Florida earned its reputation long ago as a life-or-death presidential battleground with a mixed population that can swing to favor either party’s candidate with its hefty 29 electoral votes.
This year figures to fit the form. But first, some old business is due to be settled in the state’s southern reaches, where fans of Bernie Sanders are still clashing with fans of Hillary Clinton — over a congressional seat.
In 10 days, the Sanders-backed reform candidate Tim Canova challenges Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a longtime Clinton ally, for the Democratic nomination.
Like Clinton, Wasserman Schultz, 49, owns an insider’s edge, having chaired their party’s national committee for years while an elected incumbent.
Like Sanders, underdog Canova, a 56-year-old lawyer, criticizes his opponent’s support from corporate and Wall Street interests and describes the contest as part of a movement bigger than either of them.
Like Clinton, Wasserman Schultz ran into trouble over hacked emails. Their release hastened her already-expected departure on the eve of last month’s convention.
Like Sanders, Canova knows he’s the underdog, with polls showing his opponent in the lead.
And as in the Clinton-Sanders contest, both candidates have New York roots, having lived in their youth on Long Island.
Presidentially speaking, though, that’s just a distracting warm-up.
The main event in November offers a number of angles peculiar to the Sunshine State, four presidential terms after its hanging chads and lawsuits put George W. Bush in the White House.
Perhaps in Clinton’s favor: Former Gov. Jeb Bush, trounced in the GOP primaries, rejects the candidacy of party nominee Donald Trump. Also, a Monmouth University poll on Tuesday had the Democrat leading Florida, 48 to 39 percent.
But analysts see Florida as the strongest of the swing states for Trump. Last week Quinnipiac University showed the candidates in a statistical tie. And The Washington Post describes it as “the only battleground that moved in Trump’s direction after both conventions.”
Demographics statewide may favor his strength among older white males, and his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach has given Trump a long-term presence in the area.
A potential downside for the Republican: The number of Hispanic voters in the state jumped by 242,000 since the 2012 contest, according to Politico.