Early voting trends continue to favor Democrats, says latest Steve Schale memo

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Early vote numbers continue the trends seen since voting began, says Democratic consultant Steve Schale in his Tuesday update memo.

As of yesterday, Schale says, roughly 2.2 million Floridians have voted. The early vote gap between Republicans and Democrats continues to drop and is 6.4 percent as of Tuesday.

On the same day in 2010, during the last Florida gubernatorial race, the GOP lead was 16.6 percent. With about 140K votes separating the two parties, the margin of early voting and absentee ballots are down nearly 100K from 2010.

Schale then restates one key fact of 2010: Rick Scott won by just over 1 percent, or 61,500 votes.

Schale remains confident that by Election Day – after counting all early and absentee ballots — Republicans will only have a 1.5 to 2 point lead among registered voters, compared to the 5 percent they enjoyed in 2010.

The bottom line is that on Nov. 4, neither party would have a real advantage.

Even if both parties essentially tie in remaining votes, the final vote tally should be a 2.5 percent advantage for Republicans, just in terms of the people who vote.

So how does Crist win in this scenario, Schale asks.

If Crist receives roughly 2 percent more Democratic votes than Scott wins of the GOP vote and leads NPA voters by only a few points, Crist would take a narrow victory, he says.

A 2.5 percent GOP advantage “appears to be a worst-case scenario,” Schale adds.

Examining preliminary data from Tuesday, Democrats seemed to have won the day, primarily by more Democrats voting by mail than GOP.

Democrats improved the vote margin over the Republicans the most in places where Democrats traditionally win: Osceola (+16.4 points), Dade (+15.3), Palm (+14.5), Broward (+14.1) and St. Lucie (+13.7). This indicates turnout efforts are working.

In Dade County, Schale notes, Democrats are up from 52,000 in 2010 to nearly 87,000 today. In Broward, it is from 47,000 to 88,500.

Gains are not limited to Democratic counties, he says. Historically Republican counties in the Tampa media market are also showing real Democratic gains. For example, in Sarasota, where Democrats cut gap by nearly 13 points, Hernando by nearly 13 points and Pasco by 12 points.

Another standout is Manatee, where Schale notes a “small but spirited” local Democratic operation has boosted party turnout by 111 percent over the same point in 2010, and has closed the gap with Republicans by 11 percent.

“These changes matter,” he says, “as they go right to the core of those counties where Republicans need big margins to win statewide.”

Schale then responds to a question posed by Greg Blair, communications director for Gov. Rick Scott.

“Would you say that having to tell your donors that it’s okay you’re losing every single day has had a negative impact on your fundraising late in the campaign,” Blair asks. “And as your fundraising lags, how much money are you able to put behind that Clinton ad you’re touting so much?”

Since October 4, Schale says, the Crist campaign out-raised Scott by $600,000, mainly due to growing optimism among Crist supporters. They feel that the combination of solid public polling and early voting numbers provides Crist with “an excellent chance” to win next Tuesday.

“Now in fairness, our candidate can’t stroke him a ‘$TBA’ million check to run 10,000 negative ads this week,” he concludes, “but nonetheless, we are doing well.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.