Read the rest of the Swingers series.
Obama's strategy to turn this state back to the Democratic column for the first time since Bill Clinton won in 1996 is to never leave Florida voters alone for a second. He's going to spend almost $40 million here; McCain's campaign is spending $25 million—many millions of which it thought it would be able to spend elsewhere. Obama has about 50 field offices; John Kerry had 14 in 2004. In the first week of October, Obama poured $2.8 million into television advertising in the state; McCain spent $623,000. During my time in Tampa, I didn't see a single McCain television spot. But watching back-to-back episodes of What Not To Wear left the impression the show was sponsored by the Obama health care plan.
A New York Times reporter found that, over the course of two weeks of visits to the candidates' field offices across the state, there were consistently more volunteers at Obama's than McCain's. The day I dropped by Obama's Tampa office, a warren of rooms in a building on the edge of downtown, people were streaming in. "Do you want to do 'woman to woman' calls?" a young man asked an older woman who came through the door. In one room was a group of people hunched over laptops doing data entry. In another were women on the phone—presumably to other women.
A few miles away was McCain's office. In the parlance of real estate, it was magnificent: hi ceils, rvr vu. From the phone bank, one could see where the Hillsborough River meets Tampa Bay. But there were no volunteers on the phones to admire the view.
Both the Realtor and the political scientist believe that it's McCain's and Obama's job to convince Florida voters that they can stop the roof from caving in. "Unless we get real estate moving again," says Lynn Mooney, "it doesn't matter who's in office." Or, as Richard Scher puts it: "The whole state floats on real estate. The winner will inspire confidence about fixing the real-estate collapse."
In other words, the winner in Florida may well be the candidate who offers the best answer to a simple question: What do I have to do to get you in this house today?