Florida Democrats have long since undertaken the groundwork to deliver the Sunshine State to Hillary Clinton in November. In fact, you could say that began in 2008 and continued four years later when Barack Obama carried Florida in both of his presidential campaigns.
The local operatives, so critical in big elections, who turned out the vote for Obama have stayed busy trying to do the same for Clinton.
“They never left,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. “Some of the players might be different now, but the model is still the same.”
That organization stands in stark contrast now to Republican nominee Donald Trump, who appears to have little visible infrastructure in place here.
Clinton has a major head start on him and that could the difference in what shapes up as a closely contested contest.
The work of turning out the vote will take on a new urgency after the balloons drop at the end of Clinton’s acceptance speech Thursday night. Buckhorn, who has solidly been in the Clinton camp, figures to be an important part of all that.
“Organization is everything,” Buckhorn said. “In Florida presidential races it’s all about the turnout and not so much about TV or radio (ads). Building connections matter. Field organization matters. Gathering data is important. It becomes a combination of analytics and data mining. Marry the two of those and you’ve got something.”
Clinton is popular among Florida Democrats.
In 2008, she received 49 percent of the primary vote to 32 percent for Obama, who by that point was well on his way to winning the nomination. In the March primary this year, Clinton nearly doubled up Bernie Sanders 64 percent to 33 percent.
But Trump received 1.079 million votes in the GOP state primary, nearly as many as Clinton’s 1.1 million.
Even given Trump’s renowned penchant for outrageous and, as Democrats charged after his suggestion that Russia hack more of Hillary’s emails, treasonous behavior, polls show a tight contest between the two for Florida’s 29 electoral votes.
“You never underestimate anybody,” Buckhorn said. “The proof is in the bodies. Organizing means putting those bodies on the road, making those phone calls, knocking the doors. I haven’t seen any evidence of the Trump people doing that (in Florida).”
WEDNESDAY TAKEAWAYS: That was a show of force Wednesday night by the star-packed Democratic lineup.
President Barack Obama, as expected, set Clinton up perfectly to be the right person to accept the baton of leadership from him. I thought former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, took Trump apart on The Donald’s own playing field in the world of business.
But for the star of the night, give me Vice President Joe Biden. Who else but Biden could call Trump’s claims “a bunch of malarkey” and turn it into a rallying cry. The hashtag “malarkey” quickly started trending on Twitter and prompting many clever MIMEs – the best of which was a signature red Trump ball cap with the word “Malarkey” emblazed instead of his “Make America Great Again” slogan.
Sitting through vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s speech was like sitting through a warmup band you don’t really want to hear before the main show begins. I’ll give a tepid thumbs-up to his mocking “Believe Me” impersonation of Trump, but he should have stopped it after one or two times.
I mean, it wasn’t THAT funny.
So it’s all there for Hillary now to see if she can convince the undecided Americans that she is best for the job. Stick to the end for the balloon drop. Balloon drops are cool.
Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.