Five Things To Look For In The Florida Primary
1. Latino Vote
Florida has a large Latino, particularly Cuban-American population that could have a sizable impact on Tuesday’s Florida primary. Mitt Romney has strong support among many Cuban-Americans.
Roughly 11.1 percent of registered Republicans in Florida are Hispanic, according to Florida Today. Of that population, 32.1 percent are Cuban.
“Romney is also supported by four of the state’s most prominent Latino politicians – all of them Cuban-American, the largest subgroup of Florida’s 1.5 million Hispanics. Former Sen. Mel Martinez is honorary co-chair of Romney’s National Hispanic Steering Committee, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and his brother, former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, are all committee co-chairs,” reports the Christian Science Monitor.
Political operative Ana Carbonell, who now works for Romney, estimated that 14 percent of the GOP primary vote comes for Miami-Dade County which is 75 percent Cuban-American, reports Florida Today. In 2008, the Cuban-American voters in the area helped John McCain with the primary over Romney, who lost in the Miami-Dade County.
Romney spoke to the Hispanic Leadership Network Friday in part of his Florida campaign. Doing so particularly appealed to Puerto Rican voters.
"By the way, I'm looking forward to the time when the people of Puerto Rico make their decision about becoming a state," Romney told the Global Post.
An ABC News/Univision poll showed that 49 percent of Latinos voting in the primary planned to back Romney. Gingrich came in second with 23 percent.
Romney announced an endorsement of the Republican governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno, Friday, which has helped is popularity among Puerto Rican voters.
Romney was also the first Republican to release a Spanish-language TV ad in Florida, narrated by his so Craig, who is fluent.
Rick Santorum is trailing badly in Florida polls, but won the endorsement of the Latin Builders Association in Miami Friday.
Newt Gingrich also has some support among Latino voters, specifically because he voiced his support for a modified version of the DREAM Act and has proposed a “citizen panel” to review cases of longtime illegal immigrants who have a sponsor to get citizenship.
Still, Romney is leading among Latino voters in Florida, particularly the Cuban-American voters due to him being perceived as “a very inclusive governor,” Florida lawyer Mark Graces told the Christian Science Monitor.
2. Housing Crisis
Florida was one of the states hit hardest by the housing crisis. The housing market in Florida is still hurting.
"It's very big because so many communities are just so hard hit by it. People see it up close and personal," Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, told ABC News. "There's just this nagging thing that the federal government can help the rich and help the poor but when it comes to the middle class person whose losing their home, they haven't done squat. So they [the candidates] are going to be aiming that message toward the middle-income, middle-age voters."
Florida has been in the top four states in foreclosures for the last four years. One of the reasons Florida is consistently on the list is the backlog in the market that has pushed some foreclosures back. Florida is expected to be hard-hit by foreclosures again in 2012.
Before the crash, Florida had a massive housing boom. Now, more than two million of the 4.5 million borrowers with outstanding mortgage loans own more than the value of their homes, according to The Guardian.
Romney has received some anger for suggesting that foreclosures run their course and a hands-off approach by the government.
"The idea of the federal government running around and saying, hey, we're going to give you some money for trading in your old car, or we're going to give you a few thousand bucks for buying a new house, or we're going to keep banks from foreclosing if you can't make your payments, these kind of actions on the part of government haven't worked," Romney said at a debate in Nevada.
Romney has picked up on the high foreclosure rate in Florida, though, and has used it to attack Gingrich, bringing up his ties to housing giant Freddie Mac.
Gingrich has released documents about his involvement with Freddie Mac in 2006. Gingrich worked with Freddie Mac 1999-2008. Gingrich said he warned Freddie Mac that it would collapse. Romney said this should have been made public. Romney has accused Gingrich of cashing in on the housing crisis that hurt the people of Florida.
Both Gingrich and Romney have presented similar solutions, according to Detroit News: tax less, less government and strip regulations like the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
Without major policy differences, voters may instead look at who deserves the least amount of blame. Gingrich’s ties with Freddie Mac could hurt him, but accusations that Romney was “in cahoots with Goldman Sachs” could hurt him, according to the Globe and Mail.
3. Romney’s Lead
The winner of the Florida primary will receive more delegates than all the previous primaries combined. There are 50 delegates up for grab in a winner-take-all format. Candidates need 1,114 delegates to get the Republican nomination in August.
Romney is currently leading Gingrich by 14 points, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Monday. Romney has 43 percent and Gingrich has 29 percent.
Gingrich’s campaign team has insisted that even if Romney wins the Florida primary, Gingrich will remain the race and is the only candidate that could beat Obama in November, according to the Washington Post.
Gingrich’s team also said that national polls place Gingrich ahead of Romney. If Romney wins Florida he will only have a little more than 7 percent of the delegates needed to receive the nomination.
A Romney win in Florida would dispirit “Not Romney” voters in other states, according to Fox News.
Even though Florida is winner-take-all, it is important for Gingrich to do well. If there is a Romney shutout, Gingrich’s momentum from the South Carolina primary will falter and doubts about his electability will increase, reports Fox News.
While Gingrich losing in Florida would result in a lot of delegates for him to catch up on, a loss does not mean the end of his presidential bid. A shutout could.
4. Will Santorum Give Up?
Santorum only has 11 percent in Florida polls. Since Florida is a winner-take-all scenario, Santorum has been spending more time in Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado and Nevada, where delegates are proportionally distributed. Santorum said that he has no plans to end his campaign.
Romney’s senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told the Washington Post that the team considers Santorum to be a strong opponent in Minnesota, so how Santorum fairs there during the Feb. 7 caucus could be the deciding factor in his presidential bid.
5. Super PACs
Super PACs, big money groups known for airing negative ads in early GOP primaries, may also affect who wins in Florida. A lot of negative ads that targeted Romney in South Carolina and Gingrich in Florida have come from the Super PACs.
While Gingrich has done well in the Florida debates, Romney and Super PACs have out-spent him and hurt him with ads.
One anti-Gingrich pro-Romney Super PAC spent $5 million on ads in Florida. One ad claims that Gingrich co-sponsored a bill in Congress that would give $60 million a year to a UN program supporting China’s harsh one-child policy, repots ABC News.
The PAC group spent 20 times more money then the amount spent in Florida by any other group supporting a Republican candidate, according to Reuters.
Super PACs are the result of a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that these groups can receive unlimited donations. Donations give to candidates are limited to $2,500 per individual.
PAC groups have spent more than $31 million in the presidential campaign so far. Around $16.1 million has gone toward “negative” ads.
Santorum and Ron Paul have received much less Super PAC support and are having a harder time reaching the people of Florida.
Political activists told Reuters that to reach voters in Florida costs at least $1 million a week and up to $5 million to make a difference for a candidate.
Reach associate news editor Hannah Madans here.