Round-up of stories about Florida and the 2012 presidential race

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Hot Air – Destination Florida
Today’s political headline appeears to be fmr. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ending his campaign after a disappointing finish in the Iowa straw poll on Saturday. It is a smart end to what I thought became a fundamentally misguided campaign. With fmr. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the putative national frontrunner, the current basic dynamic of the campaign is Romney vs. Not Romney. Pawlenty’s apparent strategy was to become Not Romney by campaigning against Iowa caucus frontrunner Rep. Michelle Bachmann, instead of highlighting his own advantages over Romney. That strategy failed. Fortunately for the following speculation, Pawlenty gained so little traction in the race that his departure is largely a non-factor.
After the straw poll, I was responding on Twitter to some hypothetical questions Allahpundit posed about the Iowa caucuses, when Nathannoted that South Carolina is a much more important state for the primary campaign. I think he’s right on a number of levels, although I will go a bit further down the road to Florida.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry brags of his state leading the nation in job creation, a boast he hopes will land him in the White House. But do the numbers back him up?
In a word: yes.
Perry’s campaign to position Texas as the solution to America’s employment woes takes on special meaning in Florida, since the Sunshine State holds a top spot in the job-creation derby, too. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who ran on a promise of 700,000 new jobs, made the point repeatedly in a session with Herald writers that only Texas is doing better than Florida when it comes to jobs.
So we’re going to hear a lot about Texas as a hiring machine in the coming months. What do the numbers say?
The presidential election is 15 months away, but Republicans and Democrats already are going after the Hispanic vote with a zeal usually reserved for the final stretch.
In late June, Crossroad GPS, a Republican organization, launched an estimated $5 million TV campaign targeted at Hispanics in Florida and other battleground states with large Latino populations.
The ads, which ran in Orlando and Miami, accused President Barack Obama of failing to improve the economy. It told Latinos that national unemployment figures are worse among them than among other Americans.
In July, the Democratic National Committee pushed back with its own Spanish TV spot that ran in virtually the same markets. The ad accused Republicans of wanting to dismantle Medicare and of favoring tax cuts for the rich.
Despite Florida’s size and swing-state significance and its efforts to push itself toward the front of the presidential calendar, Tim Pawlenty’s dropout is the latest reminder that Iowa and New Hampshire still carry outsize influence in the race for the White House.
Whatever his shortcomings elsewhere, Pawlenty had built an impressive organization in Florida, where his backers hoped a strong showing in September’s “Presidency 5” nationally televised debate and straw poll in Orlando would establish Pawlenty as a top-tier candidate.
“I’m sure it had to be a tough decision for him because Presidency 5 is coming up, and I think he could have been very competitive in the Florida straw poll” said Justin Sayfie, a former Jeb Bush speechwriter who runs the influential SayfieReview political website and was a Florida co-chairman for Pawlenty.
He fumbled his golden opportunity to pin “Obamneycare” on Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney in a New Hampshire debate. His Iowa performance showed he wasn’t even the best-known Minnesotan in the race. Now former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is dropping out of the 2012 GOP presidential contest.
Whatever his shortcomings elsewhere, Pawlenty had lined up some big-name backers in Florida, including former Jeb Bush campaign chairman Phil Handy as his Florida chairman, former Bush speechwriter and Internet aggregator Justin Sayfie as a Florida co-chairman and former Bush fundraiser Ann Herberger as a national senior finance adviser.
Not twenty-four hours after former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out of the race for President – a move offering quite a cautionary tale to those Florida legislators who endorsed Pawlenty early on – several Sunshine State lawmakers have rushed to embrace Texas Governor Rick Perry’s campaign for President.
State senator Don Gaetz, slated to be the next president of the Florida Senate, is the most prominent legislator to endorse Perry, writing on his Facebook page that Perry’s “candidacy blows open the Republican primaries and gives us the best chance to take back our country.”
Also endorsing Perry was Gaetz’ son, state representative Matt Gaetz, as well as St. Petersburg’s Jeff Brandes.  In his signature fashion, the younger Gaetz announced his support via Twitter, writing that it was time to “put a conservative job creator in the White House.”

Tim Pawlenty this morning withdrew from the Republican race for president after an underwhelming performance in yesterday’s Ames straw poll. He never excited people except, perhaps, in Florida.

“I don’t know or care if he’s got a 5 percent chance or a 50 percent chance or an 80 percent chance, what matters right now is we need people who stand up for what they believe in,” said state Rep. Richard Corcoran of New Port Richey, a Pawlenty supporter in line to be speaker of the Florida House, said recently.
● How does Perry play?: The governor is riding high in polls and looks like a genius for waiting until now to declare his candidacy. But the history of late entrants in recent presidential races — think Wes Clark in 2004 and Fred Thompson in 2008 — suggests that the best day for some of these candidates is the first one. And anyone watching Perry’s announcement address in South Carolina on Saturday was reminded of just how unapologetically Southern he is. (Perry drops “G’s” from words like a champ.) Although the history of Southerners in the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary is encouraging for Perry, if the nomination fight drags on to other parts of the country, it’s not entirely clear how he would sell.
● Calendar chaos: Almost no Republican we talked to in Iowa over the past four days thought that the GOP nominating calendar — with Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina being the only states voting in February — would hold up. Moving those states a month forward and adding Arizona and Florida to the mix could majorly alter the candidates’ victory paths — perhaps forcing them to choose from that handful of states to try to emerge as the nominee.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.