We enter today in uncharted waters. More than 5 million ballots have been cast, some 2 million more people have voted as voted before the Election Day in 2014. The Republicans went into that Election Day with a 97,000-voter lead, or roughly a 3% advantage. One way to think about this election in comparison – even with the Election Day advantage Republicans had in 2014 and will have in 2018, I have no doubt Charlie Crist would have won in 2014 with the electorate where it is today. In terms of the partisan difference in the electorate, Democrats start Tuesday morning in a net of about 120,000 voter better position than four years ago.
My Republican friends like to point out that the electorate in 2016 was very similar, and I agree, it is. I also agree to their point that the electorate tomorrow is likely to be more Republican than Democratic, possibly by as much as 150,000-200,000 votes (though I think the latter is unlikely given that Democrats will still have infrequent voters turning out to cancel some of their advantage). But one thing appears in all polling to be different: crossover voters, and independents, both who broke late to Trump in 2016, and appear to be breaking for Gillum and Nelson.
To give a quick example of what this means, even with the large surge of GOP voters in 2016, the defining feature of Trump’s win was late deciding independents, who overall gave Trump a four-point edge in the exit poll – a number that based on polling, seems quite plausible. If that same segment of the electorate had given Hillary Clinton a four-point edge, she would have won Florida by a margin like Barack Obama in 2012, who, yup you guessed it, won independents.
The share of the electorate that is Black at 13.6%, which means Black voters are turning out at a higher rate than their share of voter registration (13.2%). Hispanic is up to 13%, which still lags its registration, but it is moving up. Overall, the electorate that is about 68% white. Several of you have asked why I keep mentioning this number, and it is simple: Democrats in the last few cycles have struggled with white voters, so the greater the percentage of the electorate that is diverse, from a math perspective, the lower share of the white vote required. Among the voters who did not vote in 2014, Democrats have about a 110K voter lead among the expansion universe, and it is more Hispanic — over 18%, than the electorate at large. It is also more NPA, with 26% of expansion voters not registering with either party, which makes sense because it is also younger — nearly 23% under the age of 34.
So what happens tomorrow? Republicans show up, and infrequent voters continue at some level, maybe not as high as in early vote, but still at a steady click So what does this mean? I have been pretty set on about 7.25 million for turnout for most of two weeks. I don’t see it going lower than this, and while it may be a bit higher, I don’t know that it is a lot higher, mainly because while we have seen surge, a lot of the surge is really just convenience voting. As I told a reporter or two today, the most remarkable thing is just how normal this electorate looks – just with more volume.
Even at the worst case for Democrats, Republicans would have a 2 point edge in the share of the electorate, and for Gillum, there are a variety of ways, with very little crossover, and a very reasonable NPA win, that he can win.
Let’s start at how Democrats win.
The big places for us, Broward, Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, and to lesser extent, Hillsborough. Let’s start with Broward, where Democrats entered Eday in 2014 with a 100,000 voter lead – today, that number is 165,000, and arguably even more important, the county will turnout a bigger share of the electorate. In 2014, the total Broward turnout was 44%, and as of just today, it is 40%. It will exceed its 2014 turnout, quite possibly by a significant number – and that is just volume, volume that adds up in the Democratic column.
In fact, there are 8 counties that are within 10% points of reaching their 2014 turnout percentages – in other words, the counties that are performing the best relative to their 2014 turnout, and of those 8, four are significant Democratic base counties: Dade, Broward, Orange, and Hillsborough. Every single one of these counties will be a bigger chunk of the electorate than 2014, and everyone of them will deliver large majorities for Gillum and Nelson. A fifth county, Osceola, is also in this category and is a Democratic base county.
If you take these five counties, currently the Democratic advantage in turnout is 313,584 voters. In 2014, the advantage was 134,439 voters – and even if you just factor in the higher turnout numbers, these three counties are still about 90,000 voters ahead of where they were four years ago. That is not insignificant.
Also look at the places where Gillum can stall Republicans, such as Duval. In 2014, Republicans had about a 3% lead in party share entering Election Day – in 2016, the Dems had about a 1.4% lead, and today, the Democratic advantage is over 3, or roughly 12,000 voters. Democrats are not only denying the Republicans a large margin in a county that Scott won by 34,000 votes (+13%), but they might just win the whole darn place. Chipping away at the margin. That’s how Democrats win.
Secondly, for DeSantis, it means winning the traditional GOP counties in the Panhandle and in SW Florida, which he appears on track to do, and running up the score up the score in a handful of counties, where Trump (2016) outperformed Rick Scott (2014) in order to counter the Democratic growth in the urban counties. Most of these counties are in the I-4 corridor:
In the Tampa market, I am watching the places where Trump reshaped the math: Hernando, Citrus Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee.
So how does it look there?
Again, keep in mind the goal in these counties is to change the math, like what the Democrats had done in their base counties. In 2014, the Republicans went into election day – and today, their margin is 8%, for a net lead of 58,107, which is nearly the same percentage margin as 2014, and a net gain in voters of just about 15,000. Sure, tomorrow could blow up here, but what has been keeping the GOP markets down isn’t lack of GOP enthusiasm, it is Democrats in these places are voting. In fact, in Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee, Democratic voter turnout rates match, or even exceed the Republicans.
In fact, generally, while Democratic counties are quickly reaching their 2014 turnout rates, Republican counties are trailing; 25 counties the GOP traditionally win are more than 20% behind their 2014 final turnout percentage, and 40 total are more than 15% behind. They are simply not getting enough volume – so far. This will change tomorrow, but there is a lot of catching up to do to get to the kind of turnout the GOP saw in 2014 in contrast to the Democrats that cycle.
That doesn’t mean a win is a certainty – if GOP really shows up, Dems turnout stalls, and white independents crash tomorrow, that could be a bad combination. For Trump, it took all three of these things happening to win, and while I expect one will happen, the other two are a lot less certain. Moreover, the polling seems to show the race consolidating towards both Gillum and Nelson, where as in 2016, you could feel the race slide towards Trump late. Again, I put the odds of DeSantis winning at lower than the odds of Gillum winning by a comfortable margin – but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
So here is where I am. While I don’t discount the GOP edge on election day, I do think if the NPA and crossover vote is doing anything close to what pollsters are finding, that edge gets eliminated quickly. In fact, a 9-point Gillum edge in NPA eliminates a 2 point GOP edge in turnout without having to win a single more GOP vote than DeSantis wins among Democrats – and I think Gillum wins more Republicans than DeSantis wins Democrats, and brings the Governor’s Mansion home for the Democrats.