NAPLES, FL Like Ali-Frazier and the Thriller in Manila, the race for the white house is shaping up to be a nasty battle in the twenty-nine electoral vote rich battleground state of Florida. Four years ago, Senatorbarely out polled President Obama by 536 votes in the popular vote count.
In 2004 Florida handed its electoral votes to Presidentas it had done in the disputed hanging chad election of 2000.
Since 2008, Florida like most states in the union with a majority Republican state legislature has enacted tough new voter identification laws and reduced the period of time that voters can either vote by mail or participate in early voting. Opponents of such laws argue this type of legislation tends to drive down the number of voters participating in the electoral process.
Collier County, Florida may be a microcosm of how the national race will pan out. The Florida legislature has granted Collier County, by all accounts a staunchly Republican county, permission to early vote five days more than all but four other counties in the state. This could be a significant edge for Governor Mitt Romney.
“We are already registered to vote,” said a white male voter walking out of services at the mega-church, New Hope Christian Center, in Naples, FL on Sunday to a group of field organizers with Organizing for America (OFA), President Obama’s grassroots get out the vote campaign.
As if to add injury to insult, the man added, “We are already registered to early vote too, and we can’t wait for the first day of early voting to come.”
Since the church goer was not asked by the field organizers who his church members would be voting for so early in the presidential election, he walked boldly towards them with an additional taunt.
“I can’t believe that you all would come here to try and register anybody for him,” pointing to a register to vote poster with a picture of President Obama on it.
“Everybody knows that most Democrats are not Christians,” his insults in the name of the Lord completed, he back pedaled off towards his automobile.
“Organizing for America...,” Anthony LaPorta, a white male Naples voter in his early sixties queried an Organizing Fellow with OFA during a voter persuasion telephone call.
“What are you organizing America for? Are you organizing America to shoot the Niggers, to shoot the Jews or to shoot the Muslims? That’s the only reason to organize America is to shoot the Niggers or to shoot the Jews or to shoot the Muslims, which one are you talking about?”
Whereupon, the Organizing Fellow not wishing to engage Mr. LaPorta further terminated the telephone conversation and reported Mr. LaPorta to the FBI.
“I’m calling to see if President Obama can count on your support in the election this year,” a telephone canvasser said to a Naples resident who had voted Republican in the last presidential election. “F**k President Obama,” the Republican voter said quickly clicking his telephone receiver off.
In spite of the harshness of the rhetorical tone coming from Romney’s supporters in South west Florida, Organizing for America has opened over 100 field offices in the state of Florida. Sunday they will have a grand opening for their second field office in Naples, on Anchor Rode Drive, just three blocks from the lone Republican Headquarters on Highway 41.
“I’m voting for President Obama,” said a 71 year old Jewish woman. “I’m concerned about my social security.”
Her sentiments were echoed by an 83 year old Jewish man who had retired in Naples after working in academia in the northeast. “I’m not sure what Romney will do to Medicare, so put me down as definitely voting for President Obama,” he said to a canvasser who knocked on his condo door.
Organizers have found a fertile ground for Obama voters in the Latino and Haitian section of Archer Park. The Haitians especially remember the aid President Obama supplied to Haiti during the earthquake of 2009. One Organizing Fellow with OFA found several houses in the Haitian community where four or more registered voters lived.
However, the Haitian community is not fully in President Obama’s corner as one local Haitian preacher has been encouraging his congregation not to vote for President Obama because of his stance on same sex marriage. Organizers are meeting with him this week to discuss how President Obama would be more helpful to the Haitian community than a Romney presidency.
The fact that Florida is such a critical state is underscored by the fact that Jeremy Bird, National Field Director for Organizing for America has set up a Georgia in Florida day for this coming Saturday. Volunteers will make calls from their homes in Georgia to Florida voters encouraging them to register before the October 9 deadline and to vote early so they will be available to help get voters to the polls on Election Day.
Many political pundits believe that Florida is the key to a Romney victory. A Romney loss in Florida and Obama can bar the Electoral College door.