Election 2010: Florida Republicans expect a Senate win

Three major candidates are vying for a U.S. Senate seat in Florida. The economy and move by the governor to run as an independent have been constant themes in the race. (Nov. 1)
By Annie Gowen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 5:01 PM

ORLANDO, FLA. - Many Floridians voting in close Senate and governor's races Tuesday expressed continued frustration with the economy and dissatisfaction with politicians of every stripe -- even those in their own party.

"I am just so aggravated and annoyed with all politicians," said Sarah Arnold, 56-year- old disabled woman about to lose her family home to foreclosure. "It is all about slammin' and dirt. It is ticking me off. I've never been a big politics-as-usual person anyway."

Arnold had voted in 2008 for President Obama but would have preferred iconoclast Ron Paul. She professed to have no good choices in the governor's race between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Rick Scott. "I am not happy at all," she said.

The only happy faces at Orlando polling places seem to be those of conservatives, who seemed positive that their new senator would be tea party darling Marco Rubio, the telegenic former speaker of the Florida House.

"We like him very much," said Harry Davenport, 78, a landscape company owner from Winter Garden. "He's a rising star in the Republican party and it is good to see a Cuban American candidate."

Early voting numbers of nearly 2 million boded well for Republicans, they said.

"More people are going to vote because they want something to happen," said Diana Beagle, 52, a retired bartender from Orlando whose husband, a glass glazer, had just found a job after a year long layoff. "Obama came in and he said he was going to change everything. But nothing's changed."

Republican strategists were predicting that Tuesday would be a banner day for the GOP in Florida - although a tight governor's race would likely come down to the wire.

Florida's high-profile three-way Senate race riveted national attention throughout much of the year, but as Election Day neared, Rubio had a comfortable lead in most polls. He was trailed by Gov. Charlie Crist - whose decision to forsake the GOP and run with no party affiliation this spring angered some voters - and the Democratic candidate, Rep. Kendrick B. Meek.

In the governor's race, however, Sink, the state's chief financial officer, was neck-and-neck with Scott, a health-care executive who spent $73 million of his own money in his gubernatorial bid.

Democratic strategist Steven Schale, an adviser to Sink, said that with the state's unemployment rate hovering near 12 percent, more than two points higher than the national average, Florida voters remain focused on the economy.

"It's the obvious," Schale said. "Florida has been acutely impacted by the economy - as much as anywhere in the country. Folks are frustrated and concerned."

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