Is Donald Trump on his way to winning Florida?


Donald Trump may be on his way to winning Florida. Is that really possible?

Of the seven polls taken in the past week, Trump leads in three surveys, each by four points. Hillary Clinton leads in three of them, each by one point.

In what may be another ominous development for Democrats, Florida is into its second week of early voting and the GOP is either even or slightly ahead among all ballots cast. Democrats won the early voting sweepstakes by more than 130,000 ballots in 2012.

The numbers before last week’s FBI bombshell, but after a steady drip of WikiLeaks releases, show Florida was already trending Trump’s way, putting the race at a dead heat. A deeper look should boost the hopes of Trump and his supporters.

The Real Clear Politics average has Trump with a statistically insignificant one-point lead overall in Florida. The New York Times/Sienna poll, completed on the day the news of the FBI investigation broke, puts Trump ahead of Clinton in Florida 46-42 in a four-way race that includes Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

To gauge the legitimacy of any poll, those interested will look at who is being polled before either accepting or rejecting the results and then figuring out how to spin the positive or negative results. One of the first lines of attack is the breakdown of the samples by party.

In the New York Times poll, 34 percent of respondents were Republicans, while 32 percent were Democrats and 31 percent independents. Democrats will question this breakdown just as Republicans questioned the recent ABC/Washington Post daily national tracking poll that surveyed nine percent more Democrats and Clinton leading by 12 just 10 days ago.

Serious pollsters are projecting the turnout for an election, which is why the party breakdown is seldom equal. The New York Times/Sienna survey is a rare example where more Republicans are projected to turn out.

The ABC/Washington Post tracking poll published Wednesday, has seen a Trump surge and now has him tied nationally 46-46. The poll sample has eight percent more Democrats than Republicans.

If that represents a trend in the battleground states, Trump could be riding a wave. While it is true that polls only constitute a moment in time, the final week before an election is not a good time to be on the wrong side of your surfboard.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist Florida poll, released one day before the New York Times survey, showed Clinton with a 45-44 lead. The sampling included 39 percent Democrats and 37 percent Republicans. Squawking about that is hard.

A puzzling statistic does emerge from this poll. Among those surveyed who indicated they had already voted, Clinton led 54-37. Of those, who have not voted, Trump leads 51-42.

It would be no surprise to see Republicans turn out in greater numbers on Election Day. They did so in 2012, but not enough to overcome President Obama’s advantage in early voting.

What is difficult to comprehend is the 17-point Clinton advantage in ballots already cast. Star Trek’s Mr. Spock would not be alone in finding that illogical. Here is why.

First, as of Wednesday morning 17,000 more Florida Republicans than Democrats had mailed in or cast their ballots. Second, nearly 900,000 independents or no party affiliates (NPA) had voted. Third, independents are favoring Trump by 45 to 33 percent in the NBC survey.

On the day the survey was published, Republicans held a 6,000- ballot advantage with another half-million NPAs received. The poll showed 88 percent of Republicans support Trump and 89 percent of Democrats support Clinton. With all of these numbers from their own poll, from where would a 17-point gap emerge?

Democratic strategist Steve Schale understands there is trouble. In Wednesday’s daily update, he sounded the alarm to his party. To those who have not voted, the message was “Mail back your freaking ballots, people.” He also took the time to debunk a Florida poll purporting to show Clinton up by eight points in the state and collecting a 28 percent GOP crossover vote (but maintains Clinton is slightly ahead).

For those who wish to keep up with the daily tracking of the early vote, PR maven Kevin Cate has a fabulous tool called Florida Turnout that provides a daily progression of pre-November 8 balloting.

A week is an eternity at election time. Anything can happen. Any shoe can drop, including one worn by Trump, but something unimaginable three weeks ago is now possible.

Remember that all of this was going on before the latest chapter of the Clinton email episode. That can’t help.

Yes, Donald Trump could actually win Florida.

Bob Sparks

Bob Sparks is a former political consultant who previously served as spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Attorney General. He was a senior adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Before entering politics, he spent nearly two decades in professional baseball administration. He can be reached at [email protected] and Twitter @BobSparksFL.


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