Primary Primer: 5 Things to Know about Florida

Prolonged GOP race focuses on Florida.

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"There's been so much attention to this contest, starting with Iowa, Florida television stations have been really inundated," she says. "This is a very political state and the stations know that Florida's role in politics; so it's not like people haven't had chances to formulate opinions, especially people who are going to be primary voters."

Economy

The experts agree that like the rest of the country, the economy is the top issue for voters.

"If you really want to narrow it down to one motivating factor for all of these voters, it seems to be the economic message," Hughes says. "Basically, the younger people want to know about job creation and older people want to hear about their retirement investments and their real estate investments. If you are looking for a core issue to speak to almost every audience, it's going to be, what can you do to turn the economic factors around so that home values start to go back up and young people can get jobs?"

MacManus says though there are a lot of retirees in Florida, their focus isn't solely on Social Security or Medicare.

"You have to recall that larger shares of Florida's retirees are younger and wealthier and better educated than seniors' populations in a lot of other states," she says. "But the deficit is a huge issue with them because during the really bad economic downturn many of them were getting requests from their adult children because many of them were losing their homes or job."

Environment

One issue that has the potential to divide Florida Republican voters is the environment, MacManus says.

"The environmental issue related to oil drilling because of the situation down around Cuba where there's talk of foreign companies going in there and drilling when the American companies can't and concern about the environment, and of course, Cuba politics always grabs people's attention," she says.

Florida GOP voters are typically a little more "pro-environment" because they often move to Florida to take advantage of the coastline or inland lakes, she says.

"But they are also very concerned about energy and Florida is sitting on a lot of oil, so they say, and as gas prices go up I just think that's an issue that could turn people," MacManus adds.

Hughes says there's no doubt that gulf coast residents remain sensitive to debates on off-shore drilling, thanks to the recent Deepwater Horizon spill.

"Some of the gulf coast communities are going to be more sensitive to it," he says. "But no matter where you live in Florida, I think people do recognize and respond to the idea that we're going to have to do something in this country to get ourselves on a road to independence as far as energy."

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