County Democratic Chairman Phil Giorno acknowledged the local party has had some trouble recruiting volunteers, but the Obama campaign has been aggressively working the county from two campaign offices.
About 10 percent of the county’s electorate is African-American, and the growing Hispanic population, mostly Puerto Ricans, makes up another 10 percent ripe for Obama.
“I really appreciate what Obama has done with health care reform, and it’s clear he’s the one more for the middle class, not just the rich,” said Marlene Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico who moved to Deltona from New York three years ago.
The Obama campaign is targeting those voters, as well as independent seniors and students at four colleges and universities in Volusia — Bethune Cookman, Stetson, Daytona State College, and Embry-Riddle.
In random interviews across the county last week, there were also signs that the Obama campaign’s middle class-focused message is starting to register. Four different people independently cited the Democratic convention or Bill Clinton’s convention speech as helping push them to the sitting president.
“I was strictly Romney, but after the convention I’m leaning toward Obama,” said Republican Matt Pitts, while slinging hot dogs at his Casey’s on the Corner restaurant in downtown DeLand. “I’m worried Romney is going to end up raising taxes for us small little guys. I’m a small businessman, and Obama looks like he’ll be better for small businesses, instead of big business.”
Like so much of Florida, Volusia is defined more by agenda and common community. West Volusia relates much more to Orlando than Daytona Beach, reapportionment has carved up Volusia so much that a county that once produced legislative giants such as Brown, T.K. Wetherell and Sam Bell, is now mostly fragmented.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal newspaper used to be a powerful, Democratic-leaning and community-minded voice in Volusia. But its family owners sold it in 2010, and the newspaper now steers largely clear of politics.
“That was kind of a beacon of liberal and progressive thinking that influenced voters,” said Bell, who represented Volusia in the state House for more than a decade.
Likewise, locals say the influential France family — founders of NASCAR and the Daytona International Speedway — are no longer as visible in local politics.
That trend and the lack of cohesiveness make Volusia as complex politically as Florida itself.
It takes much more than a Cassadaga dowsing rod to figure out its electorate.
Adam C. Smith can be reached at email@example.com.