Charlie Crist will win today’s election for Florida governor because, well, he’s been winning and Republicans won’t do enough today to catch up.
I know, I know, that runs counter to almost every model and theory that’s out there. But my theory benefits from one strength: I probably have access to more of other people’s theories than anyone else in Florida politics. I talk to the Republicans and the Democrats, to the RPOF and the FDP, to the statewide business associations and NextGen Climate. I talk to the best consultants in the business, most of the leading statewide pollsters, and the other reporters crunching numbers. I even run, with the help of St. Pete Polls, my own surveys to test my theories against other theories.
All of that said, my theory could be way wrong. My theory is also heavily weighed down by my own wishful thinking for a Crist win. But, I’ve been riding a pretty good streak these last couple of years, finishing second in POLITICO’s competition for predicting the outcome of Florida’s presidential primary, betting my own money on an Obama win in Florida in 2012, and nailing the final margin of victory in the special election for CD 13. Of course, I also predicted Amendment 2 would not make it on the ballot, so what the hell do I know?
Anyway, here’s my theory, based on a slew of back-of-the-napkin math.
First off, Crist is already winning.
This Quinnipiac poll said he’s leading 44 to 40 percent. So did this Q-poll, albeit it was Crist 40, Scott 39. As did this St. Pete Polls survey showing the race deadlocked but Crist leading by two points among those who say they have already voted. The final poll from the Tampa Bay Times showed Crist leading by five among those who already voted, although a survey paid for by the Florida Chamber of Commerce said the opposite.
The very idea that Crist could be leading among those who have already voted flies in the face of the GOP’s core argument — that it has banked a lead going into Election Day, as evidenced by its approximate 98K returned-ballot advantage over the Democrats. To Republicans, the idea that they are leading in Early and Absentee Voting (EAV) is an article of faith.
But at least four out of the five polls that asked about early voting suggest something otherwise. To this, GOP’ers say, “Heresy!”
One prominent Republican lobbyist who I have had the pleasure of going back-and-forth with this cycle has consistently framed the election around three principles. Scott is winning. If the election ended tomorrow, Scott would still be winning. And Republicans will turn out more than Democrats on Election Day.
So how can Crist be leading Scott in EAV despite the partisan ID advantage in returned ballots? The only way this can be happening is, assuming that Crist and Scott are both at equal strength with their base, that Crist is winning Independents by a bigger lead than the one taken as conventional wisdom. If this is so, and there is conflicting evidence to support this part of my theory, then Crist should win by a point-and-a-half because, while Republicans will beat Democrats on Election Day, they won’t beat Democrats and the spread of Independents who go for Crist.
The other weakness of the Republican argument, as made by Tim Saler, is that Democrats caught up with Republicans in EAV because they cannibalized Election Day voters, meaning they simply shifted voters who normally cast a ballot on Election Day to the EAV column. While that may be somewhat true, so have Republicans. Also, and more important, Cristworld’s Omar Khan says that there is a separate concerted effort to turn out Democrats on Election Day. And after backing up his promise to (mostly) catch up to Republicans in EAV, how can we not take Khan at his word?
Republicans are also making the case that they have a larger pool of 100 percent and/or high propensity voters left to turn out today. There’s no denying that. But one has to wonder, why haven’t these so-reliable voters already cast their ballot? They have received more than a dozen mailers. They’ve literally had canvassers outside their door every weekend since Labor Day. Jeb Bush has begged them to turn in their ballot.
Yet, tens of thousands of these high propensity Republican voters have yet to vote. Maybe, just maybe, they are the South Florida Democrats of this election. Maybe they don’t want to vote for Rick Scott and against medical marijuana. Maybe the base is turned off by the tens of millions of dollars in negative ads.
If these voters do not turn out today, it’s over for Rick Scott. It may already be over even if they do.
Regardless, the traditional narrative of Republicans win EAV, Democrats try to catch up on Election Day, and each side waits and prays may be over.
And wouldn’t that make sense … a former Republican getting the Democrats to win an election by acting like Republicans.