How Florida became the state to watch

Over the past half century, Florida has changed from solidly Democratic to a two-party state that media, candidates, and analysts watch closely to see which way the nation’s political winds will blow. How did this happen? Why, going into the 2016 election year, does Florida qualify as a premier swing state? Below, Susan A. MacManus, respected Florida political analyst, explains Florida’s transformation.

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Florida’s Transformation

Florida’s political evolution began with explosive population growth, sparked after World War II and continuing for decades. This boom transformed what was a mostly rural, white, poor population of less than 2 million into the nation’s third-largest state—a cultural mosaic of 20 million people who mirror the racial, ethnic, religious, age, and geographic makeup of the nation.

As people moved to Florida from the Northeast, Midwest, other parts of the South, Latin America, and the Caribbean, they altered the political landscape. A state that had been dominated by the Panhandle’s “pork choppers”—white, segregationist, conservative Democrats—grew into a demographic and political microcosm of the country. With voters now split among Democrats, Republicans, and independents, Florida has more Electoral College votes up for grabs than any other large state (29 EC votes in 2016, compared to eight a half-century ago). This has transformed Florida into the nation’s largest swing state, a political powerhouse.

It’s not surprising that Florida has voted for the winning presidential candidate in all but one year since 1964. And it’s not surprising that when political pundits are attempting to read the tea leaves, they look to Florida for clues. Read more.

And post your comment below. This year, will we again say, “As Florida goes, so goes the nation”?


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