On Monday the Florida presidential primary officially moved to January — before Super Tuesday. What does it mean? Who does it help? National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez e-mailed Florida lawyer and former Jeb Bush aide Justin Sayfie, editor and publisher of the Sayfie Review, for some insights.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: This primary move is huge for Florida, isn’t it? What took you all so long to move it up?
Justin Sayfie: We didn’t want to lose the element of surprise. Hopefully South Carolina didn’t notice.
Lopez: Does this help any frontrunner in particular? Is it waaay too early to tell?
Sayfie: Because Florida is such a large state with eight media markets and approximately eight million registered voters, the early primary for Florida will favor well-funded candidates who can afford to communicate via TV and mail to Florida’s primary voters. Because Florida is a diverse state in many ways demographically (age, ethnicity, rural/urban), Florida’s early primary will favor candidates who can appeal to a broad philosophical and geographic constituency.
Lopez: Is this a potential Godsend for Mike Gravel long-shot types?
Sayfie: Perhaps. The DNC rules that are designed to deter states from front-loading their primaries are stricter than the RNC rules. The DNC rules take away delegates from any candidate who campaigns or raises money in a state whose primary is too early. However, a candidate cannot receive delegates unless he or she receives 15 percent of the total primary vote. Therefore, long shot candidates who don’t campaign in Florida have a chance of picking up delegates that the DNC says it will take away from top-tier candidates who do campaign in Florida, but only if they receive 15 percent of the total primary vote.
Lopez: What are the key issues in Florida? What do candidates have to convince Florida voters of?
Sayfie: The biggest issues is taxes, specifically high property taxes. The legislature is meeting in special session on June 12 to cut property taxes. Next are insurance costs, affordable housing and crime.
Lopez: Where’s Jeb? Would you bet he gets involved in the primary?
Sayfie: Former Governor Bush is now living in Coral Gables, Florida, and hasn’t supported or endorsed any candidate. A number of his former top aides now hold positions with the McCain, Giuliani and Romney campaigns in Florida. (Disclosure: I am still uncommitted.)
Lopez: Can Florida handle a national election this time? Will Broward County be ready for January 29th?
Sayfie: Florida, ready? On Monday, Governor Crist signed the election bill that moved up the primary to January 29th, and that bill also requires optical-scan balloting in Florida that provides a paper trail. Counties that use touch screen equipment will have to convert to optical scan equipment. So counties like Broward and Miami-Dade will now have to change their voting equipment.
Lopez: Who among the 2008ers is most often in Florida? Who needs to spend more time there?
Sayfie: Romney and McCain have been here quite a bit for both political and fundraising events. Giuliani hasn’t been here as often, and most of his events have been for fundraising. Clinton and Obama have been here fairly regularly since the beginning of the year, with a slight edge to Clinton.
Lopez: Has The Villages recovered from the impression they’re anti-Mormon (when that resident heckled Mitt Romney a few months back)?
Sayfie: Despite that incident, the Villages still remains a Republican-rich bastion of retirees, and a political force that is an irresistable campaign stop for GOP candidates trying to win a statewide election in Florida.