29 Electoral College Votes – 3rd largest State, tied with New York. No one has lost Florida in the last 20+ years and won the Presidency.
Over 9.3 million votes were cast in 2016. That is over a million more votes cast in Florida than in 2008 and 900,000 more than in 2012. Since 2010, the population of Florida has risen by about 2.5 million people. If 60% registered to vote, there were 1.5 million new registered voters. If 65% of them voted, that would just about account for the increase. So, the win was a change in who voted.
Trump’s margin of victory was only 1.2%, a mere 113,000 votes out of 9.3 million. That’s a swing of about 200,000 votes since 2012. That means Trump won 600,000 to Hillary’s 400,000 of the new voters. Perhaps it was just the nature of the new residents of Florida, but that’s a huge discrepancy. It is more likely the newcomers more closely mirrored the narrow split that the State has historically had between Democrats and Republicans.
2012: 8.4 million votes cast. Margin of victory for Obama – 0.9%. 72,000 votes.
2008: 8 million votes cast. Margin of victory for Obama – 2.5%. 200,000 votes
Bush won the State in both 2000 and 2004.
Hispanics: Historically seen as supporting Republicans, Obama switched Hispanic allegiances to win the State handily in 2008. The NY Times reported, “Senator Barack Obama, who drew strong support from voters in Miami and Tampa, as well as from Latinos in a state where they have traditionally voted Republican.” Did Hispanics, which is a wildly diverse group, vote Republican again in 2016?
Hispanic voters are a key in Florida, which is 26% Hispanic, representing 5.7 million people. According KFF, Hispanics in Florida register to vote at a 55% clip, meaning there are over 3.1 million Hispanic voters in Florida.
“Hispanic” is a broad term and Florida has descendants from Hispanic countries all over the hemisphere, with a large Cuban population. These various populations, however, hail from Mexico, South America, the Caribbean and elsewhere, and do not vote as a unified block.
Reports from 2016, indicated that Trump used Obama’s expansion of relations with Cuba, largely accomplished while Hillary was Secretary of State, to swing Cuban votes back to Republicans just enough to win this tightly contested but critical State. Obama may have already been experiencing the negative effects of the Cuban opening in 2012 when his victory was extremely thin.
According to sources, 60% of the country’s just over 2 million people of Cuban ancestry live in Florida, which comes to a bit over 1.2 million Americans of Cuban heritage. The other 4.5 million Hispanics may not care much about Obama’s relationships with Castro. So, what could this mean?
1.2 million persons of Cuban ancestry, registering to vote at 55%, perhaps higher since they have been here for decades, yields 660,000 voters. If there was significant voter loyalty change among this group, or Trump was able to motivate many to stay home, that could go a long way toward explaining the results.
African Americans: It has been also reported that African American turnout was lower and white turnout higher, both against trends. Assuming for a moment that is true in Florida, according to Pew, analyzing Census and other data relating to the election, overall African American voter turnout in 2016 dropped by 7%, the first drop in over 20 years from 66% to 59%. Florida is over 19% African American, compared to the US at 13%, so I thought perhaps that could have had an effect.
There are over 3.6 million African Americans in Florida. According to KFF, they register to vote at 58%, which is on par with the rest of the population. That means there were 2.1 million registered African American voters. If they, like African Americans throughout the nation, had a 7% lower voting rate than 2012, that means nearly 150,000 African Americans who usually vote, did not.
If this actually happened and every other voting group shows up and votes as they did in 2016, but African Americans come out to vote as they have in the past, the Democrats could overcome the 130,000-vote deficit and narrowly win Florida in 2020, even without a change in Cuban voting.
Trump will do everything in his power to get the white vote out and suppress or convert other voters. He will throw the Cuban issue against Biden, who was Vice President, to try to sway those voters as he did in 2016. Both parties need to win Florida, but both could arguably win without it.
If Biden/Harris are to swing Florida back, they have to get the African American vote out in force, appeal broadly to the diverse Hispanic voter, win the four Counties around Miami by commanding margins, win Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee by larger margins, and swing Jacksonville, which Clinton narrowly lost, back to their side. If they can accomplish these feats, the Democrats could capture the sweetest of the battleground States, and as importantly, not need to win Ohio.
If you live in or near Florida, or want to help, these are the areas that need to be focused on. Don’t waste your time and money on States that are already decided. In the end, the margins of victory in Florida are so thin and the State is so critical to victory for both sides that every possible vote counts.