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12 Days Out Florida - Florida is Getting its Vote On

To:       Fellow Frustrated Jaguars Fans

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       12 days out in Florida

While no one in Florida won a billion dollars, 1,751,451 Floridians have voted. 

This breaks down:

Republicans:  748,091 (42.7%)

Democrats:  694,923 (39.7%)

NPA/Minor: 308,461 (17.6%)

As of this morning, Republicans lead by 53,168 (+3.03%)

Yesterday, we were at 1,448.251, with the GOP holding an edge of 52,850 votes (+3.65%).

The day was pretty much a push.  Republicans narrowly one the in-person early voting, while Democrats won the VBM return. 

And people are voting.  I suspect in the window of Monday through this coming Sunday, we could see well over 2 million total votes – and that is without having in-person early voting open statewide for most of this week.   Based on a look at where votes are coming from, turnout north of 7 million is very real – which leads to one huge caveat:  even at 1.7 million votes, there are probably as much as 5.5 million votes left to be cast.   A lot can happen.

We have now surpassed 2014 in terms of vote cast at this point.  12 days out, we were at 1.6 million votes, and the GOP had roughly a 140K vote week.   The one similarity between this week in 2014, and this week in 2018 – both weeks are seeing relative parity between the two parties.  The good news for Democrats:  the Republican margin – 8.8% at this point in 2014 – is much closer this cycle.

Some of this is low propensity voters showing up – with my side having a slight edge (more on this below), and some of it is both parties are seeing more of their voters choosing to vote earlier – the dreaded “cannibalization” of one’s own vote.

In total, just over 3.35 million ballots have been requested – and while yesterday I said I didn’t think we would match 2016 VBM total requests, well, I was wrong.  It will happen today.   There was a pretty large number of requests processed over the last two days.  In 2014, the VBM return rate was roughly 72.4%, meaning there are at least 1.5 million VBM ballots to be returned.   

Two million ballots remain in the back seats of cars and stuck between the couch cushions, and almost 113K more of them were mailed to Democrats.   That being said, yesterday it was 116K, so yea, progress. 😊

In terms of absentees, Democratic return rates continue to lag Republicans.  The statewide return rate is 40.2%.  Republicans have now returned 44.8% of all requested ballots, Democrats 38.2%, and NPA’s 34.6%. 

I had a chance to take a look at the electorate so far, and here are some interesting nuggets. As I said yesterday, the most interesting thing so far is just how unremarkable the numbers look so far. 

The electorate is still very white.  To date, it breaks down at roughly 75% White, 11.5% Hispanic, and 9% Black, though as in-person early voting, the electorate is trending more diverse.  Keep in mind, vote-by-mail in Florida tends to be far whiter than the final electorate.  By Monday, this will look different.

One real highlight for the home team:  low propensity voters at this point are more diverse than the electorate at all. Of the more than 500K voters who have cast a ballot to date but who did not vote in 2014, it is roughly 16% Hispanic.   If tradition holds to form, I suspect we will see the Black (keep in mind, that is both African American and Caribbean American in my state) start to move more this weekend.

Also, interesting, while women outnumber men in the electorate, the ratio is almost identical to all registered voters.  As of yesterday, 10.84% of all registered women have voted, and 10.81% of registered men.  The early edge we saw with female turnout has come back to a push.

There are slightly more unlikely Democrats who have voted so far, and slightly more Democratic voters who didn’t vote in 2014, though there are more “certain” Republican voters left to vote.   Among voters with no voting history, the number of Democrats and Republicans who have voted is almost equal. 

Looking at independents, it is again remarkable just how much they look like everything else right now:  73% white and balanced pretty close geographically compared to the rest of the state.  The good news for my Democratic friends – while not a significant number yet, within Hispanic and Black voters, roughly 50% of the vote is coming from low propensity voters, compared to about 35% among whites. 

To date, about 13.2% of all registered voters have cast a ballot.  Republican turnout to date is about 16%, and Democrats about 14%.  NPA is about 8.5%, but they tend to really grow in the last week and weekend of early voting.  Not surprisingly, the counties that are a little older and have more history of voting by mail are leading the way, with Sumter, home to The Villages still pacing the Democrats, with 28.3% of all Democrats already having voted.   One piece of news that Democrats should feel good about:  Orange County, which in the midterm in 2014 turned out only 43% of all voters—compared to 50% statewide, is closely tracking the statewide average – a little under, but in a good place.  Osceola is another place that struggled in 2014 that seems to be a little ahead of where it should be. 

The Miami media market is performing well in relation to the rest of the state for Democrats, but some of this is because North Florida is down a bit right now.  Turnout in Dade and Broward is getting better, but still lags a bit – but it is getting better.  As a Democrat, I would like to see Duval look better after the first weekend of early voting—Dem turnout here is only 10% so far, compared to 14% statewide.

Or Republicans, the vote in SW Florida looks quite robust, as well as in the counties where they will want to overperform Scott’s 2014 performance north of Tampa, namely in Pasco, Citrus, and Hernando.  In all three of these counties, Democrats are also turning out well – but there are just more Republicans.  The same thing is playing out in places like Sarasota and Manatee, both south of Tampa. The battle here is for the margin. 

As I said yesterday, the most remarkable thing about the election so far is just how un-remarkable it is, though turnout is very strong.  It right now is just very tight.  Just to underscore the point, if we break out the two true battleground counties, Pinellas and St. Lucie, the partisan difference in turnout so far in the two counties combined is about 1,000 votes.

Couple of last big picture thoughts – as many of you all know, the best way to know how Florida will react politically is to understand where the people who live in an area come from.  Therefore, when I get asked about “the wave” in Florida – I often will suggest people look for where Democrats are doing best around the country and find those places in Florida.  Right now, it looks pretty good in several of those counties around Tampa, particularly if NPA voters are breaking the way polling suggests.  Elsewhere, it looks more normal, just as we see around the nation.  This will be worth watching for a bit.

Wanted to close on an observation on the Governor’s race.  A bunch of polls have shown Gillum with a high single digit lead, and honestly, as much as I’d like to think he was up by close to 10, this is Florida, and that isn’t real.  But outside of one or two polls, paid for by the GOP, Gillum has been ahead in every poll since the primary.  He has not won, but he is winning. 

Campaigns are about moments, and moments either solidify or change momentum.  Go back to 2016, and everything was tracking Clinton’s way, until the Comey memo, which stalled some forward progress, and hurt with the late deciders. Comey gave Trump new life.  It may or may not be the sole reason he won, but it changed the trajectory.

Honestly, DeSantis is at the point where he needs a bit of a game changer.  It isn’t that this race is over – it isn’t – there is a tremendous amount of work to be done.   But the trajectory is very much in Gillum corner.

Rick Scott could change the game with his checkbook, as he is trying to do right now.  Ron DeSantis needs events or moments, just like Trump did.  Last night he had a chance to redefine the race, and it didn’t happen.  Gillum is very good in these moments – trust me, in the Democratic primary, I watched hours of tape of him, so at times I could play him in mock debates – and Gillum absolutely denied DeSantis a chance to reshape the race. 

Campaigns are so much about momentum.  There is a reason why Presidential candidates put so much into Iowa and New Hampshire – winning means momentum, and momentum means money and enthusiasm.

And in a race like this, which is turning out to be a turnout race to the finish line, that momentum is what drives volunteers to take one more shift, and donors to write that extra check.    And trust me, after traveling with Gillum for a day with Vice President Biden, that momentum is in his corner.

The race isn’t over, not by a long shot, but when you are winning, you want nothing to change – you just want the election to come as fast as possible, while when you are losing, you are desperate for a moment to change things.  Trust me, every longtime hack has been there -- watching the seconds slip away, hoping for anything that can change things.  But the hardest thing for candidates and campaigns is the realization you can only control what you can control.  

Sure, there are external forces that can change races, but last night’s debate was one of those moments for both candidates – and probably the last moment – for the candidates themselves to control an opportunity to reshape the race.  For Gillum, it was a chance to solidify the momentum, and for DeSantis, probably the last time to really change it. 

Gillum shined on the stage, won the moments in the debate, he won the actual moment, and DeSantis didn’t change the race.   Does it mean it is over?  No.  Does it mean the wind is at Gillum’s back for the next 12 days – absolutely.

Compared to Blake Bortles, who is often just on his back, having the wind at your back is what you want at this stage of the race.

Until tomorrow.

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