Florida’s vote has been crucial in recent US electoral history. Who could forget eight years ago, when the disputed result in the state was decisive in bringing George W. Bush to power?
Today, too, a hard-fought battle is being waged for the Sunshine State’s 27 Electoral College votes.
Early this year, the Republicans were riding high.
But the financial crisis has turned things around, not least for the sizeable elderly population. And many look to be shifting their support to Barack Obama.
“I have to live on social security and the little pension I get from the government and that is not enough to pass me along, you know,” said retired government employee Eugene Ferber.
Another key group is the state’s Latin Americans, notably the large Cuban community. It traditionally votes Republican. But many in the younger generation of Cuban-Americans believe it is time to change policy towards Havana, as Obama has pledged to do.
“The embargo is an issue,” said computer analyst Maria Estevez, 45.
“I think it has not been a successful embargo. I don’t think it has met what it is supposed to do.”
The housing crisis has also thrown pollsters’ predictions out of the window. Florida is the US state with the biggest increase in repossessions in the first quarter. And lots of those who backed Bush in the last two elections now feel betrayed.
Florida householder Fernando Cano said:
“They tricked people like rats.”
“Look what happened. I am going to lose my home. I have lived here for ten years and I remortgaged. They are tricking all those people, saying they will help. But the benefits go to the banks, the gasoline producers, the oil companies.”
It still looks too close to call in Florida. But now that the state’s unemployment rate has risen above the national average, the McCain camp’s mission looks all the more daunting.