Gov. Rick Scott's deputy campaign manager, data guru Tim Saler, is out with a new numbers-laden memo that's partly news, partly media j'accuse and partly narrative course-correction.
The memo comes as Democrat Charlie Crist is shifting slightly ahead in polls this week. And Saler rightly points out that what really matters is votes. And Republicans, as they're want to do, are dominating. Actually, they're crushing Democrats in absentee ballots being cast.
"At this time in the 2010 campaign, just over 140,000 voters had their ballots counted," Saler writes. "Fast-forward to 2012, and a little over 145,000 voters had made their choice. Today, more than 260,000 voters have already cast their ballots in the race for Florida’s next governor. And who cast their votes will surprise you even more."
So far, by my count, a whopping 265,651 absentee ballots have been mailed back to election supervisors. Of them, 50 percent are from Republicans and 33 percent from Democrats. The margin: 18 percentage points for Republicans. About this point in 2012, Democrats were only down 2.4 percentage points.
Pinellas Republicans, by the way, are leading the way -- with 18,555. That's Charlie Crist's home county, so there's a good chance a higher-than-usual number of these are for Crist.
Still, what's up in Charlie Crist World?
Here's what: A lag in when Democratic counties (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach) put their absentee ballots in the mail. Voters in these Democrat-rich counties just received their ballots and so they're not included in the totals. So get ready for the Democrats-gain-ground blog when those counties start pouring in.
Still, this is a red flag for the Crist campaign, which prides itself on being an Obama machine. This is where ground game matters. And even in the 2012 presidential race, Mitt Romney's ground game was pound for pound superior. Saler was part of that effort. But pound for pound, an ant is stronger than a man. So there's only so far proportionality takes Republicans in a state where Democrats outnumber them. That's why Obama ultimately won. And it could be why Crist would win.
Note the word "would," not "will." As his been written time and again about the polls in this race, it's likely tied. It's a toss-up. Neck and neck, etc.
In his memo, Saler seemingly ignores that. He instead wonders why more hasn't been written about the NYT/CBS/YouGov poll (which shows Scott ahead): "I won’t bore you with my personal theories on why the mainstream media has decided to give more coverage to a poll of 471 voters conducted by college students instead of a poll of nearly 6,000 voters conducted by two of the most prominent news organizations in the country. But I think you can probably figure it out."
Ok, I'll bore you.
1) YouGov is an outlier. Relative to other polls, YouGov consistently shows Scott doing better.
2) It uses a novel/controversial method of polling -- via internet that employs uses a panel of voters who are polled over and over again....
3)... And therefore we've given it equal attention to the UNF poll referenced here because we gave it its own headline before and there's only so many times you can write the same blog about the same people being asked the same question (unless there's a shift). And speaking of those same people being polled...
4)... because it's more of an opt-in poll that removes some elements of randomness, there's a chance YouGov tends to poll people who might not resemble the electorate as a whole. That is, it might be over-polling people have the time, computer access and interest in responding online to polls -- unlike many poor and minority voters who tend to be on the other side of the digital divide and are Democratic-leaning. So...
5)... YouGov, to compensate for that, needs to do more modeling and weighting of its polls, making them more subject to judgement calls and (in a non-pejorative way) manipulation that can remove a poll's sense of randomness and fairness (some of this was mentioned in this Tuesday blog about another poll).
None of this is to say that YouGov isn't providing interesting data or that its polls are wrong. We don't know.
But this is to say that people who whine about polls normally don't like the result. That's when they start to unskew polls or yell about rival surveys (and you saw how that worked out for the GOP in 2012). And they love to lash out at "the media." As has been said by someone wiser than me: If you tell a Democrat bad poll numbers, he wants to shoot himself. If you tell a Republican bad poll numbers, he wants to shoot you.
So, assuming this isn't just a canny way to fundraise from the base, we'll just call this a case of ready, fire, aim on Saler's part -- none of which should take away from the more salient points in the attached memo.