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Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Scott Franklin, Donna Shalala, Vern Buchanan

2020

FiveThirtyEight identifies hottest Florida congressional races

Forecaster lists just four contests as competitive this cycle.

With a month to go, national forecaster Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight launched its House forecast for 2020. According to the outfit, there are only four races in Florida that aren’t solidly in the hands of one party or the other. No House contests in the Sunshine State appear on a list of true toss-ups, but these are the contests in play.

CD 26

Notably, a Democratic incumbent represents the only district in the “Lean Democrat” column— or a “Lean” category at all. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a freshman who ousted Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in 2018, faces Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez in a tough reelection fight.

FiveThirtyEight prognosticators still say the incumbent is favored to win, but they see plenty of ways she can lose. Running 40,000 model simulations on the race, a sample shows Mucarsel-Powell emerges victorious 72% of the time.

That gives her a slightly better chance of winning her district than Joe Biden has of winning Florida right now (67% for the curious). But the prognosticators say it will be close. The forecast predicts a final vote share with Mucarsel-Powell claiming 53% and Giménez 47%.

CD 15

Congressional District 15 is the most closely watched open seat this year. Silver’s team lists the Central Florida seat as “Likely Republican.” That’s good news for Scott Franklin, a Lakeland City Commissioner who beat incumbent Rep. Ross Spano in an August primary.

FiveThirtyEight predicts Franklin will win the seat with 53% of the vote to Democrat and former news anchor Alan Cohn’s 47%. That would mean a Republican hold.

A look at sample models shows Franklin winning the election 79% of the time when the contest runs through various simulations. One notable fact? At least one time the forecasters ran the race, it came out as a perfect tie.

Notably, a release on long-term data shows models saw the race became much safer for the GOP in mid-September, a good month after Spano, besieged in campaign finance scandals, lost his primary.

CD 27

The only other Democrat listed in a competitive contest, by FiveThirtyEight’s estimation, remains Rep. Donna Shalala. Models give the Miami Democrat an 81% chance of winning a second term and put the race in the “Likely Democrat” column.

The forecast predicts she will receive 54% of the vote to Republican challenger Maria Elvira Salazar’s 46%. That’s a wider margin than Shalala claimed over the same opponent in 2018, when she took 52% to the GOP candidate’s 46% with a third-party candidate claiming the remainder of votes.

CD 16

The only other incumbent facing any risk in the forecast remains Rep. Vern Buchanan. But the models list the Sarasota incumbent in the “Likely Republican” column, and say he is “clearly favored” to win a seventh term.

Silver’s team predicts Buchanan will take 55% of the vote to Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good’s 45%. That model accounts for an internal poll showing a closer race that was released by the Good team this week.

But running computer simulations, the FiveThirtyEight machinery predicts Buchanan coming out ahead 91% of the time.

Snubs

The forecast will surely leave some campaigns around the state frustrated.

FiveThirtyEight gives Rep. Brian Mast, a Stuart Republican, a 97% chance of beating Democratic challenger Pam Keith in CD 18.

Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in CD 13? Forget about a close race. The official prediction gives Republican Anna Paulina Luna a 2% chance of unseating him.

The models show conservative blogger Laura Loomer with a less than 1% chance of beating Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel in CD 21, anticipating the incumbent securing 61% of the vote.

Similarly, GOP Rep. John Rutherford holds greater than 99% odds of fending off Democrat Donna Deegan.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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