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Steve Schale: Notes on the ninth day of early voting in Florida

in 2017/Top Headlines by

To: Curious Americans and President Vladimir Putin

From: Steve Schale

Re: No More Wednesdays!!

*6 days until the election.
*10 days until FSU basketball tips off.
*24 days until I start Clark Griswalding my house.
*114 days until the Daytona 500.

Before I begin, a note to Democrats:


So here is the best news you will read all day: We woke up on a Wednesday for the very last time in the 2016 presidential election.

And no, don’t tweet at me about 269 scenarios or recounts; in doing so, you are just tempting fate.

Seven days from this moment, you will likely be hung over, and I will be back to tweeting about NASCAR and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Also, I got a lot of Twitter feedback on my memo yesterday about Democrats needing to buy stamps to mail back their ballot. Sure, some places don’t require it, BUT THAT WASN’T THE POINT.

Mail back your freaking ballots, people.

So, one more thing I keep getting asked: Steve, what is the secret to winning Florida?

I am going to let you in on a little secret to quote one of my favorite GOP operatives, Kevin Sweeny.

The secret is, there is no secret.

Florida is a collection of lots of pockets of voters. It is all about managing the margins in those places, expanding the electorate where it helps you, and playing defense. This is not the kind of place where you can say definitively if X happens, candidate Y will win or lose. It is more like building a mosaic with many different colored tiles.

I’ll address the issue that popped up yesterday with African-American turnout later; keep the above in mind when we get to it.

And please don’t ask me about the guy on MSNBC who said Hillary Clinton is up 28 percent with GOP and up 8 percent statewide. She isn’t.

I do think she is slightly ahead, but not like that guy said. And no, I don’t want to argue his methodology, or why he might be right. He isn’t. Cool?

So, where are we today, besides close?

Well … we saw almost 400K votes, thanks to a slight pickup of both vote-by-mail returns and in-person voting. We also saw in-person overtake VBM as we push toward the 4.5M vote mark and almost to 50 percent of likely turnout. I think we are roughly 48 percent to goal turnout.

Overall, the day was a push, with Republicans winning VBM by 2K, and Dems winning the in-person early by a few hundred votes.

Total Ballots cast: 4,466,624

Total Vote-by-Mail: 2,168,750 (51.4 percent)
Total Early Vote: 2,297,874 (48.6 percent)

Republicans: 1,798,954 (40.3 percent)
Democrats: 1,781,498 (39.9 percent)
NPA: 886,172 (19.8 percent)

Total Margin: GOP +0.39 percent

And there are still 1,173,799 vote-by-mail ballots sitting out there, and yes, Democrats have more outstanding mail-in ballots than Republicans.

Unreturned vote-by-mail ballots remain the same as yesterday, looking like this: 41D-35R-24NPA, meaning 82,541 more Democrats have ballots sliding between the couch cushions.


Back to benchmarks


For Democrats, Tuesday looked like Monday, narrowly winning vote-by-mail and having a solid plurality day with in-person early vote. As will be a trend on the I-4 corridor, NPA is up here too, at almost 25 percent of the vote for the day. Democrats still maintain a just over 6 percent lead over Republicans — or about 17,200 voters.

For the day: 25,513 total votes (39.2-36.2-24.6 D-R-NPA).


Overall, it was a decent, not great day. Democrats won the plurality of votes, narrowly losing Pinellas, Polk, and Seminole, but winning elsewhere. In the counties that were a loss, the margins were exceptionally narrow. For example, the Dems plurality margin in Osceola was bigger than the loss in the three counties combined. Good reminder that margins in Florida matter.

Dems did win Polk’s in-person early voting again.

Orange County did have a very solid day, driven by large NPA participation. In fact, no county on the I-4 corridor saw less than 23 percent NPA share for the day. Places like Osceola saw the number in the mid 27s. There isn’t one easy takeaway from this, though in the core of the Orlando media market, it is an almost surely Hispanic surge.

South Florida

Another solid day in South Florida: Broward, Palm Beach, and Dade all saw bigger days than yesterday, all powered by NPA voters.

In Dade, NPAs were 29 percent of the vote, Broward 24 percent, and Palm Beach 25 percent. As a result, the Dem share margin was lower than yesterday, but I suspect that in real votes, the HRC number grew here.

Dems increased their Broward lead to over 130K votes, and Palm Beach is now pushing 50K.

I will have a deeper dive into this and I-4 tomorrow.


Republicans won the day by 95 votes, but because Democrats won the in-person early vote by about 250 votes, they cut the overall GOP advantage from 1.7 percent to 1.5 percent, out of 168K votes.

As a reminder, Bush in 2004 won Duval by 17 points, or about 61,000 votes. In Obama’s two wins, the margin averaged around 10,000 votes. I would happily spot the GOP a 20,000 vote win and walk away, but right now, I don’t see any path to Donald Trump to get back to that 17-point Bush margin.

And since there are very few places where he can change the traditional Florida battleground math, right now, Democrats are in a good place.

Additional notes:

Much was made about the POLITICO story about black turnout in Florida. I’m not going to use my space to push back or spout talking points, but to provide context.

Comparing turnout to 2012 or 2008 is like comparing something to the ’96 Bulls. Some things are special, like the historical election of the first black president and his re-election. Thus, in 2012, the share of African-American and Caribbean voters exceeded their voter registration share.

That’s not normal, and shouldn’t be expected.

What I do expect is two things: black vote in Florida to approach its share of registration (13.9) and total diversity to be higher than 12. Both of those things make an HRC win path much cleaner.

When in-person early vote began, which is always far more white and far older than the population as a whole, black voters made up 7-8 percent of the turnout.

That number has steadily climbed to 11.7 percent, as black voters make up around 15 percent of in-person early voters. It probably is now 12, though I won’t know until the afternoon.

Frankly, at 12, we can win, but as in-person early overtakes vote-by-mail, that number should grow to 13. In fact, if just the remaining likely black voters vote, we get right around that figure, and HRC has been turning out low-propensity voters.

So, yes, it’s an issue that the campaign should worry about, and yes, it’s one that deserves attention, but no, all is not lost.

Secondly, Hispanics are absolutely surging.

Almost 14 percent of the electorate, more than half of Hispanic Dems (51 percent) and Hispanic NPA (57 percent) are low propensity, which has led the Dems to a 90K voter lead with unlikely voters. Now 31 percent of Dem voters are low propensity, compared to 24 percent of Republicans. It’s higher than both with NPAs.

Two other observations.

I’ve been thinking about the “why Dems aren’t ahead” question, and I think the answer may be more structural than obvious.

Over the last four years, Democrats have lost about 400K white Dems, many to party switching, and a significant number in North Florida. I’m going to explore this question more, but I have a hunch those 12 leads people keep talking about this week was built, in part, with voters who are not Dems anymore, and probably, in the end, didn’t vote for Obama.

Also, just to reiterate a point from yesterday, more 2012 Election Day GOP have voted early than 2012 EDay Dems, by about 35K voters. Take those out and Dems have been leading since the beginning of last week.

However, what that means is Dems have more 2012 voters yet to vote, meaning at the same time, the old rule about GOP crushing Election Day may not apply.

I still think we are headed toward an electorate that’s 34-35 percent nonwhite. It was 33 percent in 12, and 29 percent in 08. Voter registration is 36 percent nonwhite. Anything more diverse than 12 is a net positive for Clinton.

I’m back home this afternoon, so tomorrow I will dig deeper into these questions, as well as how turnout is looking in some key areas.

Thanks again for reading these. I do truly appreciate your time.

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