By Jim Ellis
Nov. 11, 2016 — It was often discussed that Florida is the most important state on the Republican presidential map. Because the only big state that Republicans can count on is Texas, the generic GOP nominee must win Florida because there is simply no way to build a “gettable” coalition of states equaling 270 electoral votes that doesn’t include the Sunshine State’s 29. Therefore, after securing the 23 states that usually vote Republican in the presidential campaign, any winning GOP state plan must start with Florida.
The Tampa Times published an article yesterday that broke down the votes and showed the areas and demographics that made the difference for Donald Trump. With Hillary Clinton actually outperforming President Obama’s 2012 total in Miami-Dade and the Orlando area, Trump made up the deficit, and then some, in Tampa Bay and the rural regions.
Combined, Clinton racked up 134,000 more votes than President Obama did in Miami and Orlando four years ago, yet he won the state and she lost.
Reporter Adam Smith’s analysis concludes that the Clinton campaign, while outspending Trump in Florida, ignored the rural areas and poorer white communities, instead banking everything on upping the Democratic vote in the two large metropolitan sectors, doing the same in the Tallahassee area, and increasing minority turnout.
But the Trump campaign outmaneuvered their opponents in Tampa Bay, the I-4 corridor, and the state’s large rural areas, effectively countering the Clinton strategy.
Trump started by improving the Republican Pinellas County total by some 85,000 votes over Mitt Romney’s performance in this swing region, which allowed Trump to actually carry the entity. His victory margins, when compared to Romney, exceeded 30,000 votes in Pasco County and 13,000 in Hernando. Clinton managed to take more Democratic Hillsborough County, and here, too, she improved the party standing by more than 4,000 votes over how Obama fared here in 2012.
Turning to the I-4 corridor, including Pinellas, the counties of Polk, Pasco, and Volusia are among the entities where Trump improved most upon the Romney vote. Combined, this helped erase Clinton’s stronger performance in South Florida.
Where the 2016 Democratic campaign fell occurred in the rural, predominantly white sections of the state, in addition to the candidate’s lesser performance within the Florida African American communities. Though Clinton attracted 84 percent of the black vote, President Obama received 95 percent in 2012. She pulled 62 percent of the Hispanic vote, which was actually two points better than Obama’s showing, but it was among whites where she lost all of her momentum. Clinton only pulled 32 percent of the white vote, and that too was down from Obama’s 2012 benchmark of 37 percent.
All totaled, the strong strategic Trump decisions and the Clinton campaign not expanding their effort into the rural areas proved to be a one-two punch that knocked the former Secretary of State and First Lady out of Florida, and ultimately cost her the national election.