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Florida 2018 - Johnny Unitas Days (19) to the Election

Dear Fellow Floridians, and Future Floridians. 

10 days until Jaguars/Eagles in London.

13 days to buy candy for Halloween

19 days left until Election Day

And...67 days left in the Christmas shopping season.

OK, here are the basics:

As of this morning, there are 682,504 ballots vote by mail ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 301,825 (44.22%)

Democratic ballots: 258,727 (37.91%)

NPA ballots: 121,942(17.87%)

Yesterday’s GOP advantage was : 40,179 votes (+7.28%).

Today’s GOP advantage is: 43,098 (+6.31%)

Subject to change, I am starting my estimated turnout at 7,000,000 voters, meaning roughly 9.75% of the potential total turnout is in.

Yesterday, another 47,463 VBM requests were processed, moving the total number of requests to 3,176,171. 

Democrats have a 69,619-voter edge in total requests, meaning Democrats have 112,717 more ballots yet to be returned.  In total, 21.49% of all requested ballots have been returned, with Republicans returning 24.6%% of their ballots, Democrats 20.0% of theirs, and NPA 18.7% of theirs.

Reminder to my Democratic friends – requests don’t vote.  In 2014, Democrats left 70,000 more requests unreturned than Republicans. 

For some reason, I have managed to lose the data from 19 days out in 2014.  But to give comparison to where were then:  20 days out in 2014, there had been just under 870,000 ballots returned, with the GOP advantage at 119,078 (13.7%), and 18 days out, there had been 1,017,704 ballots returned, with the GOP advantage at 131,509 (12.9%).  Split the difference, and any way you cut it, Democrats are ahead of where they were in 2014.

This week, ballots have been coming in at a faster clip than the same window in 2014, meaning as I mentioned yesterday, we should catch up to 2014 over the next week or so.

I don't expect this week to see any big changes in the trajectory, so for that reason, I thought I would use the next few days to tackle a few of the storylines around this election.  Today, this memo is going to take a look at Hurricane Michael, and the practical impact of the storm on voting -- and by practical, I mean literally the storm's impact on the electorate and votes, not the politics of who won or lost the storm.

Over the last 48-72 hours, I’ve gotten a few calls from folks wanting to explore the politics of it.  I will be honest, I am cautious to go there, given that there are so many of our fellow Floridians who are just digging out, but given the compressing calendar, here are a few things to consider.

While the greater North Florida region is about 19% of the statewide vote, for those who do not live in Florida, or who aren’t super familiar with the geography, the area known as the “Panhandle” – or as the President calls it “The Pan Handle,” while geographically large, only makes up between 8-9% of the statewide vote.

Fortunately for the state, the storm, while absolutely devastating where it hit, was fairly limited in terms of its direct impact – with the bulk of the severe damage limited to 8 or 9 counties.   In total, those counties make up about 2% of the statewide vote.   To give some sense of the politics, Scott won these counties in 2014 by about 30,000 votes out of the 115,000 total votes cast in the region.

I mention these numbers for one reason:  While it is important to do all we can do to make sure everyone can vote, I do believe whatever disruptions might occur in voting because of the storm will be limited, and highly unlikely to impact the outcome.  Further, this isn’t an area where vote by mail is particularly robust, with the vast majority of voters historically casting their ballot in-person early or in their precinct on Election Day, so disruption in mail service won’t have as big of an impact.

This a long way of saying, simply, as terrible and horrific as this storm is to the families who have lost everything, I don’t think the logistical impediments to the election are likely to impact the outcome.  As for the politics of the storm – well, we just have to watch that.   

On to the bigger picture.

The most remarkable thing about the data so far is its relative lack of being remarkable.  Republicans are expanding their voter lead in places you’d expect them to, Democrats are in the places that they should, and the places in the middle are looking as they should.

If you are a Democrat, couple of highlights: Yesterday was a better day in Broward, continue to hold a slight lead in the number of people who have returned a ballot in Sarasota, and continue to slowly gain on the Republicans in Pinellas – a county that voted for Obama twice, then Trump.   Also, the percentage of Democrats who have returned a ballot in the GOP-heavy county Sumter, home to The Villages continues to outpace the Republicans, though the GOP holds an advantage in total votes.  Overall though -- and while I recognize in a lot of people have just gotten their ballots -- and I get this happens every single year, I do t need to note that, with the exception of Hillsborough, return rates in Democratic counties are lagging the rest of the state.  (Hint, return your ballots)

On the Republican side, there continue to be robust participation coming out of Southwest Florida, with the GOP lead in total ballots being driven by turnout in Lee and Collier counties. Republicans should feel good about the energy of return rates in places like Volusia (Daytona), as well as a few of the counties that helped drive Trump, such as Hernando and Pasco. That being said, the GOP isn’t running up the kind of lead it traditionally does in a midterm cycle, though in fairness, some of that is more Democrats just choosing to vote by mail.   I hope tomorrow or over the weekend to really dive into this question.

Reminder, in person early voting starts in some counties on October 22nd, and will be open everywhere by October 27th.

Lastly, I want to close on a little point of personal privilege.  Today is the birthday of a friend of mine, Matt Grindy.  Matt is 38, or well, he would be, if he was here.  For Matt's friends, celebrating his birthday is an annual tradition.

I started graduate school in 2005, and Matt was one of the first guys I met, and I immediately liked him.  We shared a love of politics, and spent a lot of 2007 sparring over the primary – with me being an Obama guy, and Matt being more of a Richardson guy, though I eventually got him in my camp.   He wanted to try his hand at campaigns, and he knew I really wanted my shot at running my state for my guy – and pushed me constantly to go for it – saying often “why not you” under the caveat that if it was me, I would bring him along.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, Matt never made it to that campaign.  The call I wanted to make more than most never happened, as the mostly incurable cancer that was there for the entirety of the our friendship got him early in that year.  And while Matt never even saw 28, he lived a life fuller than most: marrying a remarkable young woman, writing a book, completing his Ph.D. literally from his death bed, and touching lot of people with the way he did all of these things with a death sentence hanging over his head.

While Matt’s story is all too common, I don’t tell his story today out of sadness, but I remember him today the way I often do – a guy who believed in unicorns, who saw dreaming big and chasing rainbows – all while refusing to take himself too seriously, as central to life, regardless of the obstacles in the road. 

My friends, be more like Matt.

19 days.  

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