This week’s Herald column: Demographics and the Florida GOP

Crowley Report Cartoons

[Cartoons by Brian E. Crowley of the Crowley Report]


What keeps the campaign oppo folks who work for Rick Scott and the 2016 tinkerers around Marco Rubio up at night? It’s the demographics, stupid. (With a big hat tip to the boss, Steve Schale.)

Here’s a clip from this week’s column:

Marco Rubio raised some eyebrows last week when he said immigration really isn’t all that important an issue, at least as compared to the GOP’s impossible dream of repealing or defunding Obamacare.

Rubio said it on Fox News, where to his point, immigration is of interest mainly when framed as scary hoards of Mexicans kicking down sections of the border fence and charging in screaming and waving pitchforks and blank welfare sign-up forms.

The Florida senator may seem to be abandoning his prime directive, which was supposed to be broadening the appeal of the GOP among Latino voters by showing off the party’s new solution and compassion-driven approach. But what Rubio is actually doing is getting real. His party’s base doesn’t want immigration reform. A recent National Journal poll found that 54 percent of Republicans want their party to be more, not less, right wing. And as unrealistic as it is, they really, really want to undo Obamacare.

If Rubio wants a shot at being part of a presidential ticket in 2016, he’s going to have to do something to regain momentum against the showboating Canadian (who’s also totally fine with the birthers?.?.?.?) Ted Cruz And if he doesn’t go for the top job, Rubio’s still looking at a re-election campaign with Florida having gone blue two presidential cycles in a row.

According to a blog post by Steve Schale, who crunches numbers on the Florida electorate better than anyone, of the more than 1.5 million new voters added to the rolls since November 2006, 61 percent “are either black (African-American or Caribbean) and/or Hispanic.” And two-thirds of those new black and brown voters, 600,000, registered as Democrats, while only 56,000, or just 6 percent, signed up for the GOP. Black voter registration actually accounted for the biggest chunk of new Democratic registrants from 2006 through 2012.

At the same time, Florida is becoming more politically and regionally segregated, with Democrats increasingly confined to the ethnically diverse south and central parts of the state, and Republicans locking down the whiter north and Panhandle. Schale writes that at the same time black and brown voters surged post-2006, the number of white registered Democrats dropped by 100,000, indicating many Northern Florida “Dixie Dems” are aligning their party affiliation with their Republican voting habits. It’s a trend that’s taking place across the South.

In Florida, Republicans may be making zero inroads with minority voters, but their red counties are still eating up the most vote share. So a Republican candidate who wants to win, not just look good in the op-ed pages, needs big turnout in the northern, rural and red counties. That doesn’t require votes from Hispanic or black voters, who don’t live there in large enough numbers.

Read the whole thing at The Miami Herald.

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