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Politics / Issues
What you need to know about the 2020 elections across the greater Tampa Bay region.

Political Observers Weigh Florida's Swing Status

3-D illustration of Republican and Democrat party political symbols elephant and donkey on the American flag.
3-D illustration of Republican and Democrat party political symbols elephant and donkey on the American flag.

One pollster says neither party has true control over Florida.

While President Donald Trump won't be getting a second term in the White House, he managed to win Florida and by a larger margin than he did when he defeated Hilary Clinton in 2016. The President's popularity in Florida, coupled with a strong showing by Republicans in down-ballot state and local races, has some political observers questioning whether it’s still accurate to call Florida a swing state.

Trump won Florida by more than 370,000 votes. Republicans won two seats in Congress and took a 77-43 advantage in the Florida Legislature. While the 2020 election cycle has favored state Republicans, political pollster Ryan Tyson believes no party truly has a hold on Florida.

"I’m a Republican, I’ve been my entire life. I just feel like the demographics of this state don’t lend us to be able to be out of the woods and say you’re either a lean-R or whatever," said Tyson. "There are intangibles that would lead you to say that. But I still think that things can change real fast."

Tyson believes all it takes is a historical candidate like former President Barack Obama to change the state’s voting turnout and win an election for Democrats. That’s the reason Florida is commonly referred to as a swing state. Minorities, who had record turnout for Obama, make up one-third of the state's registered voters. Political analyst Susan McManus believes the attention placed on the state by The Trump and Biden campaigns further solidifies its swing status.

"Most people still look at Florida as a swing state when you look at our registration," said McManus. "And in terms of the expectation of this election that we would be a swing state nothing proved it more that we received the most money spent on T.V. ads than any state and we also had the most campaign visits in the eleventh hour of the campaign when it mattered most."

But Politico Reporter Mark Caputo takes a different view. He says despite the $77 million in airtime the Biden campaign spent according to Advertising Analytics, the actual results tell a different story.

"2014 Republican wave, 2016 Republican wave, 2018 Republican wave, 2020 Republican wave," said Caputo. "I mean at what point are we just going to start admitting we are what we are."

Between Governors Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis, and President Trump, Caputo says Florida hasn’t been blue since Obama won his second term in 2012.

“My thing is this you’re a swing state if you swing, like we’re not swinging anymore," said Caputo. "Now a battleground can get updated to a swing state as soon as you start swinging again. But until it happens I mean the record is what the record is.”

Still, the state’s political status doesn’t necessarily align with the issues voters deem most important. For example, Floridians recently approved raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Tyson, the Republican pollster, says he wasn’t surprised.

"Take us back to 2004, republican George W. Bush is running for re-election he wins the state by 5 points, 380,000 votes and the minimum wage law that we have today got 71%," said Tyson.

And Democratic Strategist and former Obama-Biden State Director Steve Schale believes that shows voters aren’t linking how they vote for candidates with amendments.

"I think we all assume that voter behavior must be tied up and down the ballot and I think honestly we’ve seen like honestly eight cycles in a row where the evidence is that voters are separating all these issues," said Schale. "Democrats thought minimum wage, as Ryan said, in 2004 would help them win Florida, Republicans thought putting an amendment to ban gay marriage would help them win in 2008 would help them win Florida - didn’t work."

While Florida is referred to as a swing state stats show the state rarely swings left. But with its ability to shift nationwide elections with its 29 electoral votes, it still remains a key battleground for both parties.

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