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Big shakeup at top of top 25; FSU is 17th; UF 21st

The Associated Press Top 25 poll does not look the same as it did one week ago. With three of the top four teams losing on Saturday, that should come as no surprise.

Following Michigan’s loss to Iowa, Alabama is now a unanimous choice for the top spot. The Wolverines fell to fourth.

Ohio State moved into Michigan’s former spot at No. 2 followed by Louisville, who replaced Clemson after the Tigers’ shocking loss to Pittsburgh.

Washington, the former No. 4, dropped to seventh after losing at home to Southern California. The Trojans vaulted from nowhere to No.15 in this week’s poll.

Florida State moved up three positions to No. 17 after their lopsided win over Boston College. The Florida Gators moved up one position to the 21st position after their home win against South Carolina.

The South Florida Bulls received some votes for honorable mention.

While Alabama is rightfully recognized as the consensus top team in the country, the Big 10 has placed four teams in the top 10. In addition to Michigan and Ohio State, they are joined by Wisconsin and Penn State, who are ranked No. 6 and No. 9, respectively.

The Big 10, Pac 12 and SEC have five teams ranked overall. The Big 12 has four and the ACC has three.

Three non-Power five conferences are represented. The Mountain West has two teams in the top 25 while the Troy Trojans, representing the Sun Belt Conference, crash the party at No. 25.

The top 25 poll can be found here.

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Backup quarterback Austin Appleby guides Gators to verge of division title

This time, it was good that Will Muschamp didn’t bring a lot of offense to Florida Field.

Muschamp, the former coach of the Florida Gators, couldn’t muster much an attack in his return to Gainesville Saturday. His South Carolina Gamecocks gained only 256 yards in a 20-7 loss to the Gators. Florida, despite two fumbles and an interception, built a quick lead and won comfortably.

The Gators are now 7-2 and in the lead of the SEC East. They can win it outright next week against LSU. Because Tennessee beat Kentucky Saturday, the Gators may have to beat the Tigers to reach the SEC title game.

South Carolina was able to run for only 43 yards.

For Florida, running back Jordan Scarlett rushed for 134 yards.

“Those young guys went ahead and played their tale off,”Florida coach  Jim McElwain said on CBS after the win. “I’m just happy for these guys, this is a great group of guys to be around they’re a lot of fun to be around. They play hard. We just have to play a little better.”

Appleby was efficient, hitting 17 of 21 passes for 201 yards.

“He did alright,” McElwain said about Appleby. “We’re going to be back to work and get up tomorrow and put a plan together. That’s what it’s all about.”

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The Predictions: Florida might get a glimpse at future QBs

This time, the noise isn’t about the coach who is coming back.

It’s about the quarterbacks who are here.

Yeah, yeah. So Will Muschamp is coming back to Gainesville. Big deal. Muschamp wasn’t especially popular when he worked here.

For Florida, the bigger question is about quarterback Luke Del Rio, who will miss Saturday’s game against South Carolina. In his place is backup Austin Appleby. But what has the Gator faithful interested is the possibility of freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, considered the future of the program. The Gators are coming off their worst offensive performance of the season.

Florida is still leading in the SEC East, but the South Carolina and LSU games will determine their fate.

South Carolina has won three straight games with freshman quarterback Jake Bentley. For a change, Muschamp might not be coaching the lesser offense on the field. Still, the Gators are at home, and their defense (now third in the nation) should have success against a freshman.

Prediction: Florida 17, South Carolina 13

Boston College at FSU (Friday)

By now, wouldn’t you have thought there would be more interest in FSU’s season? But the Seminoles were trounced by Louisville, edged by North Carolina and beaten by Clemson. FSU still can win 10 games this season, but it doesn’t bear the mark of anything special.

The Eagles struggle mightily on offense, which should help a defense that has given up too many big plays. Eventually, either Dalvin Cook or Deondre Francois should make enough plays for a comfortable win.

Prediction: FSU 24, Boston College 10

Miami at Virginia

The Hurricanes seem in position for a late-season run that will allow them to feel good about the first year of coach Mark Richt. They still need more talent before they can regain their lost swagger, but you won’t be able to tell against Virginia.

Miami should win handily and become bowl eligible.

Prediction: Miami 30, Virginia 13

USF at Memphis

It’s a trap game for the Bulls. Memphis is much better than you might expect.

The reason? Despite USF’s dazzling offense, the Bulls have to play defense, too. And they do, but not very well. They’re 114th in the nation, and they’ve allowed more than 30 points per game. Quinton Flowers will have to have one of his better games throwing the ball for the Bulls to pull it out in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: USF 28, Memphis 27

Cincinnati at UCF

Everyone agrees with the job that UCF coach Scott Frost has done. But Cincinnati beat the Knights 52-7 last year. That’s a lot of ground to make up.

This year, the UCF secondary is much better. But if Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville can stop cursing out his fans, the Bearcats should win. A warning: It’ll be closer this time.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27, UCF 24


The Owls are coming off a huge victory over Rice. Running back Devin Singletary rushed for 252 yards and quarterback Jeff Driskell threw for 217. Alas, it was against Rice.

FAU lost to UTEP by 10 last year, so the Owls should pay attention. But after 657 yards last week, you’d think that FAU had enough momentum to win this one at home.

Prediction: FAU 20, UTEP 14

The Pros

Chicago at Tampa Bay

Neither team has been very good this season, but the Bears are coming off a big win against Minnesota. Quarterback Jay Cutler has played well agaist the Bucs through the years. Cutler’s performance will be a big one; the Bucs have struggled against top-flight quarterbacks this year.

For Tampa Bay to win, it has to hope that Doug Martin or Jacquizz Rodgers can play enough to give the Bucs some balance on offense.

Prediction: Bears 21, Bucs 20

Houston at Jacksonville

The Jags played better last week in a loss to Kansas City, but this continues to be one of the biggest disappointment seasons in Jacksonville history. Quarterback Blake Bortles, in particular, has struggled for Jacksonville.

Houston’s Brock Osweiler hasn’t been much better, but he does have the Texans leading the AFC South. That should still be true after Sunday.

Prediction: Houston 23, Jacksonville 17

San Diego at Miami

No, it won’t be a rematch of the classic 1982 game between the teams (the Kellen Winslow game), but it should be entertaining.

The Chargers have played well in spots this year behind quarterback Philip Rivers. Look for a matchup between two excellent backs in San Diego’s Melvin Gordon and Miami’s Jay Ajayi. In the end, however, Rivers should outplay Ryan Tannehill for the win

Prediction: San Diego 27, Miami 20

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Florida to look to other quarterbacks in South Carolina game

The University of Florida, looking to avoid its second straight late-season swoon, will have to rely on a new quarterback to take them home.

Starter Luke Del Rio is out for Saturday’s game against South Carolina with an injured shoulder. That leaves transfer Austin Appleby to start for the Gators. Freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask could see playing time.

Florida coach Jim McElwain said he was planning to evaluate the quarterback position even before Del Rio’s injury. Del Rio threw for only 229 yards and two interceptions.

Appleby started two games earlier in the season, losing to Tennessee and barely beating Vanderbilt.

“I haven’t played well,” Del Rio told reporters. “I haven’t taken care of the ball. I need to be consistent with my decision-making and my accuracy.”

The Gators play South Carolina Saturday. They still have to travel to LSU and FSU later in the year.

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Football flashback: Blocked kick saves Gators’ title season

The legend was on the wrong sideline.

It was 2006, and Steve Spurrier was leading the South Carolina Gamecocks into The Swamp. Spurrier, who had won the Heisman Trophy with the Gators. Spurrier, who had won a national championship. Spurrier, the architect of the Fun ‘n Gun offense.

The year before, when he coached against his alma mater for the first time, Spurrier’s team won 30-22. But surely, it would be different when Spurrier led his team into Gainesville. Right?

Well, barely. Florida, which would go on to win the national championship, won a 17-16 game when Jarvis Moss blocked a 48-yard field goal on the game’s final play. The Gators would win their final four games handily to win the national title.

But South Carolina, an 8-5 team, threw a scare into the proceedings.

“This could be the year of the Gators,” Spurrier said.

Florida also blocked an extra point (Moss again) and another field goal in the victory.

Steve (Harris) and Ray (McDonald) did all the work, and I just jumped my highest,” Moss said. “That was the biggest play of my career.”

This week, the Gators (ranked 22nd) play South Carolina again. The Gamecocks are playing for another Florida coach this year in Will Muschamp.

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Donald Trump win fueled by Panhandle, Lee, Brevard, Pasco counties

President-elect Donald Trump‘s victory in Florida Tuesday included complete dominance of most Panhandle counties, but it was his success in a handful of medium-size counties scattered throughout the state such as Lee, Brevard, Pasco, and Clay that carried him past Hillary Clinton.

In fact, were it not for the sizable margins of voters Trump picked up in winning Lee (66,416) and Brevard (62,095) counties, Clinton would have won Florida.

Trump won Florida by 119,673 votes, according to the unofficial returns posted by the Florida Department of State. He got 49 percent, and Clinton got 48 percent.

Clinton absolutely dominated the South Florida megapolis of Miami-Fort Lauderdale and did well in the Orlando-Kissimmee area. But she won only nine counties total in Florida, and Trump won the other 58, including a broad swath across North Florida that included everything except for the Tallahassee area of Leon County and the mostly African-American Gadsden County.

Here’s what the picture looked like:

Trump got more than 80 percent of the vote in six Panhandle counties: Holmes, Lafayette, Baker, Dixie, Union, and Gilchrist. He topped 70 percent in 15 other counties, all in the Panhandle or the North Florida-Jacksonville area. He topped 60 percent in a total of 41 counties throughout Florida.

Clinton’s best showings were in Gadsden, where she drew 68 percent; Broward County, 66 percent; Miami-Dade County, 64 percent; Leon and Osceola counties, 61 percent; and Orange County, 60 percent. She won only three other counties, Alachua, Palm Beach, and Hillsborough.

Broward and Miami-Dade counties each gave Clinton cushions of about 289,000 votes; Orange threw in a 134,000-vote advantage for her; Palm Beach, despite a relatively close contest there, provided her with a 100,000-vote advantage; and Hillsborough, Leon, and Osceola each offered cushions of between 30,000 and 40,000 votes. But that, along with much smaller vote cushions provided by Alachua and Gadsden, was it for her. And they didn’t stack nearly high enough to match all the county cushions Trump won.

Trump had 30,000-vote or bigger wins just about all over Florida, and mostly in medium-sized counties.

They included, in the Southwest, Lee and Collier; in the I-4 corridor, Brevard, Pasco, Lake, Polk, Manatee and Volusia; in North Central Florida, Marion, Sumter, and Citrus; in the Panhandle, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Escambia; and in North Florida, Clay and St. Johns.

Trump didn’t take much in South Florida, though he did win Monroe County by almost 3,000 votes.

Where was it close? Trump won Pinellas, Seminole, and Duval counties by 2 percent each; St. Lucie County by 3 percent; Jefferson County by 5 percent; and Monroe by 7 percent. Clinton won Hillsborough County by 6 percent.

The other 61 counties were all double-digit spreads.

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Donald Trump rides chutzpah to victory in presidential race

He felt it in the breeze.

Nearing the end of his long, improbable journey to victory in the presidential race, Donald Trump, the candidate of so much tumult and bluster, waxed nostalgic about how he got there.

“I had great parents, great parents,” Trump told the crowd at a rally in steamy Orlando, Florida. “I just felt that nice breeze, so they’re helping us out.”

The candidate who for more than a year had unapologetically demonstrated he would say anything sensed it was time to rein it in.

“Stay on point, Donald, stay on point,” he publicly admonished himself just days before the election. “No sidetracks, Donald. Nice and easy.”

It was a rare glimpse of internal dialogue in the man whose whole life has been one long battle to prove himself bigger, louder, richer, smarter, brassier than the next guy.

Trump’s unbounded confidence — and obsession with winning — have been a lifelong constant, evident in ways large and small.

Growing up as one of five children in a well-to-do Queens real estate family, Donald was the brash one, a fighter from the start.

“We gotta calm him down,” his father would say, as Trump recalls it. “Son, take the lumps out.”

For good or ill, it’s advice Trump rarely embraced.

Military school helped channel his energy, but Trump’s rebellious streak remained.

Trump followed his father into real estate but chafed within the confines of Fred Trump’s realm in New York’s outer boroughs.

He crossed the East River to Manhattan and never looked back.

“He’s gone way beyond me, absolutely,” an admiring Fred marveled. His son had hit it big well before he hit 40.

So successful at such a young age, Trump never did have to smooth out those lumps his father had warned about.

“He was at the top of his own pyramid,” says Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist at the City University of New York who is writing a book about Trump. “Nobody was going to say, ‘Donald, tone it down.'”

Trump admitted as much in a 2005 “Access Hollywood” hot-mic video when he talked about making predatory moves on women and declared, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Trump stresses his Ivy League education, yet revels in juvenile jabs, labeling his adversaries “stupid,” ”dumb,” ”bad” and “sad.”

“I have the best words,” he declared at a December campaign rally. “But there’s no better word than ‘stupid,’ right?”

With no one to shush or second-guess him, Trump made brashness his way, along with his trademark glitz and flash. (Flash, in Trump’s lexicon, registers a level below glitz.)

Through years of boom, bust and more than a decade of reality-TV celebrity on “The Apprentice,” the deals kept coming and the price tags (and, often, the debt) kept growing — as did the hype. Always the hype.

Trump, visiting Scotland in 2012 to fight the government’s proposed wind farm off the shore of his new golf resort there, was asked during a parliamentary inquiry to provide evidence for his claim that the “monstrous turbines” would hurt tourism.

“I am the evidence,” Trump answered in all seriousness, drawing laughter from the galleries. “I am a world-class expert in tourism.”

He’s not all chutzpah, though.

Ivanka Trump tells of her “incredibly empathetic” father reaching out to help strangers he sees mentioned in the news whose stories of adversity touch him.

A Mississippi man remembers Trump picking up the phone to call when the man’s father wrote to ask for a loan to build a hotel back in 1988. Trump didn’t offer a loan to the Indian-American small businessman but did give him a pep talk and some advice.

“Trump inspired my father to the fullest when he told him that Dad’s immigrant story was wonderful,” Suresh Chawla wrote in a 2015 letter to The Clarksdale (Mississippi) Press Register.

For all the protesters who roil his rallies, Trump himself has been the heckler of our time. No one is immune. Not senator and war hero John McCain, not the disabled, not Mexicans, not Muslims, not even those people who make up a majority of the country (and the electorate): women.

Vanquished rivals learned to their peril that to criticize Trump was to set off the nuclear option in response.

Trump calls it having a little fun.

Aubrey Immelman, a political psychologist at Saint John’s University in Minnesota who has developed a personality index to assess presidential candidates, puts Trump’s level of narcissism in the “exploitative” range, surpassing any presidential nominee’s score in the past two decades.

“His personality is his best friend, but it’s also his worst enemy,” says Immelman.

Still, the loudmouth from Queens has a vulnerable side. He revealed it in a movie review, of all things, with filmmaker Errol Morris in 2002.

Talking about “Citizen Kane,” his favorite movie, Trump spoke with unusual introspection about the accumulation of wealth.

“You learn in Kane that maybe wealth isn’t everything, because he had the wealth but he didn’t have the happiness,” said Trump, who once wanted to become a filmmaker himself.

“In real life, I believe that wealth does in fact isolate you from other people,” he said. “It’s a protective mechanism — you have your guard up much more so than you would if you didn’t have wealth.”

There’s a wariness to the say-anything Trump that was long in the making.

Trump, in a 1990 Playboy interview, said the loss of his older brother Fred Jr., an alcoholic who died at 42, “affected everything.”

“He was the first Trump boy out there, and I subconsciously watched his moves,” Trump said. “I saw people really taking advantage of Fred, and the lesson I learned was always to keep up my guard 100 percent.” He said he’s a “very untrusting guy.”

The man who has married three times lives large and offers the opulence of his real estate developments as a metaphor for what he can do for America. But in fact he has relatively simple tastes, if you are to believe him and his family.

He’s never had a drink, smoked or done drugs, he says. He’s a self-proclaimed “germ freak” who’d really rather not shake your hand.

Give him spaghetti and meatballs over pate any day, his sister says.

Or even meatloaf, a Trump favorite when he’s at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

In the end, Trump stood before voters and offered himself as the unadorned solution to what ails a nation he paints in dark, troubled hues, mocking the gimmicks and celebrity endorsements of his opponent.

“I am here all by myself,” he told a crowd in Pennsylvania. “Just me. No guitar, no piano, no nothing.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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In White House math, certain places offer clues on outcome

Did Donald Trump succeed in at last winning over college-educated whites uneasy with the billionaire reality TV star? Did he drive a wave of working-class white voters? Did Hillary Clinton rebuild Barack Obama‘s winning coalition – young voters, urban liberals and minorities – while picking off moderate Republicans?

Those questions are central to who will win Tuesday’s presidential election, and a handful of locales could provide some early answers on election night.

The Associated Press has identified 10 counties seen as bellwethers for the Trump and Clinton strategies. All come from battleground states in the eastern time zone, where polls close the earliest. Their importance was determined from conversations with Republicans and Democrats, as well as AP’s own analysis.

A look at the 10 counties:

FLORIDA: In 2012, Obama won by about 74,000 votes (0.9 percentage points):


This Republican-leaning county, home to Jacksonville, has a solid white majority and sizable black minority, making it look more like the Deep South than south Florida. So a movement in Trump’s favor would mean returns closer to 2004, when George W. Bush won by 60,000 votes, than 2012, when Mitt Romney finished just 16,000 ahead of Obama.


Bush and Obama each won Hillsborough (Tampa) twice, and both are two-term presidents. What makes Hillsborough stand out in 2016 is a growing Mexican-American population. There are already signs that Trump’s hard-line immigration stance is driving up the Hispanic vote: A quarter of the Hispanics who cast ballots in the opening days of early voting hadn’t voted at all in 2012. An expanded electorate (543,000 voted here in 2012) that is less white would benefit Clinton.


In Florida’s most populous county, older Cuban-Americans fuel Republicans (333,000 votes in 2012), while younger Cuban-Americans, other Hispanics and black voters drive Democratic totals (541,000 in 2012).

If Clinton lags Obama’s vote totals with black voters, it could show up here. Trump, meanwhile, could struggle to match the usual Republican performance among Cuban-Americans. Watch for whether Trump’s Miami-Dade vote totals lag far behind those of Sen. Marco Rubio, a favorite among his fellow Cuban-Americans.

NORTH CAROLINA: In 2012, Obama lost by 92,000 votes (2 percentage points):


Registered Republicans and Democrats are split almost evenly in Wilmington and surrounding New Hanover County, while independents have risen by 10,000 voters since 2012 to outnumber both parties. Obama lost here by 1.5 percentage points in 2008 and slipped to a 4.5 percentage point deficit in 2012. The margin Tuesday could signal how independents are breaking statewide and beyond North Carolina.


In the state’s most populous county, the ranks of voters with no party affiliation have grown by almost 50,000 or 24 percent since 2012, while Republican and Democratic registrations have remained roughly level. How those new voters break in a county Obama won by 56,000 votes (11 points) will help determine the statewide outcome and could portend the leanings of urban independents elsewhere.


This is one of the few nearly all-white counties in the country that split on Obama’s two elections. He won by 4 percentage points in 2008, but his vote totals slipped 13 percent in 2012, resulting in a 3-point loss.

Appalachian State University in Boone anchors the population, which is more educated than the broader North Carolina electorate and includes thousands of students – key Clinton targets. Beyond campus, Watauga has lower income averages and a higher poverty rate, offering Trump an opening.

OHIO: In 2012, Obama won by 166,000 votes (3 percentage points)


This is one of three Ohio River counties Obama won in 2008 but lost in 2012. The county is more than 90 percent white. Fewer voters are college-educated than in the general population and median incomes are lower than the national marks – all factors that play to Trump’s strengths. He won here easily in the Republican primary, trouncing home-state Gov. John Kasich.

Obama’s vote slipped 13 percent to about 14,000 here in his re-election campaign, while the Republican total climbed 8 percent to almost 17,000. Those totals alone won’t flip Ohio to the Republican column, but an uptick for Trump in Belmont could herald gains in similar-profile counties across the state, which has a higher proportion of working-class whites than other battlegrounds.


This diverse county, home to Cincinnati, has pockets of everything both candidates are looking for. The city has a large black population. The surrounding areas have college-educated independent and Republican whites Clinton wants, along with working-class whites likely to back Trump. Obama got 225,000 and 220,000 votes here, winning each time by about 6 percentage points. A tighter margin would bode well for Trump.

PENNSYLVANIA: Obama won in 2012 by 310,000 votes (5.4 percentage points):


Obama lost by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, the only metro Philadelphia county he lost after sweeping the metro area in 2008. The Chester population is overwhelmingly white, almost half have college degrees and median income exceeds the national mark. All that makes this county a prime indicator of how Trump is faring among suburban voters who typically back Republicans but are skeptical about Trump.


In Obama’s re-election, his margin in Philadelphia County was much wider than his statewide margin. As rural and small-town counties trend more Republican, the pressure will be on Clinton to replicate that roughly 6-to-1 cushion approaching a 500,000-vote advantage.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Steve Schale: Notes on Election Day in Florida

To: Anyone who has been reading my memos, Putin included.
From: Steve Schale
Re: We survived, and genuine thanks from me.

First, thank you all for following along for the last two weeks. This memo isn’t going to be a big data dump. For those, you can go back and read the other 12 versions of this thing.

But I want to start with a couple of numbers. First: 67. That is the percentage of the electorate that was white in 2012 — which by the way was down from 71 in 2008. My foundational assumption was if the electorate was more diverse than 2012, the basic coalition that got President Obama over the line in 2012 would hold. We finish early voting at 65.7 white, 15.3 Hispanic, and 13.1 black, with the black number closing in on the 2012 share, and the white number down.

Another thing working into play here is the explosion of turnout in Central Florida and Miami. If you reweighed the 2012 election by the current 2016 share of vote by market, Obama would have beaten Romney by almost twice the 2012 margin, or 1.5 percent. Under the same scenario, if you apply the 2012 margins by county to the 2016 turnout, you end up with a nearly two-point Clinton win. And none of this factors in the likelihood that race will drive larger margins in some areas — and smaller Republican ones in others.

So, as I think about this race, I try to get my head around what both candidates have going for them.

First, the factors that Clinton should feel good about:

The electorate is more diverse than 2012.

The Orlando area (Orange and Osceola) and Miami area (Broward and Dade) are turning out a full three points higher as a share of the state (29.3 percent, projected 26.15 percent).

While Republicans talked about Trump‘s ability to turnout low-propensity voters, it is Clinton who has turned out 250,000 more low-propensity voters.

NPA voters, making up the largest share they’ve ever made up in a Florida presidential election, are four points more diverse than the electorate at-large, including a 20 percent Hispanic share.

Voters who do not fit into one of the three main demographic categories are over 50 percent low propensity, and combined, are 77 percent Democratic or NPA.

North Florida, a Trump stronghold, is well under its performance targets, yet #Duuuval County, a GOP stronghold, is starting Election Day with a 4K voter Democratic edge. Again, this is why the president came to Duval. For Dems, it was never about winning there, but it is all about stopping the tide.

Factors Trump should feel good about:

The Fort Myers media market is over-performing its projected market share by about 1 percent

Democrats have a smaller raw voter lead going into Election Day. While I think there are structural reasons for this, it is still the reality.

There are more Republicans who voted in both 2008 and 2012 left to vote than Democrats (though among just 2012 voters, it’s basically a tie).

So, what does this mean?

Those are not equal ledgers, and pretty much everything Hillary Clinton wanted to have take place to position herself to win Florida has happened.

I was asked yesterday by a journalist, “So Schale, what would you be worried about if you were in her campaign?”

Truthfully, not a lot.

I am usually superstitious about turnout, so, of course, you worry about that. But at the same time, I also recognize that for Trump to win, he must have a ridiculously good day. I suspect when early voting is counted, she will have won the early vote by three to four points, and if early voting is, let’s say two-thirds of all the votes, it means Trump has to win tomorrow by six to eight points. I don’t think six to eight points is out there today for him.

If you look at the 3.2 million voters who in 2012 who haven’t voted yet, even if they all vote, Miami and Orlando remain well above both their 2012 share and their projected share, and I-10 (Trump Country) still falls below 2012. Also, Fort Myers comes back to life, finishing where it should, about 6.6 percent of the electorate.

In other words, even if all those 2012 voters come out — voters that lean a little Republican — the electorate is still regionally balanced better for Clinton than Obama, is more diverse than it was for Obama, and has an NPA voter pool that is more diverse than it was for Obama — or in any state where Trump is winning NPAs. Can Trump win today? Sure. Is it likely? Not really.

In other words, what should I be concerned about?

My good friend Tom Eldon, a longtime Florida pollster and fellow oenophile, asked me today “On scale of 1-10, how are you feeling?” If I was a 7 going into 2012 (just ask every reporter who heard me make my pitch for why Obama would win a state no one thought he would), and a 10 in 2008, Tom agreed he was also a 9 (sorry to out you bro).

It is this simple: If the Clinton operation hits its marks tonight, she’s going to win. It’s going to be close, probably in the 1.5-2.5 percent margin race. It’s hard to nail down exactly because I don’t have access to campaign polling (real polling, not public polls).

What to look for?

Data is going to come in very fast today after 7 p.m.

Two scenarios: because so much vote is early and will be reported early, if she’s going to win by say, two or more, I think it will be fairly apparent early. Under a point, it will be late.

Brian Corley in Pasco County usually reports first, VBM-ABS just after 7 p.m. Pinellas is early as well, and often Orange and Duval come not long after. In those counties, you are looking at 60-75 percent of the vote coming in at one time. If it is relatively close in Duval and Pasco, and she’s leading in Pinellas, and Orange is looking +20, she’s probably going to win, but it will take time for the race to play out.

If Orange is bigger than that, or if she starts out tied or with a lead in Duval, it could be faster.

Dade also will come, probably around 7:30 (though being Dade, it might be 7:30 Thursday). As I told a reporter tonight, I have no clue what to expect. She could be up 25, or she might be up 40, but I suspect it will be big. Former is probably a winning number; latter would be tough to beat. Broward should be about the same time. I suspect a margin north of 200K in the early voting.

Around 8 p.m., the Panhandle will come in. Romney won the Panama City and Pensacola media markets by about 180K votes. So, to be super generous, spot Trump 250K in the Central time zone. Unless there is something odd with the reporting — like Dade or Palm Beach report nothing before 8, if she is up in the 300K margin, it will be hard for Trump to overcome. If it is 400 at that point, you can go home.

But we will know early if it is a short night or a long night. But either way, I think it is a steep challenge for Trump. Since he is a golfer, I’ll put it this way: I think he’s basically facing a 250-yard carry over water, into a little wind, and that’s a shot he probably doesn’t have in his bag. God knows I don’t have that shot anymore.

Remember, you should track these on individual county sites until 8. The state won’t report data until polls close in the CST zone.

What is interesting about Florida is that the margins in counties are consistent over time. Outside of a handful of places, we have a decent sense of where it will land. For Trump to win, this basically has to happen: in 64 counties, he has to get the highest share of any Republican between 2000 and 2012, and he has to keep Clinton’s margins in Osceola, Orange, and Dade in the low 20s. He has major problems with the former, namely semi-large places like Sarasota, Polk, and Duval, which so no signs of being anywhere near their GOP highs. And with the latter, I don’t see how Clinton doesn’t stretch Obama’s margins in all three of those counties.

So with that, I think she wins. In fact, I am confident. I don’t think it’s a huge margin, but no win in Florida presidential or gubernatorial races these days is huge.

Lastly, I hate Election Day as a staffer. Other than trying to get your side on TV or ordering robocalls, there isn’t anything you can do other than trusting your operation, and hanging out in the boiler room all day is about the most horrible thing you can do. I spend most of Eday calling fellow hacks of both parties. I’ve always found it a strangely congenial day between warriors, mainly because we are all doing the same thing, pretty much sitting around.

Today, I take out my Turkish group, and we are going to see some campaigning, before heading to Tampa to watch the results. I will be providing some thoughts on early returns on Twitter, so pay attention.

Finally, and I mean this with all sincerity, I truly appreciate everyone who took the time to read my musings. When I wrote the first one last Tuesday, I did not plan on doing this daily, but it kind of took off. For me, writing is how I think things out, and so over the last two weeks, I’ve used these memos, not only to provide some data, but also to work through some of the emerging questions about this race. I also hoped to provide some context to the map, from the eyes of someone who has been trying to read defenses for a solid decade on the field of play.

I’d also like to thank my wife for putting up with me not paying attention to anything other than my spreadsheets for two weeks, my friends who have dealt with me constantly responding to emails and texts, and those who have found my voicemail full. I also want to thank my friend Dan Smith at UF for letting me bounce some theories and data off him, as well as other hack friends, including more than one Republican that I won’t name to protect the innocent, for being good checks on what I was writing. I don’t have staff, and 99 percent of the time, I was doing all my own data work, so forgive me if I didn’t respond to you on phone, email, or Twitter. I’ve been drinking straight from the proverbial fire hose since about 2 p.m. on Day 1 of in-person voting. As I’ve told many reporters, my respect for how they manage the flow of information has substantially risen — and thanks to all of you for your feedback over the last two weeks.

I’ve enjoyed having a life for most this cycle, but it was fun to be in the game for a few weeks. But mostly, having not slept more than five hours in two weeks, or eaten more than two or three proper meals, I’m ready for it to end. It’s time to put this shibacle of an election behind and hopefully start reducing the acrimony on both sides of the American debate.

So, until 2020 — if I am crazy enough to do this again, Happy Election Day, that singular day when we get to renew the greatest experiment in self-governing man has ever known.

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It’s likely to be a close election in Florida, again

Another close election in Florida? Count on it.

Through Friday, 2,268,663 Democrats and 2,261,383 Republicans had cast ballots by mail or at early voting sites – a difference of 7,280 in favor of Democrats. Overall, more than 5.7 million Floridians have voted, or nearly 45 percent of those registered. That far surpasses 2012 totals, when 4.8 million Floridians cast ballots before Election Day.

As early voting was set to end in 51 of Florida’s 67 counties Saturday, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump once again were campaigning in the Sunshine State. Their running mates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence and other top surrogates have been frequent visitors in the state that’s a must-win for Trump’s presidential campaign.

“How many of you have already voted?” Clinton asked a crowd in Broward County. The response was enthusiastic cheers. “OK, so that means you’ve got time to get everybody else to get out and vote, right?”

Earlier in Tampa, Trump told supporters at a rally that 66 of the state’s 67 counties supported him in Florida’s primary last March.

“Florida is just a place I love – my second home, I’m here all the time. I might know Florida better than you do,” Trump said. “I see maybe more enthusiasm right now than I did (in March).”

Florida’s 29 electoral votes are the biggest prize in Tuesday’s presidential election among states that could swing to either candidate. In 2000, Florida set the standard for close presidential elections when George W. Bush beat Al Gore by 537 votes out of about 6 million cast. It took five weeks to call the election in the state that determined the presidency.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was campaigning across north Florida Saturday, starting with an event at a Pensacola Beach bar. He’s being challenged by Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Unlike Murphy, Rubio has avoided campaigning with his party’s presidential nominee. While he supports Trump, he has condemned his words and behavior.

Murphy attended a Broward County rally with Clinton and later planned to attend a St. Petersburg concert with singer Jon Bon Jovi and Kaine.

While only 16 counties will continue early voting on Sunday, they are some of the state’s largest, including Democratic strongholds of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. Democrats were planning “souls to the polls” events encouraging African-American churchgoers to take advantage of the last day of early voting in the counties where polls will be open.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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