Voting in The Sunshine State: Florida's History With the Race for President

What to Know

  • 20 men and women running for the Democratic nomination next year to battle against President Donald Trump will debate in Miami.

Just three years after becoming the 27th member of the United States, just over 7,200 voters in Florida went to the polls and cast their ballots for the first time in a presidential election – beginning what has been a long, and sometimes highly publicized, relationship with the top office in the country.

Fast forward 174 years to right here in South Florida for the next two nights as 20 men and women running for the Democratic nomination next year to battle against President Donald Trump will debate inside the Adrianne Arsht Center in downtown Miami in an event broadcast on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.

Here’s a look back at the Sunshine State’s history in the race for President for nearly two centuries.

1848: In one of the closet elections in the state’s history (in part due to the fact that just 7,203 votes were cast), Zachary Taylor wins Florida and the presidency as the Sunshine State makes their voices heard for the first time as a state.

1928: Herbert Hoover wins both Florida and the presidency, the first of eight straight elections in which the Sunshine State’s electoral votes went to the general election’s winner.

1956: For the first time in history, a debate between presidential candidates was televised as Democratic candidates Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver debate in Miami.

1960: For the first time in the last 23 elections, Florida does not cast their votes to the general election’s winner as Richard Nixon won the Sunshine State but lost nationwide to John F. Kennedy. Florida would also vote for President George H.W. Bush in his 1992 re-election bid, but Bush lost that election to Bill Clinton.

2000: It was the race that wouldn’t end and could be summed up by one word (recount) as Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush battled for Florida’s electoral votes and, as it turned out, the election. One month and many legal battles later, Gore conceded to Bush and the GOP was back in the White House by a 547 vote margin.

2004: Bush returns to South Florida and debates former Sen. John Kerry on the campus of the University of Miami, the first of three debates between the candidates.

2007: A group of seven candidates for the Democratic Party meet on the campus of the University of Miami - including the man who would win the general election one year later, Pres. Barack Obama. On the Republican side, candidates hold several debates in both Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

2016: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders met for a nationally televised Democratic debate on the Kendall campus of Miami-Dade College while a group of Republicans that includes future President Trump debate on the campus of the University of Miami.

2019: With nearly two dozen candidates seeking the Democratic nomination against Trump next year, the top 20 in terms of polling will meet for the next two nights inside the Arsht Center in debates you can see right here on NBC 6.

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