With less than two weeks to go till Election Day, I’ll be profiling some of the pivotal swing states whose votes will decide the next President. And what better place to start than the mother of all battlegrounds, Florida?
Florida’s massive 29 electoral vote haul is big enough to decide a close race: just ask Al Gore and John Kerry, both of whom would have ended up in the White House had the Sunshine State landed in their column. Gore’s case was particularly heartbreaking for the Democrats. In 2000 the sitting Vice President won the nationwide popular vote, but just barely lost Florida and the electoral college to George W. Bush after a monthlong recount drama.
Gore likely alienated Confederate flag-waving good ol’ boy voters in the Florida Panhandle with his eye-rolling and sighing at the Presidential debates, which was just too passive aggressive for these drunken, shirtless Ted Nugent fans. In Palm Beach County, tens of thousands of elderly Jewish voters — who would have normally been inclined to vote for Joe Lieberman, Gore’s Jewish running mate — notched Pat Buchanan on their butterfly ballots, likely due to self-loathing and ingrained anti-semitism. Gore tried to raise a stink about faulty ballots and hanging chads and the tens of thousands of black voters disenfranchised by Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris. The Dig fondly remembers the muggy Florida nights of the 2000 recount, sipping cuba libres on the beach with Theresa LePore, getting trapped in an elevator with Brooks Brothers rioters, living through our national drama like the hero of a Carl Hiaasen novel. Alas, the Supreme Court had to step in and put an end to all our fun. For as seedy and sexy and dangerous and unacceptable as Southern Florida can be (the flamingos there are tenacious and will attack you even if you’re in a defensive fetal position), we Beltway insiders can’t live our entire lives on vacation. Sometimes, though, I wish that recount never ended.
Anyhoo, this time around, for Donald Trump Florida is practically a must-win, and both he and Hillary Clinton are going hard for this Southern prize. Here are the key regions and what to look out for:
This perennial swing district stretching from Tampa to Orlando has been trending towards the Democrats for the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. High tech workers have been moving to the area, attracted to the plentiful jobs, beautiful weather, and cheap housing. Many tech industry employees are libertarian types, the sort of voter who carries his life savings in “BitCoins,” has an “Am I Being Detained?” bumper sticker on their Linux computer, and confuses Rand Paul with an actual human being. These train-obsessives are motivated solely by their irrational contempt for our Gold Star heroes serving in the NSA, and as much as they dislike Obama, they absolutely hate George W. Bush. Most of them will vote for third party candidates, but enough will play spoiler to put Hillary ahead here.
This hideous part of the state where they stuff away all the ugly people and garbage. Home to a great deal of active military but more valor thieves, the most popular jobs here are stolen valor video host, unlicensed copper retailer, and incest lobbyist. While it’s highly likely this sliver of hell will come out big for Trump, it’s very possible these drooling citizens think that they vote by emailing “The Apprentice Your Fired Guy” to “election@USA.gov” and will fail to make it to the polls.
While most of it is home to some of the world’s most hideous elderly people, a vibrant community of Bay of Pigs veterans and cocaine entrepreneurs make this an exciting political hotbed. Marco Rubio got his start here, which shows the kind of savvy operator rises to the top in Miami: men with possibly dozens of bastard children who are adept at fooling extremely wealthy octogenarians into giving them their trust.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years and is the host of the Digcast, a weekly podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet @carl_diggler.