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11 more days Florida. We got this.

To:       The Blake Bortles Fan Club

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       11 days out

Tonight is the opening exhibition game for FSU basketball, so yes, we are closing in on the November 6th opening game against Florida, which means the election is almost here. 

As of this morning,  2,037,805 Floridians have voted, which is about 1.2 million fewer than the number of times Blake Bortles has turned the ball over in 2018.

Yesterday, the GOP won both the VBM returns, as well as the in-person early vote, carrying about an 8,000-ballot advantage out of the day. In total, 286,330 people voted yesterday, which makes up 2.2% of all Florida registered voters.  That is pretty astounding for a midterm. 

This breaks down:

Republicans:  869,745 (42.68%)

Democrats:  808,288 (39.7%)

NPA/Minor: 359,772 (17.6%)

Total GOP edge: 61,457 (+3.02%)

Yesterday, we were at 1,751,475, with the GOP holding an edge of 53,168 votes (+3.03%)

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

Relative to 2014, a couple of interesting points.   At this point in 2014, about 1.75 million ballots were in.  Yesterday, we were about 150K total votes ahead of 2014, and today that number is close to 300K.

For a straight apples to apples comparison, in 2014, about 14.7% of registered voters had voted so far.  Today it is about 15.4%

11 days out in 2014 also marked another point.  The GOP held a 144K vote advantage at this point, which equated to a margin advantage of 8.23%.  It also marked the high-water mark for Republicans – from this point on in 2014, the GOP margin fell, finishing at about 90K.    If the past is prologue, the partisan balance going into election day would be almost even.   Everything else for the last 5-7 days has been consistent with the last midterm, so this will be interesting to watch over the next few days.

If you go back to 2010, the GOP advantage on this day was about 240K votes out of about 1.45m votes.  

In 2016, at this point, 2,864,666 had voted, with leading GOP up just over 14K votes. (+0.5%)

I will say this – I am not sure yet that we are headed for super crazy turnout, as some have suggested.   We are running ahead of 2014, but that advantage isn’t huge.  There are slightly more infrequent voters than we saw at this point, but not a huge difference.  I started this exercise thinking turnout would be about 54%, and I think I’m still there, though I want to see what the weekend looks like.

This morning I looked at this question of cannibalization – is one party or the other getting an edge simply because people who normally vote on election day are voting early.   This is also a chance to look at people who are non-traditional midterm voters.

So here is how it looks:

About 55% of the vote so far comes from people who voted before the election in 2014.  This is overwhelmingly Republican – GOP with about a 13% lead with these voters, or roughly 85K votes

About 30% of the electorate did not vote in 2014.  The Democrats hold a lead here of just over 4%, or about 30K votes.

The remainder is “cannibalized” vote – or people who voted at the polls in 2014 but have cast a ballot before the election this time.  This vote is very close – though about 7K more Republicans fall into this category.

The electorate keeps trending more diverse.  Yesterday it was 75% white, today it is 74% white, with black voters (African American and Caribbean) making up nearly 10% of the vote.   If the final number is under 70%, the math for Democrats gets a lot easier.  At this trajectory, it should be well below 70.

In other words, the Democrats have cut the gap significantly since 2014 without taking away more of their election day vote than the Republicans.   The other good news for my team – Democrats are leading turnout among the non-2014 voters. 

Back to just absentees:

In total, just over 3.38 million ballots have been requested – passing the total number requested in 2016.   Some 1.9 million ballots remain unprocessed,

Two million ballots remain in the back seats of cars and stuck between the couch cushions, and 115K more of them belong to Democrats – going backwards from yesterday’s margin of113K.

In terms of absentees, Democratic return rates continue to lag Republicans.  The statewide return rate is 43.7% (was 40.2% yesterday).  Republicans have now returned 48,6%% of all requested ballots, Democrats 42.2%, and NPA’s 37.7%.  Republicans will pass the 50% mark for returning ballots today.

I’ve been asked a lot about the people who requested a ballot but voted another way – and is this why the delta in unreturned ballots is so large.

Right now, about 40,000 people received a ballot, but chose to vote in-person early.  There are about 6,000 more Democrats in this camp than Republicans.  This is a long way of saying:  Democrats, return your freaking ballots.

I think things are tracking in a good place for my party, but I don’t want to sugar coat it:  There is very real work to be done.  There are almost 4 million votes who voted in 2014 who have not voted yet, and Republicans hold about a 250,000-vote advantage.   My side needs to keep driving up that advantage among infrequent midterm voters.  The good news for Democrats:  that pool is rather large.   

As I’ve said all week, there isn’t a lot changing day to day this week.  Miami continues to look stronger than I expected by this point, which is a positive thing for Democrats, though the actual turnout rate for Democrats in Miami-Dade is lagging Republicans by 5%.  Orlando continues to be very competitive, which again is a good sign.  Palm Beach is looking better.   For Republicans, the Fort Myers market continues to be juiced.  I am honestly not sure why the President is headed there – they don’t have a turnout issue there – there are other places I think they could use him. 

Don’t expect significant change tomorrow.  Monday and Friday tend to be better for Democrats in the in-person early vote, but I suspect tomorrow’s numbers will look close to today, then Sunday, we will get a look at what happened on the first full day of statewide early voting.  Just hopefully, the Jaguars won’t be unwatchable again as I write that note.

Until tomorrow, happy Friday everyone. 


12 Days Out Florida - Florida is Getting its Vote On

To:       Fellow Frustrated Jaguars Fans

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       12 days out in Florida

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

This breaks down:

Republicans:  748,091 (42.7%)

Democrats:  694,923 (39.7%)

NPA/Minor: 308,461 (17.6%)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two million ballots remain in the back seats of cars and stuck between the couch cushions, and almost 113K more of them were mailed to Democrats.   That being said, yesterday it was 116K, so yea, progress. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until tomorrow.


13 Days Out, as Florida right now is Florida.

To:       Fellow Mega Million Losers

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       13 days out

Forgive the lateness of this note – I got home at 2:00 AM last night.  Finally got enough coffee to type a complete sentence.

Before I get into the data, a quick note on the polling out there.  We are in the true silly season of public polling – everyone polls because many political reporters need polling like I need coffee this morning:  it is a source of life.   Release a poll and it is pretty much a guaranteed to get news.   So there have been a lot of polls over the last few days, and even more to come over the next ten days.

We are at the stage, in the words of my friend and Obamaland legend Paul Tewes, where “polls are shit.”  Yes, the public polling can glean some things:  Gillum has led in every one since the primary, which one can safely assume, he is leading.  Is he up 12?  No.  Is he guaranteed to win?  No.  In the Senate race, both Scott and Nelson have led in public polling of late. What does that mean?  Well it means it is pretty much a jump ball.  

There is a reason why candidates don’t use FAU, or Quinnipiac, or random group X to do their polling.  The polling candidates pay for is a lot more expensive, because there are very real controls used to get the most accurate data one can get.  Candidates who are spending millions on ads will spend to get good data – as they should.  This doesn’t mean all public polling is bad – but it does mean very little of it done to the standard serious candidates demand.    One other thing – all polling is based on one really big assumption:  what the electorate will look like.  If the electorate doesn’t look like the polling model, well, the poll isn’t representative of the actual electorate.

This is the long way of saying:  if you are going to watch the polling, watch the trends, and watch the averages, and don’t try to cherry pick the poll that makes you feel better about the race.  Also, if you really care about the race and the outcome – sign up to impact the model:  in other words, sign up to get people to the polls.  I will say this about Florida right now:  based on who has voted to date, it is likely that if we counted the 1.4 million votes in the bank right now, the statewide elections would be very close, but probably with Republicans leading.  But that doesn’t mean anything – because there are solid 5.5-6 million votes left to be cast.  So in the words of FSU head football coach, go #DoSomething.

So here is where we are, 13 days out from the opening game of FSU’s basketball season.

Blake Bortles is still the QB in Jacksonville…

and 1,448,251 Floridians have voted.

This breaks down:

Republicans: 623,582 (43.1%)

Democrats: 570,732 (39.4%)

NPA/Minor: 253,937 (17.5%)

The Republicans have an edge of 52,850 votes (+3.65%)

Democrats won the in person early vote by about 1,000 votes, and the vote by mail returns were pretty much a push.

For comparison, in 2014, Republicans had about a 140,000-ballot lead at this point – and led by around 9%.  In 2016, the GOP had about 10,000 ballot lead at this point. 

We have seen two consecutive days of record in person early voting, though both days we’ve seen robust participation from both parties.  I want to give it one more day before taking a deep look at who is actually showing up – just as with VBM, we need to get enough in-person early votes in to begin making any real observations about what it may mean, and honestly, we really won’t know much until next week, when in-person early goes statewide.

In terms of absentees, Democratic return rates continue to lag Republicans – Republicans have now returned 40.5% of all requested ballots, Democrats 34.4, and NPA’s 30.8.  Statewide, the return rate is 36%. 

In total, just over 3.22 million ballots have been requested – far more than 2014, though it does not appear we will match the 2016 totals.  And just like yesterday, about 116K more Democrats have not returned a ballot than Republicans. 

Honestly, what is most interesting about the vote so far is just how un-interesting it is.  The state is falling into a pretty predictable margins.  The share of vote by market is mostly where it should be – Tampa and SW Florida is a little over-represented, North Florida is a little under.  Only one county, Calhoun, is still unreported from the hurricane, and places like Bay County (Panama City) are seeing voting getting back to normal.  Republican counties are getting more Republican, Democratic counties are getting more Democratic, and the few places in between look generally how they always do.  If this week holds true to form, I suspect today, tomorrow, and Friday will look pretty close to Monday and Tuesday, with the next big jump coming on Saturday.  It looks like Florida, and if it looks like Florida, it is going to trend tight.

Breaking it down by my target counties (if you missed that memo, it is here).  Again, as a reminder, my theory of the case is basically this:  in a very close election, the campaign that can cement the gains their party made from 2014 to 2016 will probably win.

In the 10 GOP counties I am tracking, vote by mail return rates continue to be quite good, though within those counties, the early enthusiasm gap we saw benefiting Republicans a bit has leveled out.  Or example, take Manatee County, a GOP county immediately south of Tampa, more Republicans have voted than Democrats – as will happen there because there are more Republicans, but the gap between the rate of ballot return between the two parties has basically disappeared.  In a race that is all about margins, this is good news.  And in Sarasota, home to one of the highest populations of college-educated women, while the Republicans have overtaken the Democrats in ballots cast – again, which will happen because Republicans have a strong voter registration advantage, more the turnout rate among Democrats is higher. 

In most of these counties, early voting has not yet begun, so there is nothing to look at there.

In terms of the handful of counties where Clinton grew from Obama, it is a mixed bag.  Ballot return rates in Osceola County, home to a significant Puerto Rican population are high.  And while early voting as sped up turnout rates in Miami Dade and Orange, neither are where I wish they would be.  In Duval, nothing so far indicates that Republicans are running up the score, which is a good thing for Democrats.   Again, it is early – and rather than freaking out, or arguing these points with me on twitter, my Democratic friends should go to

One thing I do like as a Democrat:  in-person early voting has really improved the early look at the Orlando media market, as the Republican advantage there has gone close to a push, thanks, almost surely because of Vice President Biden’s stop there yesterday. This is probably the key market in Florida this cycle (though Tampa is always critical), and probably the reason that Scott won in 2014. 

Now that voter registration numbers are finalized, I will start adding more specific data on how turnout rates look in counties, compared to historical averages.  This will begin to give us a better sense of where turnout is going, and where voters might be surging a bit. 

And as I said earlier, I didn’t dig into the make-up of who voted yesterday, because I do want to see more data before looking.  At just 200,000 in-person early voters, it is still a little early.    We are also starting to get enough NPA voters to take a good look at that universe.  On my side, there is a lot of hope that the NPA vote will break away from Trump, and what it is looking like will give us a good sense if that is happening.

Generally, 13 days out, it looks like it almost always does:  Republicans have more certain voters left to vote than Democrats – as they always do --- Democrats have more less certain voters left in the pool than Republicans.  The electorate should over the next 3-5 days get more balanced, both from a partisanship and racial perspective.  I continue to think we are headed to an election where the floor for the candidates for Governor and US Senate is 47-48%.  In other words, but for right now, Florida is looking like she’s gonna Florida.  

Just hopefully Bortles doesn’t Bortles against the Eagles on Sunday. 


14 Days Out to Election -- and FSU basketball

To:       People who love democracy and dogs.

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       2 more weeks

It is great to be writing this from America’s county, Duval.  It isn’t so great to be writing this while riding in a van – so forgive me if there are any more typos than normal.

Yesterday was the first day of in-person early voting, as 113,750 people went to the polls.

Not surprisingly, it was a record first day for a midterm election, but how much of a record might surprise you.  More people voted yesterday than the first two days of early voting in 2014, combined.  This happened to coincide with Joe Biden being in Florida. I am not necessarily saying the two are correlated, but the two events are facts. 

In total, about 25% of all the ballots cast to-date were cast yesterday.  Between VBM ballots, and in-person early vote, more than 300,000 votes were processed.

Today was also the first day that Democrats “won” – driven by their small advantage among in-person early voting.  Vote by mail looked like it has pretty much every day last week – with the GOP winning the day there by a few thousand votes.

As we enter early voting, there have been 1,260,846 total ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 545,327 (43.25%)

Democratic ballots: 496,104 (39.35%)

NPA ballots: 291,415 (17.4%)

Total GOP advantage:  49,223 (3.9%)

Monday’s numbers were 930,657 total votes with GOP advantage: 50,399 (+5.75%)

And for comparison purposes, 14 days out in 2014, the election looked like this.

Total ballots returned (2014): 1,609,835

Total Republican advantage:  141,433 (+8.8%)

Assuming turnout at 7,000,000 voters, roughly 18% of the potential total turnout is in. 

Just to stress one point – this time just for my Democratic friends:  There are 118,508 more Democratic ballots sitting on kitchen tables or in piles by the front door than there are Republican ballots.   

In terms of in-person versus vote by mail, right now, vote by mail accounts for 90% of ballots processed so far, though more people are likely to vote by mail than vote in-person early.

The Republican advantage in vote by mail is 53,745

The Democratic advantage in early voting is 4,522

In total, 31.5% of all requested ballots have been returned, with Republicans returning 35.81 % of their ballots, Democrats 29.8%, and NPA returning 26.93%

As I said yesterday, this isn’t going to be a deep dive.  I will be back to some more normal schedule tomorrow, plus after a few days of early voting, there will be more data to look at in terms of the make-up of that voting universe.

Couple of quick notes though:  voting in Broward and Miami Dade was strong.  Overall, voting in the three southeastern main Florida counties made up about 37% of all the early votes cast yesterday.  One flag on this stat – in person early voting isn’t up statewide until Saturday, so the early returns will favor the larger counties. 

The Panama City and Tallahassee markets continue to really lag where they should be, driven by the 8 counties most impacted by Hurricane Michael.  As I laid out a few days ago, I don’t expect the impacts of Michael to change anything but the most 2000-esque types of elections, but this is something to continue to watch.   The Jacksonville market is also lagging, though this should catch up as early voting continues. 

Look for more tomorrow.  Until then, thanks for reading.






Florida 2018 15 days out -- It is Early Voting Time!

To:       People who love democracy and dogs.

From:  Steve Schale

Re:       15 Days out and the Jags suck again.

By the time you read this memo, early voting will have begun in Florida, as the polls open as Americans come to grips with one simple fact:  The Jaguars are terrible again.  There is a decent chance that by the time we get to week two of early voting, the Jaguars will be holding open tryouts at early voting sites. 

As we enter early voting, there have been 930.657 vote by mail ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 408,696 (43.9%)

Democratic ballots: 357,165 (38.4%)

NPA ballots: 164,796 (17.7%)

Total GOP advantage:  51.531 (5.54%)

Last week we saw steady days of 100,000 or more ballots processed daily, with Republicans increasing their advantage by a few thousand ballots every day. 

Saturday morning GOP advantage: 50,399 (+5.75%)

And for comparison purposes, 15 days out in 2014, the election looked like this:

Total ballots returned (2014): 1,472,104

Total Republican advantage:  138,385 (+11.5%)

For a 2016 comparison, Democrats trailed by about 20,000 ballots going into the first day of early voting.

Assuming turnout at 7,000,000 voters, roughly 13.3 % of the potential total turnout is in

To give some comparison: nearly 20% of the total final turnout had voted in 2014 before early voting started.   In 2016, it was closer to 13%. 

Just to stress one point – this time just for my Democratic friends:  There are 115,880 more Democratic ballots sitting on kitchen tables or in piles by the front door than there are Republican ballots.   

In total, 28.69% of all requested ballots have been returned, with Republicans returning 32.59 % of their ballots, Democrats 27.09%, and NPA returning 24.55%

I also had a chance yesterday to take my first look at the electorate, and it looks like the earliest vote by mail universes tend to look:  Republican, white, and heavily Tampa/Fort Myers.

White voters make up about 78% of all the vote by mail ballots returned so far.  About 80% of all ballot returners voted in 2014.  The new voters – or those who didn’t vote in 2014 are basically a wash.  In other words, among the early ballot returners, there isn’t a surge of unlikely voters on either side.

Based on return rates, I’d argue this is decent news for Democrats – and here is why:  the highest returning counties for Republicans are in some of the places Trump surged.  If those returns were being driven by the new Trump Republicans who showed up in 2016, we’d see a bigger chunk of non-2014 voters showing up in those returns – but there is nothing abnormal.  As I told a buddy of mine Sunday night, the people you’d expect to vote are the ones who are voting. 

Not that this is an excuse for you 115K or so more Democrats who have a ballot somewhere in the pile under a bunch of catalogs you have no clue why you get.

The other thing that is interesting – the one group that is voting:  women, specifically, Democratic women.  In fact, the single largest gender subgroup who has voted are Democratic women.  Women are about 54.5% of all voters so far.  Democratic women alone are over 23% of all voters so far.   Again, it is important to remember that we are only talking about 13% of the total likely electorate, but it is nonetheless, interesting.

But while I think these are good signs for my side, there are warning signs entering early voting:  namely, in the places where DeSantis and Scott need to grow from their 2014 margins, people are generally voting, though worth noting, they are voting across party lines.  Take Hernando County, a place where Trump’s vote share was 15 points higher than Scott in 2014, a full 44.2% of Republicans who have requested a ballot have returned their ballot – though among Democrats, the number is 40.9%, still well above the Democratic average.

On flipside, places we need people to vote to grow from our 2014 margins, voting has been sluggish.  Just 17.4% of Democratic ballot requesters in Dade, and 25.75% in Orange have returned their ballots, both below the party’s state average. 

Now these things could all change after a week of early voting, but if someone asked me what I am most worried about today as a Democrat, that is what I am most worried about.   Keep in mind, I am a worrier, and I am not overly concerned – but I would like to see some correction over the next week.

33% of early absentee returners are in the Tampa media market, and another 13% are in Fort Myers.  Optimistically, these two markets will top out around 32% combined after all ballots are cast through election day.

On the flipside, southeast Florida is behind what it will look like after election day.  The Miami and Palm Beach markets, which should end up somewhere around 28% of the statewide vote, currently make up about 22% of early vote by mail returns. 

Orlando is about where it should be, and North Florida is well below where it will be by election day, in part because this market tends to be a little more Election Day and in-person early focused, and because Hurricane Michael has disrupted return rates in a handful of counties in the Tallahassee and Panama City media markets.

Going forward, voting will be fast and furious.  We should easily see 2.5-3 million Floridians vote in the next two weeks, so the electorate will begin to mold into shape.  The electorate will get more diverse, it will balance out from a partisan standpoint, and it will start to look more normal in terms of geographic distribution.  There isn’t a whole lot so far that leads me to think we are headed to anything other than a pretty close election, but let’s see how the week goes.

We will see who ends up starting next week for the Jaguars, who thankfully go to London to play Paul Kane’s Eagles, a team that has looked equally disappointing.  But at least if that game is going to suck, there will be a week’s worth of early voting to analyze instead – that and trying to figure out how to get from second to first in my fantasy NASCAR league.  Priorities people. Priorities.

Until tomorrow.


Florida 2018 - Darrell Waltrip Days (17) Until the Election

To:       Fellow hacks, fellow Americans, and all the FSU fans who are reading this while in line at the store buying their last-minute tailgate supplies.

 From:  Steve Schale

 Re:       17 Days out.


At the time I am finishing this memo, we are now:

45 hours until the first early voting sites open.

403 hours until the polls open on Election Day

415 hours until the polls close in the Eastern Time Zone counties

416 hours until the polls close in the Central Time Zone counties

417 hours until opening tip for FSU basketball

As of this morning, there are 877.782 ballots vote by mail ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 386,101 (43.99%)

Democratic ballots: 335,702 (38.24%)

NPA ballots: 155,979 (17.77%)

Yesterday was another day this week, just like every other day this week, with the GOP returning slightly more ballots than the Democrats.  This was the slowest day this week, though I am also pulling the data earlier in the morning, so as the day goes on, the total number of ballots processed on Friday could grow.  The basic make-up of the day isn’t likely to change.

One note from yesterday, we saw ballots processed in Bay County for the first time since the storm.  The eight counties most impacted have been, as to be expected, focused on other priorities.  There are still two counties: Gulf and Liberty, both who were significantly impacted, who haven’t reported since before Michael. 

Today’s GOP advantage: 50,399 (+5.75%)

Yesterday GOP advantage:  46,104 (+5.83%)

Thursday GOP advantage: 43,098 (+6.31%)

Wednesday morning GOP advantage: 40,179 votes (+7.28%).

And for comparison purposes, 18 days out in 2014, the election looked like this:

Total ballots returned (2014): 1,186,083

Total Republican advantage:  136,180 (+11.5%)

Assuming turnout at 7,000,000 voters, roughly 12.4% of the potential total turnout is in. 

To give some comparison: nearly 20% of the total final turnout had voted in 2014 before early voting started.   In 2016, it was closer to 13%. 

Yesterday, another 21,345 VBM requests were processed, moving the total number of requests to 3,224,028.

Democrats have a 63,592-voter edge in total requests, meaning Democrats have 113,991 more ballots yet to be returned.  The new VBM request number has steadily declined every day this week, which is common at this point in the cycle. 

Just to stress one point – this time just for my Democratic friends:  There are 113,991 more Democratic ballots sitting on kitchen tables or in piles by the front door than there are Republican ballots.    Come on people, I know we are all bummed about the start of the Jaguars season, but let’s get those things back in.

In total, 27.23% of all requested ballots have been returned, with Republicans returning 30.95% of their ballots, Democrats 25.61%, and NPA returning 23.43%

As I mentioned yesterday, when I think about these races, there are a few buckets of counties I will be watching, particularly as in-person early voting starts.  And let me repeat something I’ve said a lot – these numbers are just what they are: numbers subject to interpretation.  The things I see in them are things I see, based on watching a lot of elections in Florida.  But they aren’t predictive.  So, take them for what they are worth – my notes. 

Basically, these memos are the same thing I would do when I worked on more actual campaigns – try to spot trends, try to find holes, and try, when possible, to fix issues.  Since I am not working on this one, I am sharing my thoughts with you (well, most of my thoughts).    I am grateful there are people who find these things interesting – and I do try very hard to try to provide a little look behind the Florida curtain.

As we get into in-person early voting, it is likely we will see record vote counts, so significant chunks of the electorate voting each day, and there is a lot to be gleaned from that data.   But as Trump/Clinton showed us, the candidate who wins going into Election Day isn’t always the one that wins. 

I am confident of one thing:  This election is going to be very close, in all five statewide elections.  Several of the ballot measures will probably pass or fail by tens of thousands of votes.   I can parse through this data and find things would excite both sides.  For example, the Republican margin is nowhere near what it was in 2014 – in fact, the margin is 86,000 voters better for the Democrats today than it was on this election day in 2014.  On the flipside, in the places where Republicans need to do well to win, ballot return rates are high across the political spectrum.  It is shaping up to be a Florida election.

This is a long way of me saying what is obvious.  If you care about this election, get on the google, figure out the nearest place you can volunteer, and go grab a clipboard.  If you live in a state that doesn’t have a competitive election, you can pitch in here, by making calls and sending texts.  And if you don’t like data in here, use it as motivation.  If you don’t know how to help, tweet at me and I’ll give you some ideas.

You can make a difference.  So, go make a difference – or as my old boss says, “Don’t boo – vote.”

I am not going to write a memo tomorrow (you are welcome) – I am going to do a big table setter for in-person early voting that will be out on Monday.  For your planning purposes, with Vice President Biden in the state early this week, my Tuesday memo will be short, then we will get back to normal

The form of these will be like 2016.   I will be watching a bucket of counties that I think are important to both sides, these memos will track them over time.  If you are curious why I chose these counties, keep reading.   We will also track the state’s two primary swing counties this cycle: St. Lucie and Pinellas.

To recap yesterday - for Democrats to win, we win our votes in a handful of counties, and generally try to keep margins in play elsewhere.  For the Nelson/Gillum math, there are a few places where Clinton’s vote shares outperformed Crist in 2014.  

On this side, there are three base counties:  Orange, Osceola, and Dade.  The latter has seen a lot of organic growth towards the Democrats, but the former two Central Florida have been turnout issues in midterm cycles.    If Dems can get those two counties to perform closer to Presidential cycle margins, the math starts to look good.  In all three, vote by mail returns have been slow, which is normal.  We will be looking to see if the first few days of early voting start to bring the overall numbers more in line with what a Democratic win model would look like.

On the defense side, two counties where Clinton outperformed Crist worth watching:  Escambia (Pensacola), and Duval – also known as DUUUUVAL, which is Jacksonville.  The key for the ticket in those two places will be increasing African American participation.  These are also two communities that both DeSantis and Scott will want to look more like they did for Scott in 2014 than they did for Trump in 2016.   In Escambia, both parties are seeing strong return rates – with the rate running pretty even (GOP leading in ballots, as is expected).  In Duval, both parties are slower as of now, though the GOP has returned about 27% of their ballots, compared to 21% for Democrats.  In 2016, which is the model Democrats will want to see here, the vote by mail return rates got better for Democrats as the cycle wore on, and Early Voting really drove the close margin here.   Hopefully the Jaguars will win here on Sunday and energize folks to get out and vote!

Secondly, for the Republicans, to counter balance the growth the Democratic ticket is likely to see in the urban counties, there are about a dozen counties where Trump (2016) outperformed Rick Scott (2014).  While the GOP ticket is unlikely to see the same kind of raw vote margins Trump won in these counties, they will want the final percentage spread to look more like Trump than like Scott.  Most of these counties are in the I-4 corridor:

North of Tampa will be watching Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco.  These three counties, stacked north to south, are the bulwark of the kinds of places where Trump won Florida.  Scott won these three counties by 13,753 votes in 2014.  Trump won them by 110K votes – nearly 75K more than Romney four years earlier. Combined they make up about 5% of the total statewide vote – but for DeSantis, they are probably his biggest targets of opportunity.  Absentee returns in all three counties have been robust.

South of Tampa, we will be watching both Manatee and Sarasota. Again, north to south, Manatee tends to be slightly more Republican than Sarasota, which typically looks very competitive when Democrats do well, with the exception to the rule being 2014, where Crist did well, despite losing Florida.   Sarasota is looking quite competitive right now, with Democrats holding a slight lead in returned ballots.

In the Orlando market, will be watching two of the exurban counties: Marion, home to Ocala, part of The Villages, and Florida horse country, and Volusia County, which is home to NASCAR, and home to a significant blue-collar manufacturing base – and a rapidly growing Puerto Rican population.    Scott won these two counties by about 26K votes, Trump by nearly 80K – which was a 50K vote improvement over Romney in 2012.  Right now, like the north of Tampa counties, ballot return rates are all above the state average.

And finally, will be watching Charlotte county near Fort Myers, and Martin county near West Palm Beach.  Both are interesting in that, like the others, both saw Trump really grow from Scott.  And both are right in the middle of the Red Tide mess.   Scott won these two by about 18K votes, Trump by about 50K, about 20K more than Romney.

Lastly will track Florida’s two swing counties: St. Lucie, and Pinellas, both which had gone for the top of the Democratic ticket in 08, 10, 12, and 14, then went for Trump.  Right now, Democrats have a slight edge in returns in St. Lucie, and Republicans in Pinellas, though in both, GOP return rates are slightly higher.

Oh, and one last thing – nearly 50% of Democratic absentee ballots have been returned in Sumter County, the primary home of the GOP base The Villages.  Republican ballots are out pacing Dems, but Dem return rate is higher.   Good to see my Democratic friends there rushing in their golf carts to get their ballots in! 

Looking ahead, as I mentioned yesterday, we should see a pretty big in-person early voting day on Monday, when the counties that opted to open early voting for two weeks will open, then if tradition holds firm, the rest of the week will level out, and just like vote-by-mail this week, I suspect midweek will look a lot a like from day to day. 

Hope everyone has a great weekend.


Florida 2018 - Peyton Manning Days (18) until the Election

To:      Friends, Romans, and FloridaMen

Re:      Friday of Texans Hate Week -- 18 days out from Election and FSU Hoops


As of this morning, there are 791,438 ballots vote by mail ballots returned

Republican ballots 348,222 (44.00%)

Democratic ballots: 302,118 (38.17%)

NPA ballots: 141,098 (17.83%)

The week has been exceptionally consistent – Republicans winning the day by 3,000 or so voters, with Democrats chopping into the lead a percentage of all ballots.  I fully expect this to stay consistent for the next few days.

 Today GOP advantage:  46,104 (+5.83%)

Yesterday GOP advantage: 43,098 (+6.31%)

Wednesday morning GOP advantage: 40,179 votes (+7.28%).

And for comparison purposes, 18 days out in 2014, the election looked like this:

Total ballots returned (2014): 1,017,704

Total Republican advantage:  131,509 (+12.9%)

I will probably move this number once early voting starts and the final voter registration numbers are posted, but for starting purposes, estimating turnout at 7,000,000 voters, meaning roughly 11.31% of the potential total turnout is in. 

Yesterday, another 26,512 VBM requests were processed, moving the total number of requests to 3,202,683.

Democrats have a 67,492 -voter edge in total requests, meaning Democrats have 113,596 more ballots yet to be returned.  

Republicans are chipping away a bit at the Democrats’ request lead.  The Dem advantage has dropped a few thousand each day.   I don’t think this is significant, but just interesting.  In total, 24.71% of all requested ballots have been returned, with Republicans returning 24.6%% of their ballots, Democrats 23.2% of theirs, and NPA 21.4% of theirs.

I apologize this memo is going to be a little shorter – or maybe, you all will appreciate that.  But I want to give a little heads up about what is coming next.

When I think about these races, there are two things I will watch. 

First, for Democrats to win, we win our votes in a handful of counties, and generally try to keep margins in play elsewhere.  For the Nelson/Gillum math, there are a few places where Clinton’s vote shares outperformed Crist in 2014.  

On this side, there are three base counties:  Orange, Osceola, and Dade.  The latter has seen a lot of organic growth towards the Democrats, but the former two Central Florida have been turnout issues in midterm cycles.    If Dems can get those two counties to perform closer to Presidential cycle margins, the math starts to look good.

On the defense side, two counties where Clinton outperformed Crist worth watching:  Escambia (Pensacola), and Duval – also known as DUUUUVAL, which is Jacksonville.  The key for the ticket in those two places will be increasing African American participation.  These are also two communities that both DeSantis and Scott will want to look more like they did for Scott in 2014 than they did for Trump in 2016


Miami Dade (Crist 58.4%, +99,704 votes, Clinton 63.7%, +289,898 votes)

Orange (Crist 53.5%, +36,556, Clinton 60.4%, +134,537)

Osceola (Crist 51.8%, +6,026, Clinton 61%, +35,080)

Offense to Play Defense

DUUUUVAL (Crist 41.5%, -34,381, Clinton 47.5%, -6,060)

Escambia (Crist 34.1%, -27,285, Clinton 37.7%, -31,347)

Secondly, for the Republicans, to counter balance the growth the Democratic ticket is likely to see in the urban counties, there are about a dozen counties where Trump (2016) outperformed Rick Scott (2014).  While the GOP ticket is unlikely to see the same kind of raw vote margins Trump won in these counties, they will want the final percentage spread to look more like Trump than like Scott.  Most of these counties are in the I-4 corridor:

Tampa market:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orlando Market

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

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

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

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

These numbers might give you a good sense why Joe Biden is coming to Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville for the ticket next week.

I hope to dive into these places in a little more depth this weekend, as well as to take my first real look at who is voting, and if we can begin to see any meaningful trends.  

Looking ahead, as I mentioned earlier, I suspect we will see a pretty big in-person early voting day on Monday, when the counties that opted to open early voting for two weeks will open, then if tradition holds firm, the rest of the week will level out, and just like vote-by-mail this week, I suspect midweek will look a lot a like from day to day. 

The next big change after Monday will be next Saturday, the day before Jacksonville takes on the Eagles in London, when early voting opens statewide.

As always, thanks for reading, and while everyone reading this memo may not always agree on politics, I think we can all agree on one thing:  May the Jaguars beat the Texans on Sunday.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.


Florida 2018 - Johnny Unitas Days (19) to the Election

Dear Fellow Floridians, and Future Floridians. 

10 days until Jaguars/Eagles in London.

13 days to buy candy for Halloween

19 days left until Election Day

And...67 days left in the Christmas shopping season.

OK, here are the basics:

As of this morning, there are 682,504 ballots vote by mail ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 301,825 (44.22%)

Democratic ballots: 258,727 (37.91%)

NPA ballots: 121,942(17.87%)

Yesterday’s GOP advantage was : 40,179 votes (+7.28%).

Today’s GOP advantage is: 43,098 (+6.31%)

Subject to change, I am starting my estimated turnout at 7,000,000 voters, meaning roughly 9.75% of the potential total turnout is in.

Yesterday, another 47,463 VBM requests were processed, moving the total number of requests to 3,176,171. 

Democrats have a 69,619-voter edge in total requests, meaning Democrats have 112,717 more ballots yet to be returned.  In total, 21.49% of all requested ballots have been returned, with Republicans returning 24.6%% of their ballots, Democrats 20.0% of theirs, and NPA 18.7% of theirs.

Reminder to my Democratic friends – requests don’t vote.  In 2014, Democrats left 70,000 more requests unreturned than Republicans. 

For some reason, I have managed to lose the data from 19 days out in 2014.  But to give comparison to where were then:  20 days out in 2014, there had been just under 870,000 ballots returned, with the GOP advantage at 119,078 (13.7%), and 18 days out, there had been 1,017,704 ballots returned, with the GOP advantage at 131,509 (12.9%).  Split the difference, and any way you cut it, Democrats are ahead of where they were in 2014.

This week, ballots have been coming in at a faster clip than the same window in 2014, meaning as I mentioned yesterday, we should catch up to 2014 over the next week or so.

I don't expect this week to see any big changes in the trajectory, so for that reason, I thought I would use the next few days to tackle a few of the storylines around this election.  Today, this memo is going to take a look at Hurricane Michael, and the practical impact of the storm on voting -- and by practical, I mean literally the storm's impact on the electorate and votes, not the politics of who won or lost the storm.

Over the last 48-72 hours, I’ve gotten a few calls from folks wanting to explore the politics of it.  I will be honest, I am cautious to go there, given that there are so many of our fellow Floridians who are just digging out, but given the compressing calendar, here are a few things to consider.

While the greater North Florida region is about 19% of the statewide vote, for those who do not live in Florida, or who aren’t super familiar with the geography, the area known as the “Panhandle” – or as the President calls it “The Pan Handle,” while geographically large, only makes up between 8-9% of the statewide vote.

Fortunately for the state, the storm, while absolutely devastating where it hit, was fairly limited in terms of its direct impact – with the bulk of the severe damage limited to 8 or 9 counties.   In total, those counties make up about 2% of the statewide vote.   To give some sense of the politics, Scott won these counties in 2014 by about 30,000 votes out of the 115,000 total votes cast in the region.

I mention these numbers for one reason:  While it is important to do all we can do to make sure everyone can vote, I do believe whatever disruptions might occur in voting because of the storm will be limited, and highly unlikely to impact the outcome.  Further, this isn’t an area where vote by mail is particularly robust, with the vast majority of voters historically casting their ballot in-person early or in their precinct on Election Day, so disruption in mail service won’t have as big of an impact.

This a long way of saying, simply, as terrible and horrific as this storm is to the families who have lost everything, I don’t think the logistical impediments to the election are likely to impact the outcome.  As for the politics of the storm – well, we just have to watch that.   

On to the bigger picture.

The most remarkable thing about the data so far is its relative lack of being remarkable.  Republicans are expanding their voter lead in places you’d expect them to, Democrats are in the places that they should, and the places in the middle are looking as they should.

If you are a Democrat, couple of highlights: Yesterday was a better day in Broward, continue to hold a slight lead in the number of people who have returned a ballot in Sarasota, and continue to slowly gain on the Republicans in Pinellas – a county that voted for Obama twice, then Trump.   Also, the percentage of Democrats who have returned a ballot in the GOP-heavy county Sumter, home to The Villages continues to outpace the Republicans, though the GOP holds an advantage in total votes.  Overall though -- and while I recognize in a lot of people have just gotten their ballots -- and I get this happens every single year, I do t need to note that, with the exception of Hillsborough, return rates in Democratic counties are lagging the rest of the state.  (Hint, return your ballots)

On the Republican side, there continue to be robust participation coming out of Southwest Florida, with the GOP lead in total ballots being driven by turnout in Lee and Collier counties. Republicans should feel good about the energy of return rates in places like Volusia (Daytona), as well as a few of the counties that helped drive Trump, such as Hernando and Pasco. That being said, the GOP isn’t running up the kind of lead it traditionally does in a midterm cycle, though in fairness, some of that is more Democrats just choosing to vote by mail.   I hope tomorrow or over the weekend to really dive into this question.

Reminder, in person early voting starts in some counties on October 22nd, and will be open everywhere by October 27th.

Lastly, I want to close on a little point of personal privilege.  Today is the birthday of a friend of mine, Matt Grindy.  Matt is 38, or well, he would be, if he was here.  For Matt's friends, celebrating his birthday is an annual tradition.

I started graduate school in 2005, and Matt was one of the first guys I met, and I immediately liked him.  We shared a love of politics, and spent a lot of 2007 sparring over the primary – with me being an Obama guy, and Matt being more of a Richardson guy, though I eventually got him in my camp.   He wanted to try his hand at campaigns, and he knew I really wanted my shot at running my state for my guy – and pushed me constantly to go for it – saying often “why not you” under the caveat that if it was me, I would bring him along.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, Matt never made it to that campaign.  The call I wanted to make more than most never happened, as the mostly incurable cancer that was there for the entirety of the our friendship got him early in that year.  And while Matt never even saw 28, he lived a life fuller than most: marrying a remarkable young woman, writing a book, completing his Ph.D. literally from his death bed, and touching lot of people with the way he did all of these things with a death sentence hanging over his head.

While Matt’s story is all too common, I don’t tell his story today out of sadness, but I remember him today the way I often do – a guy who believed in unicorns, who saw dreaming big and chasing rainbows – all while refusing to take himself too seriously, as central to life, regardless of the obstacles in the road. 

My friends, be more like Matt.

19 days.  


Florida 2018 Memo- Josh Gibson (20) Days until Election Day

Dear Friends, Fellow Dog Lovers, and Casual Twitter Followers:

We are 20 days out from the start of Florida State’s basketball season, and since that 9:00 PM eastern standard time game tip happens to fall one hour after the midterm polls close in the central time zone in Florida, that means it is election memo time!

A lot has happened in the world since the last memo in 2016.  We had a solar eclipse.  Florida State made it to the Elite 8.  Our President can now text us on a regular basis, and the Jacksonville Jaguars went to the playoffs.

This point is important.  Bear with me.

The last time a non-incumbent Democrat won statewide won in Florida was 2008.  His name was Barack Obama.  The season before, the Jaguars, led by quarterback David Garrard, went to the playoffs.  In the playoffs they beat the Steelers on the road, before losing to the Patriots in the playoffs.

Fast forward to 2018.  Since the primary, every single poll has shown the Democrats’ non-incumbent candidate for Governor ahead:  Andrew Gillum.  And yes – the Jaguars last season went to the playoffs, beat the Steeles on the road, then lost to the Patriots. 

Just saying.  

This first memo isn’t going to be super long.  For a little background, I tend to think by writing, so these memos are the product of me processing the data that is before us, so as we have more and more interesting data, the length of these memos are going to get longer. Right now, the data is still to thin to mean much. 

Secondly, as you know, my region of Florida was just rocked by one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in American history.  By rocked, I mean there are areas that are functionally unrecognizable, so like many others - this hack is trying to spend what free time he has pitching in, meaning in short term, less time for writing and cranking through the voter file.  Once we get more votes – and I get more time, there will be more depth to the analysis. 

So, with that, here we go.

As of this morning, there are 554,350 ballots vote by mail ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 247,350 (44.65%)

Democratic ballots: 207,171 (37.37%)

NPA ballots: 99,649 (17.98%)

Subject to change, I am starting my estimated turnout at 7,000,000 voters, meaning roughly 8% of the potential total turnout is in.  That number could move up as we see more ballots returned.

In total, there have been 3,128,708 ballots requested.  Democrats have a 73,674 edge in total requests, meaning Democrats have 114,033 more ballots yet to be returned.  In total, Republicans have returned 20.5% of their ballots, Democrats 16.2% of theirs, and NPA 15.5% of theirs. 

*Quick aside – before you all start sending me twitter DMs, for ease of my process, NPA stands for people who are No Party Affiliates.  I also add in all the minor parties, meaning NPA in my data is anyone who isn’t a Republican or Democrat. 

Compared to this day in the election (20 days out) in 2014, two things stand out.  One:  far fewer ballots have been returned.  At this point, just under 870,000 ballots had been returned.  And secondly, the Republicans, while leading now, were leading by considerably more in 2014.  In fact, the GOP advantage was about 13.6% on Day 20 in 2014, or roughly 119,000 ballots.   In 2014, Republicans went into Election Day with a 90,000 voter advantage -- it is highly unlikely that will be the case this year.

I don’t think the decreased number of this ballots means anything – today.  In most places, people have only had their ballots about a week, and while it isn’t a huge impact on the total number, there are places where the storm has kept counties from functioning.  I suspect this number will catch up over the next week.

Couple of notes:

The GOP advantage is being driven by very robust return rates in southwest Florida – basically the Fort Myers media market.  This is the heart of the Republican base, and it was an area that was both robust for Scott in 2014, and Trump in 2016.   How important is this area for Republicans:  while it is less than 7% of the statewide vote, it will account for about 8.5% of the Republican vote.

Counties such as Collier (Naples), and Lee (Fort Myers) have seen Republican ballot return rates at 38 and 33% respectively, compared to 20% statewide.  This gives the GOP nearly a 22,000-voter lead just in these two counties – accounting for 54% of their total statewide lead. In fact, Lee and Collier alone account for 16% of all the GOP ballots returned to date. 

In fact, over 49.5% of the total ballot returns have come from the Tampa media market (34% of state total) and the Fort Myers (15.5% of state total) media market.  This number will probably land around 32% once all ballots are cast.  In terms of Tampa, a few counties I want to keep an eye on.

First Pinellas (St. Petersburg/Clearwater) – Pinellas voted for Obama twice, both Sink and Crist, and then Trump.  It is also a county that is predominately vote by mail, with a slight edge to the GOP in terms of registered voters.

Right now, Democrats have about a 2,000-ballot lead in ballots mailed out – about 39.3% to 39%, out of the 275,000 total VBM ballots.  But in terms of returns, the GOP leads by about 5%, or about 2K votes.  Not surprising:  Republicans tend to be better VBM voters, but as a Democrat, I would like to see this tick up.

I also want to keep an eye on Pasco.  Pasco is a county just north of Pinellas and Hillsborough (Tampa).  It will go Republican, though both Obama (in 08 and 12), and Crist, kept it competitive.  That changed with Trump who won the county by 37K more votes than Romney did in 2012.  In fact, that number is higher than the number of every county in North Florida, combined.  For DeSantis, he will want Pasco to look more like it did for Trump than it did for Scott in 2014, or Romney in 2012.

Right now, there is robust activity on both sides.  Republicans have about a 4% edge in all ballots mailed, but about a 5.3% edge in ballots returned, however, both parties have seen about a quarter of their ballots returned.  This is also a place where we saw a tremendous GOP turnout edge on Election Day, so will need to track who is actually voting by mail here going forward.  Overall, the Tampa market is pretty close to where it should be, and definitely better than this point in 2014.

The only media market in Florida that is pretty much where it should be is Orlando, which makes up about 20.5% of the ballots cast so far, and will be right around there in terms of its share of the state, with Republicans carrying a slight lead in ballots returned, again, right where it should be (actually, probably a little better than it should be for Dems). 

On flipside, the big Democratic counties in Southeast Florida, specifically Dade and Broward, tend to be more early voting focused, though we’d still like to see stronger return rates.  The Miami media market is now at about 12% of all ballots returned, and by Election Day, it should be 17-18%.  Right now, Dade is at 8% return for Democrats, and Broward at 12%.  Nothing to panic about, because it is early, but something to watch.  

The counties where Republicans are returning their ballots the fastest (% of ballots returned compared to requested):

Collier (Naples):  37.7%

Sumter (Villages): 35.2%

Charlotte (Cape Coral): 34.5%

Hernando (North of Tampa): 33.2%

Lee (Fort Myers):  32.4%


The counties where the Democrats are returning the fastest:

Sumter: 37.0% (Yes, Democrats are returning faster in Villages than Republicans)

Charlotte: 33.5%

Collier: 31.5%

Sarasota: 30.9%

Martin (Stuart): 29.5%

One quick note here:  Sarasota.  Sarasota tends to be an indicator for Democrats of good things.  When Dems overperform in Sarasota, they tend to win – Crist 2014 being the exception to the rule.  Sarasota is a GOP-leaning county, but with several moderate pockets.  Right now in Sarasota, Democrats are not only returning ballots faster than Republicans as a percentage – more Democrats have actually voted than Republicans.  I will watch this going forward.

All in all, we have a long way to go, and at this point, both sides have a lot to hang their hat on:  Republicans are seeing turnout where they want to see it, and Democrats are seeing better overall return rates than four years ago, leading to a much closer margin than existed on day 20 in 2014.

I am going to try to do a little note each day this week.  Again, I have not had time to spend any real quality time looking at the voter file to provide more context to these numbers, and hope to do that later in the week, or on Friday.

In the meantime, two things: If there are questions you’d like to me to track in these, drop me a note, and if you have any questions, about what is in here, please let me know.



PS – While the Patriots won the AFC Championship game, which is excellent news for Andrew Gillum’s chances, let the record reflect:  Myles Jack Wasn’t Down. 


The Politics of Hurricanes

Like today, writing this blog while Hurricane Michael passes just to our west, when you live in Florida, hurricanes are just part of life.  

For me, growing up in a family in the marina business in St. Augustine, dealing with these things became part of my DNA.  I remember as a kid, we’d track these storms on hurricane charts, with the full knowledge that the family business was in the hands of Mother Nature – as it remains today. In 2016, in the middle of the presidential campaign, I was back in St. Augustine, working the docks at the family marina during Hurricane Matthew with my stepfather.

That is a small example of how politics intersects with hurricanes.   From late summer through October, tropical weather is hardly ever not threatening Florida, and every two years, that reality for Florida families runs head first into the electoral calendar.    Traditionally here, candidates err on the side of caution, choosing to stand down while Floridians deal with these storms.  Occasionally, candidates try to thread the needle and get away with a little politics in the eye of the storm, and the way candidates manage these moments often becomes the center of debates. That’s what’s happened this week in the Governor’s race, with Ron DeSantis’s decision to run negative ads against Andrew Gillum – on the issue of storm recovery – in the markets being hit by the storm.

My first experience of managing the politics of a natural disaster happened in 1998, a year that northeast Florida was impacted by some of the most serious wildfires in state history, and the legislative district I worked in was largely ground zero.   Today, if you drive down I-95 through Flagler County, it is still noticeable how the trees through the City of Palm Coast are different than the trees further north, and the trees further south.   Summer wildfires that year burned hundreds of homes, tens of thousands of acres, and cost lives.  It was all hands-on deck for anyone elected, or working for an elected – but my situation was different for two reasons:   my boss represented the most Republican seat held by a Democrat in the Legislature – and we were target #1 of the GOP – and my boss was a member of the Florida National Guard – and got called to active duty for several weeks – in the midst of our re-election.

Being a bull-headed and opportunistic 24-year-old hack, and with a boss literally wearing the uniform of his nation to help manage the fires, my instincts said “this is an opportunity and we must take advantage of it” – but it was my boss, Doug Wiles, older and much wiser, who reminded me that if we just kept our heads down and did our jobs, voters would remember.  He was right.  In a district Jeb Bush won by like 15 points, we won re-election by a point – less than 1,000 votes – thanks entirely to the large margin we won in Palm Coast.

In 2008, I faced it at a different level.   Tropical Storm Fay was off the coast of Florida and looking like it could become a hurricane.  We were smack in the middle of ramping up our field operations and we had only been on TV a few weeks – and were still trailing McCain.  Suddenly we were faced with decisions:  Do we stay on TV?  What do we do with our field staff?  After thinking about it a bit, the decision became clear:  shutting it down for 36 hours wasn’t going to cost us the race, plus at a time when people were worried about their families and property, the last thing they wanted to do is see our ads or hear from our volunteers.  The same day, John McCain cancelled a major fundraiser in Miami.  Both sides decided we could punt our fight a few days down the road, and let people get through the storm.

I get these decisions aren’t always black and white.  Incumbents have legitimate jobs to do -- for example, both Rick Scott and Andrew Gillum have spent a lot of time on TV this week, and sure, while they benefit from the exposure, it is also their job.

Challengers want to be seen ready to lead, or if nothing else, willing to be helpful.    Take the question John Kerry faced in 2004 after Hurricane Charley rocked pretty much everything from Port Charlotte across the state to Daytona Beach – do you travel to the damaged areas to lend support, even if it is just moral support, at the risk of just getting in the way?  Or do you wait, and face criticism of not caring enough to show up?  That same year, politics and elections literally stranded me in South Florida, where when the airports closed, I ended up with a 15 hour ride up the Reagan to get home after a 04 campaign meeting.  Trust me, that will give you a new perspective on what people go through to get out of harm's way.

Most campaigns make the same decision that most real people make in these storms:  shut it down and ride it out, choosing caution over politics.   As my Republican friend, former Bush and Romney Florida advisor Brett Doster, said about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 as the state was facing the aforementioned Hurricane Matthew: “The two candidates are going to have to be very careful because there’s a tremendous risk if it looks like they are politicizing it (the storm) in the least.”   Or as Jeb Bush said today: “Candidates should shut down ads in impacted areas – the exclusive focus needs to be be on preparing, rescuing, and recovering.”

While Rick Scott is pushing that edge, running an ad touting his hurricane recovery leadership – Ron DeSantis' decision to run negative going after Mayor Gillum on the issue of hurricanes during a hurricane…in a town being battered by a hurricane is a new standard -- and not one we should hope to repeat.

In a campaign, you can only control the things you can control.  Challenges control that their opponents are incumbents thrust into high profile moments, in this case 27 days out, but they can control what their own campaigns do.  I suspect that DeSantis’ decision to break convention and run negative ads in the markets impacted by the storm during the hurricane is mostly a function of the fact he’s trailed in every single poll taken since the primary, and the clock is starting to run out.  

The reality is there's no easy way to measure what all of this means.  In a state like Florida where elections are decided in the margins, everything matters, and nothing matters.  Rick Scott rebuilt his image through hurricane response, yet still trails Bill Nelson in many recent polls out there.  Republicans have attacked Andrew Gillum on hurricanes, yet the Mayor has led every single public poll since the primary.

In the end, as Doug Wiles said to me during those fires, the only thing that matters in a hurricane is doing the right thing and taking care of people --- and that is why most campaigns make the decision to stand down.  As my grandmother would say, “this too will pass” and the time for politics will return, quickly.

 Will DeSantis pay a political price for breaking this tradition?  Does anyone think if he loses it will be because he chose to run negative ads during a natural disaster?   Or on the flip side, will his decision to run negative ads during the storm thrust him to victory?  The answer three is surely no.  I don’t think any candidate will win or lose their race solely because of this event.  But that is a different question than should he have pulled his ads earlier in the week?  The answer to that, at least from this guy, at least in the markets where storm was coming, is yes.

I pray everyone who was near the storm has made it through safely.  The pictures from the coast are really terrifying, but if there is one thing I know about this part of the state:  it is resilient, and it is a community.  Our neighbors who were most directly impacted by the fury of Michael will recover, and may God Bless them -- and may we all support them -- as they work in the coming weeks and months to put their lives back together.