Of special interest to me, this shows Florida is still a swing state in many minds. That should be no great surprise. Barack Obama won this state in 2008 by less than 3 points, under 250,000 votes in an election when more than 8 million were cast. George W. Bush, of course, won the state in the previous two cycles, including a rather close contest in 2000 you might have heard about.
But while everyone recognizes Florida as a state in play, few recognize the tendency voters here have to prop up incumbents. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all won Florida in re-election bids, and greatly improved on their shares of the vote as incumbent presidents compared to their initial runs. Even George H.W. Bush eeked out a win in this state in 1992 while losing to Clinton nationwide. We haven't tossed a sitting Senator since 1986, when Bob Graham ousted Paula Hawkins. More than Democrats or Republicans, we really like winners.
That isn't to say Florida will be an easy go for the sitting president. Indeed, Mel Martinez seemed to back out of the Senate race this year in part because he feared a primary challenge from the right. Seeing what happened with Gov. Charlie Crist, that decision was based on more than paranoia. So maybe this is changing.
But I bet a number of state Republican leaders reminded the RNC of our incumbent love in Florida when they lobbied for Tampa to host. If the GOP is to be competitive in Florida come 2012, they need the base here energized and enthusiastic. And in a state where tourism pays the bills more than any other industry, the gratitude for the spike in visitors in the Fall of 2012 may mean a great deal to a broad swath of voters.
I don't know much about voter trends in Arizona, where I expect the Democrats will end up now that Tampa Bay is off the table. But I expect Republicans knew Salt Lake City offered little in term of electoral strategy. And I know this was a wise and shrewd move on the part of Republicans to ensure Florida remains in play.