Michael Tomasky had an interesting piece in The Daily Beast called Is Florida Even a Swing State Anymore?
“You will also hear them say a kajillion times until Election Day that Florida is a swing state. Well, yes. It has been historically. But the combination of massive demographic changes since 2012 and Trump’s anorexic performance among college-educated whites makes me wonder if Florida is a swing state this year at all. And while the Republicans might nominate a normal candidate in 2020, the state’s demography is galloping away from the GOP.
In sum, 2016 could be the year that Florida stopped becoming a swing state.”
Although it’s more bad news for Trump in particular and the GOP in general, it’s more confirmation for me that I was right on that particular score. As I wrote back in February:
“Florida went for Obama twice in a row; in 2008 and 2012. Is there something that’s going to break that pattern? A lot of things could, except that the State used to be a red State, now, according to Gallup, it’s “competitive.” But there are trends that are moving Florida from red to blue, and that’s demographics. As NPR helpfully points out, Puerto Ricans have been pouring into Florida. Although it’s part of a long term trend, it’s exacerbated by the financial crisis in Puerto Rico. Although Puerto Rico can’t vote in a Presidential election, Puerto Ricans can, the minute they leave Puerto Rico. And again as NPR hopefully shows, Puerto Ricans predominately vote for Democrats.”
But I think Florida has had a couple of things going for it that made that less obvious. First, an unusually large retired population. Old people vote at a higher percentage and they tend to skew Republican. This has been a buffer against the 40% minority population of Florida, which otherwise should have thrown Florida into a permanent blue zone years ago.
Of course that 40% isn’t as clear cut. Tomasky is right that younger Cubans lean strongly Democratic and Puerto Ricans lean about 80% Democratic, however election time in Florida usually leads to some interesting radio ads, in which a Spanish surnamed Republican may find himself opposing a Spanish surnamed Democrat for the same local seat. Although I’m a firm believer that demography is destiny, there are some local gator sized hiccups in that.
On the state level, the timing of Florida elections leads to some counterintuitive outcomes. As I noted in reference to the Medical Marijuana Amendment:
“Florida’s governor’s race is on what are nationally off year elections. Although nationally this is an off year election since no President is on the ballot, in Florida, we elect governors. Since the turn out for off year elections tends to run older, whiter, and more Republican, it’s no surprise that Florida gets a bit schizophrenic, turning red and electing a Tea party backed governor and senator (Marco Rubio) during off year elections like 2010, and re-electing President Obama and Democratic senator Bill Nelson during a Presidential election year.”
Of course this year is no off year election. This is a full on Presidential year which means at least 50 million more voters will turn out; the classic low information voters who only turn out in Presidential years because that’s the only race they are aware of, and that’s only when one of the NCIS shows gets pre-empted for a Presidential debate.
So I find it hard to imagine a scenario in which Florida goes red for Trump this fall. There may be one, but the default for 2016 for me was always that Florida was going blue in 2016 and right now I see nothing to change that.