Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Is Florida Even a Swing State Anymore?

While Virginia has been often called a "swing state" in presidential elections, this cycle, the polls are showing Hillary Clinton running well ahead of Donald Trump.  Indeed, the chairman of the RNC recently more or less conceded that Virginia was a lost cause for the GOP in 2016.  Now, a piece in The Daily Beast suggests that Florida is poised to follow Virginia and become a blue state in 2016 and beyond.  The facts set forth make sense and ought to strike terror in what's left of the so-called Republican establishment.  Here are story highlights:
Remember a couple months ago when Reince Priebus tweeted that electoral college map showing how he thought Donald Trump could get to 270?
The RNC chairman had Trump winning Ohio and Pennsylvania. And Michigan. And Wisconsin. And Minnesota. Yes, Minnesota. Which is going to be such a blowout that no one’s even polled it since April.
There was lots of chortling about all that, as you might expect. But the chortlers missed what was by far the most interesting thing about Priebus’s map: He ceded Virginia. The chairman of the Republican Party acknowledged that Virginia is gone. It’ll still elect Republican governors, of course, but for presidential election purposes, Virginia is now blue. To give you an indication of how blue: Hillary Clinton has temporarily stopped running ads there.
You know what they say about Florida: must-win state. The urgency is there even in the way they say the word, is it not? Close your eyes now and conjure with me the image and sound of Wolf Blitzer saying: “And breaking news from the must-win state of Flo-rida...”
Actually, it’s only a must-win for Republicans, as I’ve noted before. Democrats have plenty of paths to 270 without Florida. Republicans, none.
You will also hear them say a kajillion times until Election Day that Florida is a swing state. Well, yes. It has been historically. But the combination of massive demographic changes since 2012 and Trump’s anorexic performance among college-educated whites makes me wonder if Florida is a swing state this year at all. And while the Republicans might nominate a normal candidate in 2020, the state’s demography is galloping away from the GOP.
In sum, 2016 could be the year that Florida stopped being a swing state.
First, demography. Florida’s minority population is now above 40 percent, with the Hispanic population at around 25 percent (PDF). In addition, Hispanics are registering to vote in large numbers, and they’re heavily Democratic.
This is partly because younger Cubans lean strongly Democratic, an obviously sharp departure from their grandparents. All South Florida Cubans support the normalization of relations with Cuba, for example, except those older than 65, and even among them it’s awfully close. . . . And the change is also because of a huge influx of Puerto Ricans into the state. 
One recent Florida poll put Trump at 13 percent among the state’s Hispanics. If that’s close to right, Clinton gets 80 to 85 percent of the fifth of the overall vote that’s Latino, and 95 percent of the 14 percent that’s African American. That’s 30 percent right there, and it would mean she’d need only around 35 percent of the white vote to win, maybe even a little less. [S]aying that it will take an unusual occurrence for Trump to have a good shot of winning Florida—is significant. It’s basically saying that at least in presidential years—clearly not in off years, until Democratic constituencies vote in larger numbers—Florida leans blue. And although the Republicans presumably won’t nominate a sociopath in 2020, the demography is just going to be that much worse for the white people’s revenge party.
Because everybody knows that if Florida is over, the race is over, and no one’s going to care, and ratings will suffer, and ad revenues will tank. So it’s of vital importance, to the cable news nets especially, that Florida be held in the “too close to call” category for as long as possible, which means that—you’ve seen this movie before—there may be six polls showing Clinton up by seven to 12 points, but when that one comes along showing it at four, it’ll get 17 times the airtime as the other six combined.
The second moral has to do with the Republican Party and Reince Priebus. Just as I was finishing up this column Monday afternoon, I saw that the chief spokesman of the Florida GOP, a son of Honduran immigrants, was quitting his post to pursue a “new opportunity to continue promoting free-market solutions while avoiding efforts that support Donald Trump.”
The cowardice of Priebus and the whole GOP establishment this past year has richly earned them defeat in Florida. Once upon a time, the GOP at least came close enough in Florida that they could steal it, banana-republic style. Looks like those days may be gone.

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