How Florida Has Changed

New Sunshine State polling data suggests that Florida Sen. Rick Scott (R) has the potential of falling into a competitive re-election race later this year, but the underlying data illustrating just how Republican his state has become portends a different conclusion.

The voter registration data and recent vote history statistics provide a foundation for the conclusion that Florida is no longer the quintessential swing state but has become reliably Republican.

The latest Florida statewide survey from Emerson College (4/9-10; 1,000 FL registered voters; multiple sampling techniques), while posting former President Donald Trump to a 51-38% lead over President Joe Biden, sees a tighter Senate race. In the latter ballot test, Sen. Scott, seeking a second term after serving two four-year stints as Governor, posts a smaller 45-38% edge over former Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel Powell (D).

While the Scott advantage is tighter than Trump’s, the strong Republican trends present in the state and evolved since Sen. Scott was elected six years ago, will help him expand the preference margin.

For the 2018 election, the year Sen. Scott was last on the ballot, Democrats had a voter registration edge of 37.1% of the voting universe as compared to the Republicans’ 35.2%. The percentage difference translated into a margin of 257,175 voters. Another 26.8% were not registered with a political party, while the remaining 0.8% belonged to recognized minor parties.

In the 2020 election, the small Democratic registration advantage when compared with the Republican registrants became even smaller, 36.5 to 35.8%, meaning a Democratic margin of 97,215 voters. The minor parties had doubled in size, increasing their share of the aggregate electorate to 1.6%. Those not choosing a party, or independents, dropped to 26.1%.

Further change happened for the 2022 election, and here we see the registration advantage inverting to the Republicans. Their percentage rose to 36.5 compared to the Democrats’ 33.9. Minor parties rose to 1.8%. The independents also rose by more than a point and one-half, to 27.7%. Thus, the swing to the Republicans meant their edge over the Democrats was 383,954 individuals, or a gain of 481,169 voters over the Democratic performance in just one election cycle.

The current numbers are even more lopsided. Today, the Republican registration count reaches 38.9% of the aggregate electorate as compared to the Democrats’ 32.3%. This means the GOP has 892,034 more party registrants than the Democrats. The minor party members grew to 2.5% of the electorate, while those not choosing a party dropped back to the 26.2% level.

The registration trend in three election cycles has resulted in Republicans outpacing Democrats in voter registration by just under a whopping 1.15 million individuals. The figures mean the registration advantage has changed a net 8.5% in the Republicans’ favor since Mr. Scott won his 2018 election when he unseated then-Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by just 10,033 votes from 8.19 million ballots cast, translating into a victory margin of just 0.12%.

For her part, Ms. Mucarsel Powell should be regarded as a weak candidate. While she won her South Florida congressional seat in the Democratic wave year of 2018, she lost it two years later to current Congressman Carlos Gimenez (R-Miami) by a 52-48% margin in a district where the Dave’s Redistricting App data organization calculated a 51.5D – 47.1R partisan lean.

Therefore, while Sen. Scott may be running behind Mr. Trump’s preference number by six percentage points in the Emerson College poll, the stunning change in the Florida electorate presents Sen. Scott with a much more favorable political playing field than he faced in 2018.

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