On the evening before the 2014 Florida Primaries, I posted an article making the argument that Nan Rich, a south Florida lawmaker challenging Charlie Crist in the Democratic Primary for Governor, would do better in the conservative panhandle than in the urban liberal centers. I highly encourage you to read the article before continuing here. Sure enough, as the results trickled in on primary night, this prediction came true. While Charlie Crist won 75% of the statewide vote, his weakest performances were in the conservative counties of North Florida and the rural farmlands of the south.
Following the results, there was a degree of surprise in the results by some, not as much by others. The Florida Press quickly noted the 2010 Moore v Sink primary as a comparison (Nelson v Burkette got glossed over). It served as a confirmation that Crist was seen as a true Democrat. In other words, Crist had little cross-over with conservatives despite is Republican years.
I decided to examine the results further; specifically in North Florida. I gathered the precinct results in the counties that gave Nan Rich high shares of the vote. Precinct results were not available in every county as of the Friday after the election, but a vast majority of the panhandle precincts were. I decided focus in on the panhandle counties. This included the rural counties that gave strong support to Rich and also included Democrat-friendly Leon, Gadsden, and Jefferson counties; which heavily backed Crist.
The map shows large numbers of precincts backed Nan Rich in the rural areas outside Tallahassee. However, urban Leon county, and African-American influenced Gadsden, Jefferson, and Madison, all backed Crist by strong margins. Indeed areas where African-Americans make up a significant portion of the electorate voted much stronger for Crist. Examining the precincts mapped, Crist’s margin grew as African-American % of the voters grew.
It must be noted these African-American %s are of the total voting population, not the those who cast a ballot in the democratic primary this year. That data is not available yet.
Crist’s strength with the African-American community can be seen not just in the panhandle, but in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties as well. Crist often performed strongest in African-American precincts in both the panhandle and southeast Florida. Crist’s strength with the African-American community is a good sign, especially considering Crist was subject to third-party attacks that tried to weaken his standing with the community.
It was my belief looking at the county results that it was the southern democrats who gave Rich so much support. With precinct results becoming available, the opportunity to confirm this belief presented itself. I decided to look at the results in the precincts that had a Democratic registration advantage in 2012, but voted for Mitt Romney.
The shift in support is striking. Rich lost with 25% statewide. However, in these precincts she got 45%. For these precincts to vote Romney, they would have to see democratic defections of some degree unless independents in the region broke heavily for Romney; especially considering most of these precincts were over 50% democratic in registration. This meant the Democratic primary voters here were much more conservative than statewide.
I decided to narrow the results further to really find the true southern/dixiecrat areas. I focused on precincts with a democratic registration advantage and where Obama got LESS than 30% of the vote. Precincts where Democratic defections would have to be large.
And what do you know, Nan Rich wins these true dixiecrat precincts with 51% of the vote. These precincts have Democrats who have long left the Democratic party except at the local level. They will vote for Scott in November and their vote for Rich is entirely a protest.
I narrowed the search one step further. I selected precincts that were over 50% Democratic in registration and gave Obama less than 20% of the vote. These represent the ultimate dixiecrat precincts. Over half the electorate is Democratic, but Obama gets less than 20%. This would mean more than half the Democrats in these precincts would have backed Romney in 2012.
Among these “uber” Dixiecrat precincts, Nan improved her standing to 52%.
Overall, among the panhandle precincts, Nan’s % increases showed a strong negative correlation with Obama’s 2012 %. The stronger Nan did against Crist, the worse Obama performed in 2012.
The data makes the irrefutable case; dixiecrats are what fueled Nan Rich’s wins in the panhandle. Rich won in regions where the Democrats vote Republican on nearly their entire ballot. In fact, a good chunk of these democrats didn’t even bother to cast a ballot for the Gubernatorial primary, instead coming out to vote for local offices. I looked at the under-vote (% of democrats who left the governors race blank when they voted) in 30 counties of Florida. Under-vote data is not yet available in all counties. In the available counties, as the under-vote grew, Nan Rich’s % of the vote increased.
Nan Rich ran a campaign to be the liberal alternative to Charlie Crist. She touted her liberal views and years fighting for liberal causes. However, the voters who would provide Rich with her biggest base of support were the very voters who wouldn’t ever vote for her in the general election. Rich gave the dixiecrats of Florida an opportunity to lodge their protest vote. The Nan Rich primary does serve an important purpose for the Crist campaign. It tells the campaign exactly which pockets of North Florida Charlie Crist is strong and weak in. Crist can still eak out wins in rural counties like Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, or Jackson. However,regions where Rich ran strong are not in play for the former Governor in the fall.