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.