• 9 Investigates cost of Obama, Romney central Fla. campaign visits


    ORLANDO, Fla. - Between June and November of last year, President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns visited central Florida a total of at least 32 times, with each visit costing taxpayers thousands.

    But 9 Investigates found unlike some other parts of the country, central Florida residents are not being reimbursed.

    As one of the most hotly contested battleground states in the nation, the presidential and vice presidential candidates, their wives, and their high-wattage surrogates paid a total of 115 visits to Florida. That meant taxpayers in central Florida paid for setting up, securing, patrolling and clearing more frequently than they would almost anywhere else in the nation.

    "Florida continues to be the largest of battleground states -- and that's what's attracting all these candidates to come here for personal visits," said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida.

    An example was when Obama visited Rollins' campus in Winter Park in August. There, local police had to close down Fairbanks Avenue, side streets and even Interstate 4 for a time.

    Every car on campus had to be moved, and the Winter Park Police Department said that one event required 119 man-hours of labor by officers.

    Even a smaller event, Romney's rally in Kissimmee, cost $2,500 to the Kissimmee Police Department.

    Obama's much larger rally there cost the department $14,500.

    All told, conservative estimates put the cost to local taxpayers for the area's 32 campaign visits between $250,000 and $500,000.

    Experts said even at that price, it is still better than being ignored.

    "Politicians running for national office pay attention to Florida issues, because they don't know how Florida is going to vote, and they know they need to attract Florida voters," said Jewett.

    But in the other major battleground state of Ohio, several cities billed the campaigns for those costs -- and in some cases were reimbursed.

    But in Florida, none of the agencies or cities 9 Investigates spoke to planned to ask for reimbursement. They said that in general, covering major campaign stops is just considered the cost of doing business and of putting the area on the national stage.

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