John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The View from the Sunshine State

Posted on April 3, 2013

We travel to Florida for Spring Break.  It's our  mini-version of a family tradition.  And of course, we are not alone in that tradition.  Families (and college kids) have been doing that for decades.

From Florida, you can get a sense of what the rest of the country is going through, especially east of the Mississippi, because folks come to Florida from just about everywhere.  Driving around here in Siesta Key, you see license plates from Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Indiana, and the list goes on.

Of course, on the Gulf Coast, you tend to get more Midwesterners, while the East Coast tends to be dominated by Yankee fans.  Speaking of Yankee fans, the Yankees are going to be terrible this year.  Too old, too hurt, getting paid too much.

Speaking of too old, Florida would qualify as too old.  My wife likes to warn my 6 year-old son about parking lots in Florida.  "Nobody knows how to drive here, so be careful."

In Florida, you can see first hand the difficulties of building an economy based on retirement.  It is not easy to get a seat at a restaurant at 5 o'clock in Florida, because that is when old people eat.   They count every penny, those old people, because many of them haven't worked for 15 years, living on their retirement income.

You go to the local Publix, and many of those old people have decided to go back to work.  They bag groceries and some serve as cashiers.  It's a good way to make a few bucks, and I am pretty sure they are the most reliable of employees.

Florida has a lot of old people, but it is a culture built on youth.  You live near a beach and you can't help but think of young people.  Especially young people wearing next to nothing.  And you see a lot of that in Florida.  Nearly naked nubile co-eds and pretty ancient retirees, side by side, on the prettiest beaches in the world.  That's Florida.

Florida was hit hard by the real estate bust of the late 2000's.  I don't know what the statistics were, but I bet you there were more real estate developments that went bust in Florida than any other state.  But real estate is bouncing back.  I never could understand why so many people try to sell their property when the market hits bottom, but in 2009, it was a great time to buy property in the Sunshine State.  It is still a pretty good time to buy, but not as good as it was three years ago.

In Miami, the market is out of control, real estate is so hot there.

Florida boasts two of the most influential Republican politicians.  Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are stars because they understand how to build coalitions.  You can't be successful as a politician running statewide in Florida unless you know how to appeal to the Red Necks near Tallahassee, the Cubans in Miami, the Midwesterners in Sarasota and the Yankee fans in Boca Raton.

The Florida Republican Party, though, is not in great shape.  It has faced a huge and all encompassing scandal including its former State Chairman, its lieutenant Governor, and assorted other political leaders.  The Republican Governor has terrible poll numbers and he may lose to the former Governor (and former Republican) Charlie Crist.

Crist was run out of the party for giving Barack Obama a hug, but he might have the last laugh if he wins as a Democrat.

If Crist wins, it could very well be a cautionary tale for the national Republican Party.  You run enough centrists, and you end up being an irrelevant minority party .

Florida is always a great place to visit.  The beaches are great, the weather is amazing, the people are pretty laid back and there is plenty to do for kids and parents alike.

It's also a great place to view the rest of the country.