Steve Schale: Notes on Election Day in Florida - Florida Politics

Steve Schale: Notes on Election Day in Florida

To: Anyone who has been reading my memos, Putin included.
From: Steve Schale
Re: We survived, and genuine thanks from me.

First, thank you all for following along for the last two weeks. This memo isn’t going to be a big data dump. For those, you can go back and read the other 12 versions of this thing.

But I want to start with a couple of numbers. First: 67. That is the percentage of the electorate that was white in 2012 — which by the way was down from 71 in 2008. My foundational assumption was if the electorate was more diverse than 2012, the basic coalition that got President Obama over the line in 2012 would hold. We finish early voting at 65.7 white, 15.3 Hispanic, and 13.1 black, with the black number closing in on the 2012 share, and the white number down.

Another thing working into play here is the explosion of turnout in Central Florida and Miami. If you reweighed the 2012 election by the current 2016 share of vote by market, Obama would have beaten Romney by almost twice the 2012 margin, or 1.5 percent. Under the same scenario, if you apply the 2012 margins by county to the 2016 turnout, you end up with a nearly two-point Clinton win. And none of this factors in the likelihood that race will drive larger margins in some areas — and smaller Republican ones in others.

So, as I think about this race, I try to get my head around what both candidates have going for them.

First, the factors that Clinton should feel good about:

The electorate is more diverse than 2012.

The Orlando area (Orange and Osceola) and Miami area (Broward and Dade) are turning out a full three points higher as a share of the state (29.3 percent, projected 26.15 percent).

While Republicans talked about Trump‘s ability to turnout low-propensity voters, it is Clinton who has turned out 250,000 more low-propensity voters.

NPA voters, making up the largest share they’ve ever made up in a Florida presidential election, are four points more diverse than the electorate at-large, including a 20 percent Hispanic share.

Voters who do not fit into one of the three main demographic categories are over 50 percent low propensity, and combined, are 77 percent Democratic or NPA.

North Florida, a Trump stronghold, is well under its performance targets, yet #Duuuval County, a GOP stronghold, is starting Election Day with a 4K voter Democratic edge. Again, this is why the president came to Duval. For Dems, it was never about winning there, but it is all about stopping the tide.

Factors Trump should feel good about:

The Fort Myers media market is over-performing its projected market share by about 1 percent

Democrats have a smaller raw voter lead going into Election Day. While I think there are structural reasons for this, it is still the reality.

There are more Republicans who voted in both 2008 and 2012 left to vote than Democrats (though among just 2012 voters, it’s basically a tie).

So, what does this mean?

Those are not equal ledgers, and pretty much everything Hillary Clinton wanted to have take place to position herself to win Florida has happened.

I was asked yesterday by a journalist, “So Schale, what would you be worried about if you were in her campaign?”

Truthfully, not a lot.

I am usually superstitious about turnout, so, of course, you worry about that. But at the same time, I also recognize that for Trump to win, he must have a ridiculously good day. I suspect when early voting is counted, she will have won the early vote by three to four points, and if early voting is, let’s say two-thirds of all the votes, it means Trump has to win tomorrow by six to eight points. I don’t think six to eight points is out there today for him.

If you look at the 3.2 million voters who in 2012 who haven’t voted yet, even if they all vote, Miami and Orlando remain well above both their 2012 share and their projected share, and I-10 (Trump Country) still falls below 2012. Also, Fort Myers comes back to life, finishing where it should, about 6.6 percent of the electorate.

In other words, even if all those 2012 voters come out — voters that lean a little Republican — the electorate is still regionally balanced better for Clinton than Obama, is more diverse than it was for Obama, and has an NPA voter pool that is more diverse than it was for Obama — or in any state where Trump is winning NPAs. Can Trump win today? Sure. Is it likely? Not really.

In other words, what should I be concerned about?

My good friend Tom Eldon, a longtime Florida pollster and fellow oenophile, asked me today “On scale of 1-10, how are you feeling?” If I was a 7 going into 2012 (just ask every reporter who heard me make my pitch for why Obama would win a state no one thought he would), and a 10 in 2008, Tom agreed he was also a 9 (sorry to out you bro).

It is this simple: If the Clinton operation hits its marks tonight, she’s going to win. It’s going to be close, probably in the 1.5-2.5 percent margin race. It’s hard to nail down exactly because I don’t have access to campaign polling (real polling, not public polls).

What to look for?

Data is going to come in very fast today after 7 p.m.

Two scenarios: because so much vote is early and will be reported early, if she’s going to win by say, two or more, I think it will be fairly apparent early. Under a point, it will be late.

Brian Corley in Pasco County usually reports first, VBM-ABS just after 7 p.m. Pinellas is early as well, and often Orange and Duval come not long after. In those counties, you are looking at 60-75 percent of the vote coming in at one time. If it is relatively close in Duval and Pasco, and she’s leading in Pinellas, and Orange is looking +20, she’s probably going to win, but it will take time for the race to play out.

If Orange is bigger than that, or if she starts out tied or with a lead in Duval, it could be faster.

Dade also will come, probably around 7:30 (though being Dade, it might be 7:30 Thursday). As I told a reporter tonight, I have no clue what to expect. She could be up 25, or she might be up 40, but I suspect it will be big. Former is probably a winning number; latter would be tough to beat. Broward should be about the same time. I suspect a margin north of 200K in the early voting.

Around 8 p.m., the Panhandle will come in. Romney won the Panama City and Pensacola media markets by about 180K votes. So, to be super generous, spot Trump 250K in the Central time zone. Unless there is something odd with the reporting — like Dade or Palm Beach report nothing before 8, if she is up in the 300K margin, it will be hard for Trump to overcome. If it is 400 at that point, you can go home.

But we will know early if it is a short night or a long night. But either way, I think it is a steep challenge for Trump. Since he is a golfer, I’ll put it this way: I think he’s basically facing a 250-yard carry over water, into a little wind, and that’s a shot he probably doesn’t have in his bag. God knows I don’t have that shot anymore.

Remember, you should track these on individual county sites until 8. The state won’t report data until polls close in the CST zone.

What is interesting about Florida is that the margins in counties are consistent over time. Outside of a handful of places, we have a decent sense of where it will land. For Trump to win, this basically has to happen: in 64 counties, he has to get the highest share of any Republican between 2000 and 2012, and he has to keep Clinton’s margins in Osceola, Orange, and Dade in the low 20s. He has major problems with the former, namely semi-large places like Sarasota, Polk, and Duval, which so no signs of being anywhere near their GOP highs. And with the latter, I don’t see how Clinton doesn’t stretch Obama’s margins in all three of those counties.

So with that, I think she wins. In fact, I am confident. I don’t think it’s a huge margin, but no win in Florida presidential or gubernatorial races these days is huge.

Lastly, I hate Election Day as a staffer. Other than trying to get your side on TV or ordering robocalls, there isn’t anything you can do other than trusting your operation, and hanging out in the boiler room all day is about the most horrible thing you can do. I spend most of Eday calling fellow hacks of both parties. I’ve always found it a strangely congenial day between warriors, mainly because we are all doing the same thing, pretty much sitting around.

Today, I take out my Turkish group, and we are going to see some campaigning, before heading to Tampa to watch the results. I will be providing some thoughts on early returns on Twitter, so pay attention.

Finally, and I mean this with all sincerity, I truly appreciate everyone who took the time to read my musings. When I wrote the first one last Tuesday, I did not plan on doing this daily, but it kind of took off. For me, writing is how I think things out, and so over the last two weeks, I’ve used these memos, not only to provide some data, but also to work through some of the emerging questions about this race. I also hoped to provide some context to the map, from the eyes of someone who has been trying to read defenses for a solid decade on the field of play.

I’d also like to thank my wife for putting up with me not paying attention to anything other than my spreadsheets for two weeks, my friends who have dealt with me constantly responding to emails and texts, and those who have found my voicemail full. I also want to thank my friend Dan Smith at UF for letting me bounce some theories and data off him, as well as other hack friends, including more than one Republican that I won’t name to protect the innocent, for being good checks on what I was writing. I don’t have staff, and 99 percent of the time, I was doing all my own data work, so forgive me if I didn’t respond to you on phone, email, or Twitter. I’ve been drinking straight from the proverbial fire hose since about 2 p.m. on Day 1 of in-person voting. As I’ve told many reporters, my respect for how they manage the flow of information has substantially risen — and thanks to all of you for your feedback over the last two weeks.

I’ve enjoyed having a life for most this cycle, but it was fun to be in the game for a few weeks. But mostly, having not slept more than five hours in two weeks, or eaten more than two or three proper meals, I’m ready for it to end. It’s time to put this shibacle of an election behind and hopefully start reducing the acrimony on both sides of the American debate.

So, until 2020 — if I am crazy enough to do this again, Happy Election Day, that singular day when we get to renew the greatest experiment in self-governing man has ever known.

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