As in-person early voting starts in Florida today, we’re just 10 days away from keeping a key battleground and re-electing President Obama. And while the outcome will be the same as in 2008, much has changed in Florida’s electorate over the last four years.
First, Democrats have dramatically cut into Republicans’ advantage in vote-by-mail—an area where the Republicans have historically been stronger. At this point four years ago, the Republican advantage exceeded 257,000 voters. But this year, it’s just over 33,500—an 87 percent drop. In a state President Obama won by nearly 240,000 votes, that's a 223,500-vote swing even the dizziest Republican can't spin away. Democrats have also cut the GOP’s 2008 advantage in absentee ballots returned so far by 55 percent.
Why does all this matter? Remember: In spite of the vote-by-mail disadvantages we faced in 2008, President Obama still won Florida. In 2012, we’re closing those gaps.
Second, the Florida electorate—just like the rest of the nation’s—has grown much more diverse since 2008:
Of the over 300,000 Hispanics who have registered to vote since President Obama was elected four years ago, nine out of ten signed up as Democrats or Independents, and only 10 percent registered as Republicans.
More than 100,000 African-American and Caribbean-American voters registered since November 2008.
Among those who have cast mail ballots already, 14 percent are African-American, Latino Democrats, or Latino Independents—up from 12 percent at this point in 2008. Latino Republicans have fallen from 7 percent of mail voters at this point in 2008 to just 5 percent today.
We estimate minority voters will make up more than 30 percent of the vote in Florida this year, up from 28 percent in 2008.
In a state like Florida that is won at the margins, this is a significant shift. And it’s matched by significant enthusiasm. Nearly 20,000 fired-up Floridians turned out for registration rallies when the First Lady visited campuses in Gainesville and Tallahassee last month. And Puerto Ricans are growing into a larger share of the electorate, a trend that favors President Obama. Two former governors of Puerto Rico, one a Democrat and one a Republican, came together to hold a rally in Kissimmee for President Obama earlier this month.
There’s one more big change: Florida’s even more important this year, holding 29 electoral votes—two more than in 2008. With an increasingly diverse electorate and the historic grassroots operation we’ve built over the past four years, Florida is ready prove that the more things change, the more they stay the same.