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
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
(Clinton (1st term), Carter, and Kennedy)
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".
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
. 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
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.
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.
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.