I'll admit it, I am an unabashed fan of Bob Graham. In fact, one of the great honors and joys of my 2008 Obama experience was getting to spend time with him. There are few who have ever understood this state like him, and few that ever will.
That being said, many people shook their heads when a decade or so ago, Bob Graham predicted that the state's long term demographic shifts would lead to a much better state for Democrats. The doubters weren't without good cause, a decade ago, Jeb Bush had just easily won the Governor's mansion, and Republicans were sweeping pretty much everything, at all levels of the ballot.
Fast forward. Obama wins Florida, on the back of a grassroots effort that is without comparison. Democratic voter registration advantage surges from 250,000 to over 700,000, in just a year or so. Some GOPers claimed it was a fluke, or at worst (for them), a one time boost and that Florida was still a reliably "red" state.
Fast forward again. Obama's popularity slides and all is lost for the Democrats, or at least that is the message coming out of the politarazzi. But does the data back it up?
Since the close of the registration books in October 2008, 38% of all new registrants in Florida signed up as Democratic, compared to just 25% with the GOP, an advantage of some 50K voters, continuing a four year trend of growth for Florida Democrats. In fact, going back to the close of books in 2006, 42% of all new registrants signed up with the Democrats, compared to only 25% for the Republicans.
Now, I'd love to claim that guys like me have a lot to do with it, but the truth is simple demographics are working in the favor of Democrats, just as Bob Graham predicted.
If you look at voters registered before 2006, not only is the Dem to GOP margin closer (+3 Dem), but the state had a different look. Almost 72% of registered voters were white, with African American/Caribbean voters making up 12% and Hispanics making up another 10%. But since 2006, the numbers tell a different story. Of voters registered since 2006, 17% are African American/Caribbean and 18% are Hispanic (the numbers are pretty consistent from 2006-2008 and from 2008-2010).
Within these populations, the Democratic advantage is stunning. Among the 340,000 or so Hispanics who have registered since 2006, the Democratic advantage over the GOP is 44-19. Given what just happened in Arizona, there is no reason to believe this trend will change anytime soon.
Among new African American/Caribbean voters, the advantage is 81-3, Even among white voters, where the GOP held a 10 point advantage pre-2006, among new voters, the advantage is +6 (both pre-2008 and post-2008).
Dig a little deeper and you see that seven counties in Florida make up more than 51% of all new voters since the close of registration in 2006, and in those four counties, more than 4 out 10 new voters were either African American/Caribbean or Hispanic. I'll break this down a little further in a future blog post.
Add these trends to the fact that 2010 marks the first time in 140 years that every statewide office is on the ballot without an incumbent running for re-election---plus Cristpalooza, and this one is lining up to be a wild one, Florida style.
And once again, it looks like Bob Graham was right.