November 09, 2014

The takeaways and lessons of Florida's 2014 election


Those who ignore history are condemned to look like Florida Democrats in a midterm election.

Before Tuesday’s Republican drubbing of Democrats at the polls, there were warning signs — lessons that should have been learned or heeded — that were either ignored or downplayed by Democrat Charlie Crist, his campaign or his supporters.

Take, for instance, an August column headlined “Florida Democrats’ biggest problem is ... Florida Democrats,” where I noted how poor primary turnout, especially in South Florida, was a potentially bad sign for Crist.

One Democratic reader told me on Twitter that the column was full of “histrionics.”

Continue reading "The takeaways and lessons of Florida's 2014 election" »

November 07, 2014

Breaking down the media-market wins of Rick Scott and Charlie Crist


Whenever a statewide political race is decided by a percentage point or so, it can be argued that every little thing played a major role in a campaign's win or loss.

And so it is with Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, who lost to the Republican by 1.1 percentage points, or 65,838 votes. In 2010, Scott beat Democrat Alex Sink by 1.2 percentage points, or 61,550. So Scott's overall margin in raw votes increased by just 4,288 while the number of ballots cast increased by 581,974. 

Yes, it was a tight race. Money played a big part. Money doesn't buy an election. But it puts a downpayment on it. And Scott not only outmuscled Crist in media message, the governor vastly improved his numbers in North Florida.

In the three North Florida media markets Scott won, he improved his 2010 margin by almost 90,000 and and in the two he lost, Scott also improved his margin by nearly 20,000.

Crist improved on Sink's margins in the two Southeast Florida media markets by 96,000. But, consider how Scott fared in North Florida, it wasn't enough.

Here's our first day-after story on the race and the graphic that went with it, breaking down the media markets.

Fixed Graphic for Marc

November 04, 2014

South Florida's light voting great for Rick Scott, bad for Charlie Crist. But indies might save the Dem


As the polls are about to close, Gov. Rick Scott's team should be feeling a little more confident because Democrat-rich South Florida is doing what it does in midterms: not voting in strong numbers.

Miami-Dade is reporting that 183,000 people had voted as of 6 p.m. on Election Day. Add that to the 293,000 who had absentee and early voted, and the county's turnout was just under 37 percent with one hour to go. 

Broward County might be in a similar position.

As of 3:15 p.m., when turnout gets slowest, Broward County reported Election Day turnout at 136,000. That was on top of 248,000 who had voted before Election Day by early and absentee ballot. And that puts turnout at roughly 36 percent.

In a sign of desperation, Charlie Crist’s campaign just issued a press release saying it wants the polls to stay open longer in Broward. It claims, among other things, that voters were turned away at the polls due to re-precincting. Miami Herald reporters found signs of this, but they weren't widespread.  Download Crist motion for polls to stay open.

Considering overall state turnout could be at 49 percent, this could signify higher performance by Republican counties and Republican voters. And thus, a likelier Scott win.

Here's what we reported in April about South Florida turnout:

Year after year, voters in the Democratic region are among the state’s worst when it comes to showing up at the polls. It was most glaring in 2010 when Scott won office and statewide voter turnout was a meager 49 percent.

The turnout in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties was worse: about 41, 40 and 47 percent, respectively. If those three counties had voted at the state average, Democrat Alex Sink likely would have beaten Scott by nearly 250,000 votes statewide. Instead, Sink lost by 61,550 votes.

Crist vows that won’t happen again.

Crist's campaign said it's hammering South Florida voters to get them out, but the reporters we have at the polls aren't seeing much action.

Our freelancer Theo Karantsalis reports light turnout in Liberty City, an African-American area. And he just encountered a voter who's..... voting for Scott.

The Caleb Center, which drew hundreds of Souls to the Polls churchgoers on Sunday, was open for early voting only.

Voters continue to park near the Caleb Center and carefully walk across busy NW 54th Street to cast ballots at the Mildred and Claude Pepper Towers.

"I came out in the cold and dark to vote for a republican," said Shirley Smith, 47, an African-American from Liberty City, who voted the republican ticket in the 2010 and 2012 elections. "I am so tired of people thinking the government owes them something."

Smith, who first looked to see if anyone was listening, then added: "I know I am the minority around here, but my vote counts even if it's different."

There is no line and few people at the neighborhood polling site located in the 2300 block of NW 54th Street. Polls close at 7 p.m.

This doesn't mean Crist has lost and that Scott has won. Not by a longshot. One analyst said the story of the night might be independents, who are leaning Crist. 

In Pasco, Pinellas, and Hernando counties in the Tampa Bay region, independent voters are coming out in droves, respectively: 22, 23 and 20 percent.

Even in GOP-rich Collier Countty, Rick Scott's home base, 20 percent of the voters are independents.

Republicans are boasting that they have more supervoters (those who voted in 4 of 4 elections, known as 4/4) to come out. But Democrats note that they're turning out more infrequent voters. Here's one Democrats' analysis:

As of end of the day yesterday, 31.0% of Democrats who had cast a ballot didn't vote in 2010, 43.4% of IND/NPA, 22.7% of Republicans. Dems have very nearly 80K more people who have cast ballots that DIDN'T vote in 2010 than Republicans.

On the other end of things, Dems have 54.2% of their 2/2s (and 49.3% of 4/4s) who had not yet voted as of COB yesterday; those numbers are remarkably similar for Reps: 53.7% of 2/2 and 49.5% of 4/4.

But, as GOP consultant Marc Reichelderfer told Adam Smith at the Tampa Bay Times, Republicans have more reliable Republicans voting:

"What I'm looking at is how many 4/4 voters and how many 3/4 voters are still out there waiting to vote," said Reichelderfer, suggesting that the Republicans and Democrats are roughly equal on 3/4 voters.

Add that 130,000 almost certain 4/4 votes today to the roughly 100,000 early and absentee vote advantage Republicans had going into today, and the 230,000 GOP lead looks tough to crack barring an massive Democratic turnout operation, he said.

After the 2010 cycles, elections officials cleaned up their lists of voters automatically receiving absentee ballots. The result, Reichelderfer said, that that many formerly consistent Republican mail voters have been shifted to election day voters, while the Obama campaign in 2012 shifted many of its most reliable election day voters to mail voters.

Poll averages: Race deadlocked, Scott could lead Crist by 0.6% pre-Election Day ballots


Heading into Election Day, Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are tied at 42 percent each, according to the averages of 20 public polls released in October, when absentee-ballot and then in-person early voting began.*

Technically, Scott has a lead of .07 percentage points (42.03 to Crist's 41.96). That's not really a lead at all. Assuming the undecideds don't vote, Scott gets 45.9 percent to Crist's 45.8. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie could pull 8 percent of the vote, about the same percentage as the undecided, who are an X-factor in all of this.**

Unlike prior poll-unskewing attempts, this exercise uses polls taken as people were casting pre-Election Day ballots, 3.1 million as of this morning. The GOP led Democrats in ballots cast by 98,000, 43-39 percent (3.3 percentage points). But independents account for about 18 percent of those voters, and they're leaning Crist by an average of about 6 percentage points.

Put it all together, and Scott's lead in early votes is 42.6 percent to Crist's 42 percent.

That's a 0.6 percentage-point lead.

That's not much of a lead at all, considering Democrats have a registered voter edge of about 455,000 over Republicans (obviously, not all vote). Scott's lead could be higher or lower because this analysis includes the undecided. Take out the undecided, Scott's lead remains at 0.6 percent.

Still, a lead is a lead.

What does Crist need to do to have a real shot at wining under this scenario? Have Democrats today turnout by 2 percentage points more than Republicans (assuming there's 49 percent turnout). Democrats would need to cast 42 percent of the Election Day ballots, Republicans 40 percent and independents 18 percent. If that happens, Republicans would still wind up casting slightly more overall votes in the election (including early and absentee ballots).

Possible? Yes. 

Probable? Not judging by history. 

Continue reading "Poll averages: Race deadlocked, Scott could lead Crist by 0.6% pre-Election Day ballots" »

Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day


Voting is going "very smoothly" this morning, with all polls opening on time in the state's 6,222 precincts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said at an elections briefing in Tallahassee.

While millions are expected to vote today, the number of early votes cast could be a record, he said. As of last night, 1.7 million Floridians voted by absentee ballot and 1.3 million voted in-person at the polls. By party, 655,020 Democrats and 791,324 Republicans voted by absentee ballot and 555,473 Democrats and 518,476 Republicans voted early in-person at the polls.

"Voters are very pleased to get out early and vote absentee," he said. "I think we might actually see some records in regards to the number of absentee ballots that were mailed and that we're seeing returned.

"By the time the polls close this evening, we should have a sizeable number of votes already counted because of legislative changes made in 2013," Detzner said, referring to fixes restoring more early voting after Florida's flawed 2012 election process.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is monitoring polling locations in four Florida counties -- Duval, Hillsborough, Lee and Orange -- to ensure federal voting laws are followed. Detzner said these "observers" are present in 17 states, but stressed his confidence that the voting process has improved.

Given a governor's race too tight to predict, the state is ready for a recount, Detzner said. But the contest between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Cristisn't the only challenge supervisors face this evening.

Several other tight races could require a recount, including the 2nd Congressional District race between Republican Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Grahamand the District 26 race where Miami Democrat Joe Garcia is battling Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

Continue reading "Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day" »

Fact-checks about voting rights in Florida

On Tuesday, millions of Florida voters will head to the polls to elect a governor, members of Congress and settle amendment questions including whether to allow medical marijuana.

Amid the battle between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, both candidates and activists have made claims about voter rights and elections.

PolitiFact Florida brings you some of our top fact-checks that relate to Florida’s botched attempt to purge noncitizens from the rolls, restoring voting rights for felons, the state’s early voting law and other claims related to elections. Click here to read our story.

Obama cuts last-minute radio ad for Charlie Crist


An ad for Democrat Charlie Crist for Florida governor featuring President Barack Obama has been airing since at least Monday on a Miami radio station with a predominantly African-American audience.

"This is it, Florida," the ad begins. "This is Barack Obama."

A female narrator explains how voters can find their polling place. Then it's Obama again:

"So if want to raise Florida's minimum wage, go vote," the president says. "If you believe that every child deserves a fair shot, and that it's wrong to cut scholarships and funding for schools, go vote. If you want a governor who will fight for you, not just the wealthy and the powerful, go vote for Charlie Crist."

"Don't let anyone or anything keep you from voting," Obama concludes.

We tried to get a full recording or script from the Crist campaign Monday, but received no response -- either because they were tied up on the day before Election Day, or because the ad was intended to go under the radar. Obama is unpopular, and many Democratic campaigns have been leery of promoting their ties to the president, though Vice President Joe Biden stumped for Crist in South Florida on Sunday.

The ad is airing on at least one Miami station, WEDR-FM 99.1, better known 99 Jamz.

UPDATE: Republican Gov. Rick Scott has weighed in on the ad with a statement.

"After months of waiting, President Barack Obama is back on the campaign trail for Charlie Crist," the statement reads in part." We already know Barack Obama's policies are on the ballot in this election because he told us that himself. But, his new ad for Charlie Crist today means Charlie Crist wants you to know that too."

As polls open, 3.1m already voted; Dems cut GOP early ballot lead to 98k, 3.3%


Regardless of who wins or loses or if there's a recount, this is the last tally of pre-Election Day ballots and, like the others, it's good news bad news for both sides.

First the overall picture: as of Election Day morning, more than 3.1 million people had voted. That's probably more than half of the likely voters in this election (assuming a turnout of 49 or 50 percent).

Republicans go into Election Day with a lead in early and absentee ballots of about 98,401 ballots, 3.2 percentage points. Yesterday, the GOP lead was 100,583, or 3.3 points.

Since the GOP trails Democrats in registered voters by about 455,000, that's the great news for them. It's also far better than the 155,000 early-ballot deficit the GOP faced in 2012, when President Obama won by about 1 percentage point.

The bad news for the GOP: it's a far smaller lead than the 277,000 early ballot lead they held in the last midterm election, 2010, when Rick Scott was dragged to shore on a red wave of conservatism.

And Democrats' absente-ballot return rate has been proportionately increasing. So the absentee ballots that flow in today won't give the GOP a major boost. If this morning's numbers are any indication, it will add a net 2,000 votes to the GOP lead, putting it back at 100,000. But, since in-person early voting stopped Sunday, the Democrats didn't get to make any more large gains before Election Day.

What effects will independents have? They're about 18 percent of the early and absentee vote. Most polls indicate they're trending toward Democrat Charlie Crist. Will it be enough? What effect will Florida's medical-marijuana initiative (still popular, but failing to hit the needed 60 percent in most recent polls) have on Crist (who supports it, while Scott opposes it)? Then there's NextGen Climate, the liberal group that has raised about $16 million to hurt Scott and help Crist.

And don't forget one of the most important elections forecasting data points: the actual weather forecast. It rained in liberal-leaning Palm Beach and Broward counties this morning. It's blustery in liberal-leaning Miami-Dade. These counties have underperformed in turnout and, if there's a repeat, that's bad for Crist and great for Scott. A little bit of rain is enough to keep already flakey voters home.

Here are prior Florida Voters posts and today's early vote and absentee ballot numbers:

PARTY          EV           %
REP         518,499 39.6%
DEM         555,473 42.4%
IND         235,226 18.0%
TOTAL       1,309,198  
PARTY          AB's            %
REP         807,137 0.44864
DEM         671,762 0.373393
IND         320,175 0.177967
TOTAL       1,799,074  
PARTY       EVAB            %
REP       1,325,636 42.6%
DEM       1,227,235 39.5%
IND         555,401 17.9%
TOTAL       3,108,272  

November 03, 2014

Florida: Mega checks, super donors led to costliest mid-term election in the nation

Duelling elex signsIt’s now official: This year’s state elections are the costliest in Florida history, and the nation’s most expensive.

Republican and Democratic candidates for statewide and legislative offices and their political parties in the 2014 election cycle raised a staggering $345 million, according to a preliminary analysis by the Herald/Times and the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections by Friday’s deadline show that huge contributions from out-of-state mega donors helped to make 2014 the most expensive Florida governor’s race on record. The Center For Responsive Politics has concluded that, as a result, Florida has the most expensive mid-term election in the nation.

“Money always speaks,” said Susan MacManus, political science professor at the University of South Florida who runs the Sunshine State Survey of voters opinions.

As voters head to the polls Tuesday, the infusion of big checks from deep pockets increases voter disenchantment, she said. “The average person says: ‘When this money is gushing in to the political system why should I get involved?’ They see the message is all about tearing down, not building up, and they tune it out.”

The flood of cash helped to fuel unprecedented spending on a barrage of mostly-negative television ads. Records show that Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist have spent at least $104 million on television alone, saturating the airwaves at an unprecedented rate. Story here. 

Crist and Taddeo travel through the heart of their base on final day

By Kathryn Varn and Amy Sherman

Crist and Taddeo in MiamiCharlie Crist and running mate Annette Taddeo launched a day-long bus tour through the heart of their base on Monday beginning with a get out the vote rally in the minority-rich communities of Allapattah and Lauderdale Lakes. 

“Looks like it’s going to be tight,” Crist said, stepping off his tour bus to about 100 supporters at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall in Miami Dade County. “But it’s going to be good.”

Joining them were Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, whose organization has been an important financial supporter.

Crist greeted fans and campaign staff by name as he made his way to a small room in the International Brotherhood hall.

“Did you vote?” he asked one woman while hugging and shaking hands.

“I voted the first day!” she said.

Supporters showed up at the site about an hour before Crist did, holding signs: “African Americans for Charlie.” “Hispanics for Charlie.” “Women choose Charlie.”

A pickup truck decorated with American flags and a Rick Scott banner crawled around the block, blaring Spanish music as the driver stuck a peace sign out the window.

Crist supporters booed while a group of about 30 Scott backers cheered the truck on, including Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

“Rick Scott… he’s not a smooth politician, but he’s a guy that’s delivered results,” Lopez-Cantera said. “I find it disingenuous for Charlie to come back and criticize the tough decisions Rick Scott made when he didn’t even want to make them himself.”

Continue reading "Crist and Taddeo travel through the heart of their base on final day" »