Lobbyist and Republican strategist Brian Ballard points out that, in the weeks and months leading up to the 2012 election, both the Romney and Obama Presidential campaigns spent more than a little time campaigning in the Sunshine State—and that is no accident. Florida is one of the nation’s most significant swing states, its impact perhaps unparalleled outside of Ohio. What is more, the state is large, rich, and diverse—with 10 major media markets and a melting pot of cultures and demographics, the state’s political inclinations can prove difficult to pin down.
All of this is very important as the Republican Party casts its gaze toward the 2016 race for the White House. Obviously, many factors of the 2016 political landscape are still unknown. With that said, one thing is hard to deny: Winning Florida is crucially important, and, if the GOP wishes to stage a comeback in the next presidential race, winning Florida would be a huge step in the right direction.
Not Just Senior Citizens
There is a cliché about Florida, held by many non-residents of the State, that Florida is—to be totally blunt—one big retirement community. Indeed, a lot of the discussions about Florida’s significance in the 2012 election hinged on the notion that the state’s voters are mostly senior citizens, concerned only with issues like Medicare and Social Security. This represents a misguided view of what Florida’s electoral makeup is really like, however—and in fact, the largest age group of Florida voters is the 30-49 group. Succeeding in Florida starts by accepting the fact that the Sunshine State’s voters are not all retirees.
The I-4 Corridor is Critical
The I-4 corridor represents a couple of the state’s big media markets, and, more to the point, it represents a huge swathe of the Florida electorate—44 percent of all registered voters, in fact. Obviously, then, this area is important for any political campaign seeking to succeed in Florida, and it tends to be a promising area for Republicans, with about a quarter of the state’s GOP voters located in the area. The corridor has many young voters, and it is predominantly white, but with significant Hispanic populations—all pertinent demographic facts for political strategists to consider.
Hispanic Voters are Independent
Much is made about winning over the many Hispanic voters in Florida—and this is not without reason. There is a large Hispanic population in Florida, and, politically speaking, it is a fairly even split, with Hispanics making up 13 percent of Florida’s Democrats, 11 percent of its Republicans. What is critical is that Hispanics make up the largest population of independent voters in the Sunshine State—so the idea of winning over Hispanics is hardly a pipe dream, for either political party.
Ultimately, Brian Ballard says that Florida is next to impossible to summarize or to fully understand, but there are certainly important demographic and political trends to consider. Understanding Florida is the first step toward winning Florida. According to Brian Ballard, that is a lesson that the Republican Party will do well to remember in 2016.