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Politics / Issues

Explaining The Political Challenges of Florida's Economy

Joe Raedle
Getty Images News

Florida’s economy presents a challenge to the two presidential candidates.

The state’s unemployment rate has fallen over the past year. And home prices in Tampa and Miami markets are starting to rebound.

President Obama is trying to argue that’s a good reason for his reelection.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney wants voters to think things would have been better if not for Obama.

It’s a message challenge for both candidates, says Jim Tankersley, who covers economics for National Journal.

“The voters, while they see things getting a little better, still don’t feel them to be great. Which is the real problem in Florida and everywhere: How good is good enough for reelection for the incumbent?” he said.

Florida is slowly staring to recover, but Tankersley says Florida’s economy is dependent on construction. Until those workers head back to work, he says the state’s unemployment rate will not improve very much.

Tankersley also says the fundamental question about the election has changed.

“The Romney and Obama campaigns have both sort of tacitly acknowledged that the election is no longer just a straight up and down referendum on the president’s handling of the recovery,” he says.

“It’s a choice between, ‘Do you think…the president’s approach is going to be better over the next four years?’ Or, ‘Do you want to try something else, and are you comfortable with what that is?’

“The polling shows they want to try something new. But they’re not sold yet on what he is offering them as something new, and that really will be the key to the race in Florida and around the country.”

But Tankersley also notes a wild card: Some people have given up on a recovery entirely. Selling a campaign on the economy would be useless.

“You have a lot of voters who are starting to think things aren’t going to get any better any time soon, at least not appreciatively,” he says. “So if they’ve concluded that, then it almost doesn’t matter what Romney and Obama is selling them on the economy. They’ll vote on something else.”

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