« Updated results: Patrick Murphy defeats Allen West, avoids automatic recount | Main | Broward GOP losses no shocker after redistricting and high Obama turnout »

Obama turnout machine smashes the tea-party china in Florida.

Florida voters to the tea party: Cool it.

Tuesday's election in the nation's biggest battleground state was a rejection of the drift of the conservative movement and the Republican Legislature it empowered.

The state voted, albeit as narrowly as possible, for President Obama, whose 2008 election brought about the rise of tea-party conservatism.  Iconic tea party Congressman Allen West might also lose (he's seeking a recount). He was painted as a name-calling extremist by Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy.

And voters rejected the Legislature's tea party-inspired proposed state constitutional amendments, starting with a measure opposing Obama's healthcare law.

The author of that proposal, Longwood state Rep. Scott Plakon, lost his election, which he credits to an Obama turnout machine that Republicans underestimated in Florida.

"This is hard for me to process," Plakon said. "With all the debt, all the unemployment and the bad economic indicators, how is it that Obama is only 2.5 percentage points down from where he was in 2008?"

Plakon pointed out that conservatism is alive and well in Florida; Obama barely won and the Legislature is still firmly in the hands of Republicans.

In congratulating Obama on his win, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio issued a statement last night re-affirming his commitment to conservative principles. But he subtly noted a shortcoming of the tea party: The tenor of the immigration debate, which probably cost Mitt Romney some support among Florida Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate.

"The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them," Rubio said.

Obama won Hispanics by a larger margin than he did in 2008 in Florida, exit polls showed, even though he did worse overall. But Republicans did far worse than they did in 2010, when they captured super-majorities in the Legislature and won the governor's office and every state Cabinet post.

A future Florida House speaker, Republican Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary, is in danger of losing his seat in a too-close-to-call election.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, largely absent from the campaign trail, was highly unpopular before the election and will probably be even more so after it. His decision to sign an election law that cracked down on early voting was a major sore spot with tens of thousands of people who had to wait in seven-hour-long lines just to cast ballots.

The wait times were exacerbated by another aspect of Scott's election law: A provision that allowed proposed constitutional amendments to be printed in full. The lengthy, complicated language slowed voters down when they filled out their ballots and when they had to jam the multiple pages -- at least five sheets -- into the machines. Some machines malfunctioned under all the pressure, causing lines to back-up even on election night.

Only three constitutional amendments passed. They provided property-tax help to seniors, combat-wounded veterans and widows of veterans or first responders.

The other seven fared so poorly that they couldn't even muster majority support, even though constitutional amendments need 60 percent approval to pass. The notable tea party-fueled amendments:

1) Healthcare services. Originally called "healthcare freedom," this proposal was passed by the GOP Legislature as a result of President Obama's healthcare law. Mostly symbolic and conflicting with the new federal law, the measure would have banned the state from mandating health-insurance purchases. Voters rejected it 49-51 percent.

2) Government revenue cap. This was designed to limit the amount of money the state received by limiting its revenue to a formula based on inflation and population changes. Voters rejected it 58-42 percent.

3) Abortion services. This proposal sought to prohibit what wasn't being done in Florida: prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion. It also sought to strike a privacy-rights clause in the Constitution cited in cases that uphold abortion rights. Voters rejected it 45-55 percent.

4) Religious freedom. Private religious schools seeking more government money would have received more of it with the passage of this amendment, which struck a church-and-state separation clause in the state Constitution. Voters rejected it 45-56 percent.

What's more, Florida tea party enemy No. 1, the outspoken and liberal Democrat Alan Grayson, won election in a newly drawn congressional seat in Central Florida. The other new congressional seat, in South Florida, was won by former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, who had a relatively easy time dispatching her opponent, Adam Hasner, who had briefly run as a tea party conservative in the race to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson.

Nelson won handily, beating Congressman Connie Mack 55-42 percent. Mack's campaign largely focused on calling Nelson a "lockstep liberal" -- a line of attack that made the Republican seem like a partisan in a season when many voters want politicians to stop acting like political hatchet men.

Tuesday's results indicate that the electorate in Florida wants a little more balance.

Where Republicans say no taxes should be raised, 57 percent of Floridians say that the wealthy at least should spend a little more, exit polls showed. Voters were more likely to believe that Obama's policies favored the middle class when compared to Romney's, which would be of more benefit to the rich.

But Florida voters are obviously not wild about Obama, either, and he's the head of the Democratic Party.

Obama's healthcare law, for instance wasn't formally rejected by way of the anti-Obamacare amendment, voters in Florida disfavor the law. About 48 percent wanted at least some aspects of Obamacare repealed; 40 percent want to leave it as is or to expand it.

Asked if government should do more to solve problems, 40 percent said yes and 50 percent said no.

So while Democrats can exult in their Florida win Tuesday, they can remember that Republicans were feeling just as triumphant in 2010. And before that, in 2008, Democrats were enjoying Obama's first historic win.

The differences between each of those elections? Turnout. Democrats, who outnumber registered Republicans in Florida, didn't show in 2010 while the GOP over-performed. Democrats typically under-perform in gubernatorial election years in Florida, which is why the GOP controls the state Capitol.

"The Obama organization showed up Tuesday and the Republicans did not to the same degree," Plakon said. "Now the next two years begins."

That's a good indication tea party conservatism is far from over. It's just taking a break. Florida voters thought it needed one.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

debbieqd

Will these extreme conservatives ever admit that they can't sell their message? It isn't the ones Americans believe is good for them and for the country. The Tea Party needed a big rejection; it got one.

Rachael Boggs

The so-so Tea Party made too much noise and was confined to the back room in the N. Florida homes. See more at e12thst.com

John N Florida

20+% of the Tea Party Caucus got thrown out of Washington last night. Will Boehner act just as afraid of 48 as he did 65?
The best thing Boehner can do is put those 48 in an office building in south Virginia and forget about them. He'll have almost 200 Democrats and the same number of Republicans to pass bills. He only needs 218.
The only excuse he had is now gone. The 2008 Inauguration Night Strategy failed big time. Obama WON his 2nd term.
It's time to work together and get the country in 2nd and 3rd gear now.
Should the Republicans continue to obstruct and push their Theocratic Issues, 2014 could see them hiring moving vans by the dozens.
Florida will not be sending another Tea Party Candidate to national office. Even Marco Rubio has abandoned them (of course, in my view, he was NEVER a part of them. They were convenient to 'use').
The funniest thing on TV last night was Karl Rove sputtering that the Ohio 'call' COULDN'T be correct.

Who put Obama in office for the 2nd time?

93% of black voters (representing 13% of the electorate),
71% of Latinos (representing 10%),
73% of Asians (3%).
60% of the 18-29 group (19%)
55% of women. Women are 54% of the electorate.
Obama won unmarried women two-to-one: 67% to 31%.
Many of those unmarried women are Mothers. Women's Health Care, which Republicans promised to decimate, is VERY important to that group. Many of them must depend on Medicaid for themselves and their children since Republicans also believe discriminating against them on pay is also a good idea.

5 groups that the Republicans either ignore or attempted to subjugate with repressive, 1950s laws.

By 2020, without change, the Republican Party will go the way of the 'Whigs'. The 'Crackers' will hold out longer.

Robert Berthaut

No more political ads, at least for a while. Thank God!

The comments to this entry are closed.