Happy Wednesday Morning!
--- There is an interesting article from this morning's Palm Beach Post about how the Republicans won the I-4 Corridor in last week's election. It credits the GOP's strategy to get the Hispanics and gun owners as well as "NASCAR dads and soccer moms", and also pointed out that 5th Congressional District representative Ginny Brown-Waite --- whose district only covers a very small part of northwest Polk County --- was present and doing radio broadcasts from a large gun show held at the Lakeland Center.
The power of incumbancy also helps, as shown when President Bush showed up in places like Lakeland on Marine One. That was the first visit by a sitting president since Jimmy Carter, and helped excite people in Polk County so close to the election. As if Polk had not become more conservative leaning already, that simply helped to bring more voters out and get them excited to work for the president's reelection.
The article does not touch on one important aspect: the evanglicial Christian vote. That has been --- and will likely be --- discussed in detail, but one cannot discard that group of voters. When I worked as a poll watcher in my precinct on Election Day, almost every voter that came in during the last few hours had a copy of the Christian Coalition's voters guide...and many actually were referring to it while looking over their ballots! Volunteers were also passing out the voters guide at the early voting location in Lakeland, and likely those in Winter Haven and Bartow as well. We have to find a way to reach that group of voters, and communicate to them that Democrats are not as evil as many of their pastors say we are. That means presenting our positions and goals in a way that is not threatening. It won't be easy, but it has to be done in order to prevent the Democratic Party from becoming a marginal influence in politics on every level.
--- What about Katherine Harris for the U.S. Senate in 2006? There was talk that she was about to jump into this year's campaign for the seat soon to be held by Mel Martinez, but was discouraged by operatives within the White House to allow Mel that opportunity. While Ms. Harris is definately ambitious, she would --- IMHO --- be much safer to stick with her congressional seat for awhile before making a run for the Senate. She is such a lightning rod from her days as Secretary of State when she helped in the Bush election debacle...something that will not be forgotten soon by Democrats...plus there will probably be some heavy hitters ready to run two years from now on the GOP side that she will be small potatoes in comparison.
Although Jeb! has said he would not be a candidate, don't put your money against it. Two years is a long time to reconsider, and I'm sure that if his approval numbers remain high there are key people with the Republican Party both statewide and nationally that will strongly encourage him to take the plunge. With most of the other high profile GOPers likely to chase the governor's post in 2006 (state CFO Tom Gallagher, Attorney General Charlie Crist, possibly Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings and/or former Congressman Bill McCollum), Jeb! would be a perfect candidate to challenge incumbant Bill Nelson. Now any of the previously mentioned individuals could decide to make the Senate run, especially if the governor remains adamant about returning to private life in Miami.
Quite frankly, the bench on the Democratic side is much lighter. Senator Nelson will likely run again, so I don't see anyone willing or able to challenge the state's only remaining Democratic statewide officeholder. I do believe that we have only a few individuals with the statewide name recognition who could run for Governor, among them Congressman Peter Deutsch and Miami-Dade County mayor Alex Penelas (now THAT would be an interesting primary rematch!). They would likely not have to worry about Betty Castor; the former Educational Commissioner and USF president has said that she would likely not seek political office again, and I believe her after the bloody battle against Mel Martinez. Former Tallahassee mayor and current state Democratic chairman Scott Maddox is also a likely candidate.
Personally, I like former state senator Daryl Jones of Miami, but he's been away from the spotlight since his 2002 run for the governor's office. Some supporters from Polk County formed a group, Focus On Florida, to help keep Jones' name in the statewide discussion. The organization was to have done this through having Daryl appear at various "town hall meeting" type forums across the state, as well as Democratic Party events, but it has never truly come to fruition. The presidential and senate campaigns, plus the hurricanes, have prevented Focus on Florida to move forward. And in politics especially, out of sight...out of mind.
--- Here's a moving story from the Orlando Sentinel that many of us should get behind: An Orlando couple recently lost their two daughters in a tragic accident when they were struck and killed by a 22 year old woman who was likely speeding --- and talking on a cellular phone. Now the couple and some backers are beginning a campaign to require motorists to use hands-free attachments when talking on their cell phones.
It's a good idea, but I would go even farther to outlaw entirely the use of cell phones while driving. I understand that we are more mobile than ever, and that cell phones are, for many people, a necessary part of life, but it's simply stupid to be using one while driving! Drivers should concentrate fully on what they're doing, not distracted by business or personal conversation with a cell phone on your shoulder. While I do agree that a hands-free option would be better, using a cell phone is simply too much of a distraction, especially on a high traffic street where every second is important to preventing a possible tragedy such as what happened to these two precious youngesters. Phones and driving simply don't mix!
Experts say there is persuasive evidence that talking on a mobile phone poses greater risks than talking with a passenger. One study found that drivers using cell phones were four times more likely to be involved in wrecks than those who were not using a phone, and one leading researcher has found that drivers using phones performed more poorly on driving tests than motorists with blood-alcohol levels at 0.08 percent -- the legal limit in Florida.There are now more than 171 million cell-phone users in the country.