democrats Archives - Florida Politics

Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto demand Nancy Pelosi support reform package

Democratic U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto didn’t waste any time flexing muscles of their centrist sides, signing a letter Tuesday to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi outlining a number of demands for House rules changes if Pelosi wants their votes for House Speaker.

The two Central Florida lawmakers, members of the bipartisan “Problem Solvers” caucus, joined seven other Democrats in sending a letter to Pelosi stating that they could not support any candidate for House Speaker who does not support the “Break the Gridlock” package the caucus proposed over the summer. They asked Pelosi for written commitments by Friday.

“We believe so strongly in these principals that many of us, this summer, publicly committed only to vote for a candidate for Speaker who embraces the spirit, direction, and specific language of these proposals,” the letter reminds Pelosi.

“Given our rapidly approaching caucus meeting after Thanksgiving, and your familiarity with our proposal, we are eager to have your public commitment to the package of reforms by Friday, Nov. 16,” the letter states.

The 116th Congress convening in January will see the Democrats controlling the House of Representatives. Pelosi is in line to take over as Speaker, provided insurgencies do not derail her bid.

Soto, of Celebration, and Murphy, of Winter Park, are the only Florida members of Congress to sign the letter.

The Break the Gridlock package was first drafted and published in June, includes five goals and 12 specific proposals that would reduce the powers of the Speaker and committee chairs to allow for more power for rank-and-file members of Congress from either party. Hialeah’s Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo also signed, but he lost last week and won’t be returning.

The Problem Solvers’ caucus and its Break the Gridlock package probably aren’t Peloisi’s biggest concern in her campaign to be brought back as House Speaker, according to a Washington Post story Tuesday, which  points out she faces a much bigger insurgency among new Democratic lawmakers. On the other hand, neither group is a real issue at the moment, as no other Democratic House member has yet announced a candidacy for Speaker. Pelosi is unopposed for the moment.

Murphy was upfront about her commitment to the Break the Gridlock package during her re-election campaign. When pressed at a debate in October if she would support Pelosi, she replied, no, not unless Pelosi formally backs the package.

The Break the Gridlock package also has been pursued by an affiliated bipartisan political action committeeNo Labels, which spent $153,000 in October to back Murphy’s re-election campaign.

Searching for the silver linings for Florida Democrats

Last Tuesday’s election results reinforced a political reality many Floridians have had trouble getting their heads around: The Sunshine State is a red state, not a purple one.

It’s been twenty years since Jeb Bush defeated the hapless Buddy McKay as part of the GOP winning the trifecta in state government: control of the Governor’s Office, the House and the Senate.

Other than Barack Obama‘s statewide wins in 2008 and 2012, Alex Sink‘s single term as CFO in 2007-11, and Bill Nelson‘s re-elections, Florida Democrats have been wiped out at the ballot box.

For a few hours last week it appeared possible that, with Nelson losing to Scott and the other results in the gubernatorial and Cabinet races, there would not be an elected statewide Democrat in Florida.

However, the tortuously delayed counting of ballots in Broward and Palm Beach County eventually put Nikki Fried ahead of Matt Caldwell in the Agriculture Commissioner race.

For Democrats, this is more than a consolation prize.

Facing an existential crisis, Florida Democrats have every reason to wring their hands, if not fold up shop. They are the Washington Generals to the GOP’s Harlem Globetrotters, losing, again and again, no matter what the political environment.

The Democrats’ losses this cycle are so bad that it probably has national Democrats strongly considering revising, if not abandoning, their plans to win the state during the 2020 presidential campaign.

With swing states like Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia tilting more to the left, Democrats don’t need Florida to win the presidency, whereas it is almost impossible for a Republican to win the Electoral College without it.

Why waste the time and money on trying to win Florida in 2020 when reallocating those resources to other, more winnable states is a safer proposition?

As the results came in last Tuesday evening, I thought Democrats were ready to abandon Florida going forward. But that analysis now seems premature nearly a week later.

First of all, it’s clear a blue wave did crash throughout the country, albeit not in Florida. As votes continue to be counted, Democrats continue to pick up congressional seats. Democrats also flipped seven governorships, six state legislative chambers, and more than 300 state House and Senate seats.

There have been so many narrative-busting updates to the instant analysis of election night that tomorrow CNN will broadcast “Election Night in America Continued.”

And while that blue wave did not reach Florida’s shores, there are enough silver linings that the Democrats should be able to muster the temerity to ask Lucy to hold the football for them one more time.

Consider:

— Obviously, Fried’s win over Caldwell is the most blatant revision to last Tuesday night’s narrative.

In fact, the Democrats will not be shut out of statewide office. And while losing Nelson is a devastating setback, in the long-run, it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise because it creates a leadership vacuum many Democrats will rush to fill (am I the only one looking forward to the second round of Scott vs. Crist in 2024?)

Also, Fried’s winning gives Democrats, particularly those in Tallahassee, someone to rally around. Fried, who earlier this year was working the fourth floor of the Capitol as a lobbyist, is now the most important Democrat in the state. She’ll be expected to headline every Kennedy-King dinner for the next two years. She’ll be the party’s chief fundraiser. She’ll be the Democratic nominee’s point person in 2020. She is the Democrats’ Princess Leia in the rebellion against the Empire.

— Amendment 4’s passage, which provides that many ex-felons should have their voting rights automatically restored once they’ve completed the terms of their sentences, is the biggest game-changer in the modern history of Florida politics. Period.

No, not all of the 1.4 million Floridians who this Amendment impacts will run to the local Supervisor of Elections office and register to vote, but — and only with millions of dollars in voter registration efforts — hundreds of thousands will be able to vote in the 2020 election.

And no, not all of them will automatically vote Democrat, as some would have you believe. But Democrats will pull a plurality of these voters. How many? Dare I say that if something like Amendment 4 had been in place before this election, we’d be talking about the re-election of Sen. Nelson and the upcoming inauguration of Andrew Gillum.

— Amendment 1’s defeat, which would have increased the state’s homestead exemption by $25,000, is a welcome relief to big counties and cities, many of which are the only places Democrats still hold any governing sway.

If there is any bright spot for Florida Democrats postelection, it’s the Florida House, where the donkey picked up as many as seven seats (and are recounting in two more).

Democrats won in different parts of the state with a diverse slate of candidates, cutting into the near-super majority the Republicans once held. Whoever led the Democrats to victory in these races should be given the keys to the party’s headquarters.

Make no mistake, winning the Ag. Commissioner race and a handful of state House seats, while pinning future hopes to the mass registration of ex-felons, is not where Florida Democrats expected to be at the end of 2018. But they, like their national brethren, are undeniably in better shape today than they were a week ago.

There’s just enough fight left in them to soldier on until 2020.

Bill Nelson’s lawyer, citing hand-recount trends, predicts Democrat’s victory

As Florida’s U.S. Senate election heads toward likely recount the legal counsel hired by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson‘s campaign is predicting it will be a hand recount and says several trends convince him that Nelson will ultimately defeat Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who leads.

“Looking at historical data, Democrats tend to gain recounts, tend to gain more votes in hand recounts than in machine recounts, but tend to gain votes in machine recounts,” Marc Elias said in a press call Thursday morning.

“So I’m confident that Sen. Nelson and the Democrats are going to do well in terms of vote share in the days that come because when at the end of the day all eligible votes have their votes counted and counted accurately, the fundamental truth we are going to learn is more voters voted for Sen. Nelson than voted for Gov. Scott.”

As of the latest count from the Florida Division of Elections, Scott holds a 21,888 vote lead out of about 8.5 million votes cast, a difference of 0.27 percent. That’s well under the 0.5 percent margin that automatically triggers a machine-driven recount in Florida, and just over the 0.25 percent margin that would trigger a hand recount, in which vote canvassers actually examining every ballot. That margin has shrunk from a 57,000-vote lead Scott held at the end of Election Day.

Scott’s campaign responded Thursday by denigrating Elias, a well-known and well-traveled Democratic elections lawyer, as a hired gun hired to “steal” the Florida U.S. Senate election.

“It is sad and embarrassing that Bill Nelson would resort to these low tactics after the voters have clearly spoken. Maybe next, he’ll start ranting that Russians stole the election from him,” Scott’s campaign declared in a press release.

Elias, political law practice chair at the Washington D.C. law firm of Perkins Coie, has decades of experience challenging election outcomes and states’ elections practices, and overseeing vote recounts on behalf of Democratic candidates.

Elias brushed aside assertions that he can influence the outcome, saying that the election is heading into the hands of the counties’ canvassing boards; and while both sides will be watching and mobilizing what they can, those boards will be in position to determine the final counts.

“There isn’t anything that I’m going to be able to do about that. There isn’t anything that Gov. Scott and his millions of dollars are going to be able to do about that, or Secretary of State [Ken] Detzner is going to be able to do about that,” Elias said. “I think you’re going to see the will of the voters is going to come out in Florida. And Sen. Nelson will be sworn in for another term to the United States Senate.”

Florida’s 67 county Supervisors of Election’s canvassing boards have all begun canvassing ballots and will do so through Saturday morning, reviewing provisional ballots and others for acceptance and certifying the machine counts.

On Saturday afternoon the Florida Secretary of State’s office will make determinations of whether and what kinds of recounts would be necessary. Those would start Monday at the supervisors’ offices.

While Democrats, including Elias, and others are urging people who voted on provisional ballots to return to the supervisors’ offices to present identification and advocate for their votes, Elias said in many cases the votes will be “self-cured” when they’re examined by the canvassing boards.

If a machine recount is ordered, that is to be completed by next Thursday. If a hand-recount is ordered, that is to be completed by Nov. 18.

“I think you are going to see the race tighten from the provisionals as well,” he said, referring to the canvassing board activites now underway, adding that by Saturday the race should be very tight. “I would say it’s a jump ball. We may be up by 5,000 votes. We may be down by 5,000 votes.”

Any margin close to that would trigger a hand recount.

On Thursday Elias pointed to several factors he said are likely to provide more votes, and contended that history shows those more votes would break Nelson’s way.

— In Palm Beach County, 10,000 ballots still need to be counted by the canvassing board because they had stray marks or other anomalies that prevented machines from counting them. In Palm Beach County Nelson got 58 percent of the vote.

— An unknown number of ballots still need to be counted in Broward County, where Nelson got 69 percent of the vote.

— Provisional ballots, he said, historically break Democrats’ way, even in Republican-dominated areas.

— And he pointed to what he said was a highly-unusual anomaly in Broward County: the U.S. Senate race actually drew fewer votes than the state cabinet races, not just for the governor’s office, but including for Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, and Agriculture Commissioner.

He said a comparison with the U.S. House races in Broward also showed that there were many ballots counted in which people appeared to vote in the congressional races but not in the Seante race.

Elias speculated that scanners might not have been calibrated correctly and might not have always picked up the votes at the top of the ballot. If so, those would be caught in a hand recount, if not in a machine recount using a better calibrated machine, he said.

“What is unusual is to see undervote at the top of the ticket. Not only is it unusual, I can’t think of a single instance where you had fewer votes for the Senate than for the down-ballot,” Elias said.

As Trump turns Florida more red, Orange County sparkles blue

Florida might not have seen a blue wave, but Orange County certainly did. A pink one, too.

The waves also rolled through neighboring Seminole County, where they didn’t wash away much Republican establishment, but likely scared plenty.

The results of Tuesday’s election means that for the first time in more than 20 years Democrats will control the Orange County Commission. It’s officially a nonpartisan board, but the parties battle hard for it, and this year it is flipping from a 5-2 advantage for Republicans, to a 5-2 advantage for Democrats.

“The largest accomplishment to me was taking back the county commission,” said Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge. “We’ve had a Democratic county [in voter registration] for quite some time and the fact that the party could not control the county commission was unacceptable to me … I said that was my highest priority.”

Tuesday’s results also saw Orange Democrats flip three Florida House seats, two entirely inside Orange County and one split with Seminole County. The day began with Republicans holding five of nine seats that are at least partially in Orange County, and ended with Democrats getting seven of those nine. Democrat Joy Goff-Marcil took House District 30 away from Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes. Democrat Geraldine Thompson took House District 44 away from Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski. And Anna Eskamani flipped House District 47 from Republican control.

In other officially nonpartisan races, Orange County Democrats filled out six of eight seats on the Orange County School Board, including seats taken in the August election as well; and took both available seats on the Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The changes in elected office were only a matter of time as the Democrats have been building a tremendous registered voter advantage over the past decade, now with almost 132,000 more registered Democrats than registered Republicans.

That led, Tuesday night, to Orange County delivering a net 113,000 votes for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and a net 122,000 votes for Demorcratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, who both lost but appear heading toward statewide recounts.

“We cleaned up,” Hodge said.

Meanwhile, Seminole County, long a Republican counterweight to Orange County in Central Florida, was no such thing Tuesday. Seminole County voters also favored Nelson and Gillum, albeit by razor-thin 3,500 net votes apiece. Democratic Agriculture Commissioner nominee Nikki Fried also won in Seminole.

Seminole County voters also contributed significantly to the easy re-election of Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy over Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, and to Goff-Marcil’s upset over two-term incumbent Cortes in House District 30. Murphy won by 34,000 votes on the Orange County side, and another 15,000 in Seminole. Goff-Marcil won by 2,000 in Orange and almost that many in Seminole against a much-better financed Cortes.

The Democrats muscle-flexing didn’t end there. In the other two Seminole County Florida House races the Republicans barely held the seats against under-financed Democrats. State Rep. Scott Plakon and David Smith both won by 51-49 margins.

As for the pink wave:

Murphy, Goff-Marcil, Thompson, and Eskamani; the three Orange County Commission winners, Republican Christine Moore and Democrats Mayra Uribe and Maribel Cordero; both Orange County School Board winners, Johanna Lopez and Melissa Byrd; and both Soil and Water Conservation District winners, Daisy Morales and Dawn Curtis; all are women.

Later this month when the new Orange County School Board is sworn in, all eight members, including  Republican Chair Teresa Jacobs, who won in August, will be women.

In December when the new Orange County Commission is sworn in, all six members, not including new Mayor Jerry Demings, will be women.

blue wave

Darryl Paulson sees possible ‘blue wave’ in Tampa Bay

Longtime Florida politics expert Darryl Paulson says voters “appear to be saying no to both Republicans and President Trump.”

Jeff Brandes seems to be the only secure candidate at this point,” said Paulson, a former Republican, in an interview. “That is due to his incumbency, his huge financial advantage and his Democratic opponent entering the race at a late date.”

Other local Republicans in the Tampa Bay area are facing credible threats in races that should be easy wins for Republicans, indicating the so-called “blue wave” that might be coming to this region.

The Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg looked at four races:

— Amanda Murphy and Ed Hooper in Senate District 16.

— Janet Cruz and Dana Young in Senate District 18.

— Gus Bilirakis and Chris Hunter in Congressional District 12.

— Ross Spano and Kristen Carlson in Congressional District 15.

In each of them, Republicans have at least one reason they should be waging easy campaigns.

Senate District 16 is a Republican-leaning district, having been in the hands of Jack Latvala for years. But without an incumbent in the race, Hooper is facing a credible challenge to keep the seat red.

Paulson (Photo: USF)

“Murphy is the more charismatic candidate and has sufficient resources to pull off an upset,” Paulson said.

In the Cruz/Young race, Paulson said Young should have an advantage and, in any other year, would be the clear favorite.

But because Cruz, as a current elected state representative, is a well-known political figure in Hillsborough politics. That throws water on Young’s incumbent status.

He also points out that, even though Young is out-raising Cruz, Cruz has raised enough financial resources to remain competitive in the race. It’s a matchup Paulson said “could go either way.”

Paulson isn’t sure if Hunter can pull off a win in his battle to unseat longtime Congressman Bilirakis in the Clearwater Congressional district, but notes it is a possibility.

“Bilirakis should be a lock to win his congressional race, but is facing strong opposition from Hunter, a former FBI agent and a model candidate,” Paulson said. “Bilirakis may have damaged his campaign with last-minute false allegations about both his and his opponent’s record.”

Paulson is referring to several of Bilirakis’ campaign missteps.

As far back as July, someone published a push poll asking leading questions about whether they would support Hunter if they knew he supported open borders and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Speaker should Democrats regain that chamber.

Hunter hasn’t said either of those things and, in fact, said he thought Democratic leadership needed to venture away from the traditional establishment vanguard.

Bilirakis also came under fire more recently for staking claim to federal legislation aimed at addressing the national opioid crisis. Not only did that effort not include Bilirakis’ fingerprints, he also co-sponsored legislation in 2016 that did the exact opposite.

Furthermore, he “claimed Hunter supported a proposal to raise energy bills $1,200 a year. Never happened,” Paulson said. “Both missteps occurred in October and made Bilirakis look scared.  

“This would be a major upset, but it may well happen.”

Paulson also sees a potential shift for Democrats in the Congressional seat currently held by Republican Dennis Ross. That district includes Brandon, Plant City and Lakeland and is heavily conservative.

Ross won re-election against a Democratic challenger in the previous election cycle handily and the district went double digits in support for President Donald Trump.

But “the longer the race goes on, the more likely it looks to be trending Democrat,” Paulson said.

“Midterms are often a referendum on the party in power and the person in the White House,” he added.

And that, it seems, might be happening.

Blue wave or not, Pinellas Democrats are fired up

Tampa Bay-area Democrats are pooling resources for get-out-the-vote efforts in St. Petersburg.

Congressman Charlie Crist joined candidates Lindsay Cross, Jennifer Webb and Sean Shaw at Webb’s House District 69 campaign headquarters in the Tyrone area to call voters who have not yet cast a ballot either on Election Day or during early voting.

“Do you have a plan to vote,” Cross, who is running for Florida Senate against incumbent Jeff Brandes, asked. “You do. Will you be voting Democrat?”

There was a pause, followed by a grin.

“Probably. Ok, we’ll take probably.”

Cross and the others chuckled as she hung up the phone.

About 20 volunteers crammed into the small office, cellphones in hand. Cross and Webb sat on the floor under a window — Cross’ shoes sat next to her in a clear indication of a race hard traveled.

Senate District 24 candidate Lindsay Cross phone banks on Election Day.

Everyone, including the candidates, had stacks of voter information. Most of the names on the list were Democrats, but some were no party affiliation or third party. All had not voted, but had an estimated probability of voting of at least 50 percent.

There were thousands upon thousands of names. Democrats need those voters to head to the polls on Election Day. As of 1 p.m., 4,000 more Republicans had cast a ballot than Democrats.

“That’s pretty normal,” said Pinellas County Democratic Party Chair Susan McGrath. “We’ll see a surge this evening when people start getting off work.”

Pinellas County Democratic volunteers phone bank on Election Day.

That optimism was universal.

“I feel really good,” Crist said.

He thinks Democrats will win back enough seats in Congress to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But he’s not sure if that will be by a landslide or a nudge.

“It’s just hard to say,” he said.

Crist’s seat is safe. He’s widely favored to defeat Republican George Buck for his Congressional District 13 seat. Cross, on the other hand, is facing a tough challenge against an incumbent who has outraised her by $1 million.

“I feel great,” Cross said, heading out the door to wave signs on the busy 66th Street near Tyrone Mall.

Outside, two teenagers saw the politicians coming and going, some carrying signs, all wearing campaign T-shirts. They asked some questions. A few minutes later they showed up with their dad.

“What time should I pick them up,” he asked.

His kids wanted to stay to phone bank.

Seven Florida congressional races in spotlight

Races in seven Florida congressional districts continue to draw national attention as Democrats and Republicans battle for control of the U.S. House in Tuesday’s elections.

Listed as “hot races” by the non-partisan OpenSecrets.org, the seven contests have attracted sizable political contributions, usually an indication of who donors, parties and special interests believe have a chance.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said that in the battle for the U.S. House, “more and more seats seem to be coming into play, with Republican and/or Democratic outside groups expanding their ad buys to districts where the GOP has seemed favored,” including Central Florida’s Congressional District 15 and Southeast Florida’s Congressional District 18.

In District 18 and in Northeast Florida’s Congressional District 6, the center earlier labeled the races “likely” Republican but moved them to “leans” Republican. Meanwhile, the center upgraded its evaluation of the GOP’s chances of retaining control of Southwest Florida’s Congressional District 16, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. The center moved the race from “leans Republican” to “likely Republican.”

Here are snapshots of the seven Florida races targeted by OpenSecrets.org:

CD 6

Registered voters: Republicans 38 percent, Democrats 33 percent.

2016 voting: 57 percent for President Donald Trump, 40 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The seat, made up of all or parts of St. Johns, Flagler, Volusia and Lake counties, was held by Republican Ron DeSantis until he resigned in September to focus on his campaign for Governor.

Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a former national-security official in the Clinton administration, had raised $2.8 million as of Oct. 17. Republican Michael Waltz, a businessman and former Army Green Beret, was at $1.7 million in fundraising.

CD 15

Registered voters: Republicans 36 percent, Democrats 35 percent.

2016 voting: Trump 53 percent, Clinton 43 percent.

The seat, which includes parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties, opened because Republican Congressman Dennis Ross decided against seeking another term.

Kristen Carlson, a former prosecutor and general counsel at the Florida Department of Citrus, had raised $1.3 million as of Oct. 17. Republican candidate Ross Spano, a state House member and attorney from Dover, had raised $581,690.

CD 16

Registered voters: Republicans 41 percent, Democrats 32 percent.

2016 voting: Trump 54 percent, Clinton 43 percent.

Held since 2013 by Buchanan, an auto dealer, the district covers all or parts of Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties.

Buchanan had raised $2.7 million. His Democratic opponent, attorney David Shapiro, had raised $2.3 million.

CD 18

Registered voters: Republicans 38 percent, Democrats 34 percent.

2016 voting: Trump 53 percent, Clinton 44 percent.

A Republican-leaning district covering St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties, the region has since 2007 been represented by Democrat Tim Mahoney, Republican Tom Rooney, Democrat Patrick Murphy and, now, Republican Brian Mast.

Mast, a U.S. Army veteran who won the seat in 2016, had raised $5.3 million as of Oct. 17.

Democrat Lauren Baer, an attorney who served as a foreign policy adviser in the Obama administration, has raised $3.98 million. Baer entered the race with regional name recognition from her family’s ownership of Baer’s Furniture.

CD 25

Registered voters: Republicans 38 percent, Democrats 29 percent.

2016 voting: Trump 50 percent, Clinton 48 percent.

Stretching across South Florida, the district includes parts of Miami-Dade and Collier counties and all of Hendry County.

Republican Congressman Mario DiazBalart, a former state legislator who has been in the U.S. House since 2002, had raised $2.1 million.

Democrat Mary Barzee Flores, a former circuit judge in Miami-Dade, had raised $1.95 million.

CD 26

Registered voters: Democrats 36 percent, Republicans 31 percent.

2016 voting: Clinton 57 percent, Trump 41 percent.

The district, which is made up of Southwest Miami-Dade County and all of Monroe County, is held by Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 2014.

Curbelo had raised $4.75 million as of Oct. 17. Democrat Debbie MucarselPowell, who has worked for non-profit organizations and as director of development for Florida International University, had raised $3.75 million.

CD 27

Registered voters: Democrats 36 percent, Republicans 32 percent.

2016 voting: Clinton 59 percent, Trump 39 percent.

The district, which includes areas in Southeast Miami-Dade, opened when Republican Congresswoman Ileana RosLehtinen decided to retire after nearly 30 years in the U.S. House.

Democrat Donna Shalala, a former University of Miami president who served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, had raised $3.4 million.

Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, a long-time journalist and television personality who worked for Telemundo, had raised $1.54 million.

Steve Schale: Like the Jaguars season, the election is nearly over.

To: Fellow Americans Who Don’t Sleep

From: Steve Schale, Tired Florida Man

Re: You know you are going to miss these.

*5 hours until the polls open

*17 hours until the first of 23 phone calls between 7 and 7:05 p.m. asking what I think.

*19 hours until FSU basketball season tips off against the boys from Hogtown, East Florida Seminary

*3 days until we the media forget this election and goes all-in on 2020.

*5 days until the Jaguars lose again.

*6 days until the Vet Fest 5K in Tallahassee, as I need to burn off the last few week’s diet.

*708 days until someone else writes the first Florida memo of the 2020 cycle

*728 days until the Election Day 2020.

This is the second memo of the last day, and for ease of life, I am going to copy and paste the first part, so you have it, sans the jokes about Democrats voting like Blake Bortles throws touchdowns to the opposing teams — virtually everywhere, and often and get into this thing. There is really no reason to repeat it, any more than there is a reason for Bortles to throw two interceptions in a single half.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am writing this after a day that began at 5:30 a.m., has included multiple GOTV shifts, and about 400 miles in the car. I can attest for the record that my entire diet has consisted of granola bars, candy I rifled from campaign offices, some tacos, a slice of old pizza, and caffeine in a variety of forms.

So, forgive me in advance for the bad jokes, sarcasm and etc., that you will find.

As of this evening, Floridians have cast: 5,111,452 votes

Democrats: 2,074,400 (40,58 percent)

Republicans: 2,049,877 (40.105)

NPA: 987,175 (19.3 percent)

Total Democratic margin: 24,523 (+0.48)

For comparison, yesterday we were at just over 4.8m voters and Republican Party +24,689

Friday we were at 4.46m voters, and GOP at 56,902.

Despite many counties not opening Sunday (Sunday was optional for counties in Florida), nearly as many people voted Sunday as Saturday, when the polls were open statewide. The nearly 50,000 voter net gain the Democrats had was twice as big as the last Sunday in 2014, and nearly matched the 55,000-net gain of the final Sunday in 2016.

Already, 2 million more people have voted as voted before the Election Day in 2014. The Republicans went into that Election Day with a 97,000-vote lead, or roughly a 3 percent advantage. One way to think about this election in comparison — even with the Election Day advantage Republicans had in 2014 and will have in 2018, I have no doubt Charlie Crist would have won in 2014 with the electorate where it is today.

In terms of the partisan difference in the electorate, Democrats start Tuesday morning in a net of about 120,000 votes better position than four years ago.

My Republican friends like to point out that the electorate in 2016 was very similar, and I agree, it is. I also agree to their point that the electorate tomorrow is likely to be more Republican than Democratic, possibly by as much as 150,000-200,000 votes (though I think the latter is unlikely given that Democrats will still have infrequent voters turning out to cancel some of their advantage). But one thing appears in all polling to be different: crossover voters, and independents, both who broke late to Donald Trump in 2016, and appear to be breaking for Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson.

To give a quick example of what this means, even with the large surge of GOP voters in 2016, the defining feature of Trump’s win was late deciding independents, who overall gave Trump a four-point edge in the exit poll — a number that based on polling, seems quite plausible. If that same segment of the electorate had given Hillary Clinton a four-point edge, she would have won Florida by a margin like Barack Obama in 2012, who, yup you guessed it, won independents.

Republicans also will point out, and if they won’t, I will for them, that Crist won independents, and lost. This is also true. But again, if you go back three paragraphs, you will see that the electorate was substantially more Republican.

There is a point at which the GOP turnout advantage could be so big that Gillum and Nelson would have to win independents by something so herculean, akin to the scale of imaging Blake Bortles throwing 10 passes without bouncing one off an offensive lineman’s helmet, that the math doesn’t work. But this is far from that kind of model. More on this later.

A couple of other cut and paste facts from the morning memo:

The share of the electorate that is Black at 13.6 percent, which means Black voters are turning out at a higher rate than their share of voter registration (13.2 percent). Hispanic is up to 13 percent, which still lags its registration, but it is moving up. Overall, the electorate that is about 68 percent white.

Several of you have asked why I keep mentioning this number, and it is simple: Democrats in the last few cycles have struggled with white voters, so the greater the percentage of the electorate that is diverse, from a math perspective, the lower share of the white vote required.

It is not likely that tomorrow will see the electorate get more diverse, nor do I think much will happen to make it less diverse.

The Black turnout is driven across all groups: 2014 voters, 2016 voters, new voters, etc. — consistent across all targets. The Hispanic and NPA turnout is being driven by newer voters. The percentage of voters who did not vote in 2014 is up to 33 percent.

Within that universe, it is more Democratic — Dems have about a 110K voter lead among the expansion universe, and it is more Hispanic — over 18 percent, than the electorate at large. It is also more NPA, with 26 percent of expansion voters not registering with either party, which makes sense because it is also younger — nearly 23 percent under the age of 34.

So what happens tomorrow? Republicans show up, and infrequent voters continue at some level, maybe not as high as in early vote, but still at a steady click So what does this mean? I have been pretty set on about 7.25 million for turnout for most of two weeks.

I don’t see it going lower than this, and while it may be a bit higher, I don’t know that it is a lot higher, mainly because while we have seen a surge, a lot of the surge is really just convenience voting.

As I told a reporter (or two) today, the most remarkable thing is just how normal this electorate looks — just with more volume.

So let’s do some quick math (I NEVER SAID THERE WOULD BE NO MATH).

Dem edge today is roughly 25,000. It could go up or down a bit by morning, given the absentee ballots that came in today but isn’t likely to change much.

Let’s say, worst case scenario for Democrats, virtually every likely GOP target shows up tomorrow, and they win the day by 200,000 voters. Again, I think reasonably, this number is closer to 160,000, but for sake of this model, let’s say it is 200,000, And let’s say that to get there, turnout is about 1.5-1.6 million for these super voters.

At this level, based on how infrequent votes have been voting another 400,000 infrequent voters are likely to show up and at the current Democratic pace, Democrats probably net minimum of 30,000 voters.

200,000 GOP edge on EDay

25,000 Current Dem edge

30,000 Dem infrequent edge.

= 145,000 final GOP edge in turnout.

At 145,000, this means Republicans would have a 2 point edge in the share of the electorate, and as I showed the other day, there are a variety of ways, with very little crossover, and a very reasonable NPA win, that the Democrats win.

More on this in a bit.

Let’s go back to an exercise from one of the first memos — how do both parties win? Well, for Democrats, run up the score in a few places, and keep it between the ditches everywhere else.

The big places for us, Broward, Dade, Palm Beach, Orange and to a lesser extent, Hillsborough. Let’s start with Broward, where Democrats entered Eday in 2014 with a 100,000 voter lead — today, that number is 165,000, and arguably even more important, the county will turnout a bigger share of the electorate. In 2014, the total Broward turnout was 44 percent, and as of just today, it is 40 percent. It will exceed its 2014 turnout, quite possibly by a significant number — and that is just volume, a volume that adds up in the Democratic column. Turnout in Broward has made Florida Man’s driving on I-95 seem peaceful and tame.

In fact, there are 8 counties that are within 10 percentage points of reaching their 2014 turnout percentages — in other words, the counties that are performing the best relative to their 2014 turnout, and of those 8, four are significant Democratic base counties: Dade, Broward, Orange and Hillsborough. Every single one of these counties will be a bigger chunk of the electorate than 2014, and every one of them will deliver large majorities for Gillum and Nelson.

A fifth county, Osceola, is also in this category and is a Democratic base county.

If you take these five counties, currently the Democratic advantage in turnout is 313,584 voters. In 2014, the advantage was 134,439 voters — and even if you just factor in the higher turnout numbers, these three counties are still about 90,000 voters ahead of where they were four years ago. That is not insignificant.

Let’s also look at the two “play defense by playing offense” counties that I mentioned in one of the first of these memos, which feels like 18 months ago now. In two large counties in North Florida, Clinton outperformed Crist: Escambia (Pensacola), and Duval — also known as DUUUUVAL, which is Jacksonville, home of Blake Bortles’ fumbles.

The key for the ticket in those two places will be increasing African-American participation. These are also two communities that both Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott will want to look more like they did for Scott in 2014 than they did for Trump in 2016

So what is going on there? Well in Duval, in 2014, Republicans had about a 3 percent lead in party share entering Election Day — in 2016, the Dems had about a 1.4 percent lead, and today, the Democratic advantage is over 3, or roughly 12,000 voters. Democrats are not only denying the Republicans a large margin in a county that Scott won by 34,000 votes (+13 percent), but they might just win the whole darn place.

I have wanted to win DUVAL since taking the head coaching job for Florida Obama in 2008 — we almost got there in 08, Clinton got closer in 16, and I am going to go bold, and throw a Blake Bortles deep ball into triple coverage and say Gillum go up and grab that pass, and bring DUVAL home in 2018. As for Escambia, the party advantage was 23 percent in 2014. Today it is 17 percent. Chipping away at the margin. That’s how Democrats win. DUUUUUUVAL.

Secondly, Republicans run up the score in a handful of counties and win a few dozen by decent vote total, to counterbalance the growth the Democratic ticket is likely to see in the urban counties. For DeSantis and Scott, their path lies with the dozen or counties where Trump (2016) outperformed Rick Scott (2014). While the GOP ticket is unlikely to see the same kind of raw vote margins Trump won in these counties, they will want the final percentage spread to look more like Trump than like Scott. Most of these counties are in the I-4 corridor:

Tampa market:

Hernando (Scott 47.9 percent +2,013 votes — Trump 62.9 percent, +27,211 votes)

Citrus (Scott 53.7 percent, +8,881 — Trump 68.3 percent, +31,667)

Pasco (Scott 46.8 percent, +2,859 — Trump 58.9 percent +51,967)

Pinellas (Scott 41 percent -39,659 — Trump 48.6 percent, +5,551)

Sarasota (Scott 48.7 percent, +4,972 — Trump 54.3 percent, +26,541)

Manatee (Scott 51.7 percent, +12,356 — Trump 57.0 percent +30,647)

So how does it look there?

Again, keep in mind the goal in these counties is to change the math, like what the Democrats had done in their base counties. In 2014, the Republicans went into Election Day — and today, their margin is 8 percent, for a net lead of 58,107, which is nearly the same percentage margin as 2014, and a net gain in voters of just about 15,000. Sure, tomorrow could blow up here, but what has been keeping the GOP markets down isn’t lack of GOP enthusiasm, it is Democrats in these places are voting. In fact, in Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee, Democratic voter turnout rates match, or even exceed the Republicans.

Orlando and South

Marion (Scott 55.3 percent, +19,869 — Trump 61.7 percent, +45,806)

Volusia (Scott 48.8 percent, +6,434 — Trump 54.8 percent, +33,937)

Charlotte — Ft Myers DMA (Scott 52.5 percent, +8,273 — Trump 62.5 percent, +26,781)

Martin — West Palm DMA (Scott 55.3 percent, +9,220 — Trump 62.0 percent, 23,091)

Just like above, in places where Trump blew up the numbers, we are seeing flatter growth — Republicans leading these four counties in early vote in 2014 by 15 percent, or about 33K votes, and today leading by 14.3 percent, or about 48K votes (with 100,000 more votes cast).

In fact, generally, while Democratic counties are quickly reaching their 2014 turnout rates, Republican counties are trailing; 25 counties the GOP traditionally win are more than 20 percent behind their 2014 final turnout percentage, and 40 total are more than 15 percent behind. They are simply not getting enough volume — so far. This will change tomorrow, but there is a lot of catching up to do to get to the kind of turnout the GOP saw in 2014 in contrast to the Democrats that cycle.

A couple of other quick observations — right now, the Miami and Orlando media markets are ahead of their projected share of vote, while most of North Florida is behind. This should level out tomorrow, though Miami and Orlando will both be a bigger share of the electorate in 2018 than 2014.

So here is where I am. While I don’t discount the GOP edge on Election Day, I do think if the NPA and crossover vote is doing anything close to what pollsters are finding, that edge gets eliminated quickly. In fact, a 9-point Gillum edge in NPA eliminates a 2 point GOP edge in turnout without having to win a single more GOP vote than DeSantis wins among Democrats — and I think Gillum wins more Republicans than DeSantis wins Democrats.

I know a lot of the polling of late has shown it stretching to a 4-5 — and even 7-point race, but honestly, I’ll believe it when I see it. That being said, I will be less surprised if he wins by that margin than I will be if he loses — and honestly, if James Comey hadn’t sent a memo, and I hadn’t lived with watching the disaster for my party that was Election Day in Florida in 2016, I probably would have no hesitation in saying where this plane lands. I think 2016 is the thing that gives most people pause, when in reality, the vast majority of signs pont to Gillum and Nelson.

That doesn’t mean a win is a certainty — if GOP really shows up, Dems turnout stalls and white independents crash tomorrow, that could be a bad combination. For Trump, it took all three of these things happening to win, and while I expect one will happen, the other two are a lot less certain.

Moreover, the polling seems to show the race consolidating toward both Gillum and Nelson, whereas in 2016, you could feel the race slide toward Trump late.    Again, I put the odds of DeSantis winning at lower than the odds of Gillum winning by a comfortable margin — but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

So, if you are on my team, GOTV. If you are not, I hear there are some Jaguars reruns on Netflix.

Tomorrow I will be watching turnout in the counties north of Tampa, and in Pinellas. This where the real Trump surge happened on Election Day in 2018, and where if we see a repeat, we will see signs during the day.

At 7, I will check Pasco. I can’t say I have a specific trigger on Pasco, other than kind of like when Bortles chucks one up under pressure with no specific offensive player in mind, I more go by feel, but anything close to parity is a good sign for Democrats.

Pinellas will report quickly and will report most of their vote at once.

Up, and I will feel good. Down, and I’ll settle in.

DUVAL is also early, and I want to see my side up. Dade early reports quickly, and Crist margin was 50,000 in early/VBM in 2014 — I want to see north of this.

I’ll start checking the urban/suburban counties around Orlando, and again, mostly just want to see margins in line with, or below 2014, as well as Orange and Osceola, and will want to see margins closer to 2016 numbers than to the Crist 2014 margins.

Then heading to 8 — what does the total margin look like? In 2014, Scott won the Central time zone markets by 140,000 votes — so are the Dems clear by at least that? If so, given late reporting southeast Florida counties, they are probably fine. If not, well, you can probably turn on basketball.

Florida is pretty fast reporting, except for Palm Beach, which I think is still counting ballots from 2000, so unless this thing is really close, I think we will have a good sense of where this is headed at a reasonable hour.

Real quick, I want to thank a few people.

First, my friend Dan Newman, who for two cycles has been an invaluable resource to these pieces.

I also want to thank the other vote counters — Dan Smith, Caputo, Wiggins, Tyson and Wayne Bertsch — I appreciate bouncing things off each other — and the thoughts you all share with me, as well as — and I will protect the innocent, some of the national guys who help me check myself.

And to everyone who reads these things, truly, thank you.

As I think I have said in the past, in my younger years, I struggled with reading and math comprehension, so I made Excel sheets, and wrote out concepts to help me think things out.

To this day, I think by writing.

I started writing these pieces as more internal objects in my campaign days, to help me process decisions — and as I migrated out of day-to-day campaign stuff (getting old sucks), someone suggested sharing these to provide maybe a little insight into how at least one old hack thinks about the state and its trends.

Like everyone else who spends time in this data, it is a time-consuming labor — but a labor of love, and I really do appreciate you reading.

To all the candidates who ran, congratulations, you have more guts than me, someone who has decided not to run a few times in his life. Your willingness to step into the arena is admirable.

In the words of Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … 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.”

And lastly, while I have a lot of folks I am rooting for, I want to specifically wish Andrew Gillum good luck tomorrow.

While I initially was on another team, I’ve known Andrew for well over a decade, and I have nothing but genuine admiration for what he’s achieved in his life. His improbable story is one that can give hope to so many for whom hope is a shrinking commodity. I also think back to my first two years working in the legislature, when divided government led to some incredible achievements; Bright Futures scholarships, KidCare expansion, School construction and many more, and I believe Andrew will bring a much needed, fresh voice to the process, and help drive some big ideas, and big conversations. I’d be proud to call my friend my Governor.

Bring it home, sir.

PS — Congrats to Miami Dade College on turning out the most earlier votes, and winning the early voting Team Democracy State Championship. With a top-five finish, look for UCF to declare themselves the Early Voting National Champions.   Thanks to all who voted, you quite literally help save democracy.

For the 12 of you who read my other posts, see you soon. For the other 38, see you all in 2020, God willing.

Voter registration shows 10 House seats most flippable, mostly toward Democrats

At least eight Republican-held Florida House seats should be in Democrats’ grasps — that is if voters vote their colors — while Republicans have two Democratic seats that ought to be flippable.

And another 14 districts, all but one of which are held by Republicans, the voter registrations between Republicans and Democrats are air-tight, within two percentage points.

That’s according to a Florida Politics analysis of voter registration trends that has Republicans picking up strength in rural, small-city, and exurban areas. Democrats meanwhile have improved in cities and inner suburbs.

A look at the latest voter registration numbers, broken down by Florida House District, shows registration trends turning the Orlando urban core more blue are also making Central Florida Republicans among the most vulnerable going into next Tuesday’s election. And that brings eight Republican seats into play, where Democrats actually have more voters in the districts, while just two Democratic-held seats are in districts with more Republican voters.

Many of the most pronounced are in Central Florida.

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes‘ House District 30, including parts of south-central Seminole and north-central Orange counties, has moved three points toward Democrats, and now Democrats have a five-point advantage in voter registration there. Cortes, of Altamonte Springs, faces Democratic Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil.

Just to the south, House District 47 including much of north and central Orange County, being vacated by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park, has trended three points toward Democrats. Now that party has a four-point advantage in voter registration. Democrat Anna Eskamani and Republican Stockton Reeves are battling in that one.

Farther to the south, Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa‘s House District 42’s voter base remains unchanged, yet Democrats have a six-point advantage in voter registrations. La Rosa, of Saint Cloud, is being challenged by Democrat Barbara Cady.

In Jacksonville, the House District 15 seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jay Fant has trended two points toward Democrats, flipping the voter registration one point in Democrats’ favor. Republican Wyman Duggan and Democrat Tracye Polson are competing there.

In Tampa, House District 59 in eastern Hillsborough County, being vacated by Republican state Rep. Ross Spano of Dover, has lost a point of Republican voter registration and now Democrats have a four-point advantage. Republican Joe Wicker faces Democrat Adam Hattersley there.

Just to the north, House District 58 in eastern Hillsborough has trended back Republicans’ way by two points since 2016. Yet Democrats still hold a two-point advantage in voter registration. There, Republican State Rep. Lawrence McClure of Dover seeks re-election against Democrat Phil Hornback.

Republican state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah is running for the Senate so his seat is coming open in House District 103, where Republican Frank Mingo will be facing a four-point Democratic advantage in voter registration favoring Democrat Cindy Polo. There has been no change in the party voter registration balance since 2016.

And in House District 120, Republican state Rep. Holly Raschein of Key Largo faces a one-point Democratic advantage as she seeks re-election against Democrat Steve Friedman. There has been no change in that district’s party proportions since 2016 either.

Republicans saw none of the districts now controlled by Democrats trend more into Republican voter control, but they do have two seats where incumbent Democrats face Republican-dominated voter rolls.

Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good in House District 72 saw her district trend two points Democrats’ way since the 2016 election [she was elected in a special 2017 election], yet Republicans still have 42 percent of the electorate, compared with Democrats’ 33 percent. Good, of Sarasota, will be swimming against that still-strong tide again in seeking re-election against Republican Ray Pilon.

Democratic state Rep. Robert Asencio‘s House District 118 is essentially unchanged in party balance, yet it still leans Republican by three points. Asencio will have to buck that voter registration disadvantage as he seeks re-election against Republican Anthony Rodriguez.

In 14 other House districts the differences between Republican and Democratic voter rolls are close to negligible, and in all but one of those districts Republicans currently hold or most recently held the seats.

In three districts the numbers of Democratic and Republican voters are essentially even: House District 27, where Republican state Rep. David Santiago faces Democrat Carol Lawrence; House District 67, where Republican state Rep. Chris Latvala faces Democrat Dawn Douglas; and House District 114, where Democratic state Rep. Javier Fernandez faces Republican Javier Enriquez.

In five other districts the voter registration percentages for Republicans and Democrats are within two points of each other: House District 36, where Republican state Rep. Amber Mariano faces Democrat Linda Jack; House District 40, where Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton faces Democrat Shandale Terrell; House District 44, where Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski faces Geraldine Thompson; House District 50, where Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia faces Democrat Pam Dirschka; and in House District 53, where Republican state Rep. Randy Fine faces Democrat Phil Moore.

In five other districts, all held or most recently held by Republicans, the voter registrations are within two points of even while the seats are open: House District 69, where Republican Ray Blacklidge faces Democrat Jennifer Webb; House District 89, where Republican Mike Caruso faces Democrat Jim Bonfiglio; House District 93, where Republican Chip LaMarca faces Democrat Emma Collum; and House District 115, where Republican Vance Aloupis faces Democrat Jeffrey Solomon. In House District 105 there is no incumbent, as Republican state Rep. Carlos Trujillo stepped down last spring to take a federal appointment as an ambassador. Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez faces Democrat Javier Estevez.

In 53 of Florida’s 120 House districts, one party or the other has an advantage of more than 15 percentage points in the voter registrations. In none of those districts is that party out of office, and any swings there next Tuesday would be historic upsets.

The most extreme cases:

— House District 108, Democratic state Rep. Roy Hardemon is running for re-election with a voter roll that is 69 percent Democrat and 8 percent Republican.

— In House District 3, Republican state Rep. Jayer Williamson is seeking re-election in a district where the voters are 59 percent Republican and 19 percent Democrat.

Republicans didn’t bother challenging Hardemon; Democrats didn’t bother fielding anyone against Williamson. There are 21 other districts where one party or the other has a 30-point advantage in voter registrations.

Dems whiffed in 2016, so what if they fail again?

For Democrats, the midterm elections have been a beacon in the dark, a chance to re-emerge from the political wilderness and repudiate a President they view as a dangerous force.

But on the cusp of Tuesday’s vote, many Democrats are as anxious as they are hopeful.

Their memories from 2016, when they watched in disbelief as Donald Trump defied polls, expectations and political norms, are still fresh. And as Trump travels the country armed with a divisive and racially charged closing campaign message, the test for Democrats now feels at once similar and more urgent than it did two years ago: They failed to stop Trump then, what if they fall short again?

“Part of what’s at stake here is our ability to send a message that this is not who we are,” said Karen Finney, a Democratic consultant who worked on Hillary Clinton’s losing 2016 campaign.

This year, history is on Democrats’ side. The sitting President’s party often losing ground in the first midterm after winning office, and for much of 2018, voter enthusiasm and polling has favored Democrats as well.

Primary contests filled the Democratic roster with a new generation of candidates, including several minority candidates who could make history in their races. While the fight to regain control of the Senate, largely playing out in conservative states, may prove out of reach for Democrats, the party has been buoyed by its ability to run competitively in Republican-leaning states such as Texas and Tennessee.

Democrats’ focus is largely on snatching back the House and picking up Governors’ seats in Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere. The party is also seeking redemption in the Midwest where Trump won over white, working-class voters who had backed Democrats for years. In Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Democrats appear poised to regain ground.

Such victories would build momentum behind the party’s shift toward a new generation of candidates who are younger, more diverse, with greater numbers of women and more liberal than Democratic leadership. They would also signal that Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration and his penchant for personal attacks turn off more voters than they energize.

A good night for Democrats on Tuesday would provide a blueprint for how the party can successfully run against Trump in the 2020 presidential race. At least two dozen Democrats are waiting in the wings, eager to take on Trump.

But the President has proved once again to be a powerful political force late in a campaign.

Even with his daily airing of grievances on Twitter and an approval rate below the average for his recent predecessors at this point, he has almost single-handedly put Republicans in a stronger position this fall. He’s aggressively appealed to his loyal, core supporters with a sharply anti-immigrant, nationalist message and by casting Democrats as outside the mainstream.

“A vote for any Democrat this November is a vote to really put extreme far left politicians in charge of Congress and to destroy your jobs, slash your incomes, undermine your safety and put illegal aliens before American citizens,” Trump said during a rally Saturday in Pensacola, Florida.

If Republicans hang on to control of Congress, Trump will almost certainly be emboldened. Democrats would be left with difficult questions about a path forward.

For example, how can Democrats assemble a winning coalition in 2020 if they fail to appeal to the moderate suburban voters who hold sway in the congressional districts that decide which party holds a House majority? And how will Democrats, if they fall short, sustain the energy from young people and women who have marched in protest of Trump, registered to vote and volunteered for the first time this election season.

“I’m concerned that if the election is not what we hoped for that people will say, ‘it’s too hard’ and become disengaged,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who served as Clinton’s communications director during the 2016 campaign.

As Americans participated in early voting this weekend, that same anxiety was palpable among some voters.

In Southern California, lifelong Democrat Theresa Hunter said she didn’t take Trump seriously in 2016. But she sees a chance for Democrats to render their judgment on the President by pushing his party out of power in a different branch of government.

“To see his party jump on board and march in lockstep is what’s terrifying,” said Hunter, a 65-year-old retired salesperson from Lake Forest, California.

A few hours north, California voter Lawrence Reh was casting his ballot. Afterward, his voice quivered and he wiped back tears as he voiced frustrations about Trump and his worries about the direction of the country.

“If we don’t make any progress in this election, I don’t know where we’ll go from here,” Reh said.

Material republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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