Democrats failed to take advantage of top of the ticket down-ballot again in 2016

In 2010, 2012 and 2014 Democrats failed to take advantage of decent performances at the top of the ticket in legislative races. We’ve written about this extensively in the past but given some new data it bears repeating.

  • In 2012 President Obama carried 54 State House districts but the Democrats only elected 44 members (which became 45 after Amanda Murphy’s special election victory in late 2013).
  • In 2014, Governor Crist carried 55 State House districts in his loss to Rick Scott, but the Democrats only elected 39 members. It should be noted in several seats Crist won with a plurality of the vote and not an outright majority, but still he did win those districts.
  • Now in 2016 per Dave Trotter at the Political Hurricane, Secretary Clinton carried 51 State House seats, 49 by over 5% points. Yet the Democrats only elected 41 State House members.

Instead of beating up on the Florida Democratic Party, we ought to acknowledge several factors contribute to this continued failure to get those vote at the top of the ticket to go down ballot with the efficiency of the other side.

  • Democrats have become almost wholly reliant on fundraising for legislative races on those who give the GOP equal or more significant amounts of money. This is often going to leave Democrats in a pickle as far funding in the home stretch.
  • At the national level, Democrats have abandoned any sort of pretense of being interested in down ballot races, instead focusing on a top-down strategy of Presidential, US Senate and US House races. This has left the part in its weakest position at the state and local level since before the Great Depression in the mid 1920’s.
  • Too many Democrats at a local level in some of the urban areas of the state have gotten too comfortable with Republican lobbyists and elected officials. A weak statewide party has led to an “every man or women for themselves” mentality, thus preventing Democrats from fielding strong, well-funded candidates in some critical urban area districts.
  • In 2014, a group of malcontent House members didn’t do much to help the state party’s cause and hurt the overall effort which got a late start due to staff and leadership changes.
  • In 2016, an emphasis was put on the State Senate (where Democrats badly flopped on a favorable newly approved map) so that hamstrung House campaign efforts financially.

Whomever takes over the Florida Democrat Party will have to work to address this lingering issue of ballot drop-off and under-performance in state legislative races. We’ve been told over and over again by those manufacturing excuses that the game is rigged in favor of Republicans – it is but just ever so slightly. Obama, Crist and  Clinton all carried over 50 State House districts but the last time the Democrats had as many as 46 House members was in the term between 1998 and 2000. 

One comment

  1. Great article! I’d love to see a similar analysis of down ballot undervoting in the Congressional races.

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