Monday, October 25, 2004

Florida Senate Race Tied

Betty Castor (D) and Mel Martinez (R) each have 44% with 10% undecided. They have one more debate tonight at Florida International University in Miami. The outcome, according to the Miami Herald, depends on how well things go for the top of the ticket, and Bush and Kerry are statistically tied.

The two races have been intertwined from the start. Martinez, a Cuban American, was drafted to run by the White House to help boost Hispanic turnout in Florida.

Not surprisingly, he and Bush draw support from the same places and people. Both are popular among Hispanics, voters between 35 and 49 years old, Panhandle residents and men under 50. “Martinez might as well be Bush,” Schroth said.

While Martinez closely aligned himself with the president, especially before the primary election, Castor has consistently described herself as moderate and independent. Her strategy seems to have worked: She holds a 10-point edge in the poll among independent voters. That could be an advantage on Election Day, since undecided voters tend to be independent and could ultimately fall into her camp.

Nineteen percent of independents have yet to take sides, reflecting the impact of the successive hurricanes that overwhelmed news and advertising in the Senate race.

“People were tuned out for six, eight weeks of prime political advertising,” Schroth said. “In a presidential year with four named hurricanes aimed at Florida, it’s quite difficult to get noticed.”

Meanwhile their ad campaigns are getting shrill and nasty.

Two of Martinez’s often-played ads say Castor should have taken stronger action when she was president of the University of South Florida against a professor accused of aiding Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Polls suggest that the ads worked at first, although Castor evened the score after running a commercial that also tied Martinez to the professor.

To Michael Hochman, a 57-year-old independent Jewish voter from Margate, the Martinez ads were “nasty” and unfair.

“I just don’t like him for that,” Hochman said. “I think he’s a dimwit.”

Kind of makes you miss the hurricane warnings. Well, no, but you get the idea.