Adam Putnam: Florida GOP Needs ‘Clear-Eyed Assessment’ of 2012 Election Failures
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Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam served up a hardy plateful of realism for state and local party leaders to digest when the Republican Party of Florida broke for lunch during its meeting in Orlando on Saturday.
Despite several offerings of optimism for the 2014 elections earlier in the day during the RPOF’s quarterly meeting at the Rosen Centre Hotel, Putnam charged that the party that dominates Florida’s political landscape may not have been as prepared or as hungry as first thought when the 2012 political cycle began.
And he called for a “clear-eyed” reassessment of where the state party, which has dominated Florida politics for two decades, is headed as Democrats -- possibly with former Republican governor Charlie Crist at the helm -- believe they move into the next election cycle that features a gubernatorial contest and the Cabinet posts with momentum.
“It’s not that we lost, it’s that we didn’t see it coming and really smart people who made a lot of money off of us told us the opposite of what was going to happen. That’s infuriating,” Putnam said.
“The people who we knew were going to win won. And the people who you think didn’t really have much of a shot turned out not to have much of a shot. And so for all the advice and all the effort, what did we change? What did we impact?”
Putnam didn’t question how hard people worked during the campaign, making phone calls and working precincts, but instead posed “did the party work smart?”
“We got a record number of voter contacts, but fewer people showed up for Romney than showed up for McCain,” Putnam said. “Something went wrong. And we have to have a clear-eyed assessment of that and we have to fix it.”
A University of Florida grad, he referred to the Gators’ upset defeat Jan. 2 to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl as mirroring the political situation in the Sunshine State.
“The Gators had more talent. The Gators had greater resources. They had more money in the bank. They had smarter consultants. But they didn’t want it badly enough,” Putnam said.
“Louisville wanted it more and they came to play. They had tasted victory. They had gotten the opportunity to go to the dance and just flat wanted it more.”
In Florida, with a record turnout for the general election, the Democratic Party got a taste of success with the state swaying blue for President Obama, retaining the seat held by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, and making gains in the U.S. House and state Legislature.
Because of such inroads, Putnam said Democrats in Florida will come at 2014 with Crist and the belief that the political landscape is shifting left in the Sunshine State.
Putnam said the state party must highlight its jobs, family, reduced taxes and regulations which he equated to being unique from the D.C. way of government.
“The Florida way as opposed to the Lawton Chiles way or Charlie Crist way, who personifies the say-anything, be-anyone, do-anything to get elected,” Putnam said. “We can’t possibly let him happen to our state.”
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.