“Fandemonium” — Steve Schale insightful new memo dissecting Florida governor race

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“Fandemonium” is the cornerstone of Steve Schale’s latest memo, which addresses the latest incident to befall the 2014 Florida governor‘s race — #FangateGoneGlobal.

Schale, named by Tampa Bay Times and Politics Magazine as one of the ten top Democrats in Florida, is possibly the most influential non-elected Democrat statewide.

On SteveSchale.com, the uber-pundit brings his brand of expert analysis to one of the most contentious — and at times outright strange — races in the nation.

Schale begins by noting that Scott set a record for the Week 3 general election, spending $6.4 million in television ads. Add that to the $5 million spent last week and an expected spend $7 million more next week, and “more than $8-10 million in Week 1.”

However, with Scott’s whopping $52 million just on television, Schale notes that he only averages 42 percent of the vote in public surveys, not taking in account any upcoming post-#fangate polling.

Clearly Scott is squandering the 3-point lead he held in August, bringing the race dead even by September. Now, in October, Crist leads by a single point, according to polling averages by Real Clear Politics and the Huffington Post.

A leading indicator is Democratic absentee ballot requests, which hit 1 million as of Thursday. The Republican advantage in requests was under 70,000, with both parties separated by under 3 percent.

At the same point in the 2010 campaign, Schale says that GOP ballot requests outnumbered Democratic requests by more than 200,000, resulting in a 12 percent advantage in mail-in ballot requests

Crist’s ground game helped Democratic requests outpace GOP requests since Labor Day – nearly 200,000 new applications then – a vast majority of them did not cast a vote in 2010.

This is certainly not 2010, Schale declares, despite the insistence of the Florida GOP.

Bucking the trend of midterm elections in the Sunshine State is the fact that 27 percent of ballots cast to date have been by voters who did not vote in 2010, with the advantage going to Democrats.

Thirty-two percent of Democratic voters in 2014 so far did not participate in 2010, compared to only 20 percent for Republicans.  This flies in the face of a long held belief in a Republican advantage in absentee ballots.

Four years ago today, Republicans had an 18.5-point advantage in returned ballots. Now it is down to 13.5 percent and leaning Democratic. The gap dropped from 20 percent to 13.5 percent in only 10 days, with votes in three heavily Democratic South Florida counties not yet processed.

Republicans may still win absentee ballots, but Schale warns that the margin will be much, much thinner.

Remember, Schale says, Scott won by only 61,000 votes in 2010; every extra effort will count this time around.

Other factors included Marco Rubio, who is not on the ballot in 2014. Even the staunchest Scott supporters admit that Rick Scott was not the prime driver of turnout in 2010. Then, Scott received fewer Republican votes than any other GOP candidate on the ticket did — Pam Bondi, Jeff Atwater, Adam Putnam and Marco Rubio.

Another is Florida’s changing demographics, which since 2010 has changed in favor of Democrats.  The number of registered voters has grown by approximately 590,000; 71 percent of that growth is from Hispanics, African Americans or Caribbean American voters, with another 10 percent “other” ethnic groups.

White voters made up only 19 percent.

So what does this mean, Schale asks.

If all ethnic subgroups vote in the same percentages as 2010, more than 60 percent of new Florida voters would be black or Hispanic — 24 percent black, 39 percent Hispanic. Even in the worst-case scenario, which is unlikely, the 61,000-vote margin of victory Scott enjoyed in 2010 is practically gone, simply on demographics.

And that assumes Crist’s ground game doesn’t turn out one single extra vote, which it is.

Crist is turning out unlikely voters – more than 25% of the electorate so far – with the new voters favoring Democrats.

Speaking of Crist’s ground game, he is certainly not alone. Outside groups have invested in field operations like never before seen with Democrats in a Governor’s race.

For example, Schale points to NextGen Climate, which has spent over $10 million in Florida so far; most if it going directly into the field – an operation built by Jackie Lee, two-time Obama field chief.

Facts being what they are (stubborn), two stand out: $50 million cannot move Scott out of the 42 percent range, and Crist is gaining momentum with 18 days left. It may not be a huge lead, but if Democrats continue with a push to boost turnout, it will be enough.

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.