How Much is Florida in Play for the Dems in 2008?

I have generally been of the mindset that while it would be nice for the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee to carry Florida, such a statewide victory would more likely represent electoral votes 271 through 297 than electoral vote number 270. In other words, if the Democratic nominee takes Florida it means that he or she has already won the election, so Florida would just be gravy.

This sentiment derived from a number of factors. First, it would have taken John Kerry fewer votes in Ohio in 2004 -- or even spread across Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada -- in order to secure sufficient support in the electoral college than it would have for him to have won Florida. What's more, though the Democrats did fairly well in federal elections in Florida in 2006, holding a potentially vulnerable Senate seat and picking up two seats in the House (which probably should have been three had it not been for another poorly designed ballot and other such electoral miscues), the gubernatorial contest in the state never really got engaged, with the Republican nominee winning by seven points in an open seat race.

But some interesting trends in the state have had me wondering: Perhaps I've been wrong about Florida. Perhaps the state is more in play for the Democrats than I had previously believed.

Back in February I began thinking similar thoughts following the release of polling showing increased strength in Florida for some of the potential Democratic presidential nominees. Now, new Rasmussen Reports polling has me wondering once again. Take a look (500 LVs in each state; conducted 8/8, except for Florida, conducted 8/9):

Ave. GOP45.7539.2538.7540.00
Ave. HIL42.2552.7545.2545.00

[Caveats first. I'm on the record as not being the greatest fan of Rasmussen Reports, but at least this set of polls conducted using the same methodology almost in the exactly same timeframe (even if it's just one-day polling) across four states allows for a reasonable comparison between probable swing states around the country. What's more, I'm going to do a little bit of extrapolating from these numbers that goes beyond just Hillary Clinton, who is the only Democrat polled here. That is to say that although Clinton may have attributes that make her relatively stronger in Florida as compared to other states than other potential Democratic nominees, I'm going to leave that possibility aside given that this is the data I have to work with for the moment.]

These surveys seem to indicate that Florida is a particularly ripe target for the Democrats in 2008. Not only does Clinton hold a sizable lead over the four leading Republican contenders, but she also holds a larger lead in Florida than she does in the other swing states polled, including New Hampshire, which John Kerry won in 2004. To be clear, this news comes as a rather large surprise to me given a number of the facts about the state mentioned way up at the top of this post. And as a result, though I'd like to see more numbers confirming this trend, it might be that Florida won't just be gravy for the Democratic nominee, which could make it impossible (yes, effectively impossible) for the Republican nominee to garner the 270 electoral votes necessary to win a trip to the White House.

Tags: Florida, General 2008 (all tags)



I want to believe this

but we haven't won a lot of statewide elections in Florida lately.

Then again, I never thought Gore had a chance in Florida either, and he ended up "winning" the state (or at least having thousands more people attempt to mark ballots for him).

by desmoinesdem 2007-08-15 09:04PM | 0 recs
Florida Statewide Elections

Actually two statewide elections were won by Democrats in Florida in 2006. Bill Nelson won his senate race and Alex Sink won the CFO position on the cabinet.

Nelson had the highest vote count of all statewide candidates.

And actually, many people consider Charlie Crist the best Democratic governor ever elected.

by Tally 2007-08-17 06:24AM | 0 recs
FL for the Dems in 2008?

It should say "Ave. Hillary" at the bottom.  I'm just nit picking.  I'm not a fan of Rasmussen only polling one Democrat frontrunner like the primary is already over.  It's rather disappointing.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-15 09:14PM | 0 recs
Re: FL for the Dems in 2008?

Okay. I've made it average Hillary.

by Jonathan Singer 2007-08-15 09:19PM | 0 recs
Re: How Much is Florida in Play for the Dems in 20

I am not sure other candidates will fare as well as Hillary would in Florida , so lets not count our chickens , I have seen some polls with Obama/Edwards losing florida granted that was a couple of months ago. I don't see anything that has changed to make them compete better in Florida rather Obama has made some comments that might make him fare less well in the state.

by lori 2007-08-15 09:15PM | 0 recs
Re: How Much is Florida in Play for the Dems in 20

You are putting a lot of stock into early head to head polling.

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-08-15 09:20PM | 0 recs
Re: How Much is Florida in Play for the Dems in 20

Yeah thats what we have to work with now , clearly a campaign next year can change everything , but as of now I think Hillary is uniquely positioned vis a vis Florida for some reason , I think She is well liked over there , unlike the other two candidates . I don't see it as a trend to the dems , I see it as more as a function of Hillary herself, she is struggling in some states in the south but Florida isn't one of them for now.

by lori 2007-08-15 09:25PM | 0 recs
Re: How Much is Florida in Play for the Dems in 20

Her strength comes from the huge number of relocated New Yorkers in Florida and most of them are from NYC, which explains her lead over Giuliani too.

by nibit25 2007-08-16 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: How Much is Florida in Play for the Dems in 20

Just a few days ago Quinnipiac showed Clinton beating Giuliani and all other GOP candidates in Florida, while Obama did not fare that well across the board, actually losing to Giuliani here.  I believe Gore showed an exact tie.  

by georgep 2007-08-16 04:48AM | 0 recs
Jonathan Singer

Jonathan Singer ,

Q has done a matchup on Aug 8. aseID=1089

Clinton 46
Rudy    44

Clinton  49
Thompson 40

Obama 41
Rudy  44

Obama    43
Thompson 37

by areyouready 2007-08-15 09:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Jonathan Singer

match up in FL, I should add.

by areyouready 2007-08-15 09:25PM | 0 recs
Richardson could take Florida

Florida could return to the Democrats. But let's not get carried away with match up polls a year and half before the election.  What they reflect more than anything else is the name recognition of the candidate, not any true level of support.  

Ultimately the position of the Democratic candidate is going to matter.  Adam Smith, one of the top political commentator in Florida, described earlier this year Bill Richardson's appeal in the state.  

I defy anyone to name a Democrat better equipped to take Florida than New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Think of it: a tax-cutting, NRA-supported progressive Democrat who can make a strong case in the conservative Panhandle; and the first Latino presidential nominee sure to energize the crucial Hispanic vote in South Florida and Central Florida.

For Central Florida's crucial swing voters disillusioned by what they've seen with Iraq and Katrina, the two-term red- state governor, former U.N. ambassador, and U.S. energy secretary can sell competence. Nobody on either side is as experienced and tested on the key issues of the day - foreign policy, energy independence and economic growth.

by Stephen Cassidy 2007-08-15 09:45PM | 0 recs
Re: How Much is Florida in Play for the Dems in 20

Aren't we getting real paper ballots in Florida this year, too?  



by lordmikethegreat 2007-08-15 10:38PM | 0 recs
HUGE change in FL

Crist recently signed a bill changing the Felon Reinvestiture process.  Previously, felons would have to petition to get their right to vote restored. Now, they don't if they are non-violent.  That means that 100,000-200,000 voters have been reinstated. That's a big number.

by dataguy 2007-08-16 05:20AM | 0 recs
a few things...

kerry had a better chance in florida than in ohio, if you believed the metrics that republicans were putting out in ohio.  they signed up (they say) 164,000 bush volunteers in the state, or one volunteer for every 17 votes they bagged.  the usual rule of thumb is 1-25, and i don't see a lot of campaigns doing that well.

until the hurricane, florida was wide open.  we had this prevailing anger over what had happened in 2000, and kerry never took advantage of that.  lcv sent down buses from d.c. to florida, and apparently had no trouble filling them up.  moveon had absolutely no trouble finding precinct captains in ft. myers and west coast areas that were reliably republican.  kerry choose wrong to think ohio was the make or break state.

the hurricane screwed up a lot of plans, and that's life.  democrats, however, could have recovered had they had a real infrastructure on the ground before the hurricane happened.  the fact that they didn't was a huge mistake -- it basically conceded florida to bush.

what i didn't feel like kerry's strategists understood was that you have to stretch the field as far as possible in order to give outliers a chance to prove themselves worthy of real presidential attention.

so is florida in play in 2008?  well, it better be.  if democrats do not contest florida hard then they narrow the field to the republican's benefit.  we can't allow republicans to concentrate their resources on a few states (like ohio in 2004); it gives them a significant advantage.  think of it this way: republicans already benefit from the advantage of interior lines.  democrats are strong on the coasts, but that makes it difficult to move resources from washington or oregan to new hampshire.  one of the reasons that i think the emphasis on the south is overdone is simply because it focuses politicos attention on one place.  dean's got it right, let 50 states be in play!

unfortunately for hillary, her attempts into florida before now have faltered.  her proxy candidates (most who live where george does) have lost.  they have made little inroads into the i-4 corridor outside of tampa.  they need orange, seminole, brevard and volusia to be in play, for voters to take a hard look at whoever the democratic nominee is.  democrats have to compete outside of south florida (which has been losing population in recent years).

campaigns that do the field work are rewarded, but it does require better training and stronger logistics.  when you have people out knocking on doors in 94+ degree weather, you have to plan for it.  souvarine (sp?) says that hillary's got (ground) game, and florida is a terrific proving ground.  the good ole boy network has disintegrated, and while republicans do have the country clubs, there are plenty of opportunities for democrats to win here.  black churches, especially, offer an untapped opportunity.  it just requires determination, leadership, organization and a good plan.  we lost florida because democrats conceded voters to the gop and kept trying to win them back with gop-lite issues and tactics...

by bored now 2007-08-16 09:51AM | 0 recs
Go For It

    In the summer of 2001 I made a list of seven reasons to be optimistic that Florida would be moving toward the Democrats in this decade. Here's what I came up with:

1. Increased Democratic support among Hispanics, and increased Hispanic share of total vote. Hispanic share was up from 5% in 1992 to 11% in 2000 and 15% in 2004. Hispanic support of 31% for Clinton in 1992 moved up to about 40% for Gore, and 44% for Kerry.

2. Greatly increased Black share of total vote, up to 15% in 2000 from a previous high of 12% in 1994. As a result of 1 and 2, the White non-Hispanic share of the vote was down from the mid 80%s in 1992 to 73% just 8 years later, and 70% in 2004.

3. Sharp increase in support in the 18-29 age group. Clinton lost them 34-45 in 1992, but Gore carried them 55-40 in 2000. The trend gathered steam in 2006, when Sen. Nelson carried 18-29 year olds 67-31, and the Democratic candidate for governor, Jim Davis, only lost them by one point, 49 to 50, running 4 points better than in any other age group. Kerry carried this age group 58-41.

4. Rise in share of vote and Democratic share among voters who check "None" when asked their religion.

5. "Adoption of video scanning at precinct level will probably increase valid ballots by tens of thousnds."

6. Population increase among Whites in the deacde 1990-2000 was only 83% of the increase in the previous decade. And, frankly, the likelihood is that as White non-Hispanic share of the population continues to decline, fewer Whites will retire to Florida.

7. Democratic voters and workers are strongly motivated by perceived injustice of the 2000 result.

    I think most of these are still valid, though 7 has less force after 6 years, and 5 was wildly inaccurate in my perception of the changes then being made. But the movement among Hispanics, Blacks, the young, and those who profess no religion has continued, and I assume the decreased immigration among Whites has as well.

    To that I would add two new factors: the mortality of the so-called "Greatest Generation", and the immigration of people born in the 1940s as they retire. Kerry lost Florida voters over 64 by 3 points, 48 to 51: their place in line at the polls is being taken by the 18-29 year olds, who are strongly Democratic. There is also the possibility that suburban Florida White women will join their northern sisters in moving toward the Democrats, although there is scant evidence for that in polls and results so far.

    In any event, Florida is close enough that it would make no sense not to play there. If nothing else, it will draw Republican resources. But winning it will be a knockout blow for the foreseeable future.


by Ron Thompson 2007-08-16 04:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Go For It

Not to mention that the Florida Democratic Party appears to finally be figuring out how to win elections.  

In 2006, they had two statewide wins, picked up three Congressionals (the machines took one back), and picked off eight Republican state house seats.  

The state has always been in play for Democrats.  Finally, there is the infrastructure and the people needed to get the job done.

by thelastdem 2007-08-17 09:04AM | 0 recs


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