What to Look For in Florida: The Seven 'M's of Mitt Romney

It seems a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney will win the Republican primary in Florida.

This is good news for those of us that support Mitt Romney, as it means he will have won (or effectively tied) three Republican primaries in swing states (Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida) and is one step closer to winning the nomination.

Still, there are a few questions I’ll have as the numbers roll in.

Let’s call them the seven “Ms” of Mitt Romney.

  1. Money: Can Romney win by spending less money? As an expert in efficiency, Romney has spent five times the amount that Gingrich has ($15 million to $3 million) and yet leads him by only 5 to 7 points, according to the latest polling. This is against a candidate that has one of the highest negatives of any candidate ever to run, and that was before the Mitt Romney ads. Romney will have to do a lot better with less money if he wants to make it to the general. Otherwise, charges that he bought the election will resonate with voters. Romney ought to know that CEOs (and candidates) that can win cheaply are selling a good product. He should be thinking more Oakland Athletics (in Moneyball fame) than New York Yankees.
  2. Mexicans (and Hispanics): 59% of the Hispanic vote is Mexican nationally, but only nine percent of the Florida voting population is Mexican. This share, though it is increasing, won’t be deciding the Florida primary election. Of course, much attention has been paid to the Cuban-American vote in Florida which Romney apparently has locked up. According to a recent ABC News/Univision Poll, Romney has a 26 point lead over Newt Gingrich among Latino Republicans. Why?Because Romney’s position on illegal immigration doesn’t bother Cuban-Americans one bit, because Cubans get into America through a different immigration process (the wet foot, dry foot policy) than through the usual policy of family reunification, waiting in line, or hopping the border illegally. Florida’s next largest Hispanic constituency are Puerto-Ricans, who are already American citizens. It’s true that, according to a Univision News/ABC Latino Decisions Nations, that forty-three percent of Hispanic Floridians felt that immigration policy ought to be changed, compared with 46 percent of the national Hispanic sample, but “immigration” likely means different things to Cuban-Americans and Mexican-Americans.

    The divisions between the Hispanic community may actually be good for Mitt Romney. He may not suffer the same fate as Meg Whitman did when word got out that she had hired an illegal Mexican to work for her. Romney has hired illegal Guatemalans who are not yet a powerful voting constituency in America (Mexicans, who have militarized their southern border with Guatemala, tend to look upon Guatemalans contemptuously). Romney will have to avoid Hispandering, though.

  3. Medicare: The Florida Democratic Party has already been trying to tie Romney to one of the nation’s largest Medicare frauds in Massachusetts. Expect to hear more about this in the general election if Romney wins the nomination. Democrats will also hope to tie Romney to Governor Rick Scott of Florida, who was the CEO of a firm that also was fined for Medicare fraud. It seems unlikely that this will be accomplished. Rick Scott’s approval ratings may actually be improving–38% and climbing!
  4. Mormonism: The evangelical share of the vote in Florida is 40%, according to 2008 exit polls. Romney got only 22% of that evangelical vote in South Carolina. Polling nationally suggests that evangelicals have been warming to Mormons, thanks to Mormon support for Prop 8 and other social conservative positions, but it may not be enough for Romney.
  5. Millionaire: Can Romney win the poor Panhandle? Romney will assuredly win Congressman Allen West’s district and will win most of the richer congressional districts, but how well will he do in Gator Country, which went heavily for Bush in 2000 and won us the election?
  6. Military: Active duty and retired military personnel make up about a quarter of Florida’s Republican voters. According to exit polls from the 2008 Florida primary, McCain won the military vote over Romney by a 42 to 35 percent margin. Romney will have to do a lot better than the 32% of the military vote he garnered in South Carolina to be competitive (Gingrich got 39%).
  7. Message: Romney’s slogan of “Believe in America” is good as far as it goes, but according to the new book, The Real Romney, Romney had trouble in 2008. Many GOP primary voters couldn’t come up with a rationale for his candidacy. But Romney’s message of economy in government expenditures and economic growth should do well in distressed Florida, especially where the economy is most distressed. This map reveals county by county the breakdown. “Whether through my ads or through my responses to debate questions or on the stump,” Romney has said, “my power alley is the economy.” Ah, but will the Romney play the music loud enough to fire up the base? Time will tell.