Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is Florida a Swing State?

The answer to that question depends on several things. However a few things stand out as factors that could affect Florida's status in 2008 as a toss up state. First of all the Sunshine state is one that as been trending Republican. A simple look at partisanship within the state legislature over the last thirty plus years provides a clear illustration of this. Clear Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature gave way to Republican control in the mid-1990s. Following the elections in 2006, the GOP held an almost 2 to 1 advantage in both the Florida House and Senate (No wonder Democrats had no other recourse than to go along with the January 29 presidential primary that a GOP-controlled state government initiated.). The flip side of this is that voter registration in Florida during 2008 has favored Democrats by an advantage of over 6.5 to 1. Whether these two factors cancel each other out depends in large part on whether these newly registered Democrats actually become voters in November (and vote for Obama). Even if the newly registered don't turn out in high numbers, though, will GOP turnout be as depressed as their registration numbers have been? Neither issue is likely to be even close to determined until those 72 hour get-out-the-vote campaigns kick in as the calendar turns to November.

While we cannot definitively determine how each side will do on the turnout front in Florida, there are a couple of issues that the candidates will have to navigate there that will help us gain a glimpse into how close Florida may turn out to be. For McCain, if the Arizona senator continues to push offshore drilling as an answer to high gas prices. The latest Rasmussen poll out of the state (released yesterday) showed nearly 3/5ths of Floridians surveyed were in favor of drilling while only a third still favored keeping the ban in place. Despite that though, McCain has dropped in the Sunshine state of late at the very time when he is pushing his drilling plan the hardest. That may be coincidental because that downswing may have more to do with the issue that Obama must overcome in order to make Florida a true swing state.

On some level, Obama's trip abroad this week has sought to address his issue in Florida. The carefully managed trip through Israel and the West Bank when viewed through the lens of the Jewish American vote makes a lot of sense. Rev. Jeremiah Wright's anti-Israel comments have made some in the Jewish community wary of Obama. That is compounded by the fact that many of them (in Florida and elsewhere) supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Obama, then, is faced with having to woo a vital portion of the traditional Democratic coalition back into the fold. His ability to gain that segment's votes in Florida, thus keeping them from defecting to McCain or Nader, will have a lot to say in whether Florida will be close in November. I don't have access to the premium material on Rasmussen's site, but would be interested to see how the Jewish preferences came out in yesterday's poll that had Obama ahead in the Sunshine state.

Regardless, how these issues work out, they will help us to determine whether Florida will, in fact, be a toss up state in the general election.


Recent Posts:
The Deal with Those Rasmussen "Leaners"

The Electoral College Map (7/23/08)

The Electoral College Map (7/20/08)

6 comments:

Jack said...

I think it depends on how you define swing state. Florida is certainly not a state in which average Democrat will have an equal chance of beating average Republican in average political climate. But it is a state which is close enough that a Democrat can win it. I don't think Obama is the ideal candidate for Florida - a lot of older Democrats may have issues with him - but he does have a shot.

Also, I live in an area (Long Island, New York) with a rather high Jewish population, and am somewhat active in the local Democratic party. I know that a number of Jewish voters are quite skeptical about Obama, but I think it really doesn't have that much to do with Rev. Wright. Rather, I believe that these are Jewish voters who consider Israel their top issue and favor a very hardline stance, with little room for compromise, with regard to Israel. Some of them are older voters who remember the many struggles Israel has been through over the years. While I don't think they believe that he will not support Israel, they feel he won't be as uncompromisingly supportive of Israel's more agressive actions.

Robert said...

OK, I know those poll results on the drilling in Florida were aimed at me because I have been indicating drilling was important in Florida. I find these results to be very interesting. It is not what I would have predicted. I suspect there are two main groups in Florida opposed to drilling. One group are the environmentalists whose only alternative to Obama is Nader, and few will go there after the disaster in 2000. The others are those on the coast, particularly the Gulf Coast, who are dependent on the tourist industry and tend to vote Republican. I believe to this group, perhaps as much as 5-10% of the voting population and with greater economic clout. I suspect this group will be more likely to desert McCain on this issue than Democrats who favor drilling will desert Obama. If Florida looks more and more like a swing state, that may well force McCain to choose Crist as his running mate. I believe that a McCain-Crist ticket would insure a Republican victory in Florida.

Josh Putnam said...

Good points, Jack. Wright may not be the reason but he is at least a part of the the reasoning...now. Those comments feed into that perception that you brought up: that Obama may not be willing to go along with the most "aggressive actions" Israel may consider.

I think you are right on to add in the age layer to the Jewish question. That is certainly a big part of this.

And you're absolutely right: Due to the shifts in Florida over the last decade, it doesn't really fit the bill at a "swing state" in the way that Ohio or Michigan do. Then again, Nevada and Virginia seem swingier than Michigan at the moment (at least here, and 538's map seems to back that up).

Josh Putnam said...

Rob,
While you have been talking about the drilling issue and how it may affect the situation on the ground in Florida for a while now, those poll results weren't included with you in mind. I was about to go forward with a blanket statement like, "Florida could be a place where this could hurt McCain," but remembered the new Rasmussen poll and decided to check it out. I was surprised to discover that so many favored scrapping the ban on drilling.

I agree with your points and would add that the Obama campaign's potential decision to counter McCain on this issue in some way may also have an effect on how this one is perceived in Florida and elsewhere.

Robert said...

Good points. I did not take the drilling comments personally (at least not very much). The poll results certainly help explain why Crist has modified his judgement (certainly no flip-flop here!)on drilling. The recent polls showing Minnesota tightening some may increase Pawlenty's chances to be on the ticket. I have a hard time belieiving he will go with someone so closely tied to the Bush administration as Portman.

I'm also having a hard time belieiving that McCain will have any success blaming the $1.00 rise in gas prices during the last year on Obama and giving Bush the credit for the 10 cent decrease in price during the past week.

It will be interesting to see how the VP announcements will be made. If McCain is waiting for Obama to go first, and Obama announces the Tuesday or Wednesday before the Olympics, does that mean that McCain has to announce during the Olympics or wait until after the Ollympics?

Josh Putnam said...

The drilling information was meant as just that: information, not attack.

The "Minnesota is tightening" argument has some merit, but of the polls taken in the state since Obama clinched (seven polls), only Quinnipiac and Survey USA have shown it to be close (or less than 13 points for that matter). Granted the firms responsible for the other polls are Zogby and Rasmussen (well and that 17 point edge Quinnipiac gave Obama just last month). But I don't know if it is tightening. Minnesota is to McCain what Georgia is to Obama now: on the line between being strong and lean in our metric. Pawlenty would make it closer, but I don't know that it would be enough to put McCain over the top in Minnesota (at least not with how the polls look now). I wouldn't go as far as calling Pawlenty the Edwards of this cycle, but the result would likely be the same.

This VP announcement timing issue is really interesting. I think I'll expand on that in its own post.

...when I finish the one I'm working on now. Obama could be playing a game of chicken with McCain on this one.