Among the news that will likely dominate headlines in 2020 is the upcoming presidential election — and ever the swing state, Florida typically plays a crucial role on Election Day.
Voters will first cast their ballots in March during the presidential primary. Several Democratic candidates began rallying in South Florida last year — especially during the first debate held in Miami.
The South Florida Roundup looked ahead at 2020 and the stories that could define the year. Host Tom Hudson was joined by a panel of editorial page editors: Nancy Ancrum with the Miami Herald, Rick Christie with the Palm Beach Post, and Rosemary O’Hara with the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:
TOM HUDSON: Before we get to November, we gotta get through March and the Democratic presidential primary. Florida being so important obviously in this cycle for the Democrats, they began their debate calendar in June of last year here in South Florida. As the field is narrowing to some degree, what are the messages that the Democratic candidates are using to resonate with Florida voters?
NANCY ANCRUM: Some of them have made a huge step to the left, in terms of free tuition and Medicare For All. The degree to which that is resonating outside of South Florida remains to be seen. As it is branded socialism, however, that, too, will probably resonate to the north. I think that the Democratic Party, we have seen that big tent, everyone has a voice, which I think at this point is going to be to the party's detriment. I think they need to be more Republican here, strong-arm some people out of this race. Really there are still too many people. And I'm not saying who needs to go. I'm not sure who needs to go. Still, there has been a real lack of focus. The primary is in March, folks. People are distracted. People still are not paying attention.
HUDSON: When it comes to the primary, it's a closed system, right? It's going to only be the Floridians who are registered with the Democratic Party who are going to select their Democratic preference, when it comes to the president. Is the field just too large at this point beyond March?
RICK CHRISTIE: I agree with Nancy that the field is really too large. For the primary, the Democratic candidates need to realize that South Florida, Central Florida, North Florida, West Florida and Southwest Florida are very different. They have to have a message that resonates in all of those areas. Of course, a much more progressive message works in South Florida. As someone, I think, called a long time ago, what was the six states of Florida or something like that, they need to have a message that cuts across all those regions.
There are two things that would do well across all of those areas. One, I think is health care, because health care is a huge issue with regard to people who are still struggling to afford health care in the state of Florida. And the issue we've had with Medicaid expansion and everything. The other issue is infrastructure because I think that our state just has not done a very good job in terms of basic infrastructure on roads and water.
HUDSON: One of the other lingering memories of 2016 and 2018 will be Broward County votes, will be Palm Beach County votes. Counting those votes and counting them again, and in some cases, counting them again. What could be the year ahead, the test run of the presidential preference primary in March, but really looking at the November election, are we ready?
ROSEMARY O'HARA: The answer to that is really unknown because there are questions that haven't been answered. We've heard that at least two Florida counties' election systems were interfered with in the last election, and yet they won't tell us which counties those are. We have to take trust that those who are in charge of our elections are right when they tell us, 'Oh, everything's OK.'
Let's recall, the other thing that Republicans have going for them in this election year is Gov. [Ron] DeSantis. He owes his election to President Trump, who threw his support wildly behind him. Gov. DeSantis, who named the Broward supervisor of elections and the Palm Beach supervisor of elections, so we have two Republican election supervisors in two of the most Democratic counties in Florida. They were not elected and they are now changing things up and changing the systems. The other thing about the governor is that he has the bully pulpit in Florida. He's popular and can command the stage. And for the president, it's a huge lift.