State Backroom Briefing: Red State, Blue State

(Weekly political notes from The News Service of Florida)


As this year’s presidential race bounces along, the nation’s partisan divide continues drawing attention.

People in red states and blue states talk past each other — OK, often yell past each other. The presidential candidates can largely ignore much of the country because the real battle is in Florida and a handful of other swing states.

But new voter-registration numbers also provide a snapshot of partisan divides within Florida. Granted, party registration doesn’t necessarily translate into how voters will cast ballots. But it can suggest where voters are most dug in and where the candidates will go to try to woo swing voters.

First, the big numbers: Florida has slightly more than 12.37 million registered voters for the Aug. 30 primary, with Democrats and Republicans pretty evenly divided. Registered Democrats make up about 4.69 million of those voters, while Republicans top 4.43 million. No-party voters total about 2.91 million, while the rest of the voters are registered as members of smaller parties.

Overall, Republicans have more registered voters than Democrats in 38 counties, while Democrats have the edge in 29 counties. But that is somewhat deceptive because Democrats lead in heavily populated Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties.

Despite the relatively small differences in the statewide numbers, a voter-registration breakdown shows stark divides in some regions of the state.

Like to surround yourself with Republicans? Head to counties in the northwest or northeast corners of the state.

In the Panhandle’s Walton County, 58.8 percent of registered voters are Republicans, while only 21.3 percent are Democrats. In nearby Okaloosa County, Republicans make up 58.5 percent. In Santa Rosa County, it’s 58.4 percent, and in Bay County, it’s 51.7 percent.

Similarly, in Northeast Florida, 57.9 percent of Nassau County’s voters are registered Republicans. In Clay County, the total is 54.9 percent, and in St. Johns County, it is 53.3 percent.

But if you want to hang out with registered Democrats, the state capital and surrounding areas, along with Broward County in Southeast Florida, might be the places to go.

Registered Democrats make up 53.5 percent of the voters in Leon County, home to the Capitol. They make up 76.3 percent in nearby Liberty County, and 76.2 percent in neighboring Gadsden County.

Broward, meanwhile, is the place where Democratic politicians go to run up big numbers in statewide races. Registered Democrats make up 50.5 percent of Broward’s voters, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by 322,431 voters.

But not all of Florida is so divided. Take the heavily populated Pinellas County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by a mere 635 voters.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine recently campaigned in Volusia County: Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 1,686 voters in the county, which brackets one end of the fiercely competitive I-4 corridor.


People on the receiving end of campaign emails get bombarded with breathless messages about the wondrousness of candidates, the scurrilous nature of opponents and, of course, the need for money. Lots of money.

Most of the emails are pretty humorless, to say the least.

But state Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat who is in a nasty battle to return to the Senate, at least livens up inboxes with his pleas for money. Clemens, who faces a primary challenge from state Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, sent a missive Wednesday night with a subject line that said, “a shameless request to fund our interwebs outreach.”

In the email, Clemens noted that he won his first race by 17 votes and said he is trying to raise money for digital advertising.

“Now, we’re looking like it’s going to be another close one. So we are throwing every ounce of effort and literally every coin generously donated by people like you towards advertising to people who are actually not like you, in that they don’t read emails or follow this stuff this closely,” the email said. “Some of these people happen to be on the Internet (which I know is like a series of tubes).”

TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Amid ubiquitous news of campaign turbulence, these cataclysmic floods & fires that have claimed so much remind us of what crisis truly is.” — political strategist and commentator David Axelrod (@davidalexrod)