide put together by The James Madison Institute.
Merit Retention of Florida Supreme Court Justices: Throw Them All Out
Three justices of the Florida Supreme Court are up for what they call “merit retention.” While these justices are appointed for lifetime – or until they resign – every so often they are subjected to the will of the voters. Like the amendments, it takes 60% of Florida voters to remove a justice. The three up for retention this time around – Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince – have made many, many questionable judgments and I will be voting “NO” to retain them. I am voting them out. If we can even vote just one of them out, that will send a strong signal to the State Supreme Court that they need to get in line with the rule of law and not the rule of their personal politics. A great guide on these justices and their voting records can be found at the Restore Justice 2012 website.
With 72 hours to go…that’s my take. Let’s get this done with.