RedEye

A letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Welcome back to Central Florida. This afternoon you'll be surrounded by adoring supporters at a rally in scenic Winter Park. Good choice. Winter Park is where we take all of our out-of-town guests.

And for you, Mr. President, it's ideal for another reason. Winter Park is in Orange County, the only county in our region where Democrats aren't losing ground to voters who have given up on political parties.

That's right. The D's have dipped since your election in 2008, when voter enthusiasm was at an all-time high.

This isn't just your problem, Mr. President.

Next time Mitt Romney passes through town, likely on his bus tour later this month, someone should tell him that Republicans aren't doing any better. Republicans have lost ground even in historically bright red Seminole County.

Since 2004, the last time a Republican was elected president, registered R's — as a percentage of registered voters — have dropped in Seminole by 4 percentage points, in Osceola by 5 percentage points, in Lake by 2 points, in Volusia by 1 point, and in Orange by 4 points.

Voters registered with no party affiliation have gained.

I'll give it to you straight: More and more voters just don't like what the two mainstream parties have come to represent. Pettiness. Sniping. Distortions of the truth.

We're fed up. And we're erasing the R's and D's from our voter cards to prove it.

Voters registered without a party affiliation, or with one of the minor parties, now make up more than a quarter of voters in Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Volusia counties.

That means 1 out of every 4 voters in Central Florida is opting out of the two-party system. Same goes for all of Florida. Statewide, 24 percent of voters are registered without a party or to a minor one.

Don't just take it from me, Mr. President.

I found JoBeth Heinrich shopping with her two young children in a Seminole County Target, and she wasn't surprised by my findings.

"My husband and I were just talking about that," the 26-year-old told me.

She's an R. He's a D. But they're both disillusioned.

"It seems like whatever you want to hear is what is said by the candidates," Heinrich said. "I'm not excited, pumped or confident about it."

Can you blame her? Just look at some of the stuff you guys have been up to lately.

Your people just blasted Romney, saying he "struck out playing T-ball," while on his trip to the UK.

Romney is being raked over the coals for "insulting" the British people when, in fact, what he did was try to give an honest answer to a question about whether London was ready for the Olympics.

Besides, Romney was right. London's security preparations were disconcerting.

And there's no end to the tripe Romney's camp has come up with in response to the "You didn't build that" comment.

Anyone with half a brain can listen to what you said, Mr. President, and know that you weren't saying business owners didn't build their businesses. "That" meant roads and other infrastructure, which government built.

Mr. President, you and your opponent and your parties have a serious problem. Back in 1996, people registered without a party affiliation or to a minor party made up about 14 percent of voters in Central Florida. That percentage has almost doubled. At this pace, it could be just a matter of years before most voters are neither Republicans nor Democrats.

It's something to think about as you speak today in front of what is sure to be a cheering and adulating crowd. Keep in mind the rest of us who care very much about voting and our democracy, but just can't stomach an R or D next to our names.

bkassab@tribune.com or 407-420-5448

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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