Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Mitt Romney's victory yesterday in Florida is obviously a shot in the arm to his campaign, especially after the shock of South Carolina. Above, I've posted a map of the primary results, courtesy of Dave Leip's U.S. Election Atlas. The counties highlighted in Green were won by Romney; Blue were Gingrich victories. To make some sense of the map, I'd refer back to a post I wrote in the weeks leading up to the 2008 election.
Florida's political geography is extremely fascinating. The northern part of the state, including the panhandle, more closely resembles the neighboring states of Georgia and Alabama than it does the rest of the state. More rural and with a large military presence, these counties have a stronger "Deep South" flavor--more Evangelicals and social conservatives. Though less populous than other regions in the state, it favored Gingrich. Exit polling from yesterday's vote confirms Gingrich's (and Santorum's) appeal to these voters and serves to confirm that Romney has still not sold this important GOP bloc on his candidacy.
On the turnout front, some more troubling news for the GOP. As I wrote recently, turnout in New Hampshire, while up compared to 2008, did not increase at the rate we might expect for a party energized and positioned to recapture the White House. I did some quick calculations on the most recent contests. South Carolina saw an impressive 36% increase in Republican primary turnout over 2008 (603,856 votes vs. 445,677). In Florida, however--a much more important state in November--turnout was actually down 14% compared to four years ago (1,669,585 votes vs. 1,949,498).
Here's some Florida turnout analysis (including an interesting graph of county data) from Michael McDonald, one of the foremost scholars of voter participation.