For the first time in a while, the Florida Democratic Primary will mean something. For Sanders, it is a chance to prove he can win a big diverse state. For Clinton, it is a chance to solidify her position as the party's standard bearer.
And unless something dramatic changes, Clinton has a solid wind at her back, and will win Florida and solidifying her as the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee.
There are really four things strongly working in Clinton's favor here:
1. Diversity: Between 35-40% of primary voters will be from communities of color. A plurality will be African American, though Hispanics and Caribbean voters will make up a sizable share. While not as diverse as states like South Carolina, unless Sanders can find new appeal to communities of color, he's starting way behind.
2. Voting Age: The primary electorate in both parties is older. In New Hampshire, where Sanders defeated Clinton, the exit polls found about 50% of the electorate was over the age of 45. In Florida, it was expected that as much as 80% of the electorate will be over the age of 50, and based on the early Vote By Mail returns (which are older than the population), that 80% target looks very likely. In fact, Sanders sweet spot - voters under 35, are making up less than 5% of the people who have voted so far, compared to the low 20s in New Hampshire.
3. Big Mo: Clinton has won several tough primaries in the early going, but as she the election heads south, the confines get more friendly. It is very likely that by the time we get to Florida, she will have won at least 20 of the 25 contests. That is a train that Florida isn't going to stop.
4. Her significant home field advantage. If the Clinton's had a third home state after Arkansas and New York, Florida would probably be it. Bill Clinton made his first trip here in 1981, at the invitation of Governor Bob Graham to speak at the annual Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson dinner, and the Clinton's have been back many times. In 1992, he brought the state into the realm of "battleground states" and in 2008, Hillary Clinton easily won the state's primary. The Clinton family relationship with the state is both real, and deep.
That being said, let's look at how the state should play out on the Democratic side.
1. Somewhere near 80% of our vote will be cast in four media markets. Miami and Tampa will make up nearly equal shares. If Black (in Florida, both African American and Caribbean) and Hispanic vote his high, Miami will edge Tampa. If not, Tampa will edge Miami. Orlando is close behind, and West Palm Beach will make up 13-14%. The percentage of our primary coming from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties will approach 40%.
2. Of the remaining media markets, no one is likely to be much more than 5% of the total statewide vote. Fort Myers, Tallahassee and Jacksonville will make up in the neighborhood of 5%, with the other three, Pensacola, Panama City and Gainesville adding up to another 5% or so. There just aren't big swaths of rural North Florida Democrats left, which is why our primary vote tends to hang in the more urban counties.
3. Just as a comparison, the big four GOP markets will be Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville, in that order, adding up to 70% or so of the vote. To the North Florida point above, "The I-10 Corridor" makes up about 22% of their vote, and about 15% of ours. They also have a larger slice coming from SW Florida, with Fort Myers comprising about 9% of their statewide vote, compared to 5% of ours. More on that in the next blog piece.
4. People of color will make up between 35-40% of the vote. Through the first full week of absentee ballot returns, that number is close to 35%, indicating we could be headed to closer to 40%, as particularly African Americans are more likely to vote in person. The total Black vote will land between 20-25% of all Democratic primary vote, with the remainder split between Hispanics and others. Hispanics, while making up a growing share of our general election win number, have tended to be a much smaller portion of the primary vote. One thing I am watching for is if this changes.
5. Because the Tampa area tends to report very quickly, we will know by 7:05 PM EST where this thing is headed. Given that the two southeast Florida markets, given the average age and the increased diversity, should be the heart and soul of Clinton's base, if she's winning by any kind of a decent margin in the early returns in the Bay area, we will absolutely know who won Florida long before those in the Central Time Zone (Panhandle) finish voting.