Join the Email List




Saturday
Oct142017

My friend Linda

I am still mad at myself.  Following the American Council of Young Political Leader's fifty-year gala last September, I was standing around to congratulate my friend Linda Rotunno on an amazing event, but she was rightly mobbed.  No big deal, I'm in DC every 6-8 weeks, and surely I'll see her on the next trip, so I just took off.   That was the last time I saw her.

For the most part, I've lived the dream.  Not a lot of kids who were born in a dying Midwestern town grow up to work for a  President.  Plus I am blessed with a wonderful spouse, and great friends.  But into my late 30's, there was one piece missing - travel.  And by travel, I don't mean to spending a week in London, I mean, go places people don't often go, and meeting interesting people.  

When I was a kid, I would spin the globe in my room and pick places I would visit.  The farther afield the better.  I've long had a curiosity for different cultures, so much so that I had once thought I would go into the foreign service, or maybe the Peace Corps.  But before i knew it, life took over.  My career took off, I got married, and in a flash, fifteen years had passed, at least until the day when my friend Chip Burpee sent me an email, with an application for the American Council of Young Political Leaders.  It seemed too good to be true - someone would pay to fly me to a foreign country for a couple of weeks.  Sign me up.  A few months later, I was on my way to the Philippines and Malaysia.

Linda ran the organization, and I just happened to sit by her at the dinner our team had before we headed halfway around the world.  i remember instantly liking her.  A month or so later, I was back in DC for this or that, and took Linda to lunch, to thank her for the opportunity.  From that day forward, I rarely went to DC without visiting her, even though often those conversations were just me listening to her stories.

While some 20 years older, she had been a hack like me early in her life, and later in her life, had found herself in this world of organizing political and cultural exchanges. Personally, I couldn't get enough of it, and she made it easy for me to remain engaged, first by asking me to host a group from Pakistan and India in 2014, then in 2015, knowing she was fulfilling a dream of mine, sent me with a group to Africa.  

In early 2016, upon returning from Africa, we got together for one of our routine meals.  After listening to me ramble on about Africa for an hour, the topic changed -- she had just learned prior to our meal her cancer had likely returned.  

She didn't seem overly concerned.  She continued talking about her dream to retire overseas one day, and spending more time in Asia with our mutual friend from Malaysia, Jack Lim.   And in the immediate, she was mostly concerned whether her doctor would let her make a 50 hour or so trip to rural Burma, to help a previous delegate to the US with the birth of her first child.   

Eight months later, when I saw her the morning of the gala, she told me she was feeling well.   What I didn't know was the cancer had come back with a vengeance.  Everyone who knew her knew it was a real possibility - very few knew it was imminent.

We talked about the group from Turkey I'd be hosting for the 2016 elections.  We talked about our friend Jack, who had wanted to badly to come to Washington for this event.  We caught up on the on the Burmese child from her winter trip, and she made me promise that I'd go there with her one day, just as she had taken friends of mine before. 

If she was feeling ill, she did an amazing job of hiding it.  

A year ago today, my phone buzzed.  A text.  Linda had died.  Cancer.  What?  How is this possible.  I called the guy who texted me, who confirmed, yes, she was gone. 

I texted a few people who would want to know, then called Jack.  It can't be true, he said.  But it was.  We both cried. 

The next day, two days after she passed, I got a note from Linda thanking me for coming to the gala.  

A year has passed. Jack is getting married in December at a wedding that Linda wouldn't have missed.  I am hosting three young leaders from af the world she loved.  I've hosted groups Pakistan, India, and Turkey, and today have new friends in far corners of the world.  I've traveled to the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Namibia, and Botswana, and one day, I'll fulfill the promise I made to go to Burma.   Today, my life is genuinely fuller, because of Linda.

I just wish I had hung around that gala long enough to say thank you one last time. 

Saturday
Oct072017

Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico and Florida Politics

Since Maria, the question I've gotten more than any other is "So if X number of Puerto Ricans move to Florida because of the hurricane, what does this mean?"

Honestly, I write this blog with some hesitation.  As I work on this piece, 80-90% of the population still lacks power and some 50% lack potable water, so politics is really the last thing anyone should be worried about.  But given the likely ongoing interest in this question, and in part because I use this medium to share my own research, I wanted to offer some thoughts.

Both Politico's Marc Caputo (here) and Washington Post's James Hohmann (here) have written interesting pieces on the subject, but I wanted to try to give it more data context.   So in this blog, I'll try to provide my thoughts based on analyzing census data, voter registration data, and Presidential election trends.  

For my Democratic friends, a word of warning about the latter - particularly regarding 2018, recent turnout in off-year cycles in Orange and Osceola County has been quite low.  Comparing the 2012 and 2014 elections, Osceola saw turnout drop from 67% to 41.3%, the third largest drop-off in Florida, and Orange fell from 68.1% to 43.3%, the sixth highest drop-off.  So if you want to take advantage of anything I will write about from this point onward, don't stop organizing.  

One other word of warning, this blog only looks at the impacts in three counties: Orange, Osceola, and Seminole, because the acute impact of Puerto Rican growth is likely to be most significantly felt here.  However, as we saw in 2016, the political impacts of Puerto Ricans in these three counties were outweighed by the Trump surge among whites in the outlying Orlando media market counties.  Alex Leary at the Tampa Bay Times just wrote a an excellent piece on this dynamic.  One last note: I wrote a piece called "Orlando Rising" about the demographic changes that were occuring in the region then, if you are curious for comparison purposes. 

So here goes,

Like so may things, the answer to the Maria question lies in history.

For the sake of this exercise, let's start the clock in 2000.  The 2000 election was by far the closest in our state's history, and thus provides a good balanced starting point when looking at elections.  We also have census data from 2000 to provide another benchmark.

In terms of voter registration, we can't really analyze data before 2006, since most counties in Florida grouped "Hispanics" into their race:  either Black or White.  One quick note, as I do in all my pieces, I will use Black, not African-American, because Florida also has a large Caribbean-American population that gets categorized into the same data. 

So let's start with Census data.  Keep one thing in mind, the 2015 data is based on Census projections based on their year round survey work.  While they are still fairly accurate, we won't see exact numbers until sometime in 2021 when the 2020 census data is released. So with that caveat...

In 2000, the Orlando urban counties had 1,434,033 total residents.  Of this population, 18.1% was Hispanic, and another 14.7% was Black.  The area's non-Hispanic White population was just over 62%. 

So let's move ahead to 2015.  Population in the tri-county area had grown to 1,967.255, with Hispanics now making up 29.6% of the population, with Black residents also increasing, to 16.3%.  Non-Hispanic Whites had dropped to 47% of the area's population. 

In fairness, the 2000 Census had fewer categories of people, so that 62% number is probably high, but regardless, that is a significant change. 

Looking at it another way, between 2000 and 2015, the area grew by 532,222 residents, of which roughly 325,000 are Hispanic, with the total Hispanic population growing from just under 260,000 to almost 585,000.  

Often overlooked in the region, the area's Black population also grew substantially, from 210,000 to 320,000. At the same time, the area's non-Hispanic White population grew by just 32,000 -- which is actually less than the Asian population, which grew by 45,000 over the same period.   Again, it is important to note the non-Hispanic White count was likely artificially high in 2000.

But any way you look at it, the Hispanic population exploded, and the entire area got much more diverse.

So what does that mean for the politics?

Let's start with voter registration.  I want to start with a caveat from Census data:  Hispanic is a self-reported data point on voter registration cards, and it typically under-represents the real number, as some Hispanics will only self-report as White or Black.  The census data above collects all Hispanics, regardless of their race.  This is one reason why if you look at public polling or exit polling, Hispanic share is often higher than the state's voter registration numbers, especially in Presidential years.

So going back to 2006, at the time the book closed on the 2006 General Election, there were just over 941,000 registered voters in the area, of which 17.5%, or 165,000 were Hispanic.  Another 12.3% were Black, with non-Hispanic Whites making up 62%, roughly the same as the Census proportions.  

Two other data points:  In 2006, Hispanics broke 43% Dem - 21% R, and 36% NPA, while non-Hispanic Whites broke 48% Rep, 30% Dem, and 22% NPA - which may seem high, but isn't for this part of the state, given the region's GOP tradition.

Fast forward to the 2016 book closing.  There are now 1,264,778 voters in the area, and Hispanics have grown from 165,008 to 312,323 voters, which equates to 24.7% of the electorate.  Black voters are up to 14.2%, and non-Hispanic white is down to 51.2%, a number that I believe, even before any possible Hurricane Maria impact, will be below 50% in 2020.

Those other comparative data points from 2006:  Hispanics are now 54% Dem, 14% Rep, and 32% NPA.  In fact, among Whites and Blacks, both political parties lost share of registrants to NPA (non-Hispanic White is now 46R-27D-27NPA).  In fact, the only place where partisans increased their share of the electorate was Democrats with Hispanics.   

Look at it another way, and the dynamic is even more remarkable.  Since 2006, the area's voter registration grew by about 323,000 voters.  Of that, 45% was Hispanic, while 21% was non-Hispanic White, and about 19% of the growth was among Black voters. The raw numbers are even starker:  Hispanic Democrats in the decade leading up to 2016 grew by 99,000 voters, while Republicans growth was just under 9,000.  

So how did that play out in elections?

In 2000, in the Orlando metro area (again, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties): George W. Bush beat Al Gore by just under 9,000 votes -- a margin he actually grew to 33,000 votes in 2004.  When you think about the urban Central Florida core today, it is hard to think that just 12 years ago, Republican Presidential candidates actually won the region.  Again, this was a pretty Republican area prior to the recent demographic shifts.

But not any more.  In 2016, Hillary Clinton won those same three counties by over 165,000 votes. In fact, in just Orange County (Orlando proper), where John Kerry beat George Bush by 1,000 votes in 2004, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 134.000 votes just 12 years later.  

Another way of looking ait, the two-party candidate margin shifted almost nearly 175,000 from Bush 2000 (almost 200K from 2004).  And this wasn't just the "Obama coalition" or "Obama turnout" -- Clinton's 2016 margin was about 65,000 votes larger than either Obama election.  In a word, this is demographics.

Another metric:  In 2000, Democrats had no locally elected Members of Congress.  A Democratic seat from Jacksonville meandered down to Orlando, but that was it.  In 2016, the region has three Democratic local Members of Congress, which reflect the growing diversity of the area:  a Puerto-Rican, an African-American, and a Vietnamese American.

So let's talk Hurricane Maria.

First, it is important to keep in mind just how much has changed in the last fifteen years in these three counties for Puerto Ricans.  In 2000, the community was emerging, as was the community's social and political infrastructure.  I used to say to reporters in those days who were writing about the early Puerto Rican political dynamic, one of the big differences between Miami and Orlando is you could figure out who the opinion leaders were in Miami, but it wasn't as easy in those days in Orlando.

Today is quite different.  Puerto Ricans who come to Orlando now will find a ready-made community, with a social structure solidly in place, a growing job market, and in many cases, friends and family already here.  In other words, while moving is never easy, migrating to Orlando following Maria will be a far easier adjustment than it was 15 or 20 years ago.

And far more than a Hispanic immigrant, the Puerto Rican impact on the politics is acute.  As long as a Puerto Rican migrates and takes up residence in Florida more than 30 days before a given election, they can vote.   As we've seen since 2000, the immediate impact in these three counties has been to the significant benefit of Democrats.

So what does it all potentially mean?

There is no way to know how many people could migrate to Central Florida.  Pretty much every estimate out there is a dart thrown against a wall.  

But we do know this.  Over the last ten years, 67% of the Hispanic voter registration growth accrued to the Democrats, while only 6% went to the GOP, so any growth from Maria, which is over and above the growth which is already happening in Orlando, will only exacerbate the local political trends.

Let me close with one note of caution:  Florida is a big complicated state, and there is not, nor will there ever be, a single silver bullet that "turns" Florida one way or another.  Florida is five or six really big states in one.  The North Florida media markets alone are the voting power of Iowa, and just Miami-Dade County has roughly the same voting power as Nevada.  

Despite Florida's razor close margins -- with only 18,000 votes separating Republicans and Democrats out of the 50,000,000 ballots cast for President since 1992, and with the last two Presidentials and two Governor's races each being decided by a point, Florida is historically close because of the sum of these diverse parts, not because of any one thing in any one spot.  You win Florida by managing the margins.  So while these trends help the Democratic balance sheet, a win in 2018 and 2020 also means reducing the Trump and Scott margins in other counties. 

To the latter point, Florida also has this interesting ability to find equilibrium - when it looked like the high migration to Florida from around the mainland would shift Florida forever into the GOP column in the early 2000s, large Hispanic and Caribbean growth balanced it out.  Of late, the demographic gains that Democrats have made have been balanced out with increasing support among Whites for Republican candidates.  And I expect this balance to continue going forward, at least through the next few Presidential cycles.  With that being said, I do think over time, Republicans will reach a ceiling with Whites (and Trump could well be the ceiling), meaning if the GOP can't find a way to improve its vote share with Hispanic voters, their math will get harder and harder.  But Democrats, remember, none of that is a sure thing.

So while a large migration from Maria will absolutely impact Central Florida politics, and those impacts will help Democrats statewide - it won't "tip" the state any more than any other population shift that could occur, because well, Florida is gonna Florida.  In a world where the Jaguars crush the Steelers, and lead their division after 5 games, literally anything can happen!

May God Bless our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico.  

 

 

 

Tuesday
Sep262017

Last night was a BFD for Florida Democrats

Last night, the train of Democratic state legislative wins around the country came to Florida, as Annette Taddeo defeated Jose Felix Diaz in the special election for Senate District 40, picking up a key seat for Florida Democrats.  How big of a deal is this for Florida Democrats?  This is the first legislative special election pick-up since 2008, and the first time Florida Democrats have won a special in the State Senate probably since about the beginning of the Republic. 

When I wrote about this race back in the summer, my belief was this race meant a lot more for Democrats than it did for Republicans.  This is a race Republicans should win.  Outside of the Clinton numbers in 2016, this seat leans a little Republican down the ballot, they fielded an outstanding candidate, and they had more money -- which becomes a bigger factor in a short sprint election in a really expensive media market. Taddeo's win, if my text messages last night are any indication, sent a pretty loud shock wave through political circles.   And it should.  

Here are some of my takeaways.

1.  Winning breeds winning.  I know this sounds trite, but one of the reasons why I felt this race mattered a whole lot more to the Democrats than the Republicans is because the Democrats needed to prove they can win, both to the outside world, and to themselves.  There is a confidence that comes from winning, and last night will make fundraising and candidate recruitment easier going forward.   

2. Don't Ever Underestimate your opponent.  Ever.  A lot of people in the Florida establishment didn't take Taddeo seriously.  But I know Annette, and she is tenacious campaigner.  Moreover, even in her Congressional loss in 2016, she did quite well within this seat, allowing her to come into this race with a ton of name recognition, name ID that gave her an important leg-up against the wave of money she would face.

3. Donald J. Trump.  My friend Rick Wilson likes to say "everything Trump touches dies."  This is a part of the state where immigration policy matters, and where Obamacare was always popular.  To this point, Barack Obama had a 63% favorable in recent polling in the district, while Trump's very unfavorable was 50%. with total unfavorable at 57%.   Absolutely nothing Trump has done over the last six months was good news for Republicans there.   As we saw in the St. Petersburg Mayor's race, and again last night, Republican candidates who can't figure out how to deal with Trump have a hard time getting to those last 2-3% of voters who swing elections.  This was my reality in 2010 and 2014,  and Republicans have to figure out the two problems we often faced:  How do you deal with increased enthusiasm on the other side driven by sending a message to the President of your party -- and how do you talk to voters who want to use you to send that message.  And here is the problem, as Alex Sink learned, sometimes, no matter what you do, you can't solve it.

4.  Dear Democrats:  Recruit, Recruit, Recruit.  Just like for Democrats in 2006, 2008, and 2012 - and Republicans in 2014 and 2010, there is currently a dividend to just being a Democrat on the ballot.  I would argue SD 40 is, in a generic election, a +1 or +2 GOP seat in a legislative or congressional race, and based just on likely partisan turnout, should be an even to +/-1 point advantage for either party.  Taddeo won by 3, despite being vastly outspent, which is basically a 5 point shift from the generic performance.  What does that mean?  Every seat you think is currently out of play, add a few Dem points to the generic performance and see what happens.  In other words, a lot of places are potentially in play.  In 2006, we approached the cycle with two goals:  recruit the best possible candidate in as many seats as could potentially be in play, then be smart about where you spend money.  We don't know what November 2018 will bring yet, but waves start with having a lot of good candidates out there, and right now, there is work to be done.  Fortunately, for Democrats, there is time.

5. There are no sure rules anymore.  Republicans have done well on election day of late, in part because Democratic voters have tended to take more advantage of in-person early voting than Republicans.   But this led virtually every Republican I spoke to over the last few days to believe it was a sure thing they would win election day.  Instead, Taddeo won it by a yuge margin, driven by an enthusiastic turnout operation.  There was hardly an activist on my facebook feed that wasn't checking in to some canvass or virtual phone bank this weekend.  The Florida Democratic Party, Senate Democrats (congrats to my old 08 Obama/Biden organizer Josh Weirebach), Team Taddeo, and various outside groups came together and instead of fighting each other Democrat-style, blew it out together on the ground.  And it won Taddeo the race.  

As I said in my piece this summer, I do think people tend to read too much of the future into these special elections, and I still believe that to be true.   The fact Taddeo won doesn't mean Democrats are going to sweep the ballot in 2018.  Nonetheless, it was a big win, a yuge win, and in the words of my once -- and maybe future boss, a pretty big f'n deal.

I want to close with one last thought.  Often times, we complain about the quality of the choice in an election, and races are too often framed as the lesser of two evils.  In reality, most people in public life are good people, and in the case of Senate District 40, voters had a choice between two outstanding citizens.

Both Annette Taddeo and Pepi Diaz are friends of mine, friends who I hold in the highest regard, and while I personally hate they ended up in a race against each other, I am glad for democracy that they did.  This is how it is supposed to work.  

Congratulations Annette -- you truly deserve this and I know you are going to make your friends, family and supporters proud.  And Pepi, thank you for putting yourself in the arena. You are as Teddy Roosevelt would say, a man who "spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Tuesday
Jul252017

The Florida Special Election You Should Be Watching

This piece is more designed for my readers who don't live and breathe Florida politics: there is a State Senate election on September 26th you should be paying attention to, a race that could be an interesting test of how the GOP's institutional advantages measure up to Trump's policies, favorability, Democratic enthusiasm, and demographic trendlines. Honestly, it is a race providing a real opportunity for both parties.

First, it is important to remember State Senate seats in Florida are not much smaller than Congressional districts, and this one, when fully engaged in the state's most expensive media market, will see the spending tab run well into the millions.  In a typical election cycle, spending in Florida's top State Senate races will outpace most Congressional races down here.

So a little about the district -- this is Senate District 40.  Located in Dade County, SD 40 is almost 75% Hispanic by census, and depending on the election, typically falls in the mid-60's Hispanic among actual voters.  There is also a significant Black population, which in Dade is both African American and Caribbean American.  On its surface to an outsider, it looks like a Democratic lay-up.  But keep in mind, a substantial proportion of Hispanics in Dade are Cuban, which means one key thing:  a much more Republican orientation than Hispanic-dominated urban districts outside of Florida (or frankly, outside of SE Florida).   

Hillary Clinton easily dispatched Donald Trump in this district, carrying it by 16 points (56-40).  Like a lot of Dade County districts, some of my Democratic friends look at those Clinton numbers and say, "well that is our seat."  But the Clinton number is highly deceptive, and doesn't tell the full story.  For example, Marco Rubio carried the district by 4 points (51-47), and among the precincts this district shares with the highly competitive Congressional District 26 - roughly 2/3rds of registered voters in SD 40 are also in CD 26 - Carlos Curbelo carried the district by 13 points.  To show just how volatile this district can be -- in those same CD 26 precincts, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 18 points, a marginal swing of 31 points.  

In the fall, Republicans carried this seat by ten points, as then State Representative Frank Artiles defeated then State Senator Dwight Bullard in an entirely new seat created by the court-mandated redistricting in 2015/16.  If you talk to Florida observers, you will get a lot of reasons why Bullard lost by this margin, but one interesting point in the data, the percentages that Bullard received are almost identical to the percentages that CD 26 Democratic nominee Joe Garcia received in the precincts that they shared.  In fact, in 75 or the 92 identical precincts between the seats, the two Democrats saw their share deviate by less than 3%. In other words, it is fair to say that the Bullard/Garcia numbers are the Democratic floor in SD 40.

Along the same lines, the Rubio race might be a better view of the GOP ceiling in the race than either of the races above.  Rubio/Murphy was more of a truly "contested" race - particularly when compared to the aforementioned State Senate and Congressional campaigns.  And in all honesty, Murphy still wasn't running at the same levels as Rubio, who by and large, runs as a Miami hometown hero.  The fact Rubio only won by four in this seat truly shows how much has changed in Miami Dade County over the last decade.

This seat was destined to be a battleground seat in 2018, but the incumbent Frank Artiles was forced to resign this spring (like most Florida political messes, it is quite a story -- you can google the details if you wish), setting up this 2017 showdown.

Tuesday's primary left us with a general election between Republican State Representative Jose Felix 'Pepi' Diaz, and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo.  Both have interesting Trump-era stories -- Diaz was on The Apprentice, and Taddeo, a 2016 Congressional candidate, was a victim of the Russian hacking.   In full disclosure, both are friends:  Taddeo was Crist's LG nominee (I was an adviser to Crist), and Diaz and I are both active in a non-partisan international political exchange organization.

In their primary, Republicans chose right.  Diaz is a well-liked and earnest legislator, who is generally considered to be a moderate in his party. For example, he took on many in his own party to lead the fight in Tallahassee to remove a Florida statue of a Confederate General from the US Capitol, and he led an effort to expand children's health care for immigrants.  Diaz fits the mold of the type of Republican who can and do succeed in districts like this in South Florida. 

The Democrats also chose the stronger of their two candidates.  Taddeo, is an energetic and engaging candidate, who has truly lived the American Dream immigrant story -- coming to America in her teens, learning English, putting herself in college, and building a very successful small business.  She's been on the ballot several times, running for Congress as a Hispanic Democrat in Dade long before that was the politically smart thing to do, but in doing so has built a strong network among Democratic donors and activists. 

In my humble view, this race comes down to basically two competing factors/questions:

1.  Money and Organization.  Can the Democrats compete with the GOP's financial and organizational advantages?   As long time readers know, I have been frustrated by my party's lack of work to build a sustaining bench in Dade.  One of the reasons why the GOP has been able to stem the tide down ballot in Miami Dade is the literal talent pipeline and turnout operation that they've built.  To this point, 3,000 more Republicans than Democrats voted in Tuesday's primary.  This is essentially a home game for the GOP, and there is a reason why the oddsmakers give home teams an edge.  Along the same lines, I don't think Taddeo can survive being outspent 2 or 3 to 1 -- so whether grassroots and institutional Democrats step up to help close the money gap will go a long ways to determining if the party can overcome the other factors.

1a. Trump...Trump...Trump.  The counter balance to point one is the question of Trump, and that question itself has many layers.  Does Trump drive base Democratic grassroots money and vote?  Does Trump's immigration decisions drive non-Cubans out to send a message -- and/or, does Trump's decision to stop Americans from recreationally traveling to Cuba drive enthusiasm with exile-era Cubans.  NPA voters in this district tend to be more Democratic than in the rest of Florida -- do they show up, and if they do, does Trump drive their vote?  How Trump impacts the race isn't a clear cut question.

Sure there are others - Can the Dems pick apart Diaz voting record effectively enough to disqualify him as a moderate?  Is there Taddeo fatigue from her previous runs?  How does the national Trumpcare debate impact the macro-level politics, or more specifically, the micro-politics of a district with high enrollment in the exchanges?  And the big intangible: What crazy thing will happen in DC between now and late September, and what if anything will it mean?  We all know something will happen, as surely it is the only thing we can bank on!

This is going to be a fun race to watch. Like all these special elections, it can be hard to draw too many conclusions from the outcome.  That being said, Dems have to prove they can win seats like this if there is a hope of winning a majority in the Senate anytime in the near future.   Moreover, should the Dems win, they would have reason to be optimistic that more and more of these traditionally Miami Republican Hispanic districts both in the legislature and in Congress; and on the flipside if the GOP holds on, there is reason to believe there is still a very clear road map for moderate Republicans to carve out the necessary coalition to win these trending Democratic districts.  This is why you will see both sides go all out.

Florida Senate District 40.  September 26, 2017. Put it on your radar.

Tuesday
Jun202017

One big lesson from GA 06.

Pretty close to exactly 12 years ago, I took the reins of the political operation of the Florida House Democratic Caucus. During my three years there, we picked up nine Republican districts, including two swing seat Special Elections, including a special in a ruby-red type district like Georgia 06.

We made the decision to play in this race for one after passing on a few other specials. Why? We had exactly the right candidate -- and we had exactly the right GOP opponent.

It was in late 2007, and GOP State Representative Bob Allen had just resigned, the details of which I will leave to The Google. His district, in Brevard County, wasn't exactly home team territory, but like GA06, had one or two markers that at least piqued my attention.

The Republicans had a four-way primary, and in the process nominated arguably the worst possible candidate. one the Orlando Sentinel called "woefully unprepared" who "lacks even the basic knowledge of how Florida's tax structure or its school system works." Needless to say, that ad wrote itself.

On the other side, we had basically the unicorn candidate, a well-regarded City Commissioner from the district's population center, Tony Sasso. Sasso was a pure progressive on environmental issues, which gave him base bonafides, but was libertarian on enough issues to win over some right-leaning swing voters, and reasonable enough as a Commissioner to give moderate voters comfort. He was a well-liked known commodity.

Even with this perfect storm -- the perfect candidate on our side, the perfect opponent, and the perfect set-up for the race (again, you can google it), we had to claw our way to a very narrow win.

For those of you who know me well, you know my basic political sandbox: Candidates matter. There were probably 25,000 other Democrats in that state house seat that would have lost, and with all respect to my friend Tony, we probably would have lost had the GOP just nominated a decent candidate.

So what does this have to do with GA 06?

Keep in mind, over 70 Republicans in Congress come from seats better than this one, meaning GA 06 is the kind of place where everything has to be perfect. In fact, there is only one Democratic Member of Congress in a seat more Republican than Georgia 06, and not a single Republican in one similar for the other side.

For Florida readers, here are two markers: At R+8, GA 06 is more Republican than Dennis Ross and Mike Biliraks' district, and more Republican than Ted Deutch's seat is Democratic. In terms of partisan voting, it is about equally as partisan as Debbie Wasserman Schultz's seat. In other words, to win, literally everything has to be perfect - and even then it's often not enough.

And it wasn't.

Taking nothing away from the campaign - I knew a lot of really smart people who did good work, and for the good of the cause, I think the party had to make some kind of an effort there (30 million was well beyond the point of diminishing returns), the basic match-up was uphill. Jon Ossoff, while an impressive young man, started out hardly more than a generic Democrat. The first time I spoke to one of my very smart Atlanta friends about Ossoff, she peppered her praise with a fair number of "but" to describe his weaknesses. Back when I was a candidate recruiter, I went out of my way to walk away from candidates whose qualities had to be modified by the word "but", especially in seats like this.

Karen Handel, on paper, was a proven commodity. Take ideology and everything else off the test, and she wins the bio test. I don't know if a more proven candidate, either some kind of prominent business leader, or prior elected, would have done better, but my gut says the odds are pretty decent. I was definitely in camp that our best shot here was in the big primary.

Even in districts like this, the road to 45-47%, with enough money and a good enough candidate, can be smooth. But the road from there to 50+1 can be like climbing Everest without oxygen -- sure it can be done, but it requires a really amazing climber and a fair amount of luck. Gwen Graham getting over the top in Florida 02 in 2014 (R+5 seat) when several others had come just short is a good example of this.

I don't think Democrats should get too down on this one, or Republicans get too excited. Districts like this show that the map in 2018 is likely to be fairly broad. Take away the money spent in the seat, and I think most Dems would rightfully feel very good about it. As we saw in South Carolina tonight, there are a lot of places that are more interesting than they normally are.

Which gets back to the lesson. One of the biggest forgotten lessons of 2006 is the importance of recruitment. My side will never have the money to go toe-to-toe with Republicans everywhere. We have to have the "better" candidate in a lot of places to win, particularly due to gerrymandering whch means we have to win more seats on GOP turf than they do on ours. At the Congressional level, the DCCC in 2006 fielded a rock-star slate of candidates. At the legislative cycle, in a year when we picked up seven GOP-held seats and held two Democratic open seats, we had the "better" candidate in almost every instance. We also recruited broadly, trying to find the best candidates we could in as many plausible seats as possible, to compete broadly, to give ourselves lots of options - and when the wave happened, the map blew wide open. Had we not put the work in on the recruitment side -- occasionally in places where a Democratic candidate had already filed, at best we would have gone plus 2 or 3, even with the wave. At same time, if we had more money, our +7 year might have been +10 or more.

Ossoff clearly has a bright future, and would have won in a lot of places last night. But in many ways, his was a candidacy created from whole cloth, and funding and turnout operations alone won't get just anyone across the line - especially somewhere like GA08. Even in this hyper partisan environment, campaigns aren't simply plug and play operations -- they are choices.

When folks ask me what the national and state party should be doing, my answer is simple: Two things, recruit high quality candidates, and register voters. And if Democrats expect to have success in November 2018, that is the work that must be done between now and then.





 

Monday
May222017

Dear Dems: One 2018 project - Caribbean voters.

In my earliest days on the Obama campaign in 2008, one of our first statewide polls showed a weakness with Black voters, at least compared to other states. It wasn't necessarily that McCain was doing better than elsewhere, just that there were more voters on the sidelines. It didn't take long to figure out the initial weakness was among Caribbean voters, which over time, we were able to address.

A couple of days ago, an old Obamaland friend who was a big part of those 2008 Caribbean conversations, texted me a quick question about the Haitian vote in Florida, and specifically if there was any truth to the chatter, and/or anecdotal evidence that Clinton under performed among Haitians. I had sensed some of the same, but honestly hadn't taken a look at the data yet.

Before starting, it is important to consider there are three significant challenges when thinking about the Haitian, and in a larger sense, Caribbean Black vote in Florida.

First, unlike the vast majority of other states, the Black vote in Florida is not monolithically African American. Here, a significant share is either Caribbean and/or Hispanic. The same challenge exists when analyzing the Hispanic vote. On other battleground states, Hispanics ten to be nearly universally Mexican, while here in Florida,both Hispanic and Black voters come from a large mosaic of nationalities.

Secondly, along these same lines, Florida's voter registration data is woefully overly-generic about the population. When it comes to Caribbean and African American voters, the voter registration form provides really just three options: Black, Multi-racial, or Other. Therefore, it is impossible to solely pull out voters of Caribbean descent. There are some analytic tools, but that is generally built on a model, and as such, isn't exact (nor available to the public at large).

Third, and finally, the census data, isn't a ton better. The generic census form does not drill down for information on "Black or African American" residents (it does with certain Hispanics, and Asian populations). There are census tools that dig into nation of origin, but again are sampled and not individual specific.

So in answering my friend's query, I came up with what was a granted, an inexact performance model, yet one I think provides some insight -- and in this case, caution for Democrats -- or at least cause for more research. The model: Florida House District 108, the home of "Little Haiti." The question -- how did Clinton/Trump play both in this district and specifically in the Little Haiti precincts, versus Obama/Romney? For sake of adding more data, I also looked at Rick Scott in 2010 and 2014. Understanding the limitations I laid out above, here is what the data says.

Obama won the district in 2012 by 90-10, and Clinton won it 87-11 (interestingly - this shift matches the 2 point margin shift from Obama to Clinton). Also, voter turnout in the seat at large was about the same, at least among Black voters (70% in 2012, 70.5% in 2016). On the surface, these are not insignificant changes, but in no way are the kind of massive shifts we saw in places like Pasco County, north of Tampa, where the shift among Republican support was almost 10 points.

But looking deeper, there is more than the story. First, there were actually 6,000 fewer registered voters in the district in 16 than 12, which a combination of two things: purges of "inactive voters" and at a certain level, some voters not being interested enough to care to keep registration up to date. As a result, Clinton got 6,000 fewer votes than Obama in the district -- while Trump got about the same as Romney. In other words, Clinton carried the district by 6,000 fewer votes than Obama's 2012 margin. The total shift in the vote margin statewide was roughly 180K votes -- so just over 3% of the total shift from Obama to Trump
happened just in this one state house seat - a seat that by comparison only made up 0.6% of the entire statewide vote in the Presidential election.

Secondly, it gets even more interesting in just the Little Haiti precincts.

So inside House District 108, during the Obama re-election, voters in the Little Haiti precincts made up just over 17% of registered voters, and in the election, just over 16% of the actual 2012 voters. Looking at it another way, turnout among all Black voters in the district was roughly 70% in 2012, but within the Little Haiti precincts, was about 63%.

My guy won Little Haiti by 92% (96-4). Clinton won it by 85% (91-6%). Honestly, this data point actually surprised me. My hunch going in was Trump might have done better in these precincts than he did districtwide (10%). But here is where the huge red flag shows up. Little Haiti residents in 2016 actually made up a bigger share of registered voters than 2016 -- almost 19%, but saw their share of the district's actual vote drop to 16%. Why? Black turnout was right at 71% in the district in 2016, but inside Little Haiti, it fell to 58%.

As a result, Clinton carried these 10 precincts by 1,300 votes less than Obama did, or roughly 0.7% of the total shift from Obama to Trump -- ten precincts that by the way, make up less than one-tenth of one percent of the 2016 statewide vote. Why? Simply, Little Haiti voter participation was 13% lower than Black turnout districtwide. While Trump got better margins than Romney did four years earlier, but it had almost nothing to do with more support for him, and almost everything to do with lower participation from people who in 2012 voted for Barack Obama.

It is interesting when comparing Democratic performance in Little Haiti between 2010 and 2014, Crist did better than Sink, both in terms of turnout and performance. But I suspect, just as we saw overall Black turnout prove to be robust in 14, a lot of that was a factor of voters showing up to protect President Obama. Interestingly enough, Scott put a lot more emphasis on Caribbean voters in 2014 than 2010, so it would be useful to look outside of this one neighborhood to see if the 2014 results hold up elsewhere. Moreover, Crist's 2014 strength in Little Haiti doesn't mean, as 2016 shows, that one can expect 2018 to be the same without work.

Granted, there are lots of reasons to be cautious about reading much of anything into a ten precinct sample of one State House seat in a state like Florida, but I do think there is enough to take a longer look at this, overlaying census data with precinct maps throughout South Florida, and comparing the Presidential election in precincts with significant Caribbean population. My hunch is we would see a lot of the same.

Monday
Jan022017

The Florida Democratic Party

As the FDP gets ready to pick a new Chair, I have a few thoughts.

This isn't going to be a "what should the party do" blog. If you care what my thoughts are, I offered them a couple years ago to the outgoing Chair's 2015 "what should the party do now" committee, and you can read them here. Hell, I wrote a memo in 2005 that probably is still useful, if I could find it.

In a nutshell, if I was Democratic king for a day, the state party would be an organization that focused on just three things: maintaining a robust voter file, down ballot candidate recruitment & support, and statewide voter registration/organizing. Until they raise a lot more money, that's it. End of that blog.

That being said, throughout the Holiday party circuit, I was asked my opinion on who should be the state party chair. My response, with all due respect those running: I don't have one. I haven't spoken to any of the candidates, nor do I have a vote, or do work for the party. It isn't my fight -- and I am quite glad to be out of that game.

I am grateful there are people who want to run state parties, because it is an utterly thankless job. You get to wake up every single day, calling people who don't want to take your call for money, and taking calls/answering emails/reading blogs from people who think you are horrible at your job.  Doesn't that sound fun?

And even when you do a good job, people still think you failed.  Case in point, my friend Blaise Ingoglia, who Chairs the Florida Republican Party, is in a fight for his job after a winning election cycle.  In 2006, after we picked up a record number of state house seats, most of my emails were from angry activists who thought we should have done more. The very nature of the job -- and of politics itself, make "success" as a state party chair virtually unattainable.  I honestly have no idea why people want the job. 

But back to the FDP.

The Chair race has devolved into the usual: a fight between party activists over personalities. This is the nature of these things. On its best day, these races are adult-versions of high school elections. On their worst, they are pure circular firing squads. 

To me, what is less important than who occupies the Chair, is that the people running, the activists voting, and those observing, understand what that job is, and isn't.

I worked at the state party for almost four years. I am really proud of our record there: we picked up nine seats in the state house, one in the senate, picked up four seatsin the Congress, elected a statewide democrat to the cabinet, re-elected a US Senator, and elected a President.

Except in those cases, we actually didn't. We did good work there, and I am proud of it, but candidates and campaigns win races. Parties build organization, and provide support, and hopefully make smart decisions with the limited money they have. That is their role.

In 2006, I spent just about 2.1 million on directly supporting candidates for the Florida House of Representatives. That isn't a lot now -- and it wasn't a lot then. I used to have Democratic members of he Florida House suggest that we had a budget of 8-10-12 million, and we were making all kinds of people rich (all while, like most young party hacks, I was sleeping on people's couches on the road). When i went to work for Senator Obama in 2008, my buddy and former boss Dan Gelber said to me "Schale, you've been playing with toy trains, now you will get an actual train."

The Florida Democratic Party isn't a behemoth cash cow, raising a ton of money to line the pockets of well connected consultants. No, most of the time, it is an office with a handful of truly dedicated staff grinding every day to make payroll every month. And that is the work of most state parties -- on both sides of the aisle. Big donors don't line up to give money to the FDP -- they give money to candidates and causes. Small donors do the same. A friend of mine once called his donations to the party "political charity." In this Presidential campaign, the amount of money they two state parties actually had under their control to impact the outcome was a fraction of what the two sides spent here. So have perspective on the party's impact.

Nor does the FDP set the policy agenda -- nor should it. In Florida, Democratic state policy these days is set by legislators, and when we have Gubernatorial candidates, their message will also help drive it. Same on the GOP side. And it should be -- these are people either selected by, or running for, the votes of actual Democrats. I honestly wouldn't be upset if the next party chair only rarely opined on a policy issue.

Every Chair who I've known has come into that job with one big set of goals, and quickly realized their goals were completely unachievable. The party chair in my days, Karen Thurman, spent most of her tenure just cleaning up the party from a decade of financial bad decisions. There was never time to do all the things everyone said she should do, because for two years, she was hoping the light bill check wouldn't bounce.

So here is my suggestion for all who are voting. And honestly, I would say it applies to both parties.

This isn't a race about who has the best ideology, or who supported who in the primary. it is about basic management.

You are hiring a CEO. Find someone who is realistic about the job, capable of putting together the resources, and laser focused on the things they can actually control, namely candidate recruitment and organizing. There is nothing symbolic about who holds the job -- no regular voter actually casts a vote based on who sits in the party chair, or has any idea who chairs their state party.

As President Barack Obama told his staff at the 2013 inauguration: "America only works when you make it work..you have the power to move this country and, as a consequence, the world." 

So it boils down to this: if you want the party to do more, pick up a shovel. God knows political parties and candidates don't need more opinions, they need more doers. I banged on doors in 2016, did you? And if you don't like the party, go find a candidate or issue to support, or pick up Bob Graham and Chris Hand's new book on ways you can be more civically engaged. Just do something. 

I've got some thoughts on the bigger question of where the national movement goes from here that I'll publish on this blog sometime in the next few weeks.  

 

Friday
Dec022016

Florida Early Vote, a retrospective

It is time for one last big data piece on Florida 2016.

For about 18 hours a day over 2+ weeks, I found myself living and breathing early voting data. So now that all the data has been reported from counties, I wanted to take a look back at some assumptions, and compare them to the actual voting data.

Before I begin, there are five things to keep in mind:

1. Every time I talk in percentages, those percentages are relative to the two-party, ie Trump v Clinton numbers. I have no use or interest in playing the "what if" questions around third-party votes, so the data in here is just the two party vote. For what it is worth, this is pretty standard for my blogs.

2. I compiled this data over the entire month of November, often by pestering counties to provide data they don't have on their website. Some of the data came before the final, final certified versions, so there might be exceptionally slight variances - like tens of votes in a county - from the state final counts. However, there is nothing that happened so significant to change any findings.

3. When I talk about early voting, that is both in-person and vote by mail combined, unless I specify otherwise.

4. For the sake of interpreting the data, everything that wasn't an in-person or traditional vote by mail ballot was allocated to Election Day. So this means that there are likely provisionals from in-person early, and vbm, as well as late military ballots in Election Day. I don't think the impact of this is significant, but I'm flagging it regardless.

5. We know how people voted on Election day, but we do not know yet who voted on Election Day. In terms of firm lessons and takeaways, some of that will have to wait.

And since I was wrong about the final outcome, before we get started, here were some of my macro-assumptions going into Election Day.

When early voting started, I thought Presidential turnout would fall about 9.2 million votes. Because of early vote turnout, and based on who was left to vote on Election Day - namely voters who voted on Election Day in 2012, I modified that projection to 9.5 million late during the second week of early voting, and assuming that 3% of those would vote for someone else, this meant slightly over 9.2 million would vote for either Trump or Clinton.

I was assuming going into Election Day, we were at about 67-68% of our total turnout, and while the Democrats had a 96,000 lead among registered voters heading into Election Day, I was operating from a place that her lead was between 3-4%, largely due to the overwhelmingly diverse nature of the NPA vote, which would put her raw vote lead between 180-250K votes.

This meant Trump had to win Election Day, on the low-end by about 5.8% to upper end of 8%, just to break even. Both of these numbers are above Romney's Election Day win in 2012 (I can't remember McCain, but I suspect it is above McCain as well).

Here are two other things baked into my assumptions: Republicans had about 100,000 more "certain" voters left to vote, though when you looked at just 2012 voters, the number was about 40K.

So worse-case scenario, Democratic turnout struggled and only the certain voters turn-out. the R versus D lands about even for the entire election, and the early vote strength combined with a a more diverse NPA vote would carry the day. I think my final memo pegged her winning Florida by about 1.5%, which was about 130K votes, meaning on the more optimistic view of Clinton's early vote lead, Trump could still win Election Day by more than Romney, and she'd still win.

Since Trump is a golfer, I described his challenge on Election Day in golf terms: a 250 yard shot over water.

So here are the toplines:

9.42 million Floridians cast a ballot for President. For what it is worth, 9.58 million Floridians cast a ballot, though it was only 9.3 million in the Senate race.

9,122,861 Floridians voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Trump's margin was about 113K votes, or roughly 1.2% out of the two-party voters.

69.3% of the vote was cast before Election Day.

Of the VBM/early vote, Clinton won by just over 247K votes -- roughly a 4 point edge (she won both VBM and early vote)

On election day, Trump won by 360K, or a roughly 13 point margin over Clinton.

Toplines versus basic assumptions:

Turnout on Election Day was slightly lower than I expected, by about 80-100K votes. Given that my projection was based largely on the number of 2012 voters who had yet to vote, it was almost certainly lower because some share of 2012 Election Day Democrats didn't show up, and, more than likely, another share voted for Trump. This is the big question I will be looking at when the state updates the final 2016 voter file.

Clinton's nearly 250K vote lead was actually at the upper-end of my projections. Honestly, this surprised me. I suspected some of my optimism in the numbers leading up to the election was misplaced, and honestly thought as I put numbers into Excel, that we'd see she had gone into Election Day with a narrower lead. However, almost everything was landing right on target for her to win. As I get more into this, and look at some of the benchmarks I tracked throughout, you can see the pattern for my optimism going into Election Day.

However, Trump just crushed Election Day. There is no other way to look at it. And as I discussed in the first look back at the numbers, it really happened in just a handful of places: namely the Tampa and Orlando media markets. For example, his two-party vote share was 8.39% higher on Election Day (56.44) than Early Vote. (48.05), but in Tampa it was up 8.92% (51.5% EV, 60.42 ED), and Orlando was up 9.08% (48.8% EV, 57.88% ED). Less than 3 million voted for Bush or Clinton on Election Day, yet he won the day by 360K votes.

How big is that? Bush won Florida in 2004 by landslide for Florida proportions: 380K votes -- out of 7.6 million cast. Trump's Election Day margin almost matched it.

Benchmarks

For most of early voting, I tracked a variety of benchmarks, namely Hillsborough (the only county that voted for Bush and Obama both times), the I-4 corridor counties, South Florida and #Duuuval county. So for the sake of this exercise, let's start there:

Hillsborough:

Clinton went into Election Day with about a 29K partisan advantage among early voters, or a partisan lead of about 6.8%.

When the votes were cast, she carried the early voting period almost 44,000 votes, or almost 11% of the two-party vote. Trump won election day by just under 2 points, or right at 3,000 votes, so when all was done, Clinton carried the county by 41,000 votes. The final percentage margin, 6.8% was almost the same as Obama, and her raw vote win was about 5,000 votes larger.

The county was a little below where it should have been for turnout. Hillsborough is typically about 6.% f the statewide vote, but it landed at 6.3%, largely because its Election Day share was down -- only 29% of Hillsborough votes came on Election Day.

Long and short of it, Hillsborough could have been a little better, but that number is right at what a win for Democrats looks like.

I-4 Corridor

Hillary Clinton won the I-4 counties by almost 162K votes, but here the Trump surge on Election Day is very evident. She won these counties by almost 200,000 votes in the early/vbm phase, yet Trump won Election Day by almost 35,000 votes. Overall, Clinton won the early phase with 56.3% of the two-party vote, though only won 47.3% of the Elecion Day vote -- a surge which exceeded his statewide average.

When you look at the Volusia and Polk numbers, you can see the seeds of how Trump won on Election Day. Compared to the state, both saw their Election Day turnout levels exceed Early Vote -- with 34% of the Volusia vote coming on Election Day, and over 40% for Polk. Once fairly Democratic Volusia has been the canary in the coal mine for a free cycles - there is a reason I've highlighted it in blogs for years. If I was going to do qualitative research into 2016, I'd start with focus groups in Volusia.

Pinellas is a slightly different kind of animal, but his Election Day performance is probably indicative of late deciders breaking almost exclusively for Trump. Had the FBI Director not chosen to insert himself into the campaign with a week to ago, I suspect Clinton would have carried Pinellas (albeit very narrowly).

In total, 24.1% of the statewide vote came from these counties, of which 70.6% of the vote came before Election Day. Another way to look at it: while only 29.4% of the total vote from these counties came in on Election Day, 33.4% of Trumps' vote total from these counties came in on Election Day. I suspect when Election Day voter data comes out, we will see a cratering of minority participation.


Volusia (Daytona)
Final early vote party spread: 39.6 R, 37.1 D, 23.3 NPA R + 4,302
Actual early vote spread: Trump +8.88% (+14,754 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +22.28% (+19,162 votes)
Final results: Trump +33,916 (54.3-41.4%). In 12, Romney was +2700 (+1.15%)

Seminole – suburban Orlando
Final early vote party spread: 41.0 R, 35.0D, 24.0 NPA R +10,316
Actual Early Vote spread: Clinton +1.84% (+2,989 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +12.36% (+6,518 votes)
Final results: Trump +3,529 votes (48.1-46.5%). In 12, Romney was +13,500 (+6.5%)

Orange (Orlando)
Final early party spread: 45.8 D, 29.5 R, 24.7 NPA D +67,155
Actual Early Vote spread: Clinton +29.71% (+116,949 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +13.49% (+17.729 votes)
Final spread: Clinton +134,678 votes (59.7%-35.4%). In 2012, Obama was +85,000 (+18.2%)

Osceola – heavy Hispanic suburban Orlando.
Final early vote party spread : 47.1 D, 26.2 R, 26.7 NPA D + 22,625
Actual Early Vote spread: Clinton +29.71% (+30,645 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton+13.98% (+4,512 votes)
Final results: Clinton: +35,157 votes (60.4-30.6%). In 2012, Obama was roughly +27K (+24.4%)

Imperial Polk – between Tampa/Orlando
Final Early Vote Party Spread: 39.6 R, 39 D, 21.4 NPA R +1,085
Actual Early Vote Spread: Trump +7.55% (+12,424 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +25.01% (+27,573 votes)
Final results: Trump +13.94% (+39,997 votes). In 2012, Romney was +19K votes (+6.8%)

Hillsborough (See Above)

Pinellas (Clearwater/St. Pete)
Final early vote party spread: 38.5 R, 38.2 D, 23.3 NPA D +752
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +4.58% (+14,460 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +12.72% (+19,960 votes)
Final results: Trump +1.1% (+5,500 votes). In 2012, Obama won by about 26K votes (+5.5%)

South Florida

Going into Election Day, there was almost nothing that I didn't feel good about in South Florida, and here is why: 87.7% of the entire 2012 election turnout voted early in Dade. In Broward, it was a respectable 81%. In fact, 11.9% of all early votes came in from Dade (should be 10.3%), and Broward was at 9.65% (should have been 8.75%).

And then Election Day happened. The issue here was different than I-4. Trump's share of the two-party vote in Broward and Dade went from 32% to 38.7%, a growth of 6.7%, which while significant, is lower than his statewide average increase of 8.4%. What happened on Election Day is people didn't vote. Statewide, 30.7% of the vote came on Election Day -- in Broward and Dade, it was 23.2%. Another way of looking ai: these two counties made up 21.5% of early vote, and only 14.7 of Election Day

That being said, these two counties both exceeded their projected share of the statewide vote, as well as set records for vote margins. Democrats can not blame losing on Broward and Dade not doing their jobs.

On the flip side, I was concerned about Palm Beach County the entire early vote period. Even in my last memo, I called Palm Beach a "red flag" largely due to lagging turnout. While the Democratic margins were good, Palm Beach was only 5.9% of the statewide early vote, and it should have been 7%. Well it turned out on Election Day -- 41.1% of the total Palm Beach County vote came in on Election Day, making up 9.5% of the total statewide vote, the biggest single jump in the state. And it was a Trump vote that showed up: after running up a 95K vote lead in the early vote, Clinton won Election Day by just over 7K.

When it boils down to it, Clinton won the county by about the same vote margin as Obama in 2012 (which was down from 08), but her vote share was down. Frankly going forward, Palm Beach is a place where Democrats need to up their game.

Palm Beach
Final early vote party spread: 47.3 D, 28.4 R, 24.3 NPA D +74,728
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +24.9% (+94,888 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +2.78 (+7,383 votes)
Final results: Clinton +15.1% (+102,271 votes). In 2012, Obama won by just over 102K (+17%).

Broward
Final early vote party spread: 55.4 D, 21.7 R, 22.9 NPA D +212,077
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +41.7% (+254,391 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +18.6 (+37,978 votes)
Final results: Clinton +34.9% (+292,369 votes). In 2012, Obama won by 264K votes (+34.9%)

Miami-Dade
Final early vote party spread: 43.9 D, 29.2 R, 26.9 NPA D +114,767
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +34.4% (+234,758 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +26.7% (+55,389 votes)
Final results: Clinton +29.4% (+290,147 votes). In 2012, Obama won by 208.5K votes (+23.6%)

#DUUUUVAL

Clinton had one job in Duval, keep it manageable. If you had given the Clinton campaign the option of spotting Trump a 20,000 vote win in Duval in exchange for both campaigns walking away, I would have urged them to take it. After all, this is a county where Bush in 04 won by 61,000 votes, and given that Trump exceeded the Bush 04 margins in most counties, running up a big number here was a real possibility.

But she did her job here, plus some. In keeping Trump's Duval margins under 6,000 votes, she had the best showing in Duval for a Presidential Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter, and she held Trump well below the Rubio numbers, who won the county by 70,000 votes. If #NeverTrump succeeded anywhere, it was in Duval.

Final early vote party spread: 42.5D, 41.1 R, 16.4 NPA D +4,279
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +1.9% (+5.439 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +8.9% (+11,407 votes)
Final results: Trump +1.4% (+5,968 votes). In 2012, Romney won by 15K votes (+3.6%)

Final Thoughts

There isn't much more to say -- Clinton had the race where it needed to be, and Trump won it on Election Day.

First, one quick note on the votes before Election Day. Democrats had about 1.5% edge in the voters who had voted either in-person early or a vote by mail ballot, yet she won the early voting period by almost 4%. This was likely do to her over-performing with NPAs, given that non-white voters made up 37% of NPA voters (comapred to 33% of partisans).

I suspect what we will see when the Election Day voter data comes out that white NPA participation was quite high, balancing out the racial make-up of the NPA voter to look more like the electorate at-large.

So where did Trump really win it? The data from the early vote/Election Day totals confirms my first glance: This was a win primarily in suburban/exurban I-4.

Here's why.

Start with my favorite analogy, Florida as a scale. The GOP media market buckets (Pensacola, Panama City, Jacksonville and Fort Myers) and the Dem buckets (Tallahassee, Gainesville, West Palm and Miami) largely balance themselves out, and I-4 tilts it one way or the other. This year, in their core markets, Republicans did much better on Election Day than the Democrats, winning them by 188K votes, compared to the Democrats only winning theirs by 70K, carrying a margin of roughly 120K votes out of their core markets.

However, Democrats went into Election Day with a bigger margin, having crushed the Republicans in early vote, by almost 260K votes. In fact, Clinton's 141K final margin over Trump in the core partisan markets was a few thousand votes higher than Obama in 2012.

Then we get to I-4, and this time, we look at it not as just as the counties on I-4, but every county in the two media markets. Going into Election Day, I-4 was pretty balanced, with Trump holding a 11K vote lead. But on Election Day, Trump won by 242K votes. In other words, 95.5% of Trump's total margin in the Tampa and Orlando media markets came on Election Day. In total, Trump won 59% of the two-party vote in the Tampa and Orlando media markets on Election Day.

And of those 242K votes, 200K of that margin came from the non-urban counties in the media market, in other words. Just on Election Day.

And while it is true that Republicans always do better on Election Day, his Election Day "improvement" particularly in the Tampa media markets far exceeded Romney.

For example, in Pasco, his vote share was 7.69% higher on Election Day than in Early Vote, where as Romney was 2.59% higher, or 5.1% greater than Romney. In Polk, he was also 5.1% higher, Seminole 5.1%, Sarasota 5.4%, and Pinellas 7.2%. We saw similar things in the outlying counties in the Palm Beach market, where in St. Lucie, his vote share was 11.1% higher on Election Day, a 5.2% increase on Romney, and in Martin County, where his Election Day improvement was 6.3% higher than Romney.

I could keep writing on this, but until we get actual voter data from Election Day back, there isn't much else to add. I will do a piece on my thoughts on where the Democrats should go from here sometime in the next few weeks, but as I mentioned in my last piece, the Trump loss, at least regionally, looks a lot like the Bush win in 04 -- and there is a road map for how to reverse it (see Obama).

And again, I don't think it is as simple as Republicans had more voters left to vote, because best case scenario, that number was only about 100,000 more voters. No, this almost surely a cratering of Democratic turnout, all Election Day deciders going to Trump, and an Election Day surge contributing to the comeback.

The combination of two unliked candidates, Trump's success at driving the narrative into the ground, and all of the late-breaking issues going to Trump, it ended up being the perfect storm on November 8th, or in Trump's case, the perfect 3-wood over water to that green 250 yards away.

And I lied in the first sentence -- I'll be back once we have the full voter file with Election Day voters. Until then, Happy Holidays, unless you are a Jags fan,,because we will surely all get a Gus Bradley extension for Christmas.

Monday
Nov142016

Florida 2016 in the rearview mirror

Give any Florida strategist with statewide experience the following data points: by 7:15pm, the Democratic candidate has a 10 point lead in Hillsborough, a 100K vote lead in Orange, a 200K vote lead in both Dade and Broward early voting, and is ahead in Duval, and everyone would think the same thing: that Democratic candidate is going to win. Certainly that is what I thought, and what everyone, R and D, who texted me around that time thought too.

Back in October, I had looked at several different models. Most of them played out with a narrow Clinton win, one of them came back a tie (not in percentages - an actual raw vote tie), and in one of them, where I assumed in most counties that Trump would earn the higher of Romney or Bush04 vote share, and in that one, Trump won by a point. I sent it to a few friends on both sides, who generally dismissed it. Going into Election Day, pretty much everything was lining up with one of the models that had her headed to about 1.5-2 point win.

I have a plan every Election Night: check Pasco early vote, then hit refresh until Hillsborough, Pinellas, Duval, Orange, Dade and Broward report, followed by a swing through I-4 suburban and exurban counties. Sure the initial Pasco and Pinellas numbers didn't look too good, but they looked survivable, especially considering pretty much everything else was at or above my target. Then I went and looked at Volusia...Hernando...Brevard...Sarasota...Polk...then back to Pasco. The last of my models was more than playing out. I slammed down the rest of my beer, and called a buddy in Brooklyn to report the bad news. It was done. CNN could have called it at 8:00 EST, she wasn't winning Florida. In fact, looking back at my texts, I told a guy at CNN around 8:15 EST that it was done.

Despite my optimism going into Election Day, in my gut, I knew this could happen. As many folks have heard me say over the last few years, while I am a big believer -- and still am -- that demographic trends work in the Democratic Party's favor, all of this hinges on the Democratic candidate maintaining a reasonable floor with white voters. Frankly, it was a big part of why I was a big proponent of the Vice President running. As I told CNN's "The Lead" in late August 2015 about Biden: "I live in the swing state of Florida. If you look at the way Democrats have struggled with working class, working white voters primarily...he gives us a chance to talk to some voters in the general election that we've struggled with the last few cycles."

President Obama had some reach with these voters, or at least enough for us to win. In 2008, we knew we had to hit 40 with whites, in 2012, we needed to get close to it. For Secretary Clinton, it meant maintaining President Obama's numbers with whites from 2012. As you will see in a few minutes, she clearly didn't -- not only here, but throughout the country.

So let's start with a couple of Florida factoids:

*2016 marked the 4th straight statewide election (two Governors, two Presidentials), where the victor's margin of victory was roughly a point.

*And just to drive home the point of Florida's competitiveness -- when you go back to 1992, the year where Florida became a true battleground state, there have been more than 50 million votes cast for President, and Republicans and Democrats are separated by 12,000 votes. No, that isn't a typo -- 12,000 votes, or right at 0.02%.

*Trump set the new high water mark for Republican vote share in 40 of Florida's 67 counties.

So what happened?

I often will describe Florida as a scale. Take the GOP markets (North Florida markets + Fort Myers) and in a neutral year, it will balance out the Dem markets (Miami and West Palm), and more or less, the race balances of the fulcrum of I-4. Because of the Democratic trends in Miami-Dade, the math has changed a bit: Democrats can now count on bigger margins out of their markets than the GOP can out of theirs, and thus can still win even if they lose I-4 by a little bit. This was the Obama 2012 path: the President carried a margin of about 550K votes out of his base markets, Romney was about 410K out of his, and even though Romney narrowly carried both I-4 markets, it wasn't enough.

Which is a good way to frame the "Things that didn't cost Hillary Florida" section:

Base turnout: Both Broward and Dade county had higher turnout rates, and the Miami media market had a higher margin for Clinton than Obama. And even with Palm Beach coming in a little short, she won her two base markets by about 75K more votes than Obama 2012, and won a slighly higher share of the vote. Broward and Dade alone combines for a 580K vote margin, and honestly, I think around 600K is pretty close to maxing out.

The Panhandle: True, Trump did win the "I-10 corridor" by more votes than Romney, but it wasn't significant. His 345K vote margin as slighly better than Romney's 308K, and pretty much in line with Bush 04's 338K North Florida vote majority. And frankly, Clinton succeeded in the major North Florida objective: keep #Duuuval County close. Trump's 6,000 vote plurality in Duval County was the best Democratic performance in a Presidential election since Carter won Duval in 1976.

Hispanics: It is true that Hispanics under-performed out west, but here in Florida, she did considerably better than Obama in the exit polls -- polls that are reflective in the record margins she posted in the heavily Hispanic areas of Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, and Osceola.

SW Florida: This was the GOP talking point during early vote: SW Florida was blowing up for Trump. And they were right, it did. But SW Florida typically has exceptionally high turnout, and high GOP margins, and in the end, Trump's total was only about 40K votes bigger than Romney.

In fact, if you add up the 8 "partisan" markets, which make up 55% of the statewide vote, the 2016 election was basically a repeat of 2012. Trump's margin was less than 2,000 votes better than Romney.

It was rural Florida: Trump did very well in rural Florida, but so did Romney. If you take all the counties with less than 250,000 residents, he increased Romney's vote share by 125,000 votes -- enough to make up the Obama 2012 margin -- except, Clinton increased Obama's margin in the counties with more than 750,000 residents by over 100,000 votes. In other words, rural and suburban cancel eachother out. What doesn't cancel out -- midsize suburban/exurban counties, places with 250,000-750,000 residents -- Trump won them by 200,000 more votes than Romney

One more reason: HRC 'cannibalized' her vote early, in other words, had all the typical Democrats vote early, and lost because there were just simply that many more Republicans left to vote. Here is why this one is tricky.

First, Republicans have a lot more "reliable voters" in that, they have fewer voters that drop-off in the midterm elections. Democrats have more "potential voters" - in other words, unreliable or first-time voters. During early voting, GOP had over 200K more "three of three" voters -- in other words, people who voted in 2014, 2012, and 2010 who voted early than Democrats, but the Dems had a lot more infrequent voters. And yes, the Dems had more "2012 voters" who voted early, but they also just had more 2012 voters.

Going into Election day, GOP still had more than 100K "three of three" voters to vote, which alone wasn't enough to get him to the kind of win he had. However, if you looked at just people who voted in 2012, the GOP edge was just 40K. In other words, had the 2012 voters all voted, the Dem early voting margin would have remained. We don't yet know who exactly voted on election day, but what we do know is the GOP really surged, and Dems didn't.

In fact, in ten of the eleven counties where Trump most increased the vote margins from Romney, his vote share (not margin) was at least 6.3% higher on election day than during early voting -- and in six of the eleven, the increase was at least 8.2%. For example, Trump won 53.8% of the Polk County early vote, but won 62.6% of the election day vote -- an increase in his share of 8.8%. In other words, in some of these counties, Trump was winning Election Day by 15 points more than he won Early voting.

And this didn't just happen in counties where Trump won. Even base Democratic counties saw this Trump surge. Take Broward County, where Trump won less than 30% of the early votes, he won over 40% on Election Day, or Orange County, where she won early voting by more than 30 points and racked up an almost 120K vote lead, only to watch Trump cut her Election Day only margin to 17K votes. In my last memo, I described what I thought Trump's Election Day challenge was in golf terms -- a 250 yard shot over water. Turns out, he did have that shot. Simply, he crushed her on Election Day.

So, where did he beat her? Simple: I-4, and more specifically, the 15 counties that make up suburban and exurban I-4.

Quick recap: The I-4 corridor is roughly defined as the Tampa and Orlando media markets. If you are a Democrat, win here, and you win. If you are a Republican, win big here, and you win. Given that the rest of the state in 2016 generally looked like 2012, Trump needed to win big here.

But that wasn't necessarily easy. The urban core in the Orlando market (Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties), is getting more Democratic quickly. In fact, in these three counties alone, Hillary Clinton extended President Obama's 2012 margins by over 65,000 votes. So, not only does Trump have to win the I-4 markets by 75,000 votes more than Romney did in 2012 just to win, he needs to find 65,000 more to make up for urban Orlando.

Well he did, and more. Trump won the I-4 markets by more than 250K votes. Where Romney won the two-party vote share on I-4 by 2 points, Trump won it by 6 -- including winning the Tampa market by 9 points.

But it was even more granular than this. If you break up the markets into two buckets: urban counties (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Orange, Osceola and Seminole), and non-urban counties, the Trump path to victory -- and the challenge for Democrats, becomes even more clear.

Despite losing Pinellas County -- and Trump's significant gains there, Hillary Clinton won "urban I-4" by some 200K votes, which was more than Obama in 2008 or Obama in 2012. These counties account for about 48% of the votes on the I-4 corridor.

In the other 15, which make up the other 52% the region's votes, Donald Trump won by 450K votes. By comparison, Romney won these counties by 220K votes, and McCain by 130K. In other words, pretty much the entire rest of the state's election balanced out just like 2012, except one glaring place: suburban/exurban I-4. If you look back at 2004, you will see a fairly similar dynamic.

Here are a few examples:

Pasco
2008: McCain +7,687
2012: Romney +14,164
2016: Trump +51,899

Volusia
2008: Obama +13,857
2012: Romney +2,742
2016: Trump: +33,970

Hernando
2008: McCain +3,135
2012: Romney +7,108
2016: Trump: 26,860

I could go on like this for awhile

Overall, Trump won the Orlando market by slightly more than Romney, which is pretty remarkable given Clinton's strength in the core of Orlando. The Tampa market was solidly Trump. winning the two party vote share by 9 points. The rule of Tampa picking Presidents was once again true.

What is interesting is this is also the place where we saw the closest thing to a GOP turnout surge. Of these 15 counties, all but three of them saw turnout rates above 2012, with most seeing their turnout rates up 3-5 points. Whlle these counties are economically quite different, they are almost universally less diverse than the state at-large. We won't know exactly who voted on Election Day for a few more weeks, but I would bet we will see some increase in infrequent white voters of all parties to help drive those margins.

Overall, turnout was a bit all over the place this year. The I-10 markets were a smaller share of the vote than 2012, and Orlando was much higher. But within markets, you can see the exurban/suburban thing play out. That being said, Democrats can't blame this on turnout.

I also think there is an element here of Clinton losing the turnout fight in these places. These were the communities that were not getting a ton of field support (note, I didn't say none), but were places that Americans for Prosperity were heavily invested in behalf of Rubio. I've worried for some time that the "Trump has no ground game" narrative could slowly seep towards complacency, and we might have seen the proof of this in these areas. I wrote about this in a piece on May, when I suggested Trump could win the same way Scott won. Well, it happened.

So what comes next? Well, I will write more on that subject coming soon, but for some of us old guys, we will recognize the 2016 map as very similar to the 2004 map. In the two cycles that followed, Democrats won two statewide races, plus the Presidency, and picked up numerous seats in the Congress and Legislature? How? By reaching back into these communities and restarting the conversation. In Florida, the basic rule winning is managing margins, particularly in suburban and exurban I-4. In 04, Bush did it and won. In 08 and 12, Obama won that battle. In 16, Trump did.

And again, this isn't just a Florida deal -- what happened here isn't isolated. But I will make this one point -- one I've made a lot over the last few years: if Democrats in Florida can win around 40% of the white vote -- which is less than what Obama won in 2008, they will win almost every statewide race going forward. Demographics can be destiny -- but it isn't automatically.

Lastly, to the organizers on both sides -- stay in the fight. If you were for Trump, go be a part of the solution. President Obama told his 2008 organizers to go make their own solutions -- you should too. For the Clinton organizers, get up off the mat. There are more fights ahead and more chances to contribute.

Tuesday
Nov082016

We made it America.

To: Anyone who has been reading my memos, Putin included.
From: Steve Schale
Re: We survived, and genuine thanks from me.

First, thank you all for following along for the last two weeks. This memo isn't going to be a big data dump. For those, you can go back and read the other 12 versions of this thing.

But I want to start with a couple of numbers. First: 67. 67% was the percentage of the electorate was white in 2012 -- which by the way was down from 71 in 2008. My foundational assumption was if the electorate was more diverse than 2012, the basic coalition that got President Obama over the line in 2012 would hold. We finish early voting at 65.7 white, 15.3 hispanic, and 13.1 black, with the black number closing in on the 2012 share, and the white number down.

The other thing working into play here is the explosion of turnout in Central Florida and Miami. If you reweighted the 2012 election by the current 2016 share of vote by market, Obama would have beaten Romney by almost twice the 2012 margin, or 1.5%. Under same scenario, if you apply the 2012 margins by county to the 2016 turnout, you end up with a nearly 2 point Clinton win. And none of this factors in the likelihood that race will drive larger margins in some areas -- and smaller Republican ones in others.

So as I think about this race, I try to get my head around what both candidates have going for them.

First the factors that Clinton should feel good about:

The electorate is more diverse than 2012.

The Orlando area (Orange and Osceola) and Miami area (Broward and Dade) are turning out a full 3 points higher as a share of the state (29.3% than projected (26.15%).

While Republicans talked about Trump's ability to turn-out low propensity voters, it is Clinton who has turned out 250,000 more low propensity voters.

NPA voters, making up the largest share they've ever made up in a Florida Presidential election, are 4 points more diverse than the electoate at-large, including a 20% Hispanic share.

Voters who do not fit into one of the three main demographic categories are over 50% low propensity, and combined, are 77% Democratic or NPA.

North Florida, a Trump stronghold, is well under its performance targets, yet #Duuuval County, a GOP stronghold, is actually starting Election Day with a 4K voter Democratic edge. Again, this is why the President came to Duval. For Dems, it was never about winning there, but it is all about stopping the tide.

Factors Trump Should Feel Good About

The Fort Myers media market is over-performing its projected market share by about 1%

Democrats have a smaller raw voter lead going into Election Day. While I think there are structural reasons for this, it is still reality.

There are more Republicans who voted in both 2008 and 2012 left to vote than Democrats (though among just 2012 voters, it's basically a tie).

So what does this mean?

Those are not equal ledgers, and pretty much everything that Hillary Clinton wanted to have happen to position herself to win Florida has happened.

I was asked yesterday about a journalist, "So Schale, what would you be worried about if you were in her campaign?"

Truthfully, not a lot. I am normally superstitious about turnout, so of course you worry about that. But at the same time, I also recognize that for Trump to win, he has to have a ridiculously good day. I suspect that when early voting is counted, that she will have won the early vote by 3-4 points, and if early voting is, let's say 2/3rds of all the votes, it means Trump has to win tomorrow by 6-8 points. I don't think 6-8 points is out there today for him.

If you look at the 3.2 million voters who in 2012 who haven't voted yet, even if they all vote, Miami and Orlando still remain well above both their 2012 share and their projected share, and I-10 (Trump Country) still falls below 2012. Also, Fort Myers comes back to life, finishing where it should, about 6.6% of the electorate.

So in other words, even if all those 2012 voters come out -- voters that lean a little Republican, the electorate is still regionally balanced better for Clinton than Obama, is more diverse than it was for Obama, and has an NPA voter pool that is more diverse than it was for Obama -- or in any state where Trump is winning NPAs. Can Trump win today? Sure. Is it likely? Not really.

In other words, what should I be concerned about?

My good friend Tom Eldon, a longtime FL pollster and fellow oenophile, asked me today "On scale of 1-10, how are you feeling?" If I was a 7 going into 2012 (just ask every reporter who heard me make my pitch for why Obama would win a state no one thought he would), and a 10 in 2008, Tom agreed he was also a 9 (sorry to out you bro).

Really it is this simple: If the Clinton operation hits its marks tonight, she's going to win. It's going to be fairly close, probably in the 1.5% margin range. It's hard to nail down exactly because I don't have access to campaign polling (real polling, not public polls).

What To Look for?

Data is going to come in very fast today after 7.

Two scenarios: because so much vote is early & will be reported early, if she's going to win by say 2 or more, I think it will be fairly apparent early. Under a point, it will be late.

Brian Corley in Pasco County usually reports first, VBM-ABS just after 7pm. Pinellas is early as well, and often Orange and Duval come not long after. In those counties, you are looking at 60-75% of the vote coming in at one time. If it is relatively close in Duval and Pasco, and she's leading in Pinellas, and Orange is looking +20, she's probably going to win, but it will take time for race to play out. If Orange is bigger than that or if she starts out tied or with a lead in Duval, it could be faster.

Dade will also come, probably around 7:30 (though being Dade, it might be 7:30 on Thursday). As I told a reporter tonight, I have no clue what to expect. She could be up 25, or she might be up 40, but I suspect it will be big. Former is probably a winning number, latter would be tough to beat. Broward should be about the same time. I suspect a margin north of 200K in the early voting.

Around 8pm, the Panhandle will come in. Romney won the Panama City and Pensacola media markets by about 180K votes. So to be super generous, spot Trump 250K in the Central Time Zone. Unless there is something really odd with the reporting - like Dade or Palm Beach report nothing before 8, if she is up in the 300K margin, it will be hard for Trump to overcome. If it is 400 at that point, you can go home.

But we will know pretty early if it is a short night or a long night. But either way, I think it is a steep challenge for Trump. Since he is a golfer - I'll put it this way: I think he's basically facing a 250 yard carry over water, into a little wind, and that's a shot he probably doesn't have in his bag. God knows I don't have that shot anymore.

Remember, you have to track these on individual county sites until 8. State won't report data until polls close in the CST zone.

What is interesting about Florida is that the margins in counties consistent over time. Outside of a handful of places, we have a decent sense of where it will land. For Trump to win, ths basically has to happen: in 64 counties, he has to get the highest share of any Republican between 2000 and 2012, and he has to keep Clinton's margins in Osceola, Orange, and Dade in the low 20s. He has major problems with the former, namely semi-large places like Sarasota, Polk and Duval, which so no signs of being anywhere near their GOP highs. And with the latter, I don't see how Clinton doesn't stretch Obama's margins in all three of those counties.

So with that, I think she wins. In fact, I am pretty confident. I don't think it's a huge margin, but no win in FL Presidential or Gubernatorial races these days is huge.

Lastly, I hate Election Day as a staffer. Other than trying to get your side on TV or ordering robo calls, there isn't really anything you can do other than trust your operation, and hanging out in the boiler room all day is about the most horrible thing you can do. I spend most of Eday calling fellow hacks of both parties. I've always found it a strangely congenial day between warriors, mainly because we are all doing the same thing, pretty much sitting around.

Today, I take out my Turkish group, and we are going to go see some campaigning, before heading to Tampa to watch the results. I will be providing some thoughts on early returns on Twitter, so pay attention.

Finally, and I mean this with all sincerity, I truly appreciate everyone who took the timto read my musings. When I wrote the first one last Tuesday, I did not plan on doing this daily, but it kind of took off. For me, writing is how I think things out, and so over the last two weeks, I've used these memos, not only to provide some data, but also to work through some of the emerging questions about this race. I also hoped to provide some context to the map, from the eyes of someone who has been trying to read defenses for a solid decade on the field of play.

I'd also like to thank my wife for putting up with me not paying attention to anything other than my spreadsheets for two weeks, my friends who have dealt with me constantly responding to emails and texts, and those who have found my voice mail full. I also want to thank my friend Dan Smith at UF for letting me bounce some theories and data off him, as well as other hack friends, including more than one Republican that I won't name to protect the innocent, for being good checks on what I was writing. I don't have staff, and for 99% of the time, I was doing all my own data work, so forgive me if I didn't respond to you on phone, email or twitter. I've been drinking straight from the proverbial fire hose since about 2pm on day one of in-person voting. As I've told many reporters, my respect for how they manage the flow of information has substantially risen - and thanks to all of you for your feedback over the last two weeks.

I've enjoyed having a life for most this cycle, but it was fun to be in the game for a few weeks. But mostly, having not slept more than 5 hours in 2 weeks, or eaten more than 2-3 proper meals, I'm ready for it to end. It's time to put this shibacle of an election behind & hopefully start reducing the acrimony on both sides of the American debate.

So until 2020 -- if I am crazy enough to do this again, Happy Election Day, that singular day when we get to renew the greatest experiment in self-governing man has ever known.