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5 Days Out

To:       The Blake Bortles Fan Club

From:   Steve Schale

Date:    November 1, 2018

We have reached Blake Bortles Day, the day where we are his jersey number days out until Election Day.  The question – which side will see Playoff Blake drive them to victory, and which side will get Everyday Blake, and turnover any chance of hope and victory.

To this end, a reminder of the data point that I mentioned in my first memo:  The last time that a non-incumbent won Florida, Barack Obama, it happened after the Jacksonville Jaguars made the playoffs and beat Pittsburgh on the road in the playoffs.  Well, last season, the Jaguars made the playoffs, then went on the road and beat the Steelers up there.  So, when Andrew Gillum raises his right hand in January and takes the oath of office, remember to thank the Jaguars.

Yesterday was the third day that total voting topped 300,000 ballots, was the third biggest day for in-person voting, and the second biggest day overall. 

48 counties have now passed their entire 2014 early voting totals.  Miami Dade today will likely end the day 100,000 votes ahead of their entire 2014 total.  People are voting.  Statewide turnout rate is now 28%, and both parties are over 30% among their own partisans.  We are cranking.

Total votes: 3,724,251

Republicans: 1,555,374

Democrats: 1,491.837

NPA/Minor: 677,040

Republican edge is 63,537 (+1.7%)

On Monday it was 2,726,392 (+2.2%) with the GOP holding an edge of 59,048.  So yes, people are voting – but all people are voting.

Nearly 1 million more voters have voted at this point compared to 2014.  For comparison, in 2014, right at 2.77 million voters had voted, Republicans had about a 132,346-ballot lead at this point – and led by around 4.77%. 

In total, 30% of all Democrats have voted, and 33% of all Republicans.  Turnout among NPA is 18.5%, but if history is a guide, this will pick up as we get closer to the election.

Republicans have now returned 64.3% of all their requested ballots, Democrats 57.2%, and NPA’s 52%.  Statewide, the return rate is 58.9%. 

And therefore, Republicans have a turnout lead.

55% of the electorate to date is vote by mail, and the GOP has a 66,170-voter lead (42.3% - 39.1%).  Of the 45% of all ballots in that were cast in-person early, Democrats hold a 3,173-ballot lead.

In total, just under 3.48 million ballots have been requested – again far more than 2014, and more than 2016. 

Here is what is remaining:

Democratic unreturned ballots: 597,745

Republican unreturned ballots: 481,505

NPA unreturned ballots: 351,945

And to the twitter followers who keep asking if some of this delta comes from voters who requested ballots, but voted in-person early, yes, it is.  But the difference isn’t significant between the parties.  Both parties are doing that.  Both parties are cannibalizing their Election Day ballots.  Both parties are turning out record early voting.   So please just tell your friends that to help Mayor Gillum #BringItHome, they need to #BringItToThePostOffice

As usually happens around this time, the electorate starts to look like Florida. Regional distribution is close to typical margins – Panama City and Tallahassee are a little down, some of which can be tied to the Hurricane.  Miami remains very robust, as does Fort Myers.  But it is balancing out. 

It is also starting to round into shape from a demographic perspective.  Black voters now make up 11.5% of all voters and growing daily.  Hispanic is still around 12.  White is now just over 70.  I think it is quite possible the Black share of the vote will reach the Black share of registered voters, which is 13.2%.  Not willing to say it will get beyond it yet, but that will be something to watch this weekend.   35% of non-2014 voters are people of color, and more Hispanic than the electorate at large.  This is all good news for my team.  On the flipside, there remain over 200,000 more Republicans who voted in 2014 than Democrats who voted in 2014 left to vote.   About 2/3rds of the 2014 voters who have not voted yet were Election Day voters in 2014. 

I expect today to look like yesterday, and the weekend to look more Democratic.  Will it be parity going into Election Day?  Probably not.  Will it be close?  Yes.

So, let me close on this one with some bigger thoughts.

This data is just what it is, data.  It means nothing more, or nothing less than it is.  What we learn from this data is who is voting, and for guys like me, it is a chance to measure where things are versus how we saw the election playing itself out.  I for one have never thought there would be more Democrats voting in Florida than Republicans this cycle.  So, to the people who ask me on twitter if I am freaking out?  The answer is no.  This looks like a Florida election, with just more volume than we normally see. 

What does all this mean?  Well, it is a little like asking if Blake Bortles is going to look decent on Sunday or not.  We won’t know until game time, or in this case, until the votes are counted. That doesn’t mean there is no value in this – what the model looks like determines what a winning calculator looks like.  If Republicans have a four-point advantage in turnout share, the percentage of NPA required to win gets high.  If it is 1 or 2, it is modest. If NPA voters grow as a share, the number Dems must win them by also decreases, because their voting power will increase.  This is what we are looking for now – where does this plane look like it might land, and what is required of either to win.

Go back to 2016 – I think I described, based on the model, Donald Trump’s challenge in Florida on election day as akin to hitting a 3 wood over water to a par 5 – not a high percentage or even likely shot, but also not an impossible shot.  In the end, Trump won NPAs in Florida by six, saw a surge of voters, and had more certain voters left to go, and that is how he won EDay by 13 points.  Take away any one of those, and he probably didn’t make up her 240K vote lead.

The latter point is another that goes to how hard it is to predict.  In 2016, Democrats went into Election Day with a 1.5% edge in turnout, and I had her modeled up about 3-4%. Turns out she was up 4, so she in the pre-election day vote, she clearly won a larger share of NPAs, and based on where she was strong, she was likely winning more pre-Election Day Republicans than the other way around.

I think the odds are quite high that the same thing exists now, that both Gillum and Nelson are doing well with NPAs and doing better with Republicans than Scott/DeSantis are with Democrats.  How much better?  It is hard to tell – there are some indicators, and I’ll get to that in a second.  It is also important to remember, as virtually every good pollster will tell you, to poll people who have already voted.  People who have voted are harder to get to take polls, and just like every other universe, pollsters are trying to model what percentage has already voted, versus who hasn’t. 

When I’ve been asked about the “wave” – a term I hate with a burning passion, I think about it this way.  Florida isn’t a monolithic place, and just like trends aren't universal around the country, they aren’t here either.  But there are places in the country that have a seen more of a surge than others – and where those people live in Florida, are likely where will see the same.  What often happens in these moments is three things:  one party gets a bit more jazzed up, one gets a little more depressed, and NPA voters pick up and slide a direction. But these aren’t huge movements.  And down the ballot, in Congressional and Legislative races, the “wave” often means just a couple point shift – the kind of shift that gets you from losing by 2 to winning by 1.   The issue I have with “Wave” is it makes it seem like you should win a bunch of races by a lot, but that’s not what happens.  Wave means a tie goes to your side.

So, what are we seeing?  Both parties are pretty jazzed up, though in fairness, if we compare to 2014, Democrats are more jazzed by comparison than Republicans, hence why the voter turnout difference is closer.  At the same time, the comparison day to day is tricky, because we are a million votes into the election than we were at this day in 2014.   And NPAs and the new electorate?  From NPAs, we have polling, and among the non-2014 voters, we know they are marginally more Democratic and diverse than the 2018 electorate so far.    BUT, we also know more Republican Election Day voters exist.  We also know in Florida, not all swing voters are equal, but that is a longer piece.

There are some interesting things out there.  When I look for things suggesting movement the direction of my team, there are data points out there.  Seminole, and Sarasota both look pretty good.  Both are places that popped up for us in 08, and both have higher percentages of college-educated whites.   I thought when Margaret Good won her State House special election this spring, winning by 3,000 votes, even though 3,000 more Republicans voted in the race – meaning she won both NPAs and crossover voters, it might be the biggest warning flare of the cycle.  We saw a 'turn left' in 2008 as well – in that same county.

Pinellas looks better than 14, but one warning there, Crist really out-performed there, due to his history in the community, so even better in Pinellas may not translate to 2014 totals.  But that is a unique situation there.  The big Dem counties are all up.  Duval looks good.  Alachua is crushing it.   At same time, some of the “Trump surge” counties – Pasco, Marion, Hernando, Citrus, look on paper to be a bit more Republican than last time – though not at the same levels as the trends in the places looking better for Democrats.

If 90% of the 2014 voters who haven’t voted show up, we are looking at another 2.5 million votes.  On the pace we’ve seen with non-2014 voters, that number is probably around 750K, and always land north of it.  But pretty good chance we are more than halfway done.  There is nothing about this data that scares me for Nelson or Gillum winning, and in fact, I believe if we added them up right now, both are.  Both could win by 1 or 2, both could win by 5 or 6, they could split – all are options.  I believe now, as I did after right after the primary, that Gillum will win.  I believe now, as I have for a year, that Nelson will be tight, but that the race would come down to where the country was going late.  If the NPA numbers in public polling are to be believed, he should win. 

That being said, I don’t hold out much hope for my Jaguars going to the playoffs – but that’s OK – they also missed the playoffs after Obama won in 2008.

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