The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Beware of Early Florida Polls

Posted on | January 23, 2012 | 39 Comments

The dateline is perhaps necessary to signify that, after eight days in South Carolina, I’m now back home and — thank you, tip jar hitters! — planning to make it to Jacksonville, Florida, for Thursday’s debate. Trying to assess the situation going forward, I want to caution against falling prey to the bandwagon mentality that headlines like this might engender:

Gingrich tops 40 percent
in Rasmussen Florida poll

The Hill

Newt Surges to Lead in Fla.,
Romney Trails by 8 Points


There are legitimate and specific reasons not to jump to conclusions about what’s going to happen on Jan. 31 based on what the polls say on Jan. 23. Remember that the Rasmussen poll of Jan. 16 showed Romney leading by 14 points in South Carolina, where he lost by 12 points on Jan. 21. If polls can swing by 26 points in five days, then any poll lead Gingrich has eight days ahead of the Florida vote could certainly evaporate just as quickly.

Another reason for caution: Just got off the phone with Sunshine State Sarah, who is wired into the Florida GOP scene and insists that pundits in D.C. and New York are naively underestimating the depth and strength of Romney’s organizaqtion in Florida. Sarah reminded me that Romney endorsed Marco Rubio against Charlie Crist and — echoing an observation that Michael Barone shared when we were in New Hampshire — Romney has the Cuban vote in South Florida wrapped up tight.

Gingrich has very little organizational strength in Florida. Newt’s campaign there didn’t even exist until three weeks ago. And Sarah says the Romney team has been pushing hard for early voters, hitting them with mail pieces and phone calls. The pundits who are looking at the Florida race “from 30,000 feet,” as Sarah says, are missing a lot of the ground-level factors that favor Romney there.

On the other hand, of course, there is the possibility that we are seeing one of those tsunami shifts, with Romney’s support collapsing as suddenly and decisively as did Perry’s frontrunner mojo in September. When that kind of negative momentum hits a campaign, stopping the slide can be difficult, and the whole thing could snowball.

Consider the outside possibility that Romney could finish third in Florida. It’s a winner-take-all state, so there is no reward for placing second. However, if Romney can’t halt his negative momentum — if the debates tonight (8 p.m. NBC) and Thursday on CNN go badly for Mitt — his slide could be enough to permit Santorum to challenge him for third place. And if Romney is third in Florida . .  . ouch.

That’s probably not going to happen, but ihis campaign has been nothing if not unpredictable so far, and it’s difficult to rule anything out. Sunshine State Sarah (she’s “Rumpfshaker” on Twitter) was pointing in the opposite direction: Romney’s organizational strength in Florida may prove an obstacle that no amount of “surging” by Gingrich can overcome it, no matter what the polls say eight days ahead of the primary.

Florida is a large and politically complex state, and trying to extrapolate the current trend as a predictor of the ultimate outcome is a risky proposition.

UPDATE: Evidence of my road weariness: I had previously omitted the word “not” from the sentence about “legitimate and specific reasons not to jump to conclusions.” Meanwhile, I woke up from a long nap today to find my phone ringing. It was Sarah calling, saying that the commenters were being wrathful about this grain-of-salt note of caution.

Key point: Sarah knows Florida GOP politics. She’s lived and breathed it for years. She was an early supporter of Marco Rubio’s campaign. So unless you’re a Floridian who wishes to match your own knowledge of the state against her, perhaps you should take a deep breath and consider the possibility that she knows what she’s talking about.

At the same time, the momentum factor working against Romney cannot be underestimated. He’s got to do better in debates, and he’s got to change the subject. Romney wasted time and money in South Carolina with TV ads attacking Rick Santorum, whom his advisers mistakenly targeted for more than a week, which abetted Gingrich’s rise. This time they won’t make that mistake.


39 Responses to “Beware of Early Florida Polls”

  1. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

    So Florida is a winner-take-all state after all. That’s all the more reason Santorum should pack his bags for Michigan and work his ass off getting those evangelical Christian conservatives and rank-and-file union members. I’m telling you that his one and only shot, now more than ever. Remember-Florida, winner take all. And you know in your heart of hearts Santorum is NOT going to win Florida. Why waste the time and resources trying. Naturally he should attend the debates, which would be watched by a lot of people in Michigan also.

  2. Finrod Felagund
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

    I’m more interested in the internals of the Insider Advantage poll that has more than 80 percent of Ron Paul’s support in Florida coming from men and more than 80 percent of Rick Santorum’s support in Florida coming from women.

  3. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

    When Rasmussin puts out a poll one should sit up and take notice. If they say Newt is ahead, you can make book on it. That’s not necessarily to say it will stay that way, but this close to the primary, I’d say the only chance Mitt has is dependent on how big a margin of victory he has among the early voters. I’m guessing it would have to be very, very substantial.

  4. Adjoran
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

    The nomination coming down to a fight between two guys named Leroy and Willard is the stuff bad comedies are made of, featuring Jim Carrey as Romney, Patton Oswalt as Gingrich, Steve Martin as Anderson Cooper, and Rosie O’Donnell as Candy Crowley.  Special cameo appearance by Michelle Obama as the witch in the movie theater who talks on her iPhone through the whole film.

  5. Adjoran
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

    Interesting question on winner-take-all:  RNC rules that any state choosing delegates on or before March 6 MUST use one of the approved proportional delegate schemes.  No winner-take-all before that date.  Unless they are considering that cutting Florida’s delegates in half for moving ahead allows them to break all the rules . . .

    You are of course correct there is little hope for Santorum to finish higher than third, although he will probably have that safely as Paul is concentrating on caucus states instead and not spending a lot in Florida.  There just aren’t the high concentrations of gullible young people there and if he brings them in from out of state they will embarrass their grandparents.

  6. Zilla of the Resistance
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    I’m so glad that you made it home & will be able to go on to Florida! Once you’ve rested up a bit, stop by my place and see the song that I had put up just for you, by a guy wearing a fedora. 🙂 

  7. Anonymous
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

    “Romney has the Cuban vote in South Florida wrapped up tight.”

    Really? I’ll bet you $10 that Romney comes in behind Gingrich, and possibly behind Santorum as well, among Florida voters of Cuban descent.

  8. Anonymous
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

    “Unless they are considering that cutting Florida’s delegates in half for moving ahead allows them to break all the rules”

    Actually, that’s exactly it. They’ve already been penalized for having their primary early, and there’s no further penalty for not going proportional. So they’re going winner-take-all.

  9. adolph.stephens
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

    Wild card is the early vote.  I don’t particularly understand folks voting weeks + out from an election.  It’s frickin politics, too many variables and last minute game changing secenarios at play.

    I think Santorum should contest everywhere.  Should the unexpected happen and he finds himself in real contention, that is, more so than now even, then he will have to have been running a national campaign.

    Finally, were I his advisors, rather than focusing on Newt for diehard votes, I’d be all about helping expose Romney for the establishment progressive Trojan Horse that he is.  The more heat that Romney feels, the more desperate he will become, ultimately outing himself as the pathetic trust fund baby, loser that he is.

  10. Finrod Felagund
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

    I’d like to see confirming polls during the week, but yeah for the moment it looks like the prevailing winds favor Newt.

  11. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

    Cubans aren’t as concerned about the illegal immigrant issue as other Latinos are. In fact its way down on their list of concerns. Romney has been hitting that community hard and heavy for some time with the ads and what not. I do expect Santorum to do fairly well with them, but they’ll probably be the only group he does well with there.

  12. Adjoran
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

    Just in case:  did anybody keep Buddy Roemer’s phone number?  I had it on the back of an envelope somewhere . . . maybe it is time for a second look?

  13. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

    Even if the delegates were awarded proportional for Florida, he wouldn’t win enough to really move the dial much in his favor. He’s better off concentrating on Michigan and doing as good as possible in the debates. He’s been doing better than he did in the beginning, probably because he’s becoming more relaxed and being himself more.

  14. Anonymous
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

    Santorum needs to try in Florida, but yeah Michigan is important.  The longer he is in the better.  

    Off topic, but given all the GOP seppuku, check this out, just in time for the SOTU:

  15. NE FL Voter
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    “And Sarah says the Romney team has been pushing hard for early voters, hitting them with mail pieces and phone calls.”  Really?  I have seen 1 Romney TV ad (3 times I think – same ad), gotten a Newt robo-call and seen one guy at an intersection with a Santorum sign.  Other than that, nada.

    “Florida is a large and politically complex state”, not at the GOP primary level.  You have the Cuban community, the I-4 corridor from St. Pete to Daytona and the I-1o corridor from Jacksonville to Pensacola (Tallahassee excepted); or more precisly, North Cuba, Mid-Florida and South Georgia / Lower Alabama.  With the biggest single group concentrated around I-4.

  16. Anonymous
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

    I didn’t even mention immigration. That’s only part of the Gingrich/Samtorum advantage over Romney.

    Cubans are, for the most part, Roman Catholics like Gingrich and Santorum, not Mormons like Romney.

    Cubans remember that Gingrich and Santorum stood up against deporting Elian Gonzalez back to to the hellhole his mother gave her life to get him out of. Romney was still in the private sector at that time.

    Cubans know that Gingrich or Santorum will continue a hard line against Fidel and Raul. I don’t think anyone, anywhere really trusts Romney in the backbone department.

    Gingrich will romp with the Cubans. Romney doesn’t have a prayer with them.

  17. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

    The problem is if he doesn’t do real good in Florida its going to break him, and the money will dry up for him comparable to what he really needs. If he spends all his time and money in Florida and comes in third, even if its a fairly decent third, people are going to stop contributing because it will seem a lost cause.

    That would be true even if it was proportional, its all the more exacerbated by it being winner take all. He could move the dial in his favor by concentrating his time and resources in Michigan, and he could still take the time to appear in the debates.

    His message would play well in Michigan if he would take the time to do it, not so much in Florida. But the more time he spends there ahead of the others the better he will do, because he is working at a money and organizational disadvantage.

    Granted, its not a sure fire strategy, bu its his best shot.

  18. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

    Yeah that’s why I said Santorum might do well with them, the tough on communism factor that is, I didn’t even think about the Catholicism. But that is a good point as well.

  19. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    If I was going to vote for somebody on a third party I’d go with Johnson on the Libertarian ticket, assuming he gets that nomination. From what I understand he was a pretty decent governor too. Roehmer was a Democrat what time he held office in Louisiana. Which means, obviously, that he is at heart a Louisiana Democrat. Make of that what you will.

  20. Straws….Grasping…. | Daily Pundit
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

    […] Beware of Early Florida Polls : The Other McCain Florida is a large and politically complex state, and trying to extrapolate the current trend as a predictor of the ultimate outcome is a risky proposition. […]

  21. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

    You’ve still got to reach out to the minority Republican communities throughout the state if you want to win in what could well be a close election contest. I would imagine at this stage they are predominantly likely Gingrich supporters. Spending your life surrounded by Democrats will put one in a foul mood, not one conducive to the support of milquetoast Romney.

  22. Anonymous
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

    I doubt if Romney does especially well in the early voting. Maybe better than on election day itself, but nothing stellar.

    Early voting is weighted toward people who are committed hard to a candidate from early on. Paul and Santorum will be over-represented there.

    Romney’s support has been of the “soft” — “eh, I dunno, Romney I guess (sigh …)” — variety. Those aren’t the people who rush out to get their votes in early.

  23. DAN
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    No Gingrich supporter is taking Florida for granted.

    Nor is any Gingrich supporter saying Florida is in the bag.

    All Gingrich supporters know that the polling that counts is the one next week some time.

  24. DAN
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

    Gingrich supported funding for the Contras.   How do you think that’s going to go over with staunch anti-Communists in the Cuban community?

    Meanwhile, on yet another major cultural battle that pitted the left v. right, where was Romney while Gingrich was fighting tooth and nail to preserve federal funding for the Contras?

  25. Anonymous
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:20 pm


    I suspect that Gingrich’s past support for funding for the anti-Communist contras, versus the Cuban allied Communist Sandanista regime, will go over very well with staunch anti-Communists in the Cuban community.

    As a matter of fact, I strongly suspect that while in the House leadership, he was highly supportive when briefed on “black” funding for anti-Castro paramilitaries based in Florida as well, and that that support was discretely mentioned and rewarded in Cuban emigre circles.

    Do you suspect otherwise?

  26. DAN
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    The poll that would be worth the while taking a gander at is the internal one to the Romney campaign.  The one that set off abject panic, and the one that Jen Rubin demanding every Republican noteworthy to rush to the nearest camera decrying the Newtster and professing the level of love she has for Willard.

    This is getting good!

    Watching the establishment panic is like the nectar of the Gods.

    Listening to Ann Coulter make a raving idiot of herself is positively priceless.

  27. Charles
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

    Florida, just like South Carolina, is in Newt Gingrich’s Georgia backyard. New Hampshire was in Mitt Romney’s backyard. Rick Santorum’s Iowa victory is so far the only out-of-region win.

    I think that for most people the race so far is just a TV show and the campaign won’t really begin until after the Super Bowl. It’s 6 weeks until Super Tuesday on March 6.

  28. Adjoran
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

    Your analysis seems sound.  PLUS if he were able to upset Romney in Michigan, it would be huge – the state has more or less been conceded to Romney this cycle.

  29. Adjoran
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

    Super Tuesday isn’t what it used to be, either, only seven primaries and three caucuses.  The biggest are Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Georgia – also Vermont,  Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

  30. Adjoran
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

    Thurmond, Reagan, and Phil Gramm were all former Democrats, too. 

    Of course, that was back when we accepted converts.

  31. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

    The only one of them that are in the bag for Romney is Mass. Believe it or not, people love their guns in Vermont so it could well go to Newt, as well as Ok and of course GA. If Santorum could get something going ahead of then, he could do very well inTenn and OH. The wild card might be VA.

  32. Finrod Felagund
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

    Florida and Georgia may be neighbors but they’re very different.  Much like Maine is considered the South of the North, Florida is the North of the South.

  33. DAN
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 7:43 pm


    I think Newt is going to do very well with Cuban Americans.

  34. Republican Debate at the University of South Florida | The Lonely Conservative
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

    […] Journal or MSNBC.Update: I’ll add links, etc as the debate goes on. In the mean time, The Other McCain cautions not to put too much stock in the early Florida polls. google_ad_client = […]

  35. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    That’s what I’m getting at. There are tons of disgruntled union workers in Michigan in addition to evangelical Christians Santorum could pull from. Admittedly, there could be one flaw in my thinking here, depending on whether or not Michigan’s is an open or a closed primary, and if closed, how many rank-and-file union workers are registered Republican.

    Regardless, it’s a mistake to assume Romney is universally loved in Michigan, especially by these two groups.

    Home state advantage works both ways. There are people who genuinely like you out of home state pride, but there are also people who genuinely dislike you because they better know your flaws.

    And in Romney’s case, home state advantage might be greatly overblown. Just because his dad was a popular governor doesn’t necessarily translate into success for the son who seems to have no real roots there.

  36. Tennwriter
    January 24th, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    Tennessee went deep red when the rest of the nation went blue with Obama.  So….Ron Paul or Rick Santorum.

    Actually, I could see Rick in #1, Ron in #2, Newt #3, and Whats His Name in #4.

  37. Higlights of The NBC Florida GOP Debate – Jan 24, 2012 | Is the End soon?
    January 24th, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

    […] Beware of Early Florida Polls ( […]

  38. Nomination Excitations: The Lion, The Witch, And The Gert Frobe* « The Camp Of The Saints
    January 24th, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

    […] According to Stacy McCain [emphasis mine]: …Just got off the phone with Sunshine State Sarah, who is wired into the Florida GOP scene and insists that pundits in D.C. and New York are naively underestimating the depth and strength of Romney’s organizaqtion in Florida. Sarah reminded me that Romney endorsed Marco Rubio against Charlie Crist and — echoing an observation that Michael Barone shared when we were in New Hampshire — Romney has the Cuban vote in South Florida wrapped up tight. […]

  39. FMJRA 2.0: My Way : The Other McCain
    January 29th, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    […] Island …The ConservatoryThat Mr. GuyDaily PunditAn Ex-Con’s ViewZilla Of The ResistanceBeware of Early Florida PollsDaily PunditThe (Perhaps Slightly Less) Lonely ConservativeIs The End Soon?The Camp of the […]