Anyone suggesting certainty in their prediction for Tuesday’s political outcome in Florida should be discounted immediately. Republicans have cause for plenty of anxiety, and Democrats have set themselves up for major disappointment.
The numbers just don’t lie. After yesterday’s early voting “souls to the polls” effort, Democrats still don’t have the same proportion of the early vote as they had at this same time in 2016 when they lost bigtime with their Election Day voters. Republican candidates are rightfully nervous about an apparent enthusiasm gap in the comparative grassroots events, but it would be smarter to examine the numbers that really count: actual votes.
In the 2016 election, almost 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans had cast ballots by mail or at an early vote location prior to Election Day. Trump beat Clinton by 113,000 votes. At this point, even before we get a serious look at the absentees collected from over the weekend, Democrats have outperformed Republicans in the total ballots cast early or by mail by only 24,000 votes. Democrats may claim to be more excited this year, but their voters just are not coming out at the levels they need.
Ultimately, the NPA voters in Florida will have another outsized say in what happens tomorrow. That means the political science in closing these races will matter much less than the political art. What do I mean by that? Political science is the industry of data collection, polling, spending directives, and battleplans engineered and fretted over by those of us in the consulting and campaign services industry. Political art is almost 100% performed by the candidate and a few of his or her key consultants. It relates to style of communication, the look and feel of the candidate, and above all, the ability to relate to and motivate the electorate of the moment. For reference, in 2016, Clinton was a better scientist. Trump destroyed her as an artist.
I can make the argument that the champion of the political science this cycle has been Rick Scott. But does it matter when the undecideds in this race have been sitting in single digits since mid-summer? I’d say the difference maker is a hurricane. The images of Rick Scott in action, post-hurricane Michael, give him an artistic advantage. Bill Nelson looks and feels beyond his time or anyone else’s. Incumbency is powerful, but in this case, I give Scott the advantage by 1%, his usual winning margin.
The Governor’s race is much tighter. Neither DeSantis nor Gillum have provided a meaty, over-arching advantage to define themselves beyond the current national political trends. We have a sense that DeSantis is pro-Trump and pro-Scott and that Gillum is pro-Obama. Without a lot of other detail and without any major touchstone pocketbook issues to drive decision-making, count on another thin layer of undecided NPAs to gravitate toward the party that has been for tax relief and economic freedom. If Republican Election Day turnout holds up, advantage DeSantis by less than 1%.
In down ballot races, Democrats have been out-spent and out-campaigned. Republicans will pick up all state Cabinet seats, one seat in the State Senate, and several seats in the State House, including scoring key victories in Miami. Then, count on history to help Republicans. Even if Gillum somehow ekes out a victory, old habits will make him a one-termer, for he will govern from the radical left with an over-arching flavor of incompetence and corruption.
The Democrats have put all their money on one race this cycle. Let’s see if the gamble pays off. I think the numbers say no.