Sunday, January 27, 2008

Florida Primary is Preview of National Trends

The Kansas City Star offers one of those macro analyses readers at American Power can expect to see discussed from time to time.

The piece argues that Tuesday's primary contest in Florida offfers a preview of national campaign dynamics. Here's the introduction:

Military vets in the Panhandle. The most influential Hispanic bloc in the nation. Transplanted New Yorkers living near evangelical Christians. Midwestern retirees on the west coast. And a history of troubled elections.

The profile of Florida reads like a mini-map of the United States, a mosaic of races and ethnicities, ages and incomes. It's a glitzy gateway to Latin America and a next-door neighbor to Alabama. Its cities boast soaring skyscrapers while tiny nearby towns are dotted with shotgun shacks and unpaved roads.

This is the backdrop for the biggest 2008 presidential primary yet in the nation, on Jan. 29, a vote that will provide the first real test of how a candidate will play on the national stage.

"It's America in miniature," said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, who's been polling in the state since 1984. "It's maybe a little more rightward tilt than the U.S., but it's probably the closest thing to a complete profile of the country than any other state that has voted up till now."

A high-growth state since the invention of air conditioning, Florida's appeal may at long last be cooling. Census figures show that the state - still the fourth-largest in population - slid in 2007 from the fourth fastest-growing state in the country to the 19th.

Its once-solid economy, fueled in large part by tourist dollars, is now among the most threatened in the nation. It's been hit hard by a struggling housing market: Brand-new condo units in towers along Miami's glitzy skyline have been sold at foreclosure auctions. State coffers have been drained by a slump in sales tax collections, which make up the bulk of tax dollars in a state long hostile to an income tax.

"There's worry about next year and the year after that; there's anxiety about what's going to happen," said House Speaker Marco Rubio, the first Cuban-American elected to the statewide post amid a flourish of pride in a community that's reshaped the state.

"Florida built its economy on taxing the next person to get here," Rubio said.

"That was great when there was a never-ending stream. Now we've got people working just as hard but not getting ahead."

The anxiety is especially acute in a state that appeared to escape most of the financial squeeze earlier this decade that left other states slashing budgets and laying off teachers and firefighters. This year, the presidential candidates will share the ballot with a proposal to cut property tax rates - a measure opposed by many cities and school departments.
The rest of the article discusses the current happenings in Florida politics. The Sunshine State's diverse, and not particularly ideological.

Kind of reminds me of, say,