Justin Sayfie is a Florida attorney and government-relations consultant who publishes both SayfieReview.com on Florida politics, and SayfieNews.com on U.S. politics. National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez checked in with him on the eve of the Florida primary for pointers and on-the-ground insight.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Do you have a dog in this Florida primary fight?
Justin Sayfie: No. I have not endorsed, contributed or supported any GOP candidate thus far.
Lopez: What are the odds Crist’s gamble on McCain pays off? Sayfie: The odds are 9:5. Today’s poll from Quinnipiac shows a dead heat between Governor Romney and Senator McCain, and if McCain wins Florida, it looks likely he will win by a small margin. If so, it will be safe to say that the Crist endorsement will have put McCain over the top. With the polls being so close, it’s foolish to attempt to predict the outcome, but there’s no doubt that the Crist endorsement gave the McCain camp some needed momentum heading into the final three days of the Florida primary.
Lopez: Why hasn’t Rudy taken off in Florida? Sayfie: Rudy started out strong in Florida, and was polling well here prior to the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. But once he started losing in dramatic fashion in the early states, his Florida poll numbers dropped, and the numbers for the early state winners rose. Florida is a unique state in many respects, but it’s not immune from the “early state effect,” and winners of those early states are taken more seriously than the losers in those early states. It’s counterintuitive to think that a candidate who cannot chalk up at least one win in an early state can compete in a state as large as Florida.
Lopez: Romney seems to be economy guy and McCain seems to be kill-Romney guy this weekend. Which resonates?
Sayfie: Economic issues are at the forefront in Florida, as the cost of living in the state has become unaffordable for many, and we have seen our population growth go flat in the past year. Property taxes and high property insurance rates are top of mind for Florida voters. The rhetoric between McCain and Romney has been blistering in recent days, and we’ll find out tomorrow which candidate did the most damage.
Lopez: Any hanging chads to worry about? Will Tuesday be a late night? Sayfie: Thankfully, Florida ballots no longer have chads, hanging or otherwise; however, many counties will still be using touch-screen voting machines. These machines have been criticized for not producing a printed vote record, and came under fire in the 2006 election in Florida’s 13thCongressional District for recording a “no vote” on 1,800 ballots. If the margin of victory is under .5 percent, Florida law mandates an automatic recount. Given the closeness of the latest polls, it’s certainly a possibility.
Lopez: Watching returns tomorrow, is there anything about Florida we outsiders should bear in mind?
Sayfie: Bear in mind that the state has three distinct regions: North, Central, and South. North Florida, the Panhandle, is sparsely populated compared to the rest of the state, and has Florida’s most conservative voters and many members of the military as well as veterans. McCain and Romney should both do well in this part of the state. South Florida is the most populous part of the state, and tends to have more moderate Republican voters and more Hispanic voters, and is the part of the state that McCain and Giuliani can be expected to do relatively well. Central Florida, sometimes referred to as the I-4 corridor for the road that runs between Orlando and Tampa, is the populous bell-weather part of the state that will likely determine the outcome of the primary in Florida.