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The State We're In connects with people in Central Florida and the greater Tampa Bay region about issues that matter to you. From the coronavirus to special coverage of politics along the I-4 corridor, it’s a chance to hear your neighbors, and better understand their experience.The State We’re In is a collaboration of WUSF Public Media in Tampa and 90.7 WMFE in Orlando and is part of America Amplified, a national community engagement and reporting initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.[Join Us On Facebook]

Is Florida Even A Swing State Anymore?

Map of the counties won by President Trump and Joe Biden
Map of the counties won by President Trump and Joe Biden

President Trump took Florida by a much bigger margin Tuesday than he did in 2016. And he might have done this by peeling away Hispanic voters, scaring many from Joe Biden by associating him with socialists from countries they fled.

President Donald Trump took Florida by 375,000 votes over former Vice President Joe Biden in Tuesday's 2020 general election.

This win for Trump included 55 of Florida’s 67 counties. WUSF political reporter Steve Newborn and the News Service of Florida point to some key reasons why the Sunshine State's political psyche is shifting.

Florida looks like it's getting redder.

Trump’s final tally in Florida was higher than he received four years ago. A large part of that improvement can be attributed to Miami-Dade, where Biden topped Trump by 84,792 votes, unofficial results show. That was down from Hillary Clinton’s 290,147-vote margin in Miami-Dade in 2016.

Though Biden topped Trump in Duval County, the rest of Northeast Florida went to Trump by large margins. For example, Trump won by about 130,000 votes in Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties, the four counties that surround Duval.

The picture was similar in the Panhandle. Trump won by a margin of about 184,000 votes in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Bay counties --- roughly the area stretching from Pensacola to Panama City.

North of Tampa, meanwhile, Trump won by a combined 131,632 votes in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

And in Sumter County, where Trump campaigned in the massive Villages retirement community, turnout was nearly 88 percent, and the Republican won by a margin of 33,427 votes, according to the unofficial results. The results were similar in neighboring Marion and Lake counties, where Trump won by a combined total of 95,356 votes.

Don’t think of the Hispanic vote as a bloc.

Newborn said If you look at a map of the Democratic vote margin change this year from four years ago, there's a big red blob in Miami-Dade, where Democrats got 200,000 fewer votes than they did in 2016.

Trump targeted the Hispanic population in South Florida, and there was a massive social media disinformation campaign there trying to link Biden to socialist regimes in countries like Venezuela. While Biden is far to the right of some of the other Democratic presidential candidates, Republicans might have been successful tarring him with that “socialist” brush.

Another example: Osceola County, with its large population of Puerto Ricans who moved there in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Democrats netted 11,000 fewer votes in Osceola this time around than in 2016, Newborn said.

The I-4 corridor highlights the growing distance between urban and rural voters.

The area between Volusia County to the east and all the way west to Pinellas County is usually a harbinger of how the state and nation vote in presidential elections. The I-4 Corridor may no longer be the swing part of the swing state anymore, Newborn said.

Most of the most populous counties went blue: Hillsborough, Osceola, Orange, and surprisingly, Pinellas, which went for Trump in 2016. Unofficial results show Biden leading there by about 1,000 votes.

But if you look at the margins around the I-4 region, it's all Trump territory. Starting at Manatee and Sarasota going south into Collier and Lee counties and from Pasco Counties to the north. He picked up significant margins from 2016 in many of those counties.

This also highlights the political differences between Florida’s largest counties and the rest of the state.

Biden won in Democrat-heavy Broward and Palm Beach counties, but he also won by larger margins than Clinton did in Orange and Hillsborough counties. And Duval, Pinellas and Seminole all flipped to Biden, compared to 2016.

Overall, Trump was losing in only one rural county --- Gadsden, west of Tallahassee, unofficial results show. And he did poorly north of Orlando, winning in just four counties: Alachua, Duval, Gadsden and Leon.

One last note: the polls do not translate to votes.

At one point in time this summer, Biden was leading in the polls by 13%, and pretty much a lead throughout the campaign.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
I’m the lucky one who guides the WUSF News team as it shares news from across Florida and the 13 amazing counties that we call the greater Tampa Bay region.
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