Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Strong turnout for Barack Obama tilts Florida his way

Hundreds of voters wait in long lines to cast their ballots on Tuesday in Miami. Some were still waiting at 1 a.m. Wednesday even after Obama had already won the election.

El Nuevo Herald

Hundreds of voters wait in long lines to cast their ballots on Tuesday in Miami. Some were still waiting at 1 a.m. Wednesday even after Obama had already won the election.

The optimism among Mitt Romney's Florida campaign team was clear on Twitter throughout Election Day:

10:05 a.m., senior Romney adviser Brett Doster: "53% of Clay County already voted by 9:45 a.m. Huge NE FL turnout projected. Great news for @mittromney."

10:58 a.m., Doster again: "2 to 3 hour waits currently in Republican heavy Kendall Precincts in Miami-Dade."

1:29 p.m., Romney adviser Alberto Martinez: "Bellwether precinct in Coral Gables projecting 90% GOP turnout."

5:45 p.m., Attorney General Pam Bondi crowed: "Big lines at Fish Hawk, which houses one of the largest GOP precincts in the country."

6:55 p.m., former Gov. Jeb Bush chimed in: "Great numbers in Pasco and Volusia counties in fl for Romney. I predict he wins!"

When most state polls closed at 7 p.m. and early results started streaming in, the tweets from team Romney ceased almost entirely. The numbers pointed to another Florida photo finish: Barack Obama narrowly behind Romney in the onetime conservative stronghold of Duval County; the president comfortably leading in Hillsborough, the state's best bellwether; overall, Romney behind.

Florida is still counting votes, but in the end Obama probably will again win Florida, though his slim 237,000-vote margin in 2008 will be even slimmer, around 50,000 votes.

As exhausted campaign operatives on both sides are preparing to pack up and finally sleep, Republicans find themselves having to acknowledge at least one decisive factor: The hype about Obama's vaunted get-out-the-vote machine was on the mark.

The campaign methodically built an enormous, data- and volunteer-driven ground game aimed at registering as many new voters as possible, navigating new registration restrictions and turning voters out to the polls early. And then it worked to ensure first-time and sporadic voters actually turned out.

By Election Day, nearly 800 full-time Obama staffers were on the ground in Florida, helping tens of thousands of volunteers turn out neighbors, friends and strangers.

Much less so than in 2008, when Obama was a fresh-faced outsider and much of the country was disenchanted after eight years of George W. Bush, Obama this year had to rely heavily on the Democratic base in Florida rather than the moderate middle.

Exit polls in 2008 showed Obama won independent voters in Florida by 7 percentage points, while this year Romney won them by 1 point. The results in Sarasota County, a bastion of moderate Republicans, highlight Obama's challenge better than anywhere: In 2008, Obama lost Sarasota by about 200 votes; on Tuesday, he lost Sarasota by more than 15,000 votes.

While many pundits long ago saw Florida as likely Romney country — after all, Democrats were virtually extinct in Tallahassee after 2010 — the Obama campaign focused on demographics. A steadily growing Hispanic population is changing basic assumptions about the political map in Florida.

"They saw very early that was going to be a critical vote in Florida," state Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith said of the Obama campaign's focus on Hispanic voters, as well as the party's targeting of Puerto Rican voters in the Orlando area.

Four years ago, exit polls showed that Hispanics accounted for 14 percent of the Florida electorate, and Obama won those voters by 15 percentage points. This year, the exit polls showed Hispanics make up 16 percent of the Florida electorate and Obama won by 22 percentage points.

"The grass roots organization is the first piece, and the second piece is the changing demographics of Florida," said Ashley Walker, Florida director of the Obama campaign, and after Tuesday likely the pre-eminent Democratic operative in Florida. "The electorate is much more diverse than folks realize and those trends favor Democrats."

In a race won by razor-thin margins, nowhere mattered more than Miami-Dade, where Obama managed to increase his eye-popping 140,000-vote victory margin in 2008 to an uprecedented 204,000-vote margin this year. Miami-Dade by itself essentially delivered Florida to Obama.

Miami-Dade was also ground zero for messy voting, with voters casting votes at 1 a.m. Wednesday when the presidency had already been decided. Some waited more than six hours to cast ballots.

"I told them, 'Thank Rick Scott for the line today,' " said former state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who worked those long lines repeatedly up to Election Day, reminding voters that Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature cut back early voting days.

"Obama won the most where the lines were the longest," Gelber said. "It was hubris and overreaching by the Republicans, who may learn a lesson that 'Maybe we shouldn't abuse our prisoners that much because sometimes they'll get back at you.' "

Romney's team ran a far more aggressive get-out-the-vote-operation in Florida this year than John McCain did four years ago. That showed especially in southwest Florida counties like Lee, where his victory margin was more than 16,000 more than McCain's and about 13,000 more in Collier County.

Ultimately, those improvements could not compensate for Obama's strong performances in counties including Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Orange and Broward.

Contact Adam C. Smith at

Florida vote count inching along but not finished: Elections officials were still counting absentee ballots in seven counties Wednesday night with the fate of the state's 29 electoral votes undecided. President Barack Obama holds a 50,000-vote edge over Mitt Romney out of more than 8.2 million votes. County-by-county results tell much of the story of why the contest is so close.

1. Romney's Panhandle victories didn't matter.

His total vote margin of victory in these 10 counties was not enough to make up for larger urban counties in the south that Obama won

2. Romney barely took the I-4 corridor.

Overall, Obama lost this coveted group of swing counties.

3. Only two counties flipped.

In 2008, Flagler and Volusia went for Obama by 775 and 13,857 votes, respectively. Both flipped to Romney by about 3,000 votes each.

4. Obama's prize: Miami-Dade.

Obama got 203,947 more votes here than Romney, a huge victory that put him on top in Florida.

Live map: Click here to view an interactive county-by-county map of Florida's election results.

Strong turnout for Barack Obama tilts Florida his way 11/07/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 8, 2012 11:01am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Putin visits France, hopes to mend strained ties with West


    VERSAILLES, France — On a visit likely to shape Russia-France ties for years, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles on Monday for what the newly-elected French leader said would be "demanding" talks on Syria, the Ukrainian crisis and other …

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France, Monday. Monday's meeting comes in the wake of the Group of Seven's summit over the weekend where relations with Russia were part of the agenda, making Macron the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the talks. [AP photo]
  2. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside


    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)
  3. Clearwater man dies after diving from boat into shallow waters

    Public Safety

    A 49-year-old man died after he jumped off a pontoon boat into shallow waters Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico.

  4. Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise

    Food & Dining

    Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the cinema is precisely what it was a generation …

    The Features Gastropub is located inside the Riverview 14 GDX theater in Gibsonton, Fla. on Thursday, May 25, 2017.   The 5,900-square-foot Features Gastropub open in the . This element of the project is the brainchild of Philadelphia chef Brian Duffy, who appears frequently on NBC's The Today Show and the Spike TV show Bar Rescue
  5. JFK's last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht


    It has been 100 years since John F. Kennedy's birth on May 29, 1917, at his parents' home in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston. Over the course of his life, Kennedy enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, the most famous being a Democratic fundraising bash at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, when a sequined …

    President John F. Kennedy aboard the Sequoia in 1963 opening birthday presents. [Robert Knudsen | John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum]