Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Obama Stumps in GOP Territory

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Obama Stumps in GOP Territory

Article excerpt

President Barack Obama's two-day Florida campaign swing goes right to the heart of Republican territory.

Obama spent part of Thursday in Jacksonville and is set to visit Fort Myers this morning -- both areas that Democrats and Republicans agree the president has little chance of winning in November.

A Democratic presidential candidate has not carried Jacksonville's Duval County or Fort Myers' Lee County in more than 30 years.

Explaining the strategy to reporters in a conference call before the visits, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said, "We're not ceding any corner of Florida."

More than trying to win those areas, Republicans say the itinerary shows Obama is attacking the new GOP playbook for winning Florida. In the 2010 governor's race, Republican Rick Scott lost Florida's six biggest counties and most of the Interstate 4 corridor, yet still won because of hefty victory margins in the GOP strongholds of Southwest Florida and Jacksonville.

Obama's visits there come barely a month before the Republican National Convention kicks off in Florida.

"He's trying to mitigate his losses in those areas," said Jamie Miller, a veteran Republican campaign manager.

Past elections results show why. Democrats who have lost statewide in Florida have typically been crushed in Duval and Lee counties, even while winning along the Interstate 4 corridor. Democratic winners have cut their losses in those regions.

In 2000, Democrat Al Gore lost Duval and Lee counties to Republican George W. Bush by more than 75,000 votes. John Kerry did even worse in 2004, losing to Bush in those counties by a combined 111,000 votes en route to losing the state by 380,000 total votes.

Obama also lost both counties in 2008, but by about 35,000 votes combined. In Duval County, Obama came within 8,000 votes of winning. …

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