Chris Palko in the April 2012 edition of Campaigns & Elections magazine wrote, “A dozen swing states will determine the outcome of the presidential election. That’s a given. But within these so-called purple states, not all areas are swing. In Ohio, for instance, Cuyahoga County — home to Cleveland — would vote for a Democrat regardless of the candidate, while mostly rural Shelby County will vote Republican no matter what. The formula is simple: win the swing counties, win the swing states and win the presidency. That’s what President Obama did in 2008 and, for that matter, what George W. Bush did in 2004.” [My emphasis]
Palko states, “Now, Mitt Romney will need to be competitive in these areas in order to unseat the president. Here’s a closer look at some of the larger counties where the Romney campaign will be fighting its battles this fall.”
Palko lists the top 10 of 3009 counties in America that Romney must focus on. Two of those counties are in Florida and are ranked #1 and #2 on Palko’s list.
According to Palko:
2. Pinellas County, Fla. Population: 916,542 Largest city: St. Petersburg
The top-two counties are both part of Florida’s I-4 Corridor, which runs through the Daytona Beach, Orlando and Tampa areas. The I-4 Corridor is the most important region in this presidential election. In Pinellas County, St. Petersburg has some neighborhoods that are solidly Democratic, but most of the territory is split 50/50. Every precinct could make the difference between winning and losing.
Past results: Bush was in a virtual tie with Kerry here while Obama bested Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 54-46.
1. Hillsborough County, Fla. Population: 1,229,226 Largest city: Tampa
The most crucial county this fall is on the other side of Tampa Bay from Pinellas, the runner-up. Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa and its immediate suburbs, is the only county listed with more than one million residents. Still, it’s a fairly accurate small-scale version of America. It has a solidly Democratic central city that includes large African-American and Hispanic populations, and some outlying areas that are heavily Republican. The immediate suburbs are closely split. Whoever wins Hillsborough County in November is most likely the next occupant of the White House.
Past results: Bush won here with 53 percent while Obama finished a point better in 2008.
President Obama in 2008 took Hillsborough and Pinellas counties by a +47,000 votes. Obama took Florida by a margin of 204,577 votes or .02% of all votes cast. The Tampa Bay area accounted for over 20% of the margin of victory. The Tampa Bay area will be where key battles for the Presidency, and the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Bill Nelson, will be fought.
Chris Palko works as an assistant media analyst at Smart Media Group, a Republican political media buying agency in Alexandria, Va. He is a graduate of American University and George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
A version of this post was also published on Smart Media Group’s blog, Smart Blog.