November 5, 2007

Chiles-MacKay Country, 67 County Strategy

Nowadays, we hear a lot about the DNC Chairman Howard Dean and his 50-state strategy for bringing Democrats to bat from Dixie to the Rockies to Alaska. Each of Lawton Chiles' five campaigns for statewide office was a proving ground for this principle that every county, every city, and every vote matters. Each campaign took on an opponent with different strengths, but the basic tenet of mobilizing all 67 jurisdictions never changed a bit.

Even in 1994, at the crest of the Gingrich Revolution, when the Democrats lost the House of Representatives for the first time since the days of Eisenhower, big-state Democrats took a beating from California to Texas to New York, and the Clinton White House went into shock, the Chiles-MacKay campaign for re-election muscled one last statewide victory. Though the margin totaled little more than 60,000--enough to keep the campaign staff and supporters up late awaiting returns--the winning coalition boasted a cultural and geographic diversity to make any 50-state strategist envious:

From every major region, Governor Chiles won counties:

Tallahassee metro area: Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson

North Florida: Hamilton, Madison

The Panhandle: Franklin, Wakulla, Calhoun, Gulf

The Big Bend: Dixie, Levy

I-4 Corridor: Volusia, Pinellas

Treasure Coast: St. Lucie

Gold Coast:
Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward

The Keys:

Governor Chiles tapped into the reservoir of goodwill, trust, and relationships built since walking the state to achieve a victory in 1994 that stretched the length of the state. Strategists and pundits may point to this TV ad or that debate question to explain the Chiles-MacKay upset over Jeb Bush, but what explanation other than a 67-county strategy and the legacy of The Walk could explain a Democratic coalition combining Dixie County and Dade County, Wakulla County and Palm Beach County?

Since 1994, Democrats in statewide and presidential elections have struggled to get votes outside the usual strongholds: Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Gainesville, and Tallahassee. The 2004 Bush-Kerry showdown saw a Democratic retreat:

Gubernatorial hopefuls are doing even worse. Sure, a Democrat can carry Florida with a map that looks like this, but is that a mandate for doing anything more than changing the light bulbs ? Here are the bare bones of a Democratic victory--the less-celebrated "7-county strategy":

1 comment:

lawton chiles said...

Great map buddy. It helps to understand what you are talking about.