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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Republicans pick up registered voters in year of Trump



Republicans have seen a surge in registered voters in Florida since the start of the year, cutting the Democrats overall advantage to the thinnest in state history and giving Donald Trump's presidential campaign more reason to be hopeful.

Since January, the number of registered voters in Florida has jumped by 377,000 with nearly 60 percent of that within the Republican ranks — a sign that Trump is drawing voters to the party, his campaign argues. Democrats now have a 259,000 vote edge over Republicans — only half of what it was four years ago.

"It is a difference maker," Karen Giorno, Trump's chief strategist in Florida, said of the gain and the packed rallies that demonstrate enthusiasm for Trump.

There's no doubt that the March 15 primary, which Trump won with 46 percent of the vote, drew a flurry of new members to the Republican Party. It added 154,000 between January and March. Democrats gained only 88,000 during the same period, according to Florida's Division of Elections.

But those gains might be an exaggeration of overall Republican support in a general election, said University of Florida political science professor Daniel A. Smith.

In January and February, many who were registered with minor parties, like the Reform Party, or claimed "no party affiliation" shifted to Republican so they could vote in the GOP presidential primary. Smith said those voters were already likely Republican voters, so it doesn't indicate a significant swing come November.

Since the primary, Republicans have added 68,000 — which is on par with what Democrats have been picking up.

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[Last modified: Tuesday, August 16, 2016 10:32am]


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