Florida Democrats celebrate this weekend at Disney World; Republicans might wind up knocking on your door.
The contrast between the two parties — one reveling in repeat election wins and favorable polls at its state conference, the other canvassing neighborhoods door-to-door statewide — illustrates Florida’s state of political play over the next election year.
“Florida Democrats are in Orlando this weekend to talk to themselves,” said Tim Saler, a top Republican Party of Florida political strategist.
“While their wheels are spinning at their convention,” he said, “we will have hundreds of precinct captains knocking on doors and talking to thousands of real voters about the issues that matter to them.”
For months, even as Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s poll numbers remained poor, RPOF says it has been identifying and then personally contacting thousands of voters — especially the estimated 450,000 Republicans who vote in presidential elections but didn’t in 2010.
More than half live in conservative “fortress precincts” targeted by Republicans.
RPOF also recently announced three new Hispanic-outreach coordinators. Democrats had already hired three of their own.
Democrats have a bigger edge with Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate. And they’re trying to keep it that way.
Since May, the Florida Democratic Party says it has hosted about six monthly voter-registration efforts outside naturalization ceremonies in Central and South Florida, where they also have held an average of three Hispanic community events a month.
Democrats have tailored some events toward Venezuelans, Colombians, Cubans, Nicaraguans and Puerto Ricans in different areas of the state.
“We haven’t stopped our efforts since 2012,” said the Florida Democratic Party’s political director, Christian Ulvert, estimating the party has out-registered Republicans with Hispanics by a ratio of three to one.
“We haven’t seen where the Republicans have been doing it in a coordinated way or effective way,” he said.
Democrats have eagerly informed Hispanics of Scott’s hardline immigration stances. They also note that, between the 2010 and 2012 elections, more Hispanics registered as independents — 538,708 — than as Republicans, 476,488.
About 645,000 Hispanics were registered as Democrats in the last election.
Just as the buzz of President Barack Obama’s November 2012 win was wearing off, Democrats scored a second victory this month when Democrat Amanda Murphy won a Pasco County state House seat despite being outspent by the Republicans.
The tarnished GOP brand during the partial government shutdown and Scott’s low standing with voters, consultants say, played roles in Murphy’s victory two weeks before this weekend’s Florida Democratic Party State Conference at a Disney resort.
But if previous elections are any indication, Democrats have an uphill climb next year. Republicans typically over-perform in midterm elections, allowing the GOP to control the governor’s office, Cabinet and a majority of the Legislature.
Polls indicate the best Democratic candidate for governor was once a Republican — Gov. Charlie Crist — who will attend the conference.