The McCain-Palin campaign is making a lot of noise about the large crowd that came to cheer Sarah Palin at her appearance in Lady Lake, Florida, last week. Local fire officials estimated the crowd at 25,000 to 30,000, while the McCain-Palin campaign claims an audience twice that size. By either estimate, that’s a lot of people.
Given those numbers, should the Obama campaign be concerned about the Palin Effect in Florida?
The answer is No.
The Palin event was staged in Lady Lake, Florida, a retirement community that, if it didn’t already exist, could have been invented by Karl Rove.
The median age is 68.
Nearly 95 percent of its residents are White. African Americans make up only about 3.5 percent of the population, and less than 3 percent are Hispanic (compared to more than 20 percent in Florida as a whole).
It is a town of vast economic disparity between the older majority and the younger minority of the population. Only 2 percent of those over 65 are below the poverty line, but the number in poverty swells to nearly 40 percent of those under 18.
Don’t let the description of Lady Lake as a Florida retirement community fool you into thinking that its Palin Effect politics reflects what is going on in the enormous retirement population of Southern Florida.
In sharp contrast to those South Florida communities, Lady Lake has a negligable Jewish population. Jews make up only a minisule .01 percent of Lady Lake, compared with nearly 15 percent in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Delray Beach.
Also in contrast to South Florida’s retirement communities, voter registration in Lady Lake is overwhlemingly Republican. More than 60 percent of the voters in Lady Lake are registered as Republican, compared to 39 percent in Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, and Boca Raton. George W. Bush crushed his Democratic opponents here in both 2000 and 2004.
Strikingly, Lady Lake is home to a disproportionate number of members of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS). LDS members make up more than 1 percent of the population (compared with less than half that percentage in Florida as a whole). The Mormon influence in the politics of Lady Lake probably accounts for the fact that Mitt Romney lead all primary candidates in fundraising by a wide margin. According to the Washington Post, Romney raised more than $101,000 in Lady Lake, compared to just over $29,000 for John McCain and $7,700 for Mike Huckabee (and just over $29,000 for Barack Obama). A large number of people at the Palin rally might also have been channeled from the LDS Orlando Temple, which claims 95,000 members in 22 LDS stakes (or LDS districts) in Florida and Southern Georgia.
So, is Lady Lake in any sense a typical Florida community?
Do the politics of Lady Lake reflect the politics of Florida retirement communities or Florida as a whole?
Should Barack Obama be concerned about the large turnout for Palin in Lady Lake?
Now, here’s the kicker:
It is McCain, not Obama, who should be concerned about recent developments in Lady Lake.
Despite the fact that the demographics and political history of Lady Lake, Florida, overwhelmingly favor McCain, Barack Obama raised more money there than John McCain in the month for which the most recent data is available (July).