Mason Dixon: Romney has pretty much nailed down Fla.

Back on Sept. 23, the Mason Dixon polling firm saw Florida as “very much a toss-up” and “very much a turnout game,” as they described things to the Tampa Bay Times.  It was a virtual tie at 48-47 between Obama and Romney, with libertarian Gary Johnson sitting on 1 percent.

But now Mason Dixon is pulling out of the Sunshine State, explaining to the Tampa Bay Times that “Mitt Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida.”  Hopefully the “binders full of women” crowd won’t think that means Romney is running around the state and nailing people to palm trees.

The key Florida polling real estate is the “highly coveted I-4 corridor” running from Tampa through Orlando, which Obama carried in 2008, but Romney is winning 51-45 in the latest round of polls.  With support levels dwindling in Obama-favored counties, it was decided to invest polling resources elsewhere.  The Suffolk University polling operation already made a similar decision with regard to Florida fully two weeks ago… and also concluded Obama had no realistic chance of winning either North Carolina or Virginia.

In a roundup of Florida polling news, CNN notes that Obama still leads in the immense Miami-Dade area, but only by about half his 2008 margin of victory in the region, and his lead seems almost entirely dependent on the “gender gap,” which most polls show receding into relative insignificance on the national level.  Romney was actually comfortably ahead among both Cuban and non-Cuban Hispanics in the Miami Herald’s poll.

And the Wall Street Journal found Romney “leading among the state’s elderly voters by 6 to 12 percent – a sign he may be weathering reasonably well the charges by Democrats that he and running mate Paul Ryan would undermine Medicare.”  Nationally, the Journal paired up with NBC News to produce a survey showing Romney with a 25-point lead among voters 65 and older, as part of a poll that was generally not all that friendly to the Republican candidate.

Senior citizens are generally highly motivated and reliable voters, and they’re an important Florida demographic.  It looks as if they’ve considered Romney’s Medicare reform proposals much more carefully than Team Obama wanted them to, and they’re not forgetting about ObamaCare’s raid on Medicare funding.  The 60 Plus Association, technically nonpartisan but “nationally recognized as the conservative alternative to the liberal AARP,” is running a $255,000 ad campaign featuring Pat Boone to keep memories fresh:

Florida seniors have been trending toward Romney for the past few months, but purely as a bit of speculation from a Florida resident, I wonder if the infantile nature of Obama’s hyperactive campaign for the youth vote hasn’t put them off as well.  Obama’s Florida advertising – which he’ll continue to spend money on, no mater what the polls say his chances are, because he can’t afford headlines about giving up on a crucial battleground state – have hammered the “MediScare” narrative, but seniors are eager consumers of the news, and they tend to become aware of things like Obama’s “Sesame Street” fixation and the “voting for Obama is like losing your virginity” ad.  They probably didn’t find the “stage three Romnesia” stuff amusing, either.

Curiously, Romney’s strength in Florida is combined with a generally lackluster showing by Republican Senate candidate Connie Mack, found to be anywhere from 3 to 8 points behind incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in the polls.   Mack hasn’t been able to hold a statistical tie with Nelson since August.  His best current poll, from Rasmussen, puts Mack within the margin of error, and shows momentum swinging his way, so strong Romney coattails might be enough to put him over the top, especially since Nelson’s 49-43 favorability rating would seem to indicate some vulnerability.  Rasmussen’s analysis finds much of Nelson’s strength coming from a whopping 26-point lead among independents, who have been trending toward Romney in the presidential contest.

Once upon a time, Florida was the most madly swinging of swing states, the fabled land of the Dangling Chad.  Of course, much of that nail-biting 2000 photo finish was a result of the media tricking panhandle voters into staying home, by prematurely calling the state for Al Gore.  Absolutely no one in the Florida panhandle has forgotten this.  Everyone remembers the mind-readers on the East Coast pressing under-punched ballots to their foreheads and trying to divine “voter intentions,” too.  Voters in Republican districts will have no trouble remaining motivated in 2012.  The Sunshine State remains an electoral battleground, but the terrain is looking favorable for Mitt Romney.