A few days ago, we discussed the failed north Florida targeting by the Democrats in the state. While thirty three counties saw a reduction in actual Democratic numbers, and 58 saw a reduction in Democratic Party voter registration percentages, it isn’t all bad for the Democratic Party. Today, we will be looking at where Democrats are starting to make gains.
Unlike the Republican voter percentage gains in north Florida, which showed double-digit numbers, the percentage numbers in the counties mentioned today are going to be smaller. That primarily has to do with the populations of these counties, which are much larger. But even with the small percentage gains, the actual number gains are encouraging.
First, let’s look at the counties with the largest percentage increases. Orange County leads the list with only a 2.14% increase between 2000 and 2012. But while that percentage has stayed low, the real number of registered Democrats during this time is 105,711. Unlike the north Florida counties, which are switching their registration, these people are usually new voters, with a few others in there switching their registration as well. Adding new voters to the roll is much more important than dealing with switch voters, because it gives candidates larger raw vote numbers on Election Day.
Orange County shouldn’t be surprising. More Hispanics have moved into the area. Obama won Orange County by 19%, something unheard of in previously Presidential campaigns, a Democrat doing so well. But in 2010, Alex Sink was able to win Orange as well, making this county a “go to” for statewide Democratic candidates.
Finally, regarding Orange County, it saw the 2nd largest number new registered voters over this time. Miami-Dade was first, but Orange outpaced Broward, Palm Beach and Hillsborough. And with the high numbers as was mentioned above, this makes Orlando look much more promising for the Democrats.
But while Orange might not surprise many insiders, there are three counties that are starting to trend Democratic and should be taken very seriously. Those counties are Sarasota, Seminole and St. Lucie Counties.
Both Sarasota and Seminole are similar, as in they are both considered Republican strongholds. But over the last 12 years, the GOP doesn’t have as tight of a grip as they had previously. True, the percentage of registered Democrats in these two counties have only marginally increase (Seminole 1.01% and Sarasota 1.27%), but the number of registered Republicans have dropped dramatically, with the GOP losing over 7% in each of these counties. While the number of non/other party voters has increase, the Democrats still have the advantage.
Where the biggest difference is noticed in these two counties are the amount of voters that each party registered over the last 12 years. In Seminole County, the Democrats have registered over 24,000 voters, while the GOP is just over 14,000. In Sarasota County, the number is staggering. The Democrats have registered 17,108 voters while the Republicans have only registered 3,569 voters. These large discrepancies in registration should give Democrats more confidence that both of these counties are trending and should be taken seriously sooner rather than later.
The third county that Democrats should be looking at is St. Lucie County. Yes, Democrats have had registration trends for a while in St. Lucie, but the numbers are increasing with every year. St. Lucie is doing in the east what Pinellas County is doing in the west. Both are trending at about the same rate, but St. Lucie is just slightly ahead.
What is important with both St. Lucie and Pinellas is that a large number of whites are registering as Democrats. And if these white are registering today as Democrats, they aren’t the Dixiecrats like we see in the northern counties, they are pure liberals. We get these voters to turn out to the polls, they could tilt the balance statewide.
There is one county that I fail to mention and that is Osceola County. But there is a reason why I do this. Currently, Osceola is trending at about the same rate St. Lucie is (both counties gained just over 24,000 Democrats between 2000-2012 while losing just over 8,600 Republicans). But the reason I exclude Osceola is because of the demographics. With the large non-Cuban Hispanic population that is moving to Osceola, we expect them to vote and register Democratic. Yes, this is a place that Democrats are starting to show an advantage, but that has more to do with the overall demographics changing than outside forces. This is a county that Democrats should target, and Democrats are starting to win. But again, this shouldn’t be a surprise.
There is one thing that all of these counties that I mentioned above have in common. All of these counties are in Central Florida. So, what about the south Florida counties?
If you look at the big three, Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties, Democratic numbers have become stagnant. But, as was mentioned in the counties above, Republican numbers have been declining. The non/other party registration is the big gainer. While Democrats have added a few more voters, the demographics of the party makeup in these counties are basically the same.
Overall, the Democrats have made some gains, but nothing that is too impressive. There are some places that are showing life, but the only reason why Democrats are either moving ahead or closing down the gap with the GOP is because former Republicans are either dying or switching to non/other party. New voters are also taking this route. And with that being said, while the Democratic “numbers” look good, the percentages are just too stagnant to be throwing any celebration in the near future.
There are other counties that the Democrats are starting to look better in as well, but these are the ones that stand out because of a number of trends over the past 20 years. The Democrats do have a good start in these key counties. Now they have to take the ball and run with it.