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Tuesday
Nov062018

Like the Jaguars Season, the Election is Nearly Over.

To:      Fellow Americans Who Don’t Sleep

From:  Steve Schale, Tired Florida Man

Re:      You know you are going to miss these.

*5 hours until the polls open

*17 hours until the first of 23 phone calls between 7 and 7:05PM asking what I think.

*19 hours until FSU basketball season tips off against the boys from Hogtown, East Florida Seminary

*3 days until we the media forgets this election and goes all-in on 2020.

*5 days until the Jaguars lose again.

*6 days until the Vet Fest 5k in Tallahassee, as I need to burn off the last few week’s diet.

*708 days until someone else writes the first Florida memo of the 2020 cycle

*728 days until the Election Day 2020.

This is the second memo of the last day, and for ease of life, I am going to copy and paste the first part, so you have it, sans the jokes about Democrats voting like Blake Bortles throws touchdowns to the opposing teams – virtually everywhere, and often, and get into this thing.  There is really no reason to repeat it, anymore than there is a reason for Bortles to throw two interceptions in a single half.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am writing this after a day that began at 5:30 AM, has included multiple GOTV shifts, and about 400 miles in the car.  I can attest for the record that my entire diet has consisted of granola bars, candy I rifled from campaign offices, some tacos, a slice of ? old pizza, and caffeine in a variety of forms, so forgive me in advance for the bad jokes, sarcasm, and etc, that you will find.

As of this evening, Floridians have cast:  5,111,452 votes

Democrats:  2,074,400 (40,58%)

Republicans: 2,049,877 (40.105)

NPA:  987,175 (19.3%)

Total Democratic margin:  24,523 (+0.48)

For comparison, yesterday we were at just over 4.8m voters and GOP +24,689

Friday we were at 4.46m voters, and GOP at 56,902.

Despite many counties not opening on Sunday (Sunday was optional for counties in Florida), nearly as many people voted on Sunday as Saturday, when the polls were open statewide.  The nearly 50,000 voter net gain the Democrats had was twice as big as the last Sunday in 2014, and nearly matched the 55,000-net gain of the final Sunday in 2016. 

Already, 2 million more people have voted as voted before the Election Day in 2014.  The Republicans went into that Election Day with a 97,000-voter lead, or roughly a 3% advantage.  One way to think about this election in comparison – even with the Election Day advantage Republicans had in 2014 and will have in 2018, I have no doubt Charlie Crist would have won in 2014 with the electorate where it is today.  In terms of the partisan difference in the electorate, Democrats start Tuesday morning in a net of about 120,000 voter better position than four years ago.   

My Republican friends like to point out that the electorate in 2016 was very similar, and I agree, it is.  I also agree to their point that the electorate tomorrow is likely to be more Republican than Democratic, possibly by as much as 150,000-200,000 votes (though I think the latter is unlikely given that Democrats will still have infrequent voters turning out to cancel some of their advantage).  But one thing appears in all polling to be different:  crossover voters, and independents, both who broke late to Trump in 2016, and appear to be breaking for Gillum and Nelson.

To give a quick example of what this means, even with the large surge of GOP voters in 2016, the defining feature of Trump’s win was late deciding independents, who overall gave Trump a four-point edge in the exit poll – a number that based on polling, seems quite plausible.  If that same segment of the electorate had given Hillary Clinton a four-point edge, she would have won Florida by a margin like Barack Obama in 2012, who, yup you guessed it, won independents.

Republicans also will point out, and if they won’t, I will for them, that Crist won independents, and lost.  This is also true.  But again, if you go back three paragraphs, you will see that the electorate was substantially more Republican.  There is a point at which the GOP turnout advantage could be so big that Gillum and Nelson would have to win independents by something so Herculean, akin to the scale of imaging Blake Bortles throwing 10 passes without bouncing one off an offensive lineman’s helmet, that the math doesn’t work.  But this is far from that kind of model.  More on this later.

Couple of other cut and paste facts from the morning memo:

The share of the electorate that is Black at 13.6%, which means Black voters are turning out at a higher rate than their share of voter registration (13.2%).  Hispanic is up to 13%, which still lags its registration, but it is moving up.  Overall, the electorate that is about 68% white.  Several of you have asked why I keep mentioning this number, and it is simple:  Democrats in the last few cycles have struggled with white voters, so the greater the percentage of the electorate that is diverse, from a math perspective, the lower share of the white vote required.    It is not likely that tomorrow will see the electorate get more diverse, nor do I think much will happen to make it less diverse. 

The Black turnout is driven across all groups:  2014 voters, 2016 voters, new voters, etc. – consistent across all targets.  The Hispanic and NPA turnout is being driven by newer voters.  The percentage of voters who did not vote in 2014 is up to 33%.  Within that universe, it is more Democratic -- Dems have about a 110K voter lead among the expansion universe, and it is more Hispanic -- over 18%, than the electorate at large.  It is also more NPA, with 26% of expansion voters not registering with either party, which makes sense because it is also younger -- nearly 23% under the age of 34.  

So what happens tomorrow?  Republicans show up, and infrequent voters continue at some level, maybe not as high as in early vote, but still at a steady click  So what does this mean?  I have been pretty set on about 7.25 million for turnout for most of two weeks.  I don’t see it going lower than this, and while it may be a bit higher, I don’t know that it is a lot higher, mainly because while we have seen surge, a lot of the surge is really just convenience voting.  As I told a reporter or two today, the most remarkable thing is just how normal this electorate looks – just with more volume. 

So let’s do some quick math (I NEVER SAID THERE WOULD BE NO MATH).

Dem edge today is roughly 25,000.  It could go up or down a bit by morning, given the absentee ballots that came in today, but isn’t likely to change much.

Let’s say, worst case scenario for Democrats, virtually every likely GOP target shows up tomorrow, and they win the day by 200,000 voters.  Again, I think reasonably, this number is closer to 160,000, but for sake of this model, let’s say it is 200,000,  And let’s say that to get there, turnout is about 1.5-1.6 million for these super voters.  At this level, based on how infrequent votes have been voting another 400,000 infrequent voters are likely to show up and at the current Democratic pace, Democrats probably net minimum of 30,000 voters. 

200,000 GOP edge on EDay

25,000  Current Dem Edge

30,000 Dem infrequent edge.

= 145,000 final GOP edge in turnout. 

At 145,000, this means Republicans would have a 2 point edge in the share of the electorate, and as I showed the other day, there are a variety of ways, with very little crossover, and a very reasonable NPA win, that the Democrats win. 

More on this in a bit.

Let’s go back to an exercise from one of the first memos – how do both parties win?  Well, for Democrats, run up the score in a few places, and keep it between the ditches everywhere else.

The big places for us, Broward, Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, and to lesser extent, Hillsborough.  Let’s start with Broward, where Democrats entered Eday in 2014 with a 100,000 voter lead – today, that number is 165,000, and arguably even more important, the county will turnout a bigger share of the electorate.  In 2014, the total Broward turnout was 44%, and as of just today, it is 40%.  It will exceed its 2014 turnout, quite possibly by a significant number – and that is just volume, volume that adds up in the Democratic column.  Turnout in Broward has made Florida Man's driving on I-95 seem peaceful and tame.

In fact, there are 8 counties that are within 10% points of reaching their 2014 turnout percentages – in other words, the counties that are performing the best relative to their 2014 turnout, and of those 8, four are significant Democratic base counties:  Dade, Broward, Orange, and Hillsborough.   Every single one of these counties will be a bigger chunk of the electorate than 2014, and everyone of them will deliver large majorities for Gillum and Nelson. A fifth county, Osceola, is also in this category and is a Democratic base county.

If you take these five counties, currently the Democratic advantage in turnout is 313,584 voters.  In 2014, the advantage was 134,439 voters – and even if you just factor in the higher turnout numbers, these three counties are still about 90,000 voters ahead of where they were four years ago.   That is not insignificant.

Let’s also look at the two “play defense by playing offense” counties that I mentioned in one of the first of these memos, which feels like 18 months ago now.  In two large counties in North Florida, Clinton outperformed Crist:  Escambia (Pensacola), and Duval – also known as DUUUUVAL, which is Jacksonville, home of Blake Bortles’ fumbles.  The key for the ticket in those two places will be increasing African American participation.  These are also two communities that both DeSantis and Scott will want to look more like they did for Scott in 2014 than they did for Trump in 2016

So what is going on there?  Well in Duval, in 2014, Republicans had about a 3% lead in party share entering Election Day – in 2016, the Dems had about a 1.4% lead, and today, the Democratic advantage is over 3, or roughly 12,000 voters. Democrats are not only denying the Republicans a large margin in a county that Scott won by 34,000 votes (+13%), but they might just win the whole darn place.    I have wanted to win DUVAL since taking the head coaching job for Florida Obama in 2008 – we almost got there in 08, Clinton got closer in 16, and I am going to go bold, and throw a Blake Bortles deep ball into triple coverage and say Gillum go up and grab that pass, and bring DUVAL home in 2018.  As for Escambia, the party advantage was 23% in 2014.  Today it is 17%.  Chipping away at the margin.  That’s how Democrats win. DUUUUUUVAL.

Secondly, Republicans run up the score in a handful of counties, and win a few dozen by decent vote total, to counter balance the growth the Democratic ticket is likely to see in the urban counties.  For DeSantis and Scott, their path lies with the dozen or counties where Trump (2016) outperformed Rick Scott (2014).  While the GOP ticket is unlikely to see the same kind of raw vote margins Trump won in these counties, they will want the final percentage spread to look more like Trump than like Scott.  Most of these counties are in the I-4 corridor:

Tampa market:

Hernando (Scott 47.9%  +2,013 votes - Trump 62.9%, +27,211 votes)

Citrus (Scott 53.7%, +8,881 – Trump 68.3%, +31,667)

Pasco (Scott 46.8%, +2,859 – Trump 58.9% +51,967)

Pinellas (Scott 41% -39,659 – Trump 48.6%, +5,551)

Sarasota (Scott 48.7%, +4,972 – Trump 54.3%, +26,541)

Manatee (Scott 51.7%, +12,356 – Trump 57.0% +30,647)

So how does it look there?

Again, keep in mind the goal in these counties is to change the math, like what the Democrats had done in their base counties.  In 2014, the Republicans went into election day – and today, their margin is 8%, for a net lead of 58,107, which is nearly the same percentage margin as 2014, and a net gain in voters of just about 15,000.  Sure, tomorrow could blow up here, but what has been keeping the GOP markets down isn’t lack of GOP enthusiasm, it is Democrats in these places are voting.  In fact, in Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee, Democratic voter turnout rates match, or even exceed the Republicans. 

Orlando and South

Marion (Scott 55.3%, +19,869 – Trump 61.7%, +45,806)

Volusia (Scott 48.8%, +6,434 – Trump 54.8%, +33,937)

Charlotte – Ft Myers DMA (Scott 52.5%, +8,273 – Trump 62.5%, +26,781)

Martin – West Palm DMA (Scott 55.3%, +9,220 – Trump 62.0%, 23,091)

Just like above, in places where Trump blew up the numbers, we are seeing flatter growth – Republicans leading these four counties in early vote in 2014 by 15%, or about 33K votes, and today leading by 14.3%, or about 48K votes (with 100,000 more votes cast).

In fact, generally, while Democratic counties are quickly reaching their 2014 turnout rates, Republican counties are trailing;  25 counties the GOP traditionally win are more than 20% behind their 2014 final turnout percentage, and 40 total are more than 15% behind.  They are simply not getting enough volume – so far.  This will change tomorrow, but there is a lot of catching up to do to get to the kind of turnout the GOP saw in 2014 in contrast to the Democrats that cycle.

Couple of other quick observations – right now, the Miami and Orlando media markets are ahead of their projected share of vote, while most of North Florida is behind.  This should level out tomorrow, though Miami and Orlando will both be a bigger share of the electorate in 2018 than 2014.  

So here is where I am.  While I don’t discount the GOP edge on election day, I do think if the NPA and crossover vote is doing anything close to what pollsters are finding, that edge gets eliminated quickly.  In fact, a 9-point Gillum edge in NPA eliminates a 2 point GOP edge in turnout without having to win a single more GOP vote than DeSantis wins among Democrats – and I think Gillum wins more Republicans than DeSantis wins Democrats.

I know a lot of the polling of late has shown it stretching to a 4-5 – and even 7-point race, but honestly, I’ll believe it when I see it.  That being said, I will be less surprised if he wins by that margin than I will be if he loses – and honestly, if James Comey hadn’t sent a memo, and I hadn’t lived with watching the disaster for my party that was Election Day in Florida in 2016, I probably would have no hesitation in saying where this plane lands.  I think 2016 is the thing that gives most people pause, when in reality, the vast majority of signs pont to Gillum and Nelson.

That doesn’t mean a win is a certainty – if GOP really shows up, Dems turnout stalls, and white independents crash tomorrow, that could be a bad combination.  For Trump, it took all three of these things happening to win, and while I expect one will happen, the other two are a lot  less certain.  Moreover, the polling seems to show the race consolidating towards both Gillum and Nelson, where as in 2016, you could feel the race slide towards Trump late.    Again, I put the odds of DeSantis winning at lower than the odds of Gillum winning by a comfortable margin – but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  So if you are on my team, GOTV.  If you are not, I hear there are some Jaguars re-runs on Netflix.  

Tomorrow I will be watching turnout in the counties north of Tampa, and in Pinellas.  This where the real Trump surge happened on Election Day in 2018, and where if we see a repeat, we will see signs during the day.

At 7:00, I will check Pasco.  I can’t say I have a specific trigger on Pasco, other than kind of like when Bortles chucks one up under pressure with no specific offensive player in mind, I more go by feel, but anything close to parity is a good sign for Democrats.

Pinellas will report quickly and will report most of their vote at once.  Up, and I will feel good. Down, and I’ll settle in.  DUVAL is also early, and I want to see my side up.   Dade early reports quickly, and Crist margin was 50,000 in early/vbm in 2014 – I want to see north of this. 

I’ll start checking the urban/suburban counties around Orlando, and again, mostly just want to see margins in line with, or below 2014, as well as Orange and Osceola, and will want to see margins closer to 2016 numbers than to the Crist 2014 margins.

Then heading to 8 – what does the total margin look like?  In 2014, Scott won the Central Time Zone markets by 140,000 votes – so are the Dems clear by at least that?  If so, given late reporting southeast Florida counties, they are probably fine.  If not, well, you can probably turn on basketball.

Florida is pretty fast reporting, except for Palm Beach, which I think is still counting ballots from 2000, so unless this thing is really close, I think we will have a good sense of where this is headed at a reasonable hour.

Real quick, I want to thank a few people.

First, my friend Dan Newman, who for two cycles has been an invaluable resource to these pieces.

I also want to thank the other vote counters – Dan Smith, Caputo, Wiggins, Tyson, and Wayne Bertsch – I appreciate bouncing things off each other – and the thoughts you all share with me, as well as – and I will protect the innocent, some of the national guys who help me check myself.

And to everyone who reads these things, truly, thank you. As I think I have said in the past, in my younger years, I struggled with reading and math comprehension, so I made excel sheets, and wrote out concepts to help me think things out.  To this day, I think by writing. I started writing these pieces as more internal objects in my campaign days, to help me process decisions – and as I migrated out of day to day campaign stuff (getting old sucks), someone suggested sharing these to provide maybe a little insight into how at least one old hack thinks about the state and its trends.    Like everyone else who spends time in this data, it is a time-consuming labor – but a labor of love, and I really do appreciate you reading.

To all the candidates who ran, congratulations, you have more guts than me, who has decided not to run a few times in his life.  Your willingness to step into the Arena is admirable.  In the words of Teddy Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

And lastly, while I have a lot of folks I am rooting for, I want to specifically wish Andrew Gillum good luck tomorrow.  While I initially was on another team, I’ve known Andrew for well over a decade, and I have nothing but genuine admiration for what he’s achieved in his life. His improbable story is one that can give hope to so many for whom hope is a shrinking commodity. I also think back to my first two years working in the legislature, when divided government led to some incredible achievements;  Bright Futures scholarships, KidCare expansion, School construction, and many more, and I believe Andrew will bring a much needed, fresh voice to the process, and help drive some big ideas, and big conversations.  I’d be proud to call my friend my Governor.  Bring it home sir.

PS- Congrats to Miami Dade College on turning out the most early votes, and winning the early voting Team Democracy State Championship.  With a top five finish, look for UCF to declare themselves the Early Voting National Champions.   Thanks to all who voted,  you quite literally help save democracy.

For the 12 of you who read my other posts, see you soon.  For the other 38, see you all in 2020, God willing.

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