As I write this, Florida GOP voters are on the eve of choosing who they want to serve as their standard-bearer this fall--and it won't be former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, we now know.
But what seems to be apparent is that after the one-two punches of the 2004-2005 seasons, catastrophe issues do not seem have taken a front and center place in the voters' minds.
There is some logic in that the federal catastrophe fund seems to be almost a moot point, with little support in Congress and therefore unlikely to top the agenda of the winner of this slugfest in November.
But in a race dominated by esoterica such as what Barack Obama actually said about Ronald Reagan why should logic enter into it?
Scott Johnson, executive vice president of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, says he has not heard much about catastrophe issues in the primary campaign.
Too bad for the former mayor that hurricanes hardly happen in Florida in January. So there were no photo ops of the mayor gallantly trudging up Main St. to bookend his Sept. 11, 2001, iconic image. And for whatever reason, Florida voters appeared in the end not all that impressed with the former New York mayor, giving him a dismal third-place showing and dooming his White House effort.
But as a metaphor, heading against the wind for the cameras is so much better than John Kerry going with it while windsurfing off Nantucket where he often summers.
Thirty-second ads are not the best format to go into the intricacies of a catastrophe fund, although that does not stop a vigorous debate on the subject with one pundit on Meet the Press suggesting such a fund might not go over a big with a guy shoveling snow in Buffalo.
Johnson said it was unfortunate that the fund is talked about as some sort of bailout for Florida. "It is important for Florida, but it is also important for America," he said. He termed the plan essentially an insurance policy that will pay the same cost incurred by catastrophes wherever they occur, but in a more orderly fashion.
The producers, agents and brokers, have for the most part lined up behind the fund while the industry is split, with the American Insurance Association spearheading opposition to it.
Johnson questioned the motivation of any organization that would also oppose the industry being able to set aside reserves for catastrophes on a tax-free basis. And he noted that giants such as Allstate and State Farm have backed the fund.
Giuliani failed to gain much traction from his championing of the catastrophe fund and he has only himself to blame. He made former Federal Emergency Management Association head Joe Allbaugh his emergency go-to guy. Allbaugh, of course, bequeathed to the nation as his successor his old college buddy who got the kiss of death when President Bush famously declared "you're doing a heckuva job, Brownie" in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina nearly three years ago.
Oh, but wait a minute ...
Maybe this season isn't so silly after all.
Shortly before the primary the much sought-after endorsement of pro-fund Gov. Charlie Crist went to Sen. John McCain, who of all the candidates has expressed the most skepticism about the idea.
Apparently, while hurricanes may hardly happen in Florida in January, the same cannot be said of foreclosures.
STEVE TUCKEY lives in New Jersey.
March 1, 2008
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