A Fort Myers Primer
By Garance Franke-Ruta
President Obama traveled to Fort Myers, Fla., today to give a noon speech emphasizing the importance of the economic stimulus package now before the Senate. Some background on the location of his speech follows.
Population: 67,851 people live in Fort Myers, Fla., but all told 615,741 live in surrounding Lee County, which also includes Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel.
Unemployment rate: The Cape Coral-Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area has an unemployment rate of 10 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2008 presidential vote: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin won the majority of votes in Lee County, Fla., according to the Lee County Supervisor of Elections,defeating the Obama-Biden ticket there 55 percent to 44 percent. Obama's performance was an improvement from that of the previous Democratic candidate: President Bush beat Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in Lee County 60 percent to 39 percent.
Past Obama travel: Then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) traveled to Fort Myers in early September 2008 to emphasize the Obama-Biden campaign's concern about the economy and the housing crisis at a forum at the Harborside Event Center where Obama will appear today; see video above. Biden returned to the area in October for what a local Obama volunteer and blogger described as "a standing room only rally" at Alico Arena at the Florida Gulf Coast University campus just days after the Lee County sheriff caused a small controversy by using Obama's full name -- Barack Hussein Obama -- at a nearby Palin rally. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist introduced Palin -- "the next vice president" -- at that event, just as he will introduce Obama today (click here for video).
Local industry and economy: A real estate boom community, Fort Myers is now experiencing a dramatic real estate bust. The New York Times described the situation on Saturday in the piece "In Florida, Despair and Foreclosures": "Desperation has moved into this once-middle-class exurb of Fort Myers, where hammers used to pound.... The median home price in the Fort Myers area dropped to $215,200 in December 2007, from a peak of $322,300 in December 2005. It had fallen to $106,900 two months ago."
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