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South Florida's early voting weekend is a warning sign for Charlie Crist


Saturday and Sunday marked the first chance for voters to head to the early voting polls on a weekend, a time when Democrats could really show in force and put a big dent in Republicans’ lead in casting pre-Election Day ballots.

But there was no huge surge in Democrat-rich Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Intriguingly in the three counties, the total number of people who early voted Saturday was greater than Sunday – the day when black voters were expected to have the first of two “Souls to the Polls” voting events after church.

Some Democrats are starting to panic. It’s an understandable feeling. Mid-term election turnout in the big three urban counties is historically abysmal, which is a major reason why Republicans hold every statewide elected office but one. 

This is a warning sign for Democrat Charlie Crist. 

“This is horrible,” one South Florida consultant told me.

Crist should be concerned. And some of his supporters are. But they’re not panicking yet because of two big data points:

1) Gov. Rick Scott is plowing his own millions into his campaign, which is making the Republican-consulting class more uneasy with Scott’s chances. If $64 million in TV ad spending has bought the governor only a tie, what will millions more do?

2) Though Republicans have racked up a lead in pre-Election Day ballots, Democrats have been slowly bringing the percentage margin down over the past week.

Crist advisor Steve Schale said by email that Democrats were doing much better than in 2010:

Driven by a very good Saturday, the Democrats cut the Republican advantage by nearly a point from 9.2% to 8.3%. This compares to the 18.1% advantage that the GOP had in 2010….

African American turnout on first Saturday was up 191% over 2010's same day in Duval, 125% in Dade and 60% in Broward. Over the entire election, African American turnout in those three counties is up 44% in Broward, 61% in Dade and 195% in Duval County.

And Scott’s deputy campaign manager, Tim Saler, instead issued a campaign memo that drew a parallel with 2012, when Democrats did far better:

On this same day in 2012, Democrats out-voted Republicans by 35,000 votes. We saw the same thing during the 2008 Obama campaign, a 35,000-vote lead by Democrats over Republicans.

Overall, Republicans now lead Democrats in early voting by a little less than 2,000 votes. At this time in the 2012 campaign, Republicans trailed in early voting by 40,000 votes, or 13 points.

Hmmm. So the election is somewhere in between a Republican-leaning year and a Democrat-leaning year, sounds like a tie to me.

Tomorrow morning, once all the weekend data are in, we’ll have a better picture.