LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Given Florida’s status as a swing state in the 2016 elections, the absence of the Democratic Party’s two major presidential candidates didn’t go unnoticed during the state party’s annual convention this weekend at Walt Disney World.
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were campaigning in other states and missed out on what Florida Democratic Party officials called a record-breaking gathering of the party faithful.
The 2,000 attendees left with mixed emotions. Energized, certainly — but also somewhat disappointed.
“You had some who really thought it would signal Florida’s importance” if Clinton and Sanders were to attend, said Susan McManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. “Others are happy that people seem engaged even without their presence, and they’re willing to be patient until the general election.”
Democrats know they have to mobilize both their base and moderate voters, if they’re going to have a chance at winning not only the presidency but also Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat.
Both parties have a slate of candidates duking it out in the party primaries, hoping to put up the strongest candidate in a competitive race to replace Marco Rubio.
Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter congressman, picked up several major endorsements during the weekend that propelled his status as the Democratic establishment’s favorite in the race.