Swingers: Florida and New Hampshire

We’re going to tackle the last two swing states in the core eleven in one post, because New Hampshire is tiny and does not take much time to analyze and the election now approaches rapidly, so I’d like to gt to the outer five and then to the publication of the county-level statistics state by state – things like the population slant adjusted metro area ratings and the county by county bias and vote percentage stats so you can follow along on election night and make some back of the envelop projections as the data comes in.

First, let’s tackle New Hampshire – and I don’t want to spend a ton of time on this most conservative of New England states – its 4 EVs and 10 counties are, according to the ensemble of polling data, breaking for Romney by a few tenths of a percentage point at the moment, but political insiders still county it as a relatively likely Obama win based largely on how Obama did here in 2008.  I believe they are mistaken.

Here’s the map:

Cities of New Hampshire:

  1. Concord (11% of vote – leans left, but barely)
  2. Manchester (leans slightly to the right)
  3. Nashua (right down the center – Manchester and Nashua account for ~29% of vote)
  4. Portsmouth (right down the center – ~23.5% of vote)
Now the three-cycle average slant groupings by county (2000-2008)
The base color is the official slant grouping, but for this state, I’ve done a bit of stippling to illustrate the reality that the vast majority of the state’s population resides in counties which are, for all intents and purposes, swing counties or darned close.  The liberal influence of Vermont (the state that scares the hell out of New Hampshire) does bleed across the state line in the western (and lightly populated) rural counties, but the meat of the state has been keenly politically aware and painfully undecided for many cycles.
Democrats have an edge in party registration here, but that’s been true for a long time and yet here we are, with three-cycle averages that include an Obama bounce and are nonetheless very close to ideological parity.  And the key is that the state does not have any traditional urban centers – the places where liberals go to rule like kings, never questioned by a populace cowed by urban political shenanigans (ask Tony Rezko about thow that works – or you could just ask his wingman Barack Obama).  The population of New Hampshire lives in a world where all voices are usually heard.  The democrats don’t have safe havens that eat 40% of the vote the way they do in most other swing states.  And in elections like this one where the incumbent is wildly unpopular (by the standards of the typical incumbent President – whose favorability is usually above 55%) and has actively campaigned on a platform of negative attack ads and clientalism – and in a state where clientalism doesn’t apply (New Hampshire is not particularly laden with affronted minority groups and there are far more married women – who break for Romney – than there are single women – who break for Obama), I’d say this is one of Romney’s EASIEST pick-up opportunities outside the already pocketed North Carolina and Indiana.  This is especially apparent when you look at how Obama built his 10 point majority in 2008:
(slant grouping, vote percentages in 2000 – 2008, and slant in 2000-2008)
2 4.71% 4.77% 4.73% 42.01% 44.00% 50.59%
3 59.47% 58.93% 58.78% 48.33% 48.35% 51.73%
4 29.96% 30.20% 30.47% 51.25% 54.49% 59.80%
5 5.87% 6.10% 6.02% 55.76% 59.75% 63.95%
All of these group slant figures are WAY lower than normal – most states return group five slants over 65% because most states have at least one rotting corpse of a city that turns out a million zombies to vote democrat and then return to living in misery.  Before 2008, the state’s lone group five county was a group four county.  Most states return group four averages near the 57% mid-point for that bracket because those group four counties are a mix of inner ring suburbs (filled with rich white liberals) and small cities (filled with bureaucrats who subsist on government funding).  Most of New Hampshire’s group four counties were swing counties before 2008.  And most states turn out swing counties that sit near the 50/50 line, but in New Hampshire, the rightward slant is noticeable – that is, except in 2008.  The representative election for New Hampshire is probably 2004 – Kerry carried it by 1.4 points, largely due to a lack of GOP enthusiasm for Bush here…but it was a bitter fight right up until the end.  It’s naive, IMHO, to assume that the three-cycle leftward drift is permanent when the demographics don’t support that conclusion and when the state gave Obama a modest bounce compared with other swing states.
The representative county here is Merrimack (home of Concord – a left-leaner that tracks election results well but with a high bias of 1.7 points)…that’ll do for me.  Watch Merrimack county and subtract one or two points and see how it goes.
Now…on to Florida.  This state imports old people and tourists and exports election night nail biting and hanging chads.  They probably have some other revenue, but at the moment, I don’t much care. 🙂  Three things you need to know about Florida’s population:
  • The elderly make up a solid 18% of the state’s population – higher than any state in the union (Arizona is now a close second, FWIW) – they tend to be registered Democrats from New York…but they tend to vote like undecided swing voters, leaning further right with age.
  • Hispanics make up roughly 30% (!) of the state’s voting aged population, but a large number of them are Cuban and Cuban voters do not nearly as far left as do most Hispanics (Castro is among the most hated people of all time in Florida and that does not play well for Democrats).
  • Florida has very high population density, but votes very conservatively compared to normal for high density regions – there are a number of reasons this might be (Democrat corruption in the war on drug cartels in Miami, the presence of anti-Castro anti-socialist voices like Marco Rubio, the high voter turnout among the elderly, etc), but the numbers don’t lie and haven’t changed much over the last several cycles.
Population Centers:
  1. Pensicola (~3% of vote)
  2. Tallahassee (~1.5-2% of vote)
  3. Jacksonville (~4.5-5% of vote and rising)
  4. Orlando (~7-8% of vote and rapidly rising)
  5. Tampa/St. Petersburg (~11.5-12.5% of vote and rapidly declining)
  6. Ft. Myers (~3% of vote)
  7. West Palm Beach (~7% and slowly dropping)
  8. Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/Miami Beach (~18.5-20% and very rapidly declining)
Here’s the 3-cycle map for the state with population centers marked:
As I noted before, Miami-Dade County – the most populous in the state – is not like many other urban centers with a dominant democratic machinery – it’s the suburbs (Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach) that really tip the scales, and did so en masse for Obama.  On the other hand, the state capital in Tallahassee is solidly democrat controlled – the main minority population there is African American as opposed to Cuban, but and that makes a big difference in the political slant – it’s more of a traditional Southern city in that regard (and note that the panhandle votes much more like the south than does the peninsula).
The state slant was neutral in 2000 and +5 for Republicans in 2004…so how did it go so far back toward the Democrats in 2008 (they won it by 3 in Obama’s sweep)?  Let’s look at the trend diagnostics and then try to figure what, in the demographic data, would support such trends:
Here is the complete list of counties that gave Obama more of a bump than the national average (which moved from R+2 to D+7 (9 point swing):
  • Escambia
  • Duval
  • Clay
  • Pinellas
  • Orange
  • Osceola
  • Polk
  • Hillsborough
  • Hardee
  • Lee
  • Hendry
  • Miami-Dade
In total, the state moved left about as much as the nation did, and what’s remarkable is that Obama’s gains were clustered in the cities almost exclusively, except in Hardee, Clay, Polk and Osceola counties where clusters of Hispanic or African America populations above the state norms (outside of Miami-Dade, of course) alter the demographic picture  Obama had a very clear strategy in Florida in 2008 – he went after young Hispanics and he attacked the cities, ignoring the rest of the state, and it worked.  At a time when most of the south outside of African-American-laden districts actually tilted further RIGHT…Florida tilted left.  This year, he’s trying to scare the older voters with threats to their medicare…a strategy that has not worked at all and has cost him time that he could have spent wooing Hispanics again…and now polling is showing his support among Hispanics and the youth of the state corroding badly.  On to top of that:
1 12.45% 12.92% 13.04% 33.16% 29.83% 32.80%
2 26.58% 27.42% 27.33% 43.80% 41.37% 45.75%
3 24.85% 23.31% 23.58% 51.26% 46.55% 52.97%
4 18.96% 19.45% 20.01% 53.04% 52.23% 58.59%
5 17.16% 16.91% 16.04% 66.53% 63.23% 64.88%
Obama’s big gains in the state were largely in swing and left-leaning counties like Miami-Dade, and Pinellas/Hillsborough…he didn’t get much of a bounce elsewhere in the state and the bounce he got in those swing counties is probably not sustainable, given the long term trend toward dixiecrats voting Republican and seniors voting more conservatively with time.
The bottom line: conservatives match liberals here person for person and they vote more conservatively than the liberals vote liberally, conservatives were unmoved by Obama and swing voters will be unmoved this time around.  This state is a mortal LOCK to go for Romney…that’s just how I see it.
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