Join the Email List


The Next Chapter...


I am excited to announce that as of last week, I have left the Florida Justice Association and embarked on my own.

For me, this decision boils down to one thing: in June, my career in Florida politics will hit its seventeenth anniversary. Over those 17 years, I've had opportunities to do many amazing things:  work in the Legislature for nearly a decade, run the Democratic Party's most successful legislative cycle, and play a meaningful role in the election and re-election of a President. I've truly been blessed by the old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times," or as my nephew might say, "I'm just livin' the dream."

But along with those 17 years has also come 500-600K miles on the car and literally thousands of nights on the road -- many years -- particularly those ending in even numbered years, seeing the nights away rival the number of nights at home.  And while I can probably give a GPS a run for its money for giving directions between almost any two points in Florida,  as well as provide with both restaurant and hotel suggestions, quite frankly, after spending 17 years working for other people, I've reached a point in my career when I am ready for new challenges.

As a result, I have made the decision to jump into government and public affairs world. I have some very cool projects that you will likely hear about in coming days and weeks, but mostly, I am ready to get out on my own.   And before my political operative friends get too relaxed, I am also looking forward to playing at least a little politics along the way!  But along the same lines, I am also excited about jumping into to some of the real and pressing issues facing our state and our future. 

I also plan on re-engaging in this space.  Florida will once again be front and center in the national conversation in both 2014 and 2016, providing more than enough opportunities for analysis and punditry.  There is no better place in America to practice politics than Florida, and in our ever dynamic state, there is never a shortage of topics to explore.

So stay tuned.  And in the meantime, you can always reach me at or follow me on Twitter @steveschale




The Ten Most Interesting Fla State Leg Races

With qualifying over, there is now a chance to look at the field as a whole and the races to watch.  The following ten races aren't necessarily ranked in the order of the most competitive, or the most likely to flip, but instead from my perspective, are going to be the most interesting to watch.  Because of the plot lines in the state senate, there are more state senate races than state house.

So here goes (and feel free to disagree in the comments section):

10.  Darren Soto v Will McBride. (Senate District 14) Looking at the district demographics, this shouldn't be a race, and in the end, it wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't one.  Soto, who was first elected in a 2007 special election, has served three terms in the Florida House and remains the most significant elected Puerto Rican in Florida.  His election to the State Senate was all but certain until Will McBride, a prominent attorney in Orlando, threw his hat in to the ring.  McBride, who has the personal capacity to make this race interesting, may be the best candidate the Republicans could throw at Soto.  Quite honestly, he would have had a much better shot running in a friendlier district vs Grayson.  That being said, the numbers are really working against McBride, which is why this race isn't ranked higher.

9.   Scott Plakon vs Karen Castor Dental (House District 30) - In the musical chairs of House redistricting in Central Florida, Scott Plakon found himself going from a predictably Republican district to one that is far more competitive.  Plakon is very likable and an authentic conservative --- and anyone, Republican or Democrat who goes on the Daily Show wins a few points in my book.  Castor Dental is a school teacher and working mother from Seminole County, and daughter of Betty Castor, and is a very impressive candidate in her own right.  My sense is both will have little problem raising money in what could be the most high profile competitive state house seat in the Orlando area.

8.   Mack Bernard vs Jeff Clemens (Dem Primary, Senate District 27).  Had Kevin Rader stayed in this race, it would probably have moved a little higher up the board, but regardless, this is the classic new Democrat vs progressive Democrat race.  Clemens has won the support of much of labor, while Bernard is supported by the school voucher community.  It is not a majority black district, but the large African American and Caribbean American pockets in the district mean that the black vote could be as much as 35% of the primary in a low turnout Palm Beach County election.

7. Alex Diaz de la Portilla/Gus Barriero v Javier Jose Rodriguez (Primary/General, House District 112).  At the last minute, former State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla (DLP) threw his hat into the ring for HD 112, a move that forced the highly impressive Eric Padron to drop his bid.  However, DLP's run back to Tallahassee isn't an easy one.  First up is former State Representative Gus Barriero, who is making a second comeback attempt after a scandal forced him to resign from the Crist administration.  Assuming DLP gets past this race, he then has to get past one of the more impressive Democrats running this year, Jose Javier Rodriguez.  It is Miami, so buckle up.

6.  Tom Lee vs Rachel Burgin (GOP primary, Senate District 24).   The Jerry Springeresque drama surrounding the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser led State Senator Ronda Storms to abandon her re-election efforts and run against the Property Appraiser.  This has created a classic establishment GOP vs. grassroots/tea party GOP primary in eastern Hillsborough County.  Tom Lee, a former President of the State Senate, is seeking a return to the legislature with the support of the GOP establishment, while Burgin, who sort of comes from establishment roots (she was a legislative assistant appointed to fill the spot of her boss, when he suddenly resigned), is running as the tea party alternative. 

5. Dwight Dudley v Frank Farkas (House District 68).  For about a decade, this north St. Pete House seats has produced some of the most watched races in the State House.  This year is no different.  On the GOP side, the likely nominee is Frank Farkas, who served four terms in the House from 1998-2006 and falls very much into the model of a Pinellas moderate Republican.  On the Democratic side, Dwight Dudley, an impressive attorney with a record of St. Petersburg community involvement.  The district leans a little Democratic, but that never stopped Farkas when he was in the House.  If the Democrats hope to have a good year in 2012, this is the kind of seat they have to win.

4.  Jeff Brandes v Jim Frishe (GOP primary, Senate District 22).  With Senator Jack Latvala deciding to run in the North Pinellas-based seat vacated by term-limited Dennis Jones, this south Pinellas Senate seat is once again home to a barn-burner of a race.  Jim Frishe is a longtime Pinellas pol, currently in his second tour of duty in the Florida House of Representatives.   Jeff Brandes is the newcomer, elected in 2010 to the Florida House, bringing ambition and personal wealth to the race.  This is another race that could have Senate Presidency ramifications and is definitely one to watch.

3.  Mike Weinstein vs Aaron Bean (GOP primary, Senate District 4).  Weinstein, who is from Jacksonville, enters the race with significant support from local GOP political and fundraising players, including the former and founding owner of the Jacksonville Jaguarsand many, if not most local elected officials.  Bean, who is from Nassau County, which is a small fraction of the district (he does now work in Duval), comes into the race with the support of many in the statewide GOP establishment.  My Tallahassee friends say Bean wins.  My Jacksonville friends say Weinstein wins.  It is Duval County Republican establishment versus Florida Republican establishment in this race that could have significant implications on the future leadership of the Senate.

2. Frank Bruno vs Dorothy Hukill (Senate District 8). This race, pitting Volusia County Council Chairman Frankl Bruno and 4-term State Representative, Dorothy Hukill, could easily turn out to be the most competitive state senate general election race come November. Bruno, who very well could be the single best State Senate Democratic recruit in a decade, comes to the race as a proven winner in Volusia County with strong Republican support. Hukill, a veteran state legislator and former local elected official is no slouch in her own right. It is a classic 50:50 district and could very well be that way all the way to Election Day.

1. Maria Sachs v Ellyn Bogdanoff (Senate District 34).  For the first time in decades (probably since Florida went to single-member districts), redistricting has put two incumbent state senators into the same district.   On paper, Sachs has the edge.  The district has a strong Democratic lean, and if this was a true open seat, would probably be close to a "Likely Democratic" seat.  But it isn't really an open seat.  Bogdanoff has represented a good chunk of the district for going on a decade and has survived some tough races.  Sachs is impressive in her own right, serving as a prosecutor early in her legal career.  This race could set some records for state senate spending as both sides see this as a must win.


Five Things to Watch During Qualifying Week

When the doors open at the Division of Elections tomorrow, surely there will be a few candidates in line to be the first to officially qualify for the ballot.  But as the week moves towards Friday at Noon, when candidate qualifying ends, there will undoubtedly be a few surprises.

Monday marks my ninth candidate qualifying week and there have been some unique moments, like the year Katherine Harris published incorrect qualifying fees, and some 100+ candidates had to fed-ex up an extra check for $43.20 in order to make the ballot, the year that the Fed-Ex plane crashed during qualifying week at Tallahassee International, or probably the most dramatic moment I can remember, when then Attorney General Bob Butterworth made the last minute (and in retrospect ill-advised) decision to resign as Attorney General and run for the State Senate.

This year seems more pro-forma than most, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few things to watch out for. Next week, I will post on races to watch, but until then, here are five things I will be keeping my eye on during qualifying week.

5.  Does anyone bail on a Congressional run?

There are three state legislators who are running for Congress still with time left on their legislative term limits, and all three are facing increasing odds of winning.  While there is no indication that any of them are considering bailing on their Congressional races, strange things happen to politicians when faced with the reality of qualifying.  Whether or not State Senator Steve Oelrich and State Representatives Fred Costello and Leonard Bembry qualify for Congress, or decide to jump back into their legislative races is something to watch. 

4. How many of the lucky unopposed will remain that way?

It isn't odd for incumbents in safe seats to be re-elected without opposition, but it is odd for candidates in open seats or candidates in swing districts to return to office without opposition. 

Right now, four candidates are on the verge of going to the State Senate without facing opposition:  Rob Bradley (Jacksonville), Wilton Simpson (Pasco), Denise Grimsley, Bill Galvano, and several more in the House. 

3.  How many swing districts will go unchallenged?

There are several incumbent districts that can be considered competitive where no Democratic candidate has filed: Dana Young (Tampa), Bill Hager (Palm Beach), Ray Pilon (Sarasota) to name the obvious ones. In addition, the north Volusia open seat vacated by Fred Costello is a GOP only fight.  How many of these will end up getting a pass?

2.  Miami, Miami, Miami -- Most notably, DLP family politics. 

Last week was home to the rumor that Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla might challenge one of this Miami colleagues in order to make room for his brother, former Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla, to make a comeback to the Senate.  Right now, Alex is filed against Democratic State Senator Gwen Margolis, in a district that Margolis is going to win.  Clearly he wants to return to Tallahassee. Being that is Miami, anything could happen in this story before Friday at noon.

1a.  What is the unknown this week?

As mentioned above, in recent years, we have had planes crash, administrative messes at Department of State, and many last minute political plays.  Who is going to fill out a form incorrectly, break down on the way to Tallahassee, forget to resign from local office, or fail to fed-ex their paperwork for Friday morning delivery?  There is always an unexpected surprise, and surely, 2012 will be no different. 

1.  See Jack Run, wherever Jack runs.  

This is by far the biggest piece of unresolved drama -- does Jack Latvala run for re-election in the North Pinellas district, which is essentially his old old seat, or does he run for re-election in the South Pinellas district, which is the district he currently represents?  Running for re-election in the southern district would essentially mean he is putting his own political career at risk in order to win the Senate Presidency, as he would face a well-funded Jeff Brandes.  All of this assumes that his ally, Jim Frishe agrees to run in North Pinellas.  But if this happens, it would be the ultimate political all-in move by Latvala. 



Quick Take on Florida Q Poll

It didn't take long following the release of the Florida Q poll for my phone to blow up this morning. Before I get into the poll, there are a few facts important to remember.

1. Polls right now are meaningless. At this point in the 2008 cycle, the Real Clear Politics average had McCain up 8 over Obama, and about a month ago, another poll showed Obama up 5 over Romney. They will ebb and flow, but in the end don't really matter now, because...

2. We know Florida is going to come down to a few points. Add up 32 million Florida votes over the 5 Presidentials from 1992-2008 and less than 60,000 votes separate the two major political parties.

So, about the poll.

First, it is important to keep in mind Florida's registered and likely voter make-up.

Here in Florida, roughly 40% of voters are Democratic, 36% are Republican and the rest are minor or no party affiliated. Furthermore, about 67% of voters are white and roughly 13% are African-American (or Caribbean American) and the same are Hispanic.

In terms of what the electorate will look like on election day in 2012, by my estimate is it will be roughly 42% Democratic, 40% Republican and 18% minor/NPA -- and using 2008 as a bit of a guide, roughly 70% white, 13% African American (or Caribbean American) and 12-13% Hispanic.

The Q poll, which gave Mitt Romney a 6 point lead, weighed out at 37% Republican, 29% Democratic and 29% Independent. It also landed at over 80% white, 8% Hispanic and 7% African America and Caribbean American. There is no scenario where the Florida votes will look like this on Election Day 2012.

In fact, if you go back to the last Q poll, which had the race 44-43 Romney earlier this month, that poll also had a bizarre electorate make-up of about 32R-30D-28NPA, again a scenario that is simply not going to happen on Election Day.

On its face, the simple fact that their sample is 6 points more Republican than the last one will show a significantly bigger GOP lead. One other little critique: They polled over six days, which in politics is a lifetime, not a snapshot.

All other things being equal, if you take all the rest of the internals on their face, which in fairness, given their African-American and Hispanic samples, is a little hard to do, and you simply re-weigh their counts with a reasonable Election Day turnout model, you end up with a 46-44 race, which is by polling definition, a dead heat.

So there you go. Florida, Florida, Florida.


'Movers and Shakers' Interview

During the GOP primary in Florida, I sat down with Shane D'Aprile of Campaigns and Elections Magazine to discuss all things Florida.

Check out the full interview here.


Orlando Rising

On Election Night 2008, my usual election night jitters ended immediately at 7:05 PM EST, when the early vote in Orange County had us up by some 60,000 votes. It was over. No Democrat had come close to that margin, and there was no way John McCain could make it up elsewhere.

In fact, one of my favorite moments of that night was exchanging emails with a certain Democratic cable TV pundit who has a fair amount of Florida history. Upon seeing the early Orlando number, given that Kerry had won Orange County by a mere 1,000 votes, that pundit sent me an email which read "wow, Orlando just ended the McCain presidential campaign." (It was actually more colorful, but this is a G-rated blog!)

In the end, Obama carried Orange County by 85,000, and two years later despite losing, Alex Sink carried Orange by 30,000 votes, compared to Jim Davis, who lost the county by 20,000. Somethinig was clearly happening.

I've spent a few months pondering that question because quite simply, if current population growth trends continue, the Orlando media market could overtake both Miami and Tampa in the next twenty years; and if the core of that market, metro-Orlando, continues to take a big turn towards the Democrats, the statewide and even national political implications are stunning.

The point of this piece is to look at what is happening in Central Florida, which in this instance, is specifically the counties of Orange, Osceola and Seminole. When I refer to Orlando below, I am referring to these three counties. While parts of other counties can be considered metro-Orlando, it is these three counties that make up the heart of the community -- and are undergoing the most radical changes.

Metro Orlando at a Glance

Let me start by laying out a few interesting facts. Like most of my blog posts, I look at data from the five Presidentials between 1992 and 2008. Why those five? Well, 1992 is essentially the birthdate of Florida as a truly battleground state.

First, since 1992, some 2.7 million voters have cast a ballot for President in these three counties, and a mere 6700 votes separate them. However, it is important to know that the Democrats only carried the region once, in 2008, by over 100,000 votes. The other four times, the GOP won.

Secondly, the metro Orlando area has grown from 7.5% of the statewide vote in 1992 to 9.1% of the statewide vote in 2008. Furthermore, its share of the statewide vote has grown by more than 1/2 a percentage point every election cycle, regardless of turnout changes or other statewide factors. If these factors continue, and given the growth in the community, they likely will continue, the metroplex alone will be more than 10% of the statewide vote by 2020, and in 2016, it could very well have more voters than Dade County.

Next, and here is where it is very important: the growth in the statewide vote share is driven almost entirely by the Democratic side of the equation. Here's why:

In 1992, the area made up 7.5% of the statewide vote. However, for Republicans, 8.5% of their vote came from the three county area in 1992, compared to just 6.4% for the Democrats.

Fast forward to 2008, the area made up 9.1% of the statewide vote. The Republican number remains pretty steady, with the region making up 8.2% of their vote, however, the Democratic number had skyrocketed, with 10.1% of their statewide vote coming from metro-Orlando.

In terms of real numbers, or vote margins, the Republicans won the metro-Orlando area by some 51,000 votes in 1992 (more than half of their statewide margin), while in 2008, Obama carried the same three counties by over 100,000, which was nearly half of his statewide margin.

And as the area grows, it becomes a bigger share of the pie for Democrats, but not for Republicans. While the statewide share of the Republican vote coming from the area remains constant over five cycles, it has grown by some 40% for Democrats.

So what is driving this? Conventional wisdom suggests Puerto Rican growth, which is what I expected the data to bare out. In this case, that answer is more than half right, but it isn't the entire story.

Time to pull some census data.

In 2000, the metro area had roughly 1.4 million residents. Over the decade, the three county area added another 436K residents, putting the total population at just under 1.85m. (Unfortunately, I don't have good 1990 data at the county level).

Of that 436,000 resident increase, 119K can be attributed to Puerto Rican growth. In other words, roughly 27% of the total growth in the Orlando area comes from Puerto Ricans. For the purpose of this piece, I focus specifically on Puerto Ricans to the exclusions of other Hispanics, since every new Puerto Rican over the age of 18 is eligible to vote the day they move to the Orlando area.

But Puerto Ricans are not the entire story. African-Americans are just as big of a story -- and in the case of the 2012 election, may be a bigger part. Here's why.

Of the same 436K resident increase, 106K are African-American residents. In other words, the raw increase in residents among Puerto Ricans and African-Americans was almost equal. Now, when you add the non-Puerto Rican Hispanic, overall Hispanic population grew at a much larger rate, but again, this exercise is designed to look at what is happening at the ballot box, and for many, if not most new non-Puerto Rican Hispanic residents, there is a lag time between moving and voting.

And it these census trends that are driving registration and voting behaviors.

Unfortunately, Hispanics are not always reported as a separate ethnic category, and in the past have been classified as either white or black when aggregating state voter data.

While this limits the analysis, there are still some interesting data points:

First, since 1994, voter registration in the three counties has grown almost twice as fast as the state as a whole. Secondly, Democrats are gaining voters in Central Florida over that same period twice as fast as Republicans. In fact, in 1994, Republicans made up 50% of the region's voters, while today, the number is 33%. Democrats on the other hand have held steady, at 41% (independents have sky-rocketed, growing by nearly 600% over the last 18 years). More simply, in 1994, Republicans had an 8 point advantage in registration in 1994 and today, the Democrats have an 8 point advantage.

But what is driving that change? The Secretary of State only has available race by party by county data going back to 2006, but that data alone is very telling. Between 10/2006 and the GOP Presidential primary in January of 2012, the region gained roughly 84,000 new voters, with more than 75% of them either African American or Hispanic. Of these African American or Hispanic voters, over 84% registered as Democrats, split nearly evenly between African Americans and Hispanics. Only 6% of the same voters registered as Republicans.

At the same time, white voters only grew by 7% between 2006-2012, and only 12% of those registered Republican. In total, over that 5+ year period, which included the 2010 debacle for my party, Democrats added nearly 62,000 new voters, while the GOP lost 115.

All of the sudden, the reasons behind the jump from Kerry's narrow regional loss in 2004 and Obama's significant regional win in 2008 seems more obvious.

Looking Ahead...

There is a lot that could be written, but here are a few macro level thoughts.

First, despite the conventional wisdom that Hispanic growth is alone fueling the political change in Orlando, at least in the 2008 election, there is some evidence that African-American voter growth played an equal --and maybe even bigger role in terms of the trends that led to Obama's stunning 2008 margin. Turnout was higher in Orange County, which has a higher percentage of African-Americans than Puerto Ricans on its voting roles, than it was in Osceola, where the numbers are essentially reversed. The turnout difference wasn't significant, but it is enough to argue that the electoral outcome changes in metro-Orlando are being driven both by Puerto Rican and African-American growth.

Secondly, the demographic trends in metro Orlando aren't changing anytime soon. Between 2000 and 2010, the non-Hispanic white population remained basically stagnant, meaning that as a percentage of the population, non-Hispanic whites drooped from over 55% of the three-county population to just over 40%. At the same time, Puerto Ricans grew from 9% to roughly 15%, and African Americans grew from 15 to 17% of area residents.

Looking just at the race in November, while I don't think the electorate will grow as much between 2008 and 2012 as it did in the preceding four years, even at a relatively modest 8.6 million turnout projection for 2012, given the current population and partisan trends, a close election would likely net the Democrats a margin of 125-150K votes in these three counties. In a 2000esque tight election, that probably flips the state to the Democrats.

Next, and maybe the biggest piece, is potential for real emergence of Puerto Rican political leadership over the next few years. The Puerto Rican community has been under-represented in elected office, but that is changing---and will specifically change at the state level in 2012, as the region goes from one to three state legislators, with the opportunity to elect a Puerto Rican member of Congress. Given the fact that over time, this population will continue to grow faster than African-Americans, and more political participation will hopefully lead to higher voter turnout, making this already critical voting bloc even more important.

And finally, third, as metro Orlando grows, it will become a bigger share of the state and more important for Democrats. While winning Florida still starts and ends with winning key swing counties and suburban swing voters, the changing Orlando area means that one fundamental component could be changing. For years, a push among swing voters usually went to the GOP, given their slight edge in base voters. However a changing Orlando area could tilt the I-4 corridor in such a way that a push among swing voters will now go to the Democrats.

The basic promise of a competitive Florida has generally lied in the calculus that Democrats down south and Republicans up north cancel each other out, and battle for the statewide prize in the Tampa and Orlando media markets. But if the three counties around Orlando continue to trend in the coming decade and beyond like they have in recent years, the fundamental balance of the I-4 will shift. I'll let you ponder what that means.


Here we go again, Florida.

Everyday of this primary seems to last a week.  As I sit down tonight to really plow through the public polling of the day, the Quinnipiac Florida Primary Poll, which hit my inbox around 6:00 AM, seems like a lifetime ago.  Lots of numbers got tossed out there today, so I am going to try to make a little sense of it --- as much for my own edification as for yours!

Two polls came out today showing Romney with a two point lead.  Quinnipiac shows Romney holding a 2 point lead (36-34) with Gingrich surging, and another CNN, also has it at 36-34, but with Romney surging.  In truth, both could be nearly right, since the margin of error on they daily subgroups is very high.  That being said, there is information in both is both good news and bad news, though as you will see, there are lots of things that should make Gingrichworld nervous.

Since Gingrich is the insurgent candidate in this case, I'll take a look at it from his perspective.

Good news for Gingrich

  • In both polls, he is much better off than he was two weeks ago.  The Q poll has Gingrich's vote share up 16 points, and Romney's down 7.  That is a 23 point shift in a week.  Last week Gingrich was going to get run out of Florida like UNC losing to Florida State.  CNN also shows him growing, gaining ten points in the two weeks since their last poll.
  • The Q poll also looked at a number of leadership traits, and by and large,  Gingrich is creaming Romney.  Voters think he is far better qualified to handle foreign policy questions (+27 over Romney), better prepared to handle a crisis (+15), and has the knowledge and experience to be President (+19). 
  • They also believe Gingrich are more competent (+3), and that is helping drive your surge.  Since his South Carolina win, he's gone from a 10 point deficit to a 13 point lead in this category.
  • He seems to be winning the is energy/enthusiasm battle on the ground. Gingrich will also a find himself in a much better position communication wise, with the Super PAC buy really kicking in over the last five days.  No longer will the airwaves be left alone to Romney.

Bad News for Gingrich

  • They like Romney better.  Winning didn't do a lot for Gingrich favorables.  In the Q poll, his favorables are 10 points less than Romney, and he has higher unfavorables.  He also have a 12 point gender gap in his favorables among men (67) and women (55), while Romney is liked almost equally by both---which explains why women give Romney a seven point advantage, essentially driving his margin.
  • They think Romney can win.  The Q poll has Romney with a 14 point advantage, and while Gingrich have definitely moved the needle since South Carolina (voters after the primary only give him a +3 advantage, Gingrich still trails -- or at best are tied with him (PPP had it 37-37)
  • And winning matters.  "Defeating Obama" has an 8 point advantage over "Shares my Values" -- a margin that has grown slightly since the South Carolina primary.
  • Finally, they trust Romney more on the economy, by a 17 point margin.  

 In the wash, it feels like Romney is in a better spot, though not by much.  And with another debate on Thursday night, we could be looking at a very different race yet again come the weekend.



The Romney Absentee Ballot Florida 'Firewall'

As Newtmentum comes to Florida, many in the media and the GOP establishment are arguing that the Romney advantage in absentee ballots will create a firewall that will hold off Gingrich.

According to the state GOP, roughly 225,000 Republicans have voted to date. Depending on turnout, this represents between 12-28 percent of the likely GOP vote.

Rasmussen suggests that Romney has an 11 point lead among people who have voted. PPP came out on Monday night and put the Romney lead among votes already cast at just 3%.

My hunch is the Romney advantage is higher than either of these polls.

So what does Newt need to win?

Let's look at the turnout scenarios vs the potential Romney leads.

Turnout = 2008 primary levels (1.95 million)

If Romney has 25% lead in absentees, Gingrich needs to win by a 3.3% margin of remaining voters to win statewide.

If Romney lead is 22%, Gingrich must go +2.9%

If his lead is 15%, then Gingrich needs +2.3%.

If you take the Rasmussen 11 point figure, then Gingrich only needs a 1.4 point advantage going forward.

And if you take the PPP poll 3 point Romney lead on Gingrich among votes cast- which would give him a 6750 vote lead, all Gingrich needs to do is win by 0.3% among the the votes yet to be cast.

Some GOP leaders have suggested that turnout will actually be closer to the 2010 GOP statewide primary, which = just over 1.2 million voters

Under this scenario, if Romney has built a 25% lead in absentees, Gingrich needs to win by a 5.7% margin of remaining voters to win statewide.

If Romney lead is 22%, Gingrich needs +5.0%

If his lead is 15%, then Gingrich needs +3.4%.

If you take the Rasmussen 11 point figure, then Gingrich only needs just a 2.5 point advantage going forward.

And if you take the PPP poll scenario, all Gingrich needs to do is win by 0.7% among the the votes yet to be cast.

And lastly, if you split the difference between 2008 PPP and 2010 GOP statewide primary turnout, turnout will = 1.6 million voters

Under this scenario, if Romney has built a 25% lead in absentees, Gingrich needs to win by a 4.1% margin of remaining voters to win statewide.

If Romney lead is 22%, Gingrich needs +3.6%

If his lead is 15%, then Gingrich needs +2.5%.

Under the Rasmussen 11 point scenario, Gingrich to win the remaining voters by 1.8 percent to win the election on January 31.

And if you take the PPP poll 3 point Romney lead on Gingrich among votes cast, Gingrich just needs to win by 0.5% among the the votes yet to be cast.

In other words, hang on, it is going to be quite a Florida ride.


Update on Florida Congressional Maps

The House and Senate Congressional proposals are beginning to take more shape. This week, the Florida Senate adopted its proposal, and today, the House Redistricting Committee informally agreed to move forward with a single map (last week they had three, last month, they had seven).

There are a lot of similarities between the maps. Both place the two new seats in roughly the same area, one in North Central Florida (Villages area) and one around Orlando, the latter of which is designed to give Hispanics an opportunity to elect a Hispanic to Congress. The parties should split the two new seats.

The two maps would create somewhat similar outcomes. Both preserve the African-American districts, and both create an additional Hispanic seat. Also, in terms of the Democratic seats, all of the incumbents find themselves in safe seats. Both maps acreate a district for Bill Young that will likely be a pretty good pick-up opportunity for the Democrats when he eventually retires. Furthermore, the members in swing districts in the map are for the most part the same in both maps, though there are differences between the maps.

All usual disclaimers apply -- most notably, this all changes going forward.

So here are the places that are interesting, moving north to south. I left out the Bill Young seat, but as the note above mentioned, it is definitely competitive on paper.

Rep. Southerland (CD 2) - As discussed in previous posts, Southerland moves from a seat that at worst (for him) was likely Republican, to one that is marginally lean Republican. Should Bembry make it to the general, this should be a very interesting race in 2012.

Rep. John Mica (old CD 7) - The early proposals looked like Mica could move to a much more competitive district, but at this point, the House and Senate maps are virtually identical and likely safe for him. However, he is going to need a realtor since he lives 20-30 miles from the district.

Rep. Sandy Adams (old CD 24)- Depending on which maps passes, Adams remains in a lean GOP seat (Senate), or moves to a very competitive district (House). The Senate map takes the Corrine Brown district and cuts into the Sanford (Seminole County) area and picks up some Democratic precincts. The House map doesn't. Where the legislature lands on that point will define how competitive the seat is.

Rep. Dan Webster (old CD 8)- One of most significant differences between the House and Senate map is the Webster seat. Both maps have most of western Orange County and parts of Polk, but the House map takes the district north into Lake County, while the Senate map wraps more into the city of Orlando (and closer to where Webster lives) and goes west and takes in Lakeland in Polk County. Both districts are competitive, in the House case, Webster would be running for a seat that is a good 15-20 minute drive (in traffic) from his house.

Rep. Vern Buchanan (old CD 13) Both the House and Senate districts are slightly better for the Democrats, though the House moreso than the Senate. The House map keeps whole Sarasota County and as well as the eastern part of Manatee -- and all of Bradenton. The Senate map cuts out parts of Bradenton and puts them in Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor's seat, as well as splitting Sarasota County and moving the district down the coast into Charlotte County. Either way, I think Buchanan/Fitzgerald to be a good race.

Rep. Tom Rooney (old CD 16) - The Rooney seat in the House proposal is virtually identical, if not actually identical to the Senate proposal. By cutting off the western portion of the district, Rooney moves from a lean GOP seat to a toss-up one. Given all these dynamics, if I was a strong Democrat in this part of Florida, I would be spending some serious time looking at this seat.

Rep. Allen West (old CD 22) - The House and Senate proposals are similar, and both are tough on West. First, as I mentioned on previous blogs, swing districts usually aren't represented by firebrands (see Alan Grayson 2010), and given his rhetoric, he was likely to struggle anyway in a center-left leaning swing district, even if it didn't change. But it did change - probably 3-5 points in favor of the Democrats.

Rep. David Rivera (old CD 25)The Rivera seat is going to be competitive in either map. The House map creates a SW Dade district that also has the Keys. The Senate district creates a more compact SW Dade seat, putting the Keys in a coastal Dade/Monroe district. In terms of voting, either way, the district is pretty close to 50:50.


Primer on the Florida GOP Presidential primary math

(This is a reposted and slightly modified second version of this piece)


As the GOP primary train has arrived in Florida, more uncertain than ever before.

Just ten days ago, Florida appeared to be nothing more than a minor speed bump on the way to a Romney nomination, a guaranteed fourth straight win.  Now, with the switch of Iowa to Santorum and the Gingrich surge in South Carolina, all of the sudden, Florida appears to be must win for Romney.

The point of this piece is to look at the state from the perspective of the GOP electorate, where it lives, what it looks like, and whether there are any nuggets from 2008 and 2010 that might give some indication on what to look for as the results come in on the evening of January 31st.

I am not going to get into the business of trying to understand the mind of the GOP voter these days, and while I had fun in 2010 taking on the challenges facing Charlie Crist and his NPA bid for Senate, nor am I going to try to map out a win path for one of the candidates.

First thing, when looking at the GOP primary electorate, not surprisingly, Tampa is king. Roughly 26 percent of the GOP vote in the 2008 Presidential preference primary was from the Tampa media market. Interestingly (at least to this Democrat), the largest GOP county in the market is Pinellas, home to just over 6% of the likely statewide GOP primary vote, which makes that one county bigger than the entire Pensacola media market. It also means that if the primary turnout is similar to 2008, more GOPers will vote in Pinellas than in the Iowa caucuses.

The biggest county in the GOP primary is Dade County, home to just over 8% of the GOP primary vote, making that vote more than Pensacola and Panama City combined. It is also home to more than 2/3rds of the likely Hispanic GOP vote. In case you were curious, Broward has been the largest county in a Dem primary, though in 2010, Dade had more voters.

The smallest: Liberty County, which will probably see between 200-300 Republicans vote on January 31st.

In total, out of Florida's 67 counties, the ten biggest make up more than 50% of the primary vote. They are Miami Dade (8% of statewide vote), Pinellas (6%-Tampa market), Palm Beach (5.5%), Hillsborough (5.25%-Tampa market), Broward (5%-Miami market), Duval (4.85%- Jacksonville), Orange (4.75%-Orlando), Brevard (4.5% - Orlando), Lee (4.5%-FtMyers), and Sarasota (3.5%- Tampa market),

Assuming the turnout looks similar to 2008, the chart below shows where the GOP vote share by media market. For comparative reasons, the chart also shows the Democratic and General Election shares.

Media Market   GOP Primary  Dem Primary  GenElec

Fort Myers            8.7%            4.4%            6.3%

Gainesville            1.3%            2.4%            1.9%

Jacksonville         10.2%           8.2%            9.1%

Miami/FtLaud        12.5%          20.4%          19.0%

Orlando                 22.5%         18.6%          21.3%

Panama City          2.4%            3.0%            1.9%

Palm Beach           8.9%            10.5%          10.4%

Pensacola             5.6%             2.9%             3.8%

Tallahassee          2.1%             6.7%             2.8%

Tampa                  25.9%           22.9%           23.5%

Putting this another way, nearly 1 of every 2 GOP primary voters calls the I-4 corridor home. If you own a TV set in those two markets, you might want to keep it off, because clearly Romney & Gingrich will be on there, as likely will be any second tier candidates who are throwing a hail mary in a couple of markets.  And if you own a television station, you might want to send Newt Gingrich a gift basket for significantly increasing ad sales this week.

Looking back to the 2008 primary, for all intent, by the time it reached Florida, it was a 2 man race: Romney and McCain, a race that McCain won by 5 points, carrying 8 of the state's 10 media markets in the process. In the process of winning 18 counties (McCain won 45, Huckabee 4), Romney carried 2 markets: Ft Myers, where he beat McCain by 7 points, and Jacksonville, where he won by nearly 13. Interestingly, those were two of the three markets where Rick Scott most over-performed his statewide total in 2010. But remember, that was when Romney was the conservative alternative. Though his year, conservatives seem to be running as fast as possible to find any alternative to Romney, so the likelihood of him repeating those numbers in the Jacksonville margin are highly unlikely.

Just like Huckabee four years ago, Santorum is trying to make a come back, but just like with Huckabee, the places he will find the most appeal are home to the fewest voters.  In 2008, Huckabee overperformed his statewide total of 13.5% in six markets, notably hitting 20% in each of the Panhandle markets. The problem, notwithstanding the arguments about the importance of the Panhandle, is combined, the four markets where he exceeded 20% add up to less than 12% of the statewide vote, making the entire Panhandle primary vote less than half of the Tampa vote.

Which brings this back to Tampa. Home to over a quarter of the primary vote, it was also the closest in both the 2008 Presidential Primary and the 2010 Gubernatorial primary to nailing the statewide vote (Crist threw off the scales in 2006). Just like in a statewide general election, how you do in the Tampa market says a lot about how you will do statewide, and fortunately for close observers of elections, several key counties in that market report really early (note Pinellas and Pasco counties).

If you are a real believer in trends and patterns, there are six counties in Florida that have correctly chosen the winner of the last five major statewide GOP primaries (2010 Gov, 2010 AG, 2008 PPP, 2006 Gov & 2004 Senate).  Those are Hardee (rural SW FL), Levy (North-Central FL), Manatee (Tampa DMA), Osceola (Orange DMA), Polk (Tampa DMA) & Sarasota (Tampa DMA).  So load up your browsers to those counties and hit refresh at 7:00PM EST, and let's see what happens.

Regardless, Florida once again shines as the nation's most interesting and important political state.