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Swing State Spotlight: Florida

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posted on Aug, 30 2008 @ 05:20 AM
This is the first in a series of planned posts discussing the situation in Swing States, in an attempt to accurately predict not only the President, but the final electoral vote count.

For the reasons described below, I believe that John McCain will win Florida, although I have identified strategies which improve Obama's chances.

The importance of Florida to Electoral Math became apparent to most of us in 2000, when a margin of 537 votes- a stack of ballots that you could hold in one hand

Florida has the 4th highest electoral vote value in the United States, and is the only one of the 6 most valuable states where current polling averages suggest a margin of less than 4%.

No Democrat has won Florida and still lost the General Election since 1924, and since the civil war, only 3 Democrats have ever won without Florida. (Clinton (1st term), Carter, and Kennedy)

Political Geography
In General, there are 3 political regions in Florida. The Republican North, The Democratic Coastal South, and the divided central portion along the I-4 Corridor. The I-4 Corridor has been considered decisive in recent close state-wide elections.

Minorities account for a significant portion of the Democratic advantage in the South. This includes both Hispanics and African-Americans, among others. As of the 2000 Census 15.5% of Florida's population was African American, Making Florida number 14 in African-Americans per capita and 4th in terms of raw African-American population. This demographic information should not be overestimated however, as only 5 of the 13 states with higher per capita African-American populations are considered "blue states".

Political Trends
Polling Averages suggest a slight advantage for John McCain in Florida.

Florida has only gone Democratic in presidential races 3 times in the last 56 years, meaning that Republican Presidential Candidates have won 10 of the last 13 votes in Florida, which is roughly 77% of the time. The 3 Democratic wins were spread out, in 1964, 1976, and 1996.

The majority of voters in Florida as a whole are registered as Democrats (Source). Nevertheless, 16 of Florida's 25 Congressional Districts (64%) are controlled by Republicans, as are 77 (64%) of Floridas 120 State House of Representatives Seats ((Source), and 26 (65%) of 40 State Senate Seats (Source). The same is true of the governorship, 2 of the 3 elected cabinet positions, and one of the states US Senate seats.

In the 2006 Congressional Elections, the districts of the I-4 Corridor continued to go Republican. Republican Charlie Crist was also elected governor in 2006.

Voter turnout in Florida's 2008 Democratic Primary was 1.7 million, with 350,000 votes cast early, even though Florida at that point had been stripped of its delegates.
Republican Primary turnout in Florida was 1.9 million

This cannot be compared reliably to recent primaries because Florida traditionally does not vote until after Super Tuesday. The 2004, 2000, and

1996 primaries all produced presumptive nominees before Florida voted.
The last reliable comparison then is 16 years old, and was 1.1 million voters.

Hillary Clinton recieved more votes in her Florida primary victory than John McCain did in his. Obama received fewer votes than John McCain. However McCain faces a unique challenge. The votes not cast for him were spread between several major contenders, but Obama must only seriously concentrate on winning over those who voted for Hillary.

Final Analysis
Republicans have a voter registration advantage, an advantage in endorsements by local incumbents, a demonstrated mobilization advantage, and a time-tested base in Florida.

John McCain is likely to carry the state.

Underdog Strategy
The SUPREME priority in Florida however is voter mobilization. The unreliability of the poor and minorities at the polls is the key to Republican dominance in Florida. Obama is a master organizer and should use this to generate voter registration and voter turnout in Florida. He cannot rely solely on ads or even face-time to close the gap. If Obama throws advertising dollars and time into Florida, he will not only lose that state, but he will sap resources from other states of equal importance.

Any money that Obama earmarks specifically to win Florida should go in large part into ads that encourage voter registration, and those ads should go out now. More efficient media targeted at likely activists are preferable to radio and tv. Mailers, well placed print ads, and hiring organizers to manage a volunteer network to this aim may yield real results.

Obama's winning issue in Florida is Healthcare, because it represents common ground between the Hillary supporters whom Obama must rally and the moderate republican senior citizens who are vital to McCain. This is an issue that can be focused on by earned media and should not consume a significant portion of his Florida budget.

When Obama does take to the airwaves in Florida, it should be to attack. Obama's winning attack is on any alleged flip-flop by John McCain that will prevent him from unifying the disperesed majority that was shared by primary candidates to the right of John McCain.

If you can't beat 'em
The most apparent alternative to fighting for Florida is to pull back from Florida and dedicate additional resources to Virginia and North Carolina, which have a combined electoral value of 28 compared to Florida's 27. Virginia is polling closer than Florida at the moment, but North Carolina is a more difficult proposition, although Obama's base is stronger there and he won the Democratic Primary in that state. Both states also have higher per capita African American populations. This would be a very maverick move on Obama's part and carries extreme risks.

posted on Aug, 30 2008 @ 08:26 AM
According to this Electoral Map, which is updated daily, the current Florida polls indicate Obama at 45% and McCain at 46%, so Florida is "barely McCain".

I agree that for Obama to take Florida, he's got some serious work to do in that state. And while it's possible for him to win without Florida, he will probably do some serious work there to gain those all important 27 votes.

This Electoral Map shows Florida as a toss-up or battleground state. The Latest Polls, taken Friday, Aug 29, show Obama with a tooth-skin lead in Florida, but considering the fact that we are 2 months out and the RNC is next week, I don't find the polls particularly useful.

If everything goes smoothly for the next 2 months, and by that, I mean no huge scandals, no voter fraud, no tampering, large voter turn-out, AND Obama makes a concerted effort to win the state, I can see him taking Florida. But I have serious doubts that all the above conditions will materialize. I think the Republican 527s are going to go pretty negative in these last days and, for what it's worth, I don't entirely trust the voting process anymore.

So, I predict that McCain will take Florida.

posted on Aug, 30 2008 @ 10:48 AM
reply to post by The Vagabond

While Sen. Obama does not need Florida to win (Colorado, Neveda and New Mexico and/or Ohio wins will do it for him), he will try to bring Florida into the blue column once and for all. Florida is not like the other Southern States, and has a sizable senior citizen population. Sen. John McCain has to hope the Cubans keep voting Republican. Sen. McCain will get the conservative vote because of his choice of Gov. Palin, but if he loses the Cuban vote, Sen. Obama will pick up Florida. Look for Sen. Hillary Clinton to campaign heavily in the senior citizen area, and Sen. Obama and others to get out the vote. The minority voters did not embrace the other Democratic voters in such esteem as they do Sen. Obama. Sen. McCain should not underestimate the voter turnout for Sen. Obama.
I think we will see a long night in the Florida count, but it will be decided by the blue collar states by then.
I still think Sen. Obama will squeak out a win by a few percentage points.

posted on Aug, 30 2008 @ 10:21 PM
If I were running the Obama campaign, I would wouldn't trust anything short of a 5 point polling lead in Flordia, simply because a majority of the population is registered democrats and they keep handing elections to the Republicans by not showing up.

I would also be much more concerned about new voter registration in the North and South respectively and polling data specifically in the I-4 corridor than about polling data statewide. I really need to invest another hour or two to try and dig that info up at some point in the near future.

posted on Aug, 31 2008 @ 11:45 AM
reply to post by The Vagabond

High voting turn outs help the Democrats. Sen. McCain hopes his VP choice will get out the conservatives who will vote for him anyway. There is an excitement for Sen. Obama not seen in any Democratic candidate in a long time. The turnout for him will be high, and it puts Florida into play.
Minorities, especially African Americans and Hispanics are under represented in the polls. Sen. Obama has to make sure his people get out the vote.

posted on Aug, 31 2008 @ 07:15 PM
In politics, unlike in physics, energy does not always equal mass. Somehow a gap seems to appear between wanting someone to be president, and actually going out and voting to make them president. Only time will tell if Obama's organization can overcome this common problem.

If Obama does win, he will provide a dynamic coat-tails effect which, combined with the power of incumbency, could turn Florida blue, perhaps for good. But Republicans running for lesser offices in Florida have got to be incredibly concerned about being in the path of Obama's coattails, and they are almost certainly preparing to meet that challenge.

High voter turnout only helps the Democrats on average. In any one specific case, who is helped by high voter turnout depends on who turned out the extra voters. Nowhere is it written that Republican congressmen and state representatives can't organize in their districts and bring more Republicans to the polls.

I'm not saying Obama has no chance- he has a very respectable chance- that's what swing state means- but that doesn't mean he has the advantage. Most guages suggest a slight Republican advantage. This can seem to be lessened looking forward when you focus on what the Democrats are doing to the Republicans, but you must also look at what the Republicans are doing to the Democrats to see the whole picture.

Personally, you'd have to give me 5:4 odds to make me bet on the Democrats in the Florida race (as a figure of speech- I know we can't bet on the election).

posted on Sep, 1 2008 @ 12:51 PM
reply to post by The Vagabond

There are two types of voters who are consistent with high turn out: conservative and senior citizens. The Republicans can only get so much more support. They have to appeal to the moderate supporters, and they usually split 50/50. The next step is to go after the minority voters, something the Republicans didn't worry about over 20 years ago. Birth rates in whites have been declining, while the birth rates in other groups are rising.
In Florida, the Cuban vote is a very reliable block for Republicans, but it is getting increasingly younger with no memory of Fidel Castro of the 1960s. They will actually look at the Democrats this year, and may look at Sen. Obama and see that he has gone through what they go through every day.
That is the one thing people tend to forget. Pres. Clinton said he felt their pain, and Sen. Obama has LIVED it. He knows what it is like to be pulled over by a police car because of his skin color. Blacks and Hispanics know this too well, and will support him in droves. The drive is there to vote for him. He also closed the deal with his incredible acceptance speech.
Sen. McCain has to go after a piece of that vote if he wants to win, or he has to play the race card heavily to keep a large part of the white vote. He will need at least 65% of the vote to keep some of the bigger states into play. I don't like to state that view, but Republicans are thinking about that. They also realize that younger voters are much more likely to vote for a black candidate than their older counterparts. The young vote will be the deciding factor in this race.
I see Florida going blue in 2008, and probably staying there.

posted on Sep, 1 2008 @ 01:39 PM
You're forgetting that Hispanics went heavily for Hillary during the primary. It remains to be seen what portion of that is owed to racism. There is tension between African-Americans and Latinos in some quarters. I'm not just pulling this stuff out of my hat. My highschool was over 60% Mexican, and I never a black guy who was completely accepted by the Mexican kids. If a guy was mixed and really cool, they'd just kinda look down their nose at him, but if he was just any guy, 100% african-american and not somehow socially distinguished- he'd straight get abused every day of his life. That's a real problem the Democratic party hasn't quite hashed out. The Black and Hispanic Caucuses have managed to maintain a cordial relationship, but they really haven't fully embraced eachother as coequal partners in the civil rights movement.

The youth vote is also among the most unreliable. There aren't just reliable bases (most of them Republican) there are also UNRELIABLE bases. Young people are flakey. If they've got something going on, if they have classes, if they have work, if they just plain don't feel like it, they don't go out and vote.

The elderly, work it into their schedule, they write it down in their planner, etc. Property owners get that absentee ballot early and put it with their bills and fill it out the weekend beforehand while they're balancing their checkbook. Groups from churches hold events to rally eachother and go around in a bus giving people a ride to the polls.

Young people get on their computer at lunch time and go, "oh crap, it's the 4th?" And then they go about their business and keep telling themselves they're going to do it. And if their friends aren't online, and if nothing's going on, and if they feel like going out and getting a coke anyway, they stop by the polling place while they're out and about- maybe.

I'm for Obama, I think he's got a lot of positives, I want him to win, but the lay of the land in Florida is not to his advantage and he is the candidate who will have to work harder to win.

Last but not least, consider the effect of your own viewpoint (which is not uncommon) that the Republicans are finally going to be called to account for the last 8 years and that there is nothing they can do to win. That is a popular perception. So who will be more urgently motivated to vote? The people who are sure they're side is going to win and just want to be there when it happens, or the people who are terrified of the seeming certainty that a liberal whom they have been repeatedly told to fear is about to win?

posted on Sep, 1 2008 @ 02:43 PM
reply to post by The Vagabond

Recent polls show Sen. Obama doing extemely well among Hispanics. He is winning over the older Hispanics who voted for Hillary. (The Hillary/Obama problem has been overblown by the press and some loud mouth groups. It gives the media something to fill in for their 24 hour channels.)
I agree with you on the younger voters not remembering to vote, and they Obama people have to make sure to get out the vote. Florida is not wrapped up for either candidate, and Sen. Obama has to do everything right to turn it blue.
I do speak on personal experience in where I live that the excitement for Sen. Obama is unlike any I have seen for a Democratic candidate. I think they will make sure to get everyone out to vote.

posted on Sep, 1 2008 @ 03:56 PM
That is an interesting perspective to hear. Of course I am well aware of the excitement over Barack Obama, but I actually have very little experience with it. I'm not living in the sticks here- I'm in Southern California (although in a Republican enclave of California that has as much in common with Arizona as with Los Angeles)- and the people I come into contact with all seem to be scared of him.

Literally 80% of the time when I have discussed the election with friends, family, or co-workers, someone either suggests that he is the anti-christ, or suggests that he is a Muslim trying to infiltrate our government. I can literally only name one person out of dozens who has stated opposition to Obama without making reference to that whisper campaign.
Obviously gallup is not polling on those subjects, so I really have no perspective on how widespread those rumors may have become and how influential they might be on Republican turnout or even right-leaning independent candidate choice.

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