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Public Polling, me and Sunshine State News.

I'll admit, there is very little about Sunshine State News' spin on the news that I agree with, but a few weeks back, I found a small place of common ground---and tomorrow, when they release a poll they have commissioned, they have a chance to walk the walk.

For those of you who don't know about Sunshine State News (SSN), it is a web-based news service, located in Tallahassee that covers state politics, often from a perspective that makes Fox News look objective.   Basically, it is a news wire that covers the blocking and tackling of Republican politics, with plenty of opinions on Democrats tossed in.   That's fine---the more voices, the merrier.

In late May, Kenric Ward, who serves as the Chief Political Corespondent, as well as top Miami Hurricane fan, wrote a piece that outlined the, well let's just say interesting, model used by Quinnipiac in their most recent poll.   As Ward points, out, that particular poll way over accounted for independents, to the detriment of both Republicans and Democrats.   The Democrats' strength with independents, as Ward points out, drove the margins to levels arguably higher than reality. 

While surely Ward was trying to spin a poll that was bad for his point of view (that's something we are all guilty of doing), I nonetheless believe the point Ward was making is there is often far more to the public polling than meets the eye.  From my view, too often our friends in the media, including some of Ward's colleagues at SSN, print every public poll and the conclusion they reach as though it is pure fact, even though there are times where the models used by public pollsters bear little resemblence to reality.

Renowned pundit Charlie Cook said in 2010 that "most academic polling, as well as the polling sponsored by local televisions and newspapers, is dime store junk."  Now in fairness, I am not sure I would go this far, but I do believe a lot of it is suspect from a methodology standpoint, particularly in a state like Florida.  I also agree with Republican pollster Whit Ayers, who in the same piece said he trusts partisan and candidate polling more, since those of us in the business of politics have a reason to have good numbers, since numbers drive resource questions.

To get it right in Florida, not only do you have to get your partisan balance right, but you have to land at the right place regionally.  For example, the Tampa and Miami media markets are similar in size, but Tampa has a lot more voters.  In 2010, I had it out with a public pollster who released results based on a survey that had 30% of the statewide vote in the Miami market and only 20% in Tampa, even though there is no scenario where Election Day would ever look like that.  Ironically, this was a poll that showed the candidate I was helping with a significant lead, even though that wasn't the case at the time.

You also have to get the demographics right, which with a state that has both a diverse Hispanic and Black population, isn't easy.  Margin of error accounts for some of this, though as we all know, most people don't read polls with a real understanding of how margin of error works.

Now, why does any of this matter?  In today's news environment, polling drives news.  One day a poll shows you up three, then you have Big Mo.  The next day you are down one, and you are losing, even though with sampling/modeling differences and margin of error, those surveys say the same exact thing.  These things drive opinion leader views, donor energy,  the "enthusiasm" gap, as well as news coverage.    I remember this all too well from 2008, when 2-3 bad polls in a row in early September led a couple of reporters to publicly ask "was Obama done" in news stories. Of course, a few days later polls changed, and so did the narrative.

To point out the absurdity of this, last summer, when I was helping my good friend Dan Gelber, a poll came out that showed he was losing to his primary opponent, Dave Aronberg, by a margin of something like 22-20, with nearly 60% undecided.   This was before either candidate had done any real television, mail or other form of communication. The poll was reported in the news, and within minutes, my email was blowing up with reporters, donors and other activists wondering what we were going to do to change this deficit.  Within literally an hour or two, a second poll came out which showed us ahead, something in the neighborhood of 21-19, with the same 60% undecided.  This was similarly heralded by the same as proof Dan was moving ahead.   When the final bell rang in the primary, neither poll bared any resemblance to the final outcome.  Interestingly for this blog, the only one who was close was Sunshine State News, and they weren't that close.

I get the allure of publishing these polls.  One of the hard things about covering politics and elections is that there is only one scoreboard, and it doesn't come until election day.  Therefore, reporters and pundits alike look for ways to create a score, and poll numbers, like fundraising numbers, provide a vehicle for doing that.   But poll numbers, especially this far out, aren't worth anything---just ask President Guiliani, who in many polls in 2007, was on pace to beat Hillary Clinton. 

So here is my proposal to my friends in the media, publish all the public polling you want, but demand in order to publish it, that the pollster or company release their full methodology and model.  Since most polls are published on blogs, not in the paper, its not as though there are space constraints that stand in the way of this level of reporting.  If Mason-Dixon has numbers in Florida on the Presidential race or the Governor's approval rating, publish them, but report their model (republicans-democrats-independents) and ask them to put together a memo that details the breakdown by media market and their demographics.

When I've asked this of press before, the usual response is something like 'well, I am only publishing this online, or in a blog,' as if that makes it OK.  I also get that when a poll is bad for your side, it is always a 'bad poll.'  But that doesn't diminish that there is a responsibility for ensuring that standards are met before publishing polls.  But more than that, what is on a blog these days is news, and as I discussed earlier, has consequences for campaigns. 

Some public polls do this well.  PPP polls, for example, which does robo polls (which may be an entirely different conversation), releases its entire cross-tabs, with exact survey questions.  So does Survey USA, another robo-firm.  Mason-Dixon, Quinnipiac and Rasmussen won't, unless in the latter's case, you pay for them.  

To publish a political science paper in a journal---heck for that matter, when I wrote for grad school, I had to make my data available to others,and explain how I got to my findings.  No good journalist would ever publish a candidate poll without broad disclosure, so why is great deference given to the public polling.  Given the stakes in politics, especially when you are playing around in statewide or Presidential world, we should expect the same from those who publish public polling data.  All it takes from the press is one more email, and a few more lines on their blogs.

And starting tomorrow, when Sunshine State News releases its first poll of 2011, they have an opportunity to set an example.  So to my friend Kenric Ward, I look forward to seeing what the SSN poll looks like tomorrow---as well as how SSN got to the conclusions it will inevitably make about the numbers.


Alvin Brown's Big Win, and What it Means (and doesn't mean)

On Wednesday, it became official, Jacksonville has a new Mayor.  His name is Alvin Brown, a Democrat who is African-American.  The former hadn't happened in Jacksonville in 20 years, and the latter was a first. 

The election is getting a lot of attention, as it should.  This is a big deal.  It is a big deal for Democrats, who for most of two decades, have been relegated to the sidelines in citywide elections in Jacksonville. It is also a big deal for Jacksonville, which for much of its history--like a lot of Northeast Florida (google my hometown of St. Augustine), has had a pretty sorry record on race relations.

Alvin ran a smart race.  He worked his base vote to a second place showing in the initial primary, then smartly guided by the adult leadership of former top Graham and Sink advisor Chris Hand, did exactly what he needed to do to position himselfas the center-right candidate in a city that elects center-right Mayors. When you look at the match-up, Alvin Brown is the kind of guy that Jacksonville elects as its Mayor.  In many ways, he was supposed to win, and he did.  More on this point later.

First, the Florida Democratic Party deserves a tremendous amount of credit for getting in this race, investing early, supporting the candidate both financially and with staff and seeing it through to the end.  The party actively raised money and Scott Arceneaux, the party's talented Executive Director, essentially lived in the campaign for the last few months. Given the political history of the city, it was a gutsy call.  They drove the ship and deserve a ton of well-deserved credit for the win.

And like all elections, the race's dynamics had as much to do with the win as anything.  The leading vote getter in the primary was Mike Hogan, who ran from the tea party wing of the GOP.  Alvin came in second in a four way primary, besting two moderate Republicans, who in many ways had split the traditional moderate Jacksonville support.   The final match-up was a Tea Party Republican against a center-right Democrat, with an undecided business community.

Jacksonville has a long tradition of electing center-right Mayors---which for the last 20 years have been Republicans.   Alvin ended up in filling that space, and was widely supported by moderate Republican business leaders, who openly campaigned and supported him.  They made Alvin competitive, and the campaign's message and turnout effort got him over the top.


So, what does this mean?

*  First, Jacksonville hasn't been as 'red' (its still quite republican) of late---we got nearly 49% there in 2008 and Sink, considering her loss, was very competitive (46%).   In addition to Brown, another Democrat bested a Republican for a city-wide Council seat, and just two months earlier, in the primary (cityprimaries are all open), Democrat John Crescembeni won re-election over three Republicans in a city-wide primary.

*  Secondly, the 2010 enthusiasm gap--which definitely existed, is gone.  Democrats showed up, volunteered, voted, and were engaged. The same thing happened in the Tampa Mayors race in the spring. This is the most important take-away of the race.

*  Third, even in the most partisan communities, there are degrees of acceptable partisanship and ideological extremes.  Mike Hogan ran as a tea party Republican, and at least gave the appearance of taking the centrist part of his party for granted.  When it was all said and done, those centrists found a home with Alvin Brown.  If Hogan had been closer to the center, or if one of the more moderate Republicans had won the primary, the outcome might have been different.  Even in this traditionally 'red' area, the GOP nominee went too far. Democrats should heed this as well. Regular voters aren't as partisan as their leaders.

*  Fourth, you have to go get it.  Hogan played it safe, avoided debates and other public gatherings.  Brown didn't.  In the end, that mattered.

*  Fifth, while this is a boost to Democrats, the race is a much bigger deal to Jacksonville than it is to Barack Obama.  Parts of Hogan's coalition, labor specifically, will probably line up with the President, while parts of the Brown coalition will probably help the Republican nominee.  While I wish politics was a simple as win Jacksonville Mayor, win Jacksonville Presidential, the reality is Obama has to run his own race.   But as I mentioned above, the energy from the win is definitely a plus for the President. 

*  And finally, I also believe it will convince more good Jacksonville Democrats to get off the sidelines and throw their own hats in future rings---hopefully including one good Democrat who I think is reading this, but has held their own powder out of concerns of electability.  Competition always leads to a better product---and better elected officials.


And why it really matters.

We moved to the First Coast in 1984, when I was just shy of ten years old.  Growing up in a moderately sized, rustbelt Illinois town, then moving to what was in those days, a pretty deep south North Florida was quite a cultural shock, especially for a kid who had never really known race as a tangible thing.  In the late 1980's, that part of the world was still very segregated, even if not legally so.  

While Jacksonville has gotten better, the 2003 Mayor's race between Nat Glover and John Peyton was not without its own racial issues, so when I first heard that Alvin was thinking about running, I'll admit to being a bit skeptical, and not because he wasn't a good candidate. 

But all of the sudden, his coalition started to look a lot like John Peyton or John Delaney's---that combination of base PLUS the center-right civic leadership of Jacksonville...then he got the Jacksonville Times-Union endorsement, and it started to look more and more real.   Even as more of my non-Democratic friends (yes, I have non-Democratic friends) from Jacksonville started to suggest he might pull it off, I'll admit to harboring doubts--- not a lack of hope, just doubts. 

But in the end he won, just like he was supposed to.  He just happened to be a Democrat, and African-American, and neither mattered---just like the new Mayors of Charlotte, North Carolina and Columbia, South Carolina, both elected last year.

Talk about real change---and a new day in the south.  And that is what really matters.

So congratulations Mr. Mayor, and Go Jaguars!


Florida Census-- Congressional Districts in Perspective

The hardest thing about crunching census data is figuring out where to start, which is clearly the case when it comes to Florida’s Congressional districts.

At the macro level, there are a couple of key factors to keep in mind.

  • Florida was fortunate to get two new seats.  At roughly 696k residents per district, only 17 states have Congressional districts with fewer residents per district.   Even if Florida had 26 seats (avg of 726k per seat), there would still be 15 states with higher resident/district ratios.
  • The difference between one and two new Congressional seats almost certainly means one of the two new seats will be based in the Orlando media market.  If Florida had only one new seat, its location would be less certain.
  • An argument can be made for a Hispanic majority seat in either or both the Tampa and Orlando media markets---however, because of the delta between ‘residents’ and ‘voters,’ there is no guarantee that those districts would elect a Hispanic.

Florida ‘Apportionment’

Florida does not apportion districts regionally, but for purposes of examining larger trend lines, let's look at the map in terms of media markets.

If districts were apportioned by market, the 2000 census would have apportioned 6.2 seats to the Miami media market, making it the largest, followed closely by Tampa (5.8), then Orlando (4.6).  In reality, actual apportionment follows this formula pretty closely:

Market                 Ideal (2000 census) Reps                      Actual Reps

Fort Myers                           1.4                                                          1

Gainesville                           0.4                                                          0

Jacksonville                          2.0                                                          2

Miami/FtLaud                       6.2                                                          7

Orlando                                4.6                                                         5

Panama City                         0.5                                                         1

Pensacola                             0.9                                                         1

Tallahassee                          0.6                                                          0

Tampa                                  5.8                                                          6

West Palm Beach                 2.5                                                          2

By going to 27 districts, the big winner is Orlando, though arguably the other big winner is Miami, which under a 26 seat scenario would lose Congressional representation.    With the addition of two seats, Orlando will see the largest gain, nearly 3/4ths of a seat, followed by Tampa, which will see nearly ½ of a new seat.  The West Palm Beach and Fort Myers will both see more representation, with the rest of the state remaining virtually unchanged.

Market                   Ideal (2010 census) Reps                   Current Reps

Fort Myers                            1.7 (+ 0.28)                                         1

Gainesville                            0.5 (+ 0.02)                                         0

Jacksonville                          2.2 (+0.18)                                           2

Miami/FtLaud                        6.2 (nc)                                                7

Orlando                                5.3 (+0.73)                                           5

Panama City                         0.5 (nc)                                                1

Pensacola                             0.9 (nc)                                                1

Tallahassee                          0.7 (+0.03)                                           0

Tampa                                  6.3 (+0.46)                                           6

West Palm Beach                 2.8 (+0.30)                                           2

Demographic Changes

Over the last decade, the make-up of Florida’s population saw dramatic change (see last week’s post).  Statewide, the percentage of non-Hispanic whites dropped to just under 53%, as both Black (African-American and Caribbean-American) and Hispanic populations grew at much higher rates.  Because Congressional districts are essentially just smaller cells within the state, the changes seen in these districts are often even more acute than the statewide changes.

One quick note on the 53% figure:  The 2000 data is far more specific as to race and multi-race, while the 2010 data (or at least available on the website) is less so.  For example, in 2000, when someone checked ‘multi-racial,’ the census breaks down in terms of first, second, third (and so on) race, making it possible to categorize and aggregate that data.  The 2010 data, at least at this point, is not that specific.  As a result, the 2000 data has far fewer people in the other category.  It is probable, as more data becomes available, that we can categorize more ‘other’ data.  It is also possible that more census respondents simply self-selected ‘other.’

Again, on the macro-level, keep these statewide numbers in mind:

  • Overall change from 2000 (35.5%) to 2010 (47.4%) among ‘non-white’ residents:   11.9%
  • Increase in population share of Hispanics from 2000 to 2010:  5.4%
  • Increase in population share of *Blacks:  1.1
  • Increase in population share of Asians:  0.8%

*Black includes both African-American and Caribbean residents.  This is a census designation.

Also, before getting into specific district-level data, if is noteworthy that there doesn’t appear to be any significant correlation between a decrease in white resident population share or increase in Hispanic resident population share and the total growth of the district.  The only real generalization worth making is districts with a higher proportion of minority or ethnic residents tended to have lower growth rates, though there are exceptions to this rule as well.

Remember as well the data below only pertains to residents, not voters.  Many districts have a very different profile when looking at registered voters, even more so when looking at likely voters.  But that is a whole other post.

So here are a few top line findings: 

  • When the state goes from 25 to 27 districts, 17 current districts will shrink in population, while 8 will have to grow. 
  • Of the 25 districts, 15 saw the proportion of non-white residents increase more than the statewide average.  The biggest change:  Rep. Dan Webster (CD-8), which saw non-white residents grow from 31.1% to 51.4%.  The smallest change: Rep. Southerland, (CD-2) which saw only a 5% change in overall racial/ethnic make-up
  • Every district saw an increase Hispanic population share.  12 districts were over the statewide average, with the biggest change (21% of the population to 31%) seen in Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s (CD-20) district.   In terms of actual people, CD 25 (Rivera) added the most Hispanic residents.
  • Seventeen districts saw their Black population share grow faster than the state average.  The biggest increase, CD 19 (Deutch).  The district with the most Black residents:  CD 17 (Wilson)
  • The most-diverse district:  CD 25 (Rivera), which is also the district with the most Hispanic residents.  The least diverse district: CD 10 (Young).
  • Interestingly, 37% of Hispanics live in one of the three Hispanic majority districts, and 37% of Blacks live in one of the three Black majority districts.
  • 58.9% of all Florida residents are registered voters.   CD 1 has the highest proportion of registered voters (68%), while CD 25 has the lowest (45.8%). 

Districts of Note

It is going to take a lot more time and many more blog posts to digest all the data that is out there on these Congressional districts.   There are several that tend to get the bulk of commentary, such as CD 3 (Brown) and CD 16 (Rooney), so here are a few that may not be on your radar screen.

CD 5 (Nugent).   This district has seen the largest growth and will have to shrink by 233,189 voters.  Given high growth rates in neighboring CD 8 (Webster) and CD (Ross), there is the making of a new district somewhere between Tampa and Orlando.    While the district remains one of the most white in Florida, interestingly, the population of Hispanics has increased by 63%.

CD 8 (Webster).    As noted above, in terms of diversity, no district has changed more than this one. The overall Hispanic population has grown 45% and Hispanics now make up more than one-quarter of district residents.  Black population is up 43% and is now more than 10% of the district.  In addition, this district has seen the highest Asian population growth, and is also home to the largest Asian population (4.7% of population).

CD 11 (Castor).  Arguably the most balanced district in terms of diversity (White: 33%, Black: 28%, Hispanic: 27.5%).  Because of the ranging nature of this district, which bridges Tampa Bay in virtually every direction, it is also one of the districts most likely to become less diverse in redistricting.

CD 19 (Deutch). Like CD 8, this district has undergone dramatic change.  The percentage of white residents has dropped from 76% to 56% over the decade, driven by both high Hispanic growth (46% increase) and Black growth (56%).   This district is also in the middle of a muddle of seats that have parts of Palm Beach County (CD 16- Rooney, CD 22—West, CD 23- Hastings) that will almost have change significantly to meet the voter-approved redistricting standards

CD 25 (Rivera).   The most diverse district in the state, it is also home to a sizable Hispanic population on the western side of the state in Collier County.  Given that the district is more than 100,000 residents over the 2012 ideal district size, it could easily lose the western size of the district, which would give the district a very different political look.

You can view all the district data here.  I'll explore it more in future posts.

Again, thank you for reading and as always, please share your thoughts either here, or email me at steven dot schale AT



First Look at 2010 Florida Census Data 

The 2010 redistricting process will be unlike any before it.  With the introduction of the redistricting standards approved by the voters in November 2010, this cycle’s version is sure to take on a very different look. 

Over the next several months, I hope to use this blog from time to time to explore some interesting data nuggets as this process develops.  But before we delve into that, there are a few interesting top-line observations from the Census.

While not perfect, the state’s media markets do a nice job of breaking down the state by region.  For purposes of this exercise, looking at the state by region or media market is easier than breaking down county level data.  In future blogs, I’ll take a more detailed look individual counties and districts in a few markets as it pertains to redistricting.


While Tampa for some time has been the largest block of votes in the state, making up roughly 25% of all likely voters, Miami has held down the #1 spot, at least in terms of the census population, as the largest media market in the state.  Not anymore. 

Even though the market’s share of the state was unchanged from 2000 to 2010, the Tampa media market, with 23.3% of the state’s residents now reigns supreme, as the Miami market shrunk from 24.8% of the state to 23.0%.  

In terms of growth, as a percentage, Fort Myers grew the fastest (23.1%), while Pensacola grew the slowest (7.5%).   But in terms of real change, the Orlando market is rapidly gobbling up more of the state’s population, and is now approaching 20% of the state’s residents. In fact, if the state continues to grow in roughly the same proportions, the Orlando market will overtake Miami in 20 years and Tampa in roughly 30 years.  If growth rates return to anything approaching pre-2000 rates, it will probably be sooner than that.

This is not meant to downplay what Miami means to the state-- its diversity and current trends will have lasting impacts on Florida for generations to come.  More on that in a future post.

Population by Market:

Market                                 2010                     Population Change

Fort Myers                             6.3%                                 23.1%

Gainesville                            1.7%                                  12.6%

Jacksonville                          8.1%                                   15.8%

Miami                                   23.0%                                  8.4%

Orlando                               19.6%                                  20.8%

Panama City                        1.9%                                    13.7%

Pensacola                            3.3%                                    7.5%

Tampa                                 23.3%                                   15.0%

Tallahassee                         2.5%                                     12.8%

West Palm Beach                10.2%                                    16.8%   

Probably more interesting to the forty-five people (I do appreciate you!) who read my blog, let’s look at how these numbers in terms of county electoral types.

For purposes of simplicity, I tend to look break the state into five county typologies:  Safe GOP (those counties that a statewide Democrat never wins---Nelson 06 excluded), Lean GOP (those counties that almost always vote Republican), Swing, Lean Dem (those counties that typically vote Democrat), and Safe Dem (those counties that only Connie Mack ’94 has won!)

To give you a sense of what this looks like:

Safe GOP= 32 counties

Lean GOP= 14 counties

Swing = 11 counties

Lean Dem = 4 counties

Safe Dem = 6 counties

When we look at the state from this perspective, the change is minimal.  There’s been a slight shift in total population out of the Democratic counties into the swing and GOP counties, which is due to the general shift in population towards the more suburban areas of the state

                                            2010                   2000

Safe GOP                             32.2%                    31.0%

Lean GOP                            7.5%                      7.7%

Swing                                  23.1%                    22.3%

Lean Dem                            17.8%                    18.6%

Safe Dem                            19.4%                    20.5%

One last way to look at the state is to group counties into various size categories.  Not surprisingly, there has been a shift of population share into the ‘emerging’ counties, which with very few exceptions, tend to be suburban or exurban in nature. 

                                                        2010                         2000

Small/Rural (less than 100K)            6.8% (34)*                  6.6% (34)

Midsized (100K-250K)                      8.7% (11)                    13.2% (14)          

Emerging (250-750k)                       31.5% (15)                  26.2% (12)

Urban (750K)                                   51.7% (7)                     53.8% (7)

*the slight up-tick in the rural population is almost exclusively due to two counties, Sumter and Flagler, which both experienced growth near 50% and are both very close to 100,000 residents.  The ten smallest counties in Florida experienced growth of roughly 14% and a dozen rural counties had less than 10% growth.


Rightly, much has been written about the growing Hispanic population in Florida.  Since 2010, the Hispanic population is up some 36.5%.  In fact, every media market in the state, except for Miami, saw its Hispanic population grow by more than 42% (and three markets saw over 50%).  But what is missing from most news coverage is just how generally diverse Florida is becoming. 

In 2000, the state’s white (non-Hispanic) population made up 61.2% of residents.  As of the 2010 census, that number was 52.6%, with Hispanics making up 22.5% of the state and the Black (Black is the census reported term, and for Florida, this means both African American and Caribbean American populations) population making up 16%.  Without question, the white (non-Hispanic) population of Florida will be under 50% at the next census.

In terms of overall change, the state’s white (non-Hispanic) population grew by just under 12%, while Black population grew by 22.1% and Hispanic by 36.5%. 

Looking at pure percentage change by market, not surprisingly, the Orlando area has seen the biggest change, driven by a 50% increase in Hispanic residents and a 32% increase in Black residents.  West Palm Beach has seen a very similar level of change, with a 44% increase in Hispanic residents and a 30% increase in Black residents (we know from other data sources that a significant portion of this is driven by Caribbean growth). 

The Miami market continues to be the most diverse market in the state, with its white (non-Hispanic) population at 21.6% (and under 10% in Miami Dade County), with both the largest Hispanic populations (2.1 million) and Black populations (950K).   Panama City and Pensacola are the least diverse. 

What’s Next

My next blog post, I’ll take a look at the changes in the Congressional map (hint: while CD 5 has grown the fastest, no district has changed more than CD 8), plus explore more of the macro-level data. 

As always, I welcome your comments.


So, Just How Close is Florida?

Tis the season for speculation on 2012, so it came as no surprise that after my Holiday self-imposed no-telephone call break, I found several messages on my phone from reporters asking my take on whether Florida is truly a toss-up state for President Obama, especially after what here (and everywhere else) happened in November. 

My answer:  Absolutely.  There is no question that Florida in 2012 will be competitive.  For those who want to write off President Obama here, or anywhere for that matter, history has proven never to count him out.  Personally, I believe he can and will win Florida in 2012.  But more on that later.

There are lots of reasons why Florida will be competitive in 2012, but mostly the state's Presidential election make-up is vastly different than its Gubernatorial election make-up.  Look at the last five elections and you will see it doesn't really matter what happens in the Gubernatorial cycle, Presidential elections are always tight.

In fact, if you look at the five Presidential elections since 1992, when Florida first joined the ranks of the highly competitive, the record is essentially 2-2-1.  Both parties have a 5-6 point win (Dems 96, GOP 04), both have a 2-3 point win (Dems 08, GOP 92) and we all know what happened in 2000, some of us more acutely than others.

All of this got me thinking.  Just how close has Florida been since 1992?

For comparison purposes, let's look nationally.

Across the nation, just shy of 520 million votes have been cast since 1992 for either the Democrat or Republican candidate, with just under 52% of the vote going to the Democratic candidate, the vast majority cast in states that voted either Republican or Democratic in all or most of those cycles.

Even among states considered "battleground states," most of them over the last five cycles have been fairly predictable.  For example, Pennsylvania and Michigan are 5-5 for Dems, even though they are traditionally close, and several that President Obama won in 2008, such as Virginia and North Carolina, states that may very well be in play in 2012, can't really be considered historically swing for the purposes of this exercise given their GOP performance in the four previous cycles.

In fact, there are less than a dozen that each party has won at least twice since 1992:  Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.   Out of these ten, not many folks would consider Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee or West Virginia to be swing states in 2012. 

That leaves Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio, all states generally considered as in play for 2012.

So, just how competitive are these five states in Presidential years?

Out of these five, since 1992, Nevada is the most "one-sided" with Democrats winning 51.5% of the 3.1 million or so two-party votes cast since 92.  Nevada voted for Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush and Obama.

In Ohio, America's other electoral college prize, things are predictably tight with Democrats winning 50.7% of the roughly 24.5 million votes cast since 92.  Ohio also went for Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush and Obama.

America's traditional 'bellwether' was extremely close, with a mere 99,403 votes separating the two parties over the last five Presidential cycles, for a razor margin of 0.9%.  The last three here have gone GOP, with the 2008 election being decided by less than 5,000 votes.

This brings us to Colorado (Clinton, Dole, Bush, Bush and Obama) and Florida (Bush, Clinton, Bush/Tie, Bush, Obama), the former which is universally considered a battleground state, while the latter is often debated.

Well, if you look at the last five elections, there should be no debate about either. 

Since 1992 in Florida, some 30.7 million two-party votes have been cast for President, with the Democratic candidate winning 15,395,501 votes and the Republican candidate winning 15,338,047 votes.

The margin over five cycles:  57,454 (closer than the 06 Governor's race).  In percentage terms, that rounds to a mere 0.19% edge for the Democrats--well inside the margin of a recount.  Obviously if you add in the Perot and Nader votes, it is even closer.

But Colorado was even closer, where during the past five Presidentials, Colorado voters have given the Democratic candidates a narrow 16,090 vote margin over the Republican candidates out of the 8.6 million votes cast, for a margin of 0.18%.

In case you were curious, the actual percentage difference between Colorado and Florida is just seven ten-thousands of a percent.

And the good news for political pundits, journalists and pros, as well as the candidates, both states are lovely in the fall.   




Redistricting- What does it mean, House Early Edition

Now that the 2010 election is beyond us, the focus turns to redistricting.  

On Tuesday, the United States Census will release its statewide data, and we will have a first look at how the boundaries are really going to shift and how many seats Florida will add.  I am pretty confident we will get two new seats.  A few months back, I took a look at where those might land.

It will take sometime to get all of the data to look how growth trends will impact down the ballot, but in the meantime, the annual census population estimates provide some indication of internal growth trends and how it might impact district boundaries.

This post will look primarily at State House seats, though if you want to predict how State Senate seat apportionment will change, remember, when they are all re-drawn, the State Senate seats will be exactly 3x as large as State House seats.

Remarkably, most of the state will see little change.  For example, growth in the Palm Beach County media market has been almost spot on with statewide growth, meaning that based on the 2009 population estimates, the market would gain a whole 0.04 state house seats. 

The most significant changes will occur in Southeast Florida and in Central Florida, with the latter gaining seats from the former.   Given that the Miami market has grown slower than the rest of the state, with the Orlando media market growing much faster, the Orlando area stands to gain about 1.5 seats, while Miami/Fort Lauderdale will lose close to two.

As a whole the winners/losers look like this:

Winners (by media market): 

Orlando:  plus 1.41 seats
Fort Myers:  plus 0.58 seats

Losers (by market):

Miami:  minus 1.61 seats
Pensacola:  minus 0.27 seats

The state’s other six media markets will see only fractional changes.  However, that doesn’t mean significant changes won’t occur within those areas.

For example, within the Jacksonville media market, the growth has been mostly in the south, meaning Duval County as a whole will lose a fraction of a seat, which will end up helping my old hometown of St. Johns County, which will gain a larger share of the region’s districts.  

Or in Palm Beach media market, which has seen its population shift northward, both into northern Palm Beach County, but specifically into St. Lucie County.  

But the most significant intra-market population shifts will occur in the Tampa media market, which  will be home to roughly 28 seats after redistricting, virtually the same as prior to redistricting.  However, as one of only two counties that has lost residents since the last redistricting, Pinellas County stands to lose an entire state house seat, earning the distinction as the county that will see the most significant change to their representation.  I am guessing to make up the difference in Pinellas, what is now the John Legg seat in Pasco will bascially go away, and the current HD 45 will become a largely West Pasco based seat.

On the flip side, Pasco, Hernando and Polk County have all seen population growth, meaning the Pinellas seat will likely be replaced by a new district that is further north and east (paging former Representative Littlefield), as House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford sees his district significantly shrink due to the remarkable population growth that his area has experienced.

And speaking of Will, he is going to be faced with another interesting dilemma.  More than likely, one of the hopefully two new Congressional seats will end up with a pretty significant population base in east Pasco and north Hillsborough County, a district that could look pretty appealing to the Speaker-Designate.   Ahh, to have choices! 

As this moves forward, I'll try to use this blog to analyze what is out there and what it could mean.  In the meantime, always feel free to share your thoughts. 


More on Crist's Steep Climb

I've gotten a fair number of emails and calls today on my blog post saying that Crist won't win, mostly from Democrats who hope that I am wrong because they see Crist as the best chance to beat Rubio.  Several of them wanted to know how I saw Meek winning, which if you read the post, isn't the point.  Even the Weekly Standard had a take.  Trust me, I didn't see that one coming.
Nonetheless, the chatter made it clear the Crist theory needed more explanation.  So let me delve a little more into the numbers.
Going back to the basic math to win for Crist:  win roughly 1/3 of the partisan vote and 50% of the NPA.   First, there is one big assumption there, that Crist will get 50% of the NPA vote.  Some suggest more, many more suggested he will get less.  For this exercise,we have to start somewhere. Quite frankly, if he doesn't get 50%, the whole conversation is purely academic.  

Nonetheless, under that assumption and the model that  a few more Dems vote on election day, which given the Dems six point registration advantage, is likely, Crist wins by a few points.  But here is problem one:  Who really thinks Crist will get 33% of the GOP vote?  Not this observer.
Looking more into the math, and again, assuming that Crist gets 50% of the NPA vote, which in a three way race is far from a sure thing, here is what he would need to get from R's and D's to get a plurality of vote.  This is all built off a 42-41-17 R-D-NPA election day model:
If 33% of GOP vote for him, he needs about the same in Dem vote.
If 25% of GOP votes for him, he needs 41% of the Dem vote (by less than a point).
If 20% of GOP votes for him, he needs 50% of the Dem vote to win (by four-tenths).
If 18% of GOP votes for him, he needs 53% of the Dem vote to win (by two-tenths).
If 15% of GOP votes for him, he needs 59% of Dem vote to win (by three-tenths).
All of this assumes that in this kind of race, Meek would get 5% of Republicans.  In fairness, I think there is a better chance that Rubio gets 5% of Dems than Meek gets 5% of Republicans.  It also assumes that NPA breaks evenly between Meek and Rubio. 
The problem for Crist is every Republican who goes from Crist to Rubio costs Crist more than he gains the other way around.  Why?  Because when Rubio takes a vote away GOP vote, it goes right to Rubio, while when Crist takes a vote from the Dems, it comes from Meek's total, not from Rubio's.  Make sense? 
Could Democrats leave en masse for Crist?  Sure, they could.  Will they?  Well, lets play that one out.
First of all, if we assume (and I think this is a fair assumption since Davis got 81%), that Meek will get at least 75% of the African American/Caribbean vote, which makes up roughly 13-14% of the likely total statewide turnout, that alone gets him to roughly 10 points statewide, virtually all out of the Democratic column.   So if we work off the scenario that Crist gets 25% of the GOP vote, which is hardly a sure thing, Crist needs to get 41% of the Democratic vote. Should Meek get 75% of the African American/Caribbean vote, Crist would need 55-56% of the remaining white and Hispanic Democratic vote.  If he gets Davis or better numbers, the Crist number gets even higher.  
How does Crist do that?  Theory One is he announces he is caucusing with the Democrats.  That may win him some votes, but some Democrats will see it as pandering and stick with Meek.  Who else will see it as pandering:  Republicans and Independents.  If Crist says he is with the Democrats, will he still get 25% of Republicans or half of the Independents, especially in this cycle when voters are rejecting typical politics?  Highly unlikely. 
In addition, one other factor will come into play:  the hardening of partisanship.  Elections always narrow because partisans come home closer to election day, which is why in Florida, winning the NPA vote in a two way statewide or close district-level race is vital for winning.  In a two-way race, that pushes both candidates to the middle, but in a three-way race, it hurts the one in the middle.  If Crist doesn't get close to a third of the total partisan vote, he will lose, plain and simple, and there is definitely a scenario where that happens.  For example, if he only gets 25% of the two party vote, he would need to get 70% of the NPA vote to get to 34%, which probably won't be enough to win.  Even at 70% of the NPA vote, he'd still needs 29-30% of the two party vote to get to a reasonable win number.

I am the first to admit that Meek's road isn't an easy one, despite my hope and support for him.  But as the numbers support, Crist just isn't going to get there without some dramatic change of events, which leads me back to the point in my original post:  that Kendrick Meek is the best chance for Democrats who want to beat Rubio, because the votes aren't there for Crist.
You know who else I think knows this?  Governor Crist, which explains why he is all over the place on issues.  Confident candidates stay on message, while less confident candidates scramble around to find solid ground.  Is there any question that Crist is scrambling.
Now you ask, can Kendrick Meek win?
Go back to the original Election Day turnout scenario, with Crist winning NPA voters with 50% and Meek/Rubio split the rest.  They each get 80% of their party vote, because Democrats come home understanding that Meek is the best chance.  What happens then?  Meek wins 40-39-21.  Sure he can win.  Will he win?  That is another question.

Yes, I personally want to see Meek win.  I've supported him for some time and was pretty vocal for him during the primary.  But trust me, that is a separate discussion from "Can Charlie Win?," which is the question everyone is asking.  All bias aside, I don't see it happening.  Clearly, a lot has to happen between now and then for Meek, namely, Meek needs to raise a ton of money (though remember, he did throttle a billionaire primary opponent who outspent him 7:1). 

People keep asking "But isn't a better strategy for Democrats to vote for Crist?"   First, I don't think voters are that 'processey.' Secondly, the 'rally around Crist' theory also assumes that the several million or so Democrats likely to vote in November are monolithic.  Trust me, they aren't.

If Jeff Greene had won the primary, I'd be writing a very different post. But Greene didn't, by a long shot.

Simply, I don't see as many as half of Democrats statewide abandoning Kendrick Meek and voting for Charlie Crist, especially with both President Clinton and Obama supporting him, institutional Democrats rallying around him and the vast majority of Democratic electeds remaining firmly in his camp, which is why the time to come to embrace reality and for Democrats to help Meek.  Otherwise, Marco will remain firmly in the driver's seat, which is where he sits today.


Sorry Charlie

Charlie Crist will not be Florida's next United States Senator. 
In a year where most predictions are downright silly, I am very confident in that one.  When Kendrick Meek won last Tuesday, with his victory went Charlie Crist's chances.  Democrats who want to beat Marco Rubio should jump on the Meek train. 

To understand why, let's revisit the math.
For Crist to win the United States Senate race, he would need a formula that looked something like this:
33% of the Democratic vote
33% of the Republican vote
50% of the NPA vote. 
This formula would get him a vote total of 36-37%, a likely win scenario in a highly competitive three way race, where all three candidates are scoring in the thirties. 
Here is one problem:  Rubio is limiting him to 20% of the Republican vote.  If Rubio keeps him at 20% of the GOP vote, Crist needs to get 45% of the Democratic vote in order to win, and according to the latest PPP poll, Crist is only at 38% today with Democrats. 
But the bigger problem is he is falling into the same place as many other long time office holders:  his personal approval numbers are plummeting. He no longer has that deep well of cross party lines personal support built up that allows him to transcend normal political divides.  Instead, he now has to block and tackle like everyone else.  In this political environment, absent some significant and unfortunate event that would thrust him back into the spotlight, the odds of him finding 15-20 points of political approval in the next nine weeks are slim, at best.
Therefore, for Crist, who after 20 years of being a GOP insider, his only path to victory is to find a way to be Democratic enough to win enough Democrats, Republican enough to win enough Republicans, and to do that in a way where he doesn't anger Independents.  Not exactly the easiest thing to do, when Democrats now have a plausible alternative in Meek and Republicans in Rubio.  If Greene had won, it might be a different story
Democrats who support Crist keep saying to me, "well, we just need Dems to vote for Crist," but that just isn't going to happen in the margins he needs to win. 
Today, Rubio has the clearest path to victory, but once Democrats figure out that Meek is their only option, his path will get much more clear as well.   For Crist, I wouldn't rush to book that early January plane ticket from Tallahassee to DC-- a trip that starting in October 2010, the rest of us will be able make without stopping in Atlanta or Charlotte!


Legislative Races to Watch

I have spent most of my political career toiling in and around the legislative arena, and truth be told, I think legislative races in Florida are a ton of fun, particularly state house races.  State House districts in Florida are big enough that they require virtually every element of a larger race: television, mail, field, earned media, etc., but small enough that local dynamics and old fashioned shoe leather can make a difference.

Much has changed in Florida since the last redistricting, and the upshot of these trends is an increase in the number of competitive races in Florida.  So as we move into towards the 2010 elections, here are ten you should watch.  Surely some of these will fall off the intrigue board, but from where I sit today, these are the ones that might have the best races---and the best story lines.


HD 9---The Oil Primary:           Democratic Primary:  Vasilinda vs Minor 

This is the oil primary.  Michelle Vasilinda was the only Democratic member of the legislature to support near shore drilling and Minor has been taking her to task for it since he got in this race nearly a year ago—and well before the oil spill.   Vasilinda will have more name ID and more money.   But Tallahassee is liberal place and Minor has been running a fairly one issue campaign. 

HD 11---Blue Dog Rising:                           Boyd v. Porter

Assuming Liz Porter can win her primary, look for a re-match of last year’s close race with Debbie Boyd.  Two factors benefiting Boyd this time:  the district performs better for Democrats in non-Presidential years and history---in the age of term limits, only one incumbent has lost a re-election after their first try, and that was Sheri McInvale who switched parties in a heavily Democratic seat.

HD 26---Clash of the Community Titans:          Tim Huth vs. Fred Costello (probably)

Assuming Costello wins his primary, this should be a fun race between two very well established figures in north Volusia County, both who I know from my days working with Doug Wiles.  Costello, currently the Mayor of Ormond Beach and Huth, a key figure with the Volusia County School District, are two of the more civically active people in the county.  Working a little uphill for Tim, this district is one of the few in FL that has shown a slight GOP trend over the last 4-6 years.

HD 29---Free for All Primary:                       Four way open primary

In this era where it is super easy to close a primary with a write-in candidate, the race to replace Ralph Poppell will be unique that is a four-way Republican primary that all voters can vote in.  Often times, primaries are races to the edges, but with the door open to voters from the other side---and the more liberal wing of the Democratic party at that, it will be fascinating to watch which candidates, if any, risk turning off their own base to go grab a sizable chunk of the Democratic and NPA vote.

HD 57---The Battleground:                 Stacey Frank vs. Dana Young (probably)

There are few places that define the swing voter characteristics of the Tampa media market quite like South Tampa.  The district has a very slight GOP tilt, but is always one of the most competitive in statewide elections.  Faye Culp is a South Tampa institution, who is retiring after serving here for 12 out of the last 16 years.   Both parties are fielding strong candidates and this one is setting up to be the battleground race of the year.

HD 70---The Oil General:              Nancy Feehan v. Doug Holder

Doug Holder, on paper, should have no problem holding this fairly predictably---though occasionally finicky seat in Sarasota County.   The one potential hiccup:  his vote in favor of oil drilling in 2006.  Like most of the gulf coast, Sarasota County is historically a place where oil drilling has been seen as contrary to their economic engine:  the beaches.  In early 2009, in the post ‘drill baby drill’ era, Holder voted to authorize near shore drilling and at the time, took some non-lethal lumps.  Since then, the Gulf filled up with oil.  Will he lose?  Probably not.  But that doesn't mean it won't be interesting.

HD 81--- The Validator:            Adam Fetterman vs. Gayle Harrell

One of the most obvious trends over the last decade has been that of St. Lucie County, which has slowly inched its way towards becoming a base GOP county.  One of the final steps in that process was the election of Adam Fetterman in 2008.  Four of the last five major statewide Democrats have carried it, and while the GOP still holds a healthy voter reg advantage in HD 81 (which is also 1/3rdin Martin County), few places in Florida have trended faster towards the Dems than this one.    Fetterman now faces a showdown with former Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is mounting a comeback after losing a GOP primary for Congress in 2008.  In this tougher political environment, a Fetterman win will validate the growing trend for Democrats north of Palm Beach County.

HD 87-  The Southern Front.      Hava Holzhauer vs. Bill Hager

Some races are interesting because of their plot line, and some, like this one, because they could just be straight up battles.  On paper, the seat held by Majority Leader Adam Hasner should be the best chance the Democrats have in the state to pick up a seat.  In statewide races, it has consistently ticked a few points more Democratic in election after election.  After sputtering through recruitment, with one candidate switching to a safer race and another dropping out after getting in, the Dems have settled on Holzhauer, who by all accounts is an impressive candidate.  The Republicans also have a good one in Hager. 

HD 107- The Comeback.         Luis Garcia v.  Gus Barriero

When he left the legislature, few people were more popular in HD 107 than Gus Barriero, but that was before he went to work at DJJ and was later fired for looking at porn on his state computer.  This seat has lunged towards the Democratic column in the last three cycles and should remain there, though if the voters of HD 107 are in a forgiving mood, this one could end up being at least memorable.

HD 119-       Katie Edwards v. Frank Artiles

This may be the most interesting race in the state.   For some time, I’ve felt this would be the second GOP Dade seat to switch (I took a lot of flack in 2006 for thinking we could win HD 107, which is now nearly a safe Dem seat) and with Representative Zapata term limited out, this is the best chance.  On the Democratic side, one of the most impressive candidates running in Florida, bar none, is Katie Edwards, who has raised in South Florida and with the support of many community leaders.  However, there is a catch:  she’s a white woman who works in the agricultural industry.  On the GOP side, an equally strong candidate in Frank Artiles, who is a lawyer and a veteran.  From where I sit, the district wants to vote for a Democrat, but will ethnic politics trump?  It did in 2002 when the Puerto Rican Quinones defeated Jose Fernandez in a heavily Democratic, but equally heavy Puerto Rican seat.  But this is neither Puerto Rican or Orlando---nor is it 2002.

A couple others to watch:

HD 3 and 7-   Two more oil general elections, both which in this cycle should be pretty safe for the GOP incumbents, except that both voted for near shore drilling---and both represent communities struggling to recover.   Will this give the Dems a chance to be competitive?  We'll have to see.

HD 51/52.   Janet Long and Bill Heller picked up these south Pinellas seats for the Democrats in 2006, when both were among the most competitive in the state, and both won re-election pretty easily in 2008.  Now both face stronger challenges in a tougher year.  Long's seat is more marginal, but her opponent appears to be weaker.  Heller's seat is trending more Democratic, but his opponent is a wealthy self-funder.   Like the two above, the Dems should win them both, but given the dynamics of this cycle, are races to watch.

HD 83-  Marciano v. Rooney.   Can Marciano overcome Rooney’s name ID and money?  Does Rooney get painted with the frustration Americans have with Congress?  On paper, its competitive and should  be interesting.

HD 112/HD 117-  Two other GOP Cuban-dominant seats that were considered the reddest of red in 2002 which today, are much more in play.  GOP probably wins them both---this time.  But watch, one day we are going to wake up and the Dems will hold all but 2-3 of the Dade County seats.  Barack Obama won the county by a larger vote margin than any Democrat in a long time---if not history, and while I’d like to peg most of that on our great operation there, truth be told, a lot of it was the outcome of a county that is getting younger and much less Cuban.  

HD 35/HD 120- Do the incoming leaders break the 7-8 cycle “Leader Truce?”  Both of them represent districts that are considered to be competitive on paper.  


Learning from the Research 2000 Polling Mess

This might sound strange or even ironic coming from an operative, but politics and especially coverage of politics has become too focused on the nuts and bolts, or process of elections.  Virtually every story these days has to do with who works for who, what so and so raised and my favorite, reporting on public polls.

Over the past few years, the public sphere has been literally inundated with polling and many in the media are literally addicted to them, publishing every ounce of data reported, with little or no regard to the quality of the survey instrument, the record of the pollster or any methodology considerations.  When I asked a member of the press about this, their response was "we just put it out there and others can decide if it is important or meaningful."  Problem is, when the media publishes polling in print or on-line, it immediately becomes meaningful.

It isn't that polling is a bad thing, in fact, quite the contrary.  Polling is an important tool for understanding the nature of political races and the mood of the electorate.  Except, most of the polls done today are not done with that layer of context, rather they focus on one thing:  the horse race.  Often this data comes from groups and companies that have little to no public track record, yet the data is treated as fact.

This whole issue recently came to light after the founder of a leading liberal blog, Daily Kos, announced his intention to sue his pollster, Research 2000 for fraud after a number of investigations called into question the reliability of their data.  It was the right thing to do.  Many folks, including myself, would shake their heads at some of the data coming out of that shop.  But here is the problem, for over a year, the press has been reporting on these polls, without a shred of concern as to their accuracy.  Even here in Florida, we have felt the impact.

Flashback to November 2009, Marco Rubio's campaign is all of the talk, but to date, the race still appeared to be Crist's for the taking.  All but one poll to date had Crist over 50% (and that one had him at 49), and no poll had the race inside 15 points---and most had the margin in the mid 20's.

But the narrative began to change in a meaningful way when the Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll was released in late November.  First, they were the first that had the race at 10 points or less, showing Crist at 47 and Rubio at 37.  It was also the first time Crist approval was under 50 among Republicans.  However, that wasn't the only major thing to pop out of that poll:  at the same time, they released data showing Crist winning a three way Senate race as an independent, fueling not only the "would he do it" talk, but also the "can he win" debate.  Except, now we have no idea if any of that data was collected in a scientific way.

Research 2000 isn't the only firm to have problems, it is just the most recent. 

One of the things I do in my spare time, and one I probably shouldn't repeat, is trying to replicate public data.  More often than one would expect, I find that the data released by company or organization X was based on a model or methodology that bares little resemblance to reality, such as over or under sampling primary voters or using vote models that don't take into account Florida's changing diversity. 

In my perfect world, a public poll wouldn't land on a blog or in the paper unless the full methodology was explained.  Good scientists (which is what pollsters should be) should have no problem with letting others mess around with their data and test its veracity.  It shouldn't take much, just tell us what your sample looked like, how you modeled your voters and release your crosstabs. 

But assuming that isn't going to happen, take two steps when you find a poll posted on a blog:  Go to Nate Silver's and check out his rankings of pollster accuracy, then go to the website of the organization that did the polling and check out the data for yourself.  

Many factors determine how elections turn out, but too often media coverage is focused on just one or two of them.  Therefore, take all of this data in context.  If polling taken a year before an election was rock solid gold, we'd be talking about President Guiliani or Clinton.  Clearly, history decided to go a different direction.