The Democrats Large County Problem

We’ve been fed rhetoric for years now that if the Democrats can turn around rural North Florida or other peripheral counties we can begin winning statewide again. Considering the track record of Florida Democrats is about as bad as it gets, it is no shock that the vast majority of legislative and congressional seats in urban areas outside of southeast Florida are held by Republicans. Some swing districts are left virtually uncontested, as the Democrats continue to manufacture excuses.

For this study, we eliminated the two outlier US Senate races (2006 & 2010) and generously for the Democrats did not look at Cabinet offices. That is a study for another day, but in general Democratic performance in large counties gets worse and worse as you go further down the ballot. What we found was that Democratic performance in statewide elections in urban counties is far from satisfactory and Gubernatorial candidates face far worse than Presidential and US Senate candidates. Even in Hillsborough County, home to the last three Democratic Party nominees for Governor, Federal candidates have run stronger. In some counties, such as Orange and Volusia the difference between Federal candidates and state candidates is striking. Keep in mind we have yet to look at cabinet offices where Democrats have fared even worse.

Even in heavily Democratic southeast Florida, the gap between Federal statewide success and failure to maximize turnout and performances for Governor & Cabinet has had a dramatic effect on the continued defeats by Democrats at that level. Despite being a national battleground state in Presidential and US Senate races, the performance of Florida’s Democrats for state level office is the worst in South since the turn of the century and the third worst in the entire nation.(Only Utah and Idaho are worse.)

In this study we looked at eight selected races:

2000 Presidential

2000 US Senate

2002 Governor

2004 Presidential

2004 US Senate

2006 Governor

2008 Presidential

2010 Governor

Note: Only two party vote counted. Votes for third party or NPA candidates were eliminated for this study.

Pres Avg US Sen Avg Gov Avg Pres minus Gov
Miami-Dade 54.7 51.5 52.3 -2.4
Broward 67 67.5 63.7 -3.3
Palm Beach 61.7 62.5 57.5 -4.2
Hillsborough 49 52.5 46.7 -2.3
Orange 53.7 52 48.3 -5.4
Pinellas 51.7 54.5 48 -3.7
Duval 43.7 44.5 42 -1.7
Lee 40.7 39 35.3 -5.4
Polk 44.7 48.5 41.3 -3.4
Brevard 44.3 49 41.7 -2.6
Volusia 53.3 55 47.3 -6
Pasco 48 52.5 43.7 -4.3
Seminole 44.3 45.5 39.7 -4.6
Sarasota 47.3 48 43 -4.3
Marion 43 47 40.7 -2.3

13 thoughts on “The Democrats Large County Problem”

  1. I believe this comment by Walter belonged here:

    “Excellent post and study. One suggestion though. The 2010 US Senate race probably should have been included as we could combine the Crist and Meek vote to get a Democratic number. The Governor’s drop off is something I have talked about before and the cabinet races will show even more decline in the Dem vote. Two things you can take from this.

    1- Our turnout drops in off year elections. That is on the FDP and local DECs
    2- Our voters don’t vote down ballot. The drop off among D’s is much greater than Rs.”

    My response: I thought long and hard about the 2010 Senate race but ultimately determined even if 5% of Crist’s votes were from Republicans who were supporting him due to residual name ID, etc that it would skew the results. It is possible every GOP voter with the exception of certain elected officials who are allied with Crist voted for Rubio but their is no way of knowing so we opted for caution.

  2. This survey paints an ugly picture and also explains why we are in such a hole in the legislature. I’d love to see a district by district breakdown of the drop off b/w Gore, Kerry, Obama vote and legislative vote for Ds.

  3. You don’t have to look any further than Broward County to see where the statewide Democratic problem lies.

    Comparing 2008 and 2010 voters (voters eligible to vote in both general elections), DEM turnout in Broward County was 88.5% in 2008 and dropped to 37.9% in 2010. For the GOP, the numbers were 89.0% and 41.9%.

    The net result is a whopping GOP advantage of over 160,000 votes in Broward County alone in voters who didn’t turn out in 2010.

    The deficit numbers for other large counties are bad, but not as bad as Broward:
    67K – Miami Dade
    53K- Palm Beach
    45K – Orange
    37K – Hillsborough
    28K – Duval

    You can account for some of the drop in 2010 to the so called “enthusiasm gap”, but as long as the FDP and the local DEC’s fail to turn out their voters in off year elections, we will be relegated to super minority status for many years to come.

  4. As someone who has been in South Florida for many years I think a good part of the Democratic drop off is due to the continued loss of the Condo vote. These people have died off in large numbers the past few years and not been replaced. The same holds true for Palm Beach County.
    In years past in you had Century Village, Sunrise Lakes, and Kings Point in your corner there was little need to worry about any other votes. I tried to warn the party years ago about this, but as long as these people turned out year after year the candidates were like crack addicts when it came to this voting group.
    That ship has now sailed and the party has no game plan to win back the state or even the seats we are now loosing in South Florida.
    As an aside, nice job by the Palm Beach County DEC chair to do nothing as one of his own was ripping off Latin immigrants. Great way to take care of that voting group.

  5. Bravo! Great analysis

    Here in the Clearwater area we consistently underperform at the legislative and county level while top of the ticket Dems carry the area. I am glad someone has actually taken the time to put an actual piece of empirical evidence out there, an actual quanifiable number as to the dropoff between Federal and State candidates (and also the opposite- the amount of increase the Rs get.)

  6. I totally agree with this analysis. We are pathetic. Anything the FDP touches turns to crap.

  7. Here in SW Florida the Dems do not even bother to turn up even though their are enough of us to make a difference in statewide elections. You tracked Lee County and those numbers are revealing, but I would like to see Collier, Charlotte, and Sarasota also.

    Keep up the good work! I LOVE this site.

  8. Pingback: Sunburn for 5/30: A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics | Saint Petersblog

  9. Young Dems Broward

    That is why you will have no new candidates run this time because the PARTY sucks and they have not plan minus filling their pockets with deals. Some Ds will change their party to be progressive Republicans next cycle if the Ds continue to fail on every level.

  10. Yeah, because the Republicans are such a big tent, aren’t they? No such thing as a progressive Republican anymore. Jacob Javits, Rockefeller, Charles Percy all dead.

  11. I agree with the prophet……that is why youwill see the parties change as a reaction to the tea party. The Ds are already pushing Crist who is in a whole lot of mess on his own already. They need a Buddy Dyer who is a little conservative with the business community but right on the issues where the Ds need them to be. The upcoming people that are replacing the old-timers are just a joke on both side of the aisle. They either love gimmicks or have no understanding of business, economy, foreign policy or domestic issues.

    The best bet for the Democrats is to start educating themselves before there are no real leaders left and be smart. This is not just about the Rs being a big tent ..this is about the Rs reinventing themselves and the Ds not know who or what they stand for.

    Jacob Javits was a leader and it didn’t matter which party he was a part of. Now you just have elected officials screaming at town hall forums to hear their own voice or dumb guy who are clueless about how to vote.

    The future is not bright with all we have in both parties.