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Issues and Candidate Qualities. As they were nationally, the economy and change were the two most important short-term factors at work in Florida. The economy was the dominant issue in Florida, with 62 percent citing it as the issue that most mattered. In 2004, just 16 percent mentioned the economy/jobs as the most important issue. Moreover, 92 percent of voters in Florida had a pessimistic view of the national economy. When the low approval ratings of President Bush are also considered— 70 percent disapproved of his performance—Obama clearly benefited from retrospective voting. It is also not a surprise that against this backdrop , 34 percent of Florida voters cited “change” as the candidate quality that mattered most. This was compared to just 23 percent of voters who cited “experience” as the most important quality, which was clearly McCain’s strongest attribute. One final point to note is that while economic issues were clearly front and center of the campaign in 2008, cultural issues were not completely relegated to irrelevance in Florida, as evidenced by the vote on the constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The amendment passed, 62 percent to 38 percent, clearing the required 60 percent threshold for the passage of constitutional amendments . Interestingly, a substantial minority of those voting “yes” on the amendment also voted for Obama (35 percent), more than those voting “no” who also voted for McCain (24 percent). A separate exit poll reveals that blacks and Latinos, who were central to Obama’s winning electoral coalition, were actually more likely to be in favor of the amendment, with 71 percent of blacks and 64 percent of Latinos voting “yes,” compared to 60 percent among whites.34 Analysis: U.S. House and State Legislative Elections While the presidential election in Florida was clearly the main event in the Sunshine State, there were some changes in the composition of the congressional delegation, with the Democrats gaining two seats from the Republicans while the GOP gained one Democratic-held district. The Florida congressional delegation still favors the Republicans, with fifteen GOP members of the House compared to ten Democrats, but the five-seat deficit is the smallest since 1990. Both of the Democratic pick-ups were in Central Florida districts, suggesting the possible influence of Obama’s coattails in these districts given his strong showing in Central Florida. In the Eighth District, fourterm incumbent Republican Ric Keller was defeated by the Democratic 156 ★ Jonathan Knuckey challenger Alan Grayson, an attorney who prosecuted war profiteers, filing law suits against, among others, Halliburton. Grayson, who spent two million dollars of his own money, took 52 percent of the vote to Keller’s 48 percent. Keller was possibly damaged by the fact that he had pledged to serve just four terms when he was first elected in 2000. The fact that he won just 53 percent of the vote in the GOP primary pointed to his potential vulnerability. However, he also was not helped by a district that was becoming increasingly Democratic, with a Democratic advantage of almost ten thousand in party registration.35 This suggests that the district may be difficult for the Republicans to win back in a future election. The Twenty-fourth District delivered perhaps one of the most shocking —although not entirely unexpected—results with three-term incumbent Republican Tom Feeney being defeated by former state House member Suzanne Kosmas. The district, largely drawn by Feeney in his capacity of speaker of the Florida state House during the post-2000 census redistricting , is heavily Republican, and, unlike the Eighth District, still has a GOP advantage in party registration of almost fifteen thousand. This had allowed Feeney to win the district easily in prior elections, and he was not even opposed by a Democrat in 2004. However, Feeney faced ethics charges after a 2003 golfing trip to Scotland paid for by former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Furthermore, the public interest group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Feeney as one of the “20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress.”36 This forced Feeney to air a TV ad where he offered an apology for his actions. Sensing blood, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified Kosmas as the type of moderate Democrat who could win the district and poured in one million dollars on TV ads.37 Feeney’s mea culpa clearly did not work, and Kosmas won the seat by a convincing margin, 57 percent to 41 percent...


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