Here's another sign that Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist is a real Florida Democrat: conservative North Florida Dixiecrats aren't crazy about him.
Had it not been for the rural counties, Crist's 74-26 percent statewide win over longtime Democrat Nan Rich would have been bigger. It's not as if the conservatives up north loved what the liberal from down south stood for -- they just don't like the frontrunner, even a fellow Southerner.
Look at what happened in the 2010 Democratic governor’s race: then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink ran against a complete unknown named Brian P. Moore, who earned 23 percent of the vote – only 3 percentage points more than Rich four years later -- thanks in great part to strong North Florida support.
The nearly identical margin and results in rural districts between the 2010 and 2014 Democratic primary races stand out all the more because Moore had no campaign and Sink had a Southern twang, a 67-county strategy and benefitted from the vicious Republican primary between Scott and Bill McCollum, which left her untouched.
In contrast, Crist has sustained far heavier blows than Sink did in her primary. Scott has spent at least $10 million attacking him, along with two outside political committees and Rich herself – who spent 78 times more money than Moore did in 2010.
Negative campaigning, which studies show depresses voter turnout, could be a contributing factor in the lower Democratic turnout in 2014 than 2010.
Of nearly 4.6 million registered Democrats, ballots were cast by only 838,000. That’s just 3,300 more than Scott’s total vote. In all, more than 925,000 GOP ballots were cast ballots of the 4.1 million registered Republicans.
The higher GOP turnout could partly be explained by other races that excited Republican voters, from the Congressional District 26 race in Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys to the state House District 15 race in the Jacksonville area.
“People vote if an election is interesting,” said Michael P. McDonald, a nationwide voting expert and political science professor at University of Florida.
“Lacking competitive statewide primaries, turnout was driven by the handful of interesting down ballot races.”
Here are the counties where Crist's support exceeded his statewide victory-margin of 49 percent:
Here are the counties where Crist's victory margin was 10 percent or less: