What’s wrong with Volusia? Pasco? Brevard? Democrats must engage up and down I-75 and I-95

I’ll come out and say it- I hate third ways. But in this case the debate between those in the Democratic Party who see organizing as a contest between emphasis on northern Florida versus urban areas (which increasingly means just southeast Florida and the Orlando area, excluding Tampa Bay at the same level where Democrats and allied have not expended the same effort as the other two huge urban clusters in the state) can be supplemented by a logical third option. Democrats racked up record margins for a Presidential campaign in Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange and Osceola counties on Tuesday which speaks highly of the Clinton operation considering those were virtually the only places the campaign REALLY focused on beides college communities, the Tampa Bay area and increasingly enigmatic Palm Beach. It is however something that must be asked…how many more votes can Democrats squeeze out of Broward, Dade, Orange and Osceola…we’re probably hitting the point of diminishing returns in those places and need to mine for votes elsewhere in addition to continuing the critical organizing in the aforementioned places.

With Patrick Murphy’s loss, Democrats have now lost 17 of the last 20 statewide elections dating back to 2002. The three victories were Bill Nelson in 2006 and 2012 and Alex Sink in 2006.

Tuesday saw some remarkably pathetic performances from Democrats in medium-sized counties where a good chunk of Floridians live.

Volusia

John Kerry carried Volusia in 2004 even while losing statewide by five points. On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton lost Volusia by over ten points.  This county has over a half million residents. It’s not a “rural” area.  Volusia has more voters than all the counties between the  Apalachicola River and Suwannee River COMBINED. 

Pasco

Won by Al Gore in 2000 this county with half a million residents (more than all the counties between the Apalachicola River and Suwannee River COMBINED) delivered a 20-point PLUS margin to Donald Trump on Tuesday.

Hernando

Al Gore won Hernando County by about three points in 2000. On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton lost the county by TWENTY NINE points. 

Up and down I-75

Let’s talk about the counties up and down I-75 where Democrats are got their clocks cleaned, both in 2014 and 2016. This includes Hernando and Pasco counties.

Beginning in Marion County, which has been growing rapidly since 1980 the drive south on I-75 to Collier County represents more than the margin of victory for the GOP in the last two Governor’s races, and some of the best performing counties for the Republicans in terms of vote margin in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections.

Democrats last elected a state legislator from south of Sarasota along the I-75 corridor in 1996 and have seen Republicans increase their vote bank in every county up and down I-75 save Sarasota and Hillsborough since 2000. Pasco and Hernando Counties both supported Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential Election but have since supported Republicans nominees for Governor and President in each contest. During the 2000 Gore Campaign and 2002 McBride Campaign it was thought that Collier, Lee and Charlotte were where GOP margins could be potentially be cut due to environmental considerations. But after not being successful in those counties in the 2000 and 2002 cycles, the Democrats disengaged and have left the area largely uncontested since.

Hillsborough County has also become an issue worth discussing as we look at this corridor. Democrats have carried the city of Tampa and highly urbanized areas around I-275 in most recent statewide contests, but have seen GOP margins increase dramatically in places like Brandon, Riverview, Ruskin and other spots along I-75. This year, Hillary Clinton carried the county by less than President Obama did in either election and  Charlie Crist carried the county by a far narrower margin Alex Sink did, owing itself largely to a spike in Republican performance in the areas closest to Interstate 75.

In 2000, the Democrats even made an effort to win a State Senate seat that included Marion, Sumter and Lake Counties. No such attempts to carry legislative seats in that area have been made since. Marion County has been producing larger margins for GOP candidates in recent years providing a nice vote bank for any statewide Republican. Yet the Democrats haven’t put resources in the area to even consider cutting GOP margins or finding the voters in the county that might support Democratic causes.

We have seen clear signs of improvement from the Democrats in Sarasota County. The party overperformed in 2008 and 2014 but neighboring Manatee an area with lots of working class voters and a population of African-Americans has not shown any signs of improvement. This overperformance ended on Election Day 2016 with Sarasota voting much like the other counties up and down I-75.

Every county along I-75 from Collier through Marion has over a 100,000 residents. Every single one – as compared to I-10 where the counties are almost entirely rural. No doubt Democrats need to make a better effort in North Florida, but it will only get you so far. Engaging voters up and down I-75, who are largely transplants from other parts of the country should help the party hone its messaging and cut the enormous margins GOP candidates are taking out of these counties. Up and down I-75 voters now are acting just like they are in non-urban areas of the midwest. The parallels were eery with the states that cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency – Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. 

Voter registration numbers overwhelmingly favor Republicans in most of the corridor, but as Sarasota County has proven, a 15 point GOP registration advantage can become only a 4-5 point GOP victory with some effort. Collier and Lee, counties where environmental issues are important can be worked similarly while Marion, Sumter, Hernando and Pasco all have the potential to see GOP margins cut based on smart economic messaging.

Up and down I-95

Now let’s look at the areas up and down I-95 north of Palm Beach County and south of Duval. St John’s County has been Republican since the 1960’s but Flagler was a county President Obama carried in 2008 which gave Donald Trump a 20-point win the other night. We’ve spoken about Volusia above – the once Democratic bastion now delivering larger and larger GOP margins with every passing election. Brevard County with over a half a million residents gave Trump almost a 20-point victory and even larger margin for Marco Rubio. Indian River and Martin Counties continue to be heavily Republican and both counties have over 100,000 residents.

One of the great surprises of Election Day 2016 was the collapse of the Democratic vote in growing St Lucie County. Hillary Clinton got just 47% of the vote in the county which was twice carried by President Obama (though Patrick Murphy carried St Lucie, the only county he won which Clinton did not) and that is a reflection on an unwillingness to engage white working class voters.

We will undoubtedly continue this conversation in the next few days. In the meantime what are our readers thoughts on these areas?

17 comments

  1. RE St. Lucie, it’s clear their leadership was more focused on dirty work against Grayson and progressives in general, to pay much attention to the realities of their voters.

    1. If so maybe that explains why it was the only county in the ENTIRE STATE where Murphy overperformed Clinton in an impressive fashion. They were particularly motivated in that race I suppose.

      1. Barbara Miller · ·

        We need a new state party. It should begin by moving out of Tallahassee. Need to clean house.

  2. My goodness, Kartick, how many times do we have to blab about the same thing? There is no appetite to change because it seems party leaders are not willing to get uncomfortable and clearly they are blind to strategic planning. With so many people ready to provide help and ideas, all I see is a complete lack of effort. You and I have spoken of this forever. Until we find leadership that actually has a plan to re-engage people in this State, it is clear that the Democratic Party is nothing more than “coffee-talk”.

    1. Same convo different month or year. So tiring but maybe one day they’ll get it?

  3. Dave Trotter · · Reply

    I was going to write about this in a few days from now, but regarding Volusia, I think what you are seeing is a “push” of voters. As the diverse metro Orlando area expands beyond Altamonte Springs, white conservatives who used to live in places like Longwood and Lake Mary are now moving to into Volusia, and sometimes bleeds into Flagler. Remember how Flagler was looking like it could trend our way just four years ago? Now it has turned hard right. As a result of this, I think Seminole County will turn Democratic during the next presidential election. It seems to be in a similar position as Orange County was in 2000. Once it tips. it might tip “bigly”.

    1. It’s working both ways but this part of a national trend. Suburban white flight to the exurbs and white liberal movement into core cities. We are seeing it all over.

    2. Jay Michael Burton · · Reply

      Volusia county is very far behind vs the Republican Party in Volusia, the amount of door to door , phone calling and staffing on Election Day is at least 25-1. This has become the norm and without leadership change and reaching out to garner more help nothing is going to change in Volusia, they cover every precinct in Volusia on Election Day and publish a very well done voters guide which is mass distributed !

  4. John Ford · · Reply

    How about doing a little research before slamming people? In 2000 Democrats were only 1400 behind Republicans in voter registration. Today Dems are over 23000 behind Republicans. Could they come out to vote in greater numbers, yes. Tough when the top of the ticket wins by over 21%

  5. Doug Head · · Reply

    Here is one way to look at the outcome in Florida. Some counties got lower support for the Presdential Canddiate than one would expect from Registration differences between the Parties. For example, if Orange has a victory advantage of 134,000 Democratic votes, but only had a 117,000 advantage in the registration, we “overperformed” by 16,000 votes. Obviously folks from other Parties are included in this statistic. Applying this to each County in Florida and sorting by the size or percentage of the “over/under performance” is the sort of thing that emerging statewide campaigns for 2018 are doing right now.
    Here are the big “over-performers” – where Clinton got more votes than she should have given the registration. more votes than he should have given the Democratic Registration:
    Miami-Dade 75,937
    Orange 16,696
    Sarasota 10,452
    Collier 10,417
    Seminole 10,002
    St. Johns 5,236
    Martin 4,518
    Okaloosa 4,100
    Santa Rosa 3,130
    Lee 2,585
    And Here are the greatest “under-performers”, where Democratic regisration did not translate to equal victory margins.
    St. Lucie -19,499
    Brevard -20,001
    Marion -22,395
    Duval -25,985
    Hillsborough -27,583
    Palm Beach -28,573
    Pasco -28,679
    Volusia -33,970
    Polk -43,406
    Broward -52,452
    Planning ahead, Florida Democrats need to think about how we convert these “under-performers” to winners, where Democrats vote WITH their Party and non-partisan voter follow our lead. Let’s stop making excuses for the underperforming.

    1. This is excellent analysis. Very telling.

  6. mike coleman · · Reply

    We can look for a long time finding reasons to understand the 2016 election.
    This year saw a record number totaling 9,551,165 voters participating in the election.
    Alll elections are about “who votes” and who doesn’t vote.
    This year’s election was won by 1.3% in the range of 120,000 votes which is the first six figure victory in the past four general elections.
    I haven’t seen anyone make note of Collier County’s 86% overall turnout where there are 200,707 registered Voters. Collier County has a 54,772 Republican margin.
    It is time to acknowledge a number of factors when the voting totals are completely totaled and rechecked that Republican turnout percentage exceeded Democratic turnout.
    NPAs and others have a different type of voting pattern. Fully one third of the have never voted and only about 23% of this group ever votes in consecutive elections.
    These voters vote in response to the message they find most fitting their needs. We meet these people all the time and they will tell us “I don’t vote for the Party, I vote for the person”.
    When we have the data to review we’re going to find a huge number of these Voters who didn’t vote in 2010,2012 and 2014 chose to vote this year as evidenced by their VBM and Early Vote totals are on the North side of 450,000 before Election Day.
    In Counties where these very sporadic NPA & Other Party Voters turned out in large numbers we are likely to find them being over represented in Volusia, Pasco,Brevard and Palm Beach and other counties where the Republican margins look extra large.
    These Voters who turned out appear to have voted Republican down their Ballot.
    Perhaps Amendment 2 brought these voters to the Polls and they voted their frustrations for the Candidate who addressed many issues Bernie Sanders also addressed. We must note Trump and Sanders sounded a lot alike on Social Security, Medicare and the need for better paying jobs.
    We have to note Jill Stein received over 60,000 votes which was about 1/2 of Donald Trump’s margin.
    There are layers of elements that give reasons for us to analyze and me all must be careful to not let our preexisting biases cloud the real facts.
    Florida had a record setting election turnout that exceeded our population increase by more than 2 percent.
    Here’s one example from the Sports world, in 1983 the NBA’s Detroit Pistons beat the Denver Nuggets 186-184 with the two team scoring totaling 370 points.
    Both teams scored more points than any other teams in history.
    Denver did it in a loss.
    Sometimes looking for blame weakens our ability to honestly appraise what we actually accomplished.
    The next election is less than two years from today, let’s assess what worked and build upon our successes like Voting By Mail.
    Getting NPAs to vote depends upon the messages that come from Campaigns. Getting Democrats to turnout in big numbers depends on what we do in between elections.
    Keep up your efforts to add to the VBM totals understanding that maintaining your Democratic base of Voters is essential.

  7. Brevard County has major issues. I should know. I moved to Cocoa Beach in 1966 and have lived or worked there for many of the 50 years since. Cocoa Beach was, in the late 60s and early 70s, a very liberal community. After all, it was the center for our early adventures into space and attracted scientists from all over the u.S. and the world. Warner von Braun was counted among the them.

    But, my dear friends, drive 5 miles across Merritt Island to Cocoa or Melbourne, and you are in a different world. Moreover, in the years since the roaring 70s in Cocoa Beach, the culture on the island has turned drastically to the right. In fact, at a recent social event in a public venue, I was admonished to stop discussing my political point of view because some of those whom I attempted to enlighten were so offended to hear facts that contradicted their beliefs that they became hostile.

    Nothing short of a long-term effort to flood their airwaves with facts can bring about any sort of change among the Brevard County voting elite and their minions. And, that effort will require a megaphone that can be heard above the dull drone of the right-wing echo chamber.

  8. […] interesting, however, are Pasco and Citrus. As Kartik Krishnaiyer stated on The Florida Squeeze, there is an issue with Pasco. And when we look at vote choice, we see that to be the case. In Pasco County, party registration […]

  9. […] The base of the Democratic Party has been reduced to urban counties in southeast Florida and around Orlando in addition to college campuses around the state and heavily African-American influenced rural Gadsden County. In terms of geography it would be almost impossible to cover less ground in this state than the Democrats currently. A sincere effort MUST be made the rebuild the party in medium sized and exurban counties that Democrats often simply drive through or fly over.  […]

  10. […] white working-class populations and how Democrats have lost vote share in bedroom communities up and down I-95 and I-75. We have looked at the increasing difficulty the party has had with catholic voters, particularly […]

  11. […] white working-class populations and how Democrats have lost vote share in bedroom communities up and down I-95 and I-75. We have looked at the increasing difficulty the party has had with catholic voters, particularly […]

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