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banner Friday, 7 January, 2000, 17:51 GMT
Florida

This will be one of the most important contests in the presidential race.

Key facts
Population: 14,399,985 (ranked 4 among states)
Governor: Jeb Bush (R)
Electoral College votes: 25
Florida's southern location and affluence have made it the most Republican of the USA's 10 largest states. Most state officials are Republican and in 1998 Jeb Bush, the second son of former president George Bush, was elected governor.

But the last decade has seen fluctuations in party support and it was a tough presidential battle in 1992 and 1996. After just missing out in 1992, Bill Clinton won Florida in 1996 with 48%, largely because of medicare and environmental issues. Both parties will work hard in 2000 to capture this key state.

1998 Congress
House of Representatives: 8 Democrats, 15 Republicans
Senate: 1 Democrats, 1 Republican
Once an isolated malaria-ridden swamp, Florida has changed enormously and is certainly more than the sunny retirement home than it used to be. But it still has more elderly people than any other state except California (2.7 million in 1996).

Florida used to be the least populated state in the South, but now with 14 million people it is the USA's fourth largest state. It is expected to overtake New York and become the third biggest by 2025.

Part of that growth is due to Miami, the economic and commercial capital of Latin America. International trade is central to the state, although congressmen have recently cooled their support of the North America Free Trade Association (Nafta) in favour of agricultural interests. Florida's booming economy is also increasingly led by the service sector and tourism - the latter generated $41 billion in 1997.

Voting record
1996: Clinton 48%, Dole 42%
1992: Bush 41%, Clinton 39%, Perot 20%
1988: Bush 61%, Dukakis 39%
Florida's elderly and juvenile populations are growing rapidly. It is a centre of immigration for many Latin Americans seeking new opportunities and it fiercely guards its freedom against was it sees as interfering government. For example it was the first major state to pass a law that allows citizens to carry concealed weapons.

Florida can also be violent, chaotic and disorderly. It is a sprawling state with no defined focus. Also, some are worried that the Hispanic population has such a clear identity it can look like a state within a state.

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Links to more States stories are at the foot of the page.


Links to more States stories