Miami-based reporter Damien Cave wrote a slightly snide "political memo" from Tampa, Fla., on news that the Republican Party would hold their 2012 convention there, under the cheerful headline: "Greetings From Tampa, Where Hopes Soar - or Die." Cave took a cheap shot at Rush Limbaugh and suggested that the image of partying white Republicans would make the party look out of touch with the middle class.
This old port city in the nation's most populous swing state won the Republican convention with its finest offerings - beaches, big venues, and a well-earned reputation for successfully handling major events like the Super Bowl.
But the Grand Old Party's choice is also based on political pragmatism. The road to the White House in 2012 will once again pass through the Sunshine State, most Democrats and Republicans agree, and Floridians in particular seem likely to appreciate the attention.
But Republicans be warned: Florida is a place of big dreams and big guffaws. Democrats (Gary Hart) and Republicans (Rush Limbaugh) have both drowned in scandal here, while the 1968 convention in Miami Beach brought together Richard Nixon, race riots, Norman Mailer, and Ana, a 2-and-half-year-old, 1,266-pound elephant.
The situations of 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart (womanizing) and conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh (drug addiction) are hardly parallel. Limbaugh has never run for office, and describing him as a "Republican" is less accurate than "conservative commentator," given that Limbaugh has criticized the G.O.P. on many occasions.
Under the heading "Out of Touch," Cave gave a warning that the image of mono-ethnic Republicans having fun could backfire:
Tampa as a Republican comfort zone also brings risk: if the party plays too much to its base, will it look out of touch? This, after all, is a city settled largely by Cuban immigrants in the 1880s, who came here to roll cigars. Now it is more diverse than the party it is hosting. As of the 2000 census, Tampa was at least 19 percent Hispanic and 26 percent black. And economically, the gap between rich and poor is particularly pronounced.
On one side, there is Derek Jeter, building what will most likely be the area's largest home - a 30,000 square foot, nine-bathroom behemoth roughly the size of a Best Buy. On the other, there are the homeless people recently pushed out of a proposed tent city to be run by Catholic Charities.
The wrong mix of poverty juxtaposed with Republicans partying - perhaps against a backdrop of oil-stained beaches - could give Democrats just what they need to portray their opponents as woefully disconnected from the middle class. "I just don't think it's a lock that everything is going to go wonderfully," Mr. Hiaasen said. "This is not necessarily Tea Party country."
During the 2008 campaign Cave hinted Florida Republicans were making a racial appeal in an anti-crime mailing: "Few issues are as racially radioactive, especially here in Miami, so it is worth asking: Does the flier go over the line?"
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