Who Will Win Florida -- and the White House?

Bill Nelson, former Florida senator, once said “So goes Florida, so goes the country.” He wasn’t just referring to the 2000 election. Or to Florida’s 29 electorate votes, the third largest after California and Texas. He was referring to an interesting historical fact: in 21 of the last 23 elections, the candidates who won Florida emerged as the eventual winners of the presidential races. The exceptions were Bush’s 1992 and Nixon’s 1960 defeats.

If history is any indication, the key to Trump’s re-election is by winning Florida. The latest poll average shows the race is statistically tied with Trump 47.2% and Biden 48.7%. But aggregate polls tend to obscure the dynamic changes in the voters’ candidate preferences especially among the demographic groups that can decide the election. To understand it, let’s examine the changes in voters’ preferences among Florida’s Hispanic/Latino, Black, and senior voters.

Latino Voters

Clinton won Florida’s Latino votes by 27% margin (62% to 35%) in 2016. An average of 10 polls in September showed Biden led Trump among Florida’s Latino voters by only 7% margin (50% to 43%). The latest polls gave similar results. Biden led Trump by only 11 and 7 points with Trump’s numbers remain at 43%. The support for Trump is similar to the results of the 2018 statewide elections. The then Republican governor and senate candidates, Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott, won 44% and 46% of Latino votes, respectively.

What drives Trump’s growing support among Florida’s Latino voters? The main factor is the Cuban American voters, which make up the largest of Florida’s 2.4 million Latino electorate (29%). In 2016, Trump won Florida’s Cuban-American votes by 13% margin. But two polls in September have already shown Trump’s lead over Biden by bigger margins, 26% and 34%.

Cuban-Americans are not amused with the Democratic Party’s socialist agenda for America. Even a leftist publication such as Politico acknowledged that Trump’s anti-socialism and his patriotism have helped motivate Cuban-Americans to vote for him. One survey shows 73% of Cuban-Americans polled have a favorable opinion of President Trump.

The second factor is the economy, which is the number one issue for Latino voters. President Trump’s deregulation and pro-business policies including the tax cuts have helped Latino’s businesses. Latinos tend to be more entrepreneurial than the general population. In the last decade, the number of Latino-owned businesses has grown almost twice the rate of all other ethnic groups combined.

All indications suggest that Trump is poised to improve his share of Latino votes by about 8 points. Latino voters are expected to make up 17% of Florida registered voters in this election. Hence, a 8-point gain can translate into a gain of at least 1.36% in total votes.

Black Voters

Another demographic group that is experiencing a dynamic change in their candidate preference is Black voters. Trump won 8% of Florida black votes in 2016. Most recent polls indicated that 11% to 13% of Black voters support Trump. This is consistent with the results of the 2018 gubernatorial election. Even when a black Democratic candidate was on the ballot, the Republican candidate managed to win 14% of black votes.

Since 2016, Trump has enjoyed a growing support among young Black voters (18 to 44), from 10% to 21% in 2020.  One of the reasons is they see his strong demeanor and anti-establishment as something positive. Another reason is they are more interested in the economy than race. Bill Clinton once said, “The best anti-poverty program is still a job.” Trump’s focus on job creation policies has drawn support among Black young voters, abandoning the old orthodoxy that only Democrats care for Blacks.

Along with the diminishing of the Obama factor, the split in the black votes nationally will likely follow the pre-Obama era, roughly 87% to 13% to Democratic candidate’s advantage. That may also happen in Florida. Black voters constitute 13% of Florida registered voters in 2020. Winning an additional 5% of their votes will give Trump a gain of 0.65% total votes.

Senior Voters

The voter group that could pose a stumbling block to Trump’s re-election is the senior voters (aged 65+). In 2016, Trump won Florida’s senior votes by 17% margin. But some of the latest polls show some concern with Trump ahead of Biden by only 10%, 5%, and 3%  margins among Florida senior voters.

It’s not entirely clear what causes the seniors’ change of voting preference. Some realized they had made a mistake the moment Trump was elected. Another reason points to Trump’s policy on coronavirus that leaves much of the decision up to the states. Although I think it is the right decision, the Trump camp may need to provide a more coherent explanation for the decision.

All is not lost with the senior voters. A recent poll reported that Trump has a big lead over Biden (59% to 38%) among voters 70 or older. About 71% of Florida’s senior voters are in the over-70 age bracket.

The seniors comprise about 26% of Florida electorate. With the massive availability of mail-in voting, the share of their votes will likely increase to 23%, up by 2 points from 2016. It’s possible that Trump’s support among senior voters will drop by 5 points, which could translate into a loss of 1.15% of total votes.

Who will win?

Taken together, the changes in the voters’ candidate preferences especially among Florida’s Latino, Black, and senior voters could give Trump a potential net gain of at least 0.86% of total votes. If Trump wins Florida, it will be due to the surge in Latino and Black votes, as well as the claim that he is being abandoned by senior voters being not as bad as what the media and the polls suggest. And this is what will happen.

In their latest poll, Trafalgar Group, which is one of the very few pollsters that correctly predicted the 2016 outcome, gives Trump a 2.3% lead over Biden in Florida. Rasmussen has Trump ahead of Biden by 3%.

Trump will carry Florida -- and the presidency -- again.

Image: Florida Senate 

Bill Nelson, former Florida senator, once said “So goes Florida, so goes the country.” He wasn’t just referring to the 2000 election. Or to Florida’s 29 electorate votes, the third largest after California and Texas. He was referring to an interesting historical fact: in 21 of the last 23 elections, the candidates who won Florida emerged as the eventual winners of the presidential races. The exceptions were Bush’s 1992 and Nixon’s 1960 defeats.

If history is any indication, the key to Trump’s re-election is by winning Florida. The latest poll average shows the race is statistically tied with Trump 47.2% and Biden 48.7%. But aggregate polls tend to obscure the dynamic changes in the voters’ candidate preferences especially among the demographic groups that can decide the election. To understand it, let’s examine the changes in voters’ preferences among Florida’s Hispanic/Latino, Black, and senior voters.

Latino Voters

Clinton won Florida’s Latino votes by 27% margin (62% to 35%) in 2016. An average of 10 polls in September showed Biden led Trump among Florida’s Latino voters by only 7% margin (50% to 43%). The latest polls gave similar results. Biden led Trump by only 11 and 7 points with Trump’s numbers remain at 43%. The support for Trump is similar to the results of the 2018 statewide elections. The then Republican governor and senate candidates, Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott, won 44% and 46% of Latino votes, respectively.

What drives Trump’s growing support among Florida’s Latino voters? The main factor is the Cuban American voters, which make up the largest of Florida’s 2.4 million Latino electorate (29%). In 2016, Trump won Florida’s Cuban-American votes by 13% margin. But two polls in September have already shown Trump’s lead over Biden by bigger margins, 26% and 34%.

Cuban-Americans are not amused with the Democratic Party’s socialist agenda for America. Even a leftist publication such as Politico acknowledged that Trump’s anti-socialism and his patriotism have helped motivate Cuban-Americans to vote for him. One survey shows 73% of Cuban-Americans polled have a favorable opinion of President Trump.

The second factor is the economy, which is the number one issue for Latino voters. President Trump’s deregulation and pro-business policies including the tax cuts have helped Latino’s businesses. Latinos tend to be more entrepreneurial than the general population. In the last decade, the number of Latino-owned businesses has grown almost twice the rate of all other ethnic groups combined.

All indications suggest that Trump is poised to improve his share of Latino votes by about 8 points. Latino voters are expected to make up 17% of Florida registered voters in this election. Hence, a 8-point gain can translate into a gain of at least 1.36% in total votes.

Black Voters

Another demographic group that is experiencing a dynamic change in their candidate preference is Black voters. Trump won 8% of Florida black votes in 2016. Most recent polls indicated that 11% to 13% of Black voters support Trump. This is consistent with the results of the 2018 gubernatorial election. Even when a black Democratic candidate was on the ballot, the Republican candidate managed to win 14% of black votes.

Since 2016, Trump has enjoyed a growing support among young Black voters (18 to 44), from 10% to 21% in 2020.  One of the reasons is they see his strong demeanor and anti-establishment as something positive. Another reason is they are more interested in the economy than race. Bill Clinton once said, “The best anti-poverty program is still a job.” Trump’s focus on job creation policies has drawn support among Black young voters, abandoning the old orthodoxy that only Democrats care for Blacks.

Along with the diminishing of the Obama factor, the split in the black votes nationally will likely follow the pre-Obama era, roughly 87% to 13% to Democratic candidate’s advantage. That may also happen in Florida. Black voters constitute 13% of Florida registered voters in 2020. Winning an additional 5% of their votes will give Trump a gain of 0.65% total votes.

Senior Voters

The voter group that could pose a stumbling block to Trump’s re-election is the senior voters (aged 65+). In 2016, Trump won Florida’s senior votes by 17% margin. But some of the latest polls show some concern with Trump ahead of Biden by only 10%, 5%, and 3%  margins among Florida senior voters.

It’s not entirely clear what causes the seniors’ change of voting preference. Some realized they had made a mistake the moment Trump was elected. Another reason points to Trump’s policy on coronavirus that leaves much of the decision up to the states. Although I think it is the right decision, the Trump camp may need to provide a more coherent explanation for the decision.

All is not lost with the senior voters. A recent poll reported that Trump has a big lead over Biden (59% to 38%) among voters 70 or older. About 71% of Florida’s senior voters are in the over-70 age bracket.

The seniors comprise about 26% of Florida electorate. With the massive availability of mail-in voting, the share of their votes will likely increase to 23%, up by 2 points from 2016. It’s possible that Trump’s support among senior voters will drop by 5 points, which could translate into a loss of 1.15% of total votes.

Who will win?

Taken together, the changes in the voters’ candidate preferences especially among Florida’s Latino, Black, and senior voters could give Trump a potential net gain of at least 0.86% of total votes. If Trump wins Florida, it will be due to the surge in Latino and Black votes, as well as the claim that he is being abandoned by senior voters being not as bad as what the media and the polls suggest. And this is what will happen.

In their latest poll, Trafalgar Group, which is one of the very few pollsters that correctly predicted the 2016 outcome, gives Trump a 2.3% lead over Biden in Florida. Rasmussen has Trump ahead of Biden by 3%.

Trump will carry Florida -- and the presidency -- again.

Image: Florida Senate