Yesterday was another strong day for early voting in Florida. Below is a break-down of the data and key take-aways.
GOP: 1,689,457 (41.5%)
DEM: 1,630,927 (40.1%)
IND/OTH: 794,212 (18.4%)
Margin: GOP +1.4 pt.; +58,530 voters
The most recent turnout data suggest that Florida’s gubernatorial election is looking more like the 1-point race three polls this week have found than the 6-point or double-digit margins pollsters had been predicting. It could be a +3 Dem election or a +1 GOP win. Nobody knows. Heading into the last weekend of early voting, Republicans maintain a 58,530 voter turnout advantage over the Democrats, but Team Blue has the momentum with gains in Jacksonville and South Florida that are eating into Team Red’s lead.
- Democrats have the momentum. On Thursday morning, Republicans had a statewide voter turnout advantage of ~63,500. With strong showings in Miami and Gainesville, that lead has been reduced by 5,000 voters as of this morning.
- Republicans maintain structural advantages. The GOP’s turnout rate is three points higher (36% to 33%) relative to the Democrats. When it comes to the parties’ turnout rates, the Republicans are beating the Democrats 61 of Florida’s 67 counties. Moreover, compared to the Democrats, there are 216,000 more reliable GOP voters who have yet to cast a ballot. Among these, 158,000 voted in 2014. Typically, this has given Republicans an advantage on Election Day.
- Hurricane Michael is Hurting Republicans. Of the 22 counties where Republicans are under-performing by five points or more their statewide turnout of 36%, 10 of them are in the northwest panhandle zone that was impacted by Hurricane Michael. This is depressing turnout for both parties, though it’s hurting the GOP a little more by reducing its statewide margin by about 3,700 votes at this stage (assuming the turnout rate for both parties in these 10 counties matched their respective statewide turnout percentages). This could be a significant problem for Republicans if the turnout does not pickup in this area over the next few days.
- Lagging Latino Turnout Continues Being a Problem for Democrats. Florida Hispanics, most of which lean Democrat, are 16.6% of the state’s registered voters, yet make-up just 12% of the voters who have cast a ballot this cycle. This is a problem for Democrats, particularly in southern Florida where they are counting on non-Cuban Hispanics to help make-up for GOP margins in the northern and southwest parts of the state.
- Cuban Voters May Keep Florida Red. As we’ve been seeing all week, Miami-Dade Republicans, 7 out of 10 of whom are Cuban American, continue outpacing Democrats by 6.5 points (37.1% to 30.6%) when it comes to turnout rates in the state’s most populous county. In recent elections, Democrats have run the tables on Republicans in Miami-Dade (Hillary Clinton and Charlie Crist won the County by 30 and 19 points, respectively). However, with older Cuban American voters turning out in large numbers and poor turnout by other Hispanics, the Miami-Dade electorate is heading into the last weekend of early voting as 44% GOP vs. 34% Democrat, six points short of Team Blue’s voter registration advantage, similar to where it ended up in 2014, and well short of the 15-point lead Democrats had in 2016. If Florida stays in the red column on Election Night, look to the Cuban American vote as one of the reasons.
- GOP Turnout is Exploding in the Naples Media Market. GOP turnout is at or nearing 50% (14 points higher than the statewide average) in the three largest counties within the Naples / Fort Myers media market. In Lee County (where President Trump held a rally earlier this week in the city of Estero), 50.1% of GOP voters have cast a vote. Meanwhile, over in Charlotte and Collier counties, Republican turnout is at 46% and 49%, respectively.
- Black Voters are #BringingItHome in Jacksonville. In 2014, 60% of Republicans in Duval County went to the polls, compared to 48% of Democratic voters. The GOP’s 12-point turnout rate advantage has all but collapsed this year. Thirty-two percent of Duval Republicans have cast a ballot thus far, compared with 30% of Democrats. So, what’s the problem? In terms of voter registration, Duval is a Democratic-leaning county. With a strong African-American voter push, Democrats are winning the Duval turnout war by 4,000 voters. Is it possible that GOP voters prefer to cast a ballot on Election Day? Perhaps, but it’s worth noting that in 2014, the same percentage of voters from both parties cast their vote on Election Day. Rick Scott went on to win Duval County that year by 34,000 votes. Nearly 3 out of 10 voters (28%) in Duval are African American. If Mayor Andrew Gillum is elected as the first black governor of Florida, look to his campaign’s success courting African American voters, particularly in the Jacksonville area, as one of the key factors in his victory.
If you’re looking for a clear reading on which way this race is headed, I’ve got nothing for you. The data cut both ways and there isn’t a clear favorite as of today. Democrats are entering the last weekend of early voting with the wind in their sails, but Republicans maintain some structural advantages; are turning out more voters; and have a larger army of reliable voters who have yet to cast a ballot. In the past, Democrats have significantly cut, or even eliminated, GOP leads this weekend, but God has decided to keep this interesting and thunderstorms are expected throughout the state, which could hinder turnout. It’s also unclear how independent voters are breaking, though most polling shows them splitting about even or slightly favoring Gillum. Despite speculation about cross-party voting, recent polling data show Gillum and Ron DeSantis winning +90% of their own party’s voters. All of this points to a race that will be decided by the party that does a better job at turning out its base and padding those margins that seem small, but add up.
If you’re Team Red, you need to start worrying about the turnout in Jacksonville, keep pushing that Naples area vote, and pay attention to those Central Florida and Gainesville exurbs where your numbers are lagging. Oh, and yeah, start sending thank you notes to older Cubans. #GraciasAbuela
If you’re Team Blue, keep pushing in Broward and Miami-Dade, thank black voters for #BringingItHome, thank President Obama for holding a rally in Overtown today, and tell non-Cuban Latinos and millennials to #BringItToEarlyVoting or find a Plan B, like not ceding smaller counties.
Have a nice weekend!