During a speech in the happiest place on Earth, Mike Huckabee confessed his was filled with concern.
New Yorkers might wreck Florida, he told the crowd assembled at a Disney World resort for Florida Governor Rick Scott’s first cattle call for presidential contenders.
Huckabee began by praising the governor’s job-creation record, but then expressed his trepidation with would-be residents from up North.
“He’s giving people hope and jobs, and the result is evident in the fact that 803 people every day are coming into this state and moving here,” Huckabee said.
“Many of them are from New York,” he continued. “I just hope they leave their New York attitude of high taxes and high regulation back in New York City, back in Albany—bring their best recipes for shrimp and best recipes for grouper, but for gosh sake, do not bring that regulatory environment from New York.”
That line of concern isn’t an unusual one in Republican circles.
Florida recently displaced New York as the third-most populous state, and a 2009 report from the Empire Center said that New York and California were the only states to lose more than 1 million residents to out-migration between 2000 and 2008. And one-third of New York’s out-migrants headed for the Sunshine State.
Some Republicans—Huckabee included—fear that disproportionately Democratic New Yorkers could keep up their blue-state voting habits in the land of the Florida Man, making it harder for Republicans to stay in control of the state.
Just look at what happened between California and Texas. Far more Californians move to Texas than vice versa, and Trulio chief economist Jed Kolko argued at Forbes in 2013 that the reason for this is simple.
“What does Texas have that Californians want? Cheaper housing, more jobs, and lower taxes,” he wrote.
And Ian McDonald, a political scientist at Oregon’s Lewis & Clark College, told NPR in 2013 that those moves can make a mark.
“It’s not going to change Texas politics immediately, but all of the inbound migration to Texas is making Texas more liberal than it otherwise would be,” he said.
And now, Huckabee et. al. worry New Yorkers will take those same liberal voting proclivities to Florida.
If that demographic change plays out, the Empire State emigrants could have a far more substantial impact on Florida than Californians are having on Texas. That’s simply because Florida is way—way, way, way—more purple than the Lone Star State, and Republicans win there by far tinier margins.
In fact, Republicans’ electoral good fortunes there have been due largely to the state party’s ability to outperform the odds. Despite the fact that the state voted for Obama in both 2012 and 2008, Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature, as well as the governorship, the lieutenant governorship, and the attorney general’s office.
Demographic trends, including immigration from foreign countries and from blue states like New York, could make it harder and harder for the GOP to maintain its remarkably effective clout in the state. And Huckabee’s worries could make a lot of sense.