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Florida 2018 Memo- Josh Gibson (20) Days until Election Day

Dear Friends, Fellow Dog Lovers, and Casual Twitter Followers:

We are 20 days out from the start of Florida State’s basketball season, and since that 9:00 PM eastern standard time game tip happens to fall one hour after the midterm polls close in the central time zone in Florida, that means it is election memo time!

A lot has happened in the world since the last memo in 2016.  We had a solar eclipse.  Florida State made it to the Elite 8.  Our President can now text us on a regular basis, and the Jacksonville Jaguars went to the playoffs.

This point is important.  Bear with me.

The last time a non-incumbent Democrat won statewide won in Florida was 2008.  His name was Barack Obama.  The season before, the Jaguars, led by quarterback David Garrard, went to the playoffs.  In the playoffs they beat the Steelers on the road, before losing to the Patriots in the playoffs.

Fast forward to 2018.  Since the primary, every single poll has shown the Democrats’ non-incumbent candidate for Governor ahead:  Andrew Gillum.  And yes – the Jaguars last season went to the playoffs, beat the Steeles on the road, then lost to the Patriots. 

Just saying.  

This first memo isn’t going to be super long.  For a little background, I tend to think by writing, so these memos are the product of me processing the data that is before us, so as we have more and more interesting data, the length of these memos are going to get longer. Right now, the data is still to thin to mean much. 

Secondly, as you know, my region of Florida was just rocked by one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in American history.  By rocked, I mean there are areas that are functionally unrecognizable, so like many others - this hack is trying to spend what free time he has pitching in, meaning in short term, less time for writing and cranking through the voter file.  Once we get more votes – and I get more time, there will be more depth to the analysis. 

So, with that, here we go.

As of this morning, there are 554,350 ballots vote by mail ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 247,350 (44.65%)

Democratic ballots: 207,171 (37.37%)

NPA ballots: 99,649 (17.98%)

Subject to change, I am starting my estimated turnout at 7,000,000 voters, meaning roughly 8% of the potential total turnout is in.  That number could move up as we see more ballots returned.

In total, there have been 3,128,708 ballots requested.  Democrats have a 73,674 edge in total requests, meaning Democrats have 114,033 more ballots yet to be returned.  In total, Republicans have returned 20.5% of their ballots, Democrats 16.2% of theirs, and NPA 15.5% of theirs. 

*Quick aside – before you all start sending me twitter DMs, for ease of my process, NPA stands for people who are No Party Affiliates.  I also add in all the minor parties, meaning NPA in my data is anyone who isn’t a Republican or Democrat. 

Compared to this day in the election (20 days out) in 2014, two things stand out.  One:  far fewer ballots have been returned.  At this point, just under 870,000 ballots had been returned.  And secondly, the Republicans, while leading now, were leading by considerably more in 2014.  In fact, the GOP advantage was about 13.6% on Day 20 in 2014, or roughly 119,000 ballots.   In 2014, Republicans went into Election Day with a 90,000 voter advantage -- it is highly unlikely that will be the case this year.

I don’t think the decreased number of this ballots means anything – today.  In most places, people have only had their ballots about a week, and while it isn’t a huge impact on the total number, there are places where the storm has kept counties from functioning.  I suspect this number will catch up over the next week.

Couple of notes:

The GOP advantage is being driven by very robust return rates in southwest Florida – basically the Fort Myers media market.  This is the heart of the Republican base, and it was an area that was both robust for Scott in 2014, and Trump in 2016.   How important is this area for Republicans:  while it is less than 7% of the statewide vote, it will account for about 8.5% of the Republican vote.

Counties such as Collier (Naples), and Lee (Fort Myers) have seen Republican ballot return rates at 38 and 33% respectively, compared to 20% statewide.  This gives the GOP nearly a 22,000-voter lead just in these two counties – accounting for 54% of their total statewide lead. In fact, Lee and Collier alone account for 16% of all the GOP ballots returned to date. 

In fact, over 49.5% of the total ballot returns have come from the Tampa media market (34% of state total) and the Fort Myers (15.5% of state total) media market.  This number will probably land around 32% once all ballots are cast.  In terms of Tampa, a few counties I want to keep an eye on.

First Pinellas (St. Petersburg/Clearwater) – Pinellas voted for Obama twice, both Sink and Crist, and then Trump.  It is also a county that is predominately vote by mail, with a slight edge to the GOP in terms of registered voters.

Right now, Democrats have about a 2,000-ballot lead in ballots mailed out – about 39.3% to 39%, out of the 275,000 total VBM ballots.  But in terms of returns, the GOP leads by about 5%, or about 2K votes.  Not surprising:  Republicans tend to be better VBM voters, but as a Democrat, I would like to see this tick up.

I also want to keep an eye on Pasco.  Pasco is a county just north of Pinellas and Hillsborough (Tampa).  It will go Republican, though both Obama (in 08 and 12), and Crist, kept it competitive.  That changed with Trump who won the county by 37K more votes than Romney did in 2012.  In fact, that number is higher than the number of every county in North Florida, combined.  For DeSantis, he will want Pasco to look more like it did for Trump than it did for Scott in 2014, or Romney in 2012.

Right now, there is robust activity on both sides.  Republicans have about a 4% edge in all ballots mailed, but about a 5.3% edge in ballots returned, however, both parties have seen about a quarter of their ballots returned.  This is also a place where we saw a tremendous GOP turnout edge on Election Day, so will need to track who is actually voting by mail here going forward.  Overall, the Tampa market is pretty close to where it should be, and definitely better than this point in 2014.

The only media market in Florida that is pretty much where it should be is Orlando, which makes up about 20.5% of the ballots cast so far, and will be right around there in terms of its share of the state, with Republicans carrying a slight lead in ballots returned, again, right where it should be (actually, probably a little better than it should be for Dems). 

On flipside, the big Democratic counties in Southeast Florida, specifically Dade and Broward, tend to be more early voting focused, though we’d still like to see stronger return rates.  The Miami media market is now at about 12% of all ballots returned, and by Election Day, it should be 17-18%.  Right now, Dade is at 8% return for Democrats, and Broward at 12%.  Nothing to panic about, because it is early, but something to watch.  

The counties where Republicans are returning their ballots the fastest (% of ballots returned compared to requested):

Collier (Naples):  37.7%

Sumter (Villages): 35.2%

Charlotte (Cape Coral): 34.5%

Hernando (North of Tampa): 33.2%

Lee (Fort Myers):  32.4%


The counties where the Democrats are returning the fastest:

Sumter: 37.0% (Yes, Democrats are returning faster in Villages than Republicans)

Charlotte: 33.5%

Collier: 31.5%

Sarasota: 30.9%

Martin (Stuart): 29.5%

One quick note here:  Sarasota.  Sarasota tends to be an indicator for Democrats of good things.  When Dems overperform in Sarasota, they tend to win – Crist 2014 being the exception to the rule.  Sarasota is a GOP-leaning county, but with several moderate pockets.  Right now in Sarasota, Democrats are not only returning ballots faster than Republicans as a percentage – more Democrats have actually voted than Republicans.  I will watch this going forward.

All in all, we have a long way to go, and at this point, both sides have a lot to hang their hat on:  Republicans are seeing turnout where they want to see it, and Democrats are seeing better overall return rates than four years ago, leading to a much closer margin than existed on day 20 in 2014.

I am going to try to do a little note each day this week.  Again, I have not had time to spend any real quality time looking at the voter file to provide more context to these numbers, and hope to do that later in the week, or on Friday.

In the meantime, two things: If there are questions you’d like to me to track in these, drop me a note, and if you have any questions, about what is in here, please let me know.



PS – While the Patriots won the AFC Championship game, which is excellent news for Andrew Gillum’s chances, let the record reflect:  Myles Jack Wasn’t Down. 

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