Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Politics

Romano: The odd quality that separates Tampa Bay from most of America

We are divided, you and me.

For that matter, so are you and a neighbor. You and a co-worker. Maybe even you and a family member.

We, as a community in Tampa Bay, are about as divided as it gets in America.

And that's not a bad thing. You might even say it's worth celebrating.

I started thinking about this when I saw a headline on analyst Nate Silver's website fivethirtyeight.com the other day. It declared, "Purple America Has All But Disappeared.''

The point was that, more and more, Americans are migrating to communities with like-minded people. Democrats move to blue communities, and Republicans look for red communities. Apparently, purple is passé.

The 2016 presidential election may have been close on a national scale, but it was a runaway in more than 90 percent of the nation's counties. Individual communities either went large for Donald Trump, or they went large for Hillary Clinton. There was very little in between.

Except here.

Of the 50 counties that had the most voters at the polls in November, Pinellas had the closest election results in America. It was 48.6 percent for Trump and 47.5 for Clinton. That's a 1.1 percent swing. Hillsborough County was 51.5 for Clinton and 44.7 for Trump, a 6.8 percent swing.

That means the Tampa Bay area had two of the six closest results among the nation's larger counties.

While residents in Chicago's Cook County (swing of 53 points), New York County (77.2 points), Philadelphia County (66.9 points) and Seattle's King County (50.4 points) are apparently on the same page politically, folks around here don't mind living next door to a commie. Or a fascist.

Clearly, I'm kidding. But only just a little.

Tampa Bay is an outlier in an increasingly polarized nation. It's apparent even in nearby communities. The Villages in Sumter County has become a haven for conservative retirees, and South Florida is like liberal catnip. So what makes Tampa Bay so different?

University of South Florida political scientist Dr. Susan MacManus, who has been working on a book examining voting habits along the Interstate 4 corridor, says Hills- borough is a perfect microcosm of America because it includes all three popular voting groups. Not Republican, Democrat and independent, but rural, suburban and urban.

And while voter registration statistics in Pinellas and Hillsborough show mostly similar trends for Republicans and Democrats during the past 20 years, independent and minor-party voters have exploded in both counties. They've nearly doubled in Pinellas and have more than tripled in Hillsborough.

"Is this a good thing for the community? I guess that's in the eye of the beholder,'' MacManus said. "It makes it easier to draw different businesses and economic opportunity because businesses like the idea of diversity. But it makes it more difficult to govern because it's harder to come to a consensus.''

The fivethirtyeight.com story pointed out that this extreme separation of blue and red voters is a fairly recent phenomenon. In 1992, the number of U.S. counties that had a separation of 50 points or more in the presidential election was 93. In the November election, that number was up to 1,196 counties.

Apparently, that makes us an outlier. An oddity. A rare oasis where Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, soccer moms and urban hipsters choose to coexist.

I suppose that leaves just one thing to say:

Howdy neighbor!

Comments
Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

This has to be height of bureaucratic pettiness, especially for a city whose track record in promoting quality public art falls somewhere between stick figures and finger puppets.Richard Gonzmart is a community treasure. As the force behind a number ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Two things you need to know about Florida’s prison budget:1. It was $2.3 billion this year.2. It was still not enough.Kind of staggering when you think of it that way, huh?We keep spending more and more on housing prisoners, and it’s like throwing mo...
Published: 09/18/18
Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said Monday he was willing to speak to a Senate panel to "refute" an allegation he sexually assaulted a woman while in high school, after his accuser said via her attorney that she was ready to testi...
Published: 09/17/18
California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in subu...
Published: 09/16/18
Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. embassy in Havana suspended processing requests from people hoping to leave the island nation as refugees. The reason: Staffing was reduced to a skeleton crew in the wake of mysterious health attacks on em...
Published: 09/17/18
Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

His time in Tallahassee is coming to an end. Eight years of triumph or shambles, depending on your point of view. And yet, Rick Scott’s legacy may not be written until his final minute as governor.For several years, Scott has been plotting a judicial...
Published: 09/15/18
Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

WASHINGTON D.C.? — Back when their relationship was fresh and new, and President Donald Trump still called his defense secretary "Mad Dog" a nickname Jim Mattis detests ? the wiry retired Marine general often took a dinner break to eat burgers with h...
Published: 09/15/18
Carlton: The mayor, the restaurateur and the giant statue that had to go: A Tampa tale

Carlton: The mayor, the restaurateur and the giant statue that had to go: A Tampa tale

You would have thought the controversy over whether chickens should be left alone to keep boldly roaming the streets of historic Ybor City — and the impressive pro-chicken lobby that showed up to argue on their behalf — would be the quintessential on...
Published: 09/15/18

5 takeaways from Paul Manafort’s plea agreement

Five takeawaysWASHINGTON — Paul Manafort’s agreement to plead guilty and cooperate with the special counsel marks a milestone in the investigation led by Robert Mueller. Here are several key elements:Mueller knows more than we doThe public doesn’t kn...
Published: 09/14/18
Clearwater voter forums will discuss referendum on strong mayor charter change

Clearwater voter forums will discuss referendum on strong mayor charter change

CLEARWATER — Residents can hear varying perspectives on the Nov. 6 referendum on whether to change Clearwater’s form of government into a strong mayor system at two upcoming forums.The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce will host a forum Monday ...
Published: 09/13/18