Steve Schale: Final notes on early voting in Florida - Florida Politics

Steve Schale: Final notes on early voting in Florida

To: The tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free of 2016

From: Steve Schale, Florida Sherpa

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Re: It is almost drinkin’ time

I usually do a timeline here, but since I can’t even imagine life in a post-2016 election cycle world, I am simply going to say, Thank God America, we have damn near made it. Like the weed that I can’t get to stop growing up the side of my backyard fence, admit it, you thought this would never end. But it is going to. Yes. Tomorrow, we will have a winner. Just hang in there one more day.

On Sunday, I took my Turkish crew to the St. Mark AME Church for a Souls to the Polls service with Val Demings and Kamia Brown, after which we visited an Early Voting site nearby. The lines at noon were already quite long, so it came as no surprise that Orange County (Orlando) set a turnout record. And so did Osceola, and Hillsborough, Broward, Palm Beach, Duval, Leon, Pinellas and yes, Miami-Dade.

In fact, Miami-Dade had more people vote today than 33 counties have had voted in this entire election. The more than 760K people who voted in early voting is equal to almost 88 percent of the entire vote cast in the 2012 election. If Election Day turnout is just half of what it was in 2012, more than 1 million people will vote in Dade. I had it estimated at 900K, as did most people I spoke with.

In total, almost 260K people voted yesterday in the 15 counties that cast ballots. To put that in context, most days last week of in-person early voting barely eclipsed the total from 15 counties. Frankly, the turnout was stunning.

There will be some VBM ballots which will show up tomorrow at elections offices, but the below numbers are pretty much what we will see heading into E-Day.

So, let me try to make some sense out of this.

Total Ballots cast: 6,419,154

Total Vote by Mail: 2,549,633 (41.5 percent)

Total Early Vote: 3,869,521 (58.5 percent)

Democrats: 2,558.072 (39.85 percent)

Republicans: 2,470,823 (38.49 percent)

NPA: 1,390,259 (21.66 percent)

Total Margin: DEM +1.36 percent

How big is the final weekend for Dems?

Friday: Dems +0.13 (+7K)

Saturday: Dems +0.59 (+32K)

Sunday: Dems +1.36 (+87K)

To repeat from yesterday, my go-to model for this cycle has been 40D-39R-21NPA. NPA’s are going to outpace it, but I still think +1 DEM is safe.

And when you add Sunday, here is how the NPA tracked over the last week

After Sunday: 21.66 percent

After Sat: 21.35 percent

After Fri: 20.55 percent

After Thurs: 20.2 percent

After Wed: 19.8 percent

After Sunday: 19.3 percent

Right now, I think about 67 percent percent of the likely electorate has voted. Late last week, I predicted 70 percent, but to be fair, I had it at 9.2M turnout late last week. At that turnout, EV ended up at 69.7 percent, so that prediction was almost OK. I do think 9.5 million is where it lands — that is roughly ’08 level turnout (exact ’08 would be 9.55M). Given the sheer numbers of low-propensity voters, it could go beyond that, but honestly, I would be surprised (albeit pleasantly).

So, let’s dive into the usual benchmarks.

Hillsborough

Hillsborough had a record day, with Dems leading the day by a 3,500-voter plurality. NPA voters made up 30 percent of the voters yesterday, which is remarkable, outpacing NPA registration at 28.

All in all, the Dems will go into Eday with a seven-point voter registration advantage, which is slightly more Republican than the county’s voter registration statistics. D’s maintain an eight-point voter registration advantage in the county. Keep in mind, the reason I use Hillsborough is because it is the recent benchmark — the only county won by Bush twice and Obama twice.

And Hillsborough is doing a nice job of playing its role as the state benchmark. It should be about 6.5 percent of all statewide votes, and that is pretty much where it is in early voting (6.51 percent)

Yesterday: 41.7 Dem – 28.3 GOP – 30.0 NPA.

Total: 42.1 Dem – 35.3 GOP – 22.6 NPA

Dem +28,092

I-4

Almost as many people voted as Saturday, even though Volusia had no early voting, and the Dems won the day by over 13,000. But again, the big news is NPA, which made up 30 percent of all the voters along the highway, outpacing Republicans.

Again, it was metro-Orlando driving the NPA surge, with Seminole, Osceola, and Orange all over 30 percent NPA, with Osceola topping out at 33 percent. In fact, yesterday’s record day in both Osceola and Orange (I don’t have historic Seminole data), saw Dem + NPA = over 75 percent of the vote. The Obama effect again.

To date: 42.1 D — 35.4 R — 23.4 NPA

Yesterday: 41.6 D — 28.4 R — 30.0 NPA

In total 1.74 million votes were cast in the seven counties along this interstate. To put this in perspective, I-4 county early voting in 2016 was bigger than Iowa in 2012.

These counties are now exceeding my projection of the state’s share by 0.8 percent, coming in at 27.16 percent of the state through yesterday, compared to my projection of 26.38 percent. But, as I mentioned yesterday, this is not a disparity created equally along the interstate. In terms of ranking, Orange and Osceola are the fourth- and fifth-most “over-performing” counties in the state. On the flip side, the fifth-most under-performing is Polk, typically a lean-GOP county, and frankly, the kind of place I expected to see a “secret-Trump vote” surge. It might happen Tuesday, but I’m not convinced.

Also, my phone will blow up if I don’t mention Pinellas flipped to the Dem column yesterday. It is still exceptionally tight and my gut says Trump does better than Romney.

Just to recap the counties on I-4:

Volusia (Daytona) – should lean a little red this year (No EV on Sunday)

All votes: 39.7 R, 37.2 D, 23.1 NPA

R + 4,235

Seminole — suburban Orlando, more white/Republican. As a note, the SOE here, Mike Ertel, is a great guy, and today is hosting my Turkish delegation to walk through how votes are tabulated. Given how busy he is, I truly am grateful.

All votes: 41.3 R, 35.1D, 23.8 NPA

R +10,186

Orange (Orlando)

All votes: 46 D, 29.5 R, 24.5 NPA

D +65,553

Osceola — very Hispanic. President Obama was there.

All votes: 47.3 D, 26.3 R, 26.4 NPA

D +21,986

Imperial Polk — between Tampa/Orlando — lean R

All votes: 39.7 R, 39 D, 21.3 NPA

R +1,023

Hillsborough — twice for Bush, twice for Obama

Total: 42.1 Dem — 35.3 GOP — 22.6 NPA

Dem +28,092

Pinellas – lean D county on Gulf, west of Tampa

All votes: 38.6 R, 38.4 D, 23.0 NPA

D +358

Last look at I-4, by looking at the media markets, Republicans continue to hold a slight edge. To win Florida, Trump needs to grow slightly from Romney in both Tampa and Orlando.

I noticed something over the last few days that is interesting: early in the voting period, the Tampa market was way out-performing the state, and now it is under-performing. Why is that? Hillsborough is roughly where it should be, but Pasco, Polk, and Pinellas are well behind. Combined, those three counties are about a point below where they should perform as a share of the state. Will that be made up Tuesday? I don’t know, but I do think for Trump to do well, he needs solid margins and volume, particularly from Pasco and Polk.

Honestly, in these two markets, Clinton appears to be right on the path to meet her goals.

South Florida

It was like Miami had LeBron back yesterday, joined by Jordan in his prime.

Over 100,000 people voted in just Broward and Dade yesterday. In other words, 40 percent of yesterday came from the two biggest Democratic counties in Florida. Anyone care to write the “lack of enthusiasm” story today?

The numbers speak for themselves. 87.7 percent of the entire 2012 election turnout has already voted in Dade. That just doesn’t happen. And Broward is at a respectable 81 percent.

Dade is at 11.9 percent of all votes cast so far (should be 10.3 percent), and Broward is at 9.55 percent, where I had it pegged at 8.75 percent. The media market is a full two points bigger than it should be. If the Miami market finishes at 21.8 percent of all votes, this thing is cooked, and we will know it before 8 p.m. (assuming Miami decides to count all these ballots).

The red flag for Dems: Palm Beach. It is at 62 percent of its 2012 total, and it is also the county most “under-performing.” It should be about 7 percent of the state vote, but today it is about 5.9 percent. Of all the data points right now, this is the only one that concerns me. While Miami is more than making up for it, for HRC, win path is much easier with a more robust Palm Beach.

Palm Beach

All votes: 47.4 D, 28.5 R, 24.1 NPA

D +71,994

Broward

All votes: 55.5 D, 21.7 R, 22.8 NPA

D +206,981

Miami-Dade

All votes, 44.1 D, 29.3 R, 26.6 NPA

D +112,220

Duuuuuuval

The Obama effect:

D’s were down 3,000 when he got there.

They finish early voting up 4,248.

#ThanksObama

Will Dems win Duval? Hell, no. Will Trump win it by the Bush ’04 margins he needs to make up from the Dade County wave? Absolutely not.

Additional Thoughts

My basic view on this cycle, going back over a year, is that diversity would create the mechanism for Democrats to overcome other issues in the campaign, whether they be candidate or structurally based.

Many folks doubted 2016 would be more diverse. I had these same fights in 2012, as the Romney campaign tried to make the case that 2008 wasn’t replicable, not understanding that nothing had to be replicated, because the pie of Florida voters had changed. Almost any 2012 reporter can attest I was a broken record on this — demographics are changing, and people aren’t reading the state right.

Last week was deja vu, as early voting looked slow for the Dems, though signs of this Hispanic surge started to emerge, I had the same conversations with many of the same people.

One of the challenges Democrats have in Florida dealing with these process-driven stories about turnout is one of optics. Even when VBM is competitive between the parties, as it was this year, it is dominated by older white voters. This leads to the inevitable “X group won’t vote” story, typically backed up by a few quotes from people who are not involved in the actual campaign. We saw this it this year again.

But two things emerged last week. One, this low-propensity Hispanic thing became a thing. While Trump folks argued Trump would turn out low-propensity voters, we’d see slight edges for Democrats in this category. What became clear over days last week, this was a Hispanic deal, and as Week 2 of early voting took hold, so did this surge. As of Saturday, Democrats had an edge of more than 175K low-propensity voters.

Secondly, we began to see the edging upward of NPA voters. I had projected NPA at 21 percent of the electorate, but it will probably land closer to 23. And it is diverse, running an average of four points more diverse than the electorate as a whole.

So, you end up with this scenario — a close partisan break, but below that, you saw surging Hispanic, surging NPA, and growing proof the electorate would be more diverse than it was in 2012. Then we also learn that a large chunk of the GOP advantage was built with voters who were registered Dems in 2012 (though almost certainly not Dem voters), as well as the GOP having cannibalized more of its own Election Day vote, and I began to realize this was looking better each day.

On that diversity issue, just since last week, the percentage of the electorate that’s white has gone from 71 then over the last few days from 68.6 to 68.0, to 67.4, to 68.8. Since Thursday, there has been no day when the electorate has been more than 61 percent white. This is the Clinton recipe for winning.

So, when I get asked — all the freaking time — about the fact the R versus D number is lower for the Dems than 2012, I answer, “sure”.  And last week, I did worry about it, but this week, what has become clear is that structurally, we live in a state with more NPA, and more old conservative Dems who have switched parties, which drives down the total. But, we also live in a state that is getting more diverse, more quickly, and based on the 2012 experience, that is far more important in my eyes.

And the R versus D thing still isn’t really out of whack. My most frequent model has the state going 40D, 39R, 21NPA, which I figured would land at 66 white. We are going to land more like 39D, 38R, 23NPA, and with that NPA driven by Hispanics (20 percent of NPA voters), this looks like a Clinton coalition. In fact, most people, Republican and Democratic, I talked to in Florida were projecting D +1, so despite the talking points from the DNC, we are right on track.

I am going to write a wrap tomorrow for E-Day, but two questions I get a lot.

What am I worried about for HRC?

Really, almost nothing. I’ve mentioned the Palm Beach thing a few times, but right now, the diversity mix is rounding nicely into shape, and our best counties are way out-performing the state. Right now, she needs the organization on the ground to get this done Tuesday.

Could there be a Trump surge Tuesday? It is possible, because the counties most under-performing right now are Trump counties. His problem: most of them are very small, part of what Jonathan Martin called the Gingrich counties (where Newt beat Romney) — those rural places in between all the big counties.

All in all, the I-10 markets are way below where they should be, maybe as much as 3 percent below where its share should be. If that comes in tomorrow, it will tighten the race considerably.

Tomorrow’s memo will also lay out some things you watch for. If she wins by 3, we will know well, probably before the Panhandle returns come back after 8. If it is close, prepare for a long night.

One last thing — and this is just for the FL HRC organizers out there:

You all got this. This thing is right there. You’ve spent six months training for this moment. This is what you built for. Do your job today and tomorrow, stay focused on your goals, and you can say you made history.

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