Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gators - Noles - Voter Turnout?

Today is the day the Florida legislature wrought - the annual UF - FSU football game. Back in the day when FSU was recovering from its start in life as the Florida State College for Women, The University of Florida had no interest in engaging the FSU upstarts on the gridiron. It actually took the threat of a legislative mandate for the Gators to agree to play the girls school. But what a rivalry it has become!

Ok having got that out of the way, what in the heck does that have to do with voter turnout? Well, people are going to turn out in droves for the game today. Florida Field will be jammed to the rafters with well over 90,000 in the stands. The bars will be packed with Noles and Gator fans cheering for their teams. And the number of game day parties are literally too numerous to count. And all for a football game? Well, yeah.

The game will be played, one team will win and secure the bragging rights for the year. But other than that, will the game really affect your life all that much? Answer - no, not really.

But how about the impact of the next person to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Or the next Member of Congress from the _ _ District of Florida? Or the next state legislator or Governor? How do we get people as fired up for these things that truly make a difference in our lives as they do for the big game?

That may actually be the answer - convincing potential voters that they can make a difference. You would think that it wouldn't be that hard to do in Florida, of all places. After all, just seven years ago, 537 votes made all the difference in the world. Yet we still get elections like the recent special election for the state House where only 3.5% of the registered voters in Broward County bothered to vote. Or the recent City Council elections in St. Petersburg where we got a whopping 11% voter turnout. And those are just the registered voters. Who knows what a miserable number it would be if we were measuring all potentially eligible voters?

Well, I'll tell you it doesn't help when we get quotes like this:
"She's relentless and she knows Iowa," Davis said. "She's terrific at organizing volunteers and building grass roots. In a state like Iowa, that's important. Florida is more of a TV state where field operations don't matter as much."
That was Jim Davis talking about his campaign manager, Jennifer O'Malley, who is now John Edwards State Director in Iowa. Well, you know I love ya Jim, but those kind of quotes don't help us much. Field operations always matter. And to my way of thinking, they actually matter more in Florida than they do in Iowa. That's because everybody gets it in Iowa and they go all out on their ground game. Here, the team with the better ground game stands a much better chance of winning.

Even Joe Biden, who's campaign manager used to be the Executive Director of the FDP doesn't get it:
"You can't campaign like this in Florida," said Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware. "What do you have, 17-million people? In the last two years, I will have probably met with 60,000 Iowans who plan to caucus. Only in a small state can you do that."

Well, sure you can, Joe. You just need to turn as many of those 60,000 folks as you can into volunteers for you. You don't do it because you don't try. And if you don't try, you don't win.

I assure you, those young men on the field in Gainesville today will be trying.


PattyP said...

Just say Noles! :-P

Ray Seaman said...

Thanks for those quotes Gene. Boy, you wonder why people like Jim Davis don't win. Duh people!!!

Of course, our problem in Florida has been that we didn't organize constantly, and so when our candidates were running, they knew that they had to play a TV game, largely because there was no ground organization for them to use. Thank God that's changing, and I think we're going to start seeing some of the fruits of that good labor come Election Day '08.

Go Gators!!!

gatordem said...

Patty - Surely you meant to say "Just say No Noles"?