Florida will play role now more than ever


Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Though Florida has been frowned upon for moving the date of the state's presidential primary up against the wishes of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, one political analyst says she still expects campaigning in Florida ahead of the Jan. 29 primary to be heavy.

"Every time there's a different winner in these states that are ahead of Florida, it makes Florida more important in the big picture," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

On the heels of Tuesday's win by John McCain in the Republican primary in New Hampshire and Sen. Hillary Clinton's close win over Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, MacManus said she expects candidates will soon flock to Florida for support, both on the ballots and in campaign donations.

"We're going to be the first place where the nation has a look at how well these candidates fare in a large, diverse, highly competitive state," MacManus said.

For the Democratic candidates, coming to Florida carries the threat of penalties. And the Democratic National Committee has vowed to strip Florida of their delegates to the national convention for moving the primary date.

"A lot of Democrats expect one of these candidates will break rank with the prohibition against campaigning and head to Florida because it's becoming apparent Florida will be a critical state," MacManus said. "I think there would be a pretty big payoff for the Democratic candidate that decided to put Florida ahead of the national party rules."

MacManus said she thinks McCain could be a strong contender in Florida after his win in New Hampshire, thanks to his stance on immigration that calls for eventual citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants - a hot topic among the agriculture and business sectors of Florida.

"I suspect he'll probably play pretty well with the older voters because he does invoke a strong sense of patriotism," she said. "I'm not saying he will carry Florida, but I think he will certainly gain from (Tuesday's primary)."

Alice Wallace can be reached at 352-338-3109 or alice.wallace@gvillesun.com.

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