Around the U.S. in 50 Days: Florida, part 2

A lot has been written in the conservative blogosphere about redistricting in Florida, most of it conspiratorial regarding the 22nd District represented by Alan West. To summarize, many believe that the House redistricting chair Will Weatherford is deliberately screwing West because he is a Romney supporter. In actuality, Weatherford originally endorsed Pawlenty and switched to Romney when Pawlenty dropped out. Additionally, Florida picks up two seats this year due to population growth. As a result, all of the state’s congressional districts get smaller. Furthermore, simple demographics in West’s area- southeast Florida- dictate the district political configurations more than any grand conspiracy or GOP ineptitude in the Florida legislature. The deck is stacked against the GOP in this area as it is highly Democratic, comprised mainly of that party or Republicans who are certainly more moderate than Alan West. This is the area of retired northeasterners who tend to be more liberal or, if Republican, more moderate in their political outlook. I see no conspiracy or ineptitude, but demographic reality in this process. Regardless, there seems to be way too much emphasis among conservative voices about the alleged wrongs against West. Realizing that he is a rarity- a black conservative voice in the GOP- the tendency to protect him are understandable. Still, when one looks at these new districts, it is obvious that the Republicans have more to worry about this year in Florida.

A lot of confusion enters the discussion since a lot of these current districts are renumbered in the process. Perhaps the best analysis is to go district by district and look at each in turn. The 1st is basically unchanged, heavily Republican and Jeff Miller will win. The 2nd is also largely unchanged, Republican and Southerland will win. The new 3rd is the old 6th and Cliff Stearns should win here and likewise in the Republican 4th which remains unchanged as Alan Crenshaw should win. The new 5th is the old 3rd and Corrine Brown is the Democratic representative. However, it does take in some additional Republican territory and a strong GOP candidate may give her a challenge.

The new 6th is the old 7th and currently vacant, although it is nominally Republican. Once candidates emerge, expect a GOP victory. The new 7th retains more than half its old territory, but adds more than half of the old 24th. Hence, it sets up a GOP primary between incumbents John Mica and Sandy Adams with the winner likely going back to Congress and the loser going home. The new 8th is mainly the old 5th and strongly Republican. Expect Bob Posey to win here. Meanwhile, the new 9th takes in large parts of the old 8th and 15th and takes on a Democratic character. Expect the Democrats to pick up this seat as former congressman Alan Grayson will likely return. The 10th is the old 8th and another term for Republican Daniel Webster.

The new 11th is significant parts of the old 5th and 6th, both represented by Republicans. Hence, it will remain Republican. The 12th takes in parts of the old 5th and 9th, again both represented by Republicans. However, it takes in enough swing territory of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. However, with Bilirakis running here and the district’s familiarity with him, I expect a GOP victory. The 13th is the old 10th and is a pure swing district, but should also stay in the Republican column. The 14th is the old 11th and nominally Democratic as incumbent Mary Castor will likey win for that party. And the new 15th is basically the old 12th and 9th and should be a GOP victory.

The 16th is the old 13th held by Vern Buchanan and although slightly more Democratic, should be won by Buchanan. The 17th takes in large parts of the old old 12th and 16th which had the potential to set up a Ross-Rooney primary match up. However, Ross opted for the 15th leaving Rooney the likely winner in 2012. The new 18th takes in parts of the old 16th and 22nd- again, both held by Republicans, one of them being Alan West who will run in this district instead of the 22nd. Although the GOP can count on Martin County, West will have to make serious inroads in St. Lucie County, but cannot count on the parts of Palm Beach County that remain in the new district. Thus far, the Democrats have no candidate, but one can suspect that West’s days in Congress are numbered. The new 19th is the old 14th and should be won by a Republican again (formerly held by Connie Mack who is running for Senate). The 20th is the old 23rd and should be retained by Hastings, a Democrat.

The old 19th is now numbered the 21st and Ted Deutch will win again. The new 22nd certainly retains a large portion of its former territory, but loses enough of the Republican enclaves to send Alan West to the 18th. Expect a Democrat to win here. Meanwhile, the new 23rd is basically the old 20th held by my favorite Democratic moon bat- Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who is not going anywhere. The 24th is the old 17th and safely Democratic while the 25th is an amalgamation of the old 21st and 25th, Hispanic and GOP-leaning and likely victory.

Half of the old 25th is now part of the 26th, Hispanic and certainly more Democratic-leaning than in the past. Hence, GOP incumbent David Rivera will have a difficult time retaining this seat and one should not be surprised if a Democrat wins, as I predict. Finally, the 27th is parts of the old 18th and 21st, both currently held by Republicans. Although popular Iliana Ros-Lehtinen will run again, should the Democrats field a strong, Hispanic candidate, the newly designed district is even more Democratic than the 26th. However, until a candidate is named, we will leave this district in the GOP column.

The current delegation favors the GOP 19-6. Only Corrine Brown could be considered vulnerable this year. Hence, five of the six Democratic incumbents will definitely win. Of the 19 incumbent Republicans, I am predicting that two will definitely lose- Alan West and either John Mica or Sandy Adams, most likely Adams. That leaves seven Republican incumbents vulnerable this year. That sets up a recipe for disaster. It also underscores the importance of the presidential race as coat tails WILL play a role in this state. Of those seven Republican incumbents, I would count Webster, Bilirakis, Ross and Diaz-Balart as likely winners. That would make the count, asssuming Brown prevails (a big assumption), that would make the count 14-6 for the GOP. Expect Grayson to pick up a seat; hence 14-7 now. In the 13th, I am expecting a Democratic pick up: 14-8. The 22nd will flip: 14-9 I think because of voter familiarity, both Rivera and Diaz-Balart will win: 16-9. A Republican will take the vacant 6th: 17-9. Meanwhile, a Democrat will likely take the other slot: 17-10. This represents a two seat loss for the Republicans plus a 4 seat pick up for the Democrats for a net Democratic gain of 6 House seats out of Florida in 2012.

With Obama’s approval ratings in Florida at 45% (they were at 47% before the latest poll), the GOP’s chances have improved. If Santorum or Gingrich is the Republican nominee, the state belongs to Obama. In short, it would appear that only Romney stands a chance of defeating Obama in Florida (latest poll has him trailing Obama by one point 45-44%). If Obama was two points higher in his state approval rating, I would give him this state with no doubts. However, the fact that he has dropped gives me serious pause. I am going to err, for now, on the side of incumbency having its advantages and give their 29 electoral votes to Obama with a big FOR NOW.

However, I also believe it will be a mixed bag of success here as Connie Mack will defeat Bill Nelson.

Finally tally:
Obama wins the Presidency 290 to 248 electoral votes;
A net gain of 3 Governors;
A net gain of 5 Senate seats as the GOP takes the Senate;
A net loss of 9 House seats as the GOP retains the House.