TAMPA, Florida — The one excuse Florida voters can't use is the weather. That was especially true Tuesday (January 31), a picture-perfect day for voting in the Republican primary in the always-important swing state.
With 50 delegates at stake in this winner-take-all state, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was tipped to win after spending nearly four times as much on negative ads (with the help of some SuperPAC surrogates) than his rival Newt Gingrich.
Despite the deluge of attack ads that blanketed the airwaves over the past few weeks, anesthesiology assistant student Ricky Varlotta, 24, said he saw a lot of the commercials but tried not to let them affect his decision. "I think it's kind of ugly, and I don't really agree with it all," he said after casting his vote for Romney at the Kate Jackson Memorial Center in downtown Tampa. "If they think that's the best way they can win, it says a lot about them."
Varlotta said a number of his friends with jobs voted early to make sure their ballots got counted, but that some are also so disenchanted with the political process that they've decided to just sit it out this time. "That's their choice, and I think if you're really concerned about it, you would come out and do something about it, and that's why I'm out here voting," he shared. This is the first presidential primary campaign that has felt the impact of SuperPAC money, and from what the voters who spoke to MTV's Power of 12 could tell, so far, it was not for the good.
Though her chosen candidate, U.S. Representative Ron Paul, chose not to mount a campaign in Florida, Tessa McKenna, 21, singer for the "country shoegaze" band Sleepy Vikings, has been bowled over by all the negative Florida campaign ads she's been inundated with when watching shows on Hulu. Because they don't really educate her on the candidates, McKenna has also tuned out the din of the commercials.
"In politics, I guess you never really know who's right and who's wrong," she said. McKenna, who registered as a Republican at 16 when she got her license, felt that her personal politics don't really match those of the party anymore, but she likes to stay politically involved and feels that Libertarian-leaning Paul is the "lesser of all evils" in this election cycle.
"Kids really need to get out and make change for their country," she said.
Despite the more than $20 million spent in the primary on the spots, Amy Hightower said she's never been influenced by them, because she's more focused on the issues than the personalities.
The young mother added that it has been hard lately being a Republican because she is pro-choice and for gay marriage and social programs. Despite those leanings, she cast an absentee ballot for Gingrich because, "He's no bullsh--. He just says it how it is, and he's not afraid of his flaws. I feel like a lot of the other ones are so slick ... and the others were too far to the religious right."
MTV is on the scene in Florida! Check back for up-to-the-minute coverage of the primaries and stick with PowerOf12.org throughout the 2012 presidential election season.