« Rounds Channels Humphrey? | The RCP Blog Home Page | The Buzz - March 20 »

A "Seismic Shift" in Florida?

That's the question Adam Smith of the St. Petersburg Times explores in his most recent column, which we'll pick up with Republican Matt Towery arguing in the affirmative:

"There's been a phenomenal reversal of fortune down there," said Matt Towery, who runs an Atlanta-based polling and online media firm. Having completed a March 6-9 poll of 1,000 registered voters in Florida, the former Republican lawmaker and Newt Gingrich aide sees a seismic shift in Florida politics.

"These numbers are like a tsunami. There has been a literal sea change, a potential realignment toward the Democrats in Florida," Towery said. "I think the state's gone from being pretty safe Republican to being pretty safe Democrat. And it's because the independents who kept (both Bushes) in office have shifted something like 70 percent to the Democrats."

This is just a snapshot in time, of course, and the election - including governor, U.S. Senate, state attorney general, chief financial officer and a smattering of competitive congressional and legislative races - is still eight months away. Republicans have an enormous financial advantage and a get-out-the-vote effort that's proven its superiority in the last two Florida elections.

Republican strategist Geoffrey Becker is worried but much less pessimistic than Towery. As the old saying goes, you can't beat somebody with nobody, and Florida Democrats have yet to prove they have somebody.

"Republicans have every right to be concerned, but I don't see it in the sense of a Democratic frenzy of turnout. I see it in less than ecstatic Republican enthusiasm. Republicans right now, despite the economy doing well and us doing a lot of good things and having a lot to talk about in Florida, don't seem to have the same intensity that we normally should at this point in time in the cycle," Becker said. [snip]

So it's way too early to project big Republican losses, especially given the state's gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts and the Democrats' track record in recent Florida elections.

Still, it sure seems lately like the Republicans are holding the door open for Democratic advancements. [snip]

If there's anything to reassure Florida Republicans, it's history: Democrats have a knack for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Becker's take - as well as Smith's concluding thoughts - mirrors my own impressions of the crowd of Southern GOP delegates in Memphis last weekend: concern but not panic. Towery seems to be giving an awful lot of credence to the results of a single poll - which could be terribly misleading for a number of reasons - especially going so far as to conclude that his survey of 1,000 registered voters in March constitutes a "political realiagnment toward the Democrats in Florida." As always, intensity among the respective party bases is going to be the key to this election, and there's simply no way of telling what that intensity may or may not be in November based on a poll taken in March.