Barack Obama built his victory in Florida, a state that has been synonymous with heartbreak for many Democrats since 2000, by following the blueprint of Democrats before him -- and then systematically improving upon their numbers.
Most dramatic was his win among Hispanics, whom former White House political guru Karl Rove had avidly wooed. Four years ago, President Bush won 56 percent of the Latino vote in the state, thanks primarily to the influence of conservative Cuban Americans. But this year, Hispanics swung to the Democratic column, giving the candidate from Illinois 57 percent of their votes, according to network exit polls. Another boost to Obama: Turnout among Latinos inched above the 2004 number.
Although the majority of Floridians said race was not a factor in their decision, the black-white divide this year closely resembled the state's racial split in 2004. The difference was the margins. John McCain drew about the same level of support from white voters as President Bush did four years ago, but Obama's margin among black residents -- who also turned out in larger numbers to back the first black major-party presidential nominee -- was nearly 10 percentage points higher than the one in 2004 for John F. Kerry.
Florida's vote clearly split along economic lines, too, according to the exit polls. Voters making more than $50,000 chose McCain over Obama. The Republican nominee also won among evangelicals, Catholics and voters older than 65. But McCain's margins there were generally slimmer than Bush's.
Floridians who ranked terrorism as their top policy concern voted overwhelmingly for McCain. But it was the economy that seemed to dominate voters' decisionmaking. More than 90 percent of residents assessed the state of the economy as "not so good/poor" -- a group Obama won handily, according to the exit polls.
-- Ceci Connolly