Comparing Clinton’s 1996 Performance vs. Obama’s 2008 Statewide

Since last week’s article comparing Democratic top of the ticket performance county by county in 1994 versus 2010, we’ve had several requests to break down the 1996 Presidential Race where Bill Clinton as an incumbent won the state overwhelmingly (keep in mind Clinton lost Florida in 1992 by under two points) to Barack Obama’s three point win 2008.

Note: This study is two-party vote ONLY, and does not include votes cast for third party candidates including H. Ross Perot in 1996.

Three biggest declines Clinton 1996 vs. Obama 2008

Dixie  -28%

Gilchrist -25%

Holmes -25%

All nine counties where Obama suffered a more than twenty point decline from Clinton’s percentage were north of Ocala. These conservative north Florida Democrats have gradually been leaving the party. It is difficult to completely dismiss the issue of race when evaluating the numbers from the three counties listed above and the additional six counties where Obama’s percentage declined by over 20% from Clinton’s.

Interestingly, one county in northwest Florida where Obama improved on Clinton’s performance was Escambia. Bill Clinton’s record of dodging the draft and protesting the Vietnam War made him unpopular from the word go in military oriented western Florida. Unlike 1996 when the Democratic speaker designee was from the county and every legislative race was contested in the area, today the Democrats  are leaving every legislative district west of the Apalachicola River unopposed. While that may make sense when looking at the decline in Democratic performance in the likes of Holmes, Washington and Walton counties, it makes no sense in  Escambia.  We trust that the Obama campaign will be working to get the vote out in Pensacola.

Three biggest gains Clinton 1996 vs. Obama 2008

Orange  +11%

Seminole +8%

Osceola +6%

The three counties where Obama improved the most were all metropolitan Orlando counties further demonstrating the rapid changes in demographics/attitudes in that area. The worst decline for Obama from Clinton’s numbers of 1996 in a non completely rural county was in Sumter, which mixes traditional southern Democrats with the growing voting power of the Villages. It is entirely possible many of the white Republicans that previously made Orange and Seminole counties GOP locks have moved to Sumter and Lake in the past sixteen years.

It is worth noting an eleven point increase plus increased turnout in Orange County (population over 1 million in 2008) probably more than makes up for the steep decline in performance throughout rural north Florida where each counties swing against Obama represented only a few thousand votes.

The full county by county numbers can be found below.

CLINTON DOLE OBAMA McCAIN D% SWING COUNTY SIZE
Alachua 61 39 61 39 0 Medium
Baker 38 62 21 79 -17 Small
Bay 38 62 30 70 -8 Medium
Bradford 47 53 30 70 -17 Small
Brevard 48 52 45 55 -3 Large
Broward 69 31 68 32 -1 Metropolitan
Calhoun 51 49 30 70 -21 Small
Charlotte 49 51 47 53 -2 Medium
Citrus 52 48 42 58 -10 Medium
Clay 30 70 29 71 -1 Medium
Collier 35 65 39 61 4 Medium
Columbia 47 53 33 67 -14 Small
Desoto 49 51 44 56 -5 Small
Dixie 55 45 27 73 -28 Small
Duval 47 53 49 51 2 Metropolitan
Escambia 38 62 41 59 3 Medium
Flagler 54 46 52 48 -2 Medium
Franklin 57 43 36 64 -21 Small
Gadsden 72 28 70 30 -2 Small
Gilchrist 51 49 26 74 -25 Small
Glades 52 48 42 58 -10 Small
Gulf 51 49 30 70 -21 Small
Hamilton 53 47 43 57 -10 Small
Hardee 45 55 35 65 -10 Small
Hendry 51 49 47 53 -4 Small
Hernando 56 44 49 51 -7 Medium
Highlands 47 53 41 59 -6 Medium
Hillsborough 51 49 54 46 3 Metropolitan
Holmes 42 58 17 83 -25 Small
Indian River 41 59 43 57 2 Medium
Jackson 48 52 36 64 -12 Small
Jefferson 57 43 52 48 -5 Small
Lafayette 42 58 20 80 -22 Small
Lake 46 54 43 57 -3 Medium
Lee 45 55 45 55 0 Large
Leon 59 41 62 38 3 Medium
Levy 54 46 36 64 -18 Small
Liberty 49 51 28 72 -21 Small
Madison 56 44 49 51 -7 Small
Manatee 48 52 47 53 -1 Medium
Marion 47 53 45 55 -2 Medium
Martin 42 58 44 56 2 Medium
Miami-Dade 60 40 58 42 -2 Metropolitan
Monroe 56 44 52 48 -4 Small
Nassau 37 63 28 72 -9 Small
Okaloosa 28 72 28 72 0 Medium
Okeechobee 59 41 40 60 -19 Small
Orange 49 51 60 40 11 Metropolitan
Osceola 54 46 60 40 6 Medium
Palm Beach 64 36 62 38 -2 Metropolitan
Pasco 57 43 48 52 -9 Large
Pinellas 55 45 55 45 0 Metropolitan
Polk 48 52 47 53 -1 Large
Putnam 56 44 41 59 -15 Small
Santa Rosa 29 71 26 74 -3 Medium
Sarasota 47 53 50 50 3 Medium
Seminole 41 59 49 51 8 Medium
St Johns 37 63 34 66 -3 Medium
St Lucie 55 45 57 43 2 Medium
Sumter 54 46 36 64 -18 Medium
Suwanee 42 58 28 72 -16 Small
Taylor 54 46 30 70 -24 Small
Union 45 55 25 75 -20 Small
Volusia 56 44 53 47 -3 Large
Wakulla 52 48 37 63 -15 Small
Walton 40 60 26 74 -14 Small
Washington 46 54 25 75 -21 Small
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15 thoughts on “Comparing Clinton’s 1996 Performance vs. Obama’s 2008 Statewide

  1. Sometimes you just have to put it in numbers so that people understand that the north Florida statewide strategy doesn’t work.

  2. It is difficult to not assume some racism where you see the big decline in Obama’s numbers. Those numbers are even lower than Kerry’s in some of the same areas.

  3. Dempseycrats as you called them yesterday would still be with us and we’d win the panhandle if we hadn’t allowed the left wingers to run roughshod. We’ve sacrificed the home region of our party to try and convert “Rockefeller Republicans” in South and Central Florida.

    It is no small wonder since we did this that we’ve lost everything statewide.

  4. Race? Maybe it is because Obama’s anti business rhetoric and costing up to the unions is contrary to the value system of our traditional party. This gay marriage thing does not help either. Race is a cop out. Obama is the most left wing nominee on American history.

    Clinton was a traditional Democrat. Pushed NAFTA, balanced the budget and ended welfare. He was a moderate whose moderation was rewarded with votes of traditional southern Democrats across the panhandle.

  5. The bigger counties where we can actually add big chunks of votes are trending our way. Most of counties with slippage are small rural counties where race and stereotypes are at play.

  6. Somehow you just won’t convince some folks that gaining 100,000 votes in metro counties is worth losing 20,000 votes in the small northern counties. It’s call basic arithmetic…..dah!

  7. I’d love to say we can reconnect to traditional democrats those who gave us the majority in the past and helped win us the Governorship in tough races back in 1970, 1978 and 1990 back to the party. But in those days the Democrats had a more conservative reputation and de-emphasized social issues. Askew actually was pretty good on non abortion related social issues but the battle was being fought on economics then. The Pacjic race as you mentioned the other day in the Dempsey Barron article began an exodus of panhandle Democrats. Pacjic was a liberal trial lawyer.

    These voters have been comfortable voting against Democrats at the top of the ticket when non-southerns run for sometime. Did you know Holmes County gave Nixon 94% of the vote vs McGovern?

    On the contrary these counties all supported Carter while downstate all supported Reagan heavily including Miami, Broward and Palm Beach.

    I’d love to change things but at this point it’s futile. Far greater opportunity exists on traditional Republican areas south of Orlando to break up the GOP governing coalition. By splitting Central Florida and keeping big margins in South Florida we will win statewide. It is simple math.

  8. Also note that while the Dem percentage margin declined in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade ever so slightly, the turnout in 2008 was substantially higher than 1996 and the actual margin in terms of raw votes was higher. Add that to the overwhelming margin in Orange and Tampa Bay and McCain was never going to make that up in North Florida or in the left over GOP counties like Collier, Lee and Brevard. Obama actually ran pretty decently in SW Florida as this blog has discussed in the past.

    This is the formula. Run to your base, turn out your base and win. Forget North Florida.

  9. Obama’s success in turning out and winning young voters will always lead to an increased urban vote totals for the Dems.

  10. I could give you a dissertation about voting patterns in the big bend and panhandle and contrary to the belief of Blue Dog Dem and others I actually have spent a fair amount of time campaigning in the areas between the Suwanee and Apalachicola rivers. Cultural attitudes and misplaced cultural conservatism make it impossible for national Democrats to carry the rural counties. As out politics becomes more uniform and Florida Democrats mask into national Democrats this trend will intensify.

    I’m sorry but comparing Obama’s numbers to Kerry shows some degree of racial voting. Obama performed better in every single urban or suburban margin than Kerry and performed worse in almost every rural county of the big bend and panhandle. Not a coincidence in my opinion and I really hate saying that because I love the people of the panhandle and have some real sympathy for the way southerns are mocked and kicked around by the national press.

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