The State That Needs a Rising Tide

4 mins read

Friends, The year is 2000. The month is June. The place is a Macaroni Grille. This is where I told my dad I thought Al Gore should pick Bob Graham as his running mate so he could lock down Florida in the election. Advice that, if given to Donna Brazile in Bullfeathers, could have prevented untold disasters.

So I have bona fides here. You can trust me to walk you through how Florida got passed over by 2018’s Blue Wave. Not just in high profile races, but in the State House, where we lost 8 of the 9 closest races. I can’t remember another election where one party so disproportionately lost the tightest races. Just a slight improvement in overall performance would have left us in a much better position heading into 2020.  But as things stand they’re still 13 seats shy of breaking the Republican majority.  

So, while a 13-seat gain may seem tough, there’s plenty of meat on the bone here.  There are 15 Republicans in seats that Clinton or Sen. Bill Nelson carried even though they both lost statewide.  And a few more in seats that could be flippable.  Plus with polling showing Republican-leanng older voters looking persuadable in the wake of the incompetent COVID-19 response, Florida could get its blue wave, 2 years later than the rest of the country.

If you care about redistricting then you should care about the Florida House.  These elections determine who will be drawing new congressional districts. We’ve run through the scenarios; that could be worth 3-5 US House seats for a decade.  And flipping the Florida House would be far more cost effective than 10 years’ worth of TV ads in the Los Angeles market to flip or save a single marginal congressional seat there. 

So let’s take a look at how they get there.  To the map!

And let’s take a closer look at Tampa Bay

…and South Florida

Let’s go through each category of seats, shall we?

Safe Democratic: 43 Districts 

There is not a ton of defense in Florida.  While there are 4 seats at risk, most of these incumbents are in good shape heading into November.

Tilt Democratic: 2 One of these seats, the 120th, is a Florida Keys seat held by a retiring Republican.  If anyone has Jimmy Buffett’s phone number, I have a great idea for him in case he wants to spend half the year in Tallahassee. 

Tossup: 10

This is why Florida is so exciting.  Like I said, 8 of the 9 closest races in 2018 went to Republicans.  That means an even slightly better 2020 means we can pick up a lot of seats.  Not necessarily enough for a majority, but you can see a scenario where Biden narrowly loses to Trump in Florida and the House still nets 8 districts.

Tilt Republican: 10  

As I noted above, older voters are particularly persuadable right now.  And these 10 seats all have median ages that are higher than the national median.  If the senior vote moves then the Florida House could flip.

Lean Republican: 5

The median ages in all five of these districts are high enough to give us reason for hope in 2020, though they all have significant radical conservative bases to contend with.

And that’s Florida. We hope you enjoyed this look at what has been Tantalus’s apple (or orange, in this state) for decades, and we hope it inspires you to support it and all the work we do at FNF.


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