Trump’s Florida primary election numbers significantly down from 2020

Former president Donald Trump may have captured an overwhelming percentage of the Republican vote in Tuesday’s presidential primary — but he was unable to match his own numbers from the last election.

Eighty-one percent of GOP voters cast their ballots for Trump, significantly less than the 93 percent he won in 2020 primary. Former GOP candidates Nikki Haley got 14 percent of the vote, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis drawing 4 percent. Though both are no longer in the race, their names remained on the ballot.

DeSantis said Wednesday that people shouldn’t read too much into the votes for Haley over Trump because thousands of early mail-in ballots were cast before Haley dropped out. But analysts nonetheless note that the lower numbers in 2024 could indicate an enthusiasm gap among Republicans as Trump seeks to return to the White House.

“There are some early indicators that Republicans who are opposed to Donald Trump are a little firmer in that position than would be typically true during what we call the consolidation period, when party partisan voters tend to come home,” said Kevin Wagner, chairman of the political science department at Florida Atlantic University.

Wagner said it’s impossible to say whether early voters who sent in their ballots for Haley would have changed their vote after she dropped out. But a vote for Haley nevertheless offers some hint at the headwinds Trump might face in the general election, he said.

“Haley was a long shot, almost from the moment that it was a one-on-one,” the professor said. “And so a Haley vote in some ways is always going to be, at least to some extent, a protest vote against the former president.”

Political analysts don’t expect Florida to return to its battleground state status, as GOP voter registration has far surpassed Democrats in the past four years. However, they say Tuesday’s results should ring some warning bells for the Trump campaign.

“The fact that people took the time and effort to vote for somebody who isn’t even in the race makes a strong statement that they want the Trump campaign to make some adjustments,” Susan MacManus, a longtime political analyst and former political science professor at the University of South Florida, said of the Haley votes.

She said Trump’s failure to get more than 80 percent of the vote in most urban counties, including those around cities such as Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach, might indicate a weakness among diverse voters as well as suburban moms.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of growth in Florida since 2020,” MacManus said. “We have a lot of younger voters, and the older voters are more diverse in their educational background. The strongest vote for Trump was in rural counties. But I think suburban women are the ones Trump needs to try to bring back in.”

One notable exception was Miami-Dade County, where Trump won with nearly 87 percent of the vote. Miami-Dade has long voted Democratic, but DeSantis flipped the county red during his recent gubernatorial reelection. Local GOP party members celebrated Trump’s win there.

“No candidate ever gets 100 percent of the vote,” said Kevin Cooper, vice chairman of the Republican Part of Miami Dade County. “This isn’t Cuba.”

Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who was the communications director of the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said Tuesday’s results might show that Trump doesn’t necessarily have a lock on the state in November’s general election.

“If the 100,000 people who voted for Nikki Haley in the Florida primary either vote for Biden or sit out the election, that could make Florida very competitive,” Conant said.

Haley won 155,463 votes; Trump got 910,897.

Trump’s campaign said the results show that “Florida is Trump country.”

“This was a primary that only a few weeks ago had well-funded candidates and the sitting governor of our state sharing the ballot. Nevertheless, President Trump demonstrated absolute dominance in the result,” campaign spokesman Brian Hughes said in a statement. “Polling for the general election shows that his dominance in Florida will continue to November.”

At a Wednesday news conference in Miami Beach, DeSantis warned against drawing any major conclusions from the results, pointing out that Florida voters have six weeks before Election Day to cast a ballot by mail. Twenty percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the election.

“I would imagine a minority of the votes were cast yesterday. Most of them were cast early,” DeSantis said. “So I don’t think that’s a ding on Donald Trump, given that those mail ballots went out when [Haley] was still actively campaigning.”

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