Ahead of the Florida GOP Primary, How President Obama Can Win the Sunshine State Again in 2012


Weeks prior to the 2008 U.S. presidential elections, I worked with the Obama campaign in my home state of Florida. Traveling up and down the east and west coasts of Florida’s southern region afforded me the unique opportunity to observe the critical role played by the first-generation Americans in the campaign’s GOTV efforts. In particular, votes from Miami’s Caribbean and Hispanic communities were highly coveted, and outreach strategies were frequently revised to ensure that this group remained properly informed about Obama the candidate.

This year, Florida will hold their GOP primary on January 31, breaking party rules for the second time since 2008 despite previous admonishments from the National Republican Party not to repeat the offense. Why would a game changing swing state on every candidate’s radar speed up the nominee selection process with an early primary that forces states like Iowa and South Carolina to hold even earlier primaries just to stay ahead of Florida? Perhaps the infusion of campaign money pumped into the local economy is a bigger incentive to Florida Republican Party leaders than playing by the national GOP’s rules.

While Florida Republicans busy themselves with thwarting their own rules to get quicker access to campaign cash, the Obama campaign needs to focus attention on activating and mobilizing Floridians who understand why he needs this second term to fully deliver on the vision of America he first shared in 2004, and was entrusted by the American people in 2008 to see through to a strong finish – in 2016.

Less than two weeks before the GOP primary, President Obama visited the sunshine state to announce ‘We Can’t Wait,’ a White House initiative aimed at boosting the national economy through a signed Executive Order aimed at increasing tourism by speeding up the visa process for trusted tourists, particularly from Brazil, India, and China with money to spend at Florida’s famous theme parks.

At a glance, a plan to reduce visa backlogs so more foreign tourists can spend their money in Florida should help boost the state’s economy and ability to create more jobs. But are Obama’s opponents off course when they suggest this plan might be too little too late for Floridians who have become increasingly disenchanted by a slow economy and an unemployment rate that is higher than the national rate?

So far, poll numbers indicate that the President has a lot of work cut out for him if wants to woo back Floridians who first supported him when he fearlessly equipped the nation with their marching orders at the 2004 DNC Convention: “This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers and the promise of future generations.” 

In 2012, Obama can’t leave room for ambiguity. At every turn, he must make it clear to Floridians that their values are in sync with his, and that he is committed to continuing his work to turn this harsh reality for most, into a better future for all.

Photo Credit: Audrey D. Nicoleau