Winning in Florida requires different strategies

Winning in Florida requires different strategies  

Excerpt: Rick Scott faced a tough race for governor in 2010, when his Democratic opponent, Alex Sink, did surprisingly well in the rural Republican counties of North Florida. But turnout lagged in the urban Democratic counties of South Florida, and Scott eked out a 1 percent victory. 

Scott faced another tough race in 2014, when his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, focused on improving turnout in those urban strongholds. But while Crist expanded Sink’s margins in South Florida by about 100,000 votes, Scott expanded his own margins in North Florida by almost exactly the same amount--and eked out another 1 percent victory. 

Florida is the ultimate swing state, the land of the political cliffhanger. Donald Trump also won it by 1 percent over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Barack Obama won it by 1 percent over Mitt Romney in 2012. George W. Bush famously (or, for some, notoriously) won it by just 537 votes over Al Gore in 2000. If you add up the 50 million votes Floridians have cast in the past seven presidential elections, a mere 20,000 votes separate the two parties—about 0.04 percent. 

That’s why confident proclamations of the key to victory in Florida—the I-4 corridor bisecting the state, or the Hispanic vote, or the independent vote, or the money race—tend to be incorrect. Statewide elections here are such nail-biters that there’s rarely one key to victory. 

Bottom Line: As a student of history, politics and political projections I can safely say that Florida’s the most difficult state for me to analyze every cycle. In fact, in both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections I accurately projected 49 of the 50 states but the one I missed both times... Yes, Florida. I also couldn’t get a good read on the 2010 Gubernatorial election won by Rick Scott. Beyond what you already know about our state, we are full of anomaly's and a lot of it has to do with our diversity that leads to unpredictable outcomes in close elections.  

For example, in 2016 House Districts 26 & 27 were the most anomalous in the country. In the 26th Carlos Curbelo won by 12 points in a district Hillary Clinton won by 16 points. In the 27th Ros-Lehtinen won by ten points in a district Hillary Clinton won by 20 points. If you had accounted for those kinds of splits, you should bring back the Psychic Friends Network. And that’s kind of the point. Traditional political rules don’t always apply here in part because registered partisans are often far less likely to vote straight tickets compared to many states. What I’ve observed in recent cycles is that Republicans who win state-wide win by “losing well” in South Florida. Democrats who win state-wide, win by “losing well” in northern Florida. I’ll illustrate the point by using Palm Beach County’s most recent Presidential election cycles (since Republicans have won governor’s races statewide for 20 years). 

PBC Elections...  


McCain: 38% 

Obama: 61% 

23% loss in PBC = 3% loss in Florida 


Romney: 41% 

Obama: 58% 

17% loss in PBC = 1% loss in Florida 


Trump: 41% 

Clinton: 56% 

15% loss in PBC = 1% win in Florida 

If Ron DeSantis losses this year, it’ll likely be because Andrew Gillum ran up the score in South Florida. Gillum’s aggressive ground game in South Florida suggests he’s doing what he can to maximize turnout here. Many on the right are concerned about DeSantis’s ground game in South Florida and based on what I’ve seen – there's reason to be concerned.

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