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Independents In Position To Decide Presidential Race In Florida

by J. Hutton Marshall, published

As the final week of the presidential race begins, neither of the two prominent candidates has been able to open up a significant lead in the nationwide polls. This means that Electors in states like Ohio and Florida, key battlegrounds in the Electoral College, could play a major role on voting day.

A recent poll by Public Policy Polling shows nineteen percent of Floridians aren't affiliated with a political party. These independent voters could play a crucial roll in the final days of the race. Statewide polls show Obama and Romney neck and neck, with the president ahead by only one point. These unaffiliated voters have an opportunity to decide who wins the state.

“The Presidential race in Florida right now couldn’t be much closer,” President of PPP Dean Debnam said in a press release. “All three polls we’ve done of the state since the first Presidential debate have found the candidates within a point of each other.”

Due to this unpredictability and the state's historically influential role in elections, Florida could likely become a focal point as this race reaches its climax. Although fifty percent of Florida voters disapprove of Obama's job performance and fifty-one percent have a favorable opinion of Romney, Obama is still the favorite in the sunshine state, forty-nine to forty-eight percent, according to PPP.

President Obama defeated Republican nominee John McCain in Florida in the 2008 presidential race by a 2.8-point margin, garnering 51.9 percent of the vote. In the last four presidential election cycles, the Democratic and Republican nominees have each won Florida twice.

PACs supporting both candidates are putting increasingly large amounts of money into Florida, trying to buy a substantial lead. The official PACs of the two candidates spent a combined total of more than $10 million last week alone, with "Obama for America" spending more than  $5.5 million. However, Romney's spending surge in several key states has him and his supporters outspending Obama in Florida by more than 50 percent. Both candidates dramatically increased spending in the state near the end of September.

Spending has played an enormous role in this election, with the Obama and Romney campaign committees spending a combined total of more than $1 billion. Additionally, outside donors recently passed the $1 billion mark in this election as well. As the first election cycle since the controversial Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling, this race has been criticized heavily for excessive spending and monetary influence by both major political parties.

Hurricane Sandy has also become a major factor, which forced Obama to cancel a rally in Orlando on Monday. Both candidates have postponed campaign activity until at least Wednesday due to the severity of the superstorm. It's unclear whether Obama will reschedule the rally in Florida.

“We’re obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time, but that’s as it has to be, and we’ll try to make it up on the back end,” David Axelrod, Obama's top strategist, told reporters according to the New York Times.

Released on Sunday, PPP's data show the president with a slight lead. However, Talking Points Memo's PollTracker, a trusted aggregate poll, released a poll just one day earlier showing Romney with a 0.3-point lead over Obama. These conflicting numbers indicate a state in which the race is too close to call, a feeling apparent in the nationwide polls as well.

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