Steve Schale, Author at Florida Politics

Steve Schale

Steve Schale: Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico and Florida politics

Since Maria, the question I’ve gotten more than any other is: “So if X number of Puerto Ricans move to Florida because of the hurricane, what does this mean?”

Honestly, I write this blog with some hesitation.

As I work on this piece, 80-90 percent of the population still lacks power and some 50 percent lack potable water, so politics is really the last thing anyone should be worried about. But given the likely ongoing interest in this question, and in part, because I use this medium to share my own research, I wanted to offer some thoughts.

Both POLITICO’s Marc Caputo (here) and The Washington Post’s James Hohmann (here) have written interesting pieces on the subject, but I wanted to try to give it more data context. So, in this blog, I’ll try to provide my thoughts based on analyzing census data, voter registration data, and presidential election trends.

For my Democratic friends, a word of warning about the latter — particularly regarding 2018, recent turnout in off-year cycles in Orange and Osceola County has been quite low. Comparing the 2012 and 2014 elections, Osceola saw turnout drop from 67 percent to 41.3 percent, the third largest drop-off in Florida, and Orange fell from 68.1 percent to 43.3 percent, the sixth highest drop-off. So, if you want to take advantage of anything I will write about from this point onward, don’t stop organizing.

One other word of warning, this blog only looks at the impacts in three counties: Orange, Osceola and Seminole, because the acute impact of Puerto Rican growth is likely to be most significantly felt here. However, as we saw in 2016, the political impacts of Puerto Ricans in these three counties were outweighed by the Trump surge among whites in the outlying Orlando media-market counties. Alex Leary at the Tampa Bay Times just wrote an excellent piece on this dynamic.

One last note: I wrote a piece called “Orlando Rising” about the demographic changes that were occurring in the region then if you are curious for comparison purposes.

So, here goes …

Like so many things, the answer to the Maria question lies in history.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s start the clock in 2000. The 2000 election was by far the closest in our state’s history, and thus provides a good, balanced starting point when looking at elections. We also have census data from 2000 to provide another benchmark.

In terms of voter registration, we can’t really analyze data before 2006, since most counties in Florida grouped “Hispanics” into their race: either Black or White. One quick note, as I do in all my pieces, I will use Black, not African-American, because Florida also has a large Caribbean-American population that gets categorized into the same data.

So, let’s start with census data.

Keep one thing in mind, the 2015 data are based on census projections based on their year-round survey work. While they are still fairly accurate, we won’t see exact numbers until sometime in 2021 when the 2020 census data are released.

So, with that caveat …

In 2000, the Orlando urban counties had 1,434,033 total residents. Of this population, 18.1 percent was Hispanic, and another 14.7 percent was Black. The area’s non-Hispanic White population was just over 62 percent.

So, let’s move ahead to 2015.

Population in the tri-county area had grown to 1,967.255, with Hispanics now making up 29.6 percent of the population, with Black residents also increasing, to 16.3 percent. Non-Hispanic Whites had dropped to 47 percent of the area’s population.

In fairness, the 2000 census had fewer categories of people, so that 62 percent number is probably high, but regardless, that is a significant change.

Looking at it another way, between 2000 and 2015, the area grew by 532,222 residents, of which roughly 325,000 are Hispanic, with the total Hispanic population growing from just under 260,000 to almost 585,000.

Often overlooked in the region, the area’s Black population also grew substantially, from 210,000 to 320,000. At the same time, the area’s non-Hispanic White population grew by just 32,000 — which is actually less than the Asian population, which grew by 45,000 over the same period. Again, it is important to note the non-Hispanic White count was likely artificially high in 2000.

But any way you look at it, the Hispanic population exploded, and the entire area got much more diverse.

So, what does that mean for the politics?

Let’s start with voter registration. I want to start with a caveat from census data: Hispanic is a self-reported data point on voter registration cards, and it typically underrepresents the real number, as some Hispanics will only self-report as White or Black. The census data above collects all Hispanics, regardless of their race. This is one reason why if you look at public polling or exit polling, the Hispanic share is often higher than the state’s voter registration numbers, especially in presidential years.

So, going back to 2006, at the time the book closed on the 2006 General Election, there were just over 941,000 registered voters in the area, of which 17.5 percent, or 165,000 were Hispanic. Another 12.3 percent were Black, with non-Hispanic Whites making up 62 percent, roughly the same as the census proportions.

Two other data points: In 2006, Hispanics broke 43 percent Dem — 21 percent R, and 36 percent NPA, while non-Hispanic Whites broke 48 percent Rep, 30 percent Dem and 22 percent NPA — which may seem high, but isn’t for this part of the state, given the region’s GOP tradition.

Fast forward to the 2016 book closing. There are now 1,264,778 voters in the area, and Hispanics have grown from 165,008 to 312,323 voters, which equates to 24.7 percent of the electorate. Black voters are up to 14.2 percent, and non-Hispanic white is down to 51.2 percent, a number that I believe, even before any possible Hurricane Maria impact, will be below 50 percent in 2020.

Those other comparative data points from 2006: Hispanics are now 54 percent Dem, 14 percent Rep and 32 percent NPA. In fact, among Whites and Blacks, both political parties lost share of registrants to NPA (non-Hispanic White is now 46R-27D-27NPA). In fact, the only place where partisans increased their share of the electorate was Democrats with Hispanics.

Look at it another way, and the dynamic is even more remarkable. Since 2006, the area’s voter registration grew by about 323,000 voters. Of that, 45 percent was Hispanic, while 21 percent was non-Hispanic White, and about 19 percent of the growth was among Black voters. The raw numbers are even starker: Hispanic Democrats in the decade leading up to 2016 grew by 99,000 voters, while Republicans growth was just under 9,000.

So how did that play out in elections?

In 2000, in the Orlando metro area (again, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties): George W. Bush beat Al Gore by just under 9,000 votes — a margin he actually grew to 33,000 votes in 2004. When you think about the urban Central Florida core today, it is hard to think that just 12 years ago, Republican presidential candidates actually won the region. Again, this was a pretty Republican area prior to the recent demographic shifts.

But not anymore. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won those same three counties by over 165,000 votes. In fact, in just Orange County (Orlando proper), where John Kerry beat George Bush by 1,000 votes in 2004, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 134.000 votes just 12 years later.

Another way of looking at it, the two-party candidate margin shifted almost nearly 175,000 from Bush 2000 (almost 200K from 2004). And this wasn’t just the “Obama coalition” or “Obama turnout” — Clinton’s 2016 margin was about 65,000 votes larger than either Obama election. In a word, this is demographics.

Another metric: In 2000, Democrats had no locally elected Members of Congress. A Democratic seat from Jacksonville meandered down to Orlando, but that was it. In 2016, the region has three local Democratic Members of Congress, which reflect the growing diversity of the area: a Puerto-Rican, an African-American and a Vietnamese American.

So let’s talk Hurricane Maria.

First, it is important to keep in mind just how much has changed in the last 15 years in these three counties for Puerto Ricans. In 2000, the community was emerging, as was the community’s social and political infrastructure. I used to say to reporters in those days who were writing about the early Puerto Rican political dynamic, one of the big differences between Miami and Orlando is you could figure out who the opinion leaders were in Miami, but it wasn’t as easy in those days in Orlando.

Today is quite different. Puerto Ricans who come to Orlando now will find a ready-made community, with a social structure solidly in place, a growing job market, and in many cases, friends and family already here. In other words, while moving is never easy, migrating to Orlando following Maria will be a far easier adjustment than it was 15 or 20 years ago.

And far more than a Hispanic immigrant, the Puerto Rican impact on the politics is acute. As long as a Puerto Rican migrates and takes up residence in Florida more than 30 days before a given election, they can vote. As we’ve seen since 2000, the immediate impact in these three counties has been to the significant benefit of Democrats.

So, what does it all potentially mean?

There is no way to know how many people could migrate to Central Florida. Pretty much every estimate out there is a dart thrown against a wall.

But we do know this. Over the last 10 years, 67 percent of the Hispanic voter registration growth accrued to the Democrats, while only 6 percent went to the GOP, so any growth from Maria, which is over and above the growth which is already happening in Orlando, will only exacerbate the local political trends.

Let me close with one note of caution: Florida is a big complicated state, and there is not, nor will there ever be, a single silver bullet that “turns” Florida one way or another. Florida is five or six really big states in one. The North Florida media markets alone are the voting power of Iowa, and just Miami-Dade County has roughly the same voting power as Nevada.

Despite Florida’s razor close margins — with only 18,000 votes separating Republicans and Democrats out of the 50,000,000 ballots cast for President since 1992, and with the last two presidentials and two governor’s races each being decided by a point, Florida is historically close because of the sum of these diverse parts, not because of any one thing in any one spot. You win Florida by managing the margins. So, while these trends help the Democratic balance sheet, a win in 2018 and 2020 also means reducing the Trump and Scott margins in other counties.

To the latter point, Florida also has this interesting ability to find equilibrium — when it looked like the high migration to Florida from around the mainland would shift Florida forever into the GOP column in the early 2000s, large Hispanic and Caribbean growth balanced it out. Of late, the demographic gains that Democrats have made have been balanced out with increasing support among Whites for Republican candidates. And I expect this balance to continue going forward, at least through the next few presidential cycles. With that being said, I do think over time, Republicans will reach a ceiling with Whites (and Trump could well be the ceiling), meaning if the GOP can’t find a way to improve its vote share with Hispanic voters, their math will get harder and harder. But Democrats, remember, none of that is a sure thing.

So while a significant migration from Maria will absolutely impact Central Florida politics, and those impacts will help Democrats statewide — it won’t “tip” the state any more than any other population shift that could occur, because well, Florida is gonna Florida.

In a world where the Jaguars crush the Steelers, and lead their division after 5 games, literally anything can happen!

May God Bless our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico.

Steve Schale: Last night was a BFD for Florida Democrats

Steve Schale

Last night, the train of Democratic state legislative wins around the country came to Florida, as Annette Taddeo defeated Jose Felix Diaz in the special election for Senate District 40, picking up a key seat for Florida Democrats.

How big of a deal is this for Florida Democrats?

This is the first legislative special election pickup since 2008, and the first time Florida Democrats have won a special in the state Senate probably since about the beginning of the Republic.

When I wrote about this race back in the summer, my belief was this race meant a lot more for Democrats than it did for Republicans. This is a race Republicans should win. Outside of the Hillary Clinton numbers in 2016, this seat leans a little Republican down the ballot, they fielded an outstanding candidate, and they had more money — which becomes a bigger factor in a short sprint election in a really expensive media market.

Taddeo’s win, if my text messages last night are any indication, sent a pretty loud shock wave through political circles. And it should.

Here are some of my takeaways.

Winning breeds winning.

I know this sounds trite, but one of the reasons why I felt this race mattered a whole lot more to the Democrats than the Republicans is because the Democrats needed to prove they can win, both to the outside world and to themselves. There is a confidence that comes from winning, and last night will make fundraising and candidate recruitment easier going forward.

Don’t ever underestimate your opponent. Ever.

A lot of people in the Florida establishment didn’t take Taddeo seriously. But I know Annette, and she is a tenacious campaigner. Moreover, even in her Congressional loss in 2016, she did quite well within this seat, allowing her to come into this race with a ton of name recognition, name ID that gave her an important leg-up against the wave of money she would face.

Donald J. Trump.

My friend Rick Wilson likes to say “everything Trump touches dies.” This is a part of the state where immigration policy matters, and where Obamacare was always popular. To this point, Barack Obama had a 63 percent favorable in recent polling in the district, while Trump’s very unfavorable was 50 percent with total unfavorable at 57 percent.

Absolutely nothing Trump has done over the last six months was good news for Republicans there.

As we saw in the St. Petersburg mayor’s race, and again last night, Republican candidates who can’t figure out how to deal with Trump have a hard time getting to those last 2-3 percent of voters who swing elections.

This was my reality in 2010 and 2014; Republicans have to figure out the two problems we often faced: How do you deal with increased enthusiasm on the other side driven by sending a message to the president of your party — and how do you talk to voters who want to use you to send that message. And here is the problem, as Alex Sink learned, sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t solve it.

Dear Democrats: Recruit. Recruit. Recruit.

Just like for Democrats in 2006, 2008, and 2012 — and Republicans in 2014 and 2010, there is currently a dividend to just being a Democrat on the ballot. I would argue SD 40 is, in a generic election, a +1 or +2 GOP seat in a legislative or congressional race, and based just on likely partisan turnout, should be an even to +/-1 point advantage for either party. Taddeo won by 3, despite being vastly outspent, which is basically a 5 point shift from the generic performance. What does that mean? Every seat you think is currently out of play, add a few Dem points to the generic performance and see what happens. In other words, a lot of places are potentially in play. In 2006, we approached the cycle with two goals: recruit the best possible candidate in as many seats as could potentially be in play, then be smart about where you spend money.

We don’t know what November 2018 will bring yet, but waves start with having a lot of good candidates out there, and right now, there is work to be done. Fortunately, for Democrats, there is time.

There are no sure rules anymore.

Republicans have done well on Election Day of late, in part because Democratic voters have tended to take more advantage of in-person early voting than Republicans. But this led virtually every Republican I spoke to over the last few days to believe it was a sure thing they would win Election Day. Instead, Taddeo won it by a yuge margin, driven by an enthusiastic turnout operation. There was hardly an activist on my Facebook feed that wasn’t checking into some canvass or virtual phone bank this weekend.

The Florida Democratic Party, Senate Democrats (congrats to my old ‘08 Obama/Biden organizer Josh Weirebach), Team Taddeo and various outside groups came together and instead of fighting each other Democrat-style, blew it out together on the ground. And it won Taddeo the race.

As I said in my piece this summer, I do think people tend to read too much of the future into these special elections, and I still believe that to be true. The fact Taddeo won doesn’t mean Democrats are going to sweep the ballot in 2018. Nonetheless, it was a big win, a yuge win, and in the words of my once — and maybe future — boss, a pretty big f’n deal.

I want to close with one last thought. Often times, we complain about the quality of choice in an election, and races are too often framed as the lesser of two evils. In reality, most people in public life are good people, and in the case of Senate District 40, voters had a choice between two outstanding citizens.

Both Annette Taddeo and Pepi Diaz are friends of mine, friends who I hold in the highest regard, and while I personally hate they ended up in a race against each other, I am glad for democracy that they did. This is how it is supposed to work.

Congratulations Annette — you truly deserve this and I know you are going to make your friends, family and supporters proud.

And Pepi, thank you for putting yourself in the arena. You are (as Teddy Roosevelt would say) a man who “spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Steve Schale: SD 40 — an interesting test for Dems, GOP

This piece is more designed for my readers who don’t live and breathe Florida politics: there is a state Senate election on Sept. 26 you should be paying attention to, a race that could be an interesting test of how the GOP’s institutional advantages measure up to Donald Trump‘s policies, favorability, Democratic enthusiasm and demographic trend lines.

Honestly, it is a race providing a real opportunity for both parties.

First, it is important to remember State Senate seats in Florida are not much smaller than congressional districts, and this one, when fully engaged in the state’s most expensive media market, will see the spending tab run well into the millions. In a typical election cycle, spending in Florida’s top state Senate races will outpace most Congressional races down here.

So, a little about the district — this is Senate District 40.

Located in Dade County, SD 40 is almost 75 percent Hispanic by census, and depending on the election, typically falls in the mid-60s Hispanic among actual voters. There is also a significant Black population, which in Dade is both African-American and Caribbean American. On its surface to an outsider, it looks like a Democratic lay-up. But keep in mind, a substantial proportion of Hispanics in Dade are Cuban, which means one key thing: a much more Republican orientation than Hispanic-dominated urban districts outside of Florida (or frankly, outside of SE Florida).

Hillary Clinton easily dispatched Donald Trump in this district, carrying it by 16 points (56-40). Like a lot of Dade County districts, some of my Democratic friends look at those Clinton numbers and say, “well that is our seat.” But the Clinton number is highly deceptive and doesn’t tell the full story. For example, Marco Rubio carried the district by 4 points (51-47), and among the precincts, this district shares with the highly competitive Congressional District 26 – roughly two-thirds of registered voters in SD 40 are also in CD 26 — Carlos Curbelo carried the district by 13 points. To show just how volatile this district can be — in those same CD 26 precincts, Clinton beat Trump by 18 points, a marginal swing of 31 points.

In the fall, Republicans carried this seat by 10 points, as then state Rep. Frank Artiles defeated then-state Sen. Dwight Bullard in an entirely new seat created by the court-mandated redistricting in 2015-16.

If you talk to Florida observers, you will get a lot of reasons why Bullard lost by this margin, but one interesting point in the data, the percentages that Bullard received are almost identical to the percentages that CD 26 Democratic nominee Joe Garcia received in the precincts that they shared. In fact, in 75 or the 92 identical precincts between the seats, the two Democrats saw their share deviate by less than 3 percent. In other words, it is fair to say that the Bullard/Garcia numbers are the Democratic floor in SD 40.

Along the same lines, the Rubio race might be a better view of the GOP ceiling in the race than either of the races above. Rubio/Patrick Murphy was more of a truly “contested” race — particularly when compared to the aforementioned state Senate and congressional campaigns. And in all honesty, Murphy still wasn’t running at the same levels as Rubio, who by and large, ran as a Miami hometown hero. The fact Rubio only won by four in this seat truly shows how much has changed in Miami-Dade County over the last decade.

This seat was destined to be a battleground seat in 2018, but the incumbent Artiles was forced to resign this spring (like most Florida political messes, it is quite a story — you can Google the details if you wish), setting up this 2017 showdown.

Tuesday’s primary left us with a general election between Republican state Rep. Jose Felix ‘Pepi’ Diaz, and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo. Both have interesting Trump-era stories — Diaz was on The Apprentice, and Taddeo, a 2016 Congressional candidate, was a victim of the Russian hacking.

In full disclosure, both are friends: Taddeo was Charlie Crist‘s LG nominee (I was an adviser to Crist), and Diaz and I are both active in a nonpartisan international political exchange organization.

In their primary, Republicans chose right. Diaz is a well-liked and earnest legislator, who is generally considered to be a moderate in his party. For example, he took on many in his own party to lead the fight in Tallahassee to remove a Florida statue of a Confederate General from the U.S. Capitol, and he led an effort to expand children’s health care for immigrants. Diaz fits the mold of the type of Republican who can (and do) succeed in districts like this in South Florida.

The Democrats also chose the stronger of their two candidates. Taddeo, is an energetic and engaging candidate, who has truly lived the American Dream immigrant story — coming to America in her teens, learning English, putting herself in college, and building a very successful small business. She’s been on the ballot several times, running for Congress as a Hispanic Democrat in Dade long before that was the politically smart thing to do, but in doing so, has built a strong network among Democratic donors and activists.

In my humble view, this race comes down to basically two competing factors/questions:

Money and Organization.

Can the Democrats compete with the GOP’s financial and organizational advantages? As longtime readers know, I have been frustrated by my party’s lack of work to build a sustaining bench in Dade. One of the reasons why the GOP has been able to stem the tide down ballot in Miami-Dade is the literal talent pipeline and turnout operation that they’ve built. To this point, 3,000 more Republicans than Democrats voted in Tuesday’s primary. This is essentially a home game for the GOP, and there is a reason why the oddsmakers give home teams an edge. Along the same lines, I don’t think Taddeo can survive being outspent 2 or 3 to 1 — so whether grassroots and institutional Democrats step up to help close the money gap will go a long way to determining if the party can overcome the other factors.

Trump … Trump … Trump.

The counter balance to point one is the question of Trump, and that question itself has many layers. Does Trump drive base Democratic grassroots money and vote? Does Trump’s immigration decisions drive non-Cubans out to send a message — and/or, does Trump’s decision to stop Americans from recreationally traveling to Cuba drive enthusiasm with exile-era Cubans. NPA voters in this district tend to be more Democratic than in the rest of Florida — do they show up, and if they do, does Trump drive their vote? How Trump impacts the race isn’t a clear-cut question.

Sure, there are others — Can the Dems pick apart Diaz voting record effectively enough to disqualify him as a moderate? Is there Taddeo fatigue from her previous runs? How does the national Trumpcare debate impact the macro-level politics, or more specifically, the micropolitics of a district with high enrollment in the exchanges? And the big intangible: What crazy thing will happen in DC between now and late September, and what if anything will it mean? We all know something will happen, as surely it is the only thing we can bank on!

This is going to be a fun race to watch. Like all these special elections, it can be hard to draw too many conclusions from the outcome. That said, Dems have to prove they can win seats like this if there is a hope of winning a majority in the Senate anytime in the near future. Moreover, should the Dems win, they would have reason to be optimistic that more and more of these traditionally Miami Republican Hispanic districts both in the legislature and in Congress; and on the flipside if the GOP holds on, there is reason to believe there is still a very clear road map for moderate Republicans to carve out the necessary coalition to win these trending Democratic districts.

This is why you will see both sides go all-out.

Florida Senate District 40. Sept. 26, 2017. Put it on your radar.

Florida Man thoughts on Georgia’s special election

Florida Man Steve Schale

Pretty close to exactly 12 years ago, I took the reins of the political operation of the Florida House Democratic Caucus. During my three years there, we picked up nine Republican districts, including two swing seat Special Elections, including a special in a ruby-red type district like Georgia 06.

We made the decision to play in this race for one after passing on a few other specials. Why? We had exactly the right candidate — and we had exactly the right GOP opponent.

It was in late 2007, and GOP State Representative Bob Allen had just resigned, the details of which I will leave to The Google. His district, in Brevard County, wasn’t exactly home team territory, but like GA 06, had one or two markers that at least piqued my attention.

The Republicans had a four-way primary, and in the process nominated arguably the worst possible candidate. one the Orlando Sentinel called “woefully unprepared” who “lacks even the basic knowledge of how Florida’s tax structure or its school system works.”

Needless to say, that ad wrote itself.

On the other side, we had basically the unicorn candidate, a well-regarded City Commissioner from the district’s population center, Tony Sasso. Sasso was a pure progressive on environmental issues, which gave him base bona fides, but was libertarian on enough issues to win over some right-leaning swing voters, and reasonable enough as a Commissioner to give moderate voters comfort. He was a well-liked known commodity.

Even with this perfect storm — the perfect candidate on our side, the perfect opponent, and the perfect setup for the race (again, you can Google it), we had to claw our way to a very narrow win.

For those of you who know me well, you know my basic political sandbox: Candidates matter. There were probably 25,000 other Democrats in that state House seat that would have lost, and with all respect to my friend Tony, we probably would have lost had the GOP just nominated a decent candidate.

So, what does this have to do with GA 06?

Keep in mind, over 70 Republicans in Congress come from seats better than this one, meaning GA 06 is the kind of place where everything has to be perfect. In fact, there is only one Democratic Member of Congress in a seat more Republican than Georgia 06, and not a single Republican in one similar for the other side.

For Florida readers, here are two markers: At R+8, GA 06 is more Republican than Dennis Ross and Mike Bilirakis‘ district, and more Republican than Ted Deutch‘s seat is Democratic. In terms of partisan voting, it is about equally partisan as Debbie Wasserman Schultz‘s seat. In other words, to win, literally everything has to be perfect — and even then, it’s often not enough.

And it wasn’t.

Taking nothing away from the campaign — I knew a lot of really smart people who did good work, and for the good of the cause, I think the party had to make some kind of an effort there (30 million was well beyond the point of diminishing returns), the basic matchup was uphill. Jon Ossoff, while an impressive young man, started out hardly more than a generic Democrat. The first time I spoke to one of my very smart Atlanta friends about Ossoff, she peppered her praise with a fair number of “but” to describe his weaknesses. Back when I was a candidate recruiter, I went out of my way to walk away from candidates whose qualities had to be modified by the word “but,” especially in seats like this.

Karen Handel, on paper, was a proven commodity. Take ideology and everything else off the test, and she wins the bio test. I don’t know if a more proven candidate, either some kind of prominent business leader, or prior elected, would have done better, but my gut says the odds are pretty decent. I was definitely in the camp that our best shot here was in the big primary.

Even in districts like this, the road to 45-47 percent, with enough money and a good enough candidate, can be smooth. But the road from there to 50+1 can be like climbing Everest without oxygen — sure it can be done, but it requires a really amazing climber and a fair amount of luck. Gwen Graham getting over the top in Florida 02 in 2014 (R+5 seat) when several others had come just short is a good example of this.

I don’t think Democrats should get too down on this one, or Republicans get too excited. Districts like this show that the map in 2018 is likely to be fairly broad. Take away the money spent in the seat, and I think most Dems would rightfully feel very good about it. As we saw in South Carolina tonight, there are a lot of places that are more interesting than they normally are.

Which gets back to the lesson. One of the biggest forgotten lessons of 2006 is the importance of recruitment. My side will never have the money to go toe-to-toe with Republicans everywhere. We have to have the “better” candidate in a lot of places to win, particularly due to gerrymandering that means we have to win more seats on GOP turf than they do on ours. At the Congressional level, the DCCC in 2006 fielded a rock-star slate of candidates. At the legislative cycle, in a year when we picked up seven GOP-held seats and held two Democratic open seats, we had the “better” candidate in almost every instance. We also recruited broadly, trying to find the best candidates we could in as many plausible seats as possible, to compete broadly, to give ourselves lots of options — and when the wave happened, the map blew wide-open. Had we not put the work in on the recruitment side — occasionally in places where a Democratic candidate had already filed, at best we would have gone plus 2 or 3, even with the wave.

At the same time, if we had more money, our +7 year might have been +10 or more.

Ossoff clearly has a bright future and would have won in a lot of places last night. But in many ways, his was a candidacy created from whole cloth, and funding and turnout operations alone won’t get just anyone across the line — especially somewhere like GA08. Even in this hyperpartisan environment, campaigns aren’t simply plug-and-play operations — they are choices.

When folks ask me what the national and state party should be doing, my answer is simple: Two things, recruit high-quality candidates and register voters.

And if Democrats expect to have success in November 2018, that is the work that must be done between now and then.

Steve Schale: Florida early vote, a retrospective

It is time for one last big data piece on Florida 2016.

For about 18 hours a day over 2+ weeks, I found myself living and breathing early voting data. So now that all the data have been reported from counties, I wanted to look back at some assumptions, and compare them to the actual voting data.

Before I begin, there are five things to keep in mind:

1. Every time I talk in percentages, those percentages are relative to the two-party, i.e., Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton numbers. I have no use or interest in playing the “what if” questions around third-party votes, so the data in here is just the two-party vote. For what it is worth, this is standard for my blogs.

2. I compiled this data over the entire month of November, often by pestering counties to provide data they don’t have on their website. Some of the data came before the final, final certified versions, so there might be exceptionally slight variances — like tens of votes in a county — from the state final counts. However, there is nothing that happened so significant to change any findings.

3. When I talk about early voting, that is both in-person and vote by mail combined, unless I specify otherwise.

4. For the sake of interpreting the data, everything that wasn’t an in-person or traditional vote by mail ballot was allocated to Election Day. So this means that there are likely provisional from in-person early, and VBM, as well as late military ballots in Election Day. I don’t think the impact of this is significant, but I’m flagging it regardless.

5. We know how people voted on Election Day, but we do not know yet who voted on Election Day. In terms of firm lessons and take-aways, some of that should wait.

And since I was wrong about the outcome, before we get started, here were some of my macro-assumptions going into Election Day.

When early voting started, I thought presidential turnout would fall about 9.2 million votes. Because of early vote turnout, and based on who was left to vote on Election Day — namely voters who voted on Election Day in 2012, I modified that projection to 9.5 million late during the second week of early voting, and assuming 3 percent of those would vote for someone else, this meant slightly over 9.2 million would vote for either Trump or Clinton.

I was assuming going into Election Day, we were at about 67-68 percent of our total turnout, and while the Democrats had a 96,000 lead among registered voters heading into Election Day, I was operating from a place that her lead was between 3-4 percent, largely due to the overwhelmingly diverse nature of the NPA vote, which would put her raw vote lead between 180-250K votes.

This meant Trump had to win Election Day, on the low-end by about 5.8 percent to upper end of 8 percent, just to break-even. Both numbers are above Mitt Romney’s Election Day win in 2012 (I can’t remember John McCain, but I suspect it is above McCain as well).

Here are two other things baked into my assumptions: Republicans had about 100,000 more “certain” voters left to vote, though when you looked at just 2012 voters, the number was about 40K.

So worst-case scenario, Democratic turnout struggled and only the certain voters turnout. the R versus D lands about even for the entire election, and the early vote strength combined with a more diverse NPA vote would carry the day. I think my final memo pegged her winning Florida by about 1.5 percent, which was about 130K votes, meaning on the more optimistic view of Clinton’s early vote lead, Trump could still win Election Day by more than Romney, and she’d still win.

Since Trump is a golfer, I described his challenge on Election Day in golf terms: a 250 yard shot over water.

So here are the toplines:

— 9.42 million Floridians cast a ballot for President. For what it is worth, 9.58 million Floridians cast a ballot, though it was only 9.3 million in the Senate race.

— 9,122,861 Floridians voted for either Trump or Clinton in 2016.

— Trump’s margin was about 113K votes, or roughly 1.2 percent out of the two-party voters.

— 69.3 percent of the vote was cast before Election Day.

— Of the VBM/early vote, Clinton won by just over 247K votes — roughly a 4 point edge (she won both VBM and early vote)

— On Election Day, Trump won by 360K, or a roughly 13 point margin over Clinton.

Toplines versus basic assumptions:

Turnout on Election Day was slightly lower than I expected, by about 80-100K votes. Given that my projection was based largely on the number of 2012 voters who had yet to vote, it was almost certainly lower because some share of 2012 Election Day Democrats didn’t show up, and, more than likely, another share voted for Trump. This is the big question I will be looking at when the state updates the final 2016 voter file.

Clinton’s nearly 250K vote lead was actually at the upper-end of my projections. Honestly, this surprised me. I suspected some of my optimism in the numbers leading up to the election was misplaced, and honestly thought as I put numbers into Excel, that we’d see she had gone into Election Day with a narrower lead. However, almost everything was landing right on target for her to win. As I get more into this, and look at some of the benchmarks I tracked throughout, you can see the pattern for my optimism going into Election Day.

However, Trump just crushed Election Day. There is no other way to look at it. And as I discussed in the first look back at the numbers, it really happened in just a handful of places: namely the Tampa and Orlando media markets. For example, his two-party vote share was 8.39 percent higher on Election Day (56.44) than Early Vote. (48.05), but in Tampa it was up 8.92 percent (51.5 percent EV, 60.42 ED), and Orlando was up 9.08 percent (48.8 percent EV, 57.88 percent ED). Less than 3 million voted for Bush or Clinton on Election Day, yet he won the day by 360K votes.

How big is that? Bush won Florida in 2004 by landslide for Florida proportions: 380K votes — out of 7.6 million cast. Trump’s Election Day margin almost matched it.

Benchmarks

For most of early voting, I tracked a variety of benchmarks, namely Hillsborough (the only county that voted for Bush and Obama both times), the I-4 corridor counties, South Florida and #Duuuval county.

So, for the sake of this exercise, let’s start there:

Hillsborough

Clinton went into Election Day with about a 29K partisan advantage among early voters, or a partisan lead of about 6.8 percent.

When the votes were cast, she carried the early voting period almost 44,000 votes, or almost 11 percent of the two-party vote. Trump won Election Day by just under 2 points, or right at 3,000 votes, so when all was done, Clinton carried the county by 41,000 votes. The final percentage margin, 6.8 percent was almost the same as Obama, and her raw vote win was about 5,000 votes larger.

The county was a little below where it should have been for turnout. Hillsborough is typically about 6. percent f the statewide vote, but it landed at 6.3 percent, largely because its Election Day share was down — only 29 percent of Hillsborough votes came on Election Day.

Long and short of it, Hillsborough could have been a little better, but that number is right at what a win for Democrats looks like.

I-4 Corridor

Hillary Clinton won the I-4 counties by almost 162K votes, but here the Trump surge on Election Day is very evident. She won these counties by almost 200,000 votes in the early/vbm phase, yet Trump won Election Day by almost 35,000 votes. Overall, Clinton won the early phase with 56.3 percent of the two-party vote, though only won 47.3 percent of the Election Day vote — a surge which exceeded his statewide average.

When you look at the Volusia and Polk numbers, you can see the seeds of how Trump won on Election Day. Compared to the state, both saw their Election Day turnout levels exceed Early Vote — with 34 percent of the Volusia vote coming on Election Day, and over 40 percent for Polk. Once fairly Democratic Volusia has been the canary in the coal mine for a few cycles — there is a reason I’ve highlighted it in blogs for years. If I was going to do qualitative research into 2016, I’d start with focus groups in Volusia.

Pinellas is a slightly different kind of animal, but his Election Day performance is probably indicative of late deciders breaking almost exclusively for Trump. Had the FBI Director not chosen to insert himself into the campaign with a week to ago, I suspect Clinton would have carried Pinellas (albeit very narrowly).

In total, 24.1 percent of the statewide vote came from these counties, of which 70.6 percent of the vote came before Election Day. Another way to look at it: while only 29.4 percent of the total vote from these counties came in on Election Day, 33.4 percent of Trumps’ vote total from these counties came in on Election Day. I suspect when Election Day voter data comes out, we will see a cratering of minority participation.

Volusia (Daytona)

Final early vote party spread: 39.6 R, 37.1 D, 23.3 NPA R + 4,302
Actual early vote spread: Trump +8.88 percent (+14,754 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +22.28 percent (+19,162 votes)
Results: Trump +33,916 (54.3-41.4 percent). In 12, Romney was +2700 (+1.15 percent)

Seminole — suburban Orlando

Final early vote party spread: 41.0 R, 35.0 D, 24.0 NPA R +10,316
Actual Early Vote spread: Clinton +1.84 percent (+2,989 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +12.36 percent (+6,518 votes)
Results: Trump +3,529 votes (48.1-46.5 percent). In 12, Romney was +13,500 (+6.5 percent)

Orange (Orlando)

Final early party spread: 45.8 D, 29.5 R, 24.7 NPA D +67,155
Actual Early Vote spread: Clinton +29.71 percent (+116,949 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +13.49 percent (+17.729 votes)
Final spread: Clinton +134,678 votes (59.7 percent-35.4 percent). In 2012, Obama was +85,000 (+18.2 percent)

Osceola — heavy Hispanic suburban Orlando.

Final early vote party spread: 47.1 D, 26.2 R, 26.7 NPA D + 22,625
Actual Early Vote spread: Clinton +29.71 percent (+30,645 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +13.98 percent (+4,512 votes)
Results: Clinton: +35,157 votes (60.4-30.6 percent). In 2012, Obama was roughly +27K (+24.4 percent)

Imperial Polk — between Tampa/Orlando

Final Early Vote Party Spread: 39.6 R, 39 D, 21.4 NPA R +1,085
Actual Early Vote Spread: Trump +7.55 percent (+12,424 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +25.01 percent (+27,573 votes)
Results: Trump +13.94 percent (+39,997 votes). In 2012, Romney was +19K votes (+6.8 percent)

Hillsborough (See Above)

Pinellas (Clearwater/St. Pete)

Final early vote party spread: 38.5 R, 38.2 D, 23.3 NPA D +752
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +4.58 percent (+14,460 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +12.72 percent (+19,960 votes)
Results: Trump +1.1 percent (+5,500 votes). In 2012, Obama won by about 26K votes (+5.5 percent)

South Florida

Going into Election Day, there was almost nothing that I didn’t feel good about in South Florida, and here is why: 87.7 percent of the entire 2012 election turnout voted early in Dade. In Broward, it was a respectable 81 percent. In fact, 11.9 percent of all early votes came in from Dade (should be 10.3 percent), and Broward was at 9.65 percent (should have been 8.75 percent).

And then Election Day happened. The issue here was different from I-4. Trump’s share of the two-party vote in Broward and Dade went from 32 percent to 38.7 percent, a growth of 6.7 percent, which while significant, is lower than his statewide average increase of 8.4 percent. What happened on Election Day is people didn’t vote. Statewide, 30.7 percent of the vote came on Election Day — in Broward and Dade, it was 23.2 percent. Another way of looking at it: these two counties made up 21.5 percent of early vote, and only 14.7 of Election Day

That said, these two counties both exceeded their projected share of the statewide vote, as well as set records for vote margins. Democrats cannot blame losing on Broward and Dade not doing their jobs.

On the flip side, I was concerned about Palm Beach County the entire early vote period. Even in my last memo, I called Palm Beach a “red flag” largely due to lagging turnout. While the Democratic margins were good, Palm Beach was only 5.9 percent of the statewide early vote, and it should have been 7 percent. Well it turned out on Election Day — 41.1 percent of the total Palm Beach County vote came in on Election Day, making up 9.5 percent of the total statewide vote, the biggest single jump in the state. And it was a Trump vote that showed up: after running up a 95K vote lead in the early vote, Clinton won Election Day by just over 7K.

When it boils down to it, Clinton won the county by about the same vote margin as Obama in 2012 (which was down from 08), but her vote share was down. Frankly going forward, Palm Beach is a place where Democrats need to up their game.

Palm Beach

Final early vote party spread: 47.3 D, 28.4 R, 24.3 NPA D +74,728
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +24.9 percent (+94,888 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +2.78 (+7,383 votes)
Results: Clinton +15.1 percent (+102,271 votes). In 2012, Obama won by just over 102K (+17 percent).

Broward

Final early vote party spread: 55.4 D, 21.7 R, 22.9 NPA D +212,077
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +41.7 percent (+254,391 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +18.6 (+37,978 votes)
Results: Clinton +34.9 percent (+292,369 votes). In 2012, Obama won by 264K votes (+34.9 percent)

Miami-Dade

Final early vote party spread: 43.9 D, 29.2 R, 26.9 NPA D +114,767
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +34.4 percent (+234,758 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Clinton +26.7 percent (+55,389 votes)
Results: Clinton +29.4 percent (+290,147 votes). In 2012, Obama won by 208.5K votes (+23.6 percent)

#DUUUUVAL

Clinton had one job in Duval, keep it manageable. If you had given the Clinton campaign the option of spotting Trump a 20,000-vote win in Duval in exchange for both campaigns walking away, I would have urged them to take it. After all, this is a county where Bush in 04 won by 61,000 votes, and given that Trump exceeded the Bush 04 margins in most counties, running up a big number here was a real possibility.

But she did her job here, plus some. In keeping Trump’s Duval margins under 6,000 votes, she had the best showing in Duval for a presidential Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter, and she held Trump well below the Marco Rubio numbers, who won the county by 70,000 votes. If #NeverTrump succeeded anywhere, it was in Duval.

Final early vote party spread: 42.5D, 41.1 R, 16.4 NPA D +4,279
Actual early vote spread: Clinton +1.9 percent (+5.439 votes)
Actual Election Day spread: Trump +8.9 percent (+11,407 votes)
Results: Trump +1.4 percent (+5,968 votes). In 2012, Romney won by 15K votes (+3.6 percent)

Final Thoughts

There isn’t much more to say — Clinton had the race where it needed to be, and Trump won it on Election Day.

First, one quick note on the votes before Election Day. Democrats had about 1.5 percent edge in the voters who had voted either in-person early or a vote by mail ballot, yet she won the early voting period by almost 4 percent. This was likely due to her over-performing with NPAs, given that nonwhite voters made up 37 percent of NPA voters (compared to 33 percent of partisans).

I suspect what we will see when the Election Day voter data comes out that white NPA participation was quite high, balancing out the racial makeup of the NPA voter to look more like the electorate at-large.

So where did Trump really win it? The data from the early vote/Election Day totals confirms my first glance: This was a win primarily in suburban/exurban I-4.

Here’s why.

Start with my favorite analogy, Florida as a scale. The GOP media market buckets (Pensacola, Panama City, Jacksonville and Fort Myers) and the Dem buckets (Tallahassee, Gainesville, West Palm and Miami) largely balance themselves out, and I-4 tilts it one way or the other. This year, in their core markets, Republicans did much better on Election Day than the Democrats, winning them by 188K votes, compared to the Democrats only winning theirs by 70K, carrying a margin of roughly 120K votes out of their core markets.

However, Democrats went into Election Day with a bigger margin, having crushed the Republicans in early vote, by almost 260K votes. In fact, Clinton’s 141K final margin over Trump in the core partisan markets was a few thousand votes higher than Barack Obama in 2012.

Then we get to I-4, and this time, we look at it not as just as the counties on I-4, but every county in the two media markets. Going into Election Day, I-4 was balanced, with Trump holding a 11K vote lead. But on Election Day, Trump won by 242K votes. In other words, 95.5 percent of Trump’s total margin in the Tampa and Orlando media markets came on Election Day. In total, Trump won 59 percent of the two-party vote in the Tampa and Orlando media markets on Election Day.

And of those 242K votes, 200K of that margin came from the nonurban counties in the media market, in other words. Just on Election Day.

And while it is true that Republicans always do better on Election Day, his Election Day “improvement”, particularly in the Tampa media markets, far exceeded Romney.

For example, in Pasco, his vote share was 7.69 percent higher on Election Day than in Early Vote, whereas Romney was 2.59 percent higher, or 5.1 percent greater than Romney. In Polk, he was also 5.1 percent higher, Seminole 5.1 percent, Sarasota 5.4 percent, and Pinellas 7.2 percent. We saw similar things in the outlying counties in the Palm Beach market, where in St. Lucie, his vote share was 11.1 percent higher on Election Day, a 5.2 percent increase on Romney, and in Martin County, where his Election Day improvement was 6.3 percent higher than Romney.

I could keep writing on this, but until we get actual voter data from Election Day back, there isn’t much else to add. I will do a piece on my thoughts on where the Democrats should go from here sometime in the next few weeks, but as I mentioned in my last piece, the Trump loss, at least regionally, looks a lot like the Bush win in 04 — and there is a road map for how to reverse it (see Obama).

And again, I don’t think it is as simple as Republicans had more voters left to vote, because best case scenario, that number was only about 100,000 more voters. No, this almost surely a cratering of Democratic turnout, all Election Day deciders going to Trump, and an Election Day surge contributing to the comeback.

The combination of two disliked candidates, Trump’s success at driving the narrative into the ground, and all the late-breaking issues going to Trump, it ended up being the perfect storm Nov. 8, or in Trump’s case, the perfect 3-wood over water to that green 250 yards away.

And I lied in the first sentence — I’ll be back once we have the full voter file with Election Day voters. Until then, happy holidays, unless you are a Jags fan, because we will surely all get a Gus Bradley extension for Christmas.

Steve Schale: Florida 2016 in the rearview mirror

Give any Florida strategist with statewide experience the following data points: by 7:15 p.m., the Democratic candidate has a 10-point lead in Hillsborough, a 100K vote lead in Orange, a 200K vote lead in both Dade and Broward early voting, and is ahead in Duval, and everyone would think the same thing: that Democratic candidate is going to win. Certainly, that is what I thought, and what everyone, R and D, who texted me around that time thought too.

Back in October, I had looked at several different models. Most of them played out with a narrow Clinton win, one of them came back a tie (not in percentages — an actual raw vote tie), and in one of them, where I assumed in most counties that Trump would earn the higher of Romney or Bush ’04 vote share, and in that one, Trump won by a point. I sent it to a few friends on both sides, who generally dismissed it. Going into Election Day, pretty much everything was lining up with one of the models that had her headed to about 1.5-2-point win.

I have a plan every election night: check Pasco early vote, then hit refresh until Hillsborough, Pinellas, Duval, Orange, Dade, and Broward report; followed by a swing through I-4 suburban and exurban counties. Sure, the initial Pasco and Pinellas numbers didn’t look too good, but they looked survivable, especially considering pretty much everything else was at or above my target. Then I went and looked at Volusia … Hernando … Brevard … Sarasota … Polk … then back to Pasco. The last of my models was more than playing out.

I slammed down the rest of my beer, and called a buddy in Brooklyn to report the bad news. It was done. CNN could have called it at 8 EST — she wasn’t winning Florida. In fact, looking back at my texts, I told a guy at CNN around 8:15 EST that it was done.

Despite my optimism going into Election Day, in my gut, I knew this could happen. As many folks heard me say over the last few years, while I am a big believer — and still am — that demographic trends work in the Democratic Party’s favor, all of this hinges on the Democratic candidate maintaining a reasonable floor with white voters. Frankly, it was a big part of why I was a big proponent of the vice president running. As I told CNN’s “The Lead” in late August 2015 about Biden: “I live in the swing state of Florida. If you look at the way Democrats have struggled with working class, working white voters primarily … he gives us a chance to talk to some voters in the general election that we’ve struggled with the last few cycles.”

President Obama had some reach with these voters, or at least enough for us to win. In 2008, we knew we had to hit 40 with whites; in 2012, we needed to get close to it. For Secretary Clinton, it meant maintaining President Obama’s numbers with whites from 2012. As you will see in a few minutes, she clearly didn’t — not only here, but throughout the country.

So, let’s start with a couple of Florida factoids:

— 2016 marked the fourth straight statewide election (two governors, two presidentials), where the victor’s margin of victory was roughly a point.

— And just to drive home the point of Florida’s competitiveness — when you go back to 1992, the year where Florida became a true battleground state, there have been more than 50 million votes cast for president, and Republicans and Democrats were separated by 12,000 votes. No, that isn’t a typo — 12,000 votes, or right at 0.02 percent.

— Trump set the new high-water mark for Republican vote share in 40 of Florida’s 67 counties.

So, what happened?

I often will describe Florida as a scale. Take the GOP markets (North Florida markets plus Fort Myers) and in a neutral year, it will balance out the Dem markets (Miami and West Palm).  More or less, the race balances of the fulcrum of I-4. Because of the Democratic trends in Miami-Dade, the math has changed a bit: Democrats can now count on bigger margins out of their markets than the GOP can out of theirs, and thus can still win even if they lose I-4 by a little bit. This was the Obama 2012 path: the president carried a margin of about 550K votes out of his base markets, Romney was about 410K out of his, and even though Romney narrowly carried both I-4 markets, it wasn’t enough.

Which is a good way to frame the “Things That Didn’t Cost Hillary Florida” section:

Base turnout: Both Broward and Dade county had higher turnout rates, and the Miami media market had a higher margin for Clinton than Obama. And even with Palm Beach coming in a little short, she won her two base markets by about 75K more votes than Obama 2012, and won a slightly higher share of the vote. Broward and Dade alone combines for a 580K vote margin, and honestly, I think around 600K is pretty close to maxing out.

The Panhandle

 True, Trump did win the “I-10 corridor” by more votes than Romney, but it wasn’t significant. His 345K vote margin as slightly better than Romney’s 308K, and pretty much in line with Bush 04’s 338K North Florida vote majority. And frankly, Clinton succeeded in the major North Florida objective: keep #Duuuval County close. Trump’s 6,000 vote plurality in Duval County was the best Democratic performance in a presidential election since Carter won Duval in 1976.

Hispanics

It is true that Hispanics underperformed out west, but here in Florida, she did considerably better than Obama in the exit polls — polls that are reflective in the record margins she posted in the heavily Hispanic areas of Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Osceola.

SW Florida

This was the GOP talking point during early vote: SW Florida was blowing up for Trump. And they were right, it did. But SW Florida typically has exceptionally high turnout, and high GOP margins, and in the end, Trump’s total was only about 40K votes bigger than Romney.

In fact, if you add up the 8 “partisan” markets, which make up 55 percent of the statewide vote, the 2016 election was basically a repeat of 2012. Trump’s margin was less than 2,000 votes better than Romney.

It was rural Florida: Trump did very well in rural Florida, but so did Romney. If you take all the counties with less than 250,000 residents, he increased Romney’s vote share by 125,000 votes — enough to make up the Obama 2012 margin — except, Clinton increased Obama’s margin in the counties with more than 750,000 residents by over 100,000 votes. In other words, rural and suburban cancel each other out. What doesn’t cancel out — midsize suburban/exurban counties, places with 250,000-750,000 residents — Trump won them by 200,000 more votes than Romney

One more reason HRC ‘cannibalized’ her vote early, in other words, had all the typical Democrats vote early, and lost because there were just simply that many more Republicans left to vote. Here is why this one is tricky.

HRC ‘cannibalized’ her vote early, in other words, had all the typical Democrats vote early, and lost because there were just simply that many more Republicans left to vote. Here is why this one is tricky.

First, Republicans have a lot more “reliable voters” in that, they have fewer voters that drop-off in the midterm elections. Democrats have more “potential voters” — in other words, unreliable or first-time voters. During early voting, GOP had over 200K more “three of three” voters — in other words, people who voted in 2014, 2012, and 2010 who voted early than Democrats, but the Dems had a lot more infrequent voters. And yes, the Dems had more “2012 voters” who voted early, but they also just had more 2012 voters.

Going into Election Day, GOP still had more than 100K “three of three” voters to vote, which alone wasn’t enough to get him to the kind of win he had. However, if you looked at just people who voted in 2012, the GOP edge was just 40K. In other words, had the 2012 voters all voted, the Dem early voting margin would have remained. We don’t yet know who exactly voted on Election Day, but what we do know is the GOP really surged, and Dems didn’t.

In fact, in 10 of the 11 counties where Trump most increased the vote margins from Romney, his vote share (not margin) was at least 6.3 percent higher on Election Day than during early voting — and in six of the 11, the increase was at least 8.2 percent. For example, Trump won 53.8 percent of the Polk County early vote but won 62.6 percent of the Election Day vote — an increase in his share of 8.8 percent. In other words, in some of these counties, Trump was winning Election Day by 15 points more than he won early voting.

And this didn’t just happen in counties where Trump won. Even base Democratic counties saw this Trump surge. Take Broward County, where Trump won less than 30 percent of the early votes, he won over 40 percent on Election Day, or Orange County, where she won early voting by more than 30 points and racked up an almost 120K vote lead, only to watch Trump cut her Election Day only margin to 17K votes. In my last memo, I described what I thought Trump’s Election Day challenge was in golf terms — a 250 yard shot over water. Turns out, he did have that shot. Simply, he crushed her on Election Day.

So, where did he beat her? Simple: I-4, and more specifically, the 15 counties that make up suburban and exurban I-4.

Quick recap: The I-4 corridor is roughly defined as the Tampa and Orlando media markets. If you are a Democrat, win here, and you win. If you are a Republican, win big here, and you win. Given that the rest of the state in 2016 generally looked like 2012, Trump needed to win big here.

But that wasn’t necessarily easy. The urban core in the Orlando market (Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties), is getting more Democratic quickly. In fact, in these three counties alone, Hillary Clinton extended President Obama’s 2012 margins by over 65,000 votes. So, not only does Trump must win the I-4 markets by 75,000 votes more than Romney did in 2012 just to win, he needs to find 65,000 more to make up for urban Orlando.

Well, he did, and more. Trump won the I-4 markets by more than 250K votes. Where Romney won the two-party vote share on I-4 by 2 points, Trump won it by 6 — including winning the Tampa market by 9 points.

But it was even more granular than this. If you break up the markets into two buckets: urban counties (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Orange, Osceola and Seminole), and nonurban counties, the Trump path to victory — and the challenge for Democrats, becomes even clearer.

Despite losing Pinellas County — and Trump’s significant gains there, Hillary Clinton won “urban I-4” by some 200K votes, which was more than Obama in 2008 or Obama in 2012. These counties account for about 48 percent of the votes on the I-4 corridor.

In the other 15, which make up the other 52 percent the region’s votes, Donald Trump won by 450K votes. By comparison, Romney won these counties by 220K votes, and McCain by 130K. In other words, pretty much the entire rest of the state’s election balanced out just like 2012, except one glaring place: suburban/exurban I-4. If you look back at 2004, you will see a similar dynamic.

Here are a few examples:

Pasco
2008: McCain +7,687
2012: Romney +14,164
2016: Trump +51,899

Volusia
2008: Obama +13,857
2012: Romney +2,742
2016: Trump: +33,970

Hernando
2008: McCain +3,135
2012: Romney +7,108
2016: Trump: 26,860

I could go on like this for a while

Overall, Trump won the Orlando market by slightly more than Romney, which is pretty remarkable given Clinton’s strength in the core of Orlando. The Tampa market was solidly Trump. Winning the two-party vote share by 9 points. The rule of Tampa picking Presidents was once again true.

What is interesting is this is also the place where we saw the closest thing to a GOP turnout surge. Of these 15 counties, all but three of them saw turnout rates above 2012, with most seeing their turnout rates up 3-5 points. While these counties are economically entirely different, they are almost universally less diverse than the state at-large. We won’t know exactly who voted on Election Day for a few more weeks, but I would bet we will see some increase in infrequent white voters of all parties to help drive those margins.

Overall, turnout was a bit all over the place this year. The I-10 markets were a smaller share of the vote than 2012, and Orlando was much higher. But within markets, you can see the exurban/suburban thing play out. That being said, Democrats can’t blame this on turnout.

I also think there is an element here of Clinton losing the turnout fight in these places. These were the communities that were not getting a ton of field support (note, I didn’t say none), but were places that Americans for Prosperity were heavily invested in behalf of Rubio. I’ve worried for some time that the “Trump has no ground game” narrative could slowly seep toward complacency, and we might have seen the proof of this in these areas. I wrote about this in a piece on May, when I suggested Trump could win the same way Scott won. Well, it happened.

So what comes next? Well, I will write more on that subject coming soon, but for some of us old guys, we will recognize the 2016 map as very similar to the 2004 map. In the two cycles that followed, Democrats won two statewide races, plus the presidency, and picked up numerous seats in the Congress and Legislature? How? By reaching back into these communities and restarting the conversation. In Florida, the basic rule winning is managing margins, particularly in suburban and exurban I-4. In 04, Bush did it and won. In 08 and 12, Obama won that battle. In 16, Trump did.

And again, this isn’t just a Florida deal — what happened here isn’t isolated. But I will make this one point — one I’ve made a lot over the last few years: if Democrats in Florida can win around 40 percent of the white vote — which is less than what Obama won in 2008, they will win almost every statewide race going forward. Demographics can be destiny — but it isn’t automatically.

Lastly, to the organizers on both sides — stay in the fight. If you were for Trump, go be a part of the solution. President Obama told his 2008 organizers to go make their own solutions — you should too. For the Clinton organizers, get up off the mat. There are more fights ahead and more chances to contribute.

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.

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

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.

Steve Schale: Notes on the 10th day of early voting in Florida

To: Curious Americans and President Vladimir Putin
From: Steve Schale, Proud FloridaMan
Re: 5 Days out — and eight years later, POTUS returns to Duval

*5 days until the election.
*7 days until the first Thursday after the election.
*9 days until FSU basketball tips off.
*23 days until the Tallahassee Turkey Trot 15K.
*113 days until Daytona 500.

Welcome to the last Thursday, and before I begin, a note to Democrats:

REALLY? What are you waiting for? Return those ballots!

So, beginning today with a point of personal privilege. After hitting send on this memo, I am headed to Jacksonville for President Obama’s rally. Eight years ago today, then-Sen. Barack Obama was in Jacksonville, for his last rally in Florida, and his first of the final day. It was also the day he lost his grandmother.

After the rally, I sat down with the soon-to-be president to explain where we were in the early vote.

As I tried to explain it in my overly data-centric way (we are ahead by more than John Kerry lost by, etc.), he finally asked me what I meant, to which I said, “it means we’ve won.”

He left Jacksonville with a little smile, and I went back to Tampa completely freaking out that I just essentially guaranteed him that we had won, thinking ‘holy crap, if somehow we lose this thing, he’ll always remember me as that jerk in Florida who said we had won.”

So, thank God we won.

It is hard to believe it’s been eight years. For a guy who grew up in a small town in rural Illinois and a small town in North Florida, it has been both the ride, and the professional blessing of a lifetime.

Basically, I spend most days wondering how I’ve gotten to do these things.

But why Jacksonville? Forgive me for making this point daily, but Florida is all about managing margins. For Dems to win, we must run up very big margins in a handful of places, then hang on. For GOP to win, they run up strong margins in more counties. Thus, both sides want to take away one of the other’s strengths.

The GOP, for example, in the last few presidentials, has worked to erode Democratic support in Palm Beach. For Dems, the most obvious place to do the same is Duval, because of the county’s large African-American population.

Part of what makes such a great place to work is it is ever changing. You can never say you “know Florida,” because just when you think you figure it out, something changes. And in 2016, we are seeing two pretty big changes: the real rise of NPA voters, and the rise of Hispanics — and the two are intertwined. But more on that later.

Yesterday was a big day for early voting. Several counties, including Orange (Orlando), Palm Beach, and Alachua (where UF is) had their biggest days. Many others were close to their best day. And as a former Draft Biden guy, I want to point out the two places the VP visited today saw big increases in early voting over yesterday.

Basically, Wednesday was a day Florida got its vote on.

And while there has seemed to be a collective surprise that Florida has gotten close, a note that the three polls today were C+1, C+2, C+3. There were 31 million votes over the last four presidentials, and 70K separate the two parties.

Yes, it is gonna be close. How close? Well, I’ll tell you a little secret: one of the models I ran in early October had the race come back to a tie. Not a tie like “48-48,” an actual, vote-specific tie.

So with that, here is where we stand:

Yesterday, we pushed close to the five million vote mark, a total which will happen today.

Republicans won vote-by-mail by a 1K vote plurality, and Dems won VBM by 7K. In total, 400,489 people voted yesterday. One other note, NPA participation is increasing, a trend which started over the weekend. Statewide NPA participation to date is 20 percent, but yesterday, statewide NPA participation was 24.

Total Ballots cast: 4,687,113
Total Vote-By-Mail: 2,273,978 (46.7 percent)
Total Early Vote: 2,593,135 (53.3 percent)
Republicans: 1,948,126 (40.0 percent)
Democrats: 1,936,240 (39.8 percent)
NPA: 769,241 (20.2 percent)

Total Margin: GOP +0.22 percent.

Right now, I think about 52 percent of the likely electorate has voted.

And there are still 1,085,676 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 84,088 Democrats apparently think getting daily calls from organizers is more fun than voting.

PRO TIP: IF YOU VOTE, THE EVER-INCREASINGLY ANXIOUS CALLS STOP. SAY #NEVERROBO BY RETURNING YOUR BALLOT TODAY.

Hillsborough

It was a very good day for Democrats in Hillsborough. Almost 25K ballots were processed today, and Dems won the day by 1,400 votes, carrying both the VBM returns and the in-person vote. Also, NPA made up 25.5 percent of all votes today, as Dems maintain their six-point edge over the GOP (+18,600).

There is a Hispanic surge happening here. So far, 26 percent of Hispanic voters have no voting history, compared to 13 percent for both whites and blacks. What is interesting about Hillsborough is, while it is known for its Cuban roots, it is home to the largest populations of Mexicans in the state, a demographic that has begun to change the county’s politics. Right now, the county is about 66 percent white, 14 percent black, and 13 percent Hispanic, but it will be interesting to watch it change in the coming days. Given the rise of NPA, I suspect it will get more Hispanic.

Metro Orlando

Rather than looking at I-4, I wanted to take a deeper look at the metro Orlando area.

It is easy to think about what is happening politically in Central Florida as an Orlando phenomenon, but the demographic shifts that have occurred in the region spread out over the three-county metro Orlando area (Seminole, Orange, and Osceola). The difference from the Bush wins to the Obama wins has been stunning: In the two Bush wins, Bush carried the three-county area by an average of 22,000 votes. In the two Obama wins, the president carried them by a margin of roughly 100,000 votes — a nearly 122,000-vote margin improvement for the Democrats.

No place is starker than Osceola County, a place Bush won by five in 2004, but Obama won by 24 just eight years later. That, my friends, is what Puerto Rican growth is doing to politics.

It is obvious, but still important to stress, that the reason Puerto Ricans are changing the politics so fast is, unlike all other Hispanic migrants to Florida, they can vote on Day One as U.S. citizens, so their growth has an acute impact on politics. Orange County, for example, once one of the whitest, and most-Republican places, is now majority-minority in registered voters, and overwhelmingly Democratic. The changes aren’t as significant in Seminole, but they are still happening.

Regarding total early voting there, you can see how the NPA’s compared yesterday to previous voting. What you see, in part, is Puerto Rican surge.

Seminole: 43R-35D-22NPA — Total: +8,907R (Yesterday: 41R-33D-26NPA)
Orange: 47D-30R-23NPA — Total +46,974D (Yesterday: 46D-28R-28NPA)
Osceola: 48D-28R-24NPA — Total +15,430D (Yesterday: 46D-24R-30NPA)

So to that point, let’s dig a bit deeper. In Orange County, 29 percent of Hispanics who have voted were first-time voters. In Osceola, it is 31 percent. In Orange County, 55 percent Hispanics have voted in no more than one of the last three elections, a number that rises to 59 percent in Osceola. And many are registering NPA, not Democratic, which is why it is significant that yesterday, on the biggest day in early voting in Orange County, 72 percent of voters were Dem and NPA.

South Florida

Yesterday, 114K people voted in South Florida, of which 27 percent were NPA. In total, Democrats won the day by almost 29K votes, with the margins 48D-25R-27NPA, and total votes in the Palm Beach and Miami media markets accounted for 30 percent of statewide votes. Miami continues to over-perform, and Palm Beach is a little low. If Palm Beach can catch up to its historical levels, South Florida is going to turn in some very high margins for Hillary Clinton.

You can see the NPA surge below.

Palm Beach: 48D-29R-23NPA — Total +53,135 D (Yesterday: 45D-29R-26NPA)
Broward: 57D-23R-20NPA — Total: +146,704 D (Yesterday: 54D-21R-25NPA)
Dade: 44D-31R-25NPA — Total +73,185 (Yesterday: 43D-27R-30NPA)

Duuuuuuval

The president is going to arrive in a Duval that looks a lot more like it did in his two elections than the previous two.

As a reminder, Bush in 2004 won Duval by 17 points, or about 61,000 votes. In Obama’s two wins, the margin averaged around 10,000 votes. In 2008, we lost by only 8,000, and honestly, I am still annoyed we didn’t get closer. That and losing Sarasota by 227 votes are the two places that still burn me. In my opinion, anything under a 20K-vote loss in Duval is a win.

More than 20,000 people voted yesterday, mostly through in-person early voting, which the Democrats won, leading to the Dems winning the day by about 100 votes. Not a ton, but succeeding in keeping the margin in check. The GOP margin now stands at 1.3 (43.2R-41.9D). This is a place where African-American turnout is a little low, about 25 percent to date (compared to about 30 percent statewide). But this is also a place where African-American turnout rises in the final weekend and into Election Day, so the president is right on time.

Additional notes

The electorate continues to get more diverse. Through the Sunday vote, Hispanics are now 14 percent of the votes so far, with Black voters (African-American and Caribbean) at 11.8. White is down to 69. Keep in mind, it was 67 in 2012, and it has come down from 71 in just a few days.

I use Black voters, and not African-American for a very specific reason: a rather sizable piece of the Florida Black population isn’t actually African-American but instead is Caribbean-American.

I wanted to look at turnout another way, though. As of the voter-specific data I have available (ending Tuesday — this runs a day behind), about 34 percent of the state has voted. But when you look at it from an ethnic perspective, it looks like this: about 36 percent whites, 30 percent Hispanics and 30 percent Black voters.

Now, when you keep in mind that the vote-by-mail electorate is quite white, one would expect the white turnout to be way out front, then come back to the rest of the state. This is basically what is happening.

So, let’s revisit briefly this black turnout piece from yesterday. If you think about the state as a pie, each ethnicity takes up a piece. Between 2012 and 2016, the white piece got smaller; the black piece stayed about the same, and the Hispanic and other pieces all grew. Also, when you think back to 2012, Black voters exceeded their voter registration share.

That is not normal, thus when people talk about black turnout being down, it is important to remember there are two reasons: 1. Barack Obama was a historic figure and isn’t on the ballot, and 2. Hispanics own more of the pie.

As I described to someone today, comparing 2016 Clinton black turnout to 2008 or 2012 is like comparing the ’91 Bulls to the ’96 Bulls. The ’91 Bulls won 61 games and the championship. The ’96 Bulls won 72 with arguably the greatest pure team of all time. We all like to talk about the ’96 Bulls, but the ’91 team was damn good and has a ring.

Clinton doesn’t need 08/12 turnout, she needs the Black share of the electorate to approach its share of registered voters. And when you look at Black turnout today as it relates to whites, as well as how the share has grown since the start of in-person early voting (Blacks have been 15 percent of in-person early voting), it is trending well toward that goal.

One last piece, because I don’t think it has gotten the attention it deserves: the early Republican leads have been built — not completely, but in part — by cannibalizing their own Election Day vote. The conventional wisdom is the GOP wins Election Day, but honestly, specifically in 2008 and to a lesser extent in 2012, they won Election Day because we were basically done, and thus won Election Day, not because they were better at it, but because they had a larger pool of highly likely voters left to vote.

In 2016, they have gotten a larger share — and number of their traditional Election Day voters to vote early, which has left an interesting scenario: Democrats have more “2012 voters” left to vote than do Republicans.

Quickly looking at how the state is playing out: It looks like Fort Myers, which has gotten a lot of ink for high turnout, is coming back to Earth, an indication that it might have just voted quickly, instead of expanding. The Fort Myers media market yesterday made up just 3 percent of all the votes (it is about 6.7 percent of statewide votes historically). The market is still over-performing, at about 8 percent of statewide totals, but that is down from about 10.5 percent last Friday.

On flip-side, for Republicans, North Florida did come out yesterday, making up about 25 percent of statewide votes, raising its statewide share to 17 percent, which is closer to being in line with where it typically falls. Granted some of that is strong Dem days in Leon and Alachua, but overall, more North Florida voting is good for Donald Trump.

Dems can take heart that Miami and Orlando continue to be strong, with 22 percent of statewide votes yesterday coming from the Miami DMA, and 20 percent from Orlando, keeping both markets above their historical shares. In the back of my mind, a 500K-vote margin out of Broward and Dade is probably the upper end of HRC numbers — and, possibly the number that makes it tough for Trump to win. If Miami can continue to stay about 20 percent of the state, getting close to that 500K margin looks attainable.

With that, I am off to Jacksonville. Talk to you all tomorrow.

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

To: Curious Americans and President Vladimir Putin

From: Steve Schale

Re: No More Wednesdays!!

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

Before I begin, a note to Democrats:

RETURN YOUR FREAKING VBM BALLOTS, PLEASE.

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

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

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

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

Mail back your freaking ballots, people.

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

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

The secret is, there is no secret.

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

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

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

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

So, where are we today, besides close?

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

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

Total Ballots cast: 4,466,624

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

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

Total Margin: GOP +0.39 percent

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

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

#UGH

Back to benchmarks

Hillsborough

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

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

I-4

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

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

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

South Florida

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

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

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

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

#Duuuuuuval

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

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

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

Additional notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secondly, Hispanics are absolutely surging.

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

Two other observations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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