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Sunday
Jun162019

Why Trump is starting in Orlando

On Tuesday, President Trump will be in Orlando to announce his re-election. 

Why Orlando?

They understand first and foremost, without Florida, he will be a one-term President.  The last Republican to win the White House without Florida was Calvin Coolidge, and well, that was so long ago that Floridians at that time were still at risk of getting malaria.  Secondly, they understand winning Florida requires him replicating, at least close to, the record-setting margins he set on the I-4 corridor. 

This piece will walk through why this region of the state is vital to Trump winning Florida again, as well as point out some thoughts on how my team can stop that from happening.  Further, because it is my blog, it will have an unhealthy amount of data, and you can probably count on a gratuitous Blake Bortles reference or two.  

Simply, his Presidency runs through Florida, and as this piece will lay out, his win here runs through the suburban and exurban counties on I-4.   Replicate it, as DeSantis and Scott largely did in 2018, and he will win.  But if the Dems take away some of those margins, as they did in 2008, and 2012, then Trump’s second term will be denied.  Florida. Florida. Florida.

Before we get to far down this journey, let’s take a look at how Trump won Florida, in comparison to President Obama’s two wins.

There are several theories that are pretty common among the beltway crowd.

Theory: Trump won because of the Panhandle

One of the more common talking points about Florida is Trump won because of wild turnout in the Panhandle.  For this purpose, let’s define that as the counties in the media markets one can define as the Panhandle – Pensacola, Panama City, and Tallahassee.   While it is true that Trump ran up some big vote shares:  winning one county by 77%, and another by 67%, the reality is these three markets only make up about 8% of the statewide vote.  Overall Trump won these markets by just under 200,000 votes, winning nearly 61% of the vote – and beating Clinton by 26% - but his 61% was basically identical to Romney’s 61% -- who won the region by almost 170,000 votes.

If you expand out the Panhandle to mean all of North Florida – meaning adding Gainesville and Jacksonville to the mix, Trump overall won the market by just over 20% (58.2-38.0%) over Clinton, which equated to a margin of just over 350,000 votes.  But again, when compared to Romney, there isn’t much difference:  Romney won North Florida by 19.2%, or about 313,000 votes. 

The Panhandle is actually very stable politically, and while Trump did improve over Romney, had nothing else changed in Florida, he didn’t make up enough votes here to win.

Theory:  Democratic Turnout Was Down

So there is a lot to unpack on this one.  First, Democrats lost substantial ground in voter registration between 2008/12 and 2016.  The Democratic advantage over Republicans was 660,000 in 2008, falling to about 530K in 2012, to 325K in 2016 – so for one, relative to our advantage over Republicans in the Obama era, there weren’t as many Democrats to turn out.  It is hard to say whether that alone would have made the difference, though I feel very confident in saying I believe the Dems would have won the Governor’s race and US Senate race in 2018 if we had the voter registration advantage of the Obama years.  I am glad to see the party taking registration seriously this cycle.

It is also true that Clinton didn't replicate the record turnout we saw, particularly with African American voters with Obama.  That being said, I don't think counting on record turnout every election is a long-term winning strategy.

Nonetheless, the actual vote numbers would argue that it wasn’t a base vote issue.  There are a couple of different ways to look at it.

If you just take the actual base counties, which account for about 43% of the statewide vote (listed from north to south):  Leon, Alachua, Orange, Osceola, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade:  Hillary Clinton won both a larger share (24% to 21.5%), and by a larger raw vote margin (963K to 779K) than Barack Obama did in 2012.  

If you expand it out, and look at from the stand point of markets that Democrats typically win pretty easily (Tallahassee, Gainesville, West Palm and Miami), and compare it to markets Republicans typically carry with ease (Pensacola, Panama City, Jacksonville, and Fort Myers), both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won their markets by larger shares and larger vote margins than Obama and Romney – but almost identical numbers.  Clinton won her markets by 79,000 more votes than Obama – and Trump won his by 76,000 more than Romney.  In other words, relative to 2012, the base markets were a push.

The problem with combating the argument that a loss was related to turnout, is until there is 100% turnout, you can always blame that for a loss.  While we should always try to turn out more voters, the reality is both Trump and Clinton got win-type vote numbers out of their base markets – and base counties.  Had this been all that happened, Clinton would have won.

Moreover, even with higher turnout, was there another 115,000 voters out there in the base counties under the 2016 voter model?  Count me as a skeptic.

So let’s get back to why Trump is on the I-4 corridor.

Obama won Florida in 2012 by roughly 74,000 votes, and Trump won it by about 113,000.  In other words, there was roughly 187,000 vote change in the margin from Obama to Trump.   As stated above, in 8 of the state’s 10 media markets, the Clinton/Trump election was pretty much the Obama/Romney election.  Clinton ran the score up in her counties, and Trump jacked up his numbers, particularly in the Fort Myers market, but the final result in these places was almost identical to 2012 -- which leaves us Orlando and Tampa.

In 2012, President Obama lost the two media markets by a combined 56,575 votes – and four years later, Secretary Clinton lost the same two media markets by 247,118 – a total shift of 190K votes.   

But what is remarkable is how Trump ran up the score in these markets, given that Secretary Clinton won the urban Orlando counties (Seminole, Orange and Osceola) by almost 70,000 more votes than Obama.   In 14 counties within the I-4 markets, Trump set the modern era Republican Presidential percentage margin of victory, and in 15, he set the record for largest raw vote margin of victory – in virtually every case, breaking the numbers set by Bush in 04, in a year when he won by five points.  In fact, statewide, Trump’s percentage share margin was better than Bush’s 04 margins in 48 counties, and his raw vote margins were better in 55.   If Bush had seen Trump like numbers in those counties, he would have won Florida by 8-9 points.

And that is why Trump is here.  The fact that he set records all over the state, and yet only won by a point is a testament to two things:  One – the state is structurally very stable, as we can see by just how similar the Obama/Clinton and Romney/Trump numbers are in many places, and Two – the growing diversity of the state, particularly in the urban core, has given the Democrats a higher floor, thus just like the Republicans, the Democratic nominee in Florida probably starts around 47-48%, just by being on the ballot.

There is another parallel to Bush explaining Trump’s Central Florida kickoff – Trump’s margin of victory in the I-4 markets (247k) was pretty close to what Bush achieved (287K) when he won Florida in 2004. But just as many pundits wrote off Florida in 2008, we saw that within these counties, there is a significant amount of movement inside the margins.  In 2004, Democrats only won two counties in these two markets, six in 2008, five in 2012, and four in 2016.  Yet within that, we saw in the market go from a Bush 287K vote win in 04, to an Obama 49K vote margin in 08, to a Romney 57K vote margin, back to Trump’s nearly 250K vote margin in 2016.    

Here are a few examples of how these margins changed over time:

Pasco (just north of Tampa)

2004:  GOP +9.7% (-18,481 votes)

2008: GOP +3.6% (-7,687)

2012: GOP +6.6% (-14,164)

2016: GOP +21.6 (-51,959)

Sarasota:

2004: GOP +8.3% (-16,250)

2008: GOP +0.1% (-211)

2012: GOP +7.4% (-15,385)

2016:  GOP +11.6 (-26,568)

Volusia (Daytona)

2004: Dem +1.5% (+3,595)

2008:  Dem +5.7% (+13,857)

2012: GOP +1.2% (-2,742)

2016: GOP 13.0% (-33,916)

And here’s one little secret – a lot of the movement in those counties come from the same voters who moved around between Obama and Trump in the Midwest, since a lot of the migration into the I-4 counties comes from that part of the US mainland. 

And one other little note:  Trump’s win in Florida coincided with the Bortles reign as QB of the Jaguars. Bortles is no longer in Florida.  Just keep that in mind.

If Trump’s margin here gets cut in half, I suspect the Democrats will win Florida, and his team knows it.

So that is why he is here.  

Thursday
Jun132019

America, we are all Florida Man

I’ve been meaning to write a Florida Man piece for some time, and while I have a longer piece I am still noodling with, a piece published last week by Bob Norman in the Columbia Journalism Review spurred me on.  You should go read it now.   

Seriously, it is far better than this.  Again, the link is here: https://www.cjr.org/business_of_news/florida-man-news.php.

I tend to joke about being a Florida Man, but I wear the label as a signal of my own state pride.  I love the place I call home, for all its many warts and shortcomings.  For many, Florida has become a symbol of a dream – for Americans living north of us, that dream is often to live or retire here, in the paradise we call home.  For those who come here from the Caribbean or Latin America, Florida in many ways is the New York of the late 19th and early 20th century – the point of entry to begin their own American Dream.    

This is such an interesting place, in part, because we aren’t really a place in the same sense as most states. Name a state, and for most, a brand comes to mind.   Not so much with Florida.  We are geographic distinction, 21 million people bound together by a boundary, sharing very little when it comes to common experience, or culture.  

It is why Florida is often considered to be 5 or 6 different states – not just because the state is big both geographically, and in terms of raw population, but those population centers themselves tend to somewhat different. The state isn’t so much a microcosm of America, as it is a state that reflects the places where people come from, and in the sum, we are just a collection of all those experiences.   

After the 2018 election recounts, I said to the New York Times: “When people make fun of Florida, I kind of push back.  It’s an interesting, bizarre, quirky, whatever-you-want-to-call-it place, but so is America. And we just reflect that in a more magnified way.”   This is why, when my friends from outside the state use the term Florida Man as a pejorative, I remind them, stealing the words of Christine O’Donnell, that Florida is not a witch, we are nothing that it seems, America, we are in fact, you. 

So back to that thing about state identity, for good or bad, Florida Man is one of those things people think about when they think about Florida, these often ridiculous moments that seemingly only happen here (truth is, they happen everywhere, but Florida’s broad public records laws tend to make them easier to find).   

Many of these stories can be chalked up to a few things, one of which is just the sheer numbers game of a state of 21 million people – for example, put enough people in a pot, and you will find someone who thinks it is a good idea to have 7 pet raccoons, or to use his pet gator to reveal the gender of his tenth kid.  Also, much of the state is still rural, and in some cases, truly wilderness, so there were always be ‘interesting’ interactions between wildlife, gators, bears, snakes, etc., and people – and sometimes, those interactions impact the narrative the other way.  For example, the Florida Everglades is overrun with pythons thanks to some Florida Men who, for some reason, thought owning a python as a pet would be fun, well, until that python grew to 10 feet or more.   Other stories are often just the combination of heat and alcohol. 

But as Bob Norman points out, there is another, exploitive nature to the Florida Man stories, one that, whether intentionally, or inadvertently, pokes fun at the homeless, mental illness, and substance abuse. 

I went through the Leadership Florida program six years ago, and one of the most impactful seminars, was one in Miami with Judge Steven Leifman.  The Judge told a story after story of instances early in his career where he realized that many of the petty crimes coming to him where a symptom of the community’s failure to adequately deal with mental illness, and he pointed out that not only was Florida woefully under funding mental health care, but that we also tended have an above average size of population that was dealing with mental illness. 

In fairness, on the last point, the data is a bit mixed.  According to Mental Health America, when you just look at data that ranks the prevalence of mental illness, Florida tends to be one of the healthier states, but when you look at rankings of states when it comes to access to mental health treatment, Florida ranks 44th.  In addition, Florida ranks third in the nation, and 13th per capita, in the number of homeless, and Florida does have a higher than the national average per capita incidence of death from drug overdose.   That being said, when you add all those factors up, Florida has a lot of people dealing with mental health and/or substance abuse issues – and if even just a small percentage of those people end up in courtrooms like Judge Leifman’s, we are talking about a lot of actual people.  

Again, this isn’t unique to Florida, these problems exist everywhere – and in some cases, even more acutely than they do here.

For example, I went to college in a small town in Tennessee Appalachia.  The county where I went to school had, according to the most recent data, opioids prescribed at a rate of 102 prescriptions per 100 people.  In the next county over, the number jumps to 141, placing it as one of the worst counties in the nation for abuse.  If I took you to places in these counties, these numbers wouldn’t surprise you.  Here in Florida, fortunately these rates are falling – statewide, from a rate of 75 to 60 prescriptions per 100 people over the last few years, but this is still a place where prosperity has been uneven, and real problems still exist in every community.  For families who are dealing with these issues, or like mine, who have dealt with these issues, the challenges are still real.  Again America, Florida is not a witch, we are just like you.

So, what should we do about Florida Man?  For one, I think part of living here is embracing the zany, and outright weird.  As an old ad campaign about Florida once said, “it’s different here.”

Back in Leadership Florida, one of my classmates told the story of a teacher in a Florida school who was injured when a bird flying out of the everglades dropped a fish, a fish that landed on said teacher.  There will be alligators who walk through neighborhoods, as well as people who wrestle them.  There’s gonna be some guy who builds a fallout shelter for his pet opossum, and a bear that takes a nap on some lady’s porch.    But its more than that.  Living here is embracing the diversity of the place, respecting its history, and welcoming others who come through its doors.    Our state has been, and will long continue to be, a frontier. 

We are 21 million people, coming from literally all corners of the globe, and all the color of life that comes with that. I think we can celebrate those things without at the same time, being exploitive of those who are honestly struggling with life, as any of us could find ourselves.  When those people make news, well, we all need to be more thoughtful in how we talk about those stories – me included.  And we need to not ever be content being ranked as one of the worst in the nation for access to mental health treatments. 

So please go read Bob’s piece.  It is more worthy of your time than mine.  And if you live here, be proud of it -- but remember, next time you make fun of Florida Man, remember, he or she came from somewhere – and that somewhere, is typically us, America.

Wednesday
May292019

Florida things that scare Floridians, sort of ranked

There have been several internet memes going around that express the Florida things that Floridians are scared of, and as a self-identified Florida Man, I thought I would weigh in. 

Now in fairness, I am not native Floridian.  Until the age of 10, I lived in a smallish town in east central Illinois, but not only have I called this great state home since 1984, I can say I have visited every single county, a majority of its towns and cities, and having driven four cars in my career over the 200,000 mile mark, I've seen more of this place than most, thus I feel at least relatively competent and qualified to opine on this important, and oft-discussed subject.

So here goes – rather than ranking them, I am putting them into tiers.

 

Not really that scared of.

Sharks.    Floridians are generally not scared of sharks – tourists, and people who have moved here are scared of sharks.  Only one person has been killed by a shark in Florida in the last decade, which is fewer than have been killed by cannibals…in Florida.   Not saying we like sharks, but it isn’t an existential fear. But nonetheless, they make the list.

Alligators.  Floridians are also not typically scared of alligators – again, most of the fear comes from tourists.  On the flip side, Floridians will usually try to get a picture of said alligator when they are close to one, mostly to get a reaction on Facebook from their non-Florida friends.  Respect alligators?  Hell Yes.  Those dinosaur-like creatures have survived here without living in air conditioning or mosquito control (more on this later) for a lot longer than people have lived here.  Gonna walk our dogs near one?  No.  But do we live in fear of them because they sometimes wander down the street?  Nope.

Florida Man.  Florida Man and Florida Woman live among us.  They are our friends, and our families – and your friends and family as well.   Think about it:  Who lives in Florida?  Well, the vast majority of Floridians either moved here, or are born to people who moved here.  In other words, to paraphrase the words of former Delaware US Senate candidate, and noted wicken, Christine O’Donnell, We are not a witch – we are nothing you’ve heard America, Florida Man and Florida Woman is you.   Own it America.

 

Tiny bit scared of.

Fire Ants.   When I was a kid, we had a dog that once peed into a pile of fire ants, and never again stepped on the grass.  Since Floridians generally don’t wear socks, or closed-toe shoes – particularly in the summer, fire ants are a real threat.  See some guy running around the neighborhood frantically trying take off his shoes and asking to borrow your hose?  No, he isn't possessed - he stepped in a fire ant pile.  Don’t believe me – go walk through a pile in your flip-flops, and see what happens.

Mosquitoes.   Florida wouldn’t be a place without mosquito control.  No one would live here, because we have mutant mosquitoes that can bite through all three layers of clothes we own.  Honestly, the person who invented mosquito control should probably be a Florida hero, with a monument in their honor.  How bad are the mosquitoes? Sometimes, you will see Florida Man in long sleeve shirt on a 100-degree, 90 percent humidity, just to mitigate mosquitoes.  For this reason, they are on the list.

 

Things legit a bit scary

Publix closing.  We wouldn’t know where to get food if Publix closed – just ask any Floridian who forgot something they need for a holiday meal on one of the days they are actually closed.  There are other grocery stores, allegedly, but most of us don’t know where they are.  

Roaches/Palmetto Bugs.    We don’t have those little roaches that you all freak out about – no, we have massive flying cockroaches, known as palmetto bugs, that are often big enough to hold up a bank.  Ever want to know when someone new to Florida has moved into your neighborhood – just listen for the blood curdling scream of a new Floridian dealing with a palmetto bug flying at them for the first time.

Snakes.   We have a lot of snakes here, and like most Floridians, the vast majority of snakes are harmless, and perform important tasks for society.  That being said, we have several snakes that can and will legit kill you, hence you will often see Floridians post on facebook or twitter a picture of a snake, crowd-sourcing whether said snake is good for society, or about to kill them.  We also have snakes in the everglades that can eat an entire deer, and we have snakes that jump out of trees along rivers, and we have snakes that have been known to work their way through septic plumbing and show up in people’s toilets. 

Weather Under 50 – or in S Florida, under 65.   Here in North Florida, it gets below freezing a few times a year, so we at least own a coat or a hoodie, but no one here he is prepared for any kind of weather.  Go to South Florida, and when it is below 70, you will see people in boots and fur.  Seeing someone in a sweatshirt, shorts and flip-flops when it is cold is normal – and comes from the sheer fact for most of us, that’s probably the warmest set of clothing we own. 

 

Things that scare Floridians more than they let on.

Hurricanes.  For all the appearances of Florida man drinking beer in a lawn chair during a cat 3, running down Main Street shirtless with an American flag, or shooting guns toward hurricanes, actual Floridians do take most hurricanes - or at least those above Cat 1 pretty seriously.  Floridians are like animals sensing danger – they instinctively know when to get out of town.  If a Floridian is getting out of dodge, you should to. 

Evacuating from a hurricane.   Ever spend 15 hours on the Florida turnpike, searching for gas and only eating Cinnabon from a toll plaza service plaza?  Yeah, it sucks.  

Driving.    As my friend Tom Eldon says, Floridians drive as though they are a complete peace with God.  Others have suggested, for example, that Floridians view turn signals as a sign of weakness.  Florida interstates are kind of a bad combo of Mad Max, Survivor, and Seinfeld.   I’ve driven in some unique foreign places, and well, I’ll take most over I-4.   Add into it 100 million tourists a year, and the fact the state is seemingly an endless construction zone, and yeah, Floridians know driving here sucks. 

 

Things that really scare Floridians.

Nothing.  As the old tourism slogan goes, it is different here.

 

Thing that Floridians live in fear of.

Broken Air Conditioning.    Like mosquito control, Florida would be largely uninhabitable without air conditioning.  There is a reason why Florida has honored the inventor of air conditioning – himself a Floridian – with a statue in the United States Capitol.  John Gorrie is a legit hero to everyone who lives here.  All things being equal, this is really the only thing that truly frightens a Floridian -- except maybe, the combination of evacuating a hurricane in I-4 traffic without AC. 

 

 

Monday
Mar182019

How this one weird trick can help Florida Democrats win more elections

There isn’t a day that goes by that someone, either in person or on-line, doesn't ask me why aren’t Democrats winning in Florida more often. 

The truth is – it isn’t an easy question with a simple answer - and in reality, much of the answer in terms of candidate recruitment, and the quality of actual campaigns lies outside the realm of the average activist.  But there is one thing that every Democrat can do – and every Democratic group can do to put candidates in a better place to win.

Register voters.

In Florida, Democrats register voters well for about four months every four years, and other than that, not so much.  And yes, while there are groups that are doing good work, the numbers over the last ten years, are well, about as good as Blake Bortles QB rating as a member of the Jaguars.

Here are the raw numbers.

In 2008, when voters went to the polls to elect then Senator Barack Obama, Democrats had a voter registration advantage of just under 660,000 voters, which in terms of share of the electorate, was almost 6% more than the Republicans (42%-36%).  Fast forward to the competitive Governor’s race of 2014, and the advantage was down to just over 450,000 voters, or an advantage of just under 4% (38.8%-35%).  And when voters went to the polls in 2018, the advantage was down to just over 250,000 voters, with Democrats lead in voter registration share now below 2%.

In other words, over 10 years, Democrats saw their voter registration advantage drop by 400,000 voters.

And to put that into context:

In 2014, Crist lost by about 60,000 votes.

In 2016, Clinton lost by just over 100,000 votes.

In 2018, Gillum lost by just over 30,000 votes.

And Bill Nelson lost by about 10,000 votes.

You get the idea.

Register. Freaking. Voters.

Now, I know what you are going to say:  Steve, you aren’t accounting for the purge, suppression, conservative Democrats switching parties, etc.

So, let’s take a deeper look at some of these numbers.

Let’s look at the Deep South Dixiecrat theory – of the statewide 400,000 voter margin gain Republicans have seen, about 150,000 can be attributed to the old Panhandle media markets.  However, it isn’t as though these counties aren’t seeing growth – so that 150,000 isn’t all just party switching.  And honestly, the GOP margins in North Florida aren’t substantially changing.

On flip side, take the Orlando media market, home to an exploding Puerto Rican population, and over the last ten years, despite the population shifts that should help my party, Republicans have registered more voters than Democrats, proof that alone, demographics isn't destiny.  In fact, the only market that favors the Democrats over the last ten years is Miami, though for context, the Miami gains don't even make up for the GOP voter registration gains in the Jacksonville media market alone.   

Yes, the laws make it hard to register voters.  Yes, the purges disproportionally impact Democratic voters.  Yes, registering voters is difficult, time consuming, and tedious work.  But nothing is easy. 

The reality is the electorate is substantially more diverse than it was ten years ago.  In 2008, when Obama won, non-white registered voters made up just under 31% of the electorate.  Today, that number is 37%.  In fact, the only segment of the population making up a smaller share of the electorate than it did ten years ago are non-Hispanic white voters.  Further, despite making up just 16.5% of the current registered voters, over the last ten years, the growth in the actual number of Hispanic voters has outpaced non-Hispanic whites by over 200,000 voters. 

On paper, the electorate should be getting more Democratic.  But it isn’t.   

If Charlie Crist would have had Barack Obama’s electorate in 2014, he probably would have won.  If Gillum and Nelson had either the 2008 or 2014 electorate, they also probably would have won.   

And registering voters has a secondary, but equally important outcome:  it puts people back into vital communities, and gives us a chance to engage community leaders on a year-round basis.  People who are registering voters are also doing voter outreach, opinion leader outreach, and community engagement.  Furthermore, by funding party organizers to do voter registration, we can address the very legitimate concerns many have about the party’s lack of inclusion and outreach – as well as put people in communities to make the pitch why new voters shouldn’t just be new voters – but they should be new Democratic voters.  While the outside groups do really good work, for the sake of partisan organizing, nothing beats an actual partisan or candidate organizer.

People like to talk about the various “secrets” of how Barack Obama won – while other Democrats didn’t:  one of those secrets – using voter registration to help reshape the electorate.   For example, between 2006 and 2008, Democrats saw their registration advantage in Florida grow by almost the same 400,000 voters that we’ve lost since 2008.  Without those gains, does Barack Obama win in Florida in 2008?  Honestly, the answer is unlikely.

So yes, there is this one little trick you can do help elect more Democrats – help make the state look more Democratic:  go to the Florida Democratic Party, and sign up to register voters, or write them a check so they can organize voters.  Is it the only thing we have to do? No.  But is it the most important thing that most activists and groups can do?  Absolutely. 

PS -- To my DUVAL Democratic friends -- we finally have a real quarterback (God willing) -- go register him to vote.  :-)

Monday
Dec102018

Let's talk about polling, again.  

Let’s huddle up for a second and have a little chat about polling.

In 2018, I spoke to 25-30 groups and without fail, there were two questions always asked:

  1. How is Blake Bortles still in the NFL?
  2. And some variation of Why is the polling always wrong?

Now that the Jaguars have benched Bortles, we can dispense with the first question and focus on the second one.

There are basically two kinds of polls:  the ones you don’t see, and the ones you do.  Candidates who are spending millions and millions on television need good data, and that is the polling you don’t see – or at best rarely see.  In the public line, these are the dreaded “internal polls” – polls that when they see the light of day must be wrong, because they are released with an agenda.   However internal polling is typically pretty spot on – for two very connected reasons:  political pollsters stake their reputation on good numbers, because candidates must have the best information to make decisions – and candidates spend a lot of money for those polls to be accurate.  For example, during the 2018 Democratic primary for Governor, while the public polling missed it, our internal Graham polling was pretty clear that Jeff Greene's negative attacks on Phil Levine and Gwen created significant downward movement for the frontrunners in the race and space for Andrew Gillum to rise -- just as in the same way, the DeSantis private polling, which was released, showed his surge over Putnam to be earlier, more significant, and more sustained than the public polling reported.

Then there are the public polls.

First, longtime readers of this blog will know my issues with public polling did not start in 2016 or 2018.  Longtime political analyst Charlie Cook once called public polling “dime store junk,” a phrase that sometimes, is charitable.  I’ve been particularly harsh on Quinnipiac (I believe I've called their polling a "dumpster fire" and once suggested they couldn't count the topings on a pizza), not because I have any particular dislike for the school, or their beloved mascot Boomer the Bobcat, but because their polling is often cited as a benchmark.   When organizations like Quinnipiac publish polls, given the brand they have created, people take them at face value -- despite the fact their polling in Florida has often been a disaster – like the Jaguars football season.

Let me give you an example.  The 2012 Romney/Obama Florida race was one of the most stable races I’ve ever been around.  Both candidates started with a pretty high floor, and while there was movement, there were never any big shifts in the race, and the race never moved far from even.  Yet, over a four-month period, Quinnipiac had the race go from +6 Romney to +9 Obama – then within a month, back to Romney +1.  Over that period, the RCP polling average moved a couple tenths of a point.  Another university pollster called the race for Romney just weeks after they had Obama +3.    In reality, the race was always very close.

Public polling in the Governor’s race here in Florida in 2018 was, to quote noted linguist Deion Sanders, a total “shibacle.”  Back to the Quinnipiac, I felt like I spent most of October dealing with texts/emails/tweets from activists/donors/supporters wondering why I kept saying the Senate and Governor’s race were close, when the Q poll kept saying it wasn’t.  And they weren’t alone – the bulk of public polling lived in a reality that was separate from the real one.

So where is the disconnect?  Let’s explore a few things:

  1. First, most public polling is done at a fraction of the cost.  That alone will diminish the quality – in a lot of university polling, live callers are students, not trained call centers.  Robo polls are cheap and can’t be used to reach cell phone users (though some use internet panels to supplement).  It isn’t a hard and fast rule about everything, but generally in life, if you spend $1,500-2,000 versus spending $40-60,000, the former product will be inferior.
  2. Florida’s voter file is public, but many pollsters still use random digit dialing off phone lists, which will always lead to a survey that is broader than the electorate at large.
  3. Florida’s electorate is exceptionally stable, yet many public pollsters don’t weigh their models.  For example, some just let party ID “float” – meaning it pegging the turnout model to wherever the random sample lands it, making a race seem fluid, when in fact, the only thing really moving is the public pollster’s model.
  4. Florida is a hard state to poll, particularly with ethnic minorities.  Our state’s Hispanic and Black populations are both exceptionally diverse and missing the mark here can really mess up a survey.  For example, take a survey of 800 Florida votes, and you probably will get about 120 Hispanic respondents.  If that sample is too Puerto Rican, the whole thing will be too Democratic – and if it is too Cuban, it could make it look too Republican. 

And keep in mind, beyond this, polling that is done well typically has a 95% confidence rate – meaning that 5% of polls that are done are going to be off.

The problem with these issues is they create a lot of “noise” in polling – as in the 2012 example of Quinnipiac showing a 15 point move in a race over four months that maybe moved 2 points.

And here’s where it starts to go south. The media reports public polling as fact, typically with very little context, and often with no regard for a pollster’s record – particularly as news coverage looks more and more like sports coverage, with the focus on who is winning or losing.  Put numbers next to a name, and add a little paragraph about the poll, and someone will at least tweet it.  And supporters of different campaigns latch on to one poll or another, to bolster their own arguments. 

I do think there is a place for public polling, and a lot of groups do a ton of fascinating work.  For example, you should read everything the Pew Trusts puts out – not because of their great horserace numbers, but because they engage in fascinating surveys about the political and cultural fabric of America.

But since I don’t think public horserace polling is going away, here are a few ideas on how we should consume it going forward:

  1.  Every poll that is reported should have a very specific methodology statement that breaks down their sample in very specific terms.  All good science – and polling is a science – should be replicable. It shouldn’t take high level calculus to re-engineer a poll.  Who did they call?  What was the party split, ethnic split, gender split, and regional breakdown?  And how was the data collected? None of this is too much to ask.  If this isn’t available, don’t report it.
  2. Individual polls should be reported next to polling averages.  The averages themselves aren’t perfect, but at least provide some context of when a poll is outside of reality – therefore when CNN releases a poll showing the Governor’s race in Florida at a 12-point margin, the consumer can see this is an outlier.
  3. To this last point, journalists need to do a better job of filtering this stuff.  Journalists don’t have to report every poll that comes across the email.  My friend Tom Eldon takes it a step further, and suggests, just like the College Playoff Committee only updates its poll once a week, maybe journalists should aggregate polling, and release it once a week.
  4. Finally, it is not news that Florida is a very close state – top level races are going to be inside the margin of error – so when someone releases numbers that show someone winning by a margin that is outside the norms of political reality, even if they come from an organization with “university” in the title, there is no requirement to publish them.

There are some journalists who are wise in how they report polling, and not every public poll is a mess, but overall, the incentive is for groups to create public polls, because public polls create news – and news creates interest in the organization doing the polling.  And while I don’t believe organizations intentionally publish suspect data, again, there is little incentive to tighten up their internal controls and try to get things closer to right.  Until the news media decides to collectively be more careful in reporting this data, it is up to the rest of us to be skeptical.

Monday
Nov192018

So, about Tuesday night...

OK, it is time to talk about that thing that happened.  No, not the Jaguars blowing a 16-point lead in the 4th quarter – though I have plenty to say about that – I am talking about the election. 

Before I get into it, this election was the third consecutive Governor’s race decided by a point or less, bracketing two consecutive Presidential elections decided by a point.  This drives homes two points:  One, Florida, for all its dynamic growth and demographic changes, is very stable; and Two, when organizations like Quinnipiac try to peddle off polls showing candidates in Florida with 6-point leads, or 9-point leads, you now know what to do with that information (a post/rant on public polling is coming soon).

There are a lot of reasons why Florida is very competitive – you can read my take here – but it is what it is.  Big chunks of Florida cancel each other out, and both parties have large, and quite dug-in bases – and neither have a base that alone gets them to 50% + 1.  Winning Florida (or losing it) is about managing the margins throughout Florida. 

A couple of things – for the sake of this exercise, I am going to look at the Governor’s race, for one, and only one reason:  the consistency of comparing races over time.  In terms of the Senate race, much of the difference between Nelson and Gillum occurred in places like Brevard, where Nelson has a very long history, and Pinellas, where again, I think Nelson’s history on the ballot helped him out.    Gillum did slightly better in Duval, and in Orange/Osceola counties – which is likely a testament to the work Scott did after Hurricane Maria as much as anything.   But overall, the margins are similar.

Also, there are a lot of ways we could view this race, but since it is my blog, I am going to start by breaking it down as GOP base markets (Pensacola, Panama City, Jacksonville, and Fort Myers) versus DEM base markets (Tallahassee, Gainesville, West Palm, and Miami) – and the I-4 markets (Orlando & Tampa). 

Let me start at where I ended a piece in early October, my view at the time on the race: While I am currently bullish about my party’s chances, both from the standpoint of mood, and Dem opportunities for growth, if DeSantis and Scott are able to replicate Trump like share of the vote in the large suburban and exurban counties around I-4, things could get very tight, very quickly.” 

So, let’s break that statement into two buckets – Dem opportunities for growth – and the large suburban and exurban counties around I-4, starting with the former first.

If we go back and look at the previous two Governor’s races, the two parties pretty much matched the other in their base counties.  In 2010, Democrats won their base markets by 33,840 more than the GOP did, and in 2014, the margin was 14,360.   Fast forward to 2018, and Andrew Gillum won the base Democratic markets by 109,809 more votes than DeSantis won the base Republican markets. 

How did Gillum expand the Democratic advantage in the base markets?   One word:  Miami.

In fact, if you add up the three non-Miami Democratic markets, Gillum and Crist won them by almost the same margin (102,390 for Gillum, 102,698 for Crist), but Gillum won the Miami market by some 143K more votes than Crist did.

In fact, the same dynamic played out for DeSantis– outside of Fort Myers, he won the other base Republican markets by almost exactly what Scott won them by, but because Gillum was able keep him in check elsewhere, particularly in the Jacksonville market, DeSantis’ growth in the GOP market came nowhere near matching Gillum’s in his. 

*There is an argument that DeSantis did a good job keeping the Miami, particularly Dade margins, from being even larger, but that is for a longer look at Miami.

So how did DeSantis win?  The second bucket of this exercise, which is the same way Trump did.  Literally, exactly the same way.

As I sat in under the press tent at the Gillum Election Night Party, trying to make my rain-soaked laptop work, I felt the same sense of doom as I felt in 2016 -- twice.  First when the Pasco absentees came in, then around 7:50pm, when it became clear the Gillum/Nelson leads were not good enough to overcome the likely GOP advantage from the counties that would report at 8:00 EST, when the Central Time Zone polls closed.  The exurban counties in I-4 had done it again.

We know that Democrats grew their margins – significantly, in the places where my team historically runs up the score – and more than the GOP did in their traditional markets. But then we get to I-4.  Gillum lost the I-4 markets by 146K votes, or just under 70K more votes than Crist did.  Nelson lost the markets by slightly less – 138K or so votes.  Those margins more than offset the gains elsewhere and added up to a loss. 

But that is not the end of the story – and here is where the 2016 comparison sets in – just like Clinton, Gillum ran up new high-water mark margins in the urban areas, particularly around Orlando.  In total, Gillum won the urban counties of I-4 by 120,000 more votes than Crist did – and this is despite winning Pinellas County by some 30,000 votes less than Crist (the Crist margins in Pinellas were much more about Crist than they were about Democratic party performance).  However, where Crist lost the suburban and exurban counties around I-4 by about 157K votes, Gillum lost them by 355K.

Or more simply:  the counties around the urban I-4 counties delivered DeSantis with more of an increased margin than the Miami media market delivered for Gillum.  In a race where most everything else stayed the same – that made the difference.

Here is another way to look at it:

If you look at 2014, the Scott margin of victory pretty much matched his win in the Orlando media market, with his margins from North Florida, plus Tampa and Fort Myers almost exactly balancing out what Crist won South Florida.  Guess what happened again?  Literally the exact same thing. 

For Democrats, the Orlando math is a good way to highlight the problem – it is very hard to win a pure turnout fight.  When you look at 2018, the margins in urban Orlando were spectacular, and just like on Election Night in 2008, looked almost unmatchable.  But the problem for Democrats – the GOP margins everywhere else grew too, in some cases by a lot more, and cancelled out the gains.   For example, Gillum won Orange County by 85K more votes than Crist did – but if you add up the six republican counties in the Orlando market, he lost them by about 84K more votes than Crist.

Broadening out to the two markets combined, just like Clinton, Gillum won the I-4 urban counties by more votes than Obama did in 2012.  But whereas Clinton lost the non-urban I-4 counties by nearly 450K, and Gillum by 355K, Obama lost them by under 220K votes.  In fact, to prove the point of how important it is for Democrats to be more competitive in these counties, had Obama in 2012 lost the non-urban I-4 counties by as much as Gillum, we would have lost Florida that year.  

Nothing demonstrates this shift more than Volusia County, a place Obama won in 2008, lost by about 3K votes in 2012, and where both Nelson and Gillum lost by more than 22K votes – or the three counties north of Tampa (Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus), where Obama lost by 23K votes in 2008, 37K votes in 2012, but both Gillum and Nelson lost by more than 75K votes.

And here is where my frustration sets in – and not with either campaign – but the mindset generally of approaching the state, this idea that Florida can be won entirely in a few corners, or that Florida is just a turnout state.  Look at the difference between the Ag Commissioner’s race, and the Governor’s race.  In the Ag Commissioner’s race, the Democratic candidate, Nikki Fried, had better margins in 38 counties compared to the Governor’s race, including 33 that both candidates lost.  In other words, losing by a little less in a lot of places added up to the difference between winning by a little, and losing by a little.

This piece is not a criticism of any campaign.  God knows I’ve been on enough conference calls to know campaigns must make hard decisions, and often those decisions, particularly the ones Nelson often faced against a far better financed opponent, were a choice between two sub-prime options -- and that all of those decisions look easier in hindsight, and when you are on the outside.   And to their credit – especially Mayor Gillum, the campaigns did spend a lot of time in some of these communities. 

Instead, I lay this out to answer the question I’ve gotten a lot this week: what can we do differently?  From my view, the answer today is the same as it was when I got this question after Bush beat Kerry in Florida – you can’t take on these kinds of margins in Republican counties and hope to make it up elsewhere.  Sure, you might get a win here or there, but over time, it is just a losing proposition.  And here’s the thing – the same math exists in 2020, and in 2022 – in other words, getting right up to the edge of winning, unless my side is willing to drive a conversation about the math problem that we have. 

There are a lot of things to fix, but step one is voter registration.  In 2008, when our campaign shut down, Democrats had a nearly 700K advantage in voter registration.  Today it is just over 250K.  We need a sustained and permanent voter registration effort, which by its own nature, will keep us to remain engaged in the types of emerging communities where we are growing – as well force us to engage in many communities where we have not.   

I have a few pieces I will work on over the holidays – the aforementioned one on why I think the public polling continues to be a mess in Florida, as well as some more specific deep dives into individual markets. 

Thanks again for reading.  I really do appreciate it.  Happy Thanksgiving.

PS -- At least the Noles stomped the Gators in basketball on Election Night.  :-)

Tuesday
Nov062018

Like the Jaguars Season, the Election is Nearly Over.

To:      Fellow Americans Who Don’t Sleep

From:  Steve Schale, Tired Florida Man

Re:      You know you are going to miss these.

*5 hours until the polls open

*17 hours until the first of 23 phone calls between 7 and 7:05PM asking what I think.

*19 hours until FSU basketball season tips off against the boys from Hogtown, East Florida Seminary

*3 days until we the media forgets this election and goes all-in on 2020.

*5 days until the Jaguars lose again.

*6 days until the Vet Fest 5k in Tallahassee, as I need to burn off the last few week’s diet.

*708 days until someone else writes the first Florida memo of the 2020 cycle

*728 days until the Election Day 2020.

This is the second memo of the last day, and for ease of life, I am going to copy and paste the first part, so you have it, sans the jokes about Democrats voting like Blake Bortles throws touchdowns to the opposing teams – virtually everywhere, and often, and get into this thing.  There is really no reason to repeat it, anymore than there is a reason for Bortles to throw two interceptions in a single half.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am writing this after a day that began at 5:30 AM, has included multiple GOTV shifts, and about 400 miles in the car.  I can attest for the record that my entire diet has consisted of granola bars, candy I rifled from campaign offices, some tacos, a slice of ? old pizza, and caffeine in a variety of forms, so forgive me in advance for the bad jokes, sarcasm, and etc, that you will find.

As of this evening, Floridians have cast:  5,111,452 votes

Democrats:  2,074,400 (40,58%)

Republicans: 2,049,877 (40.105)

NPA:  987,175 (19.3%)

Total Democratic margin:  24,523 (+0.48)

For comparison, yesterday we were at just over 4.8m voters and GOP +24,689

Friday we were at 4.46m voters, and GOP at 56,902.

Despite many counties not opening on Sunday (Sunday was optional for counties in Florida), nearly as many people voted on Sunday as Saturday, when the polls were open statewide.  The nearly 50,000 voter net gain the Democrats had was twice as big as the last Sunday in 2014, and nearly matched the 55,000-net gain of the final Sunday in 2016. 

Already, 2 million more people have voted as voted before the Election Day in 2014.  The Republicans went into that Election Day with a 97,000-voter lead, or roughly a 3% advantage.  One way to think about this election in comparison – even with the Election Day advantage Republicans had in 2014 and will have in 2018, I have no doubt Charlie Crist would have won in 2014 with the electorate where it is today.  In terms of the partisan difference in the electorate, Democrats start Tuesday morning in a net of about 120,000 voter better position than four years ago.   

My Republican friends like to point out that the electorate in 2016 was very similar, and I agree, it is.  I also agree to their point that the electorate tomorrow is likely to be more Republican than Democratic, possibly by as much as 150,000-200,000 votes (though I think the latter is unlikely given that Democrats will still have infrequent voters turning out to cancel some of their advantage).  But one thing appears in all polling to be different:  crossover voters, and independents, both who broke late to Trump in 2016, and appear to be breaking for Gillum and Nelson.

To give a quick example of what this means, even with the large surge of GOP voters in 2016, the defining feature of Trump’s win was late deciding independents, who overall gave Trump a four-point edge in the exit poll – a number that based on polling, seems quite plausible.  If that same segment of the electorate had given Hillary Clinton a four-point edge, she would have won Florida by a margin like Barack Obama in 2012, who, yup you guessed it, won independents.

Republicans also will point out, and if they won’t, I will for them, that Crist won independents, and lost.  This is also true.  But again, if you go back three paragraphs, you will see that the electorate was substantially more Republican.  There is a point at which the GOP turnout advantage could be so big that Gillum and Nelson would have to win independents by something so Herculean, akin to the scale of imaging Blake Bortles throwing 10 passes without bouncing one off an offensive lineman’s helmet, that the math doesn’t work.  But this is far from that kind of model.  More on this later.

Couple of other cut and paste facts from the morning memo:

The share of the electorate that is Black at 13.6%, which means Black voters are turning out at a higher rate than their share of voter registration (13.2%).  Hispanic is up to 13%, which still lags its registration, but it is moving up.  Overall, the electorate that is about 68% white.  Several of you have asked why I keep mentioning this number, and it is simple:  Democrats in the last few cycles have struggled with white voters, so the greater the percentage of the electorate that is diverse, from a math perspective, the lower share of the white vote required.    It is not likely that tomorrow will see the electorate get more diverse, nor do I think much will happen to make it less diverse. 

The Black turnout is driven across all groups:  2014 voters, 2016 voters, new voters, etc. – consistent across all targets.  The Hispanic and NPA turnout is being driven by newer voters.  The percentage of voters who did not vote in 2014 is up to 33%.  Within that universe, it is more Democratic -- Dems have about a 110K voter lead among the expansion universe, and it is more Hispanic -- over 18%, than the electorate at large.  It is also more NPA, with 26% of expansion voters not registering with either party, which makes sense because it is also younger -- nearly 23% under the age of 34.  

So what happens tomorrow?  Republicans show up, and infrequent voters continue at some level, maybe not as high as in early vote, but still at a steady click  So what does this mean?  I have been pretty set on about 7.25 million for turnout for most of two weeks.  I don’t see it going lower than this, and while it may be a bit higher, I don’t know that it is a lot higher, mainly because while we have seen surge, a lot of the surge is really just convenience voting.  As I told a reporter or two today, the most remarkable thing is just how normal this electorate looks – just with more volume. 

So let’s do some quick math (I NEVER SAID THERE WOULD BE NO MATH).

Dem edge today is roughly 25,000.  It could go up or down a bit by morning, given the absentee ballots that came in today, but isn’t likely to change much.

Let’s say, worst case scenario for Democrats, virtually every likely GOP target shows up tomorrow, and they win the day by 200,000 voters.  Again, I think reasonably, this number is closer to 160,000, but for sake of this model, let’s say it is 200,000,  And let’s say that to get there, turnout is about 1.5-1.6 million for these super voters.  At this level, based on how infrequent votes have been voting another 400,000 infrequent voters are likely to show up and at the current Democratic pace, Democrats probably net minimum of 30,000 voters. 

200,000 GOP edge on EDay

25,000  Current Dem Edge

30,000 Dem infrequent edge.

= 145,000 final GOP edge in turnout. 

At 145,000, this means Republicans would have a 2 point edge in the share of the electorate, and as I showed the other day, there are a variety of ways, with very little crossover, and a very reasonable NPA win, that the Democrats win. 

More on this in a bit.

Let’s go back to an exercise from one of the first memos – how do both parties win?  Well, for Democrats, run up the score in a few places, and keep it between the ditches everywhere else.

The big places for us, Broward, Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, and to lesser extent, Hillsborough.  Let’s start with Broward, where Democrats entered Eday in 2014 with a 100,000 voter lead – today, that number is 165,000, and arguably even more important, the county will turnout a bigger share of the electorate.  In 2014, the total Broward turnout was 44%, and as of just today, it is 40%.  It will exceed its 2014 turnout, quite possibly by a significant number – and that is just volume, volume that adds up in the Democratic column.  Turnout in Broward has made Florida Man's driving on I-95 seem peaceful and tame.

In fact, there are 8 counties that are within 10% points of reaching their 2014 turnout percentages – in other words, the counties that are performing the best relative to their 2014 turnout, and of those 8, four are significant Democratic base counties:  Dade, Broward, Orange, and Hillsborough.   Every single one of these counties will be a bigger chunk of the electorate than 2014, and everyone of them will deliver large majorities for Gillum and Nelson. A fifth county, Osceola, is also in this category and is a Democratic base county.

If you take these five counties, currently the Democratic advantage in turnout is 313,584 voters.  In 2014, the advantage was 134,439 voters – and even if you just factor in the higher turnout numbers, these three counties are still about 90,000 voters ahead of where they were four years ago.   That is not insignificant.

Let’s also look at the two “play defense by playing offense” counties that I mentioned in one of the first of these memos, which feels like 18 months ago now.  In two large counties in North Florida, Clinton outperformed Crist:  Escambia (Pensacola), and Duval – also known as DUUUUVAL, which is Jacksonville, home of Blake Bortles’ fumbles.  The key for the ticket in those two places will be increasing African American participation.  These are also two communities that both DeSantis and Scott will want to look more like they did for Scott in 2014 than they did for Trump in 2016

So what is going on there?  Well in Duval, in 2014, Republicans had about a 3% lead in party share entering Election Day – in 2016, the Dems had about a 1.4% lead, and today, the Democratic advantage is over 3, or roughly 12,000 voters. Democrats are not only denying the Republicans a large margin in a county that Scott won by 34,000 votes (+13%), but they might just win the whole darn place.    I have wanted to win DUVAL since taking the head coaching job for Florida Obama in 2008 – we almost got there in 08, Clinton got closer in 16, and I am going to go bold, and throw a Blake Bortles deep ball into triple coverage and say Gillum go up and grab that pass, and bring DUVAL home in 2018.  As for Escambia, the party advantage was 23% in 2014.  Today it is 17%.  Chipping away at the margin.  That’s how Democrats win. DUUUUUUVAL.

Secondly, Republicans run up the score in a handful of counties, and win a few dozen by decent vote total, to counter balance the growth the Democratic ticket is likely to see in the urban counties.  For DeSantis and Scott, their path lies with the dozen or counties where Trump (2016) outperformed Rick Scott (2014).  While the GOP ticket is unlikely to see the same kind of raw vote margins Trump won in these counties, they will want the final percentage spread to look more like Trump than like Scott.  Most of these counties are in the I-4 corridor:

Tampa market:

Hernando (Scott 47.9%  +2,013 votes - Trump 62.9%, +27,211 votes)

Citrus (Scott 53.7%, +8,881 – Trump 68.3%, +31,667)

Pasco (Scott 46.8%, +2,859 – Trump 58.9% +51,967)

Pinellas (Scott 41% -39,659 – Trump 48.6%, +5,551)

Sarasota (Scott 48.7%, +4,972 – Trump 54.3%, +26,541)

Manatee (Scott 51.7%, +12,356 – Trump 57.0% +30,647)

So how does it look there?

Again, keep in mind the goal in these counties is to change the math, like what the Democrats had done in their base counties.  In 2014, the Republicans went into election day – and today, their margin is 8%, for a net lead of 58,107, which is nearly the same percentage margin as 2014, and a net gain in voters of just about 15,000.  Sure, tomorrow could blow up here, but what has been keeping the GOP markets down isn’t lack of GOP enthusiasm, it is Democrats in these places are voting.  In fact, in Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee, Democratic voter turnout rates match, or even exceed the Republicans. 

Orlando and South

Marion (Scott 55.3%, +19,869 – Trump 61.7%, +45,806)

Volusia (Scott 48.8%, +6,434 – Trump 54.8%, +33,937)

Charlotte – Ft Myers DMA (Scott 52.5%, +8,273 – Trump 62.5%, +26,781)

Martin – West Palm DMA (Scott 55.3%, +9,220 – Trump 62.0%, 23,091)

Just like above, in places where Trump blew up the numbers, we are seeing flatter growth – Republicans leading these four counties in early vote in 2014 by 15%, or about 33K votes, and today leading by 14.3%, or about 48K votes (with 100,000 more votes cast).

In fact, generally, while Democratic counties are quickly reaching their 2014 turnout rates, Republican counties are trailing;  25 counties the GOP traditionally win are more than 20% behind their 2014 final turnout percentage, and 40 total are more than 15% behind.  They are simply not getting enough volume – so far.  This will change tomorrow, but there is a lot of catching up to do to get to the kind of turnout the GOP saw in 2014 in contrast to the Democrats that cycle.

Couple of other quick observations – right now, the Miami and Orlando media markets are ahead of their projected share of vote, while most of North Florida is behind.  This should level out tomorrow, though Miami and Orlando will both be a bigger share of the electorate in 2018 than 2014.  

So here is where I am.  While I don’t discount the GOP edge on election day, I do think if the NPA and crossover vote is doing anything close to what pollsters are finding, that edge gets eliminated quickly.  In fact, a 9-point Gillum edge in NPA eliminates a 2 point GOP edge in turnout without having to win a single more GOP vote than DeSantis wins among Democrats – and I think Gillum wins more Republicans than DeSantis wins Democrats.

I know a lot of the polling of late has shown it stretching to a 4-5 – and even 7-point race, but honestly, I’ll believe it when I see it.  That being said, I will be less surprised if he wins by that margin than I will be if he loses – and honestly, if James Comey hadn’t sent a memo, and I hadn’t lived with watching the disaster for my party that was Election Day in Florida in 2016, I probably would have no hesitation in saying where this plane lands.  I think 2016 is the thing that gives most people pause, when in reality, the vast majority of signs pont to Gillum and Nelson.

That doesn’t mean a win is a certainty – if GOP really shows up, Dems turnout stalls, and white independents crash tomorrow, that could be a bad combination.  For Trump, it took all three of these things happening to win, and while I expect one will happen, the other two are a lot  less certain.  Moreover, the polling seems to show the race consolidating towards both Gillum and Nelson, where as in 2016, you could feel the race slide towards Trump late.    Again, I put the odds of DeSantis winning at lower than the odds of Gillum winning by a comfortable margin – but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  So if you are on my team, GOTV.  If you are not, I hear there are some Jaguars re-runs on Netflix.  

Tomorrow I will be watching turnout in the counties north of Tampa, and in Pinellas.  This where the real Trump surge happened on Election Day in 2018, and where if we see a repeat, we will see signs during the day.

At 7:00, I will check Pasco.  I can’t say I have a specific trigger on Pasco, other than kind of like when Bortles chucks one up under pressure with no specific offensive player in mind, I more go by feel, but anything close to parity is a good sign for Democrats.

Pinellas will report quickly and will report most of their vote at once.  Up, and I will feel good. Down, and I’ll settle in.  DUVAL is also early, and I want to see my side up.   Dade early reports quickly, and Crist margin was 50,000 in early/vbm in 2014 – I want to see north of this. 

I’ll start checking the urban/suburban counties around Orlando, and again, mostly just want to see margins in line with, or below 2014, as well as Orange and Osceola, and will want to see margins closer to 2016 numbers than to the Crist 2014 margins.

Then heading to 8 – what does the total margin look like?  In 2014, Scott won the Central Time Zone markets by 140,000 votes – so are the Dems clear by at least that?  If so, given late reporting southeast Florida counties, they are probably fine.  If not, well, you can probably turn on basketball.

Florida is pretty fast reporting, except for Palm Beach, which I think is still counting ballots from 2000, so unless this thing is really close, I think we will have a good sense of where this is headed at a reasonable hour.

Real quick, I want to thank a few people.

First, my friend Dan Newman, who for two cycles has been an invaluable resource to these pieces.

I also want to thank the other vote counters – Dan Smith, Caputo, Wiggins, Tyson, and Wayne Bertsch – I appreciate bouncing things off each other – and the thoughts you all share with me, as well as – and I will protect the innocent, some of the national guys who help me check myself.

And to everyone who reads these things, truly, thank you. As I think I have said in the past, in my younger years, I struggled with reading and math comprehension, so I made excel sheets, and wrote out concepts to help me think things out.  To this day, I think by writing. I started writing these pieces as more internal objects in my campaign days, to help me process decisions – and as I migrated out of day to day campaign stuff (getting old sucks), someone suggested sharing these to provide maybe a little insight into how at least one old hack thinks about the state and its trends.    Like everyone else who spends time in this data, it is a time-consuming labor – but a labor of love, and I really do appreciate you reading.

To all the candidates who ran, congratulations, you have more guts than me, who has decided not to run a few times in his life.  Your willingness to step into the Arena is admirable.  In the words of Teddy Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...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."

And lastly, while I have a lot of folks I am rooting for, I want to specifically wish Andrew Gillum good luck tomorrow.  While I initially was on another team, I’ve known Andrew for well over a decade, and I have nothing but genuine admiration for what he’s achieved in his life. His improbable story is one that can give hope to so many for whom hope is a shrinking commodity. I also think back to my first two years working in the legislature, when divided government led to some incredible achievements;  Bright Futures scholarships, KidCare expansion, School construction, and many more, and I believe Andrew will bring a much needed, fresh voice to the process, and help drive some big ideas, and big conversations.  I’d be proud to call my friend my Governor.  Bring it home sir.

PS- Congrats to Miami Dade College on turning out the most early votes, and winning the early voting Team Democracy State Championship.  With a top five finish, look for UCF to declare themselves the Early Voting National Champions.   Thanks to all who voted,  you quite literally help save democracy.

For the 12 of you who read my other posts, see you soon.  For the other 38, see you all in 2020, God willing.

Monday
Nov052018

One more day

To:      Anyone still standing

From:  Steve

Re:      DUUUUUVAL

Date:   November 5, 2018

I greet you on this Monday morning, rejoicing in the fact the Jaguars did not lose yesterday.   The pride this brought to the good people of DUVAL county led to the largest early voting day of the cycle, as nearly 20,000 proud residents of old Cowford came to the polls.   Really proud of my city.

Before we get started, there are a few notes -- this will be the first of two notes -- the second will come late tonight or in the morning, for two reasons:  at the time I am writing this, I haven't had a chance to get access a deep look at the voter file including yesterday's data -- and since I am doing some GOTV volunteering today, it will be tonight before I get another chance.   And secondly, my computer decided today would be a great day to go to the go to laptop heaven, so I will be taking a second run at this stuff tonight on a new laptop.  

Apropos to nothing, what is interesting is my laptops all die on a two year cycle, though God has granted me passage in all previous years to the week or so after the election.  This year, it seems we fell a day short. 

Yesterday was a pretty remarkable day.  Roughly 275K Floridians voted, bringing our total to just under 5.1 million votes.  I suspect that by the time we get through the VBM ballots that will come in today, plus the early vote from the counties in the Panhandle impacted by Michael, we will get to 5.2 million before the election.  This is roughly 40% statewide turnout.  Just nuts.

Democrats had a big weekend -- starting the weekend down just under 57,000 votes, and leave the weekend up about 24,000 votes.  Yesterday was particularly impressive, with the Democrats seeing a net gain of almost 53,000 votes, which is roughly on par with the final day of early voting in 2016.    Democrats were going to the polls like Blake Bortles throws touchdowns to opposing teams -- everywhere, and with great frequency.  

So here is where we are:

Total votes:  5,094,645

Democrats:  2,067,856

Republicans: 2,043,167

NPA:  983,622

Total Democratic margin:  24,689 (+0.5)

One thing on these numbers -- several of you have pointed out that you have seen slightly different numbers day to day, and this is possible.  I pull my data from the state site around 7:30 AM every morning, and counties frequently will update data from the previous day throughout the day, changing the counts slightly.  As I have a job, I view a day as between the last time I put these things in my excel spreadsheet, and when I put the new data in said spreadsheet.  My blog, my process.  :-)

For comparison, yesterday we were at just over 4.8m voters and GOP +24,689

Friday we were at 4.46m voters, and GOP at 56,902.

And to give a sense of the volume, we started Monday at 2.72 million (GOP +59K), meaning that in the last seven days, we've seen 2.4 million votes.  That is stout.

According to my friend josh Geise, who has a functioning laptop (Congrats bro), yesterday was very diverse in terms of turn out, with the Black vote making up 26% of voters, and overall non-white landing at 53%. 

That would put the share of the electorate that is Black at 13.6%, which means Black voters are turning out at a higher rate than their share of voter registration (13.2%).  Hispanic is up to 13%, which still lags its registration.  Overall, the electorate that is about 68% white.  Several of you have asked why I keep mentioning this number, and it is simple:  Democrats in the last few cycles have struggled with white voters, so the greater the percentage of the electorate that is diverse, from a math perspective, the lower share of the white vote required.    From a democracy standpoint, it is also healthy, as we live in a state that is 47-48% made up by residents in America considered to be ethnic minorities.  The electorate should more closely reflect this in a representative democracy, and this one is headed in the right path.

Turnout is way up, which is fantastic, but it is important know this isn't all organic growth. Nearly a million voters so far cast a ballot on Election Day in 2014, and those numbers are basically dead even between the two parties.

The Dems advantage is driven by an expansion from the 2014 electorate.  The percentage of voters who did not vote in 2014 is up to 33%.  Now keep in mind, Florida is an older state in terms of population, and as my friend Dan Smith from UF likes to remind me, it is an older population that refreshes itself from mortality rates due to people retiring here.  So Florida does have significant turnover from cycle to cycle -- but 33% growth is well beyond the norm.  Within that universe, it is more Democratic -- Dems have about a 110K voter lead among the expansion universe, and it is more Hispanic -- over 18%, than the electorate at large.  It is also more NPA, with 26% of expansion voters not registering with either party, which makes sense because it is also younger -- nearly 23% under the age of 34.   

Looking to Tuesday, there are about 2.7 million voters who voted in either the 2014 general election or the 2018 primary, but haven't voted yet - with the vast majority of those being 2014 voters.  If you break this down into tiers -- there are 1.7 million voters who voted in the 2014 general election on Election Day who have yet to vote - and the GOP has about a 160K voter edge. If you take all the 2014 voters, the GOP has about a 200K voter advantage, and the overall universe grows to 2.4 million.  Adding in the 2018 primary voters doesn't really change anything.

This being said, even the worst case scenario for Democrats has this electorate landing at about +2 Republican, which daily readers of this blog will remember, is about where I thought it would land last week as a worst case scenario.  More likely, if the surge voter numbers continue at some level tomorrow, it will be more like +1 or +1.5, and in this scenario, Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson will win. 

I do think after the weekend that turnout ends up north of 55%.  60% would be 2.8 million votes, which honestly, is quite possible. I want to spend some more time with this tonight, but regardless, we are well north of where we thought we would be.

In the note I write later tonight -- more like late tonight, I will send along my cheat sheet to how I will follow the election, but here's the deal, if the polling is right, and Gillum and Nelson win by 4 points or more, we will know pretty early, because as much as 50-60% of the state is likely to report before 7:30, 8:00 EST at the latest.  Do keep in mind, as I will remind you all tonight, there is a significant GOP vote in the central time zone, so the early numbers will get more Republican as the night goes on, but I will help try to explain this on twitter.

With that, more later.  

 

Sunday
Nov042018

Almost there - 2 Days Florida

To:       Fans of Daylight Savings Time

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       TWO MORE DAYS

As a longtime hack, I always saw “falling back’ as a biennial opportunity to get an extra hour of sleep.  But that is probably where the upside of going back to standard time ends.   If I ever run for President, Make Evenings Light Again will be a key part of my platform.

Florida Man and Florida Woman voted yesterday like there it was BOGO day on flip-flops at the early voting site. 

When it is all in (several counties have not reported yet), total in-person early voting will be around 300,000 votes.  With the VBM ballots that came in, the day will come close to (but not reach), the last Saturday in 2016.   There is no question in my mind that Florida will cast more than five million votes before Election Day, and there is no question in my mind that the margin between the two parties will be less than 1%, and probably more like 0.5%. 

Like yesterday, this memo will be shorter for two reasons:  I want to get some more volunteering in for GOTV, and I will take a much deeper look at everything in tomorrow’s memo.   Also, keep in mind these totals are not perfect – there are about 10 counties, a couple of which are mid-sized, that did not report at 7:30 AM.  

So, here we go: 4,817,062 votes have been cast.

Republicans: 1,964,364

Democrats: 1,936,328

NPA/Minor: 915,370

Republican edge is 28,036 (+0.58%)

The GOP voter advantage has floated between the mid-50s and 70 since the start of in-person early voting, but this is the first time we’ve seen it really move.   In 2014, Democrats won in-person early voting on the final Sunday by 25K votes, and in 2016, the number was 55K, and I do think the Democrats win the day by enough to take a lead.   When the straggling vote by mail ballots come in, given the GOP edge there, the number may pop up close to tied.  Welcome to Florida.

The GOP went into Election Day with about a 90K voter edge in 2014, or about 3%

The Dems went into Election Day, also with about a 90K voter in 2016, which was about 1.3%

Crist won the NPA vote by 6, not enough to overcome the GOP early and EDay advantage.

Trump won the NPA vote by 4, enough combined with a strong EDay advantage to win.

The GOP will almost surely win the turnout battle on EDay – and this isn’t because of anything other than they simply have more certain voters who wait until the final day to vote.  So like everything in Florida, this will come down to who wins more crossover, and who wins the NPAs.   We are, as I often point out, both a turnout and a persuasion state. 

Statewide turnout is now 36.2% - in other words, 2.7% of Florida registered voters cast a ballot yesterday.  Among Republicans, it is 42%, among Democrats, it is 39.2%, and among NPA, it’s up to 25.1%.   Yesterday alone, 3.2% of all registered Democrats voted. 

As we saw in both 2014 and 2016, the NPA share is growing as we get closer to Election Day.  On Monday, it was 17.7%.  Friday it was 18.4%.  Yesterday it is 18.7%. Today it is 19.  It will get over 20, and for Gillum who most polling shows is winning the NPAs, this is how you make up a partisan difference – and the bigger the NPA share, the more his advantage there helps.  How important was NPA to Trump?  If you hold everything else constant, he won the NPA’s by about 90K votes – if they had split the NPA vote, the race would have been in a recount.  If she won the NPAs by four?  She would have won Florida.

The last two days also show how the electorate is getting more diverse. After Wednesday, the electorate was 71% white, and yesterday it is 70%, and this morning it was 69.  Yesterday, non-Hispanic whites made up 54% of voters, with African Americans and Caribbean voters making up 19%, and Hispanics another 14.  The Hispanic number continues to lag a bit, but it is headed in the right direction. Right now, Hispanics are 12.6% of registered voters, and I think this ends up in the low 13s, based on trendlines.   There is a possibility Black voters will exceed their share of registered voters in the early vote – right now, it is 12.96%, and registration is 13.2%. 

Keep one thing in mind, Hispanics are under-represented by the registered voters, namely, not all Hispanics self-select Hispanic on their voter-registration, and some have been registered long enough that it was an option in the county where they live.  In this election, I don’t think this delta is significant, but just worth nothing.

In-person early vote has exceeded vote by mail, which happened in 2016, but not 14.

51% of the vote is in-person early, and Democrats have a 37,585-voter advantage.  49% is vote by mail, and the GOP advantage is 65,621

GOP return rates of VBM ballots continues to out-pace my team,   Republicans have returned 72.7%, Democrats 65.5%, and NPA 60.1%.  The statewide return rate is 67.3%, which is down from 2014. 

Dems have 114K more unreturned...excuse me while I go bang my head against a wall.

OK, I am back. 

Two last observations, and then off to work.

One – DUVAL – wow.  Setting records every day, voting like Blake Bortles played against the Steelers.  I am not going to predict that Gillum and Nelson win DUVAL yet (I might tomorrow), but long-time readers know I am a big fan as a Democrat of playing defense by playing offense in this county, there is a chance that Democrats will go into Election Day with a 10,000-voter advantage.  DUVAL is a place that can provide huge GOP margins, but that won’t happen on Tuesday.

Right now, the regional distribution of votes looks very good for Democrats.  Miami is almost 20% (naturally lands 17-18%), and Orlando is also up.  But it also looks a lot like 2016 did at this point, with a few places that helped my home team higher than normal.  What happened on Election Day was a lot of those counties flatlined, and GOP ones took off – that and NPAs and other swing voters broke to Trump.

I will get more into this tomorrow, but for Democrats, this is rounding into nice shape.  There is very little doubt in my mind that when we go back and look at actual votes, Nelson and Gillum will start Tuesday ahead of their opponents.  How much ahead?  We can’t tell from this.  Is it going to be enough?  Well, that is why if you want them to win, you should now close your laptop, or put the phone down, and go pull a shift.  America’s team, the Jaguars has a bye week, so there is no excuse.

As I used to tell our crew in Obamaland – and this really applies to both sides of this race  it is now in your hands.  Don’t be a Blake Bortles and fumble it away now.

Until then, if you are a journalist in Florida covering an election, watch out, because Florida Man and Florida Woman are coming to vote, and if history says anything, you do not want to get in the way of determined Florida Man or Florida Woman, because you never know when they are packing a small alligator, or spatula.  So be safe out there.

Saturday
Nov032018

3 Days Out - Florida is Careening to the Finish

To:       Fans of Number 3 (Dale Earnhardt of course)

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       3 days to go!!!

Today we celebrate Dale Earnhardt day, as we stand 3 days from an election cycle, that just like the last lap of Talladega, is coming to a close with cars all over the track, a loose tire landing in the stands, and someone upside down on their roof sliding through the infield.  

Yesterday was the largest in-person early voting day, and the overall largest day (ev+vbm) of the cycle.  Right now, the total stands at roughly 375,000, but when the counties that have not reported yet pop into the system, it should be very close to, if not exceed, 400,000.

And yesterday is an instructive day for showing how Florida works.  Democrats absolutely blew it out in a handful of counties that always go Democratic, and Republicans, while not seeing the same kind of margins, did well in a bunch of counties that they do well in.  The result for the day:  nearly a tie.  I’ll walk through some of that later.

Also, this memo will be shorter for two reasons:  I want to get some volunteering in for GOTV, and I want to spend some time working on my Monday memo, which will lay out where we are at the end of early vote, and the scenarios that can happen on Tuesday.

So, here we go: 4,462,042 total votes

Republicans: 1,835,373

Democrats: 1,778,373

NPA/Minor: 832,198

Republican edge is 56,902 (+1.3%)

To give a sense of just how stable Florida is:  look at Monday: it was 2,726,392 (+2.2%) with the GOP holding an edge of 59,048.  1.7 million votes over 6 days, and t was basically a tie for the week.  That’s just how the place works.

At this point, we are going to go to Election Day with 1.9 to 2 million more votes than voted early in 2014.   As a percentage margin, it is better than 2014, worse than 2016, but above all, I don’t think either comparison really works at this point.

Statewide turnout is now 33.5% - in other words, 2.9% of Florida registered voters cast a ballot yesterday.  Among Republicans, it is 39.2%, among Democrats, it is 36%, and among NPA, it’s up to 22.9%.

As we saw in both 2014 and 2016, the NPA share is growing as we get closer to Election Day.  On Monday, it was 17.7%.  Yesterday it was 18.4%.  Today it is 18.7%.  It will get over 20 when this is all said and done – and as I said yesterday, that is an important point for any candidate whose path to win includes NPAs – the bigger their share, the more that vote means in the final equation.

The last two days also show how the electorate is getting more diverse. After Wednesday, the electorate was 71% white, and today it is 70%, and continuing to track into the upper 60s.  What caused that drop?  In the last two days, the electorate has been 15.5% Black, and 13.7% Hispanic.  It is likely this will continue into the last two days of early voting.  Not surprisingly, the share of people who did not vote in 2014 continues to rise.  

And continuing the trend from earlier in the week;  cannibalization (which probably isn't a real word), or the action of parties moving their Election Day vote into early voting, thus making early voting look more robust than it is.  Right now, over 18% of the electorate are cannibals – ok, it is Florida, so be clear, I mean early voting cannibals.  About 25,000 more Republicans fall into this category, but I don’t think that is overly significant.   But this overall stat is important:  while more than 30% of this electorate is new from 2014, the higher turnout is also being driven by convenience voting, which is why I believe the final turnout will be higher than 2014, but not ‘mini-Presidential” in volume, as some have suggested.

But then again, who knows.  People are voting.  That is good.

One other quick thing, to close the loop on Hurricane Michael:  voting patterns have basically returned to normal there.  They are still a tiny bit behind the state, but at this point, there is no evidence that Michael will have any significant impact on the election.  This is very good news for that community, and for democracy at large.

51% of the electorate to date is vote by mail, and the GOP has a 67,540.  Of the 49% of all ballots in that were cast in-person early, Democrats hold a roughly 10,600 ballot lead.  In person early voting will outpace vote by mail this year. 

In total, just over 3.48 million ballots have been requested – again far more than 2014, and more than 2016.  Republicans have returned 70.5%, Democrats 63.2%, and NPA 58.4%.  The statewide return rate is 65%, which is down from 2014.  But there is still time to return your ballot. 

HINT: Return Your Ballot.

Here is what is remaining:

Democratic unreturned ballots: 515,780

Republican unreturned ballots: 399,366

NPA unreturned ballots: 308,109

And, to everyone on twitter who likes to point out that people may have requested a ballot and voted early, and are like “Schale, stop beating us up, our people are voting” – yes, there are Democrats who are requesting ballots and voting in person.  But guess what, there are Republicans, and there are also NPAs doing it.

In total, roughly 150,000 Floridians have, to steal a term, cannibalized their vote by mail ballot, and yes, a few more Democrats have than Republicans.  So, in the sum, there are still A LOT MORE DEMOCRATS with vote by mail ballots sitting under the dog’s tennis ball, or next to that thing you bought at Target but aren’t sure where you are going to put in your house.

Get your ballot. Take it to an early voting site or take it to the polls on Tuesday.  Just don’t leave it sitting under your gym clothes in the backseat of your car.

Last thing for today, I thought today’s numbers were instructive about how Florida works.  As I’ve written in the past, Florida tends to operate like a scale that corrects itself back to balanced.  For as dynamic as the state is, the politics are stable, and quite dug in, which explains why our elections are so close.  In short, Democratic areas and Republican areas tend to balance themselves out, and the state is won or lost on the margins. 

Over the last 6 days, more than1.7 million ballots have come in, and the difference between the two parties is about 2,000 votes. 

Yesterday, out of nearly 400,000 votes, even though Miami, Broward, Orange, and Palm Beach blew it out, the statewide partisan difference was about 1,600, so my twitter engagers ask: ‘Hey man, how did the Republicans turnout out more voters if 125,000 people voted in the big four Democratic counties,”

Well here is how: Democrats yesterday won 18 counties.  Of those 18 counties, 8 are very small, and the total margin in those 8 was 471 voters.  And honestly, we aren’t winning most of these counties.  In these 18 counties, Democrats margin in turnout advantage was roughly 35,000 voters, of which 80% came from the big four counties:  Broward, Miami, Orange, and Palm Beach.

On the flipside, Republicans won 44 (5 haven’t reported) by just over 33,000, but to add up to the same margin as the Democratic big four, you had to go to their top 17 counties.  In other words, they win a lot more places by decent margins, while we win a few by a ton.

So, they cancel themselves out like this:

Broward (Dems +11,303) = Bay, Lee, St. Johns, Collier, and Brevard

Dade (Dems +8.268) = Nassau, Lake, Sarasota, Sumter, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa

Orange (Dems +4,336) = Pasco, Manatee, Charlotte, and Marion

Again, remember, all of this is on the party margins.  If NPAs break hard one way or another, or if there is significant crossover vote, these margins are all impacted.

But generally, who wins or loses will do so, not by where they win, but why they win or lose by everywhere.  It is the little things at the end that determines who wins close elections.

Two last things.

1.  Dear UCF:  You all want people to think you are state champions or national champions or something, but here is the deal:  you are losing to UF, FIU, and FSU/FAMU in terms of early voting totals on campus.  And you have a lot more students than these others.  So until you stop losing to FIU, please stop telling everyone you "want Bama."

And secondly, yesterday was a tough day in our community, as a shooter walked into a yoga studio, killed two and injured others.  A few months back, it was a video game competition in Jacksonville, before that Stoneman Douglas, before that Pulse, and in between that, a whole lot of other shootings that never made the headlines.  During session, i was proud to help some of the parents and students of Parkland pass a significant, and bipartisan school safety bill, but let's be honest, the solution to this isn't hardening everything, and arming everything and everyone.  The new normal isn't normal, nor can we ever let it become so, because when we do, that is when those who seek to do harm win.  if you are reading this, it is because you care about democracy, and here's the thing, people who truly care about the nation can find solutions -- and everyday people -- just like those kids and parents from Parkland -- can force real change.  So yes, we should pray for the victims and their families, but we can all also do something, from small things like just being kinder to each other and creating space for dialogue, to actually sitting down and figuring out how we can slow this epidemic.  

Some more tomorrow, and a lot more Monday.  Thanks again for reading.