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The Republican Party in Florida is freaking out right now.  Yesterday many of us were caught off-guard, and pleasantly so, by a string of polls showing Obama with a sizable and growing lead in the Sunshine State--a state John McCain has said he must win if he's going to win the election.  According to the St. Petersburg Times, Florida GOP leaders hastily gathered in Tallahassee for a top-secret meeting to figure out how to stop the bleeding.  From all reports, it wasn't pretty.

First, here's a quick recap of the four polls released yesterday that all show Obama with a lead here in Florida:

- Quinnipiac showed Obama with an eight-point lead, 51-43.  That's a big jump from a pre-debate poll showing Obama with a 49-43 lead, and an almost complete reversal of a Sept. 11 poll that showed McCain leading 50-43.

- CNN/Time magazine gives Obama a four-point lead, 51-47.

- Suffolk University also has Obama up by four, 46-42, up from a 48-48 tie two weeks ago.

- Insider Advantage/Poll Position has Obama up by three, 49-46. This is the only one of the four polls where Obama's lead was less than the MOE, but it is still a big improvement from a Sept. 10 Insider Advantage poll that gave McCain a 50-42 lead.

No wonder the GOPers in Florida are freaking out.  State Republican Party chair Jim Greer gathered top officials at the state headquarters in Tallahassee for a meeting that some described as "tense."  Some of their complaints, however, seem typical of any campaign, but just get highlighted when your candidate is sinking:

One of the concerns has been the relationship between grass roots volunteers across the state and far fewer paid campaign staffers. Complaints range from not getting yard signs quickly enough to knowing who will speak at events and overall manpower coordination...

McCain supporter and former Republican Party of Florida chairman Tom Slade said he's been hearing rumblings over the past few weeks that the campaign is not fully utilizing volunteers, though he said that was not the case in Jacksonville.

"I get the sense that on the statewide basis, the grass roots Republicans don't quite feel like they have a natural fit within the McCain organization," Slade said.

Translation: The wingnut crazies in Florida still don't completely trust McCain, despite his many efforts over the past few months to shore up his wingnut credentials.

But the best part is the plan that Florida Republicans have for turning around McCain's fading prospects in the state (you're gonna love this!).  First action item: More Sarah Palin!

Palin remains a big draw, and the McCain campaign plans to bring her to Clearwater and Fort Myers on Monday, and Jacksonville and Pensacola on Tuesday.

Yes, Palin is a big draw with the right-wing conservo fundies who should already be supporting McCain anyway, but she scares the crap out of just about everyone else in Florida.  As Quinnipiac notes:

Friday's presidential debate, Gov. Sarah Palin's sagging favorability and more voter confidence in Sen. Barack Obama's ability to handle the economy are propelling the Democrat to wider likely voter leads over Republican John McCain in Florida.

In fact, the Quinnipiac poll shows that of the four Prez/VP candidates, Palin has the lowest favorables and highest unfavorables, and is the only candidate whose unfavorability rating is higher than the favorability rating: Palin's favorable-unfavorable rating among Florida voters stands at 36-39 percent (way down from 47-23 percent three weeks ago), compared to 47-27 for Biden, 58-33 for Obama and 52-39 for McCain.  As one undecided Florida voter put it: "Sarah Palin scares ... me." (And how much you want to bet that the missing words there are "the s&*$ out of"?)

So yes, more Sarah Palin in Florida please!

And what other ingenious strategy did Florida Republicans dig up to help McCain's prospects here?  Second action time: Reach out to black folks!

Greer, whose hands-on approach has sometimes come across to fellow Republicans as too controlling, has spent the past two years, along with Gov. Charlie Crist, making inroads in the African-American and Hispanic communities. Greer said he wanted to make sure the campaign is adequately tapping those resources, along with state party staffers he has made available.

Yep.  And here is a stellar example of how the McCain camp tried to reach out to African American and Hispanic voters yesterday:

McCain pushback on Florida polls: "Our polling shows us up 7. My guess is they over sampled blacks and under sampled Cubans."

Yep, that should shore up the African American vote for McCain in Florida!

Actually folks, it's looking more and more like the Florida GOP only has one viable strategy left to give the state to McCain: steal the election any way possible.  As this diary shows, Florida Republicans are getting desperate right now, and like an angry dog trapped into a corner they are going to try any dirty or illegal trick in the book.  This is still the same Florida that stole the election from Al Gore eight years ago.  Other than installing new voting machines that -- hopefully -- will now leave a paper trail with no possibility of hanging chads, nothing much has changed in terms of improving Florida's shaky election apparatus.  There is still very little chance of Florida being capable of running a fair election.  (And no, Charlie Crist is no better than Jeb Bush.)  We can expect a lot of voter suppression tactics here, and I pray that the Obama campaign is prepared for that and is working PROACTIVELY this time around to fight against it.

UPDATE:

What YOU can do right now to help us win Florida:

1. Sign up to help with Obama's Voter Protection Program. They are looking for those with legal backgrounds and others who want to help protect all votes in Florida and every other state (H/T AnnieMD).

2. Write a letter to the editor to fight voter suppression in Florida. There's a dangerous and false rumor going around the internet in Florida right now, and it's being repeated by some news outlets.  When you vote in Florida, the truth is that the address on your identification CAN be different than your registration address.  Obama has an easy online tool to help you contact your local Florida newspapers and spread the truth about these dangerous voter suppression rumors.

3. Help with voter registration. The voter registration deadline in Florida is next Monday, Oct. 6.  Head down to your local Florida Obama office to help with the all-important voter registration efforts these last few days.

4. As always, phonebanking and donations are always helpful.  You already know how to do that: just go to barackobama.com.

5. Last but not least, check out The Great Schlep.  If you aren't familiar with this campaign, The Great Schlep aims to have Jewish grandchildren visit their grandparents in Florida, educate them about Obama, and therefore swing the crucial Florida vote in his favor. You can learn more about the campaign at its cool website (and be sure to check out the video with comedian Sarah Silverman!).  Even if you aren't Jewish, you can still become a "schlepper." (H/T AdamW).

Originally posted to davidkc on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 04:43 AM PDT.

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