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Takeaways from the Amanda Murphy win

Amanda Murphy's win in Pasco County last night was significant.  But just how significant?  As can be expected, everyone has an opinion on what it means.  From my view, its less about what it means and more what are the lessons that can be learned.  Here's my take:

1.  Candidates Matter.  Candidates Really Matter.

I am certain that the Republican nominee, Bill Gunter, is a good guy. I truly like GOP Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran and if Richard vouches for him, that's good by me.  But by most objective standards, the new State Representative Amanda Murphy, wins the bio test.  She has a long record in the community, is a businesswoman and strikes a really good profile in a swing seat.  Candidate quality is important in swing districts, far more than partisans want to admit.   It was they key to our success in 2006 when I worked for the Democrat's House campaign effort, and it was why the Democrats won this race.  This became a race only when Murphy got in the race, and in this case, her profile overcame a major financial disadvantage to win crossover voters, including Pasco's most important swing vote:  Mike Fasano.

2.  Mike Fasano is ridiculously popular in Pasco County.  Like crazy ridiculously popular. 

Longtime legislator and current Tax Collector Mike Fasano has numbers that any public figure would die for.  In this district, in polling I saw, his fav/unfav was 86:9.  I am not sure George Washington could carry those numbers.  One Republican said to me: "he could beat Jeb there" and another said, with nothing but respect: "Pasco voters would elect him Overlord for Life if he wanted."  Fasano leaned in hard and it was clearly a difference maker -- if not the most important factor.  If I go to war in Pasco County, I want him in my corner.

3.  The GOP brand has seen better days.

Just by turnout alone, Gunter should have won.  But the atmospherics for the GOP are not good.  When the voting happened, soft Republicans bolted to the Democrat, as did Independents -- and that is why the numbers worked for Murphy in this special election.  Moderate Republicans are clearly not comfortable with where the party is today, and more than likely, the shibacle in DC contributed. But typically Republicans are more loyal to their party than Democrats, at least in Florida, which is why my GOP friends need to pay attention to this: this time their frustration led them to vote for a a centrist Democrat.  My party saw some of the same issues in 2009 and it didn't work out well for us in 2010.   The moderates in the GOP don't want the same thing as their base, and they showed it in HD 36.  If that continues forward, I don't have to tell you what that means for 2014.  St Pete Mayors race will be the next indicator.

4.  This isn't a predicator, but it is a canary.

Every election means something.  In this one, a well qualified centrist Democrat backed by several key moderate Republicans overcame a massive money advantage and turnout disadvantage to beat a Republican who ran a fairly typical partisan message.  Swing voters in this district in the data I saw liked Crist and liked Fasano, both seen as more independent minded.  Does that alone mean Charlie Crist beats Rick Scott? No.  Does it mean something?  Well, you do the math.

5  Voters are still trying to say something.

We've been on a political see-saw for the last nearly 10 years and I think it is for a very basic reason:  Most voters aren't as ideological or partisan as their elected leaders or the political class in general, and they are clearly frustrated by the direction of things.  Don't believe me, just look at polls.  But voters can't force partisans to compromise and work together, so when politicos retreat to their camps,  voters can only reject what is in front of them.  Based on some polling I saw here, the swing voters here were frustrated with Governor Scott, frustrated with Congress, and frustrated with the direction of the nation and state.  They had an alternative that seemed less partisan, so they went for it.  

6. My party has gotten its act together.

It hasn't been a pretty two months for my team, but in the end, elections are what matters, nothing else.  They recruited well, took advantage of opportunities and got the W.  GOP House Campaign wizard and my friend Frank Terraferma, who I think is the most underrecognized political mind in the state, is going to have some actual competition this time -- and competition breeds better candidates, better campaigns and better legislators.  We are a free market nation built on competition and when we get it in the political world, I strongly believe that's good news for America.


The Lesson of Allie Braswell

Two things happen when political death occurs:  The opposition beats their chest and allies start pointing fingers.  The unfortunate case of Allie Braswell for statewide Chief Financial Officer certainly fit the bill.  Braswell's unfortunate decision to announce his decision to run for CFO without doing all the required homework led to probably the shortest statewide campaign in history. Predictably, both sides pounced on the Democratic Party's inability to recruit strong statewide candidates.

I try to use this space to write about objective matters -- data and trends.  I try to avoid writing about my clients and certainly have avoided writing about the mechanical ups and downs of the Florida Democratic Party.  But I thought this was a good opportunity to share a little context.

In my seventeen years in this industry, I've worn a lot of different "hack hats," including candidate recruiter.  Quite honestly, it was easily the most challenging job I've ever had, and in some ways, the most rewarding.  Seeing someone who you encouraged for months actually take the plunge, then thrive as a candidate and win is truly an amazing joy. 

But recruiting is very hard. Failure is the only given -- you will hear "NO" far more than you hear yes.

And candidates matter.  I knew in 2006 on the last day of qualifying that we would pick up seats in the Florida House -- something my party hadn't done for 14 years, simply because we had put better players on the field.  Most of the time, voters get it right -- meaning that in a competitive open seat election, they will choose the better resume.  I have a lot of friends who subscribe to the "we need a candidate in every seat" strategy, when in fact, history shows we need really good candidates in the seats we can win.  

If I had a nickel for every time I heard "FIRSTNAME LASTNAME is a phenomenal candidate BUT..."  in my time working at the Party, I would be retired to a lake house in North Carolina.  If you have to use "BUT" to describe your candidate, in the words of my friend Bernie Campbell, they aren't a great candidate.  If I have a critique of my party over the years, there has been a tendency at times to take what raises their hands, even if there was a "BUT" in the resume, or trying to make those candidates into something they are not. 

In 2005, when I was recruiting for 2006, as a one man shop with 120 seats on my radar, I had two choices:  really focus on opportunities or focus on everything.  I chose the former -- even if it meant recruiting where there candidates existed.  Luis Garcia won a seat in Miami that no one thought we could win because we decided --- despite the early entry of another candidate -- that he was the only one who could win that seat.  We could have walked away from it and focused finding candidates in other, less winable seats.  Again - and academic research bears this out, candidates and candidate quality matters. 

So here are a couple of things to keep in mind about candidates:

1.  Most sane and qualified people will initially think you are nuts to suggest running for office.  I am a big believer that the best candidates for office in swing seats are the community leader types who have spent a lifetime running for office and never knew it.  This is surely because that was the model from my first boss, Doug Wiles, who had done about everything imaginable in community service except put his name on the ballot.  But a lot of these types don't want to run.  They abhor partisanship, they think they can make a bigger difference locally and/or they don't want to take the time away from their business and family.   I had people hang up on me, others who said "Are you F'ing kidding me" and many more who just couldn't get their arms around the idea of politics.  I also had districts where I talked to 30-40 people, all who said no.

It is especially hard when you are recruiting people to run as Democrats.  Again, understanding the type of profile that tends to win in swing seats, the idea of serving in the minority is not appealing to many.  Add to it the need to go to war every two years to get re-elected and it can be a hard sell.  It isn't an excuse -- it is a reality.  I do think this changes some if a Democrat is elected Governor.

2. Term Limits impacts everything.  There is now a ton of academic research which demonstrates how term limits impacts the decision of candidates to run for office.  Incumbency is a pretty big deal.  I can't remember the exact number, but fewer than 20 incumbents have lost in the Florida House since term limits started in 2000, and on the State Cabinet, you have to go back to 1998 to find an incumbent who was defeated (Sandy Mortham in a primary) and back to 1994 to find a Cabinet member who lost re-election in a general election. If you assume that most successful candidates are rational actors, they can use the Google and find this out as well.  Rational candidates don't typically engage in high risk or fruitless endeavors.

3.  When it comes to campaigns, people in politics make decisions based on their interests, not their party.  Pundits, observer and activists tend to talk about candidates in the abstract -- he or she comes from X region, or has x background.   But often people for get, as simple as it sounds -- and to steal a concept from Governor Romney, candidates are people too.

Take for example Jack Seiler, the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale.  I think Jack is one of the brightest and most talented elected officials in our party -- a view shared by a lof of people on both sides of the aisle.  Jack could be a strong candidate for Attorney General or CFO (or for that matter, Governor).  But I am also confident that Jack will not be on the 2014 ballot?  Why?  He has a great job that he loves and he has a family.  Running against an incumbent is an uphill climb and my party has a history of being unkind to candidates who run and lose.  So why risk it, when he can wait four years and run when there is no incumbent. 

For this reason, I don't buy into the lack of bench argument for either party.  One of the other laws of politics:  things are never as bad or as good as they seem certainly plays in here.  Without going to deep in the weeds, I could think of a dozen Democrats like Jack Seiler who would be strong statewide candidates for one of the three Cabinet positions.  And none of them are likely to run.  Why?  Because they don't have to.  This is less of a bench problem than it is a calendar problem.   Do I wish some of them would step up and run?  Absolutely -- competition is at the heart of and vital for democracy.  That being said, do I understand their decision to sit these races out? Completely I do.  In democracy, you decide when and where you want to raise your hand.  

And I don't suspect this is a conversation we will be having in 2018. 

Which takes us back to Allie Braswell.  I run into a lot of Allie Braswell's on the road -- well intentioned people who say "why not me" when looking at running statewide.   They underestimate the sheer size and scope of Florida, the challenge of raising money, and the scrutiny that comes from the magnifying glass of public attention.  I've worked on four statewide campaigns and one other statewide operation, and until you've done it, you simply can't comprehend just how big Florida really is.  I basically gave up sleep for entire years -- and I wasn't the one on the ballot.  Dan Gelber once said that running downballot is like running for Governor on a State Senate budget and campaign. And as Dan proved, if you pick the wrong year to run, there isn' t much you can do anyways, since downballot candidates often lack the name ID to separate themselves from the political tradewinds.

Therefore, when I get a chance to talk to these folks, I lean in pretty hard on these points, and always encourage looking at another office.   Running statewide when you are not ready and losing by a huge margin isn't good for you, or your party.  

Was the Braswell candidacy an utter disaster?  Yes.  Does it mean the end of Democrats in Florida?  Hardly not.  And for my Democratic friends, while I think 2014 could be a good year at the top of the ticket for the home team, it isn't going to be a huge year down the ballot.  The open seats in the legislature aren't great either.  But as you look to 2016 and 2018 and beyond, more doors open.  People say politics is about timing and opportunity -- and i would add one more, preparation.  So don't stress about the Allie Braswell deal -- start focusing on where the opportunities exist on the future calendar.  And don't take my word for it -- look at history.  It is how the GOP went from the sidewalk to the penthouse. 


The New Face of Florida Democratic Coalition

This weekend, Florida Democrats will meet for their annual big fundraising dinner, the Jefferson Jackson Dinner. Given the timing, this seemed like as good of a time as any to take a hard look at the evolving nature of the Democratic coalition.

In the grand scheme of things, the November 2006 Governor's Election in Florida was not too long ago and for most of the last six plus years, our state has been living in a protracted and non-stop political battle. We've had two hyper competitive Presidentials sandwiching the most expensive Governor's race in our history, and over those three elections -- and in part because of the energy surrounding those three elections, the make-up of the Florida electorate has been altered. And no where is it more acute than among Democrats.

For the sake of this analysis, I've looked at a range of voter registration data, starting with the book closing on the 2006 general election and ending at the book closing of the 2012 general election. In part, I chose these dates because the book closing in 2006 was the first time the state more accurately reported Hispanics.

So as a baseline, here are a couple of facts about how the state has changed:

Since Nov 2006 the total number of active registered voters in Florida has grown from 10,433.849 to 11,934,446 voters. Some people quibble with using active vs inactive, since inactive voters can vote -- but then again, they are inactive for a reason and if an inactive voter didn't vote in either of the two biggest Presidential election mobilizations in our nation's history (08 and 12), you can probably safely bet your house they won't vote in 2014.

Out of the growth of 1.5 million voters, 61 percent are either black (African American or Caribbean) and/or Hispanic.

Of the new Black and Hispanic voters, 65% -- or 600,000 registered Democratic. Only 6 percent, or roughly 56,000 signed up as Republicans. The rest are no party or minor party affiliation.

There are 100,000 fewer whites registered as Democrats than November 2006. Republicans have seen a growth of roughly 240,000 non-Hispanic whites, and the ranks of unaffiliated and minor party have grown by almost 300,000.

Democrats increased their voter registration advantage by roughly 250,000, but...all of that came from counties that are losing vote share in comparison to the entire state. In fact, the GOP marginally gained in terms of registration in counties that are growing. To give an example, Broward County has seen Democrats increase the partisan registration advantage by 100,000 since 2006, however, between 2002 and 2010, the county's share of the actual off-year vote dropped from roughly 9 percent to 8.3%.

So what does all this mean for Democrats and the 2014 election -- and beyond?

When I moved to Florida as a kid in 1984, if you lived in North Florida, you were a Democrat. It didn't mean you voted for a Democrat at the top of the ticket, but it meant you were a Democrat if you wanted to vote in local primaries. This was pretty common in the south. In fact, my late southern politics professor at Sewanee -- hardly a bastion of liberal thought -- once said about Republicans in the South: "every town had a Republican and a town drunk, and they were often the same person." (his words, not mine).

What this meant for electoral math was statewide Democrats would often lose a significant chunk of their base vote to Republicans at the federal level, and later at the state level. As Republicans gained strength in growing parts of Florida, this meant the math to win Florida for a Democrat got trickier. And as migration to Florida drove partisan change in Florida in the early part of the 2000s, the Democratic party advantage dropped to roughly 250,000 in 2006.

Then the economy started to stall, and so did non Hispanic white growth. And with it, the face of Florida started to change too. And when the census added everyone up, between 2000 and 2010, the state’s white (non-Hispanic) population grew by just under 12%, while Black population grew by 22.1% and Hispanic by 36.5%. As a result, the non-Hispanic white population of Florida dropped from roughly 61% to 53%. When that trickled down to voter registration, particularly among Democrats, the results are pretty stunning, given it all happened in just six years.

So here are a couple of key findings about the new Democratic coalition:

Since Nov 2006, non-Hispanic whites dropped have dropped from 63% of Democratic Party members to 53%. In gaining 562,447 voters between 2006 and 2012, the party rolls added 325,382 black (African American & Caribbean) and 274,496 Hispanics. At the same time, the party lost 107,929 non-Hispanic white voters. This is both positive for Democrats, since these voters tend to me more predictable in their party loyalty, but at the same time, tend to have lower turnout rates.

North Florida registration is starting to line up more with its politics. Despite being more than 22% of the likely statewide vote in 2014, the North Florida media markets made up less than 0.5% of the party's registration growth. Further, some 58% of all the decrease in white Democratic voter registration occurred in the North Florida media markets, which make up about 19% the entire Democratic vote and just 21% of all Democratic white registered voters.

Over half of the Democratic Party growth came from southeast Florida. Nearly 54 percent of the Democratic Party growth came from Southeast Florida, and virtually all the rest came from the I-4 corridor. The party actually lost a few voters in the North Florida markets. By comparison, over 1/3 of the GOP growht came from North Florida, and less than 15% from southeast Florida.

As much focus as there is on Hispanic growth, black voter registration led the Democratic surge. Nearly 58% of the growth in Democratic voter registration came from black (African American and Caribbean) registered voters. In fact, African American voter registration growth in the Democratic Party accounts for a whopping 22% of all the registration growth, the largest single subgroup. Black voters now make up 28% of Democratic registered voters.

Demographics are working for the Democrats, but...growth trends are not. 32 of Florida's 67 counties increased their share of the statewide vote between the 2002 and 2010 Governors Race. They make up about 43% of the total statewide vote. Of the 32, in the 08/12 POTUS and 10 FlGov, Democrats won in just six of them. In other words, it is just wishful thinking among Democrats who believe Florida will become a more predictable Democratic performing state just on demographics alone.

There are a lot of other interesting findings, but for sake of time, I'll tackle them in a few future projects.

So what does all this mean?

First, the Democratic base should become more predictable. North Florida white Democrats in many cases were really more of a swing vote than a base vote, while the newer coalition should provide higher electoral loyalty scores. This means the party won't start with a large base deficit. In fact, should the Democrats nominate Charlie Crist, there is a decent chance that the Democratic vote in 2014 will be more loyal than the Republican vote, given the former Governor's traditional strength in the Bay Area among more moderate Republicans.

Secondly, Democrats are clearly beating the Republicans in the race for Hispanic voters. Over 50% of Hispanic voter registration growth has accrued to the Democrats, while the Republicans account for only 12%. However, this means that 38% of new Hispanic voters have signed up with neither party. In fact, Hispanics make up a disproportionate share of unaffiliated and minor party voters - nearly 19%, compared to 14% of statewide registered voters. Key word in that sentence: registered -- as a proportion of 2010 Gubernatorial voters, Hispanic voters did not come close to either of those percentages.

Next, while I do not subscribe to the theory that Florida is a purely turnout state (more on that in another blog), turnout in some ways is more important than ever before. Black and Hispanic voters historically have lower turnout rates, which means as the coalition becomes more diverse, the needs to focus on base turnout will continue to grow.

Finally, and I've been beating this drum for a few years now, it is just a matter of time before we see a sea change in the electoral politics in Dade County. As I blogged earlier this year, Dade County's demographic changes can't be undersold, and the impact on statewide elections are more than significant. For example, Jim Davis in 2006 received the same vote share as John Kerry (53%), Alex Sink received what President Obama received in 2008 (57%). And with President Obama continuing the +4 trend, earning 61%, should the Democratic nominee in 2014 simply follow form, the Dade County margins in 2014 will nearly wipe out the entire 2010 Rick Scott margin of victory.

There is a lot of good news in the data for Democrats, and it seems to bare out Senator Graham's prediction in the mid 90s that Florida would become a hyper competitive state, just through demographic changes alone. But no one on my side can rest on their laurels. As the Obama economy continues to grow, it is inevitable that internal migration to Florida will increase, and with it, white Republicans moving here, which will surely balance out the demographic growth. And to understand what this means, there is still roughly 1 non-Hispanic white voter for every 5 Hispanic voters, which means for every point of vote share lost with non-Hispanic whites, the Hispanic vote share has to increase by 5 points to make up the difference. Keeping the white vote around 40% for the Democratic candidate remains fairly vital to a path to victory.

In addition, Democrats can't gloss over the deficits in some of the fast growing suburban and shoulder counties, and recognize that their nominees must have crossover appeal to win. For example, there is still roughly 1 non-Hispanic white voter for every 5 Hispanic voters, which means for every point of vote share lost with non-Hispanic whites, the Hispanic vote share has to increase by nearly 5 points to make up the difference. And we can not take our base vote for granted.

And lastly, many of the institutional party challenges remain. Recruiting good candidates down the ballot to build a farm team and creating a stable fundraising base, not just for the party, but to help the aforementioned candidates get off the ground. Both of these things would improve if a Democrat wins the Governor's Mansion in 2014.

As I said, this piece has just a fraction of the data that I worked through in 10-12 hours of data crunching, so expect more about how the electorate is shaping up in the coming months.

As always, I appreciate your readership and I always value your questions and comments. Feel free to drop me a note at steven dot schale at gmail.



Today is D-Day. Last May, Nikole and I drove from Paris out to the Normandy beaches. Like many Americans, seeing those beaches during my lifetime was something very important to me. That being said, I was not really prepared for it, nor for the impact it would have.

If you have never been, the Normandy beaches are really rural. If you live in Florida, think of the stretch of Atlantic ocean between St. Augustine Beach and Ormond Beach -- just a string of small towns, nothing fancy at all.

If you drive from north to south, you also note something remarkable: the further south, and closer you get to Omaha Beach, the higher the cliffs. At the end of a really long day, you get to the American cemetery, which basically sits at the top of the highest cliff.

And there you learn what the words courage and sacrifice really mean.

Our soldiers took responsibility for arguably the hardest stretch of land. From the moments their boats approached the shores, they were under attack from incredibly well fortified protections high on the cliffs. In some cases, those cliffs are 100 feet or more in vertical elevation change. They were sitting ducks, but even in the face of pure fear and for many, certain death, they kept fighting for something bigger than them.

We kept saying to ourselves, how in the world did anyone make it and how in the world did those guys actually take that beach.

Something like 2500 young men died that day -- and by young men, I really mean kids -- 18, 19, 20 year old kids. And what they did that day altered the course of human history for the better. And those who came home came back and built the greatest nation in the history of mankind.

Personally, I think every American who runs for office or who works in the political arena should be required to see it. For me, it was very grounding in terms of providing real perspective. The dumb fights that drive way too much of our political discourse are rendered meaningless when you look at those cliffs and visit the cemeteries.

Freedom means we should fight about our differences, but those soldiers were all Americans, something I worry that we often forget today. I know I walked away thinking I needed to more be a part of solutions, and less a part of the problem. I don't think you can go there without leaving feeling the same way


The Curious Case of Dade County

Back in the spring doldrums of 2008, when a couple of polls showed Barack Obama losing Florida to John McCain by as much as 15 points, I was a fairly lone voice in the wilderness trying to make the case that Barack Obama had more than a shot to win Florida -- that he could and would win Florida.  That confidence was more than just pundit hubris:  there were several very distinct signs that showed Florida was fundamentally different than 2004 or 2000. 

One of those signs was the curious case of Jim Davis in Dade County in 2006.  Now in full disclosure, I like Jim a lot and he had a lot of smart people working for him -- two of whom went on to be fairly major players in Obamaland.  Given the significant financial disadvantages he faced, as I am sure Jim himself would acknowledge, the goal for most of that campaign had to be just staying on TV, not drilling down and microtargeting Dade Hispanics.  Yet despite losing Florida by seven points, he won Dade County by eight.  That caught my attention.   

Why is this curious?  This was fundamentally different than the previous three Gubernatorial elections.  In 1994, 1998 and 2002, the GOP candidate - Jeb Bush carried Dade County twice and if you average the three elections, won more than 51% of the two party vote, only 2.5% less than his average statewide take in those three races.   But in 2006, despite losing statewide, Jim won 53% of the vote in Dade, beating Charlie Crist by 8 points there.  In total, Crist's Dade county share, 45%, was seven points lower than his statewide share of 52%.  Compared to the three previous elections, this was a significant shift.

Now the easy answer is the Jeb factor -- Jeb wasn't on the ballot so that explains it all.  But back to Jim - its not like he did anything truly special in Dade that would account for that much of a shift, and remember back to 2006, Charlie Crist was a pretty popular guy among Republicans.  Plus there was the little tidbit from 2004:  Despite losing Florida by five points more than Gore did, Kerry's vote share in Dade was actually a tiny bit higher.  

So why was this encouraging to me? Simple -- Florida is all about margins.  For Democrats, it is running up the score in Broward, Palm Beach, winning Orange, Hillsborough and a few others and hanging on in the other 55 or so other counties.  But if we could flip Dade in a real way for Senator Obama, it changed the entire game.  And it was this simple:  Kerry lost Florida by a margin of roughly 380,000 votes, but if then Senator Obama could just add 3-4 points to the Kerry/Davis margin in Dade, we'd win Dade by 130,000-140,000 votes, which would make up almost a 1/3 of the margin we had to improve over Kerry.  As Bill Clinton would say, its arithmetic, and Dade could be a big part of it.

When it was all said and done, Barack Obama defeated John McCain by 140,000 votes in Dade County.  Of the 42 counties where Obama bettered the John Kerry margins, Dade County was easily the biggest change, and the rest is history.

In 2012, when the national media wanted to write off Florida, my argument was simple:  something was happening in Dade and we had a chance to really blow it out there  In the end that margin grew to 22 points and a vote margin of nearly 210,000.  The change in margin between 2008 and 2012 in Dade County alone was nearly the President's entire 2012 margin of victory.

It is all about one word:  Demographics

As these blogs often go, this story starts many years ago, in this case 2000.  I'd like to start it earlier, but voter registration by ethnicity gets a little harder to track down before 2000, so it is a good place to start.  

In 2000, Al Gore and George Bush both earned 48.8% of the statewide vote, and in Dade County, Al Gore beat Bush 52.6%-46.3%.  In other words, Bush earned 2.5% less in Dade than he did statewide. Going forward, you will see why this is significant.

The profile in Dade from a voter registration perspective looked like this:  Democrats had a roughly 7 point advantage in voter registration, which netted to about 50,000 more Democrats than Republicans.  

In 2000, 31% of county registered voters were Anglo, 20% were Black (African American or Caribbean), and 44% were Hispanic.  Furthermore -- and in many ways the defining political feature of Dade County in those days:  some 57% of Dade Hispanics were Republican.

Fast forward to 2012, and the picture is very different.  Barack Obama wins Florida 50-49, but carries Dade 62-38.  Where Bush 2000's Dade share was only 2.5% lower than his statewide share, the Romney 2012 vote share in Dade was 11 points lower, creating a margin of loss that could not be made up elsewhere.  

At a macro level, the county profile was also very different than today.  In 2012, only 19% of county voters are Anglo, 21% are Black, and 54% of county voters are Hispanic.  And unlike 2000, the percentage of Hispanics who are Republican has dropped to 39%.  

The table below shows the change in the countywide voter profile and the Democratic vote share since 2000:

    Anglo Black Hispanic    Dem Vote
00 GenElex 31.2% 19.7% 44.4%   53%
04 GenElex 26.2% 20.4% 46.9%   53%
06 GenElex 25.1% 20.2% 48.3%   53%
08 GenElex 23.2% 20.3% 50.2%   57%
10 GenElex 21.7% 19.5% 52.2%   56%
12 Gen Elex 19.1% 20.5% 54.1%   62%


The picture becomes much clearer when looking at the raw voter registration numbers.

Since 2000, the total number of Dade voters has risen from 902,464 to 1,281,368 (book closing in 2012), a gain of 378,904.  Over that time, the number of Anglo voters has dropped by about 37,000, meaning in reality, non-Anglo voters in Dade have grown by 415,000.  Of that change, some 77% of them are Hispanic, and here is the kicker, only 15% of those registered Republican.  Since book closing in 2006, the aforementioned Jim Davis year, it is even more acute: 194,413 voters have been added to the rolls, of which 168,047 are Hispanic, or some 86% of the change in voter registration.  Out of this, less than 8% registered Republican.  In other words, the GOP monolith among Hispanics, which is the key piece that allowed the GOP to win Dade in 1998 and 2002, and allowed the county to remain close in federal elections, has gone away.

But before my Democratic friends rejoice too much, it hasn't totally gone to the Democratic column.  In fact, since 06, the number of new registrants that have registered NPA (no party affiliation) or minor party equals that of Democrats, and if you go back to 2000, more new Hispanic registrants have registered NPA than Democratic.  It is worth noting that there are similar trends with new Black voters in Dade, who are registering as NPA at rates  nearly on par with Democratic registrants, though there has not been a change in voter behavior.  

The tables below show these Hispanic registration trends:

  GOP Dem NPA/Minor Total   % GOP
2000 226,552 94,428 79,882 400,862   56.5%
2006 257,690 131,805 135,332 524,827   49.1%
2012 270,896 209,763 212,215 692,874   39.1%


And more specifically, this one shows the change in registration:

  GOP Dem NPA Total   % GOP % Dem
00-12 chg 44,344 115,335 132,333 292,012   15.2% 39.5%
06-12 chg 13,206 77,958 76,883 168,047   7.9% 46.4%


So what does this mean?

The future is still a little unclear on this one, but for Democrats, the picture is definitely brighter.

For Democrats, the best news in the data is the change in vote margin seems to be driven more by Hispanic than Black (African American & Caribbean) voter registration change -- in other words, it can be less attributed to an Obama excitement bump and more to a fundamental change in population.  Compared to the Orange County analysis I did last year, where almost half of the voter registration change that helped Democrats came from African American voters, Hispanic voter registration gains are 3-4 times Black changes.  In addition, not just the share, but the actual number of Anglo voters has fallen and is falling. This makes perfect sense, since the 2010 census found that non-Hispanic white voters make up less than 10% of the Dade population today, a number that can be hard to grasp.  Dade is fundamentally different than just about anywhere.

But on the flipside, the Hispanic piece is also more fickle.  The sheer fact that nearly 50% of Hispanics added to the rolls in the last 12 years have joined neither party is proof of this fact.  

So what about the Cuban vote?  Much was made of some exit polling that showed that Cubans voted for Obama over Romney.  Frankly, I don't believe it (though I think it was very close), but I do think there is some evidence in the data that the new generation of Cubans are definitely moving away from the Republicans.  Here's why:

In 2000, according to the census, Cubans made up 50% of Dade Hispanics, a number that has actually grown to 53% in the latest census.  Even though many smaller populations from other nations of origin are growing faster, in some cases, much faster, Cubans easily remain the biggest force in Dade. But at the same time, the GOP voter registration advantage among Hispanics has shrunk.  In other words, while nation of origin is not a fact on a voter file, it would be hard to argue that there isn't at least some relationship between the theory that younger Cubans are less Republican (note I didn't say more Democratic) and the data showing a growing Cuban population and the data showing a vast majority of Hispanics joining the rolls are signing up as Democrats or NPA.  There is another blog piece in my future on just the census trends in Dade.

But the electoral trends are pretty unmistakable.  Regardless of what happened elsewhere in Florida, the Dade trends kept moving forward.

In 2004, Kerry got 53%. In 08, Obama got 57%.  In 2012, Obama won 62%.  

In 2002, McBride won 46%.  In 06, Davis won 53%.  In 2010, Sink won 57%.

When it boils down to it, as many who have heard me speak over the last 5-6 years, I truly believe that Dade is one of the most dynamic places in America, and it is only a matter of time before its politics more reflects its demographics.  It is hard to see a world by the end of the decade where Republicans so thoroughly dominate partisan races in Hispanic majority areas.  In 2006, when Dan Gelber and I helped elect Luis Garcia to the state house as only the second Cuban Democrat to be elected, most of the punditocracy was amused that we would try.  Yet in 2012, another Cuban Democrat was fairly easily elected to the State House and Joe Garcia was elected to Congress.  There will be more of this, not less going forward, assuming my party can field strong candidates.

The 2010 piece of this, again going back to Bill Clinton, is also basic arithmetic. Rick Scott beat Alex Sink by approximately 61,000 votes.  In 2006, Jim Davis got roughly the same percentage of the vote as John Kerry got in 2004 in Dade.  In 2010, Alex Sink received roughly the same percentage of the vote as Barack Obama got in 2008 in Dade.  If in 2014, the Democratic nominee continues the trend and earns roughly the same percentage of the vote as the Previous Democratic nominee for President, he or she would land at 61-62% of the vote in Dade, and if turnout is no higher than it was in 2010, that would mean that candidate would win Dade by a margin of 38,000-47,000 more than Sink.  Put another way, a Barack Obama type win for the Democrat in 2014 in Dade would almost wipe out the entire Scott statewide margin from 2010.

Is it more important than the I-4?  I don't think so -- yet, mainly because the sheer number of swing voters in Central Florida can dramatically shift county level margins in huge numbers.  But, in an election like we saw in both 2010 and 2012, where statewide independents are basically split, then Dade County provides a new place (compared to earlier in the century) to run up a big margin if you are a Democrat.

So there you go.  It is complicated, maddening, cumbersome, expensive, difficult -- and that just gets you from the gate at Miami International to the rental car lot.  But it is always evolving, always dynamic and never boring, because it really is its own place. 

As always, thanks for reading.  Please send me your thoughts or comment below.



Bush 00/04 vs Obama 08/12...Their Road Maps to Winning

Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Nevada and Ohio share a unique distinction:  these are the only five states who twice voted for President Bush and twice voted for President Obama.  

Here in Florida, while each of the four elections was very different, the topline on the wins for each side was pretty similar.  President Bush carried Florida twice by a combined margin of roughly 380,000 votes, while President Obama won Florida twice by a margin of roughly 310,000.  In total, some 30 million voters cast a ballot for the nominee of one of the two major parties, with only 0.2% of the vote separating the Bush wins from the Obama wins over those four elections.  Hard to get much closer.

I plan on diving deeper into the subject once the voter files have all been updated and we can get a better handle on who actually voted, but for the sake of this exercise, this piece will examine the differences -- and the similarities, in voting habits at a county and media market level between President Bush and President Obama in their two Florida wins.

Couple of caveats -- the data below is presented in terms of actual county and media market margins, in other words, real votes -- and the change between Presidents.  For example, President Bush carried Hillsborough County (Tampa) in 2000 and 2004 by a combined margin of 42,647, while President Obama carried the county in 2008 and 2012 by a combined margin of 72,889.  This change in vote nets out to a 115,536 change in the margin towards the Democratic nominee.

And since I am a Democrat and since we still control the table after the 2012 win, for the sake of ease, some of the data will be presented from the perspective of the Obama win margins vs the Bush win margins. 

First, a few macro level points:

Florida has grown a lot.  In 2000, just under 6 million people voted for either President Bush or Vice President Gore, while in 2012, over 8.4 million people voted for either President Obama or Governor Romney, or a 41% change in voter participation.  Interestingly, there was only a minor change in total voters from 2008 and 2012 -- a fact that when combined with the changes in the ethnic make-up of our total voter pool, I could argue really helped the President win Florida in 2012.

Also, a disproportionate share of the growth, compared to the media market population, has come from the Orlando and Jacksonville markets.  In other words, these two are growing faster as a proportion of the total statewide vote compared to other markets.  At the same time, both the Tampa and Miami markets are shrinking as proportion of the statewide vote.   For example, in the two Bush wins, the Tampa market made up 25% of the statewide vote, but in the two Obama wins, the market landed at 24% of the statewide market, while the Orlando market grew from 19.1% to 20.4%.  

As mentioned above, President Bush carried Florida by a combined 380,000 votes in 2000 and 2004 and President Obama win Florida by a combined 310,000 votes in 2008 and 2012.  This equates to a roughly 690,000 vote change between their margins of victory.  Yet interestingly enough, in 48 counties, the 2008 and 2012 GOP nominees actually increased their combined margin of victory over the two Bush wins.  The problem for the GOP:  Those counties only added up to 32% of the total statewide voter turnout in 2012. 

In fact, President Obama performed better than President Bush in terms of vote margin in the seven biggest counties, and in 11 of the top 14.  And in a spoiler alert -- 8 of those 11 occurred in just three media markets.

So with that, let's dive in at a bit more granular level and look at the similarities and differences:

The Similarities  

One of the first things that pops in the data is when you look at the state by media markets, in six of the ten Florida media markets, the party of the eventual nominee had virtually no impact on the margin of victory in that market.  Those six markets are: Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tallahassee, Fort Myers, Pensacola and West Palm Beach.

To illustrate just how stable these markets were across the four cycles, while these six markets make up 34% of the statewide vote, they only make up 3% of the change between the Bush and Obama wins.  

Take the West Palm Beach market, considered a base Democratic market, which made up just about 10.5% of the statewide vote in 2012, the Democratic nominees in 2000 and 2004 carried the market by 201,230 votes, while President Obama won the market by 201,707 votes.  In other words, President Obama in his two wins only won the West Palm Beach market by 477 more votes than Kerry and Gore combined.  

On the flipside, in the aforementioned fast growing Jacksonville market, considered a base Republican market, which made up 8.9% of the statewide vote in 2012, President Bush carried the market by roughly 291K votes, while the Republican nominees in 2008 and 2012 carried the market by 284K votes, again, virtually no change.  But Jacksonville also shows how the numbers can be deceptive:  while the market looked the same, the county level data shows a different story.  While President Bush won Duval County (Jacksonville) by a combined 105,000 votes, President Obama cut that margin to 22,000 votes -- yet the growing margins that Mitt Romney and John McCain carried out of the fast growing suburban counties like Clay and St. Johns nearly made up for the Duval margins.  Keeping Duval close in the future is key for Democrats who want to avoid getting totally swamped in the market.

The Differences -- and Where Obama Won

Of the four other markets, only Panama City saw an appreciable positive GOP change from the Bush coalitions to the Obama coalitions.  The two Republican  nominees increased the GOP margin of victory in this market by over 45%, from 92,000 to 135,000 votes.  However, the challenge going forward for the GOP is it is hard to imagine how this grows further.  At just 1.9% of the statewide vote, there isn't much room for growth.

Before moving on, just to show how Republican the Panhandle is, despite the Pensacola and Panama City markets making up less than 6% of the statewide vote, Senator McCain and Governor Romney carried the region by a combined 360,000 votes.  This is a bigger margin than four of the five markets that President Obama carried:  Tallahassee, Gainesville, West Palm Beach and Orlando, combined, despite those four markets adding up to 34% of the statewide vote.

Back to where Obama made up  his ground:  Tampa, Orlando, and Miami.  In fact, President Obama improved the Democratic margins in these markets by 711,000 votes over Gore and Kerry.  Remember, the total Democratic margin improvement from the Bush wins to the Obama wins was 690,000 votes.  

In 2000 and 2004, the Democratic nominee for President won these two markets by a combined 138,000 votes, with all of the winning margin coming from the Miami media market.  In 2008 and 2012 elections, President Obama won the three markets by a whopping 849,000 votes.  A table below will illustrate this, but essentially, just roughly half of that margin change came from the Miami media market, while the remaining half came from the two I-4 markets.  

Here is how the three markets looked across each of the four elections in terms of the Democratic margin of victory:






















In other words, in the Obama wins, the base margin in the Miami market (Dade and Broward for the most part) simply swamped the GOP margins in their markets, and President Obama sealed the deal by either winning the I-4 corridor (2008) or keeping it razor close (2012).  


There are several interesting takeaways, from my perspective.  

Since Florida truly became a swing state in 1992, you could generally argue that the GOP base vote was equal to or maybe a bit bigger than the Dem base vote in Presidential elections, particularly since the I-4 corridor tended to lean a little to the right.  

But this changed in the Obama coalitions.  Here is how:

In the two Bush wins, the Bush margin of victory in his four base markets:  Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Pensacola and Panama City was about 50% larger than the Democratic margin of victory in the the Miami media market in 2000 and 2004.  In the Obama elections, his Miami media market margin alone was bigger than the the entire GOP margin in their four base markets.  Add all the Democratic base markets (Miami, West Palm, Gainesville and Tallahassee), and we see that unlike the Bush wins, where the base markets were pretty much at parity, meaning that the I-4 markets decided the election, in the Obama wins, the Democratic base markets significantly outperformed the GOP base markets.

The table below, which shows the Democratic margins, illustrates this:


Bush (00/04)

Obama (08/12)


Base R




Base D




Miami Only





Simply, in 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama started the election with a bigger base than the GOP, meaning to win, he just needed to keep it all in check along the critical I-4 corridor.

Secondly, Florida is changing.  If there is one word to sum up the difference in the coalitions:  Demographics.  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%.  Census data shows that non-Cubans are becoming a bigger piece of the pie in Miami-Dade, and polling data shows that the younger Cuban voters are less aligned to the traditional exile politics of their parents and grandparents.  

Next, as I explored in an earlier piece, the Hispanic population trends have arguably had the most acute impact on the Orlando market, where the growth has been driven by Puerto Rican residents, who unlike immigrant Hispanic populations, can vote the first day they land in Florida.  And while not as dramatic, some of these same trends can be seen in Tampa, though as former Floridian Beth Reinhard wrote in the authoritative piece on Hillsborough County, Tampa still remains the cornerstone swing area.

Take the difference between 2008 and 2012 in just voter registration, where minority voter registration was twice as high as white voter registration.  When the books closed on 2012, there were some 300,000 more Hispanic voters than 2008, roughly 150,000 more black (African American and Caribbean American) voters, with roughly a similar 150,000 white voters.  Among the Hispanics, right 90% of the growth accrued to either Democrats or Independents/NPA voters.  Specifically, only 32,000 of the 300,000 were Republicans.  

But when it all boils down, the last four elections have roughly looked something like this:  Tie, Bush +5, Obama +3, Obama +1.  More specifically, the average Bush two-party vote margin of win was 2.8 points, while the average Obama win was 1.8 points, both within the margin of error of most polling.  And as mentioned above, add up all the votes over the last four elections, and the 70,000 votes separating the two parties equates to a 0.2% GOP advantage.  

In other words, Florida is Florida, and at 29 electoral votes for 2016 and 2020, expect it to be fully in play for the next few cycles.


The Next Chapter...


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

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

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

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

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

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




The Ten Most Interesting Fla State Leg Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Five Things to Watch During Qualifying Week

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

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

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

5.  Does anyone bail on a Congressional run?

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

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

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

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

3.  How many swing districts will go unchallenged?

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

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

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

1a.  What is the unknown this week?

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

1.  See Jack Run, wherever Jack runs.  

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



Quick Take on Florida Q Poll

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

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

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

So, about the poll.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there you go. Florida, Florida, Florida.