Presidential Politics And The Sunshine Economy

Jun 15, 2015

The last time a winning candidate for U.S. president did not carry Florida was Pres. George H.W. Bush in 1992. Bush lost re-election to Bill Clinton that year despite winning in Florida.
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"Hmm?" answered Sean Spicer to whether a Republican presidential nominee has to win in Florida in order to win the White House.

Spicer is the chief strategist and communications director for the Republican National Committee. The RNC is not picking a favorite among the growing list of Republicans vying for their party's presidential nomination. But the party, like its Democratic counterpart, knows Florida's growing importance to the 2016 presidential race.

"I think it's mathematically possible to not [win Florida], but I think realistically there's no way you can win the presidency without going through Florida," Spicer told the Sunshine Economy Monday morning.  

The top strategist for the Republican Party made his comments hours before the latest Florida Republican was due to announce his presidential campaign.

After months of traveling to early primary and caucus states, courting donors and collecting millions of dollars of campaign donations, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made his 2016 White House ambitions public.

He joins three other Floridians running for the GOP's presidential nomination: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has a home in the Panhandle, and Dr. Ben Carson. a neurosurgeon from West Palm Beach. 

"Florida is always ground zero for both parties," said Democratic National Committee Chairman and South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 

A Growing Purple State

That's increasingly been true. Through the first half of the 20th century, Florida, like the rest of the South, was reliably Democratic. Republicans began making gains after World War II. By the mid 1990s, more Floridians began registering as political independents.

During presidential election years, the margin of victory for winning candidates has been tight. In 2012, one in four registered voters in Florida identified themselves as independent. A generation earlier, political independents were one in 20 in Florida.

Like other battleground states, the swing of independent voters helps decide general elections. But that's after what can be bruising primary fights. Bush enters an already crowded Republican slate of candidates. Ten Republicans and four Democrats launched their campaigns before he did. However, Bush is expected to have a large war chest of money, estimated to be up to $100 million. 

Including Bush's entry, here are the 16 major political party candidates announcing their campaigns (plus one thanks to former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton announcing her candidacy twice).