The 2020 Election Paints Florida Redder*
January 22, 2021
Florida has defied the odds and become an even redder state in spite of continuing immigration from blue states and Latin America and the Caribbean. In spite of losing the vote and the electoral college at the national level, Donald Trump picked up 1,050,845 more votes in 2020 than in 2016 (Chart 1) and increased his margin from 49 percent to 51.2 percent (Chart 2). The total vote in Florida increased substantially because of the greater level of turnout induced by the hotly contested nature of the election.
Trump's support was concentrated outside the major urban areas, but even though he lost in Miami-Dade, the state's largest county where the Hispanic vote is dominant, he still got more support than in 2016, in part because its hardline anti-socialism position resonated with Cuban and Venezuelan Americans. Biden only won in twelve counties by progressively smaller margins: Gadsden, Broward (Fort Lauderdale), Leon (Tallahassee), Alachua (Gainesville), Orange (Orlando), Osceola, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough (Tampa), Duval (Jacksonville), Seminole, and Pinellas (St. Petersburg). Trump won the other 55 counties, most by overwhelming margins (Chart 3).
Two counties in the Panhandle were at opposite ends of Florida voting. Holmes county bordering on Alabama where 9 out of every 10 people are white voted 89.1 percent for Trump and only 10.2 percent for Biden, whereas Gadsden county, which is Florida's only majority Black county with 56 percent African American, voted 68 percent for Biden and only 31.4 percent for Trump.
The Trump coattails and the Cuban American community helped the Republicans to take two House seats in Miami-Dade in predominantly Hispanic districts that had been lost in the 2018 mid-term election. In Florida's-26th district, Cuban American Carlos Gimenez, the former Mayor of Miami-Dade, defeated incumbent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an Ecuadorian American. In Florida's 27th, Maria Elvira Salazar, a well-known Cuban American Spanish language television journalist, beat Donna Shalala.
It wasn't only in the U.S. House that the Republicans gained seats in Florida. The Republicans solidified their hold on the State House winning five seats in the State House of Representatives and one in the State Senate (Chart 4). With Ron DeSantis as Governor until 2022 and Marco Rubio serving as Senator until 2022 and Rick Scott till 2024, Florida doesn't look like a state that is trending purple. However, ex-President Trump, who has taken up residence in Mara Lago will be a bigger than life presence on the Florida political scene and perhaps even a wild card that could disrupt this balance.
* Data comes from Florida Department of State and Ballottpedia.
This article explores and updates themes from Florida Dreams: All About the Amazing Rise of the Sunshine Mega-State (Amazon, 2019).
Florida Dreams is available from Amazon.com.