Tracking Florida’s Presidential drift from reliably Republican to lean Democrat

Today let’s  compare a county break down the 1996 Presidential Race where Bill Clinton as an incumbent won the state overwhelmingly (keep in mind Clinton lost Florida in 1992 by under two points) to Barack Obama’s three point win 2008. These were the two best results by Democrats in Florida since Harry Truman’s 1948 victory. Throughout the period of 1952 to 1988, Florida was more Republican than the Southern average but by 2000 it was the most Democratic southern state in Presidential elections. Florida was Dwight Eisenhower’s best southern state, Barry Goldwater’s best state in the country outside of his home state of Arizona and the hard-core racist deep south states, Richard Nixon’s 4th best state in 1972 (and Holmes County was his best county in the country, and Florida [performed 11 points above the national average for Nixon) and both Ronald Reagan and George Bush’s best southern states in 1980, 1984 and 1988.  In fact, in 1980, Florida ran a full seven points ABOVE the southern average for Reagan. Then Bill Clinton turned the state irrevocably away from that long standing pattern with the close 1992 loss. What is most interesting about the 2008 and 2012 Obama victories is that his coalition was almost completely different than Clinton’s except for Broward County.

For President Obama, Florida was his second best southern state in both 2008 and 2012. It is also worth noting that turnout for the 1996 Presidential Election where Bill Clinton abandoned liberal principles resulted in the smallest turnout for any Presidential election as a percentage of the eligible electorate since before the Great Depression. This is inspite of the fact that Ross Perot attracted many voters to the polls who would not have otherwise turned out.

Note: This study is two-party vote ONLY, and does not include votes cast for third party candidates including H. Ross Perot in 1996.

Three biggest declines Clinton 1996 vs. Obama 2008

Dixie  -28%

Gilchrist -25%

Holmes -25%

All nine counties where Obama suffered a more than twenty point decline from Clinton’s percentage were north of Ocala. These conservative north Florida Democrats have gradually been leaving the party. It is difficult to completely dismiss the issue of race when evaluating the numbers from the three counties listed above and the additional six counties where Obama’s percentage declined by over 20% from Clinton’s.

Interestingly, one county in northwest Florida where Obama improved on Clinton’s performance was Escambia. Bill Clinton’s record of dodging the draft and protesting the Vietnam War made him unpopular from the word go in military oriented western Florida. Unlike 1996 when the Democratic speaker designee was from the county and every legislative race was contested in the area, today the Democrats  are leaving every legislative district west of the Apalachicola River unopposed. While that may make sense when looking at the decline in Democratic performance in the likes of Holmes, Washington and Walton counties, it makes no sense in  Escambia.  We trust that the Obama campaign will be working to get the vote out in Pensacola.

Three biggest gains Clinton 1996 vs. Obama 2008

Orange  +11%

Seminole +8%

Osceola +6%

The three counties where Obama improved the most were all metropolitan Orlando counties further demonstrating the rapid changes in demographics/attitudes in that area. The worst decline for Obama from Clinton’s numbers of 1996 in a non completely rural county was in Sumter, which mixes traditional southern Democrats with the growing voting power of the Villages. It is entirely possible many of the white Republicans that previously made Orange and Seminole counties GOP locks have moved to Sumter and Lake in the past sixteen years.

It is worth noting an eleven point increase plus increased turnout in Orange County (population over 1 million in 2008) probably more than makes up for the steep decline in performance throughout rural north Florida where each counties swing against Obama represented only a few thousand votes.

The full county by county numbers can be found below.

CLINTON DOLE OBAMA McCAIN D% SWING COUNTY SIZE
Alachua 61 39 61 39 0 Medium
Baker 38 62 21 79 -17 Small
Bay 38 62 30 70 -8 Medium
Bradford 47 53 30 70 -17 Small
Brevard 48 52 45 55 -3 Large
Broward 69 31 68 32 -1 Metropolitan
Calhoun 51 49 30 70 -21 Small
Charlotte 49 51 47 53 -2 Medium
Citrus 52 48 42 58 -10 Medium
Clay 30 70 29 71 -1 Medium
Collier 35 65 39 61 4 Medium
Columbia 47 53 33 67 -14 Small
Desoto 49 51 44 56 -5 Small
Dixie 55 45 27 73 -28 Small
Duval 47 53 49 51 2 Metropolitan
Escambia 38 62 41 59 3 Medium
Flagler 54 46 52 48 -2 Medium
Franklin 57 43 36 64 -21 Small
Gadsden 72 28 70 30 -2 Small
Gilchrist 51 49 26 74 -25 Small
Glades 52 48 42 58 -10 Small
Gulf 51 49 30 70 -21 Small
Hamilton 53 47 43 57 -10 Small
Hardee 45 55 35 65 -10 Small
Hendry 51 49 47 53 -4 Small
Hernando 56 44 49 51 -7 Medium
Highlands 47 53 41 59 -6 Medium
Hillsborough 51 49 54 46 3 Metropolitan
Holmes 42 58 17 83 -25 Small
Indian River 41 59 43 57 2 Medium
Jackson 48 52 36 64 -12 Small
Jefferson 57 43 52 48 -5 Small
Lafayette 42 58 20 80 -22 Small
Lake 46 54 43 57 -3 Medium
Lee 45 55 45 55 0 Large
Leon 59 41 62 38 3 Medium
Levy 54 46 36 64 -18 Small
Liberty 49 51 28 72 -21 Small
Madison 56 44 49 51 -7 Small
Manatee 48 52 47 53 -1 Medium
Marion 47 53 45 55 -2 Medium
Martin 42 58 44 56 2 Medium
Miami-Dade 60 40 58 42 -2 Metropolitan
Monroe 56 44 52 48 -4 Small
Nassau 37 63 28 72 -9 Small
Okaloosa 28 72 28 72 0 Medium
Okeechobee 59 41 40 60 -19 Small
Orange 49 51 60 40 11 Metropolitan
Osceola 54 46 60 40 6 Medium
Palm Beach 64 36 62 38 -2 Metropolitan
Pasco 57 43 48 52 -9 Large
Pinellas 55 45 55 45 0 Metropolitan
Polk 48 52 47 53 -1 Large
Putnam 56 44 41 59 -15 Small
Santa Rosa 29 71 26 74 -3 Medium
Sarasota 47 53 50 50 3 Medium
Seminole 41 59 49 51 8 Medium
St Johns 37 63 34 66 -3 Medium
St Lucie 55 45 57 43 2 Medium
Sumter 54 46 36 64 -18 Medium
Suwanee 42 58 28 72 -16 Small
Taylor 54 46 30 70 -24 Small
Union 45 55 25 75 -20 Small
Volusia 56 44 53 47 -3 Large
Wakulla 52 48 37 63 -15 Small
Walton 40 60 26 74 -14 Small
Washington 46 54 25 75 -21 Small

9 comments

  1. Usual nonsense from you. We know Florida is getting more liberal and the Democrats should be as far left even socialist in order to win Florida. You want to work to get us crappy to be as far left and communist as possibleand sucking up to the black as possible well we will rue the day that we listen to you if we listen to you.

    These numbers it should be noted clearly paint a picture of Clinton doing well in north Florida because he stood up to Jesse Jackson and demphasized race. Obama struggled to win Florida twice because he is the most racist president we’ve had. It is difficult as a Democrat which I am to continue to support someone so blatantly racist. That racism cost him in the county that had formed the coalition for Bill Clinton and numerous statewide candidates. The blacks and Cubans pick some firewood, I of North Florida did not all set the lost in north Florida. If the Democrats want to be a party of minorities then Obama is perfectly positioning himself.

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    1. Obama the most racist President ever? No that was Woodrow Wilson who despite advocating a helplessly foolish and liberal/idealistic foreign policy institutionalized segregation in the federal government AND screened “The Birth of the Nation” in the White House. This film led to the revitalization of the Klan and violence in the south including the Rosewood murders here in Florida just years later.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_a_Nation

      Ask an African-American if they think Obama is a racist? Cornell West and Tavis Smiley are good examples of influential African-American leaders less than enamored with Obama’s record on Civil Rights issues. They might tell you he is a disappointment for his community because he is so race neutral or perhaps even over compensates for being black by going the other direction.

      Oh and Clinton was called “the first black President.” I don’t think he was courting hard core racist votes. Obama has gotten more votes in both his elections than Clinton did.

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    2. Obama won the state twice, Clinton didn’t. Game, set, match.

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  2. Morning Star · · Reply

    It’s not about race. It’s these crazies, leftists and malcontents causing trouble in the party with no idea of how to practically govern.

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    1. Really? Sorry but the FDP has been running the party your way since the decline in the early-1990s. Can you please list your successes.

      As for the “leftists”, we haven’t had the opportunities, but Obama won the state twice.

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  3. Name one country that’s progressed under black leadership? Name one country where the blacks have voluntarily given up power after seizing power? Look at how backwards Africa and Haiti are. The military strongmen always winning power and forcing whites to leave or die. They are the racists not us.

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    1. This coming from someone named Tex. I rest my case.

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  4. Racists out in full force

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  5. Yes, Florida leans Democrat on the Presidential race but that is only when Democrats maximize their vote in Broward, Miami/Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Duval and ring counties surrounding these metropolitan bastions. Republicans almost ALWAYS do a better job turning out their vote…..we don’t, especially in off years.

    Further this absolute nonsense that Democrats can win back these ultra-conservative north Florida voters borders on the absurd! The party has spent tons of money trying to win back these registered Democrat, but solid Republican voting folks for the last 20 years….all to no avail. It’s time to concentrate the party’s resources on where it gets it’s votes…….the big cities and the ring suburbs!

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