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Will Florida Democrats Be Staging Their State Convention Without Any Presidential Candidates ... Again?

October 3, 2019 - 7:00am
Leadership Blue Conference last June. Credit: floridapolitics
Leadership Blue Conference last June. Credit: floridapolitics

Next weekend, Oct. 11-13, the Florida Democratic Party is holding its annual state convention in Orlando. With an eye on the 2020 election and a swollen field of presidential candidates, this is poised to be an important and influential convention for the FDP. Maybe someone should have alerted the national party.

Remember the embarrassment within state party offices when the FDP staged its Leadership Blue Conference last June? A major Democratic event was taking place inside possibly the most important swing state, yet not one of the party's candidates for the presidency would be in attendance. Two dozen candidates (at the time) and none was compelled to come to our state to gain recognition.

This was due to scheduling the event at the same time as the Iowa Democratic Party Forum. The Florida Dems had been notably excited, expecting some prominent party players desperate for attention arriving for adulation. The party touted the event as “sure to be one of the most exciting in years!” 

It was not, but with an eye on that snafu, the FDP learned its lesson and made a point to schedule its state convention on a date that posed no conflicts. So it is, next weekend the biggest party-sponsored political event of the year will be taking place, and the results will certainly be ...

Well, they look exactly the same.

To date, not a single candidate for president has announced an intention to arrive in Orlando next weekend. So far, there have been three notable RSVPs returned with regret: Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Pete Buttigieg all have said they will not be attending due to prior commitments. The schedule of events for the weekend is populated with a wide assortment of blocked time that seems ”flexible”.

Seems to me Democrats running for the nation's highest office have every reason to peer down the map and see some import with our peninsula. The heft of electoral college votes would seem to be enough to pique their interest, given our 29 is more than 10 percent of the 270 needed to secure the election. Then, the fact that the state leaned for Trump in 2016 and has since been the location of numerous closely contested votes would be a natural point of focus.

The state convention is the weekend ahead of the next Democratic presidential debate, yet drawing notice here in a key battleground state ahead of that televised event is not deemed a priority, it appears. Add to that the Florida Dems have been intent on boosting voter registration ... wouldn't that be another indicator the DNC would also be focused on Florida? 

Instead, there appears to be little more than a shrug from party planners. This contrasts with President Trump being a fixture in Florida. Apart from regular stays at his Mar A Lago resort in West Palm Beach, he is about to hold his second rally in Florida since announcing his intention to run for re-election.

The reasons for Democrat disinterest may be the result of the wide field of candidates. As tactically vital as the Sunshine State is in the general election, it is somewhat of an after-the-fact reality when a herd of names are desperate to get noticed. Distinguishing oneself ahead of the early caucuses and primaries is key. After all, if you are not even in the running come March, then the Florida St. Patrick’s Day primary is not all that important, after all. 

This is the political vagary when you have so many lingering at this stage in the process. Gaining favor in a state like Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, or New Hampshire (those with February votes) is far more important, so spending time here -- a state that primaries after Super Tuesday -- is less of a priority. As a result, the Florida Dems are left trying to save face and generate energy, all while appearing to the rest of the world as if they've been stood up for the big dance.

Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.

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