Fred Grimm

Fred Grimm: Early Florida primary could free candidates from pork-on-a-stick

AP

Imagine if it was us, instead of Iowa.

Imagine if presidential candidates, campaigning in the first important contest of the 2016 primary season, had to suck up to Floridians rather than cater to the special wants of hog farmers.

Certainly, if this month’s campaigning was taking place in Florida, rather than a state with 13 million acres of corn fields, presidential candidates would not be talking up ethanol as America’s magic elixir.

All of ‘em know, of course, that the federal ethanol mandate’s a lousy idea — but you can’t say that aloud. Not in Iowa. Not in an election year.

Ted Cruz, who had thought otherwise, learned that lesson last week when Gov. Terry Branstad announced: “I think it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him.”

Floridians, who don’t much care how much corn’s going in the gas tank, would find reasons other than ethanol to reject Cruz.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Iowans, but in a state with 10 times more pigs than humans, voters gravitate toward a rather parochial kind of politics. That explains why Iowans elected an unknown pistol-packing woman named Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate in 2014 after she ran a TV ad boasting, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.” She then promised to demonstrate those skills on Washington politicians and “make ‘em squeal.”

We have our own barnyard proclivities in Florida. Cockfighting, however, has not yet been incorporated in local political campaigns.

In another ad, Ernst was shown in her black leather jacket riding up on her Harley-Davidson, jumping off the hog (of a different kind), entering an indoor shooting range and opening fire while the narrator suggests she’s gonna be gunning down Obamacare. (Her success in Iowa might explain why we saw photos of Marco Rubio last week wielding a rifle and why other presidential candidates would rather discuss their personal armories than tax reform.)

Images of biker women wielding guns and knives would also provoke a strong reaction in Florida, but it would not resemble voting.

But wouldn’t it be nice if presidential candidates were playing to the provincial concerns of Floridians for a change? If they were campaigning down our way this week, we’d be hearing candidates discussing cross-dressing vodou priests or crocodiles invading home swimming pools. “This, my fellow Americans, is exactly why you need a gun-toting Republican in the White House.”

We’d be hearing promises to carpet-bomb black bears and pythons because talk about building a wall to keep out immigrants just wouldn’t resonate in a state with a 1,350-mile coastline, where 20 percent of the residents are foreign born.

Candidates would be healthier anyway, foregoing obligatory Iowa campaign fare like pork-on-a-stick, double-bacon corn dogs, Twinkies deep fried in ethanol for traditional Florida snacks like charred zucchini hummus, yellowfin tuna crudo, grouper cheeks and heaves-frites-not-on-a-stick.

If nothing else, it would be wonderful to watch some candidate campaigning hereabouts, standing on a Miami Beach street, explaining why climate change is a bogus issue, even as the tidewater laps over top of his high-heeled Florsheim boots.

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