More than 100,000 people have voted in the nation’s most-watched congressional swing-district race, and right now the data indicate it’s Democrat Alex Sink’s race to lose.
But not by much.
Aggregate and average out the polls taken in the Pinellas County seat since late January, when absentee ballots were sent out, and Sink edges Republican David Jolly by as little as 0.63 percentage points to almost 4 percentage points, depending on how you slice the data.
Libertarian Lucas Overby pulls at least 6 percent of the vote, perhaps more.
Still, it’s early. There's one week left. Much will happen and change.
There are about 100,000 outstanding absentee ballots, which the election supervisor has mailed out but not received and/or been voted yet. The current 100,245 voted ballots (including absentee and a small number of early in-person ballots) account for about 22 percent of the district’s registered voters or 44 percent of the likely voter electorate if there’s 50 percent turnout.
Right now, the data tell us The Democratic Party is doing a slightly better job than it did in 2012 in the district, when registered Republicans outvoted registered Democrats by 5 percentage points.
As of last night, that 5 point turnout edge by Republicans has been cut by Democrats to 2.5 percentage points – the exact registration lead that the GOP has over Democrats in the district.
About 41.8 percent of absentee and early in-person ballots have been cast by Republicans and 39.3 percent by Democrats, as of election data posted last night.
In 2012, Republicans’ early/absentee vote total was almost 3.9 percentage points higher than Democrats. They then blew away Democrats on Election Day voting, by about 7 points. But Obama won the district anyway, by about 1 point, likely in large part because of the large number of third- and non-party voters in the moderate district.
This time around, the Libertarian Overby is poised to get a chunk of those independents, especially if the campaign remains this negative. The poll averages indicate he draws slightly more Republican votes than Democratic votes. And if the race is tight, this could make a difference that haunts the GOP.
Republicans still hope to increase absentee-ballot voting margins and they plan to win big on Election Day. And, considering Democrats’ huge margins in early in-person voting in 2012, the Democrats are behind this cycle.
But in looking at the intangibles we can’t measure -- the campaigns’ tones and reactions – Jolly is acting like he’s behind as well.
Jolly and some Republicans recently tried to attack Sink as a bigot and a racist over her immigration comments (background here). Desperation is a sign of trouble. More broadly, after running hard right, Jolly appears to be running back to the center. Course corrections are a sign you’re not sailing on the proper tack.
Indeed, Sink draws more cross-over voters (Republicans who vote for the Democrat) than Jolly (Democrats who vote for him), according to the last five polls** for which we have crosstabs that show the percentages each candidate draws respectively from Republicans, Democrats and no-party/third party voters.
Sink gets an average of 13.3 percent of the GOP vote; and Jolly gets 9 percent of the Democrats’ vote. And Sink marginally wins independents, 35.02 to Jolly’s 34.6. The topline: Sink 43 percent; Jolly 41 (a 1.66 percentage-point lead before averaging the averages).
Sink’s current lead grows to 3.5 percent if you apply the crosstabbed percentages to the ballots cast so far by party (e.g., multiply the 13.3 percent of Republicans who would vote for Sink into the 41,929 ballots cast by Republicans, etc.).
Sink’s lead dwindles to a mere 0.63 percent (43.88 to 43.25) when you rope in five other polls for which we don’t have the crosstabs.
To restate: this is all preliminary. These are estimates, guideposts.
Albeit, these are the data consultants are looking at. Averaging the polls together helps strip out stastical noise and bias.
But this is a guidepost. It it isn’t gospel. Among the problems with averaging polling is that it equates the surveys of a professional pollster who uses landline and cellphone polling (Fabrizio) with robo-pollsters (St. Pete Polls, the unknown Red Racing Horses) who only call landlines (and in one case, St. Leo Polls, also surveyed by Internet).
And polls are estimates. And these are all aggregates based on estimates multiplied into fluid data. For instance, it should be noted that applying poll averages to voted ballots isn't fully an apples-to-apples comparison because the polls include percentages of undecided people; the voted ballots are cast by voters who have obviously decided).
Also, the situation on the ground changes daily. The parties and campaigns are turning out their bases. There’s a week of voting left
But right now, Democrats have more to celebrate than Republicans.