Donald Trump May Have Helped Turn Seven Florida Counties From Blue to Red

The Republican establishment is rightfully worried that placing Donald Trump on the top of its ticket in November could lead to disastrous election results. His favorability rating among the general electorate is historically underwater, and in an average of the latest polls, he's trailing Hillary Clinton by 11.2 points in a head-to-head matchup.

There's no doubt, however, that the Donald has sparked a fire of political excitement among certain segments of the population. The massive crowds that show up to his rallies aren't coming out of nowhere.

In fact, Trump-mania may very well have helped turn seven counties in Florida from blue to red, at least as far as voter registration is concerned.

The Republican Party of Florida took to Facebook last week to trumpet the fact that seven counties in the Sunshine State that had a majority of Democratic registrants in January 2014 have now turned solidly red. With the exception of Pinellas, the other counties — Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Hardee, Holmes, Pinellas, and Washington — are all small, rural areas.

Those six also voted solidly for Mitt Romney in 2012. In fact, Romney won more than 70 percent of the vote in Bradford, Baker, Holmes, and Washington counties.

So we're not talking anything that amounts to a great sea change in the Florida electorate. What we're probably seeing here is a slew of people finally updating their party registration to reflect their actual votes.

It's likely that many did so to vote for (or, in some cases, against) Trump in the March primaries.

In Baker County, for example, the Republican voter count is now 6,632, compared to 5,944 Democrats and 1,413 minor party or independent voters.

In January 2015, that count was 6,116 Republicans to 6,600 Democrats and 1,425 minor party and independent voters.

In fact, in most of those six counties, the numbers seem to suggest that many switched directly from Democrat to Republican.

That shouldn't be a surprise. Five of those counties are in the north, either on or very close to the Florida-Georgia line. Hardee County, meanwhile, is in rural Central Florida. In other words, these are the real "Southern" parts of Florida.

These are likely the type of voters who were once, decades ago, solid Democrat partisans. They began voting for Republicans on the presidential level thanks to Ronald Reagan in the '80s and started voting that way on the state level in the late '90s. In other words, they've been Republicans for years; they just never got around to registering that way. That is, of course, until Donald Trump shook up the nominating process and gave them a reason to worry about their registration.

Pinellas County is the odd exception. Consisting of St. Petersburg and its suburbs, Pinellas narrowly voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Republicans, however, now have a voter registration advantage over Democrats of just 33 voters. That might be explained by a mixture of the Trump effect and the general trend of Florida voters registering with no party affiliation. It's likely, however, that Republicans' slight advantage there won't last for long.

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