12 May 2005

From Florida Politics: The Tamiami Trail

Derek Newton, president of The November Group, has started writing editorials for the blog, Florida Politics. His piece is very informative and a definite must-read for all party activists and candidates who want to win statewide.

Here is a sample:

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Tamiami Trail by DerekTNG

For years, state and national pundits have blathered on about the so-called I-4 corridor between Tampa, Orlando and Daytona Beach being the key to unlocking Florida elections.
The candidate who wins I-4, the old wisdom was, wins Florida. But the 2004 elections paint a different picture: namely that winning the Tamiami Trail may be more politically important than I-4.

Unlike I-4, the Tamiami Trail runs, as the name suggests, from Tampa to Miami. And Tampa Bay is, as John Kerry learned, Florida’s unquestioned electoral king-maker.

Of George Bush’s top six “most improved” counties from 2000 to 2004, four of them encircle Tampa Bay. Together Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk gave the Bush campaign a comfortable winning margin of 81,000 in 2000. But the 2004 Bush outfit nearly doubled that margin in whipping up on Kerry by 161,000 votes in those same four counties. Those four Tampa counties alone accounted for nearly 20% of Bush’s entire winning margin statewide and instantly dashed Kerry’s hopes of stealing Florida.

Farther south along the Tamiami Trail are four overlooked but important counties along the lower western coast. Bush carried Sarasota, Manatee, Collier and Lee Counties by a combined 81,000 votes in 2000. In 2004, he pushed that advantage to 127,000 – a 54% increase. The difference, 46,000 votes, accounted for another 12% of Bush’s total Florida victory margin.

For those scoring at home, those eight large counties along Florida’s west coast accounted for about one third of Bush’s Florida winning margin.

But while the top of the Tamiami Trail was a walk in the park for Republicans, the last leg is more a bright spot for Democrats. It is Miami-Dade County – Florida’s largest. With little fanfare, Miami-Dade County gave a 49,000 vote edge to John Kerry when it mustered a 39,000 vote margin for Al Gore four years earlier. Even though it’s only an increase of 10,000 votes, Miami-Dade is one of just three large counties in Florida to actually increase its vote margin for Democrats.

To read more, go to:



Blogger thelastdem said...

Couple of comments about this post.

First, I would agree that Southwest Florida and Miami-Dade are fruitful areas for Democrats. But I would argue that I-4 remains much more important, quite frankly, for the reasons laid out by the author, who correctly pointed out that the Tampa Bay area trends largely led to Kerry's defeat.

Between 2000 and 2004, Democrats crashed along the I-4 corridor. Whereas Gore lost the counties that more or less I-4 corridor by roughly 25,000 votes, Kerry lost those same counties by some 170,000. Given the incredible growth rates in these counties, failure to reverse, or at least stem these trends, will put Democrats in a place where no matter how big the gains in other communities, victory will become statistically nearly impossible.

In fact, I would argue that the trends on I-4 just exemplify the problems Democrats are having statewide---we are absolutely failing in Florida's fast growing exurban counties--and these exurban counties are becoming a larger part of the total state electorate. Whereas Democrats made gains in Florida urban counties (such as Dade--though it is noteworthy that both Kerry and Gore performed way below Clinton '96 in that county---and that Bush carried it in both '98 and '02) between Gore and Kerry, these counties are quickly losing their dominance in voter turnout. In fact, it is exurban counties like Seminole, Lake, St. Johns, Clay, and places along the NW Panhandle---in addition to those along the Southwest coast, who are quickly gobbling up a larger part of the state's electorate. And with rare exception, Democrats are getting hammered there by growing margins.

Now, I don't dispute that Southwest Florida is a place where Democrats can make gains, though there is still much work to do there. Since 1996, Democrats have not gained on the Republicans there---in fact quite the opposite---Kerry's margin of loss in Collier, Lee, Sarasota, and Manatee counties was upwards of 90,000 votes worse than Clinton. We may not be losing ground there as fast as the rest of the state---but we are nonetheless, losing ground. The good news for Democrats, there is tremendous hispanic growth there, and if we can harness a real Hispanic outreach effort statewide, that will pay dividends in these counties.

The basic problem, however, remains the same--we can not allow the Red Counties to get any redder, to do so would simply leave us in a permanent state of minority. Some 30 Florida counties have gone Republican in each of the major statewide elections since 1996---where we only have six in our corner---and in 2004, there base counties gave Bush a much larger margin than our base counties gave Kerry. In our very best election, Bill Nelson, we carried 37 counties. In their best election, Buddy McKay---they won 61. These are not good trends.

Are these results reversable? Surely they are, but only a real long term statewide effort will begin to turn the tide for Democrats.

7:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen to what the previous poster said about Democrats getting their clocked cleaned in the exurban/suburban areas of Florida. Democrats would be wise to nominate candidates who can appeal to the exurban independents as well as Democratic base voters. You know, the moderates that the more progressive Democrats call Republican lite. I sometimes think Lawton Chiles would be labeled Republican lite by some Florida Democrats if he ran today. Remember, the Old He'Coon never lost an election in his life.

2:29:00 PM  
Blogger BlueDawgDem said...

thelastdem makes some good observations, especially when it comes to the struggles that Democrats have endured in our state's fast growing exurban communities.

in my opinion, there are two keys to reversing these trends. first, as the writer above says, we need to nominate candidates that appeal to everyday Floridians--and the FDP needs to invest some serious bucks in Florida's emerging counties. like it or not, our candidates have not appealed to the mainstream. part of that is ideology---and a lot of it is language.

secondly, we need to pass betty castor's redistricting initiative. many of these areas have become more republican because there are no good democratic standard bearers left in those communities.

right now too many dems don't want to run in these areas because they have no chance to win. fairer districts would encourage good democrats to run for more competitive seats----and at the same time, carry our message to voters who otherwise think of john kerry and howard dean when they think of democrats.

8:49:00 PM  

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