History Of Florida Nominating Primary
The Florida Presidential primary has a long history.
In 2008, it is a big contest for Republicans with all the major candidates in the mix for the first time in the nominating season. For Democrats, a silly dispute over the timing of the vote means there will be no meaningful Democratic primary competition in the fourth-largest state.
Here is the U.S Census Florida quick facts page. Just over 18 million people live in Florida.
The first contested Florida primary took place way back in 1932. This before primaries had the decisive role they have today in selecting nominees. In 1932 Governor Franklin Roosevelt of New York won 88% of the vote against Governor William H. (Alfalfa Bill ) Murray of Oklahoma. (Photo Below)
Governor Murray was just the piece of work he appears to be in the photo.
The next contested Florida primary was in 1952. This was again on the Democratic side.
Senator Richard Russell of Georgia won 55% of the vote against Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. Neither of these men would win the nomination. The honor of losing to General Eisenhower would go to Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois with Mr. Kefauver as his running mate.
Richard Russell (photo below) is seen by some as a “Giant of the Senate.” What he really was though was a segregationist who held up progress and freedom for millions of Americans.
In 1956, Mr. Stevenson contested Florida and beat Mr. Kefauver 52-48.
In 1960, “favorite son” candidate Senator George Smathers was the only name on the Democratic Florida ballot. A “favorite son” candidate is one favored almost exclusively in his or her own state. That candidate will then often have a great say in how that state’s delegates will vote at the convention. In 1960, Florida’s first-ballot delegates went to Smathers’ fellow Southerner Lyndon Johnson of Texas.
The Florida Republican primary was the one of greater interest in 1964. Here a slate of uncommitted delegates won 58% of the vote against Barry Goldwater. That suggests that even as late as May 26, when the primary was held, Florida Republicans were not yet sold on Mr. Goldwater. No doubt many Florida Republicans were ex-New Yorkers who did not flock to Mr. Goldwater. ( Ex-New Yorkers are part of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 strategy in Florida.)
Also interesting in 1964 was the respective vote totals in the two party primaries. An unchallenged Lyndon Johnson won 393,339 votes.The Republican primary drew 100,704 votes. This long-standing Democratic partisan advantage would not last.
Another thing that would change was the date of the primary. The Florida primary had always been held late in the process and did not much effect the outcome. For 1972, just at the time when primaries began to take a larger role in the nominating process, Florida moved the primary up to March 14. This made it the second primary—One week after New Hampshire.
The primary has kept an early date ever since.
This change did not change the party. The segregationist wing of the Democratic party took the day as George Wallace of Alabama won the ’72 primary with 42%. (Wallace is shown here with James Webb of NASA –center–and Wernher Von Braun hugging the rocket. No matter how much Southerners say they hate the federal government, they are always willing to take the federal money)
However, by 1976 things had changed for the better. (Putting aside the national regression of Reagan 80’s and beyond.) Jimmy Carter beat Governor Wallace 35% 31% in Florida. This marked a New South and a switch in control of the Democratic Party.
In the legendary Ronald Reagan–Gerald Ford (photo of Ford below) race of 1976, President Ford won Florida 53-47%. The “Reagan South” would arrive a few years later. Governor Reagan beat the first George Bush 56-30 in the 1980 primary.
After 1980, the Florida primary became part of the Super Tuesday and large Southern regional primaries and did little to alter the outcome of the nominating races.
2000 was the first time there were more Republican voters in a Florida Presidential primary than Democratic voters. Though Republicans had been doing quite well in Florida long before this point.
John Kerry was the easy 2004 Florida Democratic winner. The Republicans did not bother with a primary in an uncontested race.
Below is a Florida Scrub Jay. This bird is found only in Florida.
Texas Liberal is going to be your leading source for political history blogging in 2008. Please click here for a history of the South Carolina primary. Please click here for a variety of political history posts on this blog.