The Romney campaign gets busy trying to win Hillsborough County

Share on Nextdoor

If history over the fity years is any precedent, it is huge. With one exception, the county has gone with the winner of the presidential election every time since supporting JFK over RIchard Nixon in 1960.

In addition to making phone calls, canvassers were also knocking on doors to level support for Romney around the Tampa Bay area.

Saturday was the first time the Romney campaign is doing such an event, which they plan on reprising one Saturday a month up until November. The information collected is used to guide decisions on where to deploy volunteers, focus on early-voting turnouts, and locating undecided voters.

Romney supporters admit their getting just a bit of a late start in Florida compared with the Obama for America camp, who in some ways never left the Sunshine state following the '08 election. But with 30 offices now up and running and another 20 or so to open in the next few weeks, it's evident that Team Romney is getting up to speed with the OFA folks quickly.

Among those wandering the halls in the Hillsborough GOP office was Chris Hart, the former county commissioner who is now serving as co-chair of the Romney campaign in Hillsborough.

Reflecting back on how Obama took the county in 2008, Hart mentioned how huge a factor was the economic collapse in September of that year as a decisive factor that did in John McCain's chances. "But now as we take a look at the polls in Florida we see real opportunities here." He said, which means attracting independents and disaffected Democrats to the cause.

On Friday the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployed remained at 8.2 percent, with fewer new jobs than expected being created. Hart said that with economic projections indicating that unemployment won't drop down significantly before the November 6 election, "That's not good news for any of us. But because of that we're seeing more people show up, " specifically mentioning women who say they want to get involved in the Romney campaign.

Romney Communications head Jeff Bechdel is all of 26. He comes to the Romney camp from Connie Mack's re-election campaign. Before that he worked in the D.C. office of both Mack and Marco Rubio, as well as working on Rubio's smashing 2010 victory for U.S. Senate. A graduate from the University of Texas, Bechdel began by working for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in her unsuccessful attempt to defeat Rick Perry for Governor.

Bechdel comes to Romney after working on Connie Mack's re-election campaign. Before that he worked for Marco Rubio, both during his campaign for Senate and then in Washington D.C.

But this is bigger than all of that. And the Romney effort in Florida is only getting bigger.

"We have eight offices opening in the next week, " Bechdel said. "We're staring to kick into high gear now that it's summer."

And only four months to go before it's all over.

  • A sign at the Hillsborough County GOP office

Hillsborough County as a whole is a socially conservative region. Five of the seven member Board of County Commissioners are Republican, and the vast majority of legislative seats (particularly outside of Tampa) are all possessed by GOP members.

But the county went Blue in '08, supporting both Barack Obama and the first openly gay County Commissioner in its history in Democrat Kevin Beckner.

With Florida being considered a must-win for the Romney forces, volunteers met up at the Hillsborough Republican Party headquarters in Brandon for what the campaign called "Super Saturday," one of 30 around the state (and one of hundreds across the nation).

Coordinating the effort on Saturday was Jeff Bechdel, just named the Romney communications director for Florida. He said winning Hillsborough this time around is "incredibly important."

"We've got 2,000 calls as of this morning," he said talking to CL at 12:30 in the afternoon, where staffers and volunteers had begun reaching out to all voters, not just Republicans, from 9 am. The office was scheduled to be open until 9 p.m.

"Throughout that 12 hour period we're going to be reaching a lot of people..the I-4 corridor is important, but Hillsborough is huge."

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.