Hitting the ground in Tampa Sunday with the threat of Isaac looming overhead, it was a normal day for many of the local residents in the town hosting the RNC convention. Sunday church service was on the agenda for many. In the Brandon Community of Tampa, a predominately African-American church boasted a sermon focusing on contentment. Those attending the Sunday service shouted in favor of the pastor's word yet wanted to change what is expected through issues of voter suppression with voter ID laws. The controversy is playing out in about 30 southern states. In Florida, voter ID laws are a painful reminder for some of how Florida’s votes played a critical part in the 2000 presidential election of Gore V. Bush, with George W. Bush edging out as the winner.
For weeks, the 2000 presidential election winner was uncertain because of hanging, pregnant and dimpled chads. The election was ultimately decided by the United States Supreme Court.
Fast forwarding to today, in Florida there is about a month to go with voter registration efforts. A Brandon Community church in Tampa seized on the opportunity.
Republicans are converging on the swing state of Florida for the Republican National Convention. But there are still concerns among Floridians about voting in the state after the 2000 presidential election debacle. Keith Roy, Vice President of East Hillsborough County Democratic club says, “Get the word out, get folks educated because there are so many voter registration laws here in Florida. There are so many loop holes, so much red tape to go through."
The Church, not far from the RNC Convention site, requested Romney officials to participate on site with the voter effort. The Romney camp declined the invitation relaying they could not make the event. Obama campaign officials were on hand and had to take down signage at the church, so the organizers and the church would not been seen as showing partiality. For any non-profit organization it is about equal time for politicians to prevent having their tax exempt status evoked by the IRS.
Also, in Tampa another church event at Revival Ministries International, the Family Research Council held a prayer rally that some called a church service with about 1,200 to 1,400 hundred people in attendance. African American, Former Oklahoma Republican Congressman J.C. Watts was an invited guest for the service. Watts flew into the GOP convention town just for the prayer service with plans to leave the next morning saying, “regardless of who the president is, we should be praying for him or her.”
With 60-plus days left before election day, Watts contends, “I have seen President Obama over the last four years. I have not been impressed with the policies he’s advocated. Governor Romney, I am not impressed with a lot of the policies that he advocated and fought for as Governor of Massachusetts.”
Watts believes persons of faith could help with the critical decision of choosing the next president of the United States. Watts says, “I think one of the reasons pro-life, Catholic, evangelical Christian is a bit concerned. And I think in those swing states if you don’t move that voter, Governor Romney doesn’t move that vote [and] it will be somewhat challenging for him to win.”
Historically voters have looked at a candidate’s morality in choosing a president. That morality has been directly tied to a candidate’s faith. This year Americans will choose between two Catholic vice presidential candidates. On the presidential front, Democratic candidate Barack Obama is a Christian and Republican candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon.
LeSonya Allen, an African-American Tampa area Christian Republican is excited to welcome the RNC to her town. Work is preventing her from attending the convention. Allen contends she is a Republican who does not always vote the party line, but this year she says, "as it stands right now, Mitt Romney" garners her support.
Allen was in the military and contends no one is more patriotic than she is and also explains why she is a Republican. “I chose being a Republican because…a lot of things about being a Republican I really like." It is about less government for Allen. "I do understand a lot of the wanting to do a lot of things, but we have to remember that those things cost and a lot of times we don’t want the costing part, but the government cannot do it for free."
Both presidential camps contend this race will be tight. David Axelrod, Senior Obama Campaign advisor likens it to Gore verses Bush. That means every vote will count.