Election Over, Florida Still Counting

Photograph by J. Pat Carter/AP Photo

Voters stand in line at a Fort Myers, Fla. church late Nov. 6, 2012.

Updated at 2:55 pm EST

(Still waiting)

It’s you know what all over again — with the elections supervisor in Miami-Dade County still counting presidential election ballots.

Except this time, unlike in 2000, the White House does not hang in the balance.

This time, Miami-Dade’s ballots are likely to ratify President Barack Obama’s second win in the biggest of all swing states, Florida.

With more than 8 million ballots counted statewide, Obama held a 49.85 percent to 49.29 percent advantage over Republican Mitt Romney in the fourth largest state this morning. That was a difference of 47,095 votes.

It’s not 537, the disputed margin of victory by which former President George W. Bush won Florida. Yet it’s a reflection of how hard-fought was the state in which Obama opened more than 100 field offices to push supporters to the polls — a state with a Republican governor, Rick Scott, one Republican senator, Marco Rubio, and a senior Democratic senator, Bill Nelson, re-elected yesterday.

Obama’s advantage in Miami-Dade, the biggest since Lyndon Johnson’s in 1964, was 61.9 percent to 37.7 percent at last count of the state elections division. The 521,000 votes he won there surpasses the 500,000 he secured in 2008, and the 318,000 votes that Romney won there fell short of Republican Senator John McCain’s total in 2008 — 361,000.

The county is largely Democratic, though its politics have been dominated by Cuban-American politics. The younger generation of Cuban-Americans has been more open to Democrats in recent elections, including Obama — they elected a Democrat, Miami’s Joe Garcia, to Congress this week, ousting Republican David Rivera.

Still, Obama’s apparent Florida win — expect a call sometime today — will not be secured only in Miami.

Obama won in the swing-voting Interstate-4 corridor: In Orlando’s Orange County, which the president won big in 2008, he won big again this year — by 59-41 percent. In Tampa’s Hillsborough County, which has voted the way Florida has in every presidential election since the 1960s, Obama won by 53-46 percent this year.

Obama widened margins in Disney World’s Osceola, where nearly half the population is Hispanic, and the Panhandle’s Gadsden, where more than half the population is black. (Gadsden was the only one of Florida’s 67 counties that supported Jimmy Carter for reelection in 1984.)

Why do you think Romney was campaigning in Osceola’s Kissimmee last week?  (with the emphasis on “sim”)

Yet the narrowness of his apparent Florida win this year — compared with a 2.8 percent edge in 2008 — has a lot to do with his enhanced strength in Miami. Obama won Miami in 2008 by 139,300 votes. This time, he did it by 204,000 — the difference of 64,700 more than his entire statewide margin.

He under-performed elsewhere: The president won 13 counties in Florida, down from 15 four years ago. Volusia and Flagler, two Atlantic coast counties between Jacksonville and Cape Canaveral,  flipped back to the Republican column this year. (Obama darn near lost Monroe County, home of the Florida Keys). Among those 13 counties, Obama won with smaller margins in all but three. His margins in Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, Hillsborough and Pinellas — the five counties with the most voters after Miami — each shrunk compared with four years ago. He won a total of 58,800 fewer votes in those five.

Romney saw a huge turnout in Lee and Collier counties, home to Fort Myers and Naples on the Southwest Gulf Coast, with a total margin of 177,900 votes. That’s nearly triple McCain’s 2008 victory margin in the two Gulf Coast neighbors.

And the turnout in Miami was big. People were still voting in Miami-Dade after midnight, with hours-long lines at some polling places. This morning, according to the Miami Herald, the county elections office has 20,000 absentee ballots left to count.

These alone could not affect the outcome of the vote statewide, with the state reporting a 100 percent count of precincts statewide, leaving Florida last-in this morning with a vote that won’t prove as historic as 2000.

Still, the final piece of a broad but narrow victory for Obama across most of the swing states that he won in 2008 — clinching eight of the nine that were heavily contested this year, all but North Carolina — rests in Florida’s hands today.

Bloomberg’s Michael C. Bender contributed from Tallahassee. 

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