A Democratic surge in Florida, Nevada

In two potentially pivotal states, tens of thousands of Democrats are being added to voter rolls, while new Republican registrations lag badly.

Published July 14, 2008 6:53PM (EDT)

Some numbers are in, and they're eye-popping: Democrats have registered nearly seven times more voters than their Republican counterparts have in Florida this year. From January to May, more than 106,000 voters signed up as Democrats. Fewer than 17,000 declared themselves Republicans.

Given the pivotal role Florida played in the last two elections, John McCain may want to hop on the "Straight Talk Express" and head to Miami. George W. Bush carried the state by fewer than 400,000 votes in 2004 and only by a little more than 500 in the disputed 2000 election.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the swing toward the Democrats, as the Orlando Sentinel points out, is that it came without a large-scale registration drive by Democrats or a settled standard-bearer at the top of the presidential ticket. It shows just how badly the GOP brand has suffered from an unpopular president, the Iraq war and numerous scandals.

While the Democratic surge is impressive, in a state with nearly 10.5 million voters it may not do much to affect the balance of power in Florida, especially since Democrats already held a small registration advantage over the GOP there. However, Democrats are not done registering voters. Barack Obama launched a 50-state registration drive in May in an effort to expand the electoral map.

Florida isn't the only trouble spot for McCain in the news recently; Nevada is also trending toward the Democrats. At this point in the 2004 election, Republicans had a narrow edge in party registration, but the latest figures show the Democrats with a 55,000-voter advantage. That's significant considering Bush won Nevada by only 21,000 votes in 2000 and 2004.

Of course, to anyone who follows politics closely, the figures shouldn't come as a big surprise. Since 2004, GOP registration nationally has fallen about as fast as the stock price of Fannie Mae, while Democrats have maintained their registration numbers.

If the news is bad for McCain, it may have a silver lining for at least one Republican -- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who many pundits put on the shortlist for McCain's vice-presidential pick. Crist would help shore up any weakness McCain may have in Florida, and he's been campaigning for the ticket, as evidenced by his flip-flop on offshore drilling. The recent announcement of his engagement has been interpreted as another sign he's gunning for the No. 2 spot, especially given the widespread rumors that he's gay.

Update: In mentioning the rumors about Crist's sexuality, we should have also mentioned that he has repeatedly denied the rumors that he's gay. Sorry for the omission.

By Justin Jouvenal

Justin Jouvenal is an editorial fellow at Salon and a graduate student in journalism at New York University.

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