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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Not Always Sunny In Florida: Carl Hiaasen’s View Of The Sunshine State

A strip club is seen on West Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, Fla. A 10 minute drive from the Republican National Convention. (AP/Charlie Riedel)

A strip club is seen on West Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, Fla. A 10 minute drive from the Republican National Convention. (AP)

Though Carl Hiaasen is a longtime follower of Florida politics both as a columnist for the Miami Herald and the author of almost two dozen books, he’s avoiding Tampa and the Republican National Convention this week.

Florida Key For Victory

Hiaasen says the actual floods from Hurricane Isaac have distracted from the flood of Republicans into his home state.

“Obviously the storm has competed for attention, and all of us in Florida have been affected by Isaac,” he said.

Hiassen has managed to catch some of the speeches.

“I saw part of Mrs. Romney’s speech, and I’ll probably see part of Ryan’s [on Wednesday.] But you know I think the larger question is whether this will give him a bump in Florida? Is Mrs. Romney going to help win Florida in November?” he said.

A Complicated State: “It’s A 24 Hour Freak Show”

Hiaasen says he was surprised when President Clinton won Florida in 1996, and surprised again when President Obama took it in 2008 because Florida tends to lean conservative, though it’s often not as simple as right and left.

“It’s a complicated place, the geography and demographics. It could be three different states,” Carl Hiaasen said. “[Florida] can’t be catergorzed. It’s a 24 hour freak show.”

“[Florida] can’t be categorized. It’s a 24 hour freak show.”
– Carl Hiaasen, on Florida's diversity

“You’ve go the I-4 corridor down the middle. You’ve got the panhandle which is really Southern  Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi. South Florida is a mix of everything, but it’s still very Caribbean, it’s very Latin, it’s very Hispanic. [Romney will] go down there and make the obligotry speech that says he hates Castro, and he’ll get the cheers. But every candidate since before Reagan has been going down there making that speech and Castro is still [in Cuba.]”

Hiaasen said speeches against the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro are just one of the things that potential presidents have to do to keep up appearances in Florida.

“They’ll go to the condominiums and talk about health care reform. They’ll go to the century village, the older community. There are just pit stops you have to make. And Floridians are pretty hip the fact that we’ve heard them before,” he said.

Tampa, Fla.: The GOP’s Bold Choice

“There’s a lot of wild stuff that happens in Tampa,”  Hiaasen said. In a recent article for the Miami Herald, he noted that far from being the “Bible Belt,” Tampa is the strip club capital of the world.

“Male reporters are never shy about going to interview entertainers at the adult clubs. And the concensus was that Republicans are better tippers than Democrats.”

Besides the widely available adult entertainment, Hiaasen said Tampa during hurricane season was an “interesting choice.”

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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