Tis the season for speculation on 2012, so it came as no surprise that after my Holiday self-imposed no-telephone call break, I found several messages on my phone from reporters asking my take on whether Florida is truly a toss-up state for President Obama, especially after what here (and everywhere else) happened in November.
My answer: Absolutely. There is no question that Florida in 2012 will be competitive. For those who want to write off President Obama here, or anywhere for that matter, history has proven never to count him out. Personally, I believe he can and will win Florida in 2012. But more on that later.
There are lots of reasons why Florida will be competitive in 2012, but mostly the state's Presidential election make-up is vastly different than its Gubernatorial election make-up. Look at the last five elections and you will see it doesn't really matter what happens in the Gubernatorial cycle, Presidential elections are always tight.
In fact, if you look at the five Presidential elections since 1992, when Florida first joined the ranks of the highly competitive, the record is essentially 2-2-1. Both parties have a 5-6 point win (Dems 96, GOP 04), both have a 2-3 point win (Dems 08, GOP 92) and we all know what happened in 2000, some of us more acutely than others.
All of this got me thinking. Just how close has Florida been since 1992?
For comparison purposes, let's look nationally.
Across the nation, just shy of 520 million votes have been cast since 1992 for either the Democrat or Republican candidate, with just under 52% of the vote going to the Democratic candidate, the vast majority cast in states that voted either Republican or Democratic in all or most of those cycles.
Even among states considered "battleground states," most of them over the last five cycles have been fairly predictable. For example, Pennsylvania and Michigan are 5-5 for Dems, even though they are traditionally close, and several that President Obama won in 2008, such as Virginia and North Carolina, states that may very well be in play in 2012, can't really be considered historically swing for the purposes of this exercise given their GOP performance in the four previous cycles.
In fact, there are less than a dozen that each party has won at least twice since 1992: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. Out of these ten, not many folks would consider Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee or West Virginia to be swing states in 2012.
That leaves Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio, all states generally considered as in play for 2012.
So, just how competitive are these five states in Presidential years?
Out of these five, since 1992, Nevada is the most "one-sided" with Democrats winning 51.5% of the 3.1 million or so two-party votes cast since 92. Nevada voted for Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush and Obama.
In Ohio, America's other electoral college prize, things are predictably tight with Democrats winning 50.7% of the roughly 24.5 million votes cast since 92. Ohio also went for Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush and Obama.
America's traditional 'bellwether' was extremely close, with a mere 99,403 votes separating the two parties over the last five Presidential cycles, for a razor margin of 0.9%. The last three here have gone GOP, with the 2008 election being decided by less than 5,000 votes.
This brings us to Colorado (Clinton, Dole, Bush, Bush and Obama) and Florida (Bush, Clinton, Bush/Tie, Bush, Obama), the former which is universally considered a battleground state, while the latter is often debated.
Well, if you look at the last five elections, there should be no debate about either.
Since 1992 in Florida, some 30.7 million two-party votes have been cast for President, with the Democratic candidate winning 15,395,501 votes and the Republican candidate winning 15,338,047 votes.
The margin over five cycles: 57,454 (closer than the 06 Governor's race). In percentage terms, that rounds to a mere 0.19% edge for the Democrats--well inside the margin of a recount. Obviously if you add in the Perot and Nader votes, it is even closer.
But Colorado was even closer, where during the past five Presidentials, Colorado voters have given the Democratic candidates a narrow 16,090 vote margin over the Republican candidates out of the 8.6 million votes cast, for a margin of 0.18%.
In case you were curious, the actual percentage difference between Colorado and Florida is just seven ten-thousands of a percent.
And the good news for political pundits, journalists and pros, as well as the candidates, both states are lovely in the fall.