For the last few elections, The Villages has been a popular campaign stop for aspiring candidates, especially Republicans. In this article we will explore the reasons for this and learn about some of the high-profile visits of recent years.
As you probably already know, The Villages is located in Central Florida, about an hour north of Orlando. But what you may not know is just how important the Central Florida area is to winning Florida.
The I-4 corridor (I-4 is the interstate that runs through the middle of the state from Tampa to Daytona Beach) divides the state into two fairly distinct sections. South of I-4 you have more densely populated areas, and to the north more rural areas. Approximately 40 percent of the state’s voters straddle I-4.
According to a political science professor quoted in an article in The Washington Times:
We kind of laughingly call it the highway of heaven for the candidates, because if they win I-4, they win Florida.
So its no wonder the politicians start visiting places like Orlando and The Villages early each election cycle in an effort to get the early momentum.
The demographic of people that make up The Villages is also a factor. It’s no secret that a higher percentage of people age 55+ turn out to vote than some of the younger demographic groups. With The Villages you have a concentration of about 81,000 people that are age 55 and over. If you’re a politician going fishing for votes, you may as well put your boat in a stocked pond.
Last but not least, the Morse family who own and develop The Villages are big-time Republican party contributors. They’ve probably given more money to Republican party candidates than you and I will see in a lifetime.
For instance, according to popular political blog Politico, in the first half of 2011 alone, the Morse family and The Villages have given a combined $500,000 to Restore Our Future, a SuperPAC created to support Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
I think if I were a Republican candidate for office I would get to The Villages too and start shaking that money tree as hard as I could.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the political make-up of The Villages is predominantly Republican. Democrats have even gone so far as to complain that:
We can’t even get businesses to contribute to our candidates because they’re afraid of losing business
That said, there are growing numbers of Democrats moving to The Villages. Here are links to the websites for each party in The Villages:
Now that we’ve explored a few reasons why The Villages is a popular stop for candidates, let’s take a look at some of the high-profile visits of recent years.
- George W. Bush made a campaign stop in 2004 then returned in 2010 to promote his book Decision Points.
- VP candidate Sarah Palin made a campaign stop in the September run-up to the 2008 election. She also graced the cover of the October issue of The Villages Magazine. Then in 2009 she returned to promote her book, Going Rogue.
- Carolina Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, visited in October 2008 campaigning for Barack Obama
- Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee visited in 2009 promoting his book A Simple Christmas
- Rudy Giuliani visited while he was running for president back in 2007
- Mitt Romney has visited on multiple occasions including two visits in 2007 while a presidential candidate, and two visits in 2010 to promote his book “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness” and again to campaign for Rick Scott (now Florida’s governor.)