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Tuesday
Aug092016

Everything you wanted to know about Florida 2016 but were afraid to ask.

Florida. Florida. Florida.

The largest battleground state in the country – by a lot.

The tightest battleground state in the country since 2000.

Has been won by every GOP President since Coolidge.

10 media markets – many big enough to be battleground states

20 million residents

9 million voters.

So what makes it work? What is its story? Or more simply, what is it?

Every few years, I get the same question from national media: Explain Florida to me in a nutshell, and what is the one thing that is key to winning?

If only it was that simple.

I’ll get more in to the math and some of the more interesting markets later this month, but this piece is designed to paint a picture of the place I call home, and the funky odd state that picks Presidents.

Let’s start with one key thing: Florida is a state, not a place.

Most states are places. Think about Texas, or even a state like Iowa, there is a sense of place to it, a commonality of experience – or as marketers might say, almost a brand. Most states have it. Florida really doesn’t.

Florida isn’t a place in the same sense. It is a political circle, drawing 20 million people from vast, and I mean vast experiences and cultures into one spot. And almost everyone here has come from somewhere else.

Florida is the new Ellis Island, except our ships come as cars and planes, from inside the borders of the country, and outside.

Over the next 15 years, we might add as many as 5 million more residents, grow to as much as 30% Hispanic, with a total population of well more than 50% coming from what are typically considered ethnic minorities.

The old saying about Florida is you go north to go south. North Florida feels like the traditional south, large rural areas, conservative towns like Jacksonville and Pensacola, liberal college towns, etc., while the rest of the state feels like wherever it came from. Go to Tampa, or most anywhere on the west coast, and there is more of a Midwestern feel – as most who got there, came down the I-75 corridor. The east coast can feel more northeastern in attitude, homage to the I-95 corridor that brought them here.

There is also a coastal/interior split. Stay to the coastal side of the interstate, and the place is busy, almost one continuous city that goes on for hundreds of miles up and down the coastline Go to the interior of the interstates, and with the exception of Orlando – which is its own unique culture, the place is still very much Old Florida, with large expanses of agriculture and open space.

Then there is Miami-Dade, easily one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. 85% of the population is non-white, and that number is growing rapidly. It is really its own city-state, much more like a Hong Kong, or a Singapore, than it is a city within a state.

Florida as a 5 state commonwealth

People look at Florida different ways – I’ve more or less settled on it being home to 5 states.

North Florida

Home to 3.5 million residents, or 17% of the vote, think of North Florida as the I-10 corridor, running from Jacksonville to Pensacola. It has the lowest Hispanic and highest African American percentages, but is over 2/3rds white. The region is slightly bigger in population than Iowa.

The distance between Pensacola and Jacksonville is roughly 360 miles, along a fairly sparse I-10, home to America's #1 truck stop, the Busy Bee at the Live Oak halfway point. Rural north Florida feels much more like Georgia or Alabama than the Florida that most people think of. Population is growing fairly rapidly on the coasts, creating red counties that are just getting more red. That being said, there are still literally hundreds of miles of rural coastline in this part of the state, mostly through the Big Bend area.

Florida’s two dry counties are located here, as are two of its largest universities, as well as the seat of state government. In addition, the region is bookended by two of the oldest cities in America: St. Augustine and Pensacola. Both ends of north Florida have a large military presence, as well as significant acres of state and national forests.

It is also by far the most conservative part of the state. Mitt Romney won just shy of 60% of the 1.6 million votes cast in 2012, a margin that is north of 300,000 votes. To give a sense of scale, that is almost 100,000 more votes than Obama carried Miami-Dade in 2012. Outside of the two college towns: Gainesville and Tallahassee, there are very few places for Democrats to do well.

Trump will look to grow here, particularly in the Jacksonville media market. The Bush campaign in 2004 won Duval County, home to Jacksonville, by 61.000 votes, a margin that Obama cut to 8,000 in 2008, and about 15,000 in 2012. He will also look to take advantage of population growth in places like St. Johns County, and some of the Panhandle communities between Pensacola and Panama City. For Trump to win Florida, given the changes happening down south, I would suspect he would need to carry this part of the state by about 400,000 votes, stretching Romney’s win in upstate to over 62% of the vote. For Clinton to win, anything between Obama 2012 (40%) and Obama 2008 (42%) would make it difficult for Trump to find the necessary votes elsewhere.

Orlando

Home to just over 4 million residents, or 20% of the state’s population, Orlando – in this case, defined as the Orlando media market, is the fastest growing market in the state. It is also arguably the place that has seen the most change over the last 25 years. The third largest market in Florida, would alone be the 27th largest state -- roughly the size of Oregon.

Just to provide some perspective, Orlando added about 350,000 new residents between 2010 and 2015, and over 50% of them were Hispanic, largely due to the migration of Puerto Rican families to Central Florida, as well as the growth of existing families. Hispanics have grown from 18.6% of the population to 21.4 of the population – in just five years. Almost all of this is happening in two counties: Orange and Osceola, or more simply, metro Orlando, which sets up some interesting politics in the region.

There is a lot going on here. Drive south from Jacksonville, and you enter the market in Flagler County, a county which boomed in the 90s with a ton of retirement migration from the New York area, then just bottomed out. Volusia to the south, home of NASCAR, and Brevard south of that, home to the Space Coast, both longtime manufacturing economies, have been hit hard over the last decade and a half. Both moved redder in 2012, with Volusia going Republican for the first time since 1988. Not surprisingly, Trump did very well in all three.

Move down I-4 from Daytona into metro Orlando, and you see a different story. The economy is humming along, growth has returned, though there is still real income pressure. You also in these counties can see just how much the demographic changes have impacted the politics. Consider this, Bush won the three metro Orlando counties by 9,000 votes in 2000 and 35,000 in 2004, while President Obama won both times by about 100,000 votes. To put that further in perspective, about 20% of the total change in margin between Bush’s 2004 win and Obama’s 2008 win happened in just these three counties.

But it isn’t all great news for Dems, further north is the Villages, a fast growing heavily Republican retirement community, largely of retired Midwesterners, and Ocala, which is home to Florida’s horse country. And what is interesting, when you combine the “Villages metro area” with the old manufacturing counties on the east coast, you find the Republican trends there almost balancing out the Democratic trends in the metro Orlando area. In fact, since 2000, Republicans have increased their margins in these counties by nearly 75,000 votes – and the change between 2008 and 2012 allowed Romney to sneak a small win the market in 2012.

To win the state, Trump needs to continue to grow those margins in the counties to the north and east of Orlando, and hope that the Clinton margins in the metro Orlando area don’t grow. Realistically, he would need to get to at least 52% of the two-way vote to meet a Florida win goal, or carry a margin of 75,000 votes or so. For her to win, the opposite needs to happen – run up the score – drive the margins in metro Orlando up closer to 125,000 or even higher, and stem the tide outside of the area, hence Tim Kaine’s first stop being in aforementioned Volusia County, with the goal of breaking even in the market. She does that, and there is almost no math for Trump to win.

Tampa and SW Florida

The biggest “state” in Florida, almost 30%, or 6 million residents live in Tampa and SW Florida. The Tampa media market alone is the size of Louisiana, but when combined with the SW Florida counties, you are looking at a region the population of Missouri, equal to 10 electoral votes.

Drive down coastal US 19 and 41 from Citrus County in the north to Naples at the far south, and with very few exceptions, it is one now one urban area stretching well over 200 miles. Interstate 75 runs through here, and thus, there is a distinctly Midwestern feel. In fact, 25-30 years ago, before the area really earned its own identity, if you went to a Tampa Bay football game against then division rivals Green Bay or Chicago, and it felt like a home game for the away team. It is not quite as bad today, but you will still see large contingents in their hometown garb.

The region is as “white” as North Florida, and has the smallest African American population in the state. There is a fast growing Hispanic population, which is starting to impact politics, particularly in Hillsborough County (Tampa), but outside of the traditional Cuban population in urban Tampa, the Hispanic population here is much more “Latin” (particularly Mexican) than the eastern and central part of the state, which meant a larger delta between Hispanic residency and voting. However, that is changing. Since 2008, of 43% of the voter registration growth has been Hispanic, though that trails the state overall of 53%. Also by comparison, 33% of the registration growth here has been white, compared to 18% statewide.

As you move south from Tampa towards Sarasota and beyond, it gets more Republican and you see more wealth. Sarasota is a funky political place, quite Republican in registration, but culturally more progressive. Obama nearly won the county in 2008, something that hasn’t been done since FDR. But in all of these counties, life out by the interstate is quite different than life close to the Gulf. Take Lee County, home to Fort Myers, and during the financial crisis, home to the largest foreclosure crisis in the country – with many communities still underwater. Travel further south into Collier County, and out east of the interstate, you will encounter massive Hispanic populations, including the neat community of Immokalee, a place that feels like almost no place else in the state.

Romney won this “state” by about 5%, driven by a robust performance in the Fort Myers market, where his win margin matched Bush’s in 2004. Hillsborough is the traditional bellwether here, though in recent years, demographics have moved into more of a base blue county. To win Florida, Trump will need to really drive up numbers, which in a perfect world would be doable. The population is older, and more white, and tends to come from many of the same states where Trump hopes to expand the map. But thankfully for my side, Trump has been a complete mess. Realistically, to make up for what he is going to lose in SE Florida, Trump would need to win the region by 3% more than Romney, taking Romney’s 150,000 vote margin and pushing it well over 200,000.

For Clinton, the task is pretty basic: Just keep it where it was for Obama, and try to ride a more Democratic Tampa to a win in the Tampa media market, and a slightly smaller loss than overall region. And trust me, they understand it, as she has made two trips to the Tampa media market in just over two weeks.

Keep an eye on this on election night. Pasco County, a large bedroom community north of Tampa, reports its early and absentee returns right at 7:00PM EST on the Supervisor’s website. If Clinton is ahead, or only behind by a few thousand votes, I think you can call Florida for her. If she is down more than few thousand, then hang on for a close one.

SE Florida

State four – moving back east across the state to the Palm Beach and Broward county areas, we find a region as big as Orlando, home to almost 4 million voters (20% of the state), and actually a slightly bigger voter block (about 21% of the statewide vote). Like Orlando, think Oregon when describing this size of this market. This state is defined as the Palm Beach County media market, as well as Broward County. I’ve always tended to find Broward more aligned with Palm Beach than it is with Dade, with whom it shares a media market. However, that might not be the case for long, as Broward’s demographics change before our eyes. More on that later.

This is the hub of the traditional Democratic base in Florida. Before Miami burst onto the scene in 2008 as a place where Democrats could run up the score, Democratic wins were defined by how you did in this area. In Bush v Gore, Gore won this area by over 300,000 votes. The only other region he won was Miami, by just under 50,000. He lost everywhere else. Today’s vote model for Democrats is more balanced with Dade, but it is still critical to do well here.

The region, for all purposes, is basically one big city, at least east of Interstate 95. While there are some less dense areas in Martin County and Indian River, if you drive down US #1 from Melbourne to Homestead in Miami-Dade, you probably aren’t going to go more than a mile or two without passing a gas station, and it might take you three days with all the traffic lights. Certainly from the Palm Beach County line, it is just one continuous city all the way to the Keys. That being said, out west in the Palm Beach County market, things get pretty rural. There are still large areas dedicated to agriculture, and when you get out towards Lake Okeechobee, you’ll find communities that are as different from the town of Palm Beach as we are to Mars.

At the southern end of the area, Broward County is pretty close to built out. Growth here runs right up to the Everglades. For many years, it was called the 6th Borough of New York, and for good reason, literally everyone you met came from the northeast – moving right down I-95. It is home to the state’s largest Jewish population, and Democratic wins here were based on a coalition of liberal Jewish voters and African Americans. Not anymore. Broward is exploding with diversity, driven by both forward leaning Hispanic and Caribbean Black populations. In fact, in just five years, Broward County has actually seen a decrease in the white population of nearly 40,000, with Hispanics growing by 93,000 and Blacks (both African American and Caribbean American) growing by nearly 70,000. In Palm Beach County, the story isn’t much different, with the white population growing by less than 10,000 over the last five years, with the bulk of the growth among the Hispanic and Black populations.

This trend is what is bad news for Donald Trump. Broward County is actually getting more Democratic as it gets more diverse, driving opportunities for larger margins. Where he has room to grow upstate and on the Gulf Coast side, he has to hold on here. Obama carried this region with 58% of the vote. Given Trump’s absolute struggles in the Black and Hispanic communities, not to mention the demographic growth, and while he really needs to keep Clinton at the same level of support that Obama won in 2012, it is hard to imagine Clinton her share of vote to 60%. If she gets any higher than this, he’s pretty much done, as there just isn’t that many more places for him to make it up.

Miami

Last but not least, Miami, which in this scenario also includes the Keys.

Roughly the population of Nevada, Miami is one of the most diverse areas in the world. It is becoming what London is to Europe, and what Singapore and Hong Kong are to Asia, that critical hub that serves as both an economic and political point of entry for Latin America, and about the only thing it shares in common with the rest of the state is the common border. It is also exceptionally complicated. According to the 2010 census:

At just under 14% of the statewide population, nearly 85% of this “state” population is made up of people of color. In terms of voter performance, the area makes up just under 11% of the statewide vote, a difference which points to the sheer number of non-citizen residents in Miami.

Today we consider this base Democratic territory, but that definition really only applies to the last eight years. In the disputed election of 2000, and again in 2004, Gore only carried the two party vote by 6 points. Fast forward to 2008, and the margin grew to nearly 16%. In 2012, the number grew to 23%.

What is driving that change?

Let’s start by looking back.

The key factor driving the relative competitiveness of Miami was the strength of the Republicans with exile-era Cubans. As recently as 2000, 56% of Hispanics in Dade were Republican. In 2006, the number had dropped to 49%. In January of this year: 36%. In terms of raw voters, the GOP advantage among Hispanics has dropped from about 130,000 in 2004 to about 40,000 today. It would not surprise me if this number was close to parity by Election Day 2016. Over the same time, the percentage of Dade County voters who are Hispanic has risen from 44% in 2000 to 57% today. Over the same time, non-Hispanic white has dropped from 31 to 19%. In other words, the largest share of the Miami vote is getting bigger, and more Democratic. Even Donald Trump could do that math.

Looking at it just since the 2008 election, Democrats have added more than 31,000 Hispanics to their Miami area rolls, while another 65,000 have signed up without party affiliation? Republicans: They have lost nearly 11,000 Hispanic voters. It boils down to this, Republicans are failing to replace their aging exile-era Cuban base, as later generations of Cubans are not as loyal to their elder’s party affiliations AND Miami is rapidly diversifying within the Hispanic population, and those non-Cuban voters are performing much more like non-Cuban Hispanics elsewhere: overwhelmingly Democratic.

So what does this mean? For Republicans, absolutely nothing good.

Two things separate things are happening on a collision course: demographic inertia is pushing the area more Democratic. One could argue that if Democrats did nothing at all, the Clinton margin of victory would probably push towards 28-30%, which would increase her margin of victory by 50-60K votes.

But combine this with Trump, and now you have the chance for a truly generational change in Miami, one that could change the look of the county, not just at the top of the ticket, but at all levels of the ballot. Let’s say the Trump factor pushes Clinton to carry the two party vote in Miami Dade county by a margin of 70-30 (keep in mind Obama won Miami Dade with 61%), now she carries the county by 350K votes or more – a significant increase over 2012. Two things happen: She wins Florida, no questions asked, and lots of local Republican office holders go home. For Trump to win, he needs to keep the Miami margin under 30 points, which means he needs to find his footing with Hispanics, and stem demographic energy – two really tall tasks.

So how does this plane land?

This piece is long, but Florida isn’t simple. I wanted to show in a traditional election, how the two main candidates should approach the state to win. I understand that nothing about this election is traditional, and that multiple candidates in this race will change win goals in each of these markets.

But for all the different scenarios, the basic premise of Florida doesn’t really change.

Politically mine is not a state that is moved by what happens in a number of battleground counties – these days, I am honestly not sure I could list more than 2 or 3 such counties, but instead the state is like a scale, balancing on the fulcrum of the I-4 corridor. Candidates will work to influence where the scale tips in how they manage the margins – how much you win or lose different areas – Dems keeping it closer in Duval versus Republicans running up the score somewhere else. At its most basic level, for Trump to win, he needs to tip that scale to the north, running up big numbers, more than she runs up South Florida. For Clinton to win, the math is reversed. There aren’t many reasonable experts on either side who at this point wouldn’t give her the advantage.

Though nothing is easy here. The state is absurdly expensive, and winning Florida means navigating different cultures, languages, and economic realities. It requires both turning out your base and persuading an ideologically and culturally diverse swing voters. When folks ask me, what is the key to winning Florida, the answer is everything, which can be a hard concept to understand. But the reality is Florida isn’t competitive because of its unique nature, like an Iowa, but it becomes competitive in sum when you add up all of its many parts. Furthermore, the state seems to be growing in such a way that even as the state grows and gets more diverse, the competitive nature of it isn’t really changing. Honestly, that is why I love working in this state.

I am not as blindly optimistic as some in my party are about what demographics mean, I do know this, in 2016, I’d much rather be her than him at this point, by a long shot.

Tuesday
Jul192016

So about that Melania Trump/Michelle Obama speech...

I've written a fair number of speeches in my career. Anyone worth their salt who has written understands the intentional nature of speechwriting -- particularly a speech designed to be delivered to a major audience. Every word, every pause, and every transition is considered. You play it out in your head -- you have the principal practice it. Nothing is unintentional. Nothing. Ever.

Whoever wrote Melania Trump's speech knew what they were doing - they were sabotaging the moment. They wrote a speech that they knew cribbed not only from Michelle Obama, but also from Rick Astley -- the latter of which is the dead giveaway. And honeslty if they didn't do it as intentional sabotage, then the Trump campaign is a bigger goat show than we all thought.

I suspect the speech shibacle had one of two goals: Either, the campaign itself wanted to marginalize her following reports that she was unhappy with the way the VP selection went -- or, some disgruntled speechwriter/comms staffer is just over the campaign and wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. To believe the third option, that this was just an accident, would be to believe that the Trump campaign is being run with the competence of a dysfunctional city council campaign -- and one completely unprepared to run a national government.

Very few things in campaigns are secrets, so I suspect we will learn what happened in the next 24 hours. And no, I don't think the moment will have a single impact on the actual campaign. However, it does provide just another insight into just how bad the Trump campaign is at this politics thing.

I genuinely feel bad for her. All in all, she did quite well in a space for which few are comfortable. Sadly for her, that's not what anyone will remember.

Sunday
Jul172016

Watching Algae Politics? Here is a race to Watch

In the last two weeks, I've gotten more calls from reporters and political types wanting to talk about the political implications of the Everglades than I've gotten in the last ten years. Algae is on everyone's mind.

Environmental issues typically poll well, however, they aren't the type of issues that drive votes. Why? They aren't top of mind. Sure, who isn't for better drinking water standards, but unless your water is contaminated, it isn't the kind of issue that will drive your vote decision. This is the same kind of reason why voters will eagerly vote in favor of local funding schemes to buy more park land, but tell pollsters they worry about the cost of environmental regulations. Environmental issues tend to be the epitome of back yard concerns.

But what happens when the river in your backyard looks like a guacamole plant upstream exploded -- when your concern for the Everglades becomes something you are literally staring at every day, impacting your perception of quality of life, and potentially negatively impacting your property values?

Well, we might have a test case: House District 83. State Representative Gayle Harrell versus Crystal Lucas

OK, before we go any further, I couldn't pick Crystal Lucas out of a line-up, nor am I predicting she will beat Harrell. I am just saying this is a race worth watching given the unique nature of the local dynamics.

Harrell is a well known commodity in her community and Tallahassee, seeking her final term in her second go around in Tallahassee. She's served the St. Lucie and Martin County area for 14 of the last 16 years in Tallahassee. She's made her career working on health care and children's issues, and outside of that, has been a generally reliable Republican vote.

Crystal Lucas, according to her website, is a former teacher, a small businesswoman, and has been fairly involved in her community. She also might have the nicest yard sign I've ever seen (check it out on her site), but her bio -- or her yard sign isn't why I find this race interesting. No, what is interesting is she appears to be running for the legislature by turning her race into a referendum of on environmental issues, and specifically the algae issue.

Now, I understand solving the algae issue is hyper complicated. But if you are an outsider in politics, running on an issue like this isn't.

While this is not a race on anyone's spreadsheet, it isn't completely uncompetitive either. Obama won it in 08, Romney narrowly carried the district in 2012, and Crist narrowly won it in 2014. Without a question, in 2018, this should be one of the most competitive open state house races in the state. Typically legislators in 'swingish' seats get a pass in their final term, given the odds of beating someone in their fourth (in this case, eighth) state house race are far lower than winning an open seat. And if the algae bloom had not occurred, I probably wouldn't have given the race a second thought.

Most cycles, there is a race or two that come out of nowhere. Fitzgerald in my 06 cycle, Zimmermann over Nehr and Clelland over Dorworth in 2012, and Coach P beating Saunders in 2014 are all examples. And when you think about this cycle, given the uniquely acute attention paid to algae on the Treasure Coast, I am going to be watching this one -- and whether Lucas can gain traction running a largely single issue campaign could be quite instructive looking ahead to battleground races in 2018.

Wednesday
Jul132016

Short Note on Q Poll

Just a couple of observations on this Q poll today.

I continue to have real issues with the way that Q does its polling, particularly in Florida. But here's easier argument why you should take ALL of their numbers in Florida with a grain of salt: they were wildly inaccurate throughout the 2012 cycle, and based on their first two polls: Clinton +8, and Trump +3, one can reasonably assume they haven't fixed whatever issues they had from four years ago, where I am not sure they could have accurately counted the final score of Florida/Florida State (it was 27-2 FSU if you have forgotten).

For what is worth, I was pretty vocal on their Clinton +8 poll a few weeks back as well -- much to the dismay of some in my own party.

In 2012, the Q poll was a total dumpster fire in Florida. In May, Q held a press call and basically declared the state for Romney, showing us -6. Then the next four polls were Obama +4, Obama +6, Obama +9 and Obama +1, while at the same time, the race remained exceptionally constant. Over the same time, the RCP average in Florida went from Obama -1.4 to Obama -1.7.

In 2008, they weren't much better. They had about 12 point swing between May and September.

For as much of a mess as Florida can be, it is a remarkably consistent state. There just isn't 10-12 points of movement here. The movement that is here comes from slight shifts in turnout (is black 13% or 14% of the electorate), how big is the Hispanic margin (Obama won by 14 in 2008 & 21 in 2012 - as the state gets less Cuban), and what happens among a couple of subgroups of whites (Obama won in 2012 with 37% white). But the little bit of movement that will occur among these groups over the cycle adds up to a handful of points, not 11 points in three weeks.

I am not a Democratic apologist on this. I was one of the first Ds to really raise the flag that this could be a lot closer than folks on my side want it to be. Keep in mind, the last four statewides in Florida (potus and gov) have had the following results: D+3, R+1, D+1, R+1, so the state is just wired to be close. Close -- and consistent.

In fact, no state in the union has been closer over the last six Presidentials, with Democrats winning the state in 1996, 2008 and 2012, and the GOP the other three (I will continue to dispute one of them!). Over those six elections, a total of just over 41 million ballots have been cast, with the Democrats holding a 130,664 vote advantage (47.8-47.5). To put it another way, under state law, we'd be in a mandatory recount of 41 million votes -- and if you narrow down to just 2000-2012 elections, of the 30,458,980 ballots cast, the partisan difference is just 71,058 votes. In terms of the average margins, no battleground state has been closer than Florida over the last four or six elections.

So keep those numbers mind, Florida is close and will be close. But the shifts in the Q poll are more due to the variances in the way Q polls Florida, not that the state is subject to big swings.

PS -- One note to add to this -->  If you look at the range of results in 2012 in Florida from the nine outfits that looked at Florida the most between May and November, Q showed a 15 point swing (ranging from Obama +9 to Romney +6).  No other pollster had more than 8.  The average was less than seven.  In reality, the movement was even less than that.  Q's methodology in Florida leads to the massive swings in their data, even though these swings aren't really happening -- as the other pollsters prove.

 

 

 

Thursday
Jun232016

Couple quick tidbits from the 2015 census data

Here are the fifteen quick notes I put on twitter today about the new census data.  More coming on all this soon:

1/2015 census estimates out today. Some really interesting things in Florida.   First, population up almost 1.5 million to just over 20.7 m

2/Florida is growing at a slighlty slower rate than 2000-10, but is adding more people. We will push 22 million by 2020.

3/Big Picture, Florida is getting really diverse, really quickly.  

4/Tampa and Miami media markets almost exact same population - both roughly 23% of state.  Orlando growing faster though, now 20%.

5/Hispanics make up 51.1% of the population growth.  Non-Hispanic whites made up 19.4%

6/Another way to look at: in 5 years, FL Hispanic population grew 14.9%.  Non-Hispanic Black 8.9%, Non-Hispanic White 2.5%

7/In 5 years, Hispanics have grown from 22.5 to 24.% of population.  Non-Hispanic white dropped from 58.0% to 55.3%.

8/At current pace, Hispanics will be close to about over 26% of population at next census, or 5.7m of statewide 21.7m residents. Compare this to 18% in 2000.

9/Miami (which includes Broward) media market is now majority Hispanic.  Three biggest markets for Hispanic growth: Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.

10/In fact, there are almost more new Hispanics just in the Orlando market than there are new people of all races across all of I-10.

11/Hispanic growth faster on I-4 than Miami.  Hispanic grew 18.6% on I-4, 11.6% in SE Fl. 

12/In fact, over 47% of the population growth on I-4 can be attributed to Hispanics.

13/Counties where the Hispanic share of the population growing fastest: Osceola, Broward, Orange, Polk and St. Lucie Counties.

14/This all lines up almost exactly with voter reg change. Since 2008, Hispanics make up 53.% of voter registration growth. 

15/All this means one thing: Florida in 2016 will have a more diverse electorate than 2012 -- and more diverse yet in 2020.

Monday
Jun202016

So about the Busy Bee

For those of you all who follow Florida politics, you are probably aware of my little obsession with a certain gas station in Live Oak, Florida.  You'd be amazed how many questions or comments I get about the Busy Bee, even sometimes when I am giving a speech in public.  I've joked more than once that I always dreamed of starting a movement, I just never thought it would be a movement for a gas station.  I even had a friend catch me doing a CNN appearance on the TV screen in the bathroom, as if in his words, two parts of my life were colliding.  So in honor of the Busy Bee just being named the #1 truck stop in America, here is how it started for me.

First, for the record: I am not an investor, and am not, nor ever have been paid by them.  If the Busy Bee owners were standing in front of me, I wouldn't know who they are.  OK, now that is out ot the way.

Over the last twenty years, I have put more miles on my cars driving between Tallahassee and Jacksonville/Orlando/Tampa than most Americans drive in a lifetime.  I've driven it so much, I can pretty much tell you where I am just by the bumps in the road.  And like fellow road warriors, I can recite with some level of accuracy the food and fuel options at every single exit.

Want ice cream?  The outdoor DQ at exit 358 north of Ocala, or the truck stop at Exit 258 in Madison.

Dying for Mexican?  There is a Tijuana Flats just off I-75 on Archer Road.

Starbucks?  What road warrior hasn't met someone for coffee at the one just off Newberry Road.

And then there is exit 283 on I-10.

For Tallahassee road warriers, 283 is a perfect stopping spot.  An hourish from home, its a chance to get that extra cup of coffee in the morning, or get a little more gas and walk around on the way home.  Other than one stop in Madison and one in Live Oak, there isn't much else around here.  Plus 283 has a bit of everything - a Shell and Chevron stations, McDonalds, Wendy's and Taco Bell -- or if you wanted a little healthier, a Subway down the street in that WalMart shopping center.  During the Obama campaign in 2008, when I often would make the trip from my house to Tampa in the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning, a Waffle House breakfast often got the week started right.

Everything at 283 is on the south side of the road. On the north side stood an old Penn Oil station, which had seemingly been closed for a while.  Like all good observant drivers of I-10, it became clear in early 2014 that something was happening on that land.  A new truck stop, the Busy Bee was coming.

A little background on this area.  Exit 283 on I-10 is in Suwannee County. Suwannee is a rural, land-locked county, located roughly right where the Florida Panhandle begins.  It is about an hour to the west of Jacksonville, an hour to the north of Gainesville and an hour to the south of Valdosta, and an hour to the east of Tallahassee. In other words, it is basically in the middle of nowhere.

Like a lot of small towns, the economy isn't great here.  While the unemployment rate is respectable, since 2007 (pre-crash), despite the fact there are 5,000 more residents living here, there are roughly the same number of jobs as existed 8 years ago.  As the ecnonomy evolves, like a lot of places around America, Suwannee County lives in-between places that are doing well, as it just treads water.  I grew up in Illinois in an area quite like this - once thriving, today it looks just like it did when we moved in the 80s, just older and more worn out.  

But what the county does have one major selling point:  It is basically located at the intersection of two of America's great highways: I-10 and I-75.  In fact, if you look at the Suwannee County Economic Development website, this is their number one attribute.   For folks in the transportation and logistics business, it is one of those places that could make a lot of sense -- if you knew the place existed.

Back to me and the Busy Bee.

One afternoon, driving home from somewhere, I got off at 283 to get a last shot of caffeine.  I decided to go north to see how the new truck stop was coming along, and lo and behold, it was open.  Turns out by dumb luck, I had hit the Busy Bee on its opening day.  

For those of you who haven't been, it really is quite the place.  The store itself is massive, part currio store, part candy shop, part actual convenience store, the place also has two fast food restaurants and bathrooms that would give those in the lobby of any 4 or 5* hotel a run for its money.  It quite literally is the nicest place within 50-70 miles along that interstate corridor.

They sell a lot of locally made products, including a wide selection of homemade beef jerky.  So being a good North Florida boy, I picked up a nice selection, headed to the counter and made a comment to the guy checking me out that "this is quite a place."  His response was pretty amazing - paraphrasing, he talked about being out of work, how this new truck stop was creating a ton of new jobs, how it was the "biggest thing to happen here in a long time" and how he hoped that if more people stopped there, that more people would come back.  In other words, maybe the Bee would be more than a shot in the arm of the county's economy - mabe it would get people to stop and look around, and with that attention would come jobs.

I think my first tweet/facebook post called it something like "the jewel of I-10."  For our partisan differences, the community of Tallahassee political road warriors is really quite close, and Twitter tends to be our most common form of communication, and it just took off.  People started posting pictures of their stops on Facebook, including two sitting Members of Congress.   More and more of our ilk went, and before long, the place had created a bit of a cult following.  Maybe, just maybe, we were all helping the place make it. 

For the travelling Florida political class, it has become our unofficial home.  In a world where people in politics don't talk to eachother enough anymore, in an odd way, it has become one thing that we can all agree on.   But more importantly for the Suwannee County community, that truck stop has become a destination, and today people who move goods and services around the planet recognize it as one of the finest places to stop.  And for the fine people of Suwannee County, oddly, that might be the lifeline the community needs.

 

 

Wednesday
Jun082016

Questions Rubio Should Ask Himself

As it looks more and more possible that Marco Rubio will reverse himself and run for re-election, the Florida political universe is bracing for another earthquake.

But does it make sense for him to run? Surely he is under immense pressure from the GOP to do so, but let's remember, all politics is personal. Forget what the national party wants him to do -- what should Rubio do?

I believe, as I will argue below, for Rubio this decision is all risk with little reward. This isn't a decision to be made lightly, so if he were to ask, here are the questions I would give him to work through this weekend:

1. Do you want to be a Senator?

In the constant analysis of political decisions, too often the most important question is left out. Why do you want to go back? Maybe Rubio went back to the Senate after the campaign and realized he actually enjoys it, or maybe the Orlando tragedy drove a change of heart. If that is the case, give yourself a point for running. But if you are running out of a sense of party loyalty, or just a fear of being out of the national conversation, then think twice.

2. When do you want to run again & do you think Trump wins?

At this point, I would be shocked if Rubio doesn't seek the Presidency again, and honestly, he should. For all the obits on the 2016 election, one of the underwritten observations is how conventional the primary system was in this sense: the winners of early states were the last candidates standing, just like every other cycle in the primary era. He didn't lose because he had a bad debate performance, he lost because they were way too cautious in how they approached th early states. Had he gone all-in in Iowa, the outcome might have been different. So no reason he can't run again.

But when does he see himself running right away again? He is a young guy, and certainly could wait. Twelve years separated Reagan's first run and his eventual election. Dole was sixteen years between his run, and winning the nomination, but obviously lost the Presidency. Other than that, there aren't a lot of examples of successful pols who waited a decade or more.

So if he is leaning towards going through the national meat grinder at the next opportunity, the next question is Trump. If he thinks Trump is going to win, going to the Senate and keeping an eye on 2024 makes sense. If he thinks he is going to lose and he plans on challenging Clinton, then there is no reason to run for re-election. Just take a few year break and crank up the machine again.

3. Do you want the hassle of another primary?

The Beruff people are trying to argue that they have claimed Rubio's space, and that he should be scared to run against them. This is utterly ridiculous. Rubio would beat Beruff, and would be a far superior nominee to him, but it doesn't mean after spending a year under the bright klieg lights and national TV cameras that he wants to spend the next four months driving two lane roads to talk to rooms of 50-100 partisans.

4, How confident are you versus Patrick Murphy?

Functionally, Rubio has to win. While Nixon proved you can run and lose -- and run again for President, that is a harder lift in the modern political world. First, Rubio has more competition on the R side than Nixon had. Secondly, the media is far less forgiving. It is the reason why I've never believed that Rubio would run for Governor, because for all of the reward, the risk is exceptionally high. He needs to win.

Here is the challenge: because Republicans have done such a good job of nationalizing elections, the number of swing voters, particularly between the races at the top of the ticket in Presidential years, is pretty narrow. Look at the last three: (Nelson got 50 in 00, Gore got 49; Castor got 49 in 00, Kerry got 47; Nelson got 55 in 12, Obama got 50). In other words, let's say Clinton beats Trump by Bush v Kerry margins: 5 points - are there enough swing voters who will vote Clinton and Rubio? I'm not convinced. Rubio could run a good campaign, and still lose.

5. Is all of it worth the risk?

Rubio has been in office, or running for office, for every bit of the last 18 years of his life. I am sure a part of this, even subconsciously, is the a fear that if he is out of sight, he is out of mind. And sure, that is a risk. But is it worth the risk of losing?

Republicans are smart to put a lot of pressure on making the decision to run. The party's strongest general election candidates appear to be struggling, and the GOP's dream of a Grayson nomination is quickly wilting as Murphy builds a strong campaign and Grayson can't keep his campaign out of the ditch. So in an election cycle where the Democrats have an excellent chance to take back the US Senate, Florida could well be the key vote. So yes, Rubio would be doing his party a huge solid by getting in.

But for Rubio, this is far from a sure thing. His statewide numbers make him look vulnerable, and his top of the ticket makes a dumpster fire look good. Trump at this point appears to be building no real campaign, so Rubio will be on his own, communicating, and building a statewide turnout operation -- and he will spend the next five months answering for Trump's nutty comments and policy ideas. And let's remember, Rubio only won 49% of the statewide vote in the single best year for Republicans in a century, so it isn't like he is a Florida political juggernaut. 2016 will be a far better year for Democrats than 2010.

It is this simple: if he wins and Clinton is President, he gets to go to DC and take bad votes for two years, and then be an absentee Senator running for President. And if he loses? Well then he gets to watch the whole thing from the sidelines for the foreseeable future.

If Rubio wants to be a Senator, or just has a need to be in the public spotlight, he should run. But if his goal is to be President, which i suspect has been his goal since running for the West Miami Commission in 1998, he should resist the temptation and trust what was clearly his plan up until a few weeks ago.

But then again, he isn't asking me!

Sunday
May222016

Unsolicited Advice for Bernie Sanders

One of the hardest things for a campaign, particularly one completely engaged in the fight, is to see beyond itself. Typically, this only gets worse when campaigns, both ones winning and losing, reach the desperate phase -- the point when you have simply run out of options because the end is near. Every candidate wants to win, so no campaign, at any level of the ballot, is immune.

Right now Bernie Sanders falls into this box. Over the past month or so, as it became more and more clear his campaign is nearing the end, the campaign has taken on sharper edge, saying and doing things making it harder for him to land the plane softly. But now the plane is going to land regardless - and after tomorrow, there really is no tomorrow.

If he were to ask, below is the advice I would give to Bernie Sanders.

So here goes, my Memo to Bernie Sanders

1. Use Your Political Capital Wisely: You will never have more political capital than you have today, but every day that goes by, you will lose a bit of your capital. Whether you want it to or not, the party is going to move on. You want to define the terms of your exit, not have it defined for you, and in this frame, you need to figure out what deliverables they can actually give you. As you know, politics is zero-sum, so be realistic, and remember, that conversation isn't the end game.

2. You need to go all in for her: It may be counter-intuitive, but the success of your movement -- and your ability to lead it, is entirely dependent on Hillary Clinton winning. If she loses, your movement won't look to you for leadership, but instead will start looking for new candidates -- and many Democrats will blame you for the loss. But when she wins, you can use your movement to push for more progressive policies.

3. Don't obsess about the platform: No one has ever read it. No one ever will. And yes, the nomination process in both parties is messed up. But that isn't today's fight - beating Donald Trump is.

4. Help her win, then take credit for it: Right now, the sense is the Democratic Party is not united. You often say that you can't make your followers do what you want, but we all know this isn't true. Just like Hillary Clinton made it easy for her supporters to join up with Obama, you need to do the same. And when she wins in November, driven by a united Democratic coalition, the campaign obits will all give you credit for it, and all of the sudden, you will find yourself in charge of an incredibly powerful movement - with a President who can help you get things done.

5. Think long term. Change doesn't happen in Washington, change starts in local communities. Encourage and help your activists run for school boards, city commissions, and state legislatures. Your campaign has been a moment - but you can build a movement by inspiring a generation of young activists that a life in public service is an honorable one, and look back in 15-20 years and see what real change looks like.

The biggest thing you should do Wednesday is get some sleep. Go back to Burlington for a day or two, get your team off the television, and take a day or two to catch your breath. At some level, I've been there. After three months in the barrel for Joe Biden, it was hard to stop fighting. But with space and rest, the path will become clear.

And Senator, remember leadership isn't just about inspiring a movement, it is also about knowing when to lead your team off the mountain before you are trapped in a storm. Your job now is to give your movement the best chance to succeed in the future. Your loudest supporters will want you to push on -- but your job is to help them understand why it is time to move on.

Monday
May092016

Florida State House Rankings, May 2016

Six months before Election Day, now that the candidates and races are starting to develop, I wanted to take a look at my favorite of all subjects:  State House races.

For those of you all who don't know me well, I cut my teeth in the Florida House.  State House races are my first political love, and for young rising operatives, I believe them to be the best of all proving grounds.  Almost everything you do running for President, Governor, Congress, etc., you do running for the State House, just at a smaller scale.  

There are a lot of fun races this year, with the Democrats largely playing offense - though many of their best shots are against incumbents, which is typically a tougher bet.  As you will see, of the ten races profiled below, there is only one in the Democratic column.  Some folks might thing I am home-teaming this thing, but honestly, I could argue that one doesn't belong there either, as it isn't really at much risk and is included more for balance.  One other caveat, this is how I see these races today, but much can and will change.  I am pretty sure if we checked with a group of Republican and Democratic strategists, you'd find consensus that the map will be fought on the GOP side this year. 

I have ranked these seats in order of their likelihood to flip from one party to the other, with 10 being the least likely, to 1 being the most likely.   So here goes:

10.  HD 68 (Dudley Open):  Dwight Dudley's surprise decision to retire from the House has created an open seat in traditionally one of the top battleground districts in Florida.  The top of the ticket results would argue this seat is just barely a swing seat, though given both the Pinellas voter registration trends and the potential of a bruising Democratic primary, this seat barely makes the list. In 3 months, there is a good chance it will have fallen off.

9. HD 72 (Pilon Open):  If Pilon had run for re-election, this would be an honorable mention, but now that it is an open seat. it makes the first round of rankings.  The Democratic candidate, Edward James, comes from an established Sarasota family and has raised a significant war chest.  The Republican, Alex Miller, is formidable in her own right. Based on candidate quality alone, this should be higher up the list.  However, the district is quite marginal for Democrats.  Both Romney and Scott won the seat by a few points, and given the older -- and whiter make-up of the seat, it is a place less likely to be impacted by Trump.  Keep an eye on it, and ask me again in three months.

8. HD 69 (Peters Challenge):  This is one of the "swingiest" of seats in one of the swingiest of counties.  Kathleen Peters.  Both Obama and Crist won the seat by a few points, and there is no reason to think that Trump/Clinton won't have a similar outcome.  The incumbent has played it smart, avoiding ideological pits, focusing on mental health as her primary issue.  The Democratic candidate, Jennifer Webb, is a bit unknown at this point, hence this seat not being higher up the list.  In three months this could be a real race, or it might not even be on this list. But given the make-up of the district, it will be one to watch.

7. HD 120 (Raschein Challenge):  Two reasons this race makes the list:  the district's historical performance, and the problems Trump creates for all Republicans in South Florida.  As a legislator in a vulnerable seat, Holly has done everything right.  Full disclosure, she's been a friend for many years (we were staff together in the House) thus I hate even including her on this list.  Objectively, she has one of the more bipartisan voting records in Tallahassee, works hard for her district, and she's effectively scared off all top tier opponents.  But in her district, particularly in a Presidential year, any opponent is a threat.  Obama won the seat by six points, and with a good chunk of the district in heavily Hispanic South Dade, a Trump implosion with Hispanics could hurt her.  I expect her to win, but she's going to have to grind it out in a tough environment for her.

6. HD 47 (Miller Challenge):  Like HD 30 - which isn't even on the list at this point, this seat should be further up the list for Dems.  The top of the ticket statewide for the Democrats has carried the seat in each of the last four elections, but at this point, no Democratic candidate has emerged as a top tier challenger, and Miller is sitting on $100K, which is a respectable number.  However, the D's won the seat easily in 2012 against a fairly formidable opponent, and Orlando is one of those places where Trump could create problems for Republicans.  Miller starts with the edge, but can't take anything for granted.

5. HD 59 (Spano Challenge): Spano's opponent, Rena Frazier, is flat out one of the better recruits the Dems had in years.   The district is very much up for grabs at the top of the ticket, and voter registration is trending a bit Democratic.  That beind said, Spano is a heavyweight in his own right, well liked and a hard worker.  He won a four way primary in his first race over opponents he was not supposed to beat.  However, there is no question that Rena is the best general election opponent he has faced.  If Tom Lee runs for local office, and Spano takes a shot at the Senate, look for this one to move up the rankings.

4. HD 63 (Harrison Challenge):  On paper, of the two GOP held swing seats in Hillsborough, this one is definitely more favorable to the Democrats.  Obama carried the seat by a 5-6 points, and swept in Mark Danish over Harrison in 2012.  This time around, he faces a better candidate in Lisa Montelione, a Tampa City Council member who has had a respectable early fundraising show, and a weaker GOP nominee in Trump.  A GOP wave swept Harrison into office in 2010, out of office in 2012, back into office in 2014... you get the idea. He's generally carved out the kind of voting record you need in a seat like this, but to win, he has to buck the district's recent history.  If Tom Lee runs for the Senate, and Harrison takes his shot, this seat probably moves to #2 or #3 on this list.

3.  HD 103 (Diaz Challenge):  I don't think there is a single Republican incumbent in the State House more hurt by Donald Trump than Manny Diaz Jr., who is legitimately one of the nicest guys in town.  Going into re-election, he's got three major problems:  The seat is moving away from him -- quickly, he's running against one of the D's better candidates, and Trump.  Voter registration has trended away from Republicans, and this is the kind of seat where NPA voters lean Democratic -- and that is before the Trump factor.  He will have a ton of financial support, his race will be competently managed, and as a guy who cut his teeth in a district where we were called dead every cycle, I never count anyone out -- and no one can count Diaz out either.  But unless something changes, he clearly starts out as the most vulnerable incumbent.

2. HD 114 (Fresen Open):  Always one of the better opportunities for Democrats, this open seat has quickly rocketed to the top, now that it is all but sure that Trump will be the GOP nominee.  Both parties have top tier candidates in this seat.  Both parties will play heavily in this rare Dade County open swing seat.  But the D's have two major factors helping them:  like all of Dade, this seat is trending Democratic -- and Trump right now appears to be an anchor for Republicans with Hispanics. The Democratic candidate, Daisy Baez, put a real scare into Fresen in 2014, which was a horrible year for Democrats.   In a year where Hillary Clinton will likely beat Trump in Dade County by 30 or more points, Baez at this point is in an exceptionally strong position.

1. HD 49 (Coach P Open).  With all due respect to Rene Plasencia (Coach P), who is the perfect Republican in this lean Democratic seat, and who ran a near perfect campaign -- this is not a seat the Democrats should have lost, even in 2014. Obama carried the seat in 2012 by roughly twenty points, and Crist easily defeated Scott.  Coach P, a teacher and track coach, has decided to seek re-election in a neighboring seat, much more favorable to the Republicans.  I honestly don't think the GOP is even contesting this one.  Unless something exceptionally odd happens, the Democratic candidate, my buddy Carlos Smith, will win this seat. 

And here are a few that you should keep an eye on:

HD 30 (Cortes Challenge):  If I had written this column six months ago, this seat which has flipped from R to D to R in the last few cycles would have probably 5th or 6th on this list  It has all the makings of a battleground seat - central Florida, tight races at the top of the ticket, trending Hispanic, etc.  But to date, Cortes has fended off a top tier opponent.  Depending on what happens over the next three months, this will either move completely off, or move into top tier status.

HD 9 (Vasilinda Open):  Some Republicans see this as a pick-up opportunity, but I  think this seat is far more competitive on paper than it is in reality.  The top of the ticket Democrat has carried it by respectable margins, such as Crist, who won it by more than 10.  The one blip: 2012, where Obama won the seat by a narrower 5 points.  That being said, well known and well liked former State Representative Loranne Ausley has filed, is absolutely killing it on fundraising.  The GOP also has a good candidate, though not nearly as well known as Loranne -- nor as good as Peter Boulware, who failed to win the seat in 2008.  Loranne alone is probably a 3-4 point boost on top of the seat's Democratic performance.  Plus Loranne is an Ironman finisher -- she knows how to work. By the numbers, it is one to watch, but I suspect Loranne wins by double digits.

HD 93 (Moratis Challenge):  Representative Moratis holds down the one red seat in Blue Broward.  It is one of these seats that looks better on paper for Democrats than it is in reality, but this year he has drawn an interesting opponent, former Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl.  Keechl will have real name ID, and has a fundraising base.  Romney won this seat in 2012, but I suspect this is a seat where Clinton should outperform Obama.  In no way yet can you say Moratis is vulnerable, but that doesn't mean he or the GOP can turn a blind eye to this race.

Almost every single Dade County Republican Legislative seat:  I have felt for several years that one day, on the Wednesday after the election, we will wake up and the Democrats will have won several seats in Dade County that no one saw coming.  This might be the year.  These incumbents all live in seats Obama either one or lost in narrow margins:  Trujillo, Oliva, Bileca, Artiles (Open), and Nunez.  In the other two, Avila and Pepe Diaz, the voter registration and Presidential top of the ticket trend lines are working against the Republicans, though they are in far safer seats for Republicans than the other five.  Right now, none of the above have Democratic candidates that merit inclusion on this list, though I have heard the Democrat getting into the Artiles open could be formidable.  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't pay attention.  In 2012, Jeff Soloman put a much closer than expected five point scare into Bileca -- and if the D's had thrown a candidate into almost any of the other seats, Obama might have pulled another Mark Danish or Carl Zimmermann across the line.  If Trump loses Dade by 30 points or more -- which is extremely possible at this point -- I would bet lunch that at the wave carries one of the above to the Dem column.

Like everything in politics, this is all subject to change.  I'll take another stab at this after qualifying.  In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to drop me a note.

Thursday
May052016

Can #NeverTrump Actually Assure America is #NeverTrump?

While we've ended up on the opposite sides of many a political fight, there are few people I respect more in the business than Mac Stipanovich.  In many ways, Mac is the original GOP operative of the modern Florida political world.  While he is a proud member of the GOP establishment, few people have been more disruptive in Florida than Mac.  

One of the things I admire about him, he is a patriot more than a partisan, and while frankly only an idiot would question his GOP credentials, no one is going to tell him what to do either. Mac's support is earned, not assumed. Frankly, it is a place in life that I aspire to reach myself.  And in this election, Mac is firmly #NeverTrump. 

After 20 years in the business, there are a few things I've found consistent.   One of them -- to steal a phrase from ESPN's Chris Berman is "no one circles the wagons like the Republican Party."  Time and time again, the GOP have driven the car off the edge of the Grand Canyon in a primary, only to somehow get the thing to land on four wheels stronger than when it started.  Frankly, I wish my side was more like that.

My personal history tells me that, notwithstanding the principled stands of guys like Mac and my buddy, chief #NeverTrump agitator Rick Wilson, that we should assume the GOP will rally behind their guy, because when it boils down to it, power and the White House -- for most -- will trump all else (pun intended).

But what if it is most, but not all of the GOP base, goes to Trump. 

What if the Mac's and Rick's add up to enough people that Trump earns 2% less of the GOP vote than Romney. What if they are 5% or even 8%?   What does that really mean?  Put more simply, how many Mac's and Rick's can Trump lose and still stand?


Let's start by looking at 2012.

According to the exit polls, Romney and Obama got nearly the same percentage of the partisan vote.  Obama got 90% of Dems, Romney 91% of Republicans.  Obama won the NPA vote by 3, and the net result was an Obama 0.9% win.  

Now the exit polls were based on self party ID -- 35% considered themselves Democrats, 33% Republicans and 33% NPA.  The good news, if we weight the exit polls to actual turnout, 40.3 D, 38.7R, 21 NPA, the party weights land at an Obama 0.7% win -- essentially the same as the exits.  So that model works pretty well for this exercise.

So let's start with how do we get Trump to a win?

Actually, all things being equal (chill out twitterverse, I know they are not -- this is just an exercise) if Trump wins the same share of the vote among Republicans as Romney (92%-8%), and Clinton got the same as Obama (90%-9), for Trump to win, he would need to carry the NPA vote by 1% (50-49%), compared to Obama winning them 50-47 in 2012.  The margin would be very tight, but he'd still win.

Now in reality, this alone is a huge climb for Trump.  More and more Hispanics and Blacks (both AfAm and Caribbean voters) are registering NPA, so the NPA pot is getting more diverse, hence more Democratic in a Presidential year turnout.  Because of this, a far more likely scenario is Trump on his best day losing NPAs by 3-5 points.

But for fun, let's assume that happens, and that Trump wins the NPA vote by a point.

So we start here:

If Trump and Clinton both win/lose exactly same share of their own party as Romney and Obama, and Trump wins NPA by 1%, Trump wins the election by about 0.2% 

But what if the #NeverTrump movement keeps the GOP from unifying...

Let's assume, #NeverTrump leads to a 2% reduction in GOP party loyalty -- or more specifically, rather than winning Republicans 92-8 like Romney, Trump wins them 90-10.  

In that case, Clinton wins the state by 0.5%.  And to make it back up, Trump would need to win NPA by a 54-46 margin (Again, Obama was +3).


What if that number rises to 5%, that #NeverTrump leads to Trump winning 87% of Republicans, not 92% (87-13)


In that case, Clinton wins the state by almost 4% if they all go to her.  Under this scenario, he'd need to win NPA by 20 points to make up the difference.

Even if none of them go to her -- they all just sit out (ie 87-8-5), she wins by 2%.  Under this scenario,  he'd still have to win NPA by 10 to make it up.

And lastly, what if the #NeverTrump number is 8%, the Trump share of the GOP vote is 8 points lower than Romney got -- in other words: 84-16 Trump/Clinton:

In this case, Clinton would win Florida by the largest margin of any candidate since Bush beat Dukakis in 1988 - well over 6 points.  In this case, he'd have to win the NPA vote by 31 points to make up the difference (65-34)

And even if not a single one of them voted for her -- so all 8% just sat out (84 Trump, 8 Clinton, 8 Don't Vote), she still wins by 3 points. To make it up, he'd need to win NPA by 15 points.

Again, this whole thing starts with the assumption he can win the NPA vote by a point, which I think is a massive uphill climb.  It also assumes that Clinton wins the same share of the vote among Democrats that Obama did in 2012.  Thanks to Trump, I am pretty confident of this.  

 In other words, Trumps path to victory is almost entirely dictated by his ability or inability to unify his base and turning #NeverTrump into #OKIGuessTrump.  And he has a lot of votes to earn. Right now, Trump's popular vote total is about 18% of the total votes that Romney won in the 2012 general election.  That is a lot of people for bring into the tent.

For Republicans like Mac, who believe that his party needs a post-Trump reset, the path to stopping Trump in a place like Florida is pretty simple, and it starts by just convincing a few of their partisan friends to follow their lead.