The following data and commentary should assist some in following and understanding the returns tomorrow night, focused on the Governors race. I will include historical data and some formulas that create history based projections. There is also a bit of “art” in the shaping of performance based on the perceived focuses (geographically and demographically) of the campaign/party activity, and some notes will be provided explaining those below.
Traditionally, history for the previous 2-3 similar races for the office would be used, in addition to other offices for the same “district”, in this case statewide. For my projections, I am rejecting the use of any data prior from 2004 or prior, as too many significant changes impacting the electorate of the state have occurred, making the data inapplicable for future elections. Further effects on the precinct or sub-district level might also be applied on a more intense projection, taking more of the down ticket (US House, State Senate/House, County and Municipal races) impacts in to account. The need for such is minimized by the absolutely minimal showing of Democrats even competing for down ticket races, despite huge deficits in the State House and Senate.
Democrats hold 44 of 120 State House seats, with just 11 Democratic Challengers financially competitive for Republican held seats while 7 Democratic seats have competitive Republican challengers. Best possible outcome would be a 65 to 55 Republican majority. In the State Senate, there is a competitive Democratic challenger in just 3 races, while the Republicans have a strong challenger for one Democratic seat. The current balance of the State Senate is 26 R’s to 14 D’s, leaving the best possible outcome at 23 R’s and 17 D’s. Neither of these best outcomes are going to happen. There is a significant chance to fall below super-minority status in the Senate, and while we are losing some of our strongest voices, few of the challengers running to replace Democrats, or as red to blue challengers have demonstrated such leadership and vocal capacity. For reference, financially competitive is defined as roughly 50% of the incumbent’s capacity to spend (donations, loans and in-kind contributions), using data posted in the 10/29/2010 reports.
Given this “undercard” it makes it very challenging for the statewide Democrats to overcome the “local advantages” Republicans hold. Each incumbent or competitive challenger for State House/Senate is a powerful local surrogate and vote driver for the top of ticket campaigns that cannot be everywhere every day. These local campaigns provide infrastructure, communication, energy and urgency at a more focused level, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, something hard to replicate with paid staff or volunteer organizers. This was one of the key components of Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy, and a big part of the significant gains nationwide in 2006 and 2008.
The impacts of a thin under card are exposed to greater extent when you focus your resources heavily in one geographic region, reducing the levels of staffing, media and candidate time in other regions significantly. If you have a strong under card with supportive candidates down ticket, they can carry your campaign through the reduced effort to some extent. In this situation, with the 2010 Democratic Co-ordinated/Alex Sink for Governor campaign focused heavily on the “I-4 Corridor” (really Tampa/St. Pete and Orlando), the burden placed on the rest of the state is tremendous. In south Florida there is a strong risk of having not motivated the largest Democratic populations in the state sufficiently, either by policy/rhetoric or by lack of effort. Alex Sink herself cites this failure as the main reason her husband, Bill McBride, failed to win his campaign for Governor. In northern Florida, there is far less infrastructure and institutional support on the Democratic side, making it harder to deliver results, but there are significant voting populations, and a large number of Democrats, particularly in Alachua and Duval, that must be turned out to compete statewide. The difference between Obama winning and Gore and Kerry losing Florida can be summed up by Obama’s ~48% in Duval versus Gore and Kerry in the 30’s. Less than 39% in Duval makes it nearly impossible to win statewide, this makes for a strong indicator to watch tomorrow night.
Let’s look at some numbers:
Here we see a comparison of the 2006 Democratic results for Governor and for CFO in the General election. In most of these key counties, Alex Sink’s campaign for CFO outperformed Jim Davis’s campaign for Governor by between 4 and 15%, most of them falling right around 9% better.
When you look at the actual votes, the spread of more than 17,000 votes between Davis and Sink in Duval County, roughly 10,000 votes more in each of Lee, Leon, Palm Beach, Sarasota, and Volusia Counties, with more than 15,000 in Pinellas County and 20,000 votes in Orange County. The Davis campaign is often discussed as having been an uninspired and poorly executed adventure, which accounts for some of the gap, some is accounted for in the differing appeal of Alex Sink as a candidate, the oddity of recently created office of CFO, and some by the quality and focuses of her campaign in a year of significant Democratic gains nationally and here in Florida.
The final total puts a difference of 301,572 votes between Davis at 45% and Sink at 53.5%, the difference between victory and defeat, 162,236 of those votes are shown in the chart to the left, 13 of Florida’s 67 counties accounting for more than half the differential.
To make performance goals and projections, the first objective is to establish a turnout projection. To do this, we rely on historical data, in particular the 2006 Governor and CFO, the 2008 Presidential campaign and current registration data as of the 2010 General Election October book closing. Further projections are made with adjustments based on a variety of effects impacting turnout and support, as discussed above.
The 2010 Projections is math factoring the 2006 Governor’s race five times, the 06 CFO race once, and the 2008 Presidential race once. The second column provides a goal for the Alex Sink/Rod Smith campaign that is based on the 2006 Governors race, increased by between 0 and 9%, based on the Sink/Smith’s campaigns strengths and focuses from external perception and public polling data where available, filtered through an analytical filter (my head). In the next column you find the actual vote count the percentage equates to, should the turnout projections hold true.
The next two columns present the book closing total of Registered Democrats in each county followed by the percentage of all registered voters the 2010 Projections represent. The final column of data is the percentage of all registered Democrats Sink would need to hit her vote goal, should no Republicans/NPAs/Others vote for Democratic ticket. This shows where the campaign needs to experience greater cross over voting, or really run up the numbers with the base. What gets interesting is comparing the Sink 2010 goals to the Sink 2006 Performance, where in many cases, Sink 2006 outperformed the goals set here for 2010. The heavy lifting for the Sink campaign is within the geographic regions they have set as their focus point from the beginning, the I-4 corridor, Hillsborough and Orange County, if they fail to make those goals, the fate of the Democratic ticket will follow the same path as the 2006 Jim Davis campaign.
There are some other effects in play, Rick Scott’s tremendous negatives, the reluctance of AG Bill McCollum to endorse the man who beat him in the primary, and the Crist as Indy vs Meek vs Rubio US Senate Contest, which could cause tremendous upheaval down ticket should Crist’s “reject both parties” message result in significant ‘one shot voting’. As I posted previously, I don’t understand how any Democrat can think voting for Charlie Crist is a good idea, he screwed you for his entire career, bragged about his conservative values, but now he’s claiming to be a sensible moderate interested in helping women, students and teachers he screwed over so many times before? You must have been born yesterday. And shame on the media for allowing him to get away with this crap, for supporting it and justifying it. What happened to Journalistic Integrity anyway? Oh yes, media consolidation.
Could all my numbers be wrong? Absolutely. Could the goals set internally by the Sink/Smith campaign and/or Florida Democratic Party be vastly different than what I have presented in these models? Yes, of course. We will find out the results tomorrow night, everything else will be dominated by speculation and rumormongering. Win or lose, we MUST do better in 2012. We must have more competitive Democrats running for US House, State House, State Senate and County offices around the state, particularly for Republican held seats. We need to do a better job of training our candidates and staff, of hiring dedicated professionals rather than friends, family and “big names”, and a much better job of being proud and loud about our values. Now, if you haven’t voted yet, GO DO IT. If you already voted, spend election day finding people to get out and vote Democratic, AT LEAST FIVE.