As you might remember from my last blog post, I just completed my teaching practicum at the Berufsbildungszentrum in Schleswig in northern Germany. During this practicum my group of 12th graders in our English course researched the importance of archetypal swing states for this year’s election and what campaign issues could possibly influence people’s voting behavior in these states (among other things).
The group focusing on Florida came up with some general questions about the state, but what they were really interested in was to get a personal evaluation of the situation in Florida from someone who is familiar with that context. This was the perfect occasion to connect them with our U.S. election expert for the state of Florida, Christina Sickinger, who kindly agreed to give our students an insight into the campaign in her state. As a native of Tallahassee, Florida, Christina interned in Florida with Congresswoman Gwen Graham as well as with her county government this last summer, and she enjoyed the opportunity to learn about both federal and local government. The students wanted to know from her:
What makes Florida the archetypal swing state that it has been since 1992?
"Dear Christina," they asked, "what political issues influence the state of Florida the most and make it the archetypal swing state that it has been since 1992? How does political campaigning differ in Florida compared to other swing states?”
Here is Christina’s take on this:
“The main reason that Florida is the most important swing state to watch is pretty simple: With 29 electoral votes, Florida has more electoral votes at stake than any of the other states that are typically considered “swing states.” Although the state has about 4.8 million registered Republicans and 4.5 registered Democrats, it also has around 3 million independent voters who could go to either party, according to the Florida Department of State. These independent voters can decide who wins the state, so influencing their opinions is an important goal for both candidates.
Florida also includes two important populations: it has a reputation as the home for many retirees, but the state is also home to many Hispanic voters, who tend to be younger. Florida is a fairly large state with a population of almost 20 million, and I think that the variety of different demographic groups in different areas of Florida makes it difficult to predict how the state will vote as a whole.
Florida’s history in presidential elections also makes it unique. Florida voted for the election winner in almost all presidential elections since WWII, with the notable exception of the 1992 election. The state went to the Democratic candidate (Barack Obama) in 2012 and 2008, but to the Republican candidate (George W. Bush) in 2004 and 2000. In 2000, the vote in Florida between candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush was so close that it had to be recounted. Bush finally won by a little over 500 votes, ensuring that he would be the next president. The election in Florida is normally quite close, and this history makes elections here even more interesting to observe!"
Thank you, Christina, for taking the time to address my students' questions on the swing state of Florida, and let me also thank my 12th-grade English students in Schleswig for contributing these questions.
We will be posting more from our experts in the two weeks until the election on November 8, so stay tuned.
Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2016.