Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

This election, Pasco's bellwether status didn't hold

Barack Obama had a 4,800-vote advantage among early and absentee voters. But Election Day voters leaned the other way.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Barack Obama had a 4,800-vote advantage among early and absentee voters. But Election Day voters leaned the other way.

Over the past two decades, Pasco became known for two things: The election results came in the earliest of anywhere in Florida, and they almost invariably indicated the mood of voters beyond Pasco.

But John McCain's success here last week has shaken the county's reputation as a bellwether.

The results arrived first again Tuesday — but they were opposite the national and state results. Barack Obama solidly won Florida in securing the White House, but McCain carried Pasco by 7,700 votes.

No Democrats won county elections, either.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, had told recent campaign crowds that as Pasco went, so went the presidential election. He still clung to Pasco's bellwether status late on election night. But the more he thought about it, the veteran politician came to another conclusion.

"I don't think it is a bellwether anymore," Fasano said later in the week. "I think the county has changed to become a much more conservative county than it was."

Not everyone agrees — particularly local Democratic Party leaders, who say it takes more than one election to break the tradition. McCain's 51 percent support in Pasco was down from President Bush's 54 percent in 2004.

But Democrats' own planning suggests they recognize a shift has occurred. Pasco Democratic Party chairwoman Alison Morano, despite having maintained victory was possible, said state strategists had forecast that Obama would lose Pasco by 10 percentage points, almost triple the final margin.

Morano and other Democrats said they need to find and prepare better candidates. Most Democrats seeking county office faced fundraising shortfalls. Morano said the party should have promoted down-ballot candidates earlier — and held them more accountable.

"We may be a little tougher the next time around with a candidate, and letting them know what they need to do to win," Morano said.

Some had difficult personal holes to overcome, such as elections supervisor candidate Pat Carroll, who had not voted in several recent elections.

"Democrats did not do a great job of recruiting candidates. They didn't do a great job of providing alternatives," said County Commissioner Michael Cox, Pasco's most prominent elected Democrat.

Central Pasco came in big for McCain

The Republican Party organization remained more robust than Democrats', even in bad times.

Foreclosures have roiled the county. The Republican name is tattered nationally. Democrats ran a surprisingly vibrant effort locally to turn out early voters. But it gave Obama only a temporary cushion — and none at all for most local Democrats.

Obama had a 4,800-vote advantage among the early and absentee voters. But McCain picked up 12,500 more votes than Obama among those who came to the polls Tuesday.

The GOP turnout operation chugged, particularly in the newer suburbs of central Pasco. Unlike Democrats, the state and county Republican parties operated a busy campaign office in a Lutz strip center.

The heart of the county gave McCain almost 5,200 votes more than Obama — two-thirds of McCain's margin in Pasco.

Pasco GOP chairman Bill Bunting said Pasco remains a bellwether. It is in the Tampa Bay region, a swing area crucial to winning the state. The mix of transplants from the Midwest and Northeast make for a diverse mix of voters, he said.

In fact, Pasco mirrored the state in supporting the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Democrats didn't fare well in their lower-profile races elsewhere, either.

Democratic Party leaders expect to expand on tactics like encouraging early voting. Given that voters in a few central Pasco neighborhoods like Meadow Pointe went for Obama, Morano said Democrats can find success there.

Not that the GOP will cede any turf without a fight, especially with Gov. Charlie Crist's 2010 re-election campaign around the corner.

"If you look at the way Charlie Crist runs a campaign and the way John McCain ran the campaign, those are two different campaigns," Bunting said. "Charlie Crist is not going to let that happen."

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6232.

This election, Pasco's bellwether status didn't hold 11/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 10, 2008 1:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa police: 46 arrests, 47 ejections at two-day Sunset Music Festival

    Public Safety

    Times staff

    TAMPA — In a preliminary tally Monday morning, police declared there were "no major incidents" during the two-day Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium but boosted the number of arrests and rejections they provided in earlier reports during the weekend.

    A Tampa Fire Rescue all-terrain vehicle patrols the parking area north of Raymond James Stadum on Sunday, day two of the Sunset Music Festival. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]

  2. Trump to speak at Arlington cemetery on Memorial Day

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is preparing his first Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wave as they board Air Force One at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Saturda, in Sigonella, Italy. [AP photo]
  3. Two in serious condition after early-morning shooting in Tampa

    Crime

    Two people are in serious condition after a shooting occurred early Monday morning in Tampa, according to the Tampa Police Department.

  4. Wrong-way driver on Courtney Campbell Causeway intercepted by police, faces DUI charge

    Public Safety

    A woman driving in the wrong direction on the Courtney Campbell Causeway early Monday morning was intercepted by Tampa Police officers and faces a DUI charge.

  5. Relative 'devastated' after shooting kills 8 in Mississippi

    Nation

    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — Head in hands, his voice strained, Vincent Mitchell sat outside his little yellow home and tried to make sense of how a family dispute led to a rampage that killed eight people, including the deputy who tried to keep them safe.

    Christianna May-Kelly, center, is supported by family members as she cries after answering reporters questions outside her parents' home in Brookhaven, Miss., Sunday. May-Kelly said her parents and mother were among the people gunned down during a shooting in rural Mississippi Saturday night. [AP photo]