Sean Phillippi: Florida Democrats have one job

Donkey head close-up taken by downside
That one job is voter registration.

Democrats in Florida haven’t won an election for Governor, President, or U.S. Senator since 2012.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into this state in the last four elections cycles with nothing to show for it in those races, and Democratic donors are understandably frustrated to the point of starting to seriously think about writing Florida off as a lost cause.

Florida is not a lost cause for Democrats. However, if the status quo is maintained then donors will just be continuing to waste their money if they fund the typical way of doing business that has lost every one of the most significant elections for Democrats going back almost a decade.

Florida Democrats are in such bad shape that it would be wise to expect to get swept in every statewide election in 2022. Democrats have always held on to at least one statewide office since Republicans took control of Florida back in the 1990s, but that streak will come to an end next year. Statewide Democratic candidates should still look to maximize their vote total. But if they focus only on themselves, we will not only get swept next year, but Democrats will have no hope of being competitive anytime in the near future.

Democrats have only one real job in the next year that can build the foundation upon which future victories can be achieved, and that one job is voter registration.

Democrats had an advantage over Republicans when it came to the number of registered voters in Florida for the entire recorded history of this state, but they were overtaken by Republicans within the last month.

A simple regression analysis of the last seven gubernatorial and presidential elections in Florida (2008-2020) shows that the voter registration advantage is a good predictor of who wins those elections. It shows that if there are the same number of registered Democrats as registered Republicans in Florida, Republicans would win either the presidential or gubernatorial election in Florida by more than 375,000 votes.

That analysis assumes a neutral political environment, and 2022 won’t be that.

A state legislator texted me this week that President Joe Biden is killing Democrats in Florida when it comes to the elections next year. I responded that he can’t kill something that is already dead. The hole Florida Democrats are in is too deep, and the headwinds too strong, to have any hopes of salvaging any of the statewide races next year. Millions of dollars, and probably low eight figures, need to be invested in voter registration in order for Democrats to be competitive in Florida statewide beyond 2022. Progressive organizations are supposedly working on voter registration, but the numbers show that their impact has been anemic.

Michael Bloomberg threw away, I mean invested, $100 million last year on television and digital ads. If only a portion of that money had been spent on voter registration, then Democrats would be in much better shape than they currently find themselves. Having disparate organizations all try their best to register voters with their limited resources is not working and will not work.

There needs to be one coordinated effort with metrics, goals, and an approach that is based on scientific thinking. I know this may be asking too much of Democrats, but it is what is desperately needed. Without it, any money spent on the campaigns of a statewide Democrat next year will be set on fire.

The last entity to do a successful voter registration drive on a large scale for Democrats was Barack Obama‘s campaigns. Rep. Val Demings‘ campaign for U.S. Senate is likely to be the most well-funded campaign in Florida next year, and while a voter registration campaign on the scale that is needed shouldn’t be the job of her campaign there isn’t currently an entity better suited to do what needs to be done. Will she beat Sen. Marco Rubio if she does it? Most likely not, but nothing else she can spend money on will help her chances more. Additionally, thinking both more globally and long-term might make her the Florida version of Stacey Abrams and set her up for the next act of her political career.

The old Will Rogers quote about not belonging to any organized political party because he is a Democrat rings too true for Democrats here in Florida.

Should Rep. Demings decide that a massive voter registration effort isn’t the best use of her campaign resources, and no other apparatus that can do voter registration on a large scale rises up to meet this monumental challenge, then Florida Democrats will continue to wander in the wilderness for many years to come.

Georgia and Arizona are proof that Florida is not a lost cause yet. It will become a lost cause for Democrats statewide unless someone who isn’t one of the usual suspects rises up and meets the obvious need that has been neglected for so long.


Sean Phillippi is a data scientist, pollster, and Democratic campaign consultant based in Broward County. He is the Managing Member of TLE Analytics LLC, the political data and consulting firm he founded in 2012.

Guest Author


  • Impeach Biden

    November 18, 2021 at 11:45 am

    Two million coming across the Southern Border. Give them their 450k and a registration card.

    • Evan

      November 18, 2021 at 12:12 pm

      That is called shoring up the liberal voting base.

      • zhombre

        November 18, 2021 at 12:47 pm

        Undocumented immigrants = unregistered Democrat voters

  • Ron Ogden

    November 18, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    Meanwhile, the tide flows the other way. You would think with D’s throwing money at people literally buying their votes with pork barrel road projects, day care nannies and free money for border jumpers the registration advantage would be theirs. But that is old style politics back when operators like Biden and Pelosi thought that once you bought a vote it stayed bought. No more.

  • Edward Freeman

    November 19, 2021 at 2:30 am

    Certainly, more voter registration would help, but I disagree that this is the primary problem for Democrats. I am a white male, in my 50, born and raised in the Panhandle, and a life-long Republican. However, since 2016 I have not voted for any Republican. I was hoping with Trump gone, sanity would return to my party. No such luck. Gov. DeSantis has been swilling the Trump Koolaid like a sailor on shore leave. The crazy is multiplying exponentially in my party. I am not alone. Many of Florida’s counties moved toward the Democrats in 2020 compared to 2016. If you separate the thinking Republicans – military officers, educated retirees, and many business people – from the wingnuts – white rednecks without a college degree a schism really is obvious. All of Florida’s counties with a significant military presence moved toward the Democrats to some degree. Without exception the higher the percentage of military personnel in a county the further it moved towards the Democrats. Also, the counties with more educated and wealthy retirees; Sarasota, Collier, Pinellas, Martin, etc mostly moved toward the Democrats. The problem for the Democrats in 2020 was Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County. The basis of that vote shift was that the Trump syndicate was allowed to blatantly lie to Hispanic voters. Those lies weren’t even countered by the Democrats. The Hispanic vote in Miami-Dade lost the entire ball game for Democrats in Florida in 2020. That is where hard work is needed.

    • Captain Howdy

      November 19, 2021 at 6:56 am

      So, for you high class Republicans, the problem is all those stupid white trash and dumb Hispanics getting out of line. Those people got to know their place, right?

    • Ron Ogden

      November 19, 2021 at 4:06 pm

      So you have not voted Republican in five years. Therefore, you are not a “lifelong Republican”. You are a fair weather Republican, the kind who motors into hiding in the boathouse when the waves get a little steep. As do many Dems, you love to strike a difference between those you term “educated” (who I assume includes you) and those “without a college degree” whom you derisively term “rednecks”. Well, try this moniker on for size: “Americans, just like me” because all these poor uneducated folk you look down on are indeed Americans, just like you, and each one of their votes counts just as much as your does. My word, it’s “equality”! Right now, for a lot of reasons, there are more of them in the Republican Party than their are of you, so you fled. Why not go to your local Republican organization and humbly engage these folks in debate. Who knows, you might teach them something. But no, you won’t, and you know why? Because you might LEARN something, and then you will realize you were not so “educated” as you thought. Your ego would never stand it. By the way, Pinellas Republicans today exceeded the Democrats in registration for the first time in YEARS.

Comments are closed.


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