The latest statewide poll by The Miami Herald and its media partners shows a virtual tie in the presidential race in Florida. And it came as a shock to liberals and Democrats.
From the economy to foreign policy to Medicare questions, The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald/Tampa Bay Times survey released over the weekend showed President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney neck-and-neck on the issues or the Republican within striking distance.
Obama and Romney are basically tied, 48-47 percent overall.
Liberals couldnt understand how this could be true, considering all the self-inflicted wounds of Romney and his campaign.
But the data are the data. The poll reflected how people feel, not how partisans think they should feel. And the poll results remind us that there are other data out there all bad for an incumbent president that underpin the entire election in the nations biggest battleground state.
In short, its the economy, stupid. Plus a little immigration, foreign policy and healthcare.
• 330,000: the number of homes in foreclosure in Florida. Almost half of all homes are underwater, meaning the owner owes more on the mortgage than the homes value.
• 67.6 percent: this years second-quarter Florida homeownership rate, which hasnt been this low since about 1999, when 15 percent fewer people lived in the state.
• 8.8 percent: the states official unemployment rate, higher than the national average.
• 800,000: the number of people counted within the unemployment rate.
• 399: the number of callers on hold when a Herald reporter recently called to check the waiting time of the states customer service department for jobless claims.
• 9.8 percent: what the unemployment rate would be if all labor-force-eligible workers who havent found work in Florida were counted.
• 60.1 percent: the labor-force participation rate, which hasnt been this low since 1986.
• 29,000: the amount Floridas labor force shrank in July.
• 715,000: the number of jobs lost during the 18-month recession.
• 1.4 million: the number of undocumented immigrants deported under President Obama.
• 55-41: the Senate vote that killed the DREAM Act sought by advocates of limited immigration amnesty.
• 4: the number of foreign-service workers, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, killed at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
• 1979: the last time an ambassador of the United States was killed overseas, in Afghanistan.
• $716 billion: the estimated reductions in future increases commonly called cuts to Medicare under the presidents affordable healthcare act.
• $16 trillion: the current size of the national debt.
• 18 percent: the proportion of Floridians on Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor.
The parade of horribles goes on, and largely began under Republican leadership.
George W. Bush was president when the recession started and budget deficits ballooned amid unfunded wars, tax cuts and a Medicare prescription-drug benefit.
Republicans have controlled Florida for years. And Gov. Rick Scott and his fellow Republicans made it tougher for people to get jobless benefits. That increases 1) the level of frustration and/or 2) the likelihood people dont get their checks and spend them quickly.
But George Bush isnt on the ballot. Rick Scott isnt. Yet.
Obama is. He promised hope and change, and a better economy. His healthcare program is unpopular in Florida. So he and Romney are viewed as near-equals over managing Medicare, the poll shows. It also shows that Democratic voters are far less likely to blame Obama for the shape of the economy, while Republicans are far more likely to do so. Independents are in the middle.
When it comes to immigration, Obamas campaign has been tougher on the undocumented than Bush was despite the conservative talking point that Obama has failed on immigration.
Obama also failed to make good on his promise to pass the DREAM Act.
My biggest failure is that we havent gotten comprehensive immigration reform done, the president said Thursday during a forum with Univision at the University of Miami.
He also seemed to backtrack on whether he could change Washington. And he ducked a question about whether the Benghazi consulate was ready for an attack.
The day before, Romney sat in the same seat with Univision, but might have played it smarter.
The Republican gave the show and its liberal-leaning hosts who were anything but easy on Obama 35 minutes instead of the hour Obama gave. Romney played out the clock at times and was largely able to coast through with a loud cheering section he brought along.
The crowd even jeered Univisions host, Jorge Ramos, for having the audacity to ask a tough question.
The next day, Democrats started to complain that the Romney campaign had rigged the system.
Its an interesting argument coming from those who support an Obama campaign that brags about its organizational ground game. But it got outplayed on the ground.
As the polls tighten, that sound from the left is called whining.
It was the same sound that conservatives made about news stories chronicling Romneys repeated stumbles from having angry old man Clint Eastwood arguing with an empty chair at the GOP convention to Romney initially botching his criticism of the presidents handling of the embassy and consulate attacks to Romney disparaging half the public as moochers.
None of that helped Romney. Arguably, it hurt him.
While explaining himself, Romney hasnt had the time or the inclination to adequately explain the specifics of his plans or why he feels theyre superior to Obamas.
But none of the above statistics help Obama, either. Arguably, they have hurt him. Floridians are hurting in this economy 51 percent say they are not better off than they were four years ago.
All of this the Romney gaffes plus the bad economy under Obama makes for a tight race.
You dont need a poll to tell you that.
Just call the unemployment-benefits hotline to find out. If you have the time.