Join the Email List


Florida - Day 11. Florida Votes, and the Jaguars Suck

To:     Fans of Florida Voting

From: Steve Schale, Exhausted and Disgusted Jaguars Fan

Re:     11 Days Out


 *0 days until Gus Bradley is fired, God willing.

*11 days until the election

*15 days until FSU basketball tips off.

On Thursday, another poll showed Clinton with a 4-point lead.  This means that since Bloomberg declared Trump leading Florida, four polls have come out showing Clinton leading by 3 or 4 points.  By the way, don’t ask the Jaguars’ Head Coach what a lead is, he wouldn’t know.

This means 23 of the last 26 polls show Clinton leading, 2 show it tied, and one showed Trump ahead.

So on to early voting.  Sometime this morning, the 3 millionth ballot of the 2016 election will be cast in Florida.  We will also today cross another big milestone:  It is quite likely that we will finish this day with over 1/3rd of all likely 2012 votes from Florida having been cast. 

Also, somethings there are right now two things consistent in Florida:  mid-week performance in early voting, and Jaguars football.  Thursday was just like Tuesday and Wednesday – solid, with little change in the overall picture.  And the Jags, well they just suck.

Day four of in person early voting brought a solid day for turnout. 

Here are the totals:

Vote By Mail:    127,298 votes, GOP won (42-37-21), or just under 6K votes

In Person Early Vote: 263,964 votes, Dems won (40-39-21) or just over 3K votes*

In total:

391,222 votes were counted, and GOP won the day by about 2,600*

*Note: There is a discrepancy between the state elections site and Broward’s local site that would get this pretty close to a wash for the day.  So I wouldn’t be surprised if yesterday’s total changes during the day.

This brings us into total votes 2,864,666 with leading GOP up just over 14K votes. (+0.5%)

One other big picture number: There are almost 60,000 more Democrats in Florida with a vote by mail ballot that they have not returned.  In total, about 57.3% of Republican VBM ballot requests have been returned, compared to 52.6% of Democrats.


Right now, it is likely that 31-32% of all the votes that will be cast this election in Florida are in the door.

Looking at the usual benchmarks:


Another pretty typical day in Hillsborough.  We won both the early vote and the vote by mail tabulations, and now carry a 12,500 vote lead (+6.8%).  In person early vote is really driving this, with Democrats leading it by almost 9 points.  Two thirds of the votes on Thursday came from in-person early voting.   And keep in mind, Hillsborough has correctly picked 19 of the last 20 Presidents.


Yesterday played out to form, with Democrats winning in-person early voting in every county along the interstate, except for Seminole.

And yes, JMart, that means Dems won in-person early voting in Imperial Polk County for the fourth day in a row!

On other hand, Democrats and Republicans split the vote by mail returns, with Dems winning Hillsborough, Orange, and Osceola; and GOP winning Pinellas, Polk, Seminole and Volusia.

In total for the day, 108,000 votes were cast in the I-4 counties, with D’s winning 41-38-21. 

The I-4 counties have contributed nearly 800,000 ballots, or about 28% of all ballots cast in Florida, with Democrats holding a 42.4-37.5% (+38,000) lead.

Couple of notes:

Republicans had a better than average day in Orange County, losing the county by 14 points.  However, Dems continue to hold an 18-point edge in early votes.

I’ve had several special requests for Pinellas, which is almost entirely a vote by mail county, and which also has exceptionally close partisan voter registration.  Yesterday, the GOP narrowly won the day (+500 votes), but Democrats still lead the county (+300).

South Florida

Turnout in South Florida was solid again today.  Between in person early and vote by mail, more than 45,000 people voted in Dade County, and 41,000 voted in Broward County. In total, well over 100,000 votes came in through the big 3 South Florida counties.

Broward:  Democrats now lead by 69,900 votes, or 58-23% lead.  In person early vote surpassed vote by mail returns today, which is good news for Democrats, as Democrats currently lead in-person early vote by 60-21. With eleven days of voting, plus election day, this is a good place to be.

Dade:  Democrats increased their lead in Dade to just under 40,000 votes, after a 46-31-23 D-R-NPA day.  Remember, Dade has an exceptionally high percentage of Dem-leaning NPA voters, so while the county should end up being close to Broward in final vote margin, you won’t see it as acutely in the daily partisan differences.  In-person early is really driving the Dems in the right direction, with the fourth consecutive day of 30K plus votes, and Dems winning those votes by nearly 20%.

And Palm Beach, where Dems won the day 47-30, and continue to lead 50-29, after nearly 19,000 more people voted.


First, my Jaguars are abysmal.  The only thing more offensive than the bile-colored uniforms they wore on TV is the quality of play.  If Shad Khan doesn’t fire Gus Bradley this week, I would strongly suggest to Hillary Clinton to promise to sign an executive order removing him as Head Coach.  She will win the county hands-down.

Personally, I do love the Duval numbers.  Democrats won the day, albeit narrowly, while the GOP continues to hold a narrow lead – and a narrow lead won’t do it for Trump There are only so many places where Trump can really grow from the Romney numbers, and Duval is one of them. So far, he isn’t doing it.

Some other points:

Be sure you are following my buddy Dan Smith (Election Smith) from the University of Florida.  He has some great numbers. 

He’s brought up the point that the electorate needs to get more diverse for Clinton, which is a point I agree with.  I will note, however, that VBM tends to be exceptionally white, so traditionally the electorate gets more diverse as the election gets closer. For example, going into in-person early voting, the electorate was about 80% white, and it is down to about 72%.  I suspect after the first weekend, we will see a big jump in diversity.

Dems continue to lead among the first time and low propensity voters – about 40,000 more Dems in this category have come out to vote so far.  Again, I suspect the weekend will be good to this stat.

Here is an interesting look at the electorate.  I ran a comparison of what the composition of the electorate looks like currently by county, and compared it to voter registration, and here are the counties where Democrats are most over-performing,

Alachua (Dems registration is +19, votes are +30 – net +11)

Palm Beach (net +6.5%)

Broward (net +6%)

Sarasota (net +5.7%)

Orange (net 4.7%)

The biggest one of note, Alachua, is also home to East Florida Seminary.

Two last things on my global view of the election.

I don’t think people should expect Democrats to have a “big” lead going into Eday – in part because of the nature of the electorate.  In both 2008 and 2012, the Dems had a much larger voter registration advantage than 2016.  In part, this is because we had a lot of white Democrats, many of whom last voted for either Carter or Kennedy.  They finally switched in pretty big numbers, so we are left with a coalition that is far more predictable and diverse.   Also, both Black (African American and Caribbean) and Hispanic voters are registering NPA in higher numbers, which is much about society going away from institutions as anything.  So just keep this in mind.

Secondly, my working assumption is that HRC had a 1-1.5 advantage in Florida, based simply on demographics.  I still believe this.  Add in Trump’s struggles with college-educated whites, and you see a lot of polling at 3-4, which feels about right.  Nothing in the data we’ve seen so far is surprising, and I still think we are headed that way.   But let’s revisit over the weekend.

And lastly, thank you for all the kind notes this week. This is my favorite time of year, and I appreciate the notes.

Tomorrow I am running a half marathon in the morning, so I will tweet out some data, and get the memo out later in the day. 

And God willing, the Jaguars will have a head coach.

And pro tip:  Pick Kevin Harvick this week in your fantasy leagues.


Wednesday Two Weeks Out in America's Paradise

To:     Fellow Data Nerds

From: Steve Schale, #FloridaMan

Re:     Day 3 of Early Voting

*12 days until the election

*16 days until FSU basketball tips off.

Before we dive into the data, can I have a side conversation with the reporters reading this?

Now, I get it, the national race for President is over, and there is a need to keep this race interesting.  But the attention to that Bloomberg Poll yesterday was really kind of nuts.  Hillary Clinton has led or been tied in the 14 most recent polls before that one, two of which came out yesterday that received virtually no coverage.  So let’s keep all these polls in perspective.

Back to everyone.

Let’s talk about polling really quick. 

In 2012, the storyline was Obama couldn’t win Florida.  In fact, Obama only led 4 of the last 15 polls before this day in the election.  It was fair skepticism.

But in this case, HRC has led 14 of the last 15.  I don’t think anyone can argue that she is in a strong position to win.

No one knows better to me how tough this state can be, and no one is going to blow anyone out here.  But she is ahead.  It is a fact.   Now she has to turn out the vote.

One last thing on that Bloomberg poll.  They have the electorate at +3 Republican. 42-39.  I don’t even know even the most optimistic GOP operative who agrees with that model. 

Today, among votes in, it is 41-41-18.  If you take the Bloomberg Poll and do nothing but weigh the party breaks to 41-41-18, guess what, it shows Clinton with a 3-point lead – which is essentially what the average has been for a few weeks.

Oh, and University of North Florida this morning has it +4 HRC.

OK, rant over. Back to early voting.

Just shy of 2.5 million Floridians have voted.  This is roughly 27-28% of what total turnout will be.  In other words, more than a quarter of the likely Florida electorate has voted.

278,701 Floridians voted early, and Democrats won the day by about 4,000.  Total in person was about 15,000 less than Tuesday.

166,962 Floridians returned a VBM ballots, and GOP on them by about 10,000.

So out of about 2.5 million votes, the GOP has a 10,000 vote lead, which plays out to about 0.47%

I get asked often how this compares to 2012.  It really doesn’t in an apple to apples form.  Early voting in 2012 started on this coming Saturday, so we were only looking at VBM in 2012 on this day.  The GOP had a pretty significant lead, and we did not overtake them in total votes until Sunday.

In 2008, the early voting calendar was similar to this one, though the GOP went in with a much larger VBM lead.  If memory serves me right, it was the weekend when Democrats overtook the GOP. 

Wednesday was the second day that was largely a wash.  For what it is worth, I think today will be as well. 

Also, from now on, I am going to report combined EV/VBM numbers.  Where one or the other from the day is noteworthy, I’ll comment.

Here are the usual benchmarks. I will also explain below why these are the areas that I find interesting.

Hillsborough – Hillsborough is the only county that voted for Bush twice and Obama twice. It has also correctly picked 19 of the last 20 Presidents.  For those unfamiliar with Florida, it where Tampa is located.  The county is very “Midwestern” so tends to have more swing voters

Yesterday, Democrats carried the day by about 5 points, thanks to a 10-point advantage in VBM ballots.  Democrats maintain a 7-point (44-37) edge in total ballots cast, which is in line with our registration edge.

I-4 – The I-4 counties yesterday looked a lot like the I-4 should look, except for the third straight day, Democrats won in person early vote in Polk County, a county that last voted for Democratic President in 1976.  I suspect that is being driven by some of the new Puerto Rican growth.   Democrats won in-person early voting everywhere but Volusia (Daytona) and Seminole, Republicans won VBM returns everywhere but Orange, Osceola and Hillsborough.

Some county totals (again these numbers will be lower than yesterday because they include both VBM and EV)

Orange:  46-32 D for the day.  49-31 D overall

Osceola: 48-28 D for the day.  49-29 D overall

Volusia:   42-36 R for the day. 42-38 R overall

South Florida.

The three southeast Florida counties are the home to the Democratic base.  All had robust in person voting for the third consecutive day. For example, Broward was right at 30,000 in person early votes for the third day in a row, and overall the Miami media market made up almost 21% of all the votes yesterday (it is about 19% of typical statewide vote).

Also, remember in Dade county, voter registration is 42-28-30 D-R-I, so the partisan edges will seem smaller than many would expect.

Palm Beach continues to look good (though I’d like higher turnout):  48-30 for day, 51-30 overall (+28K).  (Obama won by 17 points)

Broward:  57-23 D for the day, and 58-24 D overall (+66K)

Dade:  45-31 D for the day, and 45-33 D overall (+33K)

And I continue to feel very good about Duval, even though GOP had a good day in VBM returns, Democrats once again won the in person early vote.  This is a county that Obama was able to significantly reduce the huge Bush margins of 2000 and 2004 (61K votes in 2004!)

Duval:  44-43 R for the day, 44-41 R overall (+1,000)


At a more granular level, here are few interesting factoids.

From stand point of regional breaks, some interesting things pop up:

It you are a Republican, you will like the fact that the Fort Myers market is really turning out.  It is about 9.5% of votes so far, when it shouldn’t really be much higher than 7%.  What is interesting, both Republicans and Democrats in the market are turning out a very high percentage of unlikely voters.

 On flip side, the North Florida media markets are coming in at a lower share of the state than it is typically.  In fairness, two caveats:  many North Florida counties did not take advantage of the optional early voting periods, and many tend to have higher election day turnouts. That being said, for all the talk of a surprise Trump enthusiasm, if it existed, we would be seeing it here – and we are not.

If you are a Democrat, the good news is after a few days of in person early voting, Orlando and Miami are coming in at roughly their 2012 vote shares.  At same time, West Palm Beach is a little under where I’d like it.

Tampa is also overrepresented in early vote and vote by mail, but that is pretty typical at this point.  It is about 25.8% of voters so far, will probably land right about 24%

Democrats are turning out their highest shares of “unlikely voters” in Fort Myers (33% of Dems low propensity), Miami (29%) and Orlando (29%).  Republicans in Fort Myers (27%), Miami (23%) and Pensacola (23%).   Overall, about 27% of Dems are “low propensity” and 22% of Republicans.  This number has been consistent over last few days.

Early vote is more diverse than vote by mail.  Early vote so far is about 67% white, compared to 73% of VBM.  Hispanic is a little low right now, but that tends to break later.  Right now, African American is 15% of in person early voting.  This is quite encouraging for my side.  These numbers are through Tuesday.  I won’t have Wednesday until later.

Again, I don’t expect much to change over next few days, but by the weekend, I suspect (and hope) we will have some separation. 


Day 2 in Florida Early Voting

To:       Reporters, Friends, and Twitter Trolls

From:  #FloridaMan Steve Schale

Re:      Day Two of Early Voting 

* Written before coffee, so please forgive any clear lack of English language skills.

Like most Americans, who are also White Sox fans, I am struggling to decide which is better, stubbing my toe (Cubs) or bumping my head (Indians), so let's look at something more desirable than this World Series: The 2016 Campaign for President.

If Day One was a solid A for Florida Democrats, Day two was more like my college experience, a nice pederstrian B.

Day two saw just shy of 294,000 vote in person early, which combined means 585,000 have voted in person early so far - and over 2 million people have voted total.  This is roughly 22 percent of what we can expect turnout to be this year.   After just two days, in person early vote accounts for nearly 30% of all the ballots cast to date.

Democrats won day two of early voting by about 6,600 votes (numbers change some during day).

Democrats were down about 10K, and Republicans up about 7K, and Republicans have a narrow 5,700 vote lead in vote by mail/early vote combined (0.2%).  So go vote Democrats!

And for my friend Mac Stipanovich, about 53K NPA voted early yesterday - up from Monday, and they made up about 18% of all voters.

Out of the 2 million votes so far, it is roughly 41R-41D-18NPA.  Personally, I like where that is headed.Here are a few of the highlights:


Hillsborough County -- the only county in Florida to vote for Obama twice and Bush twice, saw over 18,000 in person votes for the second straight day, and Democrats increase their early vote lead to more than 4,000 votes, and their total early/VBM lead to over 10,000 votes.  Democratic share of total early/VBM votes is about 7.3%.  

I-4 Corridor:  Democrats won every county that is on I-4, except Seminole County (we can't expect to win a county so Republican that you have to go back to Truman to find a Democrat who carried it every day).  Overall for the day, Democrats won 45-35.

Base Democratic Counties:

The five major Democratic counties, Broward, Dade, Palm Beach, Osceola and Orange all basically matched their day one turnout.  Robust remains the best way to describe turnout

Here are a few counties:

Broward: (60D-21R), +11,987 for day 2. 

Dade: (48D-29R) +6,600 for day 2.

Orange: (50D-29R) +3,665 for day 2

And lastly, my favorite place right now, Republican Duval County.  Over the last two elections, Barack Obama was able to keep the Duval margins manageable, averaging losses of about 10,000 votes.  By comparison, Bush won the county by 61,000 in 2004, a number that Trump would need to get closer to if he was going to win Florida.

Well right now, Republicans are doing about as well in Duval as the Jaguars.  Democrats won the second consecutive day of in person early voting, and now only trail Republicans in total VBM/EV by about 440 votes.  Even more ominous:  it only took two days for total in person early voting to overtake two weeks of vote by mail returns.  

Couple of final points:

Between VBM returns and EV, Day 2 was pretty much a wash.  I don't know that much significant will change until the first weekend.  By comparison, in 2008, which also had 15 days of EV (in 2012, first day of EV was on a Saturday), D's well ahead of pace.  D's also ahead of where we were on this day of the election in 2012.

I don't have access this early to some of the breakdowns based on ethnicity and voting behavior, and

I will send around some data later (or watch my twitter), but here were a few things from day one:

Black voters (in Florida, that is both African American and Caribbean) made up about 15% of all first day early voters. 

Hispanic voters were about 13%, and non-Hispanic white about 67%.

Based on these numbers, I would project we are headed towards an electorate that is more diverse than 2012.

Also, here is one more for you: among first day of early voting Democratic and NPA Hispanics, 44% were either first time voters, or only voting in their second ever general election.  In other words, these voters are expanding the electorate.

Overall, after day one (again I will update these later), of the roughly 1.6 million ballots cast, 79% of Republican votes came from the most likely of voters, compared to 73% of Democratic votes.  In other words, a larger share of the Democratic turnout has been from new voters, and infrequent voters.  

Notably, we are seeing an even larger share of the Democratic vote in Dade County coming from first time and infrequent voters.  This suggests the Democratic coalition is coming together nicely.

I will continue to update data throughout the day, as I find things interesting.  If you have questions, please email or call me.  I am doing my best to get through calls, and will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Unless you are an internet troll.  In that case, call another Florida hack! 



Early Voting in Florida, Day One

Dear Friends and Casual Twitter Followers:

It is Florida election memo time! I know you all are excited.

14 days left. If Jaguars fans can survive the Gus Bradley era, America can do 14 day of this.

Also of note: 18 days until FSU basketball tips off.

So here are some notes on the first day of in-person early voting:

Frankly for the fans of the home team, it is all good news.

Democrats entered the day down after about 2 weeks of vote by mail returns (and about 1.2 million ballots) about 20,000 votes. This 1.7% GOP advantage compares to a GOP advantage of 5% in 2012.

Then early voting happened.

First, not all counties have reported yet (17 yet to report, most are small), but when all said and done, over 300,000 will have voted on day one. Just to put into scale, 1.2 million voted by mail in the first two weeks.

When you add in the mail ballots from yesterday, 22% of all the ballots cast in Florida were cast in person yesterday. That is a remarkable number.

In total, Democrats reduced the Republican advantage of 1.7% going into yesterday to around 0.5% after day one (still counties reporting, so this number will move around).

Here are some interesting places on day one:

Won Duval County by 1,700 votes. Duval hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since Carter, and is one of those places where Trump really needs to run up the score. Dems also won the day in Polk County, an I-4 county that also hasn't voted for a Democrat since Carter.

Won Volusia County by several hundred, again a place that Trump was hoping to build on the gains of Romney in 2012.

And in bellwether county Hillsborough, the only place in Florida to vote for Bush twice and Obama twice, Democrats won by almost 3,000 votes, or roughly 14 points (49-35). By comparison, Democrats have a 7 point advantage in registration.

In fact, Democrats won every county along I-4, plus Pinellas -- including both Republican strongholds Polk and Seminole. The total I-4 vote was 48-33D. Seminole County hasn't voted Democrat in a Presidential election since Truman.

Base turnout was also very encouraging.

In Orange County, Democrats won a robust day 53-27%

In Broward County, Democrats won a record day 63-20%

In Palm Beach, a county which improved for Romney in 2012, Dems won 53-27%

In Alachua, where the University of Florida is, it was 65-22% Dems.

And in Dade County, 10,000 more voters showed up on the first day of early voting than 2012. Of the 35,000 who cast a ballot, Democrats won the day 53-27%.

Finally, with the help of a friend yesterday, I looked into the question of whether Democrats were simply "canibalizing" their traditional vote by encouraging its traditional voters to vote early in person and by mail.

Two points: First, even if that's all they did, Clinton would almost surely win Florida. Republicans need to expand the electorate to win.

But, that isn't what is happening. Over 28% of Democratic vote by mail returnees as of yesterday were either first time voters, or rare voters (voted in 1 of last 3), compared to 20% for Republicans. Other way of looking at it: 80% of GOP vote by mail returns are from the most likely voters, compared to 72% of Democrats. That is voter expansion.

I am going to try to do a little note each day. Try is the operative word.

As always, if you have any questions, give me a holler.


Dear Trump Press: Welcome to My House

Dear Traveling Trump Press Corps:

Well, the sputtering, crashing, and long since derailed Trump Train is headed to my town, Tallahassee.

I for one will admit it, I can not believe how badly he and his shop are at campaigning. Take all of the personal flaws of Trump aside, I really believed he would rise to the occasion of running a campaign at least somewhat worthy of the office he seeks.

Back in 2008, when one of my staff would do something mindnumblingly amateur, rather than yell at them, I would walk up, give them a little pep talk about decision-making process, and leave a sticky note saying: "FYI, We are running for President," just to remind them of the stakes. I feel like the GOP should send one of these to Trump daily.

Over the general election, he's spent some time in some pretty bizarre places in Florida for a candidate who is making absolutely no attempt to appeal outside of his base. It is one thing to go into the other side's turf when you are trying to reach their voters, but he's not, yet he's still spent time in places like Miami Beach, and Kissimmee, two places about as Democratic as any.

Well come Tuesday, add a third: Tallahassee.

The old saying about Florida is to go south, you go north. Well while Tallahassee is much more "southern" than the rest of Florida, just like all southern states, Tallahassee is that liberal college town that drives the rest of the conservative areas crazy.

It is also the place where the college footballing team that has beaten #FloridaMan Chuck Todd's Miami squad seven straight years resides, but I digress.

It is also a place where many great national reporters have spent time. In fact, the recent past President Carol Lee and the incoming President of the WHCA Margaret Talev did a stint here, as did Mike Bender, who I think still has a house here if you need a couch to surf. In fact, I think having Tallahassee experience is a job requirement at the Wall Street Journal. Politico's Marc Caputo also lived here for a while, but we don't talk about that as much.

Just how Democratic is Leon County? The last time we voted for Republican for President was 1988, but before you Republicans get all excited about that, Bush won 66 of 67 counties. It was such a landslide that Broward voted Republican. That isn't gonna happen.

Looking at more recent history:

Leon County has voted Democratic in the last six elections.

In the last four, the Republican candidate has won 41% of the two party vote in Leon County, but when you add minor party candidates, no Republican has cracked 40%

The total Democratic margin of victory over that time is 125,000 votes. Only four counties in Florida have delivered a bigger margin for the Democratic nominee over that time: Orange, Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade.

Further, if you look at the nine Florida counties that have voted for every Democratic nominee for President since 2000, two of them border Leon County.

And even when you add all of the rural areas in the media market, the market over all has voted for the Democratic candidate each of the last four times (and I think it is each of the last six). A region that voted for John Kerry isn't voting for Donald Trump.

But alas, for those media who are on the Trump traveling train, I am happy you are here. For those of you not on the charter, I hope you also enjoyed visiting our northern airport terminal, Atlanta International. As they say about Tallahassee, you can't die and go to heaven or hell without a layover in Atlanta - and probably with a delay.

And here are a couple of thoughts:

Both Grasslands and Proof Brewing are open on Tuesday. If you need a beer after the rally, both make a fine product. If you are looking for good local craft beer on Monday, try Growler Country. They aren't selling ambiance, but unlike the Trump rally, they have amazingly good beer.

In fact speaking of beer, while at the rally location, on Saturday, the site was home to a big craft beer festival. Yes, that was a happier time.

Momo's Pizza sells pizza as big as your head if you are looking to protect yourself from rally-goers. There is better pizza in town, but their stuff is still good, and frankly, you have to see it to believe it. It was also ranked one of top college town pizza joints in the country. They also make a really good craft beer.

Right across the street from the rally is a great little farm to table place called Backwoods Crossing. Since you've seen the speech a billion times, head over for dinner. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday afternoon, head over to Mo Betta BBQ. It is more food truck than restaurant, but you will enjoy it.

If drinking multiple bottles of wine is more your coping style, Clusters and Hops has a great wine store and restaurant. It is my favorite place in town, and it is close to Hotel Duval, where all you Marriott points chasers will probably stay. My good friend, and well known #NeverTrumper Rick Wilson also has a nice wine collection, but sadly he is out of town. And trust me, there is no one, an I mean no one, more disappointed to miss this one than Rick.

If you are at the Doubletree, Aloft, or Governor's Inn, Ave has a nice dinner (or uber to Clusters).

Downtown are also two excellent locally-owned coffee shops: Goodies and Brewed Awakening. And there is a great pho place downtown, yes you read that right, great pho in Tallahassee: Fat Noodle.

Want to go for a run? Hit up Cascades Park and run the new pedestrian bridge towards FAMU and FSU, not only is it a beautiful run, it is one of the few flat places in town. We are the southernmost reaches of the Appalachian Mountains, so our hills are quite a shock to those more accustomed to running around the National Mall.

If you want more ideas, call Rick. I know you all have his number.

Otherwise, have fun. It is a great old southern town, with really nice people -- and people who are overwhelmingly going to vote for Clinton!

15 more days. America can do anything for 15 days, right?


Your Tallahassee Sherpa, Steve


18 days out -- Are Dems gonna Dem? 

Yesterday, in Orlando, I watched my friend and respected journalist Ron Fournier describe this election to a room of about 1,000 influential health care leaders as a "shitstorm" -- and it seemed pitch perfect. As a total aside, I've typed that word so many times this year, my phone no longer corrects it.

Thank God this awful excuse for a national election is quickly hurling towards a close. Here in Florida, about 1 million votes are in -- well over 10% of all likely voters. At this point, we know this: unless something else crazy happens, Clinton will win Florida, maybe by as much as 4-5 points. As my friends know well, I am not one for certain predictions, but this one I feel really good about.

After that, we honestly don't know anything. And the thing that has driven every conversation I've had for 3 days: Is this going to be the cycle that Democrats absolutely misses the opportunity.

Another journalist friend of mine, Gary Fineout, once said to me that Democrats are so bad at taking advantage of opportunities that we literally miss opportunities to miss opportunities. And prior to 2008, my brother in politics Dan Gelber said to me as I took the reigns of Florida Obamaland, "your job is to keep the movement going in the right direction, and not do what we always do, which is get in its way."

More succinctly, my first boss Doug Wiles, who spent 27 years in the military, used to observe that our problem was simple: when we went to battle, our troops would rather line up in a circle, instead of in a straight line, when firing their weapons.

So how does that apply in 2016?

Let's take a quick look:

In the US Senate, Patrick Murphy, with little more than some tweets of encouragement from national Democrats, has put his race on the verge of defeating a man who many, including me, thought would be the GOP nominee for President.

In the Congress, Democrats could move the 17-10 GOP advantage to 14-13 GOP (+3).

In the State Senate, while 16 seats is a solid year, they are actually in play in enough races to get to 19.

In the State House, they should pick up 3-6 seats, though there are as many as 22 races that you'd have to say today are in play.

But for all that being said, this could just as likely happen:

Rubio has the edge right now to win, particularly given the DSCC decision to not play here.

Congress could come back 17-10.

Senate could flatline and come back 26-14.

House could leave a lot of seats on the table.

Now this isn't a piece bashing the Florida Democratic Party. While I have some fairly strong views on the role of the party, when it comes down to this kind of blocking and tackling 18 days out, there is a point at which they can only do so much. Patrick Murphy has carried this race on his own shoulders withoutthe help of national Democrats.

I have a lot of smart friends on the other side, and they are going to make smart decisions on defense. No Democrat can think that our team will win seats because the Republicans will give up.

But the Democrats have a good team too. Smart operatives like Beth Matuga and Josh Weierbach in the Senate, and Dan Newman and Steve Jackson in the House have more competitive races than money from their traditional backers. And I've been in those underfunded efforts, and their conversations aren't "where can we invest to win?" but instead are "which winnable seats do we have to walk away from?"

In other words, they aren't in a place to make good decisions.

In fairness, some of this wasn't truly predictable. Four weeks ago, it looked like Florida would be a dog fight, meaning that we'd be looking at a traditional battleground. And many of us, me included, overestimated Trump's ability to up his game and run a campaign that was worthy of the office he was seeking.

But then the video happened, and the tax issues, and the train wreck of debates. All of the sudden, Florida doesn't look so close anymore.

And these things magnify down ballot. While a 3-5 point shift may not sound like a ton, districts that have higher proportions of Hispanics, or whom are home to larger populations of college educated white women will feel that shift magnified. Moreover, redistricting has left a lot of seats held by Republicans that are just outside the range of being a true "swing seat" -- but definitely become one with a small shift in the electorate -- just as this happened to my party in 2010 and 2014.

For the sake of America, God willing this shitshow of an election is a once in a lifetime occurrence (though I don't think so -- more on this later), but for my party, it is also turning into an unprecedented opportunity.

I had this problem in 2006, but it was largely solvable: I went and begged my traditional donors for money. In 2006, and again in 2008, the party had largely centralized operations. Everyone had one playbook. And you know what, look at the scoreboard - it generally worked. But the world on my side of the aisle, partially due to Citizens United, just doesn't function like that anymore.

I am not in this business anymore. Other than the Presidential election in 2012 and Congresswoman Graham in 2014, I haven't made my income from partisan politics since 2010. And trust me, my life is much happier as a result.

Typically, the way cycles go is they conclude, and everyone looks to take credit, or blame everyone else. It is one of the things I just got tired of. I'd much rather do politics on my own terms, helping as a volunteer the people that I like, playing "observer" and spending my time working on other causes.

But I also means in 2016 that I don't have a dog in the fight, nor do I have a lane, or a wall, or a client.

So Democrats, consider this a warning flare.

It may be a decade and it may be never that you see an opportunity like this. Winning in politics is not just matter of timing and opportunity -- you have both -- it is also a matter of being prepared for the moment. Secretary Clinton's operation is very capable - and they are winning -- and their organizational heft is going to provide a lot of ground cover for candidates. There are also the resources out there, between all the SuperPACs, traditional donors, donor alliances, and candidates, to take advantage of it. And I really don't want to spend my November reading stories where groups are pointing fingers at the others, or answering reporter questions in 2019 if Democrats regretted not spending a few more bucks to beat Rubio. The opportunities at this point is very clear, and in Marco's case, the outcome is as well.

In 19 days, we will all know what happened, and if this is just another in a history of Democratic missed opportunities.



Florida is gonna Florida, 2016 Version


Dear:     Reporters covering Florida, Other Observers, and the Nation of Twitter.

From:    Steve, #FloridaMan and Disgruntled Jags Fan.

Re:        BREAKING, 2016 version: Florida is gonna be close

For much of the window between 2000 and 2012, the conversation about Florida, driven at times by Nate Silver himself was “is it really a swing state?” This year, the new narrative is “why isn’t Clinton crushing it in Florida.”  Both then, and now, those statements were and are absurd.

Let’s settle one thing, for good.  Until further notice, Florida is an exceptionally competitive swing state. In fact, it is the most competitive.

When you look at the last four Presidential elections in Florida, Republicans won two, and the Democrats won two.

Over those four elections, roughly 30.5 million voters have had a Presidential vote counted, and the difference between Republicans and Democrats?  Try 71,000 votes.  That is a margin of 0.24%. 

No other state in the country was closer.

To take it further, the last three major statewides: the 2010 Governor’s race, the 2012 Presidential, and the 2014 Governor’s race, the margin of victory respectably was 1.1, 0.9, and 1. 

Just look at today’s NYT poll, the first poll using the actual file of registered voters.  What was the margin? One point.

Florida is just wired to be close.  And 2016 will be no different.  Here are a few reasons why.

The Electorate is Closely Divided – And Both Sides Are United

There are 12 million voters, and Republicans and Democrats are separated by just over 2% points.  Among the most likely voters, it is even tighter.  So in other words, we basically start at a push.

Florida used to be a state where, particularly on the Democratic side, partisan loyalty was not a given.  But over the last decade, voters have generally migrated to the “correct” party for their voting behavior.  According to exit polls, in 2008, both D’s and R’s won 87% of their own partisans, in 2012, it was 90 and 92 respectively and in 2014 Governor’s race, 92 and 89%.  In today’s New York Times poll, they were at 88 and my side at 86, so in other words, at this point, particularly with the anger of partisans towards the other nominee, once undecideds go to their camps, both candidates will start with about 90% of their own likely voters.

Moreover, like most places, independents aren’t all that independent – and look a lot like the partisans.  In 08, Obama won them by 7. In 12, by 1.  Story is the same in Governor’s races: Scott won them by 2 in 2010, and Crist by 2 in 2014.  In the New York Times poll today, he was +4.

So let’s do a little math:  If the electorate is 40 Dem, 39 Rep, and 21 NPA, and both sides get 90% of partisans, and Trump wins NPA by same as Obama 08 (7%), well he’d win by the massive margin of 0.5%, or just about 40,000 votes.  If Clinton wins NPA by Obama 12 (1%), she’d win by a point.

And if Trump carries them by 4, the margin in the NYT race, under my model, we are living 2000 again.  That’s Florida. Everything is about the margins.

Regional Performance is Relatively Stable

So the consensus is Florida is always changing.  Well it is, but even so, the “states” of Florida perform very consistently. 

For the sake of space, let’s look at Florida in three regions.  I-10 (5 North Florida markets), I-4 and SW Florida (Orlando, Tampa, and Ft Myers), and SE Florida (Miami and West Palm).

If you compare 2000 and 2012, despite the massive changes in the electorate, the vote share in these regions is absurdly similar. 

In North Florida, both Gore and Obama 2012 received 40.4% of the 2-way vote.  On our best day, in 2008, we got to 42.  On our worst, 2004, we got 38.5%.  Hillary Clinton will almost certainly win between 38-40%.

Along the I-4 corridor – adding Fort Myers, Gore won 47.4%, and Obama 12 won 48%.  Our best day got to 49.6%, and our worst, 44.8%.

And in SE Florida, same story:  Gore was 59.8%, while Obama 12 was 60.8%.  In 08, we were 60.5%, and in 2004, we dropped to 57.7%.

In other words, even as the state margin ranged from Obama +3 in 2008 to Bush +5 in 2004, there just was very small movement within regions.

Let’s project forward to 2016.  If you assume HRC gets the best share in each “region” of the state, her upper end is 51.6%, her lower end is 47.5%.  In other words, forget what the polls say, based on the history of the last four elections, we are talking about a state that might have, tops, 5-6% of real swing vote.

And note- I understand that this is more than a 2-way race, but it doesn't change the conclusion - Florida is close.  

But Steve, Hispanics…

Those of you all who know me understand my affection for people who live in the 202 or 212 area code lecturing us about our state.  Just last week, during a trip to DC, one of the smart ones tried to tell me that she should win here by 6-8 points, because, you know, Hispanics.

Demographics are big, and they are Clinton’s edge, just as they were the driving factor in Obama’s 2012 win.  But when I mean big - it means the demographics are a huge advantage to my team this year and going forward, not that she’s going to win Florida by six or that we are on the verge of being a perpetual blue state.

If you take the exit polls as truth, Obama won 61% of the Hispanic vote in 2012, after winning 57% in 2008.  Keeping in mind that in terms of nation of origin, Florida’s Hispanics look nothing like Colorado, Nevada or New Mexico’s Hispanics, let’s say she just crushes it – wins 70%.  Given the higher floor among Hispanics in Florida due to the large Cuban Republican population, it is hard to imagine her above +40 among these voters.  And again, +40 would be Historic, given that in 2004, exit polls said Bush won Hispanics by 12 over Kerry!

Let’s start at scratch.  We won by .9%.  So let’s say she wins the same share of white, and black (African American and Caribbean) voters – and the latter turn out at their 2012 share, but wins Hispanics by 40 points, instead of 22- she’d win by 4-5 points.    The only way it becomes a blowout is if Clinton can really take back ground with whites, but so far, there’s been no evidence of it happening.

But what if she gets the same share of the white vote as Crist, 36% - so instead of losing whites by 24 (Obama), she loses them by 26?  Her lead slips to 3.  And if that number drops to 35, so we are talking about 28-point Trump win among whites?  Her lead goes to 1.

In other words, you can see how capitalizing on Hispanics moves the needle for her, but in no way does it move the state into some kind of slam dunk, or safe seat kind of place.


So what does it all mean?  And what should you watch for?

First, what we are seeing is Florida is being Florida.  She has a self-correcting political equilibrium that causes the state to find its competitive center.

Of Florida’s 67 counties, 60 of them have voted for one party or the other in each of the elections from 2000 to 2012.   Only one of Florida’s 67 counties, Hillsborough, split it 2-2, voting twice for Bush and twice for Obama. 

In fact, I can predict with almost total certainty that Democrats will win 11 counties in 2016, Republicans will win 54, and there are only two where I am uncertain – and neither candidate will win either of these two counties by more than 500-1000 votes.

In a nutshell, the more things change here, the more they stay the same.

I do believe Clinton has a narrow edge for two reasons

Demographics:  The state is getting more diverse, and while that doesn’t guarantee her a win, it does give her a cushion.  Based on growth alone, Obama’s 0.9% win in 2012 is probably worth closer to 1.2-1.5% in 2016, simply based on demographic trends.  She has a cushion to bleed a little among whites, and still win.

Organization.  This is where the Clinton operation will reap its investment. By registering voters, and turning out more of the lower propensity Black and Hispanic voters, her campaign can capitalize on the demographic advantages.  Organizations are like kickers in football – they aren’t vital in blowouts, but you better have a good one in a close game, and they are building an organization designed to win a close election.

Here are a few places to keep an eye on.  I’ll update this closer to election day so you can look for keys on Election night.

Hillsborough:  As Beth Reinhard called it, Hillsborough is the “molten core of the political universe,” and while it is trending a bit bluer these days, it is really must win for both sides.  If she is winning by a few points here, she’s almost surely winning.  When you add in neighboring Pinellas, you have between 11.5% and 12% of the statewide vote in one tight, very much swing area.

Dade and Orange:  This is where she can really move bigger margins than 2012.   Enthusiasm is hard to measure in polls or talking to man on the street, but her organization in these two places will be stout.

Duval:  In 2008 and 2012, we took away one of the GOP’s strongholds, cutting their 61,000 vote margin in 2004 to roughly 10,000 in the two Obama wins.  For Trump to win, he’s got to retake that ground.  If she can hold his margins down here, it is pretty much over.

Volusia: Once a blue county, it is now a lean GOP county.  How much it leans towards Trump will be an indicator for if he’s expanding his white vote share.

So yes, Florida is close.  It has been close since 1992, and it will be close in 2016, 2020, and 2024.  And Trump has to win it, as the last President to go to the White House without Florida was Calvin Coolidge.  So pull up a lawn chair, grab a six pack from your local brewery (#DrinkLocal), and settle in.

What is not a close call is whether the Jaguars should fire Gus Bradley, today.  But more on that in a future memo.

I hope this has been helpful.  As always, please feel free to call or email if you have any questions.


The State Senate, Post Primary

Now that the primary is behind us, I wanted to take a fresh look at where things stand in the Florida State Senate.  This is an update from the Senate piece I wrote in January.

Let's start with the easy ones:

Republican Safe Seats:  19

District 1:  Doug Broxson.  After winning his primary, he can start looking for apartments in Tallahassee.

District 2: George Gainer:  Gainer comes to the State Senate the best way possible: Unopposed.

District 4: Aaron Bean: Re-elected without opposition.

District 5: Rob Bradley (R-Busy Bee): Re-elected without opposition.

District 7: Travis Hutson faces nominal Democratic opposition in a seat Romney won by 17.

District 9: David Simmons returns without opposition.

District 10:Wilton Simpson re-elected without opposition.

District 12:  Dennis Baxley's primary win leaves him just a write-in on his way to the Senate.

District 14: Dorothy Hukill will easily beat her NPA candidate.

District 16: Jack Latvala faces only a write-in.

District 17: I wish I thought my friend Amy Tidd had a real shot, but Romney won by 15. Senator Mayfield.

District 20:  Tom Lee wins without opposition.

District 21:  Soon to be Senate President Bill Galvano wins without opposition.

District 22: This seat gets interesting in Presidential years, but the Dem candidate here isn't strong. Stargel wins.

District 24:  Jeff Brandes could spend the entire election in a driver-less uber drinking craft beer and still easily defeat his write-in.

District 25:  Incoming President Joe Negron's seat will be competitive when he leaves (Run Larry Lee, Run!), but not in his last election.

District 26:  Denise Grimsley wins without re-election.

District 27:  Fellow American Council of Young Political Leaders alum Lizbeth Benacquisto faces only a write-in to complete her re-election.

District 28:  After a bruising primary, Kathleen Passidomo only has a write-in left on her road to the Senate.

Likely Republican: 3

District 23:  Had Patterson, Holder or Pilon won the primary, this would be in the safe category.  Steube, who was a perfect fit for a primary is not as much in a more moderate Sarasota-centric general, and while he will likely win, i've seen two polls showing the race is surprisingly tight. However, the Democrats have several million problems here, namely, other than the GOP lean of the seat, they are several million dollars short of being able to compete here. 

District 36: There is no reason to think Rene Garcia will lose, but when the GOP nominated Donald Trump, who will lose Dade County by historic margins, there are no seats in Dade that the GOP can take for granted.

District 39:  See above, and replace Garcia with Anitere Flores.


Democratic Safe Seats: 14

District 3: Bill Montford faces nominal GOP opposition on his way to re-election.

District 6:  Audrey Gibson returns without opposition.

District 11:  After winning a tough primary, Randolph Bracy faces just a write-in on his way to the Senate.

District 13: While there are some that want Asher to be competitive, there is no reason to believe this seat that Obama carried by 13 -- and Clinton will carry by more, won't also send Linda Stewart to the Senate.

District 15:  Vic Torres' opponent will make some noise, but in this Obama +17 seat, Torres will cruise.

District 19:  Darryl Rouson's GOP opponent may have the most interesting story on his website, but the challenge will be far easier than his primary victory.

District 29: After winning an open primary, Kevin Radar heads to the Senate.

District 30:  Powell faces a wealthy GOP opponent, but in a seat Obama carried by 15, he just needs to block and tackle to win.

District 31:  Jeff Clemens beat a sitting state legislator who spent 2 million dollars.  His write-in will offer much less resistance.

District 32:  Lauren Book goes to the Senate unopposed.

District 33: Perry Thurston won without opposition. 

District 34:  Gary Farmer won a tough three way primary, and while he has a Republican opponent, this is Broward County.  My former boss is heading to the Senate.

District 35: Democratic Leader Designate Oscar Braynon will return without opposition.

District 38: Daphne Campbell faces former State Rep Phil Brutus as an NPA, but should win easily with the district's overwhelmingly Democratic lean. 


The Battleground: 4

These seats are in numerical order, not any kind of ranking.

District 8: Rod Smith v. Keith Perry.  

This district and race has all the markers of a classic southern battleground seat: a liberal college town, growing republican-leaning suburban neighborhoods, rural communities and a sizable African American population.  It is also the kind of district my party must win, not only to get to a majority in the State Senate, but to compete in the south generally.     

It is a fascinating race on many levels.  Rod Smith is the best perfect Democrat for the race, and Keith Perry is a proven winner.  Rod has the kind of profile to win some southern Democratic votes, while at same time, this is a district Trump should win - which is the one factor that helps Perry.  Neither candidate should have a spending advantage, since this is one of the cheaper districts in the state. If Rod can run up the score in Gainesville, and keep his floor in the outlying counties above Hillary, he should win.  And Perry's recent dust-up with the police isn't going to help.  I like Rod's chances, but it is the kind of race that will always be close and uncertain.

Senate District 18:  Young v Buesing + Redner & Upthegrove

This is the classic Tampa Bay area competitive race.  Dana Young is a proven political figure and an excellent fundraiser.  Bob Buesing is the kind of candidate on paper that hack's love: longtime community record coupled with no actual political experience.  And in the mix, the ultimate Florida Man, Joe Redner, Tampa strip-club king and perennial candidate.

On paper, this is a jump ball. Public polling shows two candidates with relatively low name ID, in a district I suspect Clinton wins by a few points, largely fueled by a strong showing from the 25% or so of voters who are either African American or Hispanic.  

For me, this race comes down to four questions:  How much will Clinton turnout in minority communities help Buesing?  Can Young hold on to moderate women in South Tampa who may lean Clinton? What does Redner do and how much will it hurt Buesing (assuming Redner stays in)?  And will Buesing ever have enough money to compete?  Honestly, it is that last question which is by far the most important, and for that reason, the race starts advantage Dana Young.

Senate District 37:  DLP vs JJR

The battle between Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Jose Javier Rodriguez is the kind of race my party has been dreaming about for almost a decade, a real legitimate shot at breaking up the Republican hold on Miami's Hispanic districts.

Like the other two races, on paper, this has everything you want.  DLP is a Republican who has tried to carve out a moderate voting record & who has built a broad coalition of support, running in a district that is quickly running away from Republicans.  JJR is a Harvard-educated Democrat, who has won two exceptionally tough general elections in a row, and is the kind of bright star that my party can build around in the future.  The race really boils down to one thing:  Can DLP overcome what will almost surely be a very strong Clinton win in SD 37?

In 2012, Maria Sachs beat Ellyn Bogdanoff in a similar kind of race between two established candidates, laregly on the back of a strong Obama performance in Palm Beach County.  For this reason, I'd argue JJR has a slight edge, but the story here is a long ways from being written.

District 40:  Bullard v Artiles

This race confounds me, to be honest.  On paper, you could make an argument that it should be a sure thing for either one of them.  

In the Artiles column, the district will be well over 60% Hispanic, and roughly 10% Black (both African American and Caribbean).  

In the Bullard column, Obama won his district by 10, and give the woes of Trump, Clinton could win it by as much as 20 points.  To give some context, that would mean this district is roughly as Democratic as the one Gary Farmer is running for, or as Republican as the one held by Travis Hutson.  In no world would any operative give the other party much chance in either of those races.

And unlike the District 37 race, where both candidates have some crossover appeal, Artiles and Bullard are two of the most partisan members of the Florida Legislature.

There is no question that Artiles will vastly outspend Bullard, but at some level, it may make no difference.  Most of the Republicans I talk to think Bullard wins, based on party alone.  I am not convinced yet, which may be because I lost a race early in my career that came down to ethnic loyalties over party.  In SD 40, will party matter more, or ethnic loyalties?  That is really the only question that matters here.


As of today, the Republicans hold a 22-14 advantage in the Senate.  As the above describes, the Democrats could run the table and get to 18, but that is a very hard road.  Winning the Bullard seat makes it a lot more likely they get to 17, but overreaching elsewhere could bring them back at 14-15.  I will say this:  Oscar Braynon is running the best Senate political operation I've seen in years, and outside of District 8 -- where he arguably has his A candidate, all of the races are being played in districts Clinton will win. If Oscar continues to play his cards right, he should get to 16 or 17, and as anyone who follows the Senate knows, that small shift will make a huge impact.

I'll take another stab at this in October, but in the meantime, if you have any questions, give me a holler.






Everything you wanted to know about Florida 2016 but were afraid to ask.

Florida. Florida. Florida.

The largest battleground state in the country – by a lot.

The tightest battleground state in the country since 2000.

Has been won by every GOP President since Coolidge.

10 media markets – many big enough to be battleground states

20 million residents

9 million voters.

So what makes it work? What is its story? Or more simply, what is it?

Every few years, I get the same question from national media: Explain Florida to me in a nutshell, and what is the one thing that is key to winning?

If only it was that simple.

I’ll get more in to the math and some of the more interesting markets later this month, but this piece is designed to paint a picture of the place I call home, and the funky odd state that picks Presidents.

Let’s start with one key thing: Florida is a state, not a place.

Most states are places. Think about Texas, or even a state like Iowa, there is a sense of place to it, a commonality of experience – or as marketers might say, almost a brand. Most states have it. Florida really doesn’t.

Florida isn’t a place in the same sense. It is a political circle, drawing 20 million people from vast, and I mean vast experiences and cultures into one spot. And almost everyone here has come from somewhere else.

Florida is the new Ellis Island, except our ships come as cars and planes, from inside the borders of the country, and outside.

Over the next 15 years, we might add as many as 5 million more residents, grow to as much as 30% Hispanic, with a total population of well more than 50% coming from what are typically considered ethnic minorities.

The old saying about Florida is you go north to go south. North Florida feels like the traditional south, large rural areas, conservative towns like Jacksonville and Pensacola, liberal college towns, etc., while the rest of the state feels like wherever it came from. Go to Tampa, or most anywhere on the west coast, and there is more of a Midwestern feel – as most who got there, came down the I-75 corridor. The east coast can feel more northeastern in attitude, homage to the I-95 corridor that brought them here.

There is also a coastal/interior split. Stay to the coastal side of the interstate, and the place is busy, almost one continuous city that goes on for hundreds of miles up and down the coastline Go to the interior of the interstates, and with the exception of Orlando – which is its own unique culture, the place is still very much Old Florida, with large expanses of agriculture and open space.

Then there is Miami-Dade, easily one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. 85% of the population is non-white, and that number is growing rapidly. It is really its own city-state, much more like a Hong Kong, or a Singapore, than it is a city within a state.

Florida as a 5 state commonwealth

People look at Florida different ways – I’ve more or less settled on it being home to 5 states.

North Florida

Home to 3.5 million residents, or 17% of the vote, think of North Florida as the I-10 corridor, running from Jacksonville to Pensacola. It has the lowest Hispanic and highest African American percentages, but is over 2/3rds white. The region is slightly bigger in population than Iowa.

The distance between Pensacola and Jacksonville is roughly 360 miles, along a fairly sparse I-10, home to America's #1 truck stop, the Busy Bee at the Live Oak halfway point. Rural north Florida feels much more like Georgia or Alabama than the Florida that most people think of. Population is growing fairly rapidly on the coasts, creating red counties that are just getting more red. That being said, there are still literally hundreds of miles of rural coastline in this part of the state, mostly through the Big Bend area.

Florida’s two dry counties are located here, as are two of its largest universities, as well as the seat of state government. In addition, the region is bookended by two of the oldest cities in America: St. Augustine and Pensacola. Both ends of north Florida have a large military presence, as well as significant acres of state and national forests.

It is also by far the most conservative part of the state. Mitt Romney won just shy of 60% of the 1.6 million votes cast in 2012, a margin that is north of 300,000 votes. To give a sense of scale, that is almost 100,000 more votes than Obama carried Miami-Dade in 2012. Outside of the two college towns: Gainesville and Tallahassee, there are very few places for Democrats to do well.

Trump will look to grow here, particularly in the Jacksonville media market. The Bush campaign in 2004 won Duval County, home to Jacksonville, by 61.000 votes, a margin that Obama cut to 8,000 in 2008, and about 15,000 in 2012. He will also look to take advantage of population growth in places like St. Johns County, and some of the Panhandle communities between Pensacola and Panama City. For Trump to win Florida, given the changes happening down south, I would suspect he would need to carry this part of the state by about 400,000 votes, stretching Romney’s win in upstate to over 62% of the vote. For Clinton to win, anything between Obama 2012 (40%) and Obama 2008 (42%) would make it difficult for Trump to find the necessary votes elsewhere.


Home to just over 4 million residents, or 20% of the state’s population, Orlando – in this case, defined as the Orlando media market, is the fastest growing market in the state. It is also arguably the place that has seen the most change over the last 25 years. The third largest market in Florida, would alone be the 27th largest state -- roughly the size of Oregon.

Just to provide some perspective, Orlando added about 350,000 new residents between 2010 and 2015, and over 50% of them were Hispanic, largely due to the migration of Puerto Rican families to Central Florida, as well as the growth of existing families. Hispanics have grown from 18.6% of the population to 21.4 of the population – in just five years. Almost all of this is happening in two counties: Orange and Osceola, or more simply, metro Orlando, which sets up some interesting politics in the region.

There is a lot going on here. Drive south from Jacksonville, and you enter the market in Flagler County, a county which boomed in the 90s with a ton of retirement migration from the New York area, then just bottomed out. Volusia to the south, home of NASCAR, and Brevard south of that, home to the Space Coast, both longtime manufacturing economies, have been hit hard over the last decade and a half. Both moved redder in 2012, with Volusia going Republican for the first time since 1988. Not surprisingly, Trump did very well in all three.

Move down I-4 from Daytona into metro Orlando, and you see a different story. The economy is humming along, growth has returned, though there is still real income pressure. You also in these counties can see just how much the demographic changes have impacted the politics. Consider this, Bush won the three metro Orlando counties by 9,000 votes in 2000 and 35,000 in 2004, while President Obama won both times by about 100,000 votes. To put that further in perspective, about 20% of the total change in margin between Bush’s 2004 win and Obama’s 2008 win happened in just these three counties.

But it isn’t all great news for Dems, further north is the Villages, a fast growing heavily Republican retirement community, largely of retired Midwesterners, and Ocala, which is home to Florida’s horse country. And what is interesting, when you combine the “Villages metro area” with the old manufacturing counties on the east coast, you find the Republican trends there almost balancing out the Democratic trends in the metro Orlando area. In fact, since 2000, Republicans have increased their margins in these counties by nearly 75,000 votes – and the change between 2008 and 2012 allowed Romney to sneak a small win the market in 2012.

To win the state, Trump needs to continue to grow those margins in the counties to the north and east of Orlando, and hope that the Clinton margins in the metro Orlando area don’t grow. Realistically, he would need to get to at least 52% of the two-way vote to meet a Florida win goal, or carry a margin of 75,000 votes or so. For her to win, the opposite needs to happen – run up the score – drive the margins in metro Orlando up closer to 125,000 or even higher, and stem the tide outside of the area, hence Tim Kaine’s first stop being in aforementioned Volusia County, with the goal of breaking even in the market. She does that, and there is almost no math for Trump to win.

Tampa and SW Florida

The biggest “state” in Florida, almost 30%, or 6 million residents live in Tampa and SW Florida. The Tampa media market alone is the size of Louisiana, but when combined with the SW Florida counties, you are looking at a region the population of Missouri, equal to 10 electoral votes.

Drive down coastal US 19 and 41 from Citrus County in the north to Naples at the far south, and with very few exceptions, it is one now one urban area stretching well over 200 miles. Interstate 75 runs through here, and thus, there is a distinctly Midwestern feel. In fact, 25-30 years ago, before the area really earned its own identity, if you went to a Tampa Bay football game against then division rivals Green Bay or Chicago, and it felt like a home game for the away team. It is not quite as bad today, but you will still see large contingents in their hometown garb.

The region is as “white” as North Florida, and has the smallest African American population in the state. There is a fast growing Hispanic population, which is starting to impact politics, particularly in Hillsborough County (Tampa), but outside of the traditional Cuban population in urban Tampa, the Hispanic population here is much more “Latin” (particularly Mexican) than the eastern and central part of the state, which meant a larger delta between Hispanic residency and voting. However, that is changing. Since 2008, of 43% of the voter registration growth has been Hispanic, though that trails the state overall of 53%. Also by comparison, 33% of the registration growth here has been white, compared to 18% statewide.

As you move south from Tampa towards Sarasota and beyond, it gets more Republican and you see more wealth. Sarasota is a funky political place, quite Republican in registration, but culturally more progressive. Obama nearly won the county in 2008, something that hasn’t been done since FDR. But in all of these counties, life out by the interstate is quite different than life close to the Gulf. Take Lee County, home to Fort Myers, and during the financial crisis, home to the largest foreclosure crisis in the country – with many communities still underwater. Travel further south into Collier County, and out east of the interstate, you will encounter massive Hispanic populations, including the neat community of Immokalee, a place that feels like almost no place else in the state.

Romney won this “state” by about 5%, driven by a robust performance in the Fort Myers market, where his win margin matched Bush’s in 2004. Hillsborough is the traditional bellwether here, though in recent years, demographics have moved into more of a base blue county. To win Florida, Trump will need to really drive up numbers, which in a perfect world would be doable. The population is older, and more white, and tends to come from many of the same states where Trump hopes to expand the map. But thankfully for my side, Trump has been a complete mess. Realistically, to make up for what he is going to lose in SE Florida, Trump would need to win the region by 3% more than Romney, taking Romney’s 150,000 vote margin and pushing it well over 200,000.

For Clinton, the task is pretty basic: Just keep it where it was for Obama, and try to ride a more Democratic Tampa to a win in the Tampa media market, and a slightly smaller loss than overall region. And trust me, they understand it, as she has made two trips to the Tampa media market in just over two weeks.

Keep an eye on this on election night. Pasco County, a large bedroom community north of Tampa, reports its early and absentee returns right at 7:00PM EST on the Supervisor’s website. If Clinton is ahead, or only behind by a few thousand votes, I think you can call Florida for her. If she is down more than few thousand, then hang on for a close one.

SE Florida

State four – moving back east across the state to the Palm Beach and Broward county areas, we find a region as big as Orlando, home to almost 4 million voters (20% of the state), and actually a slightly bigger voter block (about 21% of the statewide vote). Like Orlando, think Oregon when describing this size of this market. This state is defined as the Palm Beach County media market, as well as Broward County. I’ve always tended to find Broward more aligned with Palm Beach than it is with Dade, with whom it shares a media market. However, that might not be the case for long, as Broward’s demographics change before our eyes. More on that later.

This is the hub of the traditional Democratic base in Florida. Before Miami burst onto the scene in 2008 as a place where Democrats could run up the score, Democratic wins were defined by how you did in this area. In Bush v Gore, Gore won this area by over 300,000 votes. The only other region he won was Miami, by just under 50,000. He lost everywhere else. Today’s vote model for Democrats is more balanced with Dade, but it is still critical to do well here.

The region, for all purposes, is basically one big city, at least east of Interstate 95. While there are some less dense areas in Martin County and Indian River, if you drive down US #1 from Melbourne to Homestead in Miami-Dade, you probably aren’t going to go more than a mile or two without passing a gas station, and it might take you three days with all the traffic lights. Certainly from the Palm Beach County line, it is just one continuous city all the way to the Keys. That being said, out west in the Palm Beach County market, things get pretty rural. There are still large areas dedicated to agriculture, and when you get out towards Lake Okeechobee, you’ll find communities that are as different from the town of Palm Beach as we are to Mars.

At the southern end of the area, Broward County is pretty close to built out. Growth here runs right up to the Everglades. For many years, it was called the 6th Borough of New York, and for good reason, literally everyone you met came from the northeast – moving right down I-95. It is home to the state’s largest Jewish population, and Democratic wins here were based on a coalition of liberal Jewish voters and African Americans. Not anymore. Broward is exploding with diversity, driven by both forward leaning Hispanic and Caribbean Black populations. In fact, in just five years, Broward County has actually seen a decrease in the white population of nearly 40,000, with Hispanics growing by 93,000 and Blacks (both African American and Caribbean American) growing by nearly 70,000. In Palm Beach County, the story isn’t much different, with the white population growing by less than 10,000 over the last five years, with the bulk of the growth among the Hispanic and Black populations.

This trend is what is bad news for Donald Trump. Broward County is actually getting more Democratic as it gets more diverse, driving opportunities for larger margins. Where he has room to grow upstate and on the Gulf Coast side, he has to hold on here. Obama carried this region with 58% of the vote. Given Trump’s absolute struggles in the Black and Hispanic communities, not to mention the demographic growth, and while he really needs to keep Clinton at the same level of support that Obama won in 2012, it is hard to imagine Clinton her share of vote to 60%. If she gets any higher than this, he’s pretty much done, as there just isn’t that many more places for him to make it up.


Last but not least, Miami, which in this scenario also includes the Keys.

Roughly the population of Nevada, Miami is one of the most diverse areas in the world. It is becoming what London is to Europe, and what Singapore and Hong Kong are to Asia, that critical hub that serves as both an economic and political point of entry for Latin America, and about the only thing it shares in common with the rest of the state is the common border. It is also exceptionally complicated. According to the 2010 census:

At just under 14% of the statewide population, nearly 85% of this “state” population is made up of people of color. In terms of voter performance, the area makes up just under 11% of the statewide vote, a difference which points to the sheer number of non-citizen residents in Miami.

Today we consider this base Democratic territory, but that definition really only applies to the last eight years. In the disputed election of 2000, and again in 2004, Gore only carried the two party vote by 6 points. Fast forward to 2008, and the margin grew to nearly 16%. In 2012, the number grew to 23%.

What is driving that change?

Let’s start by looking back.

The key factor driving the relative competitiveness of Miami was the strength of the Republicans with exile-era Cubans. As recently as 2000, 56% of Hispanics in Dade were Republican. In 2006, the number had dropped to 49%. In January of this year: 36%. In terms of raw voters, the GOP advantage among Hispanics has dropped from about 130,000 in 2004 to about 40,000 today. It would not surprise me if this number was close to parity by Election Day 2016. Over the same time, the percentage of Dade County voters who are Hispanic has risen from 44% in 2000 to 57% today. Over the same time, non-Hispanic white has dropped from 31 to 19%. In other words, the largest share of the Miami vote is getting bigger, and more Democratic. Even Donald Trump could do that math.

Looking at it just since the 2008 election, Democrats have added more than 31,000 Hispanics to their Miami area rolls, while another 65,000 have signed up without party affiliation? Republicans: They have lost nearly 11,000 Hispanic voters. It boils down to this, Republicans are failing to replace their aging exile-era Cuban base, as later generations of Cubans are not as loyal to their elder’s party affiliations AND Miami is rapidly diversifying within the Hispanic population, and those non-Cuban voters are performing much more like non-Cuban Hispanics elsewhere: overwhelmingly Democratic.

So what does this mean? For Republicans, absolutely nothing good.

Two things separate things are happening on a collision course: demographic inertia is pushing the area more Democratic. One could argue that if Democrats did nothing at all, the Clinton margin of victory would probably push towards 28-30%, which would increase her margin of victory by 50-60K votes.

But combine this with Trump, and now you have the chance for a truly generational change in Miami, one that could change the look of the county, not just at the top of the ticket, but at all levels of the ballot. Let’s say the Trump factor pushes Clinton to carry the two party vote in Miami Dade county by a margin of 70-30 (keep in mind Obama won Miami Dade with 61%), now she carries the county by 350K votes or more – a significant increase over 2012. Two things happen: She wins Florida, no questions asked, and lots of local Republican office holders go home. For Trump to win, he needs to keep the Miami margin under 30 points, which means he needs to find his footing with Hispanics, and stem demographic energy – two really tall tasks.

So how does this plane land?

This piece is long, but Florida isn’t simple. I wanted to show in a traditional election, how the two main candidates should approach the state to win. I understand that nothing about this election is traditional, and that multiple candidates in this race will change win goals in each of these markets.

But for all the different scenarios, the basic premise of Florida doesn’t really change.

Politically mine is not a state that is moved by what happens in a number of battleground counties – these days, I am honestly not sure I could list more than 2 or 3 such counties, but instead the state is like a scale, balancing on the fulcrum of the I-4 corridor. Candidates will work to influence where the scale tips in how they manage the margins – how much you win or lose different areas – Dems keeping it closer in Duval versus Republicans running up the score somewhere else. At its most basic level, for Trump to win, he needs to tip that scale to the north, running up big numbers, more than she runs up South Florida. For Clinton to win, the math is reversed. There aren’t many reasonable experts on either side who at this point wouldn’t give her the advantage.

Though nothing is easy here. The state is absurdly expensive, and winning Florida means navigating different cultures, languages, and economic realities. It requires both turning out your base and persuading an ideologically and culturally diverse swing voters. When folks ask me, what is the key to winning Florida, the answer is everything, which can be a hard concept to understand. But the reality is Florida isn’t competitive because of its unique nature, like an Iowa, but it becomes competitive in sum when you add up all of its many parts. Furthermore, the state seems to be growing in such a way that even as the state grows and gets more diverse, the competitive nature of it isn’t really changing. Honestly, that is why I love working in this state.

I am not as blindly optimistic as some in my party are about what demographics mean, I do know this, in 2016, I’d much rather be her than him at this point, by a long shot.


So about that Melania Trump/Michelle Obama speech...

I've written a fair number of speeches in my career. Anyone worth their salt who has written understands the intentional nature of speechwriting -- particularly a speech designed to be delivered to a major audience. Every word, every pause, and every transition is considered. You play it out in your head -- you have the principal practice it. Nothing is unintentional. Nothing. Ever.

Whoever wrote Melania Trump's speech knew what they were doing - they were sabotaging the moment. They wrote a speech that they knew cribbed not only from Michelle Obama, but also from Rick Astley -- the latter of which is the dead giveaway. And honeslty if they didn't do it as intentional sabotage, then the Trump campaign is a bigger goat show than we all thought.

I suspect the speech shibacle had one of two goals: Either, the campaign itself wanted to marginalize her following reports that she was unhappy with the way the VP selection went -- or, some disgruntled speechwriter/comms staffer is just over the campaign and wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. To believe the third option, that this was just an accident, would be to believe that the Trump campaign is being run with the competence of a dysfunctional city council campaign -- and one completely unprepared to run a national government.

Very few things in campaigns are secrets, so I suspect we will learn what happened in the next 24 hours. And no, I don't think the moment will have a single impact on the actual campaign. However, it does provide just another insight into just how bad the Trump campaign is at this politics thing.

I genuinely feel bad for her. All in all, she did quite well in a space for which few are comfortable. Sadly for her, that's not what anyone will remember.