FL-Gov : Performance Analysis

As promised, here is the complete breakdown of performance versus the democratic performance goals I had projected for the Florida Governors Race.  I will use the same sorting I used yesterday for the turnout breakdown, but I have adjusted the reference of the turnout – each county is reported by what percentage of expected turnout it experienced ie. Sumter is reported as 127.5%, or 27.5% over expected turnout.

2010flgov-topturnoutStarting with the highest performance counties in the state, we see that in only one of the nine overachieving counties did Alex Sink take greater than 50% of the vote, Gasden County, where Sink/Smith took a whopping 72%, 3.88% over my projected goal.  In Union County, Sink/Smith exceeded the goal by just over 7%, with 46.6% of the vote – a small positive negated by the higher turnout assisting Rick Scott’s majority of the vote.

Performance wise, Sink didn’t fare terribly in any of these counties, with Calhoun being the farthest under the goal, by 4.6% with 13.5% increased turnout.  But as was discussed in the turnout analysis, these were mostly Republican base counties, so any increase in turnout was very beneficial to the Scott/Carroll campaign.

2010flgov-highturnoutOn the right, is the chart of counties that experienced high turnout, 105-110%.  Look at the Sink % column, we again can note that nearly all of these are counties Sink lost, the only exception is Orange county.  Orlando delivered for Sink/Smith with 108% turnout and nearly 4% better than the goal.  Sink over performed in six more of these counties, but four of those just resulted in higher scores in the 30’s and one just pushed the score out of the 30’s to 44.8% (Seminole).  All of these increases are offset by the higher turnout delivering a greater increase in votes to her opponent.

In ten of these 18 counties the Sink performance was within 2.2% of goal, the biggest differentials were Taylor, Seminole, Santa Rosa, Walton and Duval.  The 4.6% over performance in Duval was very unexpected, north east Florida was seen as a dead zone for the statewide Democratic campaigns with minimal candidate time and very little staffing.  Without additional data I would wager the most influential actor in this was the Kendrick Meek campaign, led by local organizer Tyler Fort and driven by several visits by Kendrick Meek in settings and events focused on driving out minority and union voters.  I would further posit that had President Obama visited Jacksonville at any point in the last six weeks of the campaign, Alex Sink would be Governor-Elect Sink right now, particularly if his visit to north east Florida included a pop at Bethune Cookman (or nearby).

I won’t forget that certain Democratic nominees scheduled and cancelled stops in the Jacksonville area throughout the campaign – get your scheduling in order before making commitments and don’t forget your base organizations in the opponents base regions, 40% performance is bad, falling to 25% because you didn’t bother to show up or do anything to engage the activists – that’s just sad.  Play the whole field, not just the area between the hash marks.

Sink gets one short smile for this bit… in Collier County, home of Rick Scott, turnout was 109.36%, but Sink out performed historical Democratic performance there by 1.29%.  The smile ends fast though, that 1.29% over goal is still an abysmal 32.4%.

2010flgov-midturnoutIn the thirty four counties that performed within 5% of historical projections for turnout, it is a mixed bag for Alex Sink,  the bottom seven counties on the chart (Left, yellow) shows under performances by the Sink campaign compounded by lower than expected turnout.  Among the seven is Hillsborough, home of the Sink for Governor HQ in the city of Tampa, this was supposed to be a highlight of the campaign, part of the famed un-wisdom “I-4 Corridor” focus.  The FDP/OFA/Sink coordinated effort had a large number of staff working the county and put a great deal in to media in the region.  To have finished under 50% is a huge let down, and even worse when compounded by reduced turnout (96.5%).  Pinellas (St. Petersburg), also part of the corridor/focus, also experienced low turnout (97%) and slight under performance (1%).  If you are going to make one region your focus, you need to significantly over perform in both percentage and turnout, Sink/Smith went under both ways in these two key counties.  Knowing there is a significant GLBT community in this region, one must wonder how different these results would be had Alex Sink been less reluctant to talk about GLBT issues and been more supportive of GLBT rights.  The same can be said for Miami-Dade and a number of the counties in the next (lower) segment of turnout performance.

At the top of this chart, it is notable that five of the top six counties, while mild over performers in turnout, were significant under performances for Sink/Smith.  Flagler county went for Obama in 2008 (as did Volusia and Monroe) and produced just 43% for Sink while experiencing 103.7% turnout.  This is one of the counties hardest hit in the nation by foreclosures and should have been an opportunity to over perform for Democrats.  The lack of support for (and recruitment of) the “under card”, challengers for open and Republican seats is certainly a factor in Flagler and most of north and eastern Florida.  This is one aspect severely neglected by the FDP and a significant departure from the 50-State Strategy employed under the growth years of Howard Dean’s DNC.  All 50 States, all 67 counties, we need to put up strong challengers to every seats, we need primaries and coordinated messaging — that is how you win.

Both Osceola and Leon are striking bright spots for Sink/Smith, slight over performances in turnout with significant over performance to the goal (5 and 8.7% respectively).  Dixie was an oddity, as pointed out by the St. Pete Times crew in this geographic Sink v Scott breakdown, produced 7.1% of the vote for independent candidates, more than double their statewide performance, while turnout remained just a smidgen under projection (99.13%).

Gulf county was a significant under performance, 7.6% below goal, 35.3%, with slightly low turnout (97.9%).  Gilchrist clocked in 4.7% under goal (33.2%) with 96.5% turnout and Brevard and Putnam were also 3.7 and 4.9% under goals as well, both just outside the boundaries of the “I-4 Corridor”.

Alachua experienced both low turnout at 95.1% and under performed for Sink, 1.7% shy of the goal at 59.2%.  This is a strong progressive county that a few months back elected an openly gay mayor, Craig Lowe, and is the home of Sink’s running mate, Rod Smith.  This is another instance of where Sink’s positions and reticence on gay rights may have hurt her campaign.

Finally, we have the poorest performing counties with regard to turnout (chart on right).  Massive under performance in Palm Beach is a huge obstacle for a Democratic candidate running statewide in Florida, this is one of our strongest base counties and a source of large numbers of high energy volunteers and activists.  Not to mention donors.  Turnout flopped at 93.8% and Sink/Smith fell 5.1% short of the performance goal at 58.1%.  Broward, another crucial Democratic Base county showed close to goal performance at .2% under, but was nearly 10% under turnout projections.  Joining the south east Florida turnout collapse are St Lucie (90.4%) and Martin (above chart left, 97%),  St Lucie was a 2.3% under performer (50.9%), while Martin, a Republican base county, went slightly better for Sink/Smith at 1.5% over goal (40.5%).  Glades, Okeechobee and Highlands are adjacent to those four counties in south central Florida, all Republican base counties, and all well under turnout expectations in the low 90’s.  Sink/Smith under performed in south central as well, down more than 7% in both Glades and Okeechobee and a slightly more respectable 1.4% below goal in Highlands.

We also see the statewide totals on this chart, white text on blue background, turnout was right at the projection (off 0.26%), but Sink’s performance was 5.6% below the goals, and just short of victory.

This campaign was a massive undertaking planned well in advance and executed pretty much on the tracks laid years in advance.  The FDP made a concerted effort to project Alex Sink as the party nominee well in advance of the primary, often regurgitating the same tired un-wisdom about the primary date being too late for a Democrat to win after a primary.  News flash, many states have later primary dates and both parties are able to have primaries and win competitive elections.  Rick Scott and Bill McCollum…brutal primary, that must have made Scott a sure loser in the general…Governor-elect Rick Scott…wha?  Three Republicans engaged in a fairly fierce primary for the Attorney General nomination, surely that made it impossible for one of them to defeat Dan Gelber who only had to defeat one primary opponent to get the nomination…oh, oops again.  How about that US Senate race where Charlie Crist got challenged for the Republican nomination…surely Marco Rubio had no chance….oh…damn.   The gaggle of Republicans who fought to run against Alan Grayson…surely that ensured a second term for one of my favorite Congressmen… dammit.  This logic sucks.

We need to adhere to our own rules and processes at the very minimum, the Democratic nominating process needs to be…well…DEMOCRATIC.  I am a supporter of moving the nominating contest earlier, even if it means bearing the cost at the party level, a number of other states are able to do that and utilize the process as an excellent party building and candidate quality improvement opportunity.   I would support using a caucus over a primary in that situation to reduce cost and increase the quality of participation, though one must acknowledge that it would potentially reduce the quantity of participation.

Had Alex Sink had a strong primary challenge, her campaign would have had greater urgency earlier, they would have been tested and improved, had she emerged victorious, it would have given her additional momentum forward in to the General election.  What we can’t have is crappy primary challenges.  We can’t have candidates that argue over petty things instead of the real substance, I like both Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg but watching them in the primary was more akin to a contest for Junior High Class President than Attorney General.  Arguments over who is more or less supportive of this and more or less qualified because of that.  Less about me vs him and more about what you will do if you get the job to solve x,y,z problems and make life better for the people.  More narrative, more message.  No ageism, racism, sexism or arrogance/patronizing towards your primary opponents.  Bring it real and elevate the level of debate of Democratic issues for a change.

One of the other commonly noted flaws of the Sink for Governor campaign was her presentation and engagement at events and the lack of emotional attachment/passion in her speaking.  I don’t know if they hired any consultants or advisors for this aspect of the campaign**, I don’t know if Alex Sink herself thinks she’s great at this, but it was a huge flaw and a big reason she failed to motivate volunteers and activists throughout the campaign.  Many times people have said Sink does not like “working rooms”, I have observed her at many events bounce between the 10-15 people she has preexisting relationships with in rooms of 200-500 people.  That does not get the job done, you need to shake every hand and speak to every person who took the time to come out and hear you speak.  A number of young women commented to me at one major event how she was a hero to them and she didn’t even acknowledge their presence as she walked by them.  That cost Sink a few hundred volunteer hours, at least, and she had another hour or so at the event to make up for it,  but it was never a consideration.

Alex Sink was often over dressed, creating an unneeded barrier for attachment to many attendees.  Nearly every time, or both times,  I saw her dressed casually, her speech was also more lively and passionate and audience reaction was much stronger.  This is a frequently delivered un-wisdom, we need to put an end to it.

The level of competence displayed by your staff will be heavily reflected in the level of volunteering, contributions and actual votes you receive.   They should be properly considered before hiring and paid well for their work, which is a brutal commitment to dedicate their lives to your candidacy 24/7 for as long as you have until election day.  They should be paid until two weeks following the election, win or lose.  The last thing you need on a tight race is staffers looking for work during crunch time.  The pay offered by campaigns in Florida Democrats is generally bordering on embarrassing, with highly qualified people taking lower level jobs in other states for higher pay (and benefits!).  Of course, given the level of performance demonstrated, maybe paying crappy wages is justified…or is it the cause?  The FDP should provide training to candidates and staff early and throughout the campaign season, they should provide assistance with hiring, providing the resources and knowledge needed to avoid candidates who dump a bundle of money on a consultant, staff, etc that produces no/little benefit.  They should provide these resources to any candidate who qualifies as a candidate and is a member of the party in good standing for no fewer than two years.  It is not the FDP’s job to decide who is and who is not a viable candidate, it is not the FDP’s job to decide who the best candidate is.  It is the FDP’s job to make every Democratic campaign better and deliver Democratic victories in the general election.

The amazing but sad truth to Alex Sink’s campaign is that she ran exactly the campaign she said she was going 18 months out, and the results are almost identical to her husband’s campaign, which she discussed in the early part of this campaign…was lost by failing to turn out liberals in south Florida.  Just as you can’t play half the game and expect to win, you can’t play half the state and expect to win.  Trying to be more moderate to appeal to independents and Republicans doesn’t work either.

Join the conversation about how to improve the Florida Democratic Party with Twitter hashtag #FDPideas – we don’t know if anyone will listen, but it needs to be said.  Take a bigger step and come out to RootsCampFL.

**MPA Political, LLC specializes in this aspect of campaigning, please feel free to contact us.