Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Florida Leapfrogs, Candidates Jumpy

Holy Gore, they’re at it again. The Sunshine State, which gave us George Bush in 2000, is clouding the picture for 2008 by moving its primary to January 29th, putting Florida behind only Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire and on the same day as South Carolina's Democratic primary.

With 22 states now scheduled for February 5th and others poised to move up, the candidates’ campaigns are looking as jumpy as an old Mack Sennett comedy. Whistle stops and burger-joint handshaking may give way to big regional and even national TV buys in an attempt to wrap up the nomination before the Ides of March.

But there is a contrarian view in today’s New York Times by Adam Nagourney: “If Feb. 5 is inconclusive, there are going to be a lot fewer states competing for the candidates’ time and attention. There are going to be many fairly empty Tuesdays on the primary calendar next spring; pick the right one and one of those states might end up putting a candidate over the top.”

What’s certain is that Florida, while losing delegates for its impetuous move, will gain a lot of hotel-restaurant money from politicians and their media entourages and that candidates will discover an urgent need to take a strong position on post-Castro Cuba and other such issues.

So far, early polling gives Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani 2-1 leads in Florida, no doubt influenced by the retired New Yorker vote. But if Al Gore were to make a late entry into the race, his name recognition in the state would be unbeatable.

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