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13 Days Out, as Florida right now is Florida.

To:       Fellow Mega Million Losers

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       13 days out

Forgive the lateness of this note – I got home at 2:00 AM last night.  Finally got enough coffee to type a complete sentence.

Before I get into the data, a quick note on the polling out there.  We are in the true silly season of public polling – everyone polls because many political reporters need polling like I need coffee this morning:  it is a source of life.   Release a poll and it is pretty much a guaranteed to get news.   So there have been a lot of polls over the last few days, and even more to come over the next ten days.

We are at the stage, in the words of my friend and Obamaland legend Paul Tewes, where “polls are shit.”  Yes, the public polling can glean some things:  Gillum has led in every one since the primary, which one can safely assume, he is leading.  Is he up 12?  No.  Is he guaranteed to win?  No.  In the Senate race, both Scott and Nelson have led in public polling of late. What does that mean?  Well it means it is pretty much a jump ball.  

There is a reason why candidates don’t use FAU, or Quinnipiac, or random group X to do their polling.  The polling candidates pay for is a lot more expensive, because there are very real controls used to get the most accurate data one can get.  Candidates who are spending millions on ads will spend to get good data – as they should.  This doesn’t mean all public polling is bad – but it does mean very little of it done to the standard serious candidates demand.    One other thing – all polling is based on one really big assumption:  what the electorate will look like.  If the electorate doesn’t look like the polling model, well, the poll isn’t representative of the actual electorate.

This is the long way of saying:  if you are going to watch the polling, watch the trends, and watch the averages, and don’t try to cherry pick the poll that makes you feel better about the race.  Also, if you really care about the race and the outcome – sign up to impact the model:  in other words, sign up to get people to the polls.  I will say this about Florida right now:  based on who has voted to date, it is likely that if we counted the 1.4 million votes in the bank right now, the statewide elections would be very close, but probably with Republicans leading.  But that doesn’t mean anything – because there are solid 5.5-6 million votes left to be cast.  So in the words of FSU head football coach, go #DoSomething.

So here is where we are, 13 days out from the opening game of FSU’s basketball season.

Blake Bortles is still the QB in Jacksonville…

and 1,448,251 Floridians have voted.

This breaks down:

Republicans: 623,582 (43.1%)

Democrats: 570,732 (39.4%)

NPA/Minor: 253,937 (17.5%)

The Republicans have an edge of 52,850 votes (+3.65%)

Democrats won the in person early vote by about 1,000 votes, and the vote by mail returns were pretty much a push.

For comparison, in 2014, Republicans had about a 140,000-ballot lead at this point – and led by around 9%.  In 2016, the GOP had about 10,000 ballot lead at this point. 

We have seen two consecutive days of record in person early voting, though both days we’ve seen robust participation from both parties.  I want to give it one more day before taking a deep look at who is actually showing up – just as with VBM, we need to get enough in-person early votes in to begin making any real observations about what it may mean, and honestly, we really won’t know much until next week, when in-person early goes statewide.

In terms of absentees, Democratic return rates continue to lag Republicans – Republicans have now returned 40.5% of all requested ballots, Democrats 34.4, and NPA’s 30.8.  Statewide, the return rate is 36%. 

In total, just over 3.22 million ballots have been requested – far more than 2014, though it does not appear we will match the 2016 totals.  And just like yesterday, about 116K more Democrats have not returned a ballot than Republicans. 

Honestly, what is most interesting about the vote so far is just how un-interesting it is.  The state is falling into a pretty predictable margins.  The share of vote by market is mostly where it should be – Tampa and SW Florida is a little over-represented, North Florida is a little under.  Only one county, Calhoun, is still unreported from the hurricane, and places like Bay County (Panama City) are seeing voting getting back to normal.  Republican counties are getting more Republican, Democratic counties are getting more Democratic, and the few places in between look generally how they always do.  If this week holds true to form, I suspect today, tomorrow, and Friday will look pretty close to Monday and Tuesday, with the next big jump coming on Saturday.  It looks like Florida, and if it looks like Florida, it is going to trend tight.

Breaking it down by my target counties (if you missed that memo, it is here).  Again, as a reminder, my theory of the case is basically this:  in a very close election, the campaign that can cement the gains their party made from 2014 to 2016 will probably win.

In the 10 GOP counties I am tracking, vote by mail return rates continue to be quite good, though within those counties, the early enthusiasm gap we saw benefiting Republicans a bit has leveled out.  Or example, take Manatee County, a GOP county immediately south of Tampa, more Republicans have voted than Democrats – as will happen there because there are more Republicans, but the gap between the rate of ballot return between the two parties has basically disappeared.  In a race that is all about margins, this is good news.  And in Sarasota, home to one of the highest populations of college-educated women, while the Republicans have overtaken the Democrats in ballots cast – again, which will happen because Republicans have a strong voter registration advantage, more the turnout rate among Democrats is higher. 

In most of these counties, early voting has not yet begun, so there is nothing to look at there.

In terms of the handful of counties where Clinton grew from Obama, it is a mixed bag.  Ballot return rates in Osceola County, home to a significant Puerto Rican population are high.  And while early voting as sped up turnout rates in Miami Dade and Orange, neither are where I wish they would be.  In Duval, nothing so far indicates that Republicans are running up the score, which is a good thing for Democrats.   Again, it is early – and rather than freaking out, or arguing these points with me on twitter, my Democratic friends should go to

One thing I do like as a Democrat:  in-person early voting has really improved the early look at the Orlando media market, as the Republican advantage there has gone close to a push, thanks, almost surely because of Vice President Biden’s stop there yesterday. This is probably the key market in Florida this cycle (though Tampa is always critical), and probably the reason that Scott won in 2014. 

Now that voter registration numbers are finalized, I will start adding more specific data on how turnout rates look in counties, compared to historical averages.  This will begin to give us a better sense of where turnout is going, and where voters might be surging a bit. 

And as I said earlier, I didn’t dig into the make-up of who voted yesterday, because I do want to see more data before looking.  At just 200,000 in-person early voters, it is still a little early.    We are also starting to get enough NPA voters to take a good look at that universe.  On my side, there is a lot of hope that the NPA vote will break away from Trump, and what it is looking like will give us a good sense if that is happening.

Generally, 13 days out, it looks like it almost always does:  Republicans have more certain voters left to vote than Democrats – as they always do --- Democrats have more less certain voters left in the pool than Republicans.  The electorate should over the next 3-5 days get more balanced, both from a partisanship and racial perspective.  I continue to think we are headed to an election where the floor for the candidates for Governor and US Senate is 47-48%.  In other words, but for right now, Florida is looking like she’s gonna Florida.  

Just hopefully Bortles doesn’t Bortles against the Eagles on Sunday. 

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