Florida Seniors Could be Key to 2012 Elections

Florida. It's a state of sunshine, beaches, condos, oranges, amusement parks. It's winter holiday destination for millions. That's the 'fun' perception of the state.

The other side of Florida ... it's a political powerhouse, especially in an election year. With over 19 million people, it is the fourth most populated state in the Union. And it is home to 3.3million senior citizens, many concerned about the ongoing Social Security debate.

The Sunshine State is also winner-take-all in the Republican primary on Jan. 31. And, since seniors show out in big numbers, they could impact the November election. It will be a heavily contested state between both parties.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that seniors favor Mitt Romney over Newt Gingrich and other rivals.

Meanwhile, President Obama and the Democrats are courting the elderly with attacks against Republican proposals to transform Medicare and by promoting 2009 health-care benefits taking effect in phases. Administration officials make frequent announcements about the benefits of the health-care law, particularly extended prescription-drug coverage under Medicare.

But, there's a difference of opinions amongst Florida's seniors who are processing the pros and cons.

Joan Drucker, 71, a retired florist in Hallandale told The Orlando Sentinel: "I'm not happy with the changes Obama didn't make — all the promises he made and didn't fulfill." Drucker added: "But he's for the middle class. He believes in Social Security and Medicare. I think he will keep those in place. The Republicans, I fear, will try to dismantle both programs and make them into something most senior citizens will not be happy about."

Then, there's Florida's economic woes, its unemployment rate and widespread home foreclosures.

Some seniors favor Romney's business acumen to pull them out of their desperate straits.

"He's a person who has the capability, if anyone does, to get us out of this mire of debt and malaise," said Fran Hancock of North Palm Beach, who is organizing volunteers for Romney. And a December 2011 poll showed Romney as leader for the Republican leadership.

"Looks like the older voters are leaning toward Romney," said Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida and author of "Targeting Senior Voters." "The concern about Gingrich is that he is not electable," she told the media source.

The result could hinge on which party's backers are most willing to vote on election day.

Florida voting polls in are held in retirement residences including Assisted Living and Continuing Care.