Yesterday, in Orlando, I watched my friend and respected journalist Ron Fournier describe this election to a room of about 1,000 influential health care leaders as a "shitstorm" -- and it seemed pitch perfect. As a total aside, I've typed that word so many times this year, my phone no longer corrects it.
Thank God this awful excuse for a national election is quickly hurling towards a close. Here in Florida, about 1 million votes are in -- well over 10% of all likely voters. At this point, we know this: unless something else crazy happens, Clinton will win Florida, maybe by as much as 4-5 points. As my friends know well, I am not one for certain predictions, but this one I feel really good about.
After that, we honestly don't know anything. And the thing that has driven every conversation I've had for 3 days: Is this going to be the cycle that Democrats absolutely misses the opportunity.
Another journalist friend of mine, Gary Fineout, once said to me that Democrats are so bad at taking advantage of opportunities that we literally miss opportunities to miss opportunities. And prior to 2008, my brother in politics Dan Gelber said to me as I took the reigns of Florida Obamaland, "your job is to keep the movement going in the right direction, and not do what we always do, which is get in its way."
More succinctly, my first boss Doug Wiles, who spent 27 years in the military, used to observe that our problem was simple: when we went to battle, our troops would rather line up in a circle, instead of in a straight line, when firing their weapons.
So how does that apply in 2016?
Let's take a quick look:
In the US Senate, Patrick Murphy, with little more than some tweets of encouragement from national Democrats, has put his race on the verge of defeating a man who many, including me, thought would be the GOP nominee for President.
In the Congress, Democrats could move the 17-10 GOP advantage to 14-13 GOP (+3).
In the State Senate, while 16 seats is a solid year, they are actually in play in enough races to get to 19.
In the State House, they should pick up 3-6 seats, though there are as many as 22 races that you'd have to say today are in play.
But for all that being said, this could just as likely happen:
Rubio has the edge right now to win, particularly given the DSCC decision to not play here.
Congress could come back 17-10.
Senate could flatline and come back 26-14.
House could leave a lot of seats on the table.
Now this isn't a piece bashing the Florida Democratic Party. While I have some fairly strong views on the role of the party, when it comes down to this kind of blocking and tackling 18 days out, there is a point at which they can only do so much. Patrick Murphy has carried this race on his own shoulders withoutthe help of national Democrats.
I have a lot of smart friends on the other side, and they are going to make smart decisions on defense. No Democrat can think that our team will win seats because the Republicans will give up.
But the Democrats have a good team too. Smart operatives like Beth Matuga and Josh Weierbach in the Senate, and Dan Newman and Steve Jackson in the House have more competitive races than money from their traditional backers. And I've been in those underfunded efforts, and their conversations aren't "where can we invest to win?" but instead are "which winnable seats do we have to walk away from?"
In other words, they aren't in a place to make good decisions.
In fairness, some of this wasn't truly predictable. Four weeks ago, it looked like Florida would be a dog fight, meaning that we'd be looking at a traditional battleground. And many of us, me included, overestimated Trump's ability to up his game and run a campaign that was worthy of the office he was seeking.
But then the video happened, and the tax issues, and the train wreck of debates. All of the sudden, Florida doesn't look so close anymore.
And these things magnify down ballot. While a 3-5 point shift may not sound like a ton, districts that have higher proportions of Hispanics, or whom are home to larger populations of college educated white women will feel that shift magnified. Moreover, redistricting has left a lot of seats held by Republicans that are just outside the range of being a true "swing seat" -- but definitely become one with a small shift in the electorate -- just as this happened to my party in 2010 and 2014.
For the sake of America, God willing this shitshow of an election is a once in a lifetime occurrence (though I don't think so -- more on this later), but for my party, it is also turning into an unprecedented opportunity.
I had this problem in 2006, but it was largely solvable: I went and begged my traditional donors for money. In 2006, and again in 2008, the party had largely centralized operations. Everyone had one playbook. And you know what, look at the scoreboard - it generally worked. But the world on my side of the aisle, partially due to Citizens United, just doesn't function like that anymore.
I am not in this business anymore. Other than the Presidential election in 2012 and Congresswoman Graham in 2014, I haven't made my income from partisan politics since 2010. And trust me, my life is much happier as a result.
Typically, the way cycles go is they conclude, and everyone looks to take credit, or blame everyone else. It is one of the things I just got tired of. I'd much rather do politics on my own terms, helping as a volunteer the people that I like, playing "observer" and spending my time working on other causes.
But I also means in 2016 that I don't have a dog in the fight, nor do I have a lane, or a wall, or a client.
So Democrats, consider this a warning flare.
It may be a decade and it may be never that you see an opportunity like this. Winning in politics is not just matter of timing and opportunity -- you have both -- it is also a matter of being prepared for the moment. Secretary Clinton's operation is very capable - and they are winning -- and their organizational heft is going to provide a lot of ground cover for candidates. There are also the resources out there, between all the SuperPACs, traditional donors, donor alliances, and candidates, to take advantage of it. And I really don't want to spend my November reading stories where groups are pointing fingers at the others, or answering reporter questions in 2019 if Democrats regretted not spending a few more bucks to beat Rubio. The opportunities at this point is very clear, and in Marco's case, the outcome is as well.
In 19 days, we will all know what happened, and if this is just another in a history of Democratic missed opportunities.