ORLANDO – Most political pundits think it’s still too early to figure out if the economy, gas prices, tensions in the Middle East and a host of other issues will work to the benefit of the Democrats who won big in 2008, or the Republicans who scored heavily in 2010.
Political consultant Doug Guetzloe, the host of The Guetzloe Report on the Phoenix Network and an advisor to the Tea Party of Florida, thinks one big headline in November will be that congressional redistricting in Florida worked to the benefit of Democrats, particularly here in Central Florida, giving them potentially two to three new seats.
“Central Florida could play a huge role in who runs Congress,” Guetzloe said, and he predicted that if Democrats do well in the congressional elections, “10 percent of their pickups could be achieved here in Florida.”
Redistricting is the process done every 10 years, where state legislatures redraw the lines of the state’s congressional districts to reflect population shifts. Districts that gain a lot of new residents often need to shrink in size, while districts that have fewer residents a decade later need to add more people, and expand.
Last month, the Florida Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, approved new lines for the state’s existing 25 seats in Congress, as well as for the two new congressional districts that Florida picked up because the Sunshine State was one of the fastest growing in the past decade.
Guetzloe said he’s reviewed the new districts and thinks several of them will likely be competitive. One is the new 9th Congressional District, which covers parts of Orange and Osceola counties, and leans in favor of Democrats. Under the new lines, this district gave President Barack Obama 60 percent of the vote in 2008.
Former Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat who carried the state’s old 8th Congressional District in 2008 but then lost in the 2010 GOP landslide, is running for the new seat, and Guetzloe predicted he would win it.
“We put Alan Grayson in the cat seat for winning this new district,” Guetzloe said.
The district was created to reflect the solid population growth in Central Florida in the past decade, and a sizeable minority of the district’s voters are Latino. But Guetzloe said that doesn’t mean this is a Latino-majority district.
“The growth comes mostly from Puerto Ricos who moved here, and old timers who tend to favor Democrats,” he said. “Forty percent of the district’s population is Latino – but only 10 percent of the registered voters are Latino. You have a lot of people who are not registered to vote. The trend for those who do vote is 65 percent Democratic, and for Alan Grayson, it’s perfect. He’s got the money, he’s got the name I.D.”
In an email sent to supporters on March 1, Grayson noted that he heads into the campaign having built up a large grassroots organization.
“Our campaign has always been a grassroots campaign,” Grayson noted. “This is a campaign that generated more than 60,000 volunteer phone calls to our voters in a single day. This is a campaign that helped to register a net 27,000 new Democratic voters in our district in only nine months. This is a campaign that has been financed by contributions from 100,000 people. In the fight against Big Money in campaigns, this is how Democrats can win and should win.” Because the district includes the city of Kissimmee and since 40 percent of the voters are Latino, Guetzloe said Republicans are trying to convince Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones to be the Republican candidate. But in a district that went 2-1 for Obama in 2008 and probably will again in November, Guetzloe said Quinones faces an uphill battle.
“A Republican Latino has even less chance of winning because the 10 percent of registered voters who are Latino are about 90 percent Democratic,” Guetzloe said.
Another shift has been in the state’s new 10th Congressional District, which takes in much of the territory represented by U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, the Republican who defeated Grayson in 2010. But as Guetzloe noted, the district isn’t overwhelmingly Republican. It gave 52 percent to Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential race.
“It’s bad news for Webster,” Guetzloe said. “The old District 8, when Webster won it, was a Democratic district, but when he won Obama was not on the ballot, and the trend in 2010 was anti-Democratic that year. Webster’s new district became modestly more Republican, but it’s still a largely Democratic district.”
He predicted that the Democrat’s likely nominee in the new 10th Congressional District, former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, would be competitive there, since the Legislature added some black-majority precincts in the Orlando area as part of the new lines.
“They had to add some black precincts to the district, and Webster could very well lose that district,” Guetzloe said.
Whether Webster runs isn’t clear. A longtime Republican, Guetzloe said he’s on the mailing list for all of the state’s top GOP lawmakers, and hasn’t heard a thing from Webster’s office yet about his re-election plans.
“I’m beginning to think he may not be running again,” Guetzloe said.
Another interesting race to watch is Florida’s new 7th Congressional District, which takes in parts of the old districts represented by John Mica and Sandy Adams, two Republicans. Both decided to run in the new district, setting up a potentially bruising primary between two incumbents.
That primary, Guetzloe predicted, would be a non-starter, with one candidate having an overwhelming advantage.
”Adams and Mica were thrown into the same district and Adams said ‘I’m going to take on John Mica,’ “ Guetzloe said. “She’s determined to stay in, and she wants to run against him in the primary. That should be a 62 percent to 38 percent victory for Mica. Most of it is in Mica’s old district.”
One thing Republicans are not likely to be able to count on in 2012, Guetzloe said, is the kind of sweeping victory they won in 2010. A lot of Democrats didn’t bother to show up at the polls in 2010, Guetzloe said, but they likely will in November.
“With Obama on the ticket, win or lose, I think Democrats are going to pick up seats this year,” he said. “I think Grayson is a definite win and Demings may win as well.”
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