Politics & Policy

Florida Registration Numbers Show no GOP Surge

Final 2010 registration numbers released today by the Florida Department of State show no surge in GOP-affiliated voters. This is surely, in part, due to the fact that 2010 is a midterm election; the flat lines between 2004 and 2006, or 1996 and 1998 offer a good comparison.

But in a year where the narrative is dominated by talk of an unprecedented Republican tsunami, it might be a bit surprising that state GOP registration has declined by 25,000 voters since the last election. The 2008 Obama wave which Republicans are hoping to counteract, conversely, saw state Democratic registration jump by more than 500k. (Although, again, it was a presidential election year.)

One theory for this discrepancy, if Battle ‘10 can be allowed some conjecture: Obama may have had more effect on previously unregistered voters, young people and minorities, in particular, whereas the tea party zeitgeist likely encompasses more individuals who were already registered and had previously voted.

Overall, the Republican and Democrat lines track nearly perfectly together until Obama’s 2008 surge, though the Democratic dip since then shows signs of returning Florida back to equilibrium. The biggest story from a broad view of the numbers, and indeed, a trend continuing through this election cycle, is the spike in non-affiliated and third-party voters — from 9 percent in 1994 to 29 percent today.

Perhaps more interesting are registration graphs for the four contested House seats. In two hard-fought districts, the 8th and the 22nd, “electoral drift” is clear. Both were drawn in 2002 with clear GOP majorities, and both have since flipped.

In the 8th district, Democrat Alan Grayson ousted four-term Republican Ric Keller in 2008 by a 52-48 margin. Similarly, in the 22nd district, Democrat Ron Klein defeated 13-term Republican Clay Shaw in 2006 by a 51-48 margin.

These two districts are bluer than they used to be. GOP nominees Dan Webster and Allen West, who would have been in friendly territory at the beginning of the decade, are now swimming against the tide.

The 24th district is still Republican, but marginally so. Freshman Democrat Suzanne Kosmas rode in on the 2008 wave, but is considered very at risk this cycle.

And the 2nd district is something else all together. Registration seems to be at odds with its politics, which the Cook Political Report rates as R+6. Voters broke 54-45 for John McCain in 2008.

It’s clearly Southern Democrat territory, with blue dog Allen Boyd representing the area since 1997. But his votes for health care reform and the stimulus have made the race tight, despite his party’s numerical advantage, prompting the Wall Street Journal to ask, “Bye Bye Blue Dogs?

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