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In Fla., GOP Worries About the Future

Rudy Giuliani, right, shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist during a campaign stop in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP).

By Dan Balz
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is an optimist by nature. The lean and white-haired politician who succeeded Jeb Bush has operated in a more open and inclusive style at the statehouse here and he has been rewarded with sky-high approval ratings by the people of the nation's fourth largest state.

He is trying to be optimistic about the coming election in Florida. Not Tuesday's primary, where the Republican Party's nominee could emerge out of the jumble that has been the GOP nomination battle. That will work out fine, in his estimation. But as he looks ahead toward the November election, he is more restrained in his assessment.

"I think it's going to be close," he said in an interview Wednesday sitting by the swimming pool at the governor's mansion where he exercises each morning before dawn.

What's the difference between 2008 and four years ago, he was asked. "The past four years," Crist replied.

He is referring of course to unhappiness with President Bush and unrest over his foreign policies, disaffection with the ways of Washington and, now, the growing fears here and nationally about the possibility of an economic recession settling in just at the wrong moment.

"Those factors matter," he said of what the country has been through since Bush was reelected. "Everybody's talking about change for a reason and I think part of that reason is they're looking for something new. That's why Republicans and Democrats alike are presenting themselves as a different approach and change. It's probably the most overused word in the campaign, but I understand why."

After the hanging-chad election of 2000, in which Bush's margin was just 537 disputed votes, the president and his team made it a top priority to lock down the Sunshine State in 2004. His margin over John Kerry was a comfortable five percentage points and almost 400,000 votes.

But Florida remains a prime target for the Democrats in 2008, whoever their nominee turns out to be. Florida Republicans are braced for a general election battle that could see the Democrats winning here for the first time since Bill Clinton carried the state in his 1996 reelection.

Savvy strategists in Florida differ on whether Hillary Clinton's political muscle or Barack Obama's inspirational appeal would be the more worrisome opponent, but they agree that either would present a formidable challenge to whoever their own nominee turns out to be.

State Sen. President Ken Pruitt said Wednesday something has happened to the Republicans since Bush's reelection that he believes has created a different climate at the start of the election year. In the past, he said, voters gave Republicans the benefit of the doubt.

"All things being equal, we'd get the nod," he said during an interview in his spacious Senate office. "I'm not saying the Democrats are going to get the nod, but it's all even now. Republicans have lost that edge."

Republicans can ill-afford to lose Florida in 2008. Virtually no realistic combination of states can get the Republicans to 270 electoral votes without Florida's 25. With Ohio leaning more Democratic than it was in 2004, the map becomes almost impossibly difficult unless Florida remains in the Republican column -- unless the party had a nominee who could carry states like New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

Democrats see Florida as an opportunity and a challenge, thanks to Bush's low approval ratings and demographic changes that are making the state more hospitable. Republicans see low-tax, patriotic Florida as a state that is still more hospitable toward a conservative message than what the Democrats may offer.

But not all issues the GOP may be counting on for the fall will work as well here -- starting with immigration. Several Republicans here noted that the angry rhetoric about illegal immigration that has played well elsewhere falls on deaf ears in many parts of Florida.

"We don't use it as a political tool here," Pruitt said.

Crist has encouraged Republican candidates to take up the issue of global warming and climate change more aggressively. John McCain has done so in his campaign but other potential nominees have been far more reticent to embrace the issue the way Crist or California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have done.

Crist anticipates a galvanized and energized Democratic Party in November, but he said Florida Republicans are not demoralized. He offered a different view of the landscape than Pruitt.

"The Florida Republican Party is very well organized, well funded, works incredibly hard in all of these presidential races," he said. "That's been a real strength for us. That gives me a lot of optimism."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 24, 2008; 3:22 PM ET
Categories:  Dan Balz's Take  
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Comments

Florida's primary means the end of the conservative movement, especially Republicans claiming to represent it. Orange Crush! Glad to see it; we need much better in this coutry.

Posted by: donaldmatson1 | January 24, 2008 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Florida's primary means the end of the conservative movement, especially Republicans claiming to represent it. Orange Crush! Glad to see it; we need much better in this coutry.

Posted by: donaldmatson1 | January 24, 2008 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey, american1,

You've used these lines in previous posts - word for word. Could you try for something a little more original (instead of cutting and pasting a previous entry, or God forbid, a posting you hacked off somebody else's web site?).

Thanks.

Posted by: avagabond | January 24, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

McNut,s reasons for Amnesty
McCain's God,s Children Argument!
Then there is they are all God,s children argument(Another McCain favor) well isn't everyone God,s children? If so then guess McCain is saying everyone and anyone has the right to Invade this Nation, waving their flags, demand their rights, while feasting at the trough of public welfare and Kill, Rape and Rob thousands of American citizens each year!

McCain's Lettuce Argument!
There's the "lettuce" argument -- we'll be paying $50/head (or starving)( McCain really likes this argument) if we don't have illegal aliens working in the fields. As Phil Martin, ag economist at UC Davis shows, the field labor cost in a $1 head of lettuce is about 6 cents. Triple those wages and Americans will do the jobs. (They're not career positions. They're seasonal jobs for young people, starting in the world of work. I have did similarly menial jobs.) And you'll be paying 10% more for lettuce and other produce. Do you spend $1,000/year on produce? OK, you'll pay $100 more.

The lettuce argument also parallels that for the retention of slavery.

Immigrant Argument!
There's the "everyone's an immigrant except for the 'Native Americans'" argument. Well, the American Indians didn't sprout from the land, they came across the Bering land bridge from Asia. So if the criterion is "You're an immigrant if you had an ancestor who immigrated here," then American Indians are immigrants, too.

In that case, "immigrant" is no longer a useful word, since Everyone's an immigrant.

Stole Southwest Argument!
There's the "the U.S. stole the southwest" argument. Well, the land in dispute was "owned" by Spain for a couple of centuries. Then by Mexico for about 25 years. During these periods, there weren't more than a few thousand Spaniards or Mexicans in the entire territory. It's been owned by the U.S. for about 160 years now, much longer than Mexico's reign. And the U.S. has actually done something with the land, made it habitable for tens of millions. As Robert Kaplan has described, the difference between American and Mexican "twin cities" straddling the border is like night and day, yet the land is obviously the same. It's not the dirt that's important, it's the people. Put another way, if culture didn't matter, Mexico and Central America would be paradise.

Illegal pay taxes Argument!

There's the "illegal aliens pay tons of taxes" argument. Sure, they all pay real estate taxes (in rent) and sales taxes (most states). Those working on the books (typically using stolen Social Security numbers) pay FICA and, perhaps, income taxes. But they're mostly ill-educated and low-skilled and pay very low taxes connected to their working -- in fact, most claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, i.e. negative income tax! If a family with both parents working has two kids in school, that's at least $15k/year just for schooling, way more than the taxes on, say, $35k/year aggregate income.

Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation has done the systematic accounting on all this. A typical household headed by a low-skilled illegal alien is a net drain of about $20k/year for the rest of us, year after year. (Low-skilled Americans are a similar burden, but they're part of the national family, not gate crashers from other societies.)

Illegal Bad..Amnesty good Argument!

There's the "illegal immigration is bad, but make them citizens and problem solved" argument. Nope. If that were the case, legalizing (i.e. amnestying) the illegal aliens would solve the problem. But they'd still be (on average) low-skilled workers whose burden on the rest of us would continue. In fact, once legal they'd be able to access more public benefits programs, so their cost to the rest of us would actually rise substantially. In short, most of the problems of mass illegal immigration are shared by mass amnestying them.


Finally, I offer my distilled observations of what mass immigration is doing to our country based on living in southern California

The flood of immigrants drives wages and living conditions in our central cities toward those of the Third World.

- The influx imposes both sprawl and gridlock on our metropolitan areas.

- Immigrant families needing services overwhelm our schools, taxpayer-funded health care facilities, and other public agencies.

- Those requiring services don't assimilate and, instead, expect to be served in their native languages.

- American civic culture frays as each ethnic group establishes its own grievance lobby and pushes for preferences.

- Communicable diseases such as tuberculosis (new, drug-resistant strains) return.

- Shortages of water and other resources loom, especially in immigration-blitzed Southwest.
Most that come across our open borders come from countries where, Crime, Corruption, Poverty, Misery, Anti-education, and hate for Americans has existed for centuries and is normal. Should anyone be surprised they bring those same family values across the border with them?

Posted by: american1 | January 24, 2008 7:21 PM | Report abuse

leachcima:
As I understood it, the Democrate National Committee isolated Florida because you didn't play by the rules much like a couple other states. That wasn't done by direction of any candidate and certainly doesn't take away your vote in the national election.

After having experienced the last two terms of the most enept president that ever walked the doors of the white house, a Republican administration that has lied to the American public since the beginning, a deficit pushing this country toward bankrupcy because of a wrong war, among just a few of many others, you as a self described Democrat, will ignore all this mess and vote Republican just because your feeling are hurt. Boy you are a dandy. Better stand back and rethink your position and do the right thing, vote Democrate. Another four years of Republican rule, we could be owned by China.

Posted by: 1ken | January 24, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I remember Florida in the 80's. The Banking crisis and all of the Reagan Voodoo economics were coming to roost.

At the time 40,000 Condos were abandoned by their owners. TV and Radio were raging about NO MONEY DOWN to buy property. JUST like TODAY!

Florida became a more horrible a mess when Senator Martinez campaigned and wothe Govenorship on cutting the state budget $700 million.

He got a further surprise from Reagan. When Reagan raiders cut state funding support by $700 million.

On top of the reality check Florida needed to increase taxes dramitaclly to fund major infrsatructure projects such as I-95, Sawgrass Parkway, rebuilding Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale Airports and fixing the environmental damage done by the Corp of Engineers waterways and intercoastal.

On top of all this the new infusion of new residents. Cubans, Hatians plus Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese, Nicaraguans and Salvadorians.

Drug Traffic increased dramatically. The DIA and US Coast Guard were having fire fights catching CIA transporting the drugs, Cocaine and Pot.

Which were being used to finance the CONTRA Freedom Fighers in Centeral America..IRAN/CONTRA.

Manuel Pete Fernandez, number 2 Korean War MIG ace, lost his life flying drugs for the CIA over Cuba and into Florida. (His family is still trying to clear his name)

Jeb Bush was eventually PUT into Florida to keep a cap on all the illegal dealings that go through Florida.

ISSA


Posted by: Issa1 | January 24, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

The Clintons and the Florida Democratic party have made two big mistakes that could cost them the election. I am a life long Democrat who is sick and disgusted by the last seven years of Republican rule, but if the Republicans nominate McCain I likely will vote for him. The Demcratic party took me for granted and disenfranchised me in the primary election and won't count any Florida delegates so I didn't vote. The Clintons have taken me for granted and are disgustingly lying about Barak Obama so if she is nominated I'll either not vote or I'll vote for McCain. If they can't win without Florida they just might have shot themselves in the foot. Fools.

Posted by: leahcima | January 24, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

The problem here in Florida is not only because of Bush. His brother left this state in a mess when he gave big tax cuts to the rich. Now there is no money for mandatory services. They are now increasing tuition for the second time in a year at state colleges. The republican legislature and republican governor has done virtually nothing for Floridians. The housing mess here is a complete disaster. Republicans now seems to be a dirty word here in the "Sunshine State".

Posted by: truth1 | January 24, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

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