Florida Republicans Ready to Toss Obama Out in November

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No doubt about it -- Florida Republicans loathe President Barack Obama and are looking forward to defeating him in the 2012 election.

A Sunshine State News Poll of likely Republican presidential primary voters finds Obama floundering badly with these voters. Only 6 percent of Florida Republicans in the poll, conducted by Harrisburg, Pa.-based Voter Survey Service (VSS), approve of Obama’s performance in the White House, while 89 percent of them disapprove of the job he has done.

Washington, D.C.-based GOP consultant Alexandra Fitzpatrick claims Obama's Florida numbers are among the worst she's seen. "A Democratic incumbent president would never expect to break even," she said. "But at an 89 percent disapproval rating, President Obama can ring all the doorbells he likes, he's going to be hard-pressed to find a friend on the other side of the street."

Jim Lee, president of VSS, told Sunshine State News that Obama’s low marks with Florida Republicans will impact campaign strategy in the general 2012 election.

“With numbers this polarizing for the president among voters of the opposing party, Obama’s best hope is to either demonize the eventual GOP nominee and hope some of them stay home in the fall (if it’s Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich), or, conversely, hope that the eventual nominee is a hard-right conservative like Rick Santorum or Rick Perry (unlikely though) and use this as a way to mobilize turnout among both base Democrats and swing voters who are more mainstream on social issues,” noted Lee.

“The third, and possibly best, strategy for Obama is to hope a third candidate (Ron Paul, etc.) runs in the general 2012 election as an independent who can appeal to conservatives unhappy with the GOP nominee, which could help Obama win key states with less than a majority of the vote," said Lee. "The polling suggests that if Romney is the nominee, it’s very likely that we will see GOP voters unite around him because of the extreme unpopularity of the president and the economic uncertainty facing the nation.”

When asked how Obama impacted their choice in the presidential primary, which will be held on Jan. 31, 59 percent of Florida Republicans said that throwing out the Democratic incumbent was their chief concern, while 33 percent said they are looking to back a proven conservative.

“Validating Romney in the poll is the fact that most voters say beating Obama is more important than electing a true conservative, and Romney is winning a commanding 57 percent of these,” Lee told Sunshine State News. “Romney even leads (albeit narrowly) among those who say electing a true conservative is most important -- getting 27 percent, compared to Gingrich (25 percent), Santorum (19 percent) and Paul (12 percent). This shows many conservatives are OK with him.”

The poll of 1,266 likely Republican primary voters was taken Jan. 11-14 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.75 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

The poll also found that former Gov. Romney of Massachusetts leads the pack of 2012 presidential election candidates in the Sunshine State with 46 percent, followed by former U.S. House Speaker Gingrich with 20 percent and former U.S. Sen. Santorum of Pennsylvania with 12 percent. U.S. Rep. Paul of Texas takes 9 percent and Gov. Perry of Texas lags with 3 percent.

Republicans insist they will have a chance to pick up Florida -- and a number of other swing states that Obama carried in 2008 -- come November.

Rick Wiley, political director of the Republican National Committee, sent out a memo insisting that his side had the wind at its back.

“The GOP has the momentum,” Wiley argued. “It’s all in the numbers. The Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary brought out a record number of voters -- many voting Republican for the first time in their lives. With over 70 percent of Americans looking for a new direction, voters are turning decidedly to the Republican Party.

“An analysis of voter registration numbers demonstrates that the promising trend is not isolated only to Iowa and New Hampshire,” Wiley added. “In every battleground state for which there is relevant registration data available, the GOP has either narrowed the registration gap or increased our lead since 2008. And that’s bad news for Democrats.”

Wiley pointed to Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire and five other states that will be up for grabs in November.

“There are only a handful of states in which the net change from 2008 to today favors Democrats, and all are reliably blue states,” Wiley wrote. “Needless to say, none of those is on the GOP path to 270 electoral votes. That means the GOP enters the 2012 election with a stronger position in all remaining states -- all battleground states included -- as compared to 2008. As enthusiasm during the nominating process continues to favor us, we expect our registration position to continue to improve.

“This adds up to trouble for Democrats,” Wiley added. “Their turnout efforts are already complicated by the fact that there is less enthusiasm on the Democratic side. Many Democrats, while not yet prepared to jump ship, are dispirited enough by Obama’s failed promises that they could likely sit out 2012.”

Wiley pointed to declines in the number of registered Democrats in those key states, noting that in Florida -- where Democrats had a 5.9 percent advantage over the number of registered Republicans in 2008 -- that lead had been whittled to 4.9 percent in September 2011.

VSS is the same firm that in 2010 conducted some of the most accurate polls taken of races in the Florida primary and general election. It has conducted hundreds of polls in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Delaware, Maryland, and other states across the nation. It is a leading survey research and political polling firm for GOP candidates for public office and a variety of corporate clients, trade associations, public relations firms and the media.

The work it did in Florida in 2010, commissioned and reported by Sunshine State News, included polls on all races in the primaries and the general election -- some of them taken more than once, as issues and trends through the summer and fall shifted.

RealClearPolitics.com gave VSS/Sunshine State News a tip of the cap after the primary elections because its poll results, particularly in the surprise gubernatorial race, were nearly "spot on." The election ended with Bill McCollum at 43.5 percent, Rick Scott at 46.5 percent and the spread at plus 2.9 percent. The last VSS/Sunshine poll taken showed McCollum at 42 percent, Scott at 44 percent and the spread at plus 2 percent. No other polling firm came anywhere near Sunshine's result.

Lee has 17 years of polling experience and background as a former lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and as a special projects coordinator for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He has a bachelor of science degree in political science from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and he's a member of both the American Association of Public Opinion Research and the American Association of Political Consultants.

The original article by Kevin Derby was published in Sunshine State News on Jan. 18, 2012. Sunshine State News focuses on the relationship between politics and business in Florida, speaking to an audience of lawmakers, lobbyists, business and opinion leaders, and all Floridians who expect their leaders to make common-sense decisions. SSN fills a void as the only Florida news outfit that believes free-market, less-government solutions will address the problems challenging our state. For more Florida news or coverage of the 2012 election, visit Sunshine State News.

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