I interviewed Michael Barone yesterday on the Republican presidential contest. Barone agrees that the race is wide open between Giuliani, McCain and Romney, and that it is not too late for Fred Thompson to enter. Here are his thoughts on the possible big move-up of Florida’s primary:
HH: Now yesterday, the Florida House of Representatives voted unanimously to change the date of Florida’s presidential primary to the second Tuesday in January, or the Tuesday immediately following the New Hampshire primary, whichever occurs first. Michael Barone, that really screws this thing up.
MB: Well, it does, and I suspect that that violates the Democratic Party rules, which would present some problems for Democrats. But you know, the only sanction for violating those rules is your delegates don’t get counted in the national convention. And of course, by the time the national convention comes around, the nominee’s been determined, so who cares if the delegates are not seated, you know?
MB: Let them sit in the front row in the gallery. Yeah, Florida, it’s not clear whether that’s going to go ahead in the Florida Senate, I gather, from reading comments by people that know more about it than I do. But yeah, that’s even a week before the Mardi Gras primary, February 5th.
HH: If that happens, who does that help in this, way out? Obviously, you’d have the trampoline effect from Iowa to New Hampshire, but assuming all things equal, who does that help to move Florida to the front like that?
MB: Well, on the Republican side, I think it probably helps Rudy Giuliani, who starts off quite well known in Florida, with the raft of former New Yorkers there, although not a lot of them are in the Republican…you know, Jewish voters not in the Republican primary for the most part. It probably, conceivably help Mitt Romney, who’s got the support of a lot of people, former state chairman Al Cardenas and a lot of people close to former Governor Jeb Bush, including his chief of staff. So…
HH: Has a Florida primary…
MB: That high level support has to translate into votes.
MB: That’s not always automatic, but it’s certainly plausible.
HH: Have you heard that Jeb Bush will be endorsing Romney down the road at some point?
MB: I have not heard that, but it would not surprise me, given the fact that so many people who are close to Jeb Bush have already done so.
HH: Now has Florida ever played a decisive role in presidential politics? In many respects, it may be the ideal state to have a big role, because it is so very much a cross section of America.
MB: Well, it’s the fourth largest state now.
MB: We tend to forget that. If you go back to 1940, Florida was the smallest state in the South. That ain’t the case no more. It’s the fourth largest state, it’s got a wide variety of people, mixtures and so forth. You know, Broward County voted 68% for Al Gore over George W. Bush. That’s a county with a large Jewish percentage, Fort Lauderdale, the Western Panhandle of Florida, an area about the same population, voted 68% for George Bush. So you’ve got a wide variety of people there, you’ve got a large body of registered Republicans. Historically, there was a big registration edge for Democrats. That’s down to about very little, at this point. And in fact, we’ve had higher turnout in state Republican primaries than in Democratic primaries in Florida. So it’s kind of a broad-based Republican electorate, not just a few country club people. And you know, a wide variety of people, and it’s also been one of America’s fastest growing states, not only in population, but as an economy. I mean, Jeb…it may be no coincidence that Jeb Bush has had these tax lowering policies, advancing school choice, and Florida has been booming. And it’s not just retirees or anything, it’s a state of commerce.
Barone is the best analyst of the political math at work in America. Read the entire interview, and preorder his new book due in a bout a month: Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America’s Founding Fathers