As Steve Schale notes in his impressive analysis, below; change is coming by virtue of both a younger generation of Cuban Americans, who are not as persuaded by the old guard obsession with Castro, and through changing demographics that trend toward a more liberal, more forward thinking Hispanic electorate. One important point that Schale is making: the Democrats have not yet figured out how to be Democrats in Miami-Dade County, while the opportunity exists for the GOP to shed its extremist, radical right wing postures. Paradoxically, both Jeb! Bush and Marco Rubio are leaders rooted in the past. While these Republican standard bearers try to paper over their allegiances to the radical right, the Democrats still cannot find their voice. In Miami-Dade County, this is the legacy of blind fealty to the Growth Machine and its purposes.
The Old Guard in both political parties is at great risk of losing its traction with voters. But which party will figure out the way forward?
NOTE: The last governor's race I was involved in, in Miami-Dade, was where Steve Schale starts his essay: 2006. I supported Jim Davis and urged him "to micro target Hispanic voters". The Hold The Line Campaign, to protect the Urban Development Boundary in Miami-Dade, had just completed polling (by a conservative pollster) showing enormous support -- on the order of 70 percent -- in Hispanic precincts in West Dade for stopping the insidious growth of sprawl, traffic, environmental decline and severe costs to quality of life. The poll numbers were equally strong in popular recognition that political corruption was the main cause. Schale suggests that Davis could scarcely afford to drill down on issues when his single goal was to raise enough money to be on TV. But like other north Florida Democrats, including Alex Sink, the messages were lost, garbled, or suppressed by the legacy of the past when Democrats largely followed the money straight to the feeding trough (and spigots, controlled by the GOP) of the Growth Machine and Great Destroyers in Florida.
The Curious Case Of Dade County
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2013 AT 12:03AM
Back in the spring doldrums of 2008, when a couple of polls showed Barack Obama losing Florida to John McCain by as much as 15 points, I was a fairly lone voice in the wilderness trying to make the case that Barack Obama had more than a shot to win Florida -- that he could and would win Florida. That confidence was more than just pundit hubris: there were several very distinct signs that showed Florida was fundamentally different than 2004 or 2000.
One of those signs was the curious case of Jim Davis in Dade County in 2006. Now in full disclosure...
I like Jim a lot and he had a lot of smart people working for him -- two of whom went on to be fairly major players in Obamaland. Given the significant financial disadvantages he faced, as I am sure Jim himself would acknowledge, the goal for most of that campaign had to be just staying on TV, not drilling down and microtargeting Dade Hispanics. Yet despite losing Florida by seven points, he won Dade County by eight. That caught my attention.
Why is this curious? This was fundamentally different than the previous three Gubernatorial elections. In 1994, 1998 and 2002, the GOP candidate - Jeb Bush carried Dade County twice and if you average the three elections, won more than 51% of the two party vote, only 2.5% less than his average statewide take in those three races. But in 2006, despite losing statewide, Jim won 53% of the vote in Dade, beating Charlie Crist by 8 points there. In total, Crist's Dade county share, 45%, was seven points lower than his statewide share of 52%. Compared to the three previous elections, this was a significant shift.
Now the easy answer is the Jeb factor -- Jeb wasn't on the ballot so that explains it all. But back to Jim - its not like he did anything truly special in Dade that would account for that much of a shift, and remember back to 2006, Charlie Crist was a pretty popular guy among Republicans. Plus there was the little tidbit from 2004: Despite losing Florida by five points more than Gore did, Kerry's vote share in Dade was actually a tiny bit higher.
So why was this encouraging to me? Simple -- Florida is all about margins. For Democrats, it is running up the score in Broward, Palm Beach, winning Orange, Hillsborough and a few others and hanging on in the other 55 or so other counties. But if we could flip Dade in a real way for Senator Obama, it changed the entire game. And it was this simple: Kerry lost Florida by a margin of roughly 380,000 votes, but if then Senator Obama could just add 3-4 points to the Kerry/Davis margin in Dade, we'd win Dade by 130,000-140,000 votes, which would make up almost a 1/3 of the margin we had to improve over Kerry. As Bill Clinton would say, its arithmetic, and Dade could be a big part of it.
When it was all said and done, Barack Obama defeated John McCain by 140,000 votes in Dade County. Of the 42 counties where Obama bettered the John Kerry margins, Dade County was easily the biggest change, and the rest is history.
In 2012, when the national media wanted to write off Florida, my argument was simple: something was happening in Dade and we had a chance to really blow it out there In the end that margin grew to 22 points and a vote margin of nearly 210,000. The change in margin between 2008 and 2012 in Dade County alone was nearly the President's entire 2012 margin of victory.
It is all about one word: Demographics
As these blogs often go, this story starts many years ago, in this case 2000. I'd like to start it earlier, but voter registration by ethnicity gets a little harder to track down before 2000, so it is a good place to start.
In 2000, Al Gore and George Bush both earned 48.8% of the statewide vote, and in Dade County, Al Gore beat Bush 52.6%-46.3%. In other words, Bush earned 2.5% less in Dade than he did statewide. Going forward, you will see why this is significant.
The profile in Dade from a voter registration perspective looked like this: Democrats had a roughly 7 point advantage in voter registration, which netted to about 50,000 more Democrats than Republicans.
In 2000, 31% of county registered voters were Anglo, 20% were Black (African American or Caribbean), and 44% were Hispanic. Furthermore -- and in many ways the defining political feature of Dade County in those days: some 57% of Dade Hispanics were Republican.
Fast forward to 2012, and the picture is very different. Barack Obama wins Florida 50-49, but carries Dade 62-38. Where Bush 2000's Dade share was only 2.5% lower than his statewide share, the Romney 2012 vote share in Dade was 11 points lower, creating a margin of loss that could not be made up elsewhere.
At a macro level, the county profile was also very different than today. In 2012, only 19% of county voters are Anglo, 21% are Black, and 54% of county voters are Hispanic. And unlike 2000, the percentage of Hispanics who are Republican has dropped to 39%.
The table below shows the change in the countywide voter profile and the Democratic vote share since 2000:
Anglo Black Hispanic Dem Vote
00 GenElex 31.2% 19.7% 44.4% 53%
04 GenElex 26.2% 20.4% 46.9% 53%
06 GenElex 25.1% 20.2% 48.3% 53%
08 GenElex 23.2% 20.3% 50.2% 57%
10 GenElex 21.7% 19.5% 52.2% 56%
12 Gen Elex 19.1% 20.5% 54.1% 62%
The picture becomes much clearer when looking at the raw voter registration numbers.
Since 2000, the total number of Dade voters has risen from 902,464 to 1,281,368 (book closing in 2012), a gain of 378,904. Over that time, the number of Anglo voters has dropped by about 37,000, meaning in reality, non-Anglo voters in Dade have grown by 415,000. Of that change, some 77% of them are Hispanic, and here is the kicker, only 15% of those registered Republican. Since book closing in 2006, the aforementioned Jim Davis year, it is even more acute: 194,413 voters have been added to the rolls, of which 168,047 are Hispanic, or some 86% of the change in voter registration. Out of this, less than 8% registered Republican. In other words, the GOP monolith among Hispanics, which is the key piece that allowed the GOP to win Dade in 1998 and 2002, and allowed the county to remain close in federal elections, has gone away.
But before my Democratic friends rejoice too much, it hasn't totally gone to the Democratic column. In fact, since 06, the number of new registrants that have registered NPA (no party affiliation) or minor party equals that of Democrats, and if you go back to 2000, more new Hispanic registrants have registered NPA than Democratic. It is worth noting that there are similar trends with new Black voters in Dade, who are registering as NPA at rates nearly on par with Democratic registrants, though there has not been a change in voter behavior.
The tables below show these Hispanic registration trends:
GOP Dem NPA/Minor Total % GOP
2000 226,552 94,428 79,882 400,862 56.5%
2006 257,690 131,805 135,332 524,827 49.1%
2012 270,896 209,763 212,215 692,874 39.1%
And more specifically, this one shows the change in registration:
GOP Dem NPA Total % GOP % Dem
00-12 chg 44,344 115,335 132,333 292,012 15.2% 39.5%
06-12 chg 13,206 77,958 76,883 168,047 7.9% 46.4%
So what does this mean?
The future is still a little unclear on this one, but for Democrats, the picture is definitely brighter.
For Democrats, the best news in the data is the change in vote margin seems to be driven more by Hispanic than Black (African American & Caribbean) voter registration change -- in other words, it can be less attributed to an Obama excitement bump and more to a fundamental change in population. Compared to the Orange County analysis I did last year, where almost half of the voter registration change that helped Democrats came from African American voters, Hispanic voter registration gains are 3-4 times Black changes. In addition, not just the share, but the actual number of Anglo voters has fallen and is falling. This makes perfect sense, since the 2010 census found that non-Hispanic white voters make up less than 10% of the Dade population today, a number that can be hard to grasp. Dade is fundamentally different than just about anywhere.
But on the flipside, the Hispanic piece is also more fickle. The sheer fact that nearly 50% of Hispanics added to the rolls in the last 12 years have joined neither party is proof of this fact.
So what about the Cuban vote? Much was made of some exit polling that showed that Cubans voted for Obama over Romney. Frankly, I don't believe it (though I think it was very close), but I do think there is some evidence in the data that the new generation of Cubans are definitely moving away from the Republicans. Here's why:
In 2000, according to the census, Cubans made up 50% of Dade Hispanics, a number that has actually grown to 53% in the latest census. Even though many smaller populations from other nations of origin are growing faster, in some cases, much faster, Cubans easily remain the biggest force in Dade. But at the same time, the GOP voter registration advantage among Hispanics has shrunk. In other words, while nation of origin is not a fact on a voter file, it would be hard to argue that there isn't at least some relationship between the theory that younger Cubans are less Republican (note I didn't say more Democratic) and the data showing a growing Cuban population and the data showing a vast majority of Hispanics joining the rolls are signing up as Democrats or NPA. There is another blog piece in my future on just the census trends in Dade.
But the electoral trends are pretty unmistakable. Regardless of what happened elsewhere in Florida, the Dade trends kept moving forward.
In 2004, Kerry got 53%. In 08, Obama got 57%. In 2012, Obama won 62%.
In 2002, McBride won 46%. In 06, Davis won 53%. In 2010, Sink won 57%.
When it boils down to it, as many who have heard me speak over the last 5-6 years, I truly believe that Dade is one of the most dynamic places in America, and it is only a matter of time before its politics more reflects its demographics. It is hard to see a world by the end of the decade where Republicans so thoroughly dominate partisan races in Hispanic majority areas. In 2006, when Dan Gelber and I helped elect Luis Garcia to the state house as only the second Cuban Democrat to be elected, most of the punditocracy was amused that we would try. Yet in 2012, another Cuban Democrat was fairly easily elected to the State House and Joe Garcia was elected to Congress. There will be more of this, not less going forward, assuming my party can field strong candidates.
The 2010 piece of this, again going back to Bill Clinton, is also basic arithmetic. Rick Scott beat Alex Sink by approximately 61,000 votes. In 2006, Jim Davis got roughly the same percentage of the vote as John Kerry got in 2004 in Dade. In 2010, Alex Sink received roughly the same percentage of the vote as Barack Obama got in 2008 in Dade. If in 2014, the Democratic nominee continues the trend and earns roughly the same percentage of the vote as the Previous Democratic nominee for President, he or she would land at 61-62% of the vote in Dade, and if turnout is no higher than it was in 2010, that would mean that candidate would win Dade by a margin of 38,000-47,000 more than Sink. Put another way, a Barack Obama type win for the Democrat in 2014 in Dade would almost wipe out the entire Scott statewide margin from 2010.
Is it more important than the I-4? I don't think so -- yet, mainly because the sheer number of swing voters in Central Florida can dramatically shift county level margins in huge numbers. But, in an election like we saw in both 2010 and 2012, where statewide independents are basically split, then Dade County provides a new place (compared to earlier in the century) to run up a big margin if you are a Democrat.
So there you go. It is complicated, maddening, cumbersome, expensive, difficult -- and that just gets you from the gate at Miami International to the rental car lot. But it is always evolving, always dynamic and never boring, because it really is its own place.