Where The Votes Are: Get In Line
Under The Hood
How did Republicans dominate elections in Florida this year? One word: Loyalty.
Even in the wake of a divisive Presidential primary and a campaign where Florida’s incumbent GOP senator avoided being seen with his party’s Presidential nominee, voters filling the bubble for one Republican candidate far more often did the same for down-ballot races as well.
An SRQ Where The Votes Are analysis of the statewide precinct totals shows that in all federal offices, partisan loyalty remained higher among Republicans than Democrats. The greatest demonstrator may be a comparison between US Sen. Marco Rubio, who pulled in more than 4.8 million votes, and President-elect Donald Trump, who in Florida earned a little more than 4.6 million. In total, a difference of 217,305 votes separate the Republicans running for the two offices atop every Florida ballot. Additionally, Republicans running for US House throughout Florida collectively won more than 4.7 million votes.
Compare that to Democrats seeking federal office. Hillary Clinton won a hair more than 4.5 million votes for President. But Patrick Murphy, the Democrat challenging Rubio, pulled in just over 4.1 million votes. And Democrats running for US House statewide earned just under 4 million votes. In total, the difference in House votes compared to votes for Hillary Clinton was 519,925 votes, more than double the difference between Rubio and Trump.
It’s tempting to say Rubio, despite clear tension with the man who denied him the GOP nomination for President, carried Trump over the top. That’s probably oversimplifying matters though. Instead, Rubio, and clearly most of his supporters, simply proved a long-time proverb about partisan politics: Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.
Politics, it has been said, is a team sport. While primaries expose can expose those intra-primary rifts—isolationists v. interventionists, labor-driven populists vs. environmentalists, etc.—general election contests ultimately come down to who can rally the rank-and-file members of the party to push an entire slate of candidates across the finish line. In this age when wave elections prove more common than not, this seems more true then ever.
Locally, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s particular popularity in Manatee led to him winning more than 8,500 votes more than Trump in that county, but the difference between Rubio and Trump there was less than 250 votes. Meanwhile, the difference between Murphy and Clinton was more than 4,500 votes. In Sarasota, less than 300 votes separated Trump and Rubio, while the gap between Clinton and Murphy was more than 5,000 votes. The difference between Republican votes for President and for US House in Sarasota County was about 5,400, compared to a chasm of nearly 9,400 for Democrats.
In total, Trump failed to carry just two precincts in Manatee County and five precincts in Sarasota County that Rubio won. That’s seven precincts out of 171 where voters didn’t largely vote the same way for President and for Senate.
Obviously Democrats in this region need to increase their own numbers to become more competitive for local office, but everyone already knew that. The revelation from the numbers should be that even if Democrats matched Republicans voter for voter, they likely would lose more often than win because they don’t vote party-line the same way their GOP counterparts reliably do. As long as Republicans hold a monopoly on loyalty, they will win, and as long as they also keep their registration numbers high, they will dominate.
Jacob Ogles is senior editor for SRQ Media Group. He will lead the Where The Votes Are precinct-by-precinct analysis of Nov. 8 general election results at SRQ Media Group's 331 S. Pineapple Ave. headquarters on Nov. 29. Doors open at 7:45am.