Steve Schale, Author at Florida Politics

Steve Schale

Steve Schale: Dear Dems, one 2018 project — Caribbean voters

In my earliest days on the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, one of our first statewide polls showed a weakness with Black voters, at least compared to other states.

It wasn’t necessarily that John McCain was doing better than elsewhere, just that there were more voters on the sidelines. It didn’t take long to figure out the initial weakness was among Caribbean voters, which over time, we were able to address.

A couple of days ago, an old Obamaland friend who was a big part of those 2008 Caribbean conversations, texted me a quick question about the Haitian vote in Florida, and specifically if there was any truth to the chatter, and/or anecdotal evidence that Hillary Clinton underperformed among Haitians.

I had sensed some of the same but honestly hadn’t taken a look at the data yet.

Before starting, it is important to consider there are three significant challenges when thinking about the Haitian, and in a larger sense, Caribbean Black vote in Florida.

First, unlike the vast majority of other states, the Black vote in Florida is not monolithically African-American. Here, a significant share is either Caribbean and/or Hispanic.

The same challenge exists when analyzing the Hispanic vote. On other battleground states, Hispanics tend to be nearly universally Mexican, while here in Florida, both Hispanic and Black voters come from a large mosaic of nationalities.

Secondly, along these same lines, Florida’s voter registration data is woefully overly-generic about the population. When it comes to Caribbean and African-American voters, the voter registration form provides actually just three options: Black, Multiracial or Other. Therefore, it is impossible to solely pull out voters of Caribbean descent. There are some analytic tools, but that is generally built on a model, and as such, isn’t exact (nor available to the public as a whole).

Third, and finally, the census data isn’t a ton better.

The generic census form does not drill down for information on “Black or African-American” residents (it does with certain Hispanics and Asian populations). There are census tools that dig into a nation of origin, but again are sampled and not individual specific.

So, in answering my friend’s query, I came up with what was a (granted, inexact) performance model, yet one I think provides some insight — and in this case, caution for Democrats — or at least cause for more research.

The model: Florida House District 108, the home of “Little Haiti.”

The question — how did Clinton/Donald Trump play both in this district and specifically in the Little Haiti precincts, versus Obama/Romney? For the sake of adding more data, I also looked at Rick Scott in 2010 and 2014.

Understanding the limitations laid out above, here is what the data says.

Obama won the district in 2012 by 90-10, and Clinton won it 87-11 (Interestingly, this shift matches the 2-point margin shift from Obama to Clinton). Also, voter turnout in the seat at large was about the same, at least among Black voters (70 percent in 2012, 70.5 percent in 2016).

On the surface, these are not insignificant changes, but in no way, are the kind of massive shifts we saw in places like Pasco County, north of Tampa, where the change among Republican support was almost 10 points.

But looking deeper, there is more than the story.

First, there were actually 6,000 fewer registered voters in the district in 16 than 12, which a combination of two things: purges of “inactive voters” and at a certain level, some voters not being interested enough to care to keep registration up to date.

As a result, Clinton got 6,000 fewer votes than Obama in the district — while Trump got about the same as Mitt Romney. In other words, Clinton carried the district by 6,000 fewer votes than Obama’s 2012 margin.

The total shift in the vote margin statewide was roughly 180K votes — so just over 3 percent of the full shift from Obama to Trump happened just in this one state House seat — a seat that by comparison only made up 0.6 percent of the entire statewide vote in the presidential election.

Secondly, it gets even more interesting in just the Little Haiti precincts.

So, inside House District 108, during the Obama re-election, voters in the Little Haiti precincts made up just over 17 percent of registered voters, and in the election, just over 16 percent of the actual 2012 voters.

Looking at it another way, turnout among all Black voters in the district was roughly 70 percent in 2012, but within the Little Haiti precincts, was about 63 percent.

My guy won Little Haiti by 92 percent (96-4). Clinton won it by 85 percent (91-6 percent). Honestly, this data point actually surprised me. My hunch going in was Trump might have done better in these precincts than he did districtwide (10 percent).

But here is where the huge red flag shows up. Little Haiti residents in 2016 actually made up a bigger share of registered voters than 2016 — almost 19 percent but saw their share of the district’s actual vote drop to 16 percent. Why? Black turnout was right at 71 percent in the district in 2016, but inside Little Haiti, it fell to 58 percent.

As a result, Clinton carried these 10 precincts by 1,300 votes less than Obama did, or roughly 0.7 percent of the total shift from Obama to Trump — 10 precincts that by the way, make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 2016 statewide vote. Why? Simply, Little Haiti voter participation was 13 percent lower than Black turnout districtwide.

While Trump got better margins than Romney did four years earlier, but it had almost nothing to do with more support for him, and almost everything to do with lower participation from people who in 2012 voted for Barack Obama.

It is interesting when comparing Democratic performance in Little Haiti between 2010 and 2014, Charlie Crist did better than Alex Sink, both regarding turnout and performance.

But I suspect, just as we saw overall Black turnout prove to be robust in 14, a lot of that was a factor of voters showing up to protect President Obama. Interestingly enough, Rick Scott put a lot more emphasis on Caribbean voters in 2014 than 2010 so it would be useful to look outside of this one neighborhood to see if the 2014 results hold up elsewhere.

Moreover, Crist’s 2014 strength in Little Haiti doesn’t mean, as 2016 shows, that one can expect 2018 to be the same without work.

Granted, there are lots of reasons to be cautious about reading much of anything into a 10-precinct sample of one state House seat in a state like Florida. However, I do think there is enough to take a longer look at this, overlaying census data with precinct maps throughout South Florida, and comparing the presidential election in precincts with a significant Caribbean population.

My hunch is we would see a lot of the same.


Steve Schale: Notes on the final Sunday of early voting in Florida

To: America

From: Steve Schale, A Tired Florida Man

Re: 2nd to last Memo

2 days until E-Day

4 days until I am home for a nice long time.

6 days until FSU basketball tips off.

That’s all I care about now.

It is Sunday. We are so close to the end of this shibacle that let’s all be extra careful not to do anything to break it.

Today marks Souls to the Polls. I am celebrating this day by taking a group of Turkish political party leaders to St. Mark AME Church in Orlando with my buddy, State Representative Elect Kamia Brown. President Obama is in Osceola County today, a place that he held a rally in 2008 with then President Bill Clinton, and Fake Former President Matt Santos. I believe it may have been the first political rally in Florida with three Presidents on stage, that is, outside of a meeting of Condo Presidents in Broward.

Speaking of Broward, Hillary Clinton was there on Saturday, helping turn out more vote. Broward had another solid day, with almost 36K in-person votes.

All in all, just over 420K Floridians voted yesterday, it was the best net day of the cycle for Democrats.

Total Ballots cast: 6,152,099

Total Vote By Mail: 2,536,167 (42.2%)

Total Early Vote: 3,615,932 (57.8%)

Democrats: 2,435,493 (39.58%)

Republicans: 2,403,171 (39.06%)

NPA: 1,201,715 (21.35%)

Total Margin: DEM +0.59%

For the record, my go-to model for this cycle has been 40D-39R-21NPA. NPA’s are going to outpace it, but I do think +1 DEM is pretty safe.

One of the biggest things to note is how fast the NPA share has grown

After Sat: 21.35%

After Fri: 20.55%

After Thurs: 20.2%

After Wed: 19.8%

After Sunday: 19.3%

So far, through Friday, the electorate is 67.4% white, but among NPAs, it is 63.5% white. Among all voters, through Friday, it is 14.5% Hispanic, but among NPA’s, it is 20.2%

Right now, I think about 65% percent of the likely electorate has voted. At the higher turnout rate, I think we will be between 66-67% of likely voters having voted through Sunday. Another way of looking at this – our early vote as of yesterday is 91 more people than voted in all of Pennsylvania in the 2012 election. EV Florida with 2 days to go would be the 5th largest voting state in America.

Sunday voting in Florida is optional by county, and while most counties said no, all the major big counties said yes. It should be an opportunity for the Democrats to add to their margin.


Hillsborough followed up a record day by falling 300 votes short of setting another record. It was also the strongest day for Democrats since the beginning of the in-person early voting, netting a 3,000 vote plurality heading into Soul’s to the Polls. Again, NPA voters really drove the day, with almost as many NPA voters (8,237) voting as Republicans (9,026). Dems now hold a 25K vote lead.

Yesterday: 41.2 Dem – 30.7 GOP – 28.1 NPA.

Total: 42.1 Dem – 35.8 GOP – 22.1 NPA


Over 110,000 people voted yesterday, and the Dems won the day by over 10,000. But again, the big news is NPA, which made up 28% of all the voters along the highway.

To give you an idea of how the NPA surge looked yesterday, here are the I-4 counties with all votes counted, and just yesterday:

To date: 41.1 D – 35.9 R – 23 NPA

Yesterday: 40.5 D -31.3 R – 28.2 NPA

The other thing in here that is good news for the Democrats, while the I-4 corridor is almost exactly where it should be in terms of projected vote: 26.71% of the state through yesterday, compared to my projection of 26.38%, it isn’t distributed equally. Places over-performing: Osceola and Orange. Under-performing? Polk and Volusia. That almost look like the opposite of a secret-Trump vote surge.

In fact, yesterday, Osceola saw almost 32% come from NPA, and Orange almost 30%. I don’t have the time today to run the demographics on that, but I honestly don’t think I need to, because by this point, readers of this deal know who lives there.

Just to recap the counties on I-4 –

Volusia (Daytona) – should lean a little red this year.

All votes: 39.7 R, 37.2 D, 23.1 NPA

R + 4,235

Seminole – suburban Orlando, more white/republican.

All votes: 42.6 R, 35.1D, 23.3 NPA

R +10,234

Orange (Orlando)

All votes: 46 D, 30 R, 24 NPA

D +59,800

Osceola – very Hispanic. President Obama there today.

All votes: 47.5 D, 26.7 R, 25.9 NPA

D + 20,217

Imperial Polk – between Tampa/Orlando – lean R

All votes: 40.1 R, 39 D, 20.9 NPA

R +1,827

Hillsborough – twice for Bush, twice for Obama

All votes: 42.1 D, 35.8 R, 22.1 NPA

D +24,608

Pinellas – lean D county on Gulf, west of Tampa

All votes: 38.8 R, 38.5 D, 22.7 NPA

R +840

Last look at I-4, by looking at the media markets, Republicans hold a slight edge in both the Orlando and Tampa media markets. To win Florida, Trump needs to grow slightly from Romney in both Tampa, and Orlando. Given the conservative strength in places like Lake and Brevard, there was an opportunity to do that. So far, at least on the partisanship, the Orlando DMA is leaning pretty much a draw. That is a win for Clinton.

In Tampa, Republicans have a slight registration advantage, but nothing outside the normal. The counties outside of urban Tampa have strong GOP registration advantage, though particularly as you go to places like Sarasota, don’t vote as Republican as they register. As Obama proved in 2012, you don’t have to win the Tampa DMA to win Florida, you just have to keep it close to a tie. Based on the +3 GOP registration edge, with 22% NPA, I think she’s probably right there.

South Florida

I’ve run out of words to describe Miami. Mr. 305 himself might use the term “en fuego” to describe it.

Yesterday, 50K more people voted there, meaning 708K have voted there through yesterday, compared to 879K who voted there in the entire 2012 election. Yesterday almost matched Friday’s record, but compared to the rest of the state, it was even bigger. 12% of all voters came from Dade yesterday, and it was 42.5 Dem, 33.2 NPA, 24.4 GOP. That NPA number is going to be all Caribbean and Hispanic voters. I honestly at this point don’t know what to think about final turnout in Dade. It is going to be well over a million votes at this point, which if HRC wins by just same margin as Obama, will net +237K votes to her margin. If she increases the margin to say 65-35, which isn’t inconceivable at all, it goes to 300K. If that happens, she’s not going to lose Florida.

Broward had another really great day, and Palm Beach continues to get better. Right now, I think she easily wins Broward and Dade by 500K combined votes, which in the back of my head has been the magic number.

Palm Beach

All votes: 46 D, 39 R, 24 NPA

D +66,510


All votes: 55.7 D, 22.1 R, 22.2 NPA

D +188,499


All votes, 44 D, 29.8 R, 26.2 NPA

D +100,291


The Obama effect:

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

They are now ahead.


Additional notes:

I don’t have yesterday’s diversity numbers, but based on voting patterns, there is no question in my mind we will go into Election Day under the 2012 standard of 67% white. The electorate is now under 67.6% white (67 In 2012), with Black and Hispanic voters continuing to grow in share of the electorate. Friday was 61 white to 39 non-whites. There is no question in my mind that the electorate will be more diverse than 2012.

Miami and Orlando continue to over-perform. Fort Myers is the bright spot for Republicans. There are still another 3.4m or so likely votes, but I’m sure of one thing, the folks in Brooklyn have to be feeling better than the folks in Trump Tower.

More later.

Steve Schale: Notes on the 11th day of early voting in Florida

*3 days until E-Day

*5 days until I am home for a nice long time.

*7 days until FSU basketball tips off.

*105 days until pitchers and catchers

Think about it. Next week at this time, you won’t be reading memos from some dude in Florida. You will be relaxing in your home. Just visualize that for a second.

This memo will be shorter. As I mentioned yesterday, I have the honor of hosting a group of Turkish political types in Orlando for the election. We are actually going to see the President’s rally tomorrow. Between driving to Orlando this morning and spending time with the delegates, I’ve just not had much time to write. Hope to do more tomorrow.

In meantime, two things: yesterday was really robust, and as a result, and after consulting with Dan Smith from the University of Florida, I am upping my estimate from 9.2 million to 9.5 million. This puts it basically at 08 turnout levels.

On a day that saw 464,000 voters with almost 26% of the votes come in from NPAs, Democrats won the day by about 9K votes, winning narrowly both VBM and EV.

Total Ballots cast:   5,731,761

Total Vote By Mail:  2,370,567 (45%)

Total Early Vote:  2,897.183 (55%)

Democrats:  2,268,663 (39.58%)

Republicans: 2,261,383 (39.45)

NPA: 1,201,715 (20.97%)

Total Margin:  GOP +0.13%

Right now, I think about 60% percent of the likely electorate has voted. At the higher turnout rate, I think we will be between 66-67% of likely voters having voted through Sunday. Another way of looking at this – our early vote as of yesterday is 91 more people than voted in all of Pennsylvania in the 2012 election. EV Florida with 2 days to go would be the 5th largest voting state in America.


Hillsborough had a record day. Over 29K voters, with 27.3% of them registered NPA. Democrats won a plurality of about 1,600, one of their best days of the cycle

Yesterday: 39.2 Dem – 33.5 GOP – 27.3 NPA.

Total: 42.1 Dem – 36.1 GOP – 21.8 NPA


Turnout was quite robust on the I-4 yesterday. More than 123,000 voters, with again, really big NPA turnout.  More than 34K were NPA, equaling 27.8% of the voters.

In total, Dems won the day by about 6800 voters, or roughly 38.9-33.4%.

One thing that is interesting over the last few days is just the scale of turnout in both Orange and Osceola County. I projected that Orange would be just under 6% of all FL voters this year, and yesterday, it was 7% of all early voting. For Osceola, I have it about 1.4% of the state, and it was 1.65%.  Really robust turnout. In fact, every county except Pinellas was above its state projection, though I suspect that has more to do with the VBM nature of the county – and residents voting earlier.

One other way to put Orange County in perspective: Orange County Florida is now at 73% of its entire 2012 POTUS turnout. Roughly 467K 2012 votes. Over 343K have voted so far in 2016

South Florida

I told one of the smartest national guys I know about Miami, and his response was “insane.” Then 12 hours later he texted me again and said “I still can’t believe those Miami numbers.”

To put Miami in perspective, in 658K have voted there through yesterday, compared to 879K who voted there in the entire 2012 election. Yesterday was the biggest day of early voting in the county’s history. A county I expect to be at best, 10.5% of statewide votes is well over 11.15% of the state, and yesterday was almost 12% of all voters.  And right now the 44D-30R-26NPA split should play out pretty favorably for the Democrats.

There has been commentary about Broward being down. However, in my model, it is actually up. Why? Broward always lags the state, so any improvement over its typical lagging is a positive. Dems have a 174k lead in Broward, which is right now is over 9% of the statewide vote, slightly ahead of my projection. Yesterday, it was over 10% of all votes cast. In other words, in the biggest two Dem counties, which should account for about 19% of the statewide vote, yesterday they provided almost 22% of statewide votes.

I picked on Palm Beach yesterday, but Friday was better. I still have it lagging the state, though overall, these three counties are preforming at a higher share of the vote than projected.


The Obama effect:

GOP led Dems by over 3,000 voters before he came to town. Yesterday it was cut to 1,500. As I write this, it is under 300.

And that was his goal.  Take away a Trump big win.  To quote Rick Scott, “it’s working.”

Additional notes:

The electorate continues to get more diverse. The electorate is now under 67.6% white (67 In 2012), with Black and Hispanic voters continuing to grow in share of the electorate. Yesterday was 61 white to 39 non-whites. There is no question in my mind that the electorate will be more diverse than 2012.

African American turnout hit a 2016 record yesterday, beating the record set each of the two previous days, and Hispanic was 17% of all voters. That is how HRC wins Florida.

I restate this because of the attention to the R versus D delta, and comparisons to 2012. Right now, the most important thing is diversity in my opinion. So many voters have moved to NPA that the Dem party advantage is much lower. This is compounded by the number of North Florida Dems who finally switched.

Yesterday, 73% of Dems and NPA Hispanics were “low propensity.” In total 50% of all Dem voters were low propensity. GOP is turning them out as well, but at a lower rate, 40% yesterday. In real numbers, that is nearly a 25,000 gulf.

I also want to restate something verbatim I wrote yesterday, mainly for my friends at CNN who keep reporting the topline numbers with no context.  So here goes:

Between 2012 and 2016, a significant number of white Democrats switched parties.  A large number of them came from places where the odds of them voting for any Democrat in recent history was very low, and certainly not one for President.  For those not from here, you have to remember that large parts of the state are still very “southern” and as such, has retained some of that Southern Democrat identity, even though many of those voters have long stopped voting for Dems for President.  The Obama second term and the rise of Trump – plus the fact that Republicans are winning more local offices, gave them the nudge to shed the label and “re-categorize themselves” into the party where they really belong.

So I asked some data people a question: is there a chance that part of the GOP lead is built with people who four years ago, were Democrat early voters – even if they were Dems in name only. The answer is yes. Almost 50,000 2016 Republican early voters were Democratic early voters in 2012. In other words, if none of those voters had switched, Dems would have a roughly 100K vote lead over the GOP today – even though that lead would have been meaningless.

I do believe this thing is tracking towards a Clinton victory. We get an electorate that is 65-66% white, and turnout closer to 2008 than 2012, and that is how the coalition is built.

It is also a good reminder that Florida is getting more diverse.  By 2020, we will be talking about electorates that are 63-64% white, and by 2024, just above 60.  The state is changing that rapidly.

I hope to do more tomorrow, and again, I apologize for the delay today.  But as much as I love Florida, I love the volunteer work I do for the American Council of Young Political Leaders even more, and I am off to show our Turkish friends the country we call home – starting with an Orlando Magic game tonight.

Best to all.

Steve Schale: Notes on the 11th day of early voting in Florida

To: A tired, weary nation, and the Trump tech guys in Macedonia
From: Steve Schale, Florida Man
Re: Why in the world did I start doing these?

*1 day since the leader of the free world did the #swoop at UNF.
*4 days until the election.
*6 days until I am home for a nice long time.
*8 days until FSU basketball tips off.
*106 days until pitchers and catchers.
*131 days to get your NCAA basketball bracket complete — and your $20 in.

It is Friday.

The greatest Friday in like two years, because it is the final Friday of this quadrennial renewal of our federalist experiment in self-governing.

I can only imagine the letters that Adams and Jefferson are sending via pigeon carrier in heaven right now. Or maybe they have texting now —  guess we’ll find out one day.

Ballots. Barack Obama flew to Florida to tell you to return your ballot. Please listen to the man.

Speaking of President Obama, I had the honor to welcome him back to Jacksonville yesterday on what was a strangely emotional day. It is hard to believe it has been eight years. And while I have rather enjoyed having a life this cycle, it was good for the ol’ bloodstream to jump in for a day.

We’ve also reached the part of the campaign that is tough for the people who are in them, on both sides. Once you get to Friday, the die is mostly cast.

You’ve made your final moves, and other than ordering some robocalls or adjusting canvass operations, you just must trust your plan, and trust the kids on the ground to execute.

I went and banged on doors in ’08 for a few hours the last weekend, just to get out the nervous energy.

It is also the point where exhaustion has long since been replaced with a zombielike consciousness, fueled by an occasional morsel of pizza, or candy, or whatever else you can find, mixed with coffee, Coca-Cola, and whatever cheap beer is in the fridge.

In hack-lingo, this is the “October Diet,” and by this point in 2008, I was lucky if I was getting three or four hour’s sleep. And this is true, whether you are at the top of the org chart, or an organizer at the bottom.

In other words, you aren’t thinking well, and campaigns become defensive.

I say this to give some perspective to what is happening right now: tired kids in offices full of pizza boxes and beer bottles in trash cans that haven’t been emptied in weeks, pulling 16-18 hour days, often sleeping on couches or in spare rooms of “supporter housing.”

For most of them, this is the only campaign they will ever work on — most be doing something different soon, grad school, teaching, etc. Even if their team wins, most will never go to Washington. There is something romantically heroic about it.

That is how early voting and Election Day gets done: kids grinding out this thing, one voter at a time. I used to tell them I had the easy job, and I couldn’t do what they do.

With all the elevation publicly of hacks, the media (and pretty much everyone) often forgets in these things, but how they do their job will determine not only who wins this state, but potentially who is president. I used to tell my crew their job was simple: just do your job. And if you do, you will change the course of history.

So with that, here’s where we stand:

Yesterday, we blew past the 5 million mark, pushing over 5.25M votes.

I do want to note — especially because as you will see, the margin is razor-close — that there are discrepancies between the data the state reported and data you can get off county election’s offices. In some cases, those differences would benefit the D’s, in some the R’s. In other words, these numbers could change a little during the day.

Total Ballots cast: 5,267,750
Total Vote By Mail: 2,370,567 (45 percent)
Total Early Vote: 2,897,183 (55 percent)

Republicans: 2,093,586 (39.74 percent)
Democrats: 2,091,753 (39.71 percent)
NPA: 769,241 (20.55 percent)

Total Margin: GOP +0.03 percent

Dems won VBM and EV today, the first time the former has happened. I wouldn’t be surprised if this continues, largely because of math.

There are a lot more Dem ballots out there than GOP ballots, in part because the Dems pushed VBM later in October, and in part because I have no freaking idea why people haven’t mailed back their ballots.

Right now, I think about 57 percent of the likely electorate has voted. At this pace, if the next few days of early and VBM returns look like the last few days, we will be at 70 percent of the likely electorate done by E-Day.

One caveat, given the number of low-propensity voters who are showing up, I might revise my turnout estimate upward, in which case, that 70 percent number will become more like 67-68 percent, but still, at that rate, we are going to have a pretty good sense where Florida is headed darn early Tuesday.

And yes, there are still almost a million vote-by-mail ballots sitting out there; and yes, Democrats have more outstanding mail-in ballots than Republicans. Unreturned vote-by-mail ballots look like this: 41D-34R-25NPA, meaning 82,873 more Dem ballots are out there.



Hillsborough had a bigger day yesterday than the day before, with 26,164 ballots in the door. Democrats won by about 6 percent, equal to their overall margin lead, or about 1,500 voters. NPA voters, though, continue to show up late in early voting, as yesterday 26.5 percent of all Hillsborough voters were NPA. Throughout all early voting, NPA = 21 percent, so this is an uptick.

Staying in the Bay area, I get a fair amount of questions from my Pinellas readers. For those unfamiliar with Pinellas, it is home to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, the peninsula of land that is on the west side of Tampa Bay (remember, Tampa is the city, Tampa Bay is the water). It was one of the first places where Republicans in Florida did very well, an homage to the area’s ties to the Midwest.

Since about 2004, party affiliation there has been very close, though Democrats tend to do better than the party affiliation at the top of the ticket since it tends to have a more moderate Republican voter. It is also unique in that the county votes overwhelmingly VBM, so we will know a lot of results very quickly.

Right now, Dems did win yesterday, and the GOP has about 1,500 voter lead in the county (Dems have about the same lead in voter registration).

Metro Orlando and the rest of I-4

Looking at the rest of I-4, the big news yesterday is the continued explosion of NPA voters.

Of the five remaining I-4 counties, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, and Volusia, none had NPA’s share of the day equal less than 24.5 percent. As I wrote about yesterday, this is primarily driven by Puerto Ricans voting in substantial numbers.

One thing also noteworthy from yesterday, the two places with the highest Puerto Rican populations, Orange and Osceola counties, both outperformed their projected share of the statewide vote. In other words, more people turned out there than you’d expect based on their likely proportion to the rest of the state.

In fact, both are above their projected share for the entirety of early voting. Polk is a little below where it should land, and both Seminole and Volusia are pretty much on marks.

As I wrote on a blog earlier, the dynamic in this market is whether GOP turns out more voters in the surrounding counties than Dems can win in the urban counties. In both Lake and Flagler, Republicans are doing well, though I don’t think well enough to balance out what is happening in Orange and Osceola.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to win the Orlando media market. Romney did narrowly in 2012, but she does need to keep it close. Right now, it looks close.

South Florida

Miami and Broward blowing up. There is no other way to look at it.

Look at it this way: I expect Broward to be just under 9 percent of all statewide votes. Yesterday it was 10.3 percent. And Miami-Dade should land somewhere around 10.5 percent of all votes.

Yesterday it was 12.1 percent.

What is driving that? NPAs.

In Broward, 26 percent of voters yesterday were NPA, and 30 percent of Miami-Dade. Look at it another way: 74 percent of all voters in Dade yesterday were either Democratic or NPA, and 79 percent in Broward.

The story in Palm Beach isn’t the same, and if I were a Democratic hack working in a campaign, I would be raising a flag. The margins are solid, but the turnout is lagging. While Broward and Dade are both exceeding their projected shares, Palm Beach is well behind it.

The Broward partisan margin us up to 160,000, and Miami-Dade is now over 80K, but in frankly bigger news there, total NPA vote now trails GOP votes by about 30K.


Well, the president flew into town, dropped a #DUUUVAL on the crowd, and did the Osprey “swoop” inside UNF Arena.

*Side note about my ex-boss — it is hard to imagine either of the 2016 front-runners pulling those two things off. I am pretty sure, Trump didn’t do either at his West Side (is the best side) rally.

*Side Note 2: Had I realized Trump’s rally was on the west side, I would have encouraged my press buddies to hit Intuition Brewing as a place where they could file their stories without Trump supporters yelling at them. Their IPA is much tastier than the water at the Equestrian Center.

OK, back to Duval. President comes to town and what happens? In-person early vote had a record day. #ThanksObama

Democrats continue to chip away at the margin here, which is under 2,500 voters, and now just 1.1 percent. There remain a huge number of African-American voters who have not voted, as African-American turnout here lags the state.

But, all in all, turnout here is lagging a bit, which means it isn’t crushing for Trump either.

Additional notes

The electorate continues to get more diverse. The electorate is now under 68.6 percent white (67 in 2012), with Black and Hispanic voters continuing to grow in share of the electorate.

And let’s talk about the Hispanic vote a little.

First, through Wednesday, 170,000 more Hispanics had voted early (or VBM) in 2016 than voted early or by VBM in the entire 2012 cycle. And keep in mind, because Hispanic is a self-identifying marker, studies have found the real Hispanic vote is larger than the registration.

So, while Hispanics might make up 14.2 percent of the voters who have voted so far, in reality, the number is larger.

And it isn’t just that Hispanics are voting, it is the types of Hispanics who are voting.

Here is one way to look at it: Right now, statewide, 16 percent of early voters are either first-time Florida voters, or haven’t voted in any of the last three elections. Across party lines, 24 percent of all the Hispanic votes today come from these first-time voters.

Among Hispanic Republicans, it is 14 percent, among Democrats, it goes up to 26 percent, and among Hispanic NPAs, a whopping 32 percent have no previous or recent voting history.

When you expand it out to voters who voted in one of the last three, which is what I define as “low propensity,” it goes up to 53 percent of Hispanic Democrats and 60 percent of Hispanic NPAs.

That, my friends, is the definition of a surge.

Right now, Democrats hold a 117K vote advantage among all low-propensity voters, in large part due to this Hispanic surge. So far, 32 percent of Democratic voters are low propensity voters, compared to 26 percent of the GOP voters. But among NPA, the number rises to 48 percent. That’s right, 48 percent of NPAs who have voted so far are low propensity — and 25 percent of those are Hispanic.

In fact, of the NPA low-propensity voters, a full 42 percent of them are nonwhite. That right there is the Clinton turnout machine edge.

One last thing on these NPA voters, right now, the overall electorate is 68.6 percent white, but among NPAs, that number drops to 65 percent. In other words, NPA voters are more diverse than the electorate as a whole. That almost certainly bodes well for Clinton.

Why do I mention all this?

Well, it is because so much attention is paid to the top-line EV numbers: R versus D. But the more I think about it, the more I think the fact D’s have trailed later into EV than normal, the more I wonder it has more to do structurally with HRC’s coalition than it does any partisan advantage.

As I told a reporter, I think the R vs. D number now is more of an optics problem than an electoral one.

One other thing about that GOP advantage. Between 2012 and 2016, a significant number of white Democrats switched parties. Many them came from places where the odds of them voting for any Democrat in recent history was very low, and certainly not one for president. For those not from here, you should remember that large parts of the state are still very “Southern” and as such, has retained some of that Southern Democrat identity, even though many of those voters have long stopped voting for Dems for president.

The Obama second term and the rise of Trump — plus the fact that Republicans are winning more local offices, gave them the nudge to shed the label and “re-categorize themselves” into the party where they belong.

So, I asked some data people a question: is there a chance that part of the GOP lead is built with people who four years ago, were Democrat early voters — even if they were Dems in name only. The answer is yes.

Almost 50,000 2016 Republican early voters were Democratic early voters in 2012. In other words, if none of those voters had switched, Dems would have an 80-90K vote lead over the GOP today — even though that lead would have been meaningless.

One last key stat from Wednesday: African-American and Caribbean Americans had their largest day of 2016, with 55,000 Black voters voting early. The Black share of the electorate now stands at a solid 12 percent and growing.

A couple of last observations. Right now, Republicans should be feeling good about turnout in Southwest Florida, as well as around the Villages, where the areas are turning out at a larger share of the electorate than projected. For Democrats, areas with high Hispanic are high, including the counties mentioned earlier in Southeast Florida and around Orlando. North Florida is getting better for Republicans, but still is lagging.

Which leads me to my final point. My buddy Peter Hamby, who works at Snapchat and who I think is one of the smarter people around, tweeted something last night which I think is both likely — and reminiscent of 2012:

There’s more likelihood polls are overlooking disconnected Millennials, African-Americans & Hispanics than ‘closet Trump’ supporters.

From my observation, particularly with the NPA growth and the number of low-propensity voters in Florida, I think this could be happening here, and is one of the reasons I am less concerned about the party delta than I was earlier in the week.

All of this has me leaning a bit that the state is shaping up nicely for HRC, but while I think that, in no way is it in the bag, or close to it. Donald Trump could still very well win Florida, and it remains exceptionally close.

The race will go to the side that does the best job over the next 96 hours. I used the term “crazy close” yesterday, and I think it still works today.

OK — little scheduling news:

Starting Saturday, I am hosting a group of Turkish party leaders through the American Council of Young Political Leaders, who will be in Florida observing the elections. It is a joint project with the State Department to introduce foreign leaders to American democracy.

Since the 2012 Presidential, I have gotten engaged in the political exchange community — it is easily some of the most meaningful work I do (if you are curious, I have written extensively about it on my blog).

I bring this up because my plan is to write a memo Saturday for Friday, publish some notes Sunday from Saturday, and write a longer read Monday that goes into more depth about where we stand.

Tuesday morning, I hope to do a short piece that is simply what to look for on election night. I also will do an election wrap-up, though it might be a few days after. We’ll just see if I am still standing on 11/9.

However, because of my responsibilities with ACYPL and this delegation, I probably won’t have time to banter for hours on Twitter, though I will continue to try to respond best I can.

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

*Written before coffee, so please forgive any clear lack of English language skills.

Like most Americans who also are White Sox fans, I am struggling to decide which is better, stubbing my toe (Cubs) or bumping my head (Indians). So let’s look at something more desirable than this World Series: The 2016 Campaign for President.

Day 2 of in-person early voting in Florida brought more of the same from Day 1. And again, there really isn’t a single indicator any rational observer (note, not Donald Trump) would argue is anything but good news for the Democrats.

First, Day 2 saw just shy of 294,000 vote in-person early, which combined means 585,000 have voted in-person early so far — and over 2 million people have voted total. This is roughly 22 percent of what we can expect turnout to be this year. After just two days, in-person early vote accounts for nearly 30 percent of all the ballots cast to date.

Democrats won Day 2 of early voting by about 6,600 votes (numbers change some during the day). Democrats were down about 10K, and Republicans up about 7K, and Republicans have a narrow 5,700-vote lead in vote by mail/early vote combined (0.2 percent). So go vote, Democrats!

And, for my friend Mac Stipanovich, about 53K NPA voted early yesterday — up from Monday, and they made up about 18 percent of all voters.

Out of the 2 million votes so far, the percentages are roughly 41R-41D-18 NPA. Personally, I like where that is headed.

Here are a few highlights:


Hillsborough County — The only county in Florida to vote for Obama twice and Bush twice, saw over 18,000 in-person votes for the second straight day. Democrats increased their early vote lead to more than 4,000 votes, and their total early/vote-by-mail lead to over 10,000 votes. The Democratic lead for total early/VBM votes is about 7.3 percent.

I-4 Corridor — Democrats won every county on Interstate 4, except Seminole County (we can’t expect to win a county so Republican you have to go back to Truman to find a Democrat who carried it). Overall for the day, Democrats won 45-35.

Base Democratic Counties:

The five major Democratic counties — Broward, Dade, Palm Beach, Osceola, and Orange — all basically matched their Day 1 turnout. Robust remains the best way to describe turnout.

Here are a few counties:

Broward: (60D-21R), +11,987 for Day 2.

Dade: (48D-29R) +6,600 for Day 2.

Orange: (50D-29R) +3,665 for Day 2

And lastly, my favorite place right now, Republican Duval County. Over the last two elections, Barack Obama was able to keep the Duval margins manageable, averaging losses of about 10,000 votes. By comparison, Bush won the county by 61,000 in 2004, a number Trump will need to get closer to if he’s going to win Florida.

Well, right now, Republicans are doing about as well in Duval as the Jaguars. Democrats won the second consecutive day of in-person early voting, and now only trail Republicans in total VBM/EV by about 440 votes. Even more ominous: it only took two days for total in-person early voting to overtake two weeks of vote-by-mail returns.

A couple of final points:

Between VBM returns and EV, Day 2 was pretty much a wash. I don’t know that much significant will change until the first weekend. By comparison, in 2008, which also had 15 days of EV (in 2012, first day of EV was on a Saturday), D’s are well ahead of pace. D’s also are ahead of where we were on this day of the election in 2012.

I don’t have access this early to some of the breakdowns based on ethnicity and voting behavior, and I will send around some data later (or watch my Twitter), but here were a few things from Day 1:

Black voters (in Florida, that is both African-American and Caribbean) made up about 15 percent of all first-day early voters.

Hispanic voters were about 13 percent, and non-Hispanic white about 67 percent.

Based on these numbers, I would project we are headed towards an electorate that is more diverse than 2012.

Also, here’s one more for you: among first day of early-voting Democratic and NPA Hispanics, 44 percent were either first-time voters, or only voting in their second-ever general election.  In other words, these voters are expanding the electorate.

Overall, after Day 1 (again I will update these later), of the roughly 1.6 million ballots cast, 79 percent of Republican votes came from the most likely of voters, compared to 73 percent of Democratic votes.  In other words, a larger share of the Democratic turnout has been from new voters, and infrequent voters.

Notably, we are seeing an even larger share of the Democratic vote in Dade County coming from first-time and infrequent voters.  This suggests the Democratic coalition is coming together nicely.

I will continue to update data throughout the day, as I find things interesting. If you have questions, please email or call me.  I am doing my best to get through calls, and will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Unless you are an internet troll. In that case, call another Florida hack!

Steve Schale: Dear Donald Trump press corps: Welcome to my house

Dear Traveling Trump Press Corps:

Well, the sputtering, crashing, and long-since derailed Trump Train is headed to my town, Tallahassee.

I, for one, will admit it, I cannot believe how badly he and his shop are at campaigning. Take all of the personal flaws of Donald Trump aside; I really believed he would rise to the occasion of running a campaign at least somewhat worthy of the office he seeks.

Back in 2008, when one of my staff would do something mind-numbingly amateur, rather than yell at them, I would walk up, give them a little pep talk about decision-making process, and leave a sticky note saying: “FYI, We are running for President,” just to remind them of the stakes.

I feel like the GOP should send one of these to Trump daily.

Over the general election, he’s spent some time in some pretty bizarre places in Florida for a candidate who is making absolutely no attempt to appeal outside of his base.

It is one thing to go into the other side’s turf when you are trying to reach their voters, but he’s not. Yet he’s still spent time in places like Miami Beach and Kissimmee, two places about as Democratic as any in Florida.

Well, come Tuesday, add a third: Tallahassee.

The old saying about Florida is to go south, you go north.

Well, while Tallahassee is much more “Southern” than the rest of Florida, just like all Southern states, Tallahassee is that liberal college town that drives the rest of the conservative areas crazy.

It is also the place where the college footballing team that has beaten #FloridaMan Chuck Todd‘s Miami squad seven straight years resides, but I digress.

It is also a place where many great national reporters have spent time. In fact, the recent past president Carol Lee and the incoming president of the WHCA Margaret Talev did a stint here, as did Mike Bender, who I think still has a house here if you need a couch to surf. In fact, I think having Tallahassee experience is a job requirement at The Wall Street Journal. POLITICO’s Marc Caputo also lived here for a while, but we don’t talk about that as much.

Just how Democratic is Leon County?

The last time we voted for Republican for president was 1988, but before you Republicans get all excited about that, Bush won 66 of 67 counties. It was such a landslide that even Broward voted Republican.

That isn’t gonna happen.

Looking at more recent history:

Leon County has voted Democratic in the last six elections.

In the last four, the Republican candidate has won 41 percent of the two-party vote in Leon County, but when you add minor party candidates, no Republican has cracked 40 percent.

The total Democratic margin of victory over that time is 125,000 votes. Only four counties in Florida have delivered a bigger margin for the Democratic nominee over that time: Orange, Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade.

Further, if you look at the nine Florida counties that have voted for every Democratic nominee for president since 2000, two of them border Leon County.

And even when you add all of the rural areas in the media market, the market overall has voted for the Democratic candidate each of the last four times (and I think it is each of the last six). A region that voted for John Kerry isn’t voting for Trump.

But alas, for those media who are on the Trump traveling train, I am happy you are here. For those of you not on the charter, I hope you also enjoyed visiting our northern airport terminal, Atlanta International. As they say about Tallahassee, you can’t die and go to heaven or hell without a layover in Atlanta — and probably with a delay.

And here are a couple of thoughts:

Both GrassLands Brewing Co. and Proof Brewing are open Tuesday. If you need a beer after the rally, both make a fine product. If you are looking for good local craft beer Monday, try Growler Country. They aren’t selling ambience, but unlike the Trump rally, they have amazingly good beer.

In fact, speaking of beer, on Saturday the rally location was home to a big craft beer festival. Yes, that was a happier time.

Momo’s Pizza sells pizza as big as your head, if you are looking to protect yourself from rally-goers. There is better pizza in town, but their stuff is still good, and frankly, you have to see it to believe it.

It was also ranked one of top college town pizza joints in the country. They also make a really good craft beer.

Right across the street from the rally is a great little farm-to-table place called Backwoods Crossing. Since you’ve seen the speech a billion times, head over for dinner. You won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday afternoon, head over to Mo Betta BBQ. It is more food truck than restaurant, but you will enjoy it.

If drinking multiple bottles of wine is more your coping style, Clusters and Hops has a great wine store and restaurant. It is my favorite place in town, and it is close to Hotel Duval, where all you Marriott points chasers will probably stay. My good friend, and well-known #NeverTrumper Rick Wilson also has a nice wine collection, but sadly, he is out of town. And trust me, there is no one, and I mean no one, more disappointed to miss this one than Rick.

If you are at the Doubletree, Aloft, or Governor’s Inn, Avenue Eat & Drink has a nice dinner (or Uber to Clusters).

Downtown, there also are two excellent locally owned coffee shops: Goodies and Brewd Awakening. And there is a great pho place downtown. Yes, you read that right, great pho in Tallahassee: Fat Noodle.

Want to go for a run? Hit up Cascades Park and run the new pedestrian bridge toward FAMU and FSU. Not only is it a beautiful run, it is one of the few flat places in town. We are the southernmost reaches of the Appalachian Mountains, so our hills are quite a shock to those more accustomed to running around the National Mall.

If you want more ideas, call Rick. I know you all have his number.

Otherwise, have fun. It is a great old Southern town, with really nice people — and people who are overwhelmingly going to vote for Hillary Clinton!

Fifteen more days. America can do anything for 15 days, right?


Your Tallahassee Sherpa,


Steve Schale: I have ‘real issues’ with Q polling in Florida

Just a couple of observations on this Quinnipiac University poll today.

I continue to have real issues with the way that Q does its polling, particularly in Florida.

But here’s easier argument why you should take ALL of their numbers in Florida with a grain of salt: they were wildly inaccurate throughout the 2012 cycle, and based on their first two polls: Hillary Clinton +8, and Donald Trump +3, one can reasonably assume they haven’t fixed whatever issues they had from four years ago, where I am not sure they could have accurately counted the final score of Florida/Florida State (it was 27-2 FSU if you have forgotten).

For what is worth, I was pretty vocal on their Clinton +8 poll a few weeks back as well — much to the dismay of some in my own party.

In 2012, the Q poll was a total dumpster fire in Florida. In May, Q held a press call and basically declared the state for Mitt Romney, showing us -6. Then the next four polls were Barack Obama +4, Obama +6, Obama +9 and Obama +1, while at the same time, the race remained exceptionally constant. Over the same time, the Real Clear Politics average in Florida went from Obama -1.4 to Obama -1.7.

In 2008, they weren’t much better. They had about 12-point swing between May and September.

For as much of a mess as Florida can be, it is a remarkably consistent state.

There just isn’t 10-12 points of movement here. The movement that is here comes from slight shifts in turnout (is black 13 percent or 14 percent of the electorate), how big is the Hispanic margin (Obama won by 14 in 2008 & 21 in 2012 — as the state gets less Cuban), and what happens among a couple of subgroups of whites (Obama won in 2012 with 37 percent white).

But the little bit of movement that will occur among these groups over the cycle adds up to a handful of points, not 11 points in three weeks, this race didn’t.

I am not a Democratic apologist on this. I was one of the first Ds to really raise the flag that this could be a lot closer than folks on my side want it to be. Keep in mind, the last four statewides in Florida (POTUS and gov) have had the following results: D+3, R+1, D+1, R+1, so the state is just wired to be close. Close — and consistent.

In fact, no state in the union has been closer over the last six Presidentials, with Democrats winning the state in 1996, 2008 and 2012, and the GOP the other three (I will continue to dispute one of them!). Over those six elections, a total of just over 41 million ballots have been cast, with the Democrats holding a 130,664 vote advantage (47.8-47.5).

To put it another way, under state law, we’d be in a mandatory recount of 41 million votes — and if you narrow down to just 2000-2012 elections, of the 30,458,980 ballots cast, the partisan difference is just 71,058 votes.

In terms of the average margins, no battleground state has been closer than Florida over the last four or six elections.

So keep those numbers mind; Florida is close and will be close.

But the shifts in the Q poll are more due to the variances in the way Q polls Florida, not that the state is subject to big swings.


Steve Schale is a Florida-based political, communications and government-relations strategist. He can be reached at

Steve Schale: The five questions Marco Rubio must ask himself

To my media friends, both banned by Trump and not:

Clearly over the course of the last week, Marco Rubio‘s approach to continuing his political career has changed.  But is this a good idea?

Objectively, I really don’t think so.

Many of you know, I have been around for all of Rubio’s career, and genuinely like him and a lot of his team. And while I doubt any of them will ask my opinion, since I know most of them read my blog — here are the five questions I would suggest that Rubio ask himself over the weekend.

You can read my piece on my website — and I have posted it below.


Five Questions Rubio Should Ask Himself

As it looks more and more possible Marco Rubio will reverse himself and run for re-election, the Florida political universe is bracing for another earthquake.

But does it make sense for him to run? Surely he is under immense pressure from the GOP to do so, but let’s remember, all politics is personal. Forget what the national party wants him to do — what should Rubio do?

I believe, as I will argue below, for Rubio this decision is all risk — with little reward. This isn’t a decision to be made lightly, so if he were to ask, here are the questions I would give him to work through this weekend:

Do you want to be a Senator?

In the constant analysis of political decisions, too often the most important question is left out. Why do you want to go back? Maybe Rubio went back to the Senate after the campaign and realized he actually enjoys it, or maybe the Orlando tragedy drove a change of heart. If that is the case, give yourself a point for running. But if you are running out of a sense of party loyalty, or just a fear of being out of the national conversation, then think twice.

When do you want to run again and do you think Trump wins?

At this point, I would be shocked if Rubio doesn’t seek the presidency again, and honestly, he should. For all the obits on the 2016 election, one of the under-written observations is how conventional the primary system was in this sense: the winners of early states were the last candidates standing, just like every other cycle in the primary era. He didn’t lose because he had a bad debate performance, he lost because they were way too cautious in how they approached the early states. Had he gone all-in in Iowa, the outcome might have been different. So no reason he can’t run again.

But does he see himself running right away again? He is a young guy, and certainly could wait. Twelve years separated Ronald Reagan‘s first run and his eventual election. Bob Dole was 16 years between his run and winning the nomination, but obviously lost the presidency. Other than that, there aren’t a lot of examples of successful pols who waited a decade or more.

So if he is leaning toward going through the national meat grinder at the next opportunity, the next question is Donald Trump. If he thinks Trump is going to win, going to the Senate and keeping an eye on 2024 makes sense. If he thinks he is going to lose and he plans on challenging Hillary Clinton, then there is no reason to run for re-election. Just take a few-year break and crank up the machine again.

Do you want the hassle of another primary?

Carlos Beruff‘s people are trying to argue they have claimed Rubio’s space, and that he should be scared to run against them. This is utterly ridiculous. Rubio would beat Beruff, and would be a far superior nominee to him, but it doesn’t mean after spending a year under the bright klieg lights and national TV cameras that he wants to spend the next four months driving two-lane roads to talk to rooms of 50-100 partisans.

How confident are you versus Patrick Murphy?

Functionally, Rubio has to win. While Richard Nixon proved you can run and lose — and run again for president, that is a harder lift in the modern political world. First, Rubio has more competition on the R side than Nixon had. Secondly, the media is far less forgiving. It’s the reason why I’ve never believed Rubio would run for governor, because for all of the reward, the risk is exceptionally high. He needs to win.

Here is the challenge: because Republicans have done such a good job of nationalizing elections, the number of swing voters, particularly between the races at the top of the ticket in presidential years, is pretty narrow. Look at the last three: (Bill Nelson got 50 in 2000, Al Gore got 49; Kathy Castor got 49 in 2004, John Kerry got 47; Nelson got 55 in 12, Barack Obama got 50). In other words, let’s say Clinton beats Trump by George W. Bush vs. Kerry margins: 5 points — are there enough swing voters who will vote Clinton and Rubio? I’m not convinced. Rubio could run a good campaign, and still lose.

Is all of it worth the risk?

Rubio has been in office, or running for office, for every bit of the last 18 years of his life. I am sure a part of this, even subconsciously, is the fear that if he is out of sight, he is out of mind. And sure, that is a risk. But is it worth the risk of losing?

Republicans are smart to put a lot of pressure on making the decision to run. The party’s strongest general election candidates appear to be struggling, and the GOP’s dream of an Alan Grayson nomination is quickly wilting as Patrick Murphy builds a strong campaign and Grayson can’t keep his campaign out of the ditch. So in an election cycle where the Democrats have an excellent chance to take back the U.S. Senate, Florida could well be the key vote. So, yes, Rubio would be doing his party a huge solid by getting in.

But for Rubio, this is far from a sure thing. His statewide numbers make him look vulnerable, and his top of the ticket makes a dumpster fire look good. Trump at this point appears to be building no real campaign, so Rubio will be on his own, communicating, and building a statewide turnout operation — and he will spend the next five months answering for Trump’s nutty comments and policy ideas. And let’s remember, Rubio only won 49 percent of the statewide vote in the single best year for Republicans in a century, so it isn’t like he’s a Florida political juggernaut. 2016 will be a far better year for Democrats than 2010.

It’s this simple: if he wins and Clinton is president, he gets to go to D.C. and take bad votes for two years, and then be an absentee senator running for president. And if he loses? Well, then he gets to watch the whole thing from the sidelines for the foreseeable future.

If Rubio wants to be a senator, or just has a need to be in the public spotlight, he should run. But if his goal is to be president, which I suspect has been his goal since running for the West Miami Commission in 1998, he should resist the temptation and trust what was clearly his plan up until a few weeks ago.

But then again, he isn’t asking me!


Steve Schale is a Florida-based political, communications and government relations strategist. He can reached at

Steve Schale: Unsolicited advice for Bernie Sanders

One of the hardest things for a campaign, particularly one completely engaged in the fight, is to see beyond itself.  Typically, this only gets worse when campaigns, both ones winning and losing, reach the desperate phase — the point when you have simply run out of options because the end is near.  Every candidate wants to win, so no campaign, at any level of the ballot, is immune.

Right now, Bernie Sanders falls into this box. Over the past month or so, as it became more and more clear his campaign is nearing the end, the campaign has taken on sharper edge, saying and doing things making it harder for him to land the plane softly.  But now the plane is going to land regardless – and after tomorrow, there really is no tomorrow.

If he were to ask, below is the advice I would give to Bernie Sanders.

So here goes, my Memo to Bernie Sanders

1.  Use Your Political Capital Wisely:  You will never have more political capital than you have today, but every day that goes by, you will lose a bit of your capital.  Whether you want it to or not, the party is going to move on.  You want to define the terms of your exit, not have it defined for you, and in this frame, you need to figure out what deliverables they can actually give you.  As you know, politics is zero-sum, so be realistic, and remember, that conversation isn’t the end game.

2.  You need to go all in for her:  It may be counter-intuitive, but the success of your movement — and your ability to lead it, is entirely dependent on Hillary Clinton winning.  If she loses, your movement won’t look to you for leadership, but instead will start looking for new candidates — and many Democrats will blame you for the loss.  But when she wins, you can use your movement to push for more progressive policies.

3. Don’t obsess about the platform: No one has ever read it.  No one ever will.  And yes, the nomination process in both parties is messed up.  But that isn’t today’s fight – beating Donald Trump is.

4.  Help her win, then take credit for it:  Right now, there sense is the Democratic Party is not united.  You often say that you can’t make your followers do what you want, but we all know this isn’t true.  Just like Hillary Clinton made it easy for her supporters to join up with Obama, you need to do the same.  And when she wins in November, driven by a united Democratic coalition, the campaign obits will all give you credit for it, and all of the sudden, you will find yourself in charge of an incredibly powerful movement – with a President who can help you get things done.

5.  Think long term.  Change doesn’t happen in Washington, change starts in local communities.  Encourage and help your activists run for school boards, city commissions, and state legislatures. Your campaign has been a moment – but you can build a movement by inspiring a generation of young activists to understand a lifetime of public service is an honorable one, and look back in 15-20 years and see what real change looks like.

The biggest thing you should do Wednesday is get some sleep. Go back to Burlington for a day or two, get your team off the television, and take a day or two to catch your breath. At some level, I’ve been there.  After three months in the barrel for Joe Biden, it was hard to stop fighting. But with space and rest, the path will become clear.

And Senator, remember leadership isn’t just about inspiring a movement, it is also about knowing when to lead your team off the mountain before you are trapped in a storm. Your job now is to give your movement the best chance to succeed in the future. Your loudest supporters will want you to push on — but your job is to help them understand why it is time to move on.

Steve Schale: Florida State House Rankings, May 2016

Six months before Election Day, now that the candidates and races are starting to develop, I wanted to take a look at my favorite of all subjects: State House races.

For those of you all who don’t know me well, I cut my teeth in the Florida House.  State House races are my first political love, and for young rising operatives, I believe them to be the best of all proving grounds.  Almost everything you do running for president, governor, Congress, etc., you do running for the State House, just at a smaller scale.

There are a lot of fun races this year, with the Democrats largely playing offense — though many of their best shots are against incumbents, which is typically a tougher bet.

As you will see, of the 10 races profiled below, there is only one in the Democratic column.

Some folks might think I am home-teaming this thing, but honestly, I could argue that one doesn’t belong there either, as it isn’t really at much risk and is included more for balance.

One other caveat, this is how I see these races today, but much can and will change.  I am pretty sure if we checked with a group of Republican and Democratic strategists, you’d find consensus that the map will be fought on the GOP side this year.

I have ranked these seats in order of their likelihood to flip from one party to the other, with 10 being the least likely, to 1 being the most likely.

  1.  HD 68 (Dudley Open):  

Dwight Dudley’s surprise decision to retire from the House has created an open seat in traditionally one of the top battleground districts in Florida.  The top of the ticket results would argue this seat is just barely a swing seat, though given both the Pinellas voter registration trends and the potential of a bruising Democratic primary, this seat barely makes the list. In three months, there is a good chance it will have fallen off.

  1. HD 72 (Pilon Open):  

If Ray Pilon had run for re-election, this would be an honorable mention, but now that it is an open seat. it makes the first round of rankings.

The Democratic candidate, Edward James, comes from an established Sarasota family and has raised a significant war chest.  The Republican, Alex Miller, is formidable in her own right. Based on candidate quality alone, this should be higher up the list.

However, the district is quite marginal for Democrats.  Both Mitt Romney and Rick Scott won the district by a few points, and given the older — and whiter make-up of the seat — it is a place less likely to be affected by Donald Trump.  Keep an eye on it, and ask me again in three months.

  1. HD 69 (Kathleen Peters Challenge):  

This is one of the “swingiest” of seats in one of the swingiest of counties.

Both Barack Obama and Charlie Crist won the district by a few points, and there is no reason to think that Trump/Clinton won’t have the same outcome.

The incumbent Republican has played it smart, avoiding ideological pits, focusing on mental health as her primary issue.  The Democratic candidate, Jennifer Webb, is a bit unknown at this point, hence this seat not being higher up the list.  In three months this could be a real race, or it might not even be on this list. But given the make-up of the district, it will be one to watch.

  1. HD 120 (Holly Raschein Challenge):  

Two reasons this race makes the list:  the district’s historical performance, and the problems Trump creates for all Republicans in South Florida.  As a legislator in a vulnerable seat, Raschein has done everything right.  Full disclosure, she’s been a friend for many years. We were staff together in the House.

Thus I hate even including her on this list.  Objectively, she has one of the more bipartisan voting records in Tallahassee, works hard for her district, and she’s effectively scared off all top tier opponents.

But in her district, particularly in a presidential year, any opponent is a threat.  Obama won the district by six points, and with a good chunk of the district in heavily Hispanic South Dade, a Trump implosion with Hispanics could hurt her.  I expect her to win, but she’s going to have to grind it out in a tough environment.

  1. HD 47 (Mike Miller Challenge):  

Like HD 30 — which isn’t even on the list at this point, this seat should be further up the list for Dems.

The top of the ticket statewide for the Democrats has carried the seat in each of the last four elections, but at this point, no Democratic candidate has emerged as a top tier challenger, and Miller is sitting on $100,000, which is a respectable number.  However, the Ds won the seat easily in 2012 against a fairly formidable opponent, and Orlando is one of those places where Trump could create problems for Republicans.  Miller starts with the edge, but can’t take anything for granted.

  1. HD 59 (Spano Challenge):

Ross Spano’s opponent, Rena Frazier, is flat out one of the better recruits the Dems have had in years.

The district is very much up for grabs at the top of the ticket, and voter registration is trending a bit Democratic.  That being said, Spano is a heavyweight in his own right, well liked and a hard worker.  He won a four-way primary in his first race over opponents he was not supposed to beat.

However, there is no question that Rena is the best general election opponent he has faced.  If Tom Lee runs for local office, and Spano takes a shot at the Senate, look for this one to move up the rankings.

  1. HD 63 (Shawn Harrison Challenge):  

On paper, of the two GOP-held swing seats in Hillsborough, this one is definitely more favorable to the Democrats.

Obama carried the district by 5-6 points, and swept in Mark Danish over Harrison in 2012.

This time around, he faces a better candidate in Lisa Montelione, a Tampa City Council member who has had a respectable early fundraising show, and a weaker GOP nominee in Trump.  A GOP wave swept Harrison into office in 2010, out of office in 2012, back into office in 2014… you get the idea.

He’s generally carved out the kind of voting record you need in a seat like this, but to win, he has to buck the district’s recent history.  If Lee runs for the Senate and Harrison takes his shot, this seat probably moves to No. 2 or No. 3 on this list.

  1.  HD 103 (Manny Diaz Challenge):

I don’t think there is a single Republican incumbent in the State House more hurt by Trump than Manny Diaz Jr., who is legitimately one of the nicest guys in town.

Going into re-election, he’s got three major problems:  The seat is moving away from him — quickly, he’s running against one of the D’s better candidates, and Trump.

Voter registration has trended away from Republicans, and this is the kind of seat where NPA voters lean Democratic — and that is before the Trump factor.  He will have a ton of financial support, his race will be competently managed, and as a guy who cut his teeth in a district where we were called dead every cycle, I never count anyone out. And no one can count Diaz out either.  But unless something changes, he clearly starts out as the most vulnerable incumbent.

  1. HD 114 (Erik Fresen Open):  

Always one of the better opportunities for Democrats, this open seat has quickly rocketed to the top, now that it is all but sure that Trump will be the GOP nominee.  Both parties have top tier candidates in this seat.

Both parties will play heavily in this rare Dade County open swing seat.  But the Ds have two major factors helping them: like all of Dade, this seat is trending Democratic.

The Democratic candidate, Daisy Baez, put a real scare into Fresen in 2014, which was a horrible year for Democrats.  In a year where Hillary Clinton will likely beat Trump in Dade County by 30 or more points, Baez at this point is in an exceptionally strong position.

  1. HD 49 (Coach P Open).

With all due respect to Rene Plasencia (Coach P), who is the perfect Republican in this lean Democratic seat, and who ran a near perfect campaign — this is not a seat the Democrats should have lost, even in 2014.

Obama carried the seat in 2012 by roughly 20 points, and Crist easily defeated Scott.  Coach P, a teacher and track coach, has decided to seek re-election in a neighboring seat, much more favorable to Republicans.  I honestly don’t think the GOP is even contesting this one.  Unless something exceptionally odd happens, the Democratic candidate, my buddy Carlos Smith, will win this seat.

And here are a few that you should keep an eye on:

HD 30 (Bob Cortes Challenge):  

If I had written this column six months ago, this seat which has flipped from R to D to R in the last few cycles would have probably 5th or 6th on this list.

It has all the makings of a battleground seat – central Florida, tight races at the top of the ticket, trending Hispanic, etc.  But to date, Cortes has fended off a top tier opponent.  Depending on what happens over the next three months, this will either move completely off, or move into top-tier status.

HD 9 (Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda Open):  

Some Republicans see this as a pick-up opportunity, but I think this seat is far more competitive on paper than it is in reality.

The top-of-the-ticket Democrat has carried it by respectable margins. The one blip: 2012, where Obama won the district by only 5 points.  That being said, well known and well liked former State Rep. Loranne Ausley has filed and is absolutely killing it on fundraising.

The GOP also has a good candidate, though not nearly as well known as Loranne — nor as good as Peter Boulware, who failed to win the seat in 2008.  Loranne alone is probably a 3-4 point boost on top of the seat’s Democratic performance.  Plus Loranne is an Ironman finisher — she knows how to work. By the numbers, it is one to watch, but I suspect Loranne wins by double digits.

HD 93 (George Moraitis Challenge):  

Representative Moraitis holds down the one red seat in Blue Broward.  It is one of these seats that looks better on paper for Democrats than it is in reality.

But this year he has drawn an interesting opponent, former Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl.  Keechl will have real name ID, and has a fundraising base.  Romney won this district in 2012, but I suspect this is a seat where Clinton should outperform Obama.

In no way yet can you say Moraitis is vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean he or the GOP can turn a blind eye to this race.

Almost every single Dade County Republican Legislative seat:  

I have felt for several years that one day, on the Wednesday after the election, we will wake up and the Democrats will have won several seats in Dade County that no one saw coming.  This might be the year.

These incumbents all live in seats Obama either won or lost in narrow margins.

Like everything in politics, this is all subject to change.  I’ll take another stab at this after qualifying.

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to drop me a note.


Steven Schale is a Florida-based political, communications and government-relations strategist. He can reached at Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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