Obama arrives in Florida, he is no Jimmy Carter
President Obama arrives in Jacksonville this afternoon to start a two-day campaign swing through the Sunshine State. Florida has not been kind to Democratic presidential candidates. Since 1952, Florida has voted for the Democratic nominee just four times in 15 elections.
Florida may be a swing state but in fact it hasn't done much swinging. Even the four Democrat victories have reasonable explanations that would suggest Democrats won more because of historical flukes than a genuine swing to the Democratic Party.
In 1964, Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson was an incumbent president sworn-in after the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy - who had a summer White House in Palm Beach. Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, the GOP nominee, was considered an extremist by many members of his own party. Johnson easily won 44 states, including Florida.
Twelve years later, Florida voters and the rest of nation had endured Watergate and the resignations of Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Richard Nixon. Gerald Ford, who replaced Agnew when he resigned and suddenly found himself replacing Nixon in 1974, faced voters who were unhappy with his decision to pardon Nixon and not terribly thrilled with anything else going on in Washington.
Floridians took a shine to the governor of neighboring Georgia - Democrat Jimmy Carter. But four years later, disappointed with on almost every level with Carter's performance, Florida voters chose Ronald Reagan. Floridians had endured a weakened economy, the humiliation of the Iran hostage crisis, and the terrible 1980 Miami riots that left 17 dead.
It would be 20 years before Floridians would vote for a Democrat. In 1996, after passing on Bill Clinton four years earlier, Florida voters helped him defeat Republican Bob Dole. The GOP nominee's campaign was awful and uninspiring. Florida voters noticed.
Which brings us to Barack Obama. Arizona Sen. John McCain was Dole all over again. In addition, voters were simply exhausted with President George Bush, and Obama's "hope and change" message resonated with the times.
Today, Obama is locked in a very close race with Republican nominee Mitt Romney for Florida's 29 electoral votes.
Democrats should be worried because as history, Florida may swing - but unless there is an historic oddity - Florida voters usually swing right.
(The photograph above is from a 1980 Carter campaign stop in Polk County. Bonus points if you match the names with the faces of the dignitaries on stage - Doyle Conner, Ralph Turlington, Bob Graham, Bob Martinez, Wayne Mixson, George Firestone and more.)
(Bonus: Is the man with the dark hair in the foreground a young Dave Mica?)
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