Florida political sage Adam Smith doesn’t think so.
Smith, the political editor for the St. Pete’s Times, penned a hypothetical memo to Barack Obama on Saturday warning him about the dangers of “blowing off 27 electoral votes.” Despite resounding GOP victories in the last two gubernatorial elections and a 5 point win by George W. Bush in 2004, Smith says “Democrats haven’t been better positioned to pick off Florida since 2000, maybe even since 1976.”
Consider the stats:
- In the 37 Florida counties with at least 50,000 voters — more than 90 percent of the electorate — Democrats have gained ground among registered voters in 30, while Republicans lost ground in 26. For the first time in many cycles, voters are registering as Democrats at a faster rate than they are registering as independents. Republicans are gaining mainly in North Florida counties that have been voting Republican for years anyway, while Democrats are gaining in battleground areas
- A few weeks ago, Democrats overtook Republicans in voter registration among Hispanics, a crucial voter group that could account for 15 percent of the Florida vote in November. Senator, a Democrat now represents Little Havana in the state House, something nobody would have imagined a few years ago.
- Look at the 22 counties where Al Gore received 45 percent to 55 percent of the vote in 2000. Since that virtually tied election, the Democrats’ net registration advantage has grown by more than 100,000. In a state that decided the 2000 election by 537 votes, you bet it matters that today Democrats have more registered voters in a bellwether like Pinellas County, where Republicans in 2000 had a nearly 28,000-voter advantage. Or that in the mega battleground of Miami-Dade County, Democrats have had a net registration gain of nearly 59,000 since 2000.
- Out of Florida’s 120 state House districts, 77 have become more Democratic in registration, which helps explain why nine House seats have shifted from Republican to Democrat since 2006, the best performance Democrats have had in decades. Likewise, Democrats picked off three congressional seats in 2006, and Democrat Alex Sink easily won a hard-fought statewide campaign for chief financial officer.
The evidence is certainly compelling that Democrats could have a solid shot at Florida. The downside for them, according to Smith, is that McCain is “a nearly ideal candidate for Florida: strong among veterans, Hispanics, and potentially among independent and swing voters.”
Either way, Florida is gaining political clout every year and by 2012 will have 29 electoral votes. Democrats will abandon it at their own peril.