Q&A of the Day – Is Florida really a “must” win for Presidential candidates?
Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: Brian, you said something that caught my attention in your swing state story. You mentioned Trump could lose Florida and still win the election with the other states he won four years ago. All you ever hear is that Trump is dead in the water if he loses Florida. I think he’ll win it, in fact I think he’ll win bigger than last time, but you got me to wonder if there is any one state Trump has to win if the election played out like last time?
Bottom Line: The answer to your question is yes, there is one state President Trump won four years ago, which he had to win given the outcome in 2016 but as you’ve referenced it wasn’t Florida. It’s Texas. President Trump won the Electoral College with 36 more votes than was needed to win the Presidency. There are only two states which account for more than 36 Electoral votes – California and Texas. Of course, Hillary Clinton won California so Texas, with its 38 Electoral College votes was a must-win for Trump and may well prove to be again this year. Had Trump lost Texas, Clinton would have won by the narrowest of margins – 270 to 268. As for Florida, we account for 29 votes. Trump could have lost Florida and even another of thirteen smaller states he won four years ago and still won the election. That’s the literal answer. Another reason Florida’s commonly described as a “must win” has more to do with its predictive voting history.
Prior to 1928 Florida’s history of voting for Presidential winners was poor. But then again Florida was a small state back then with only six Electoral Votes. As our state has grown along with our influence in Presidential elections, so has our proclivity to vote for winners. Since 1928, only twice has Florida voted for a losing candidate. 1960 when Florida voted for Nixon and 1992 when the state voted for Bush. That makes Florida 21-2 over the past 23 Presidential elections. What’s notable is that when Florida has voted for losing candidates, both times they were Republicans. That’s another reason why the state seems to feel more important to Republicans than Democrats. In Florida’s modern political history, Democrats have proven they can win the Presidency without winning Florida. Republicans haven’t. There’s even another interesting dynamic which contextually will be different this election than last for President Trump. Florida’s now officially his home state. Given the history I just described, the fact that Trump won Florida four years ago and that it’s now officially his home state – it's highly unlikely he’d be able to lose the election here without losing similar support in other states simultaneously. But then again Donald Trump became just the fourth President in American history to lose his state of residence but win the Presidential election – if ever there’s been a political wildcard it’s him.