Posts tagged Rod Smith
In honor of the FDP’s dentist endorsed sugar coated retrospective of the 2010 election season, a look at how candidates and campaigns should handle the aftermath of a campaign in preparation for a future campaign.
First, despite amusing quotes projected by some of 2010′s candidates, no campaign is perfect, no campaign is without mistakes, no campaign is without missed opportunities. If you can’t locate your mistakes and missed opportunities, you need to seek help with the process from actual campaign professionals, not sycophants or cronies with titles of professionals, actual professionals.
Second, admitting weaknesses is the only path to correction and (continued or future) success. Often the notion of “protecting morale” is put ahead of admitting weakness, thereby causing the use of excuses. The biggest problem with excuses used to protect morale is that the people projecting them, begin to believe them. Those that are ignorant of the reality of history, including their own, are doomed to screw the constituents of their district again. Please spare us from that – we have too much experience with that already.
In the later stages of a campaign, there is value to morale and the general projection of a positive attitude, in this retrospective time, preceding the next campaign cycle, there is only value in honest assessments that result in improvements for the campaigns to come. However, even in those late stages of campaigns, while projecting confidence and positive attitudes, you must be able to assess your weaknesses as a candidate/campaign and take action to correct those weaknesses or mitigate the impact of those weaknesses on the outcome of the election. This is something that Republicans traditionally do very well and that Democrats typically do terribly, particularly in states of “inbred talent”.
If you ran in 2010 and are considering running again, in 2012 or some other future date, how do you proceed? First you need to start from the beginning, what were the goals set at the start of the campaign, where they the correct goals? Were those goals achieved, where did the campaign come up short? How does the landscape assessment from the start of the campaign match with the reality of what happened during the campaign? Were key factors ignored in the setting of goals or drafting of the landscape memo? What additional goals should have been set and tracked? What goals were set but never measured? Can we go back and measure them now?
Second, look for the most obvious mistakes, identify them and follow the trail thereafter to how many later missteps were caused by that “big mistake”. Identify each individual component of the mistake and think about how you/the campaign could have better handled the situation. Look at both the near and long term effects thereof…such as supporters you had that were lost and the potential future supporters that were lost before they could even be found. Utilizing timelines of different aspects of the campaign can be very helpful, charting fundraising, volunteer hours, voter commitments, event attendance and other measurable aspects of the campaign and then being able to overlay those timelines with the “missteps” as well as the “shining moments.”
Given a thorough assessment of the campaigns goals, mistakes and a complete timeline of the larger events/actions of the campaign, now we can drill down to more specific time usage. In campaigns there are three primary resources:
While many (novice) advisors will focus on the first two, as they are easily measured and leave a direct impression on observers, the most important and the only non-renewable resource is time. You cannot get back time wasted, you can recruit more volunteers and raise more money, but you can’t go back to the beginning and apply those volunteers and money to the campaign retroactively. The easiest time to gain money and volunteers is in the last stage of the campaign, the final 15-90 days preceding election day, they are both infinitely more valuable 91 to 300 days prior to the election.
Look at the candidates time expenditures in the first stage of the campaign, how were the hours of the day consumed in the first weeks and months of the campaign? Was there a staffer or volunteer assisting with the management of time and ensuring that time was utilized efficiently and effectively? Are there notes and reporting of productivity? Did the candidate have tangible goals throughout this early stage or were they flailing around trying to generate support haphazardly? Were long term relationships being built and did those relationships bear fruit later or was time invested that never paid off? Why? Was money being spent in this early stage wastefully?
In most “blow out” campaigns, you will find that the biggest problems occurred in the early part of the process, candidates were not provided with the proper training, knowledge and/or staffing to adequately build an effective campaign — or the candidates rejected that training/knowledge in belief they could do it different. If you as the candidate still believe you can win your race by having a million dollars fall in to your lap from some miracle online action, I can’t help you. If you expect the party (local, state or national) to carry you, raise the money for you, convince people you are worthy of their votes, I can’t help you. If you are ready and willing to do the work, the work starts now.
Through this process one must assess every staff person, from candidate on down to super-volunteers, and assess whether the person was in the right position, up to the tasks and responsibilities they had or would have in an alternate position and whether or not that person should be a significant part of any future campaign involving this candidate or district. Often we are quick to promote people in Democratic campaigns strictly based on the “top line” of their experience, the title they had — we need to look deeper and assess actual competence, talent and whether or not they learned and grew through the experience. Were they provided mentor-ship for moving to the next level? Expecting someone to magically attain the knowledge, training and understanding to do a very intense job through enthusiasm and desire is foolish, and yet common in Democratic campaigns. There are a number of great organizations that provide training like Democracy for America, the New Organizing Institute (new toolbox here), Emily’s List, Wellstone, and of course… MPA Political.
Many of the “powers that be” in the Florida Democratic Party and 2010 statewide campaigns are pushing out the notion that “national messaging” and “factors outside of Florida” doomed the 2010 campaigns in Florida. This is ridiculous. Was National Democratic messaging bad? Yes. Did it have an impact on Florida in 2010? Yes. Was that the most significant reason Florida Democratic candidates got smoked up and down the state and lost the Governorship to an unlikable crook? Hell no. Florida Democrats failed to project any quality messaging while the opposition worked unified effective messaging from early 2009 and through election day 2010. Florida Democrats campaigned for just a portion of the state while Florida Republicans went after the whole state. Fun fact: had every minimally financially viable Democrat running for state house and state senate won, we would still be in the minority in both bodies. In nearly all of the counties Alex Sink lost by 10% or more, we failed to field a candidate at either State House or State Senate. This failure to recruit and even try to compete was extremely costly, we also failed to effectively compete at the Congressional level, even in districts where we fielded quality candidates. Further costly was Democratic candidates being ashamed of Democratic values and attacking Democratic achievements. You didn’t see Republicans, even Tea Party super conservatives, trashing Republican achievements or distancing themselves from the GOP brand. They found ways to provide contrast without projecting embarrassment. If you are running as a Democrat, here’s a newsflash, the Republicans are going to portray you as a raging liberal, whether you are or not. The people who buy that aren’t ever going to vote for you, you can’t win them over by taking stabs at the left or adopting anti-progressive positions on key issues. All you will do is fracture your base and reduce the quantity and quality of volunteer support you will receive. Project strength and confidence in your values, whatever they may be.
None of our statewide Democratic nominees had good messaging post-primary, the first demonstration of effective unified messaging by the slate was 1/8/2011, with the projection of the message that the FDP committed no crimes and endured no investigations under the reign of Chairwoman Karen Thurman. Congratulations on unification, now lets find messaging that doesn’t suck. Being proud to have not (been found to have) committed crimes is the epitome of aiming low.
Nearly all of the emphasis at the 1/8/2011 meeting was put on improving performance in the later stages of campaigning, GOTV, Vote by Mail, etc, where yes, improving systems and strategies for those aspects of campaigning is always good, but problems in those areas can also be a symptom of greater problems in the early stages of campaigning, for which late stage process improvements cannot help. The greatest problems we face are in recruitment and training of candidates AND STAFF and message development and dissemination. Those problems won’t go away because we came up with a killer method of signing people up to vote by mail or a great database for managing volunteers on election day.
Maybe the projections and posturing of the 1/8/2011 meeting was just that – not the realities of the focus of the FDP, just a projection to maintain and improve morale while real changes are being made behind the scenes and honest assessments of mistakes have been made and significant changes are being made to correct those flaws/weaknesses in 2012. But, I’m not optimistic. I’ll wait for my phone to ring, I’m sure the FDP will call me to help train candidates and/or staff any day now…
In the wake of what was a devastating election to Democrats, particularly here in Florida, most people are having trouble finding things to be thankful for as Democrats, here’s a few things I’m thankful for as a Florida Democrat:
-I’m thankful for unrelenting progressive leaders continuing to fight, including these two exemplars of backbone in Orlando:
I wish I had video of more of Rep. Randolph’s recent speeches, his personal, passionate and heart wrenching testimony against HB 1143 was an exposition in courage, passion and leadership. Time and again, Representative Randolph has taken on the greatest challenges and worked not for his own personal benefit but for the benefit of the People of Florida. Randolph also deserves a great deal of credit for his management of Alan Grayson’s victorious 2008 campaign, his guidance brought a great leader to the forefront of American Politics.
I’m thankful for these two leaders and the men and women that fought for the Human Rights Ordinance that passed yesterday in Orange County.
- I’m thankful for science and math.
For too long we have heard arguments that for Democrats to win elections in Florida, they must position themselves to the center or center-right, the results of the 2010 elections show without a doubt that this election was lost among liberal and minority voters. All the Blue Dogs who want to argue otherwise, I’m not interested. Bring me a strong progressive leader, confident of their Democratic values and unashamed to talk about those values and I will deliver you a statewide victory.
- I’m thankful for young people with the interest and courage to get involved. Young people like Andrew Gillum, thirty-one year old City Commissioner of Tallahassee, who has thrown his hat in the ring for State Party Chairman, bringing forward energy, passion and new ideas. Regardless of the outcome of this race, we, as a party, would be foolish not to take this opportunity to have an open discussion of where we should go and how we can best get there. Commissioner Andrew Gillum is doing what needs to be done to bring that discussion forward, to challenge the long-unchanged party/power structure, to shed light on new ideas, and bring in to focus different strategies and opportunities for Florida Democrats. I hope that during this holiday season the roughly 200 county chairmen, committeemen and elected officials that get a vote in this contest will give thorough consideration as to whom to vote for on the expected January ballot.
- I’m thankful for the Florida Progressive Coalition, Progress Florida (particularly their Daily Clips service), Democracy for America (which has promised more trainings in Florida in 2011/2012), and all of the fantastic activists, bloggers, organizers and people from all walks of life that make the Florida Democratic Party a vibrant hub of America’s political culture. The path to holding the White House in 2012 is widest right here in Florida, we must get up, dust ourselves off and dig back in. The fight starts now.
The easiest way would be to diminish the support for Democratic candidates among minority communities. Enter the aftermath of Florida’s victory on 5&6, a legal challenge led by prominent black leader, Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville/Orlando) and prominent Cuban leader, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) to block 5&6 on the basis of detriment to black and Hispanic representation.
I will not waste time hashing out whether or not their claim has merit, though I find it without merit, but rather focus my concern on how this will impact the Democratic party regardless of the outcome. The racial equality components of the Voting Rights Act are Federal Law and must be adhered to regardless of state redistricting policy. 5&6 will be utilized within those confines, reducing the incumbent friendly absurdly shaped districts but maintaining majority-minority (or near majority) districts.
The media will be eager to cover a dispute between the Democratic Party and a number of key constituencies of the Democratic party. There will be briefings filed, legal processes, press releases launched and interviews on local, state and national TV. None of it will be focused on what we should be talking about. It will be at best a distraction and at worst, a public relations nightmare. The discussions in the media will not be centered around the tremendous leap forward in Democracy 5&6 represent, it won’t be about the underhanded efforts of the (Republican) opponents to add opposing measures to the ballot, it won’t be about how badly the current and incoming legislatures misrepresent the people of Florida on so many issues. The focus will be about racial conflict where little exists, relatively small disagreements inflated to maximum proportions to sell newspapers and gain TV viewers. At the end of the battle, the loser, regardless of legal outcomes, will be the Florida Democratic Party – if the FDP is seen as the primary defending force of 5&6, which is exactly what it will be if Rod Smith runs the defense of 5&6 and serves as Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. One might even question the desirability of him heading the defense of 5&6 should he not seek the chairmanship officially, as the Democratic Nominee for LG and a past candidate for Governor as a Democrat, there is no doubt he is part of the “Democratic Establishment.”
The notion of one person occupying both of those roles is foolish at best…but really malpractice is the best word I can come up with. This idea flies in the face of the atmosphere that the Fair Districts campaign was based on, separating party from the issue and focusing on what is best for the people of Florida. Why would we abandon that attitude now in such a big way?
I encourage Democratic leaders to step forward and help lead the discussion about why 5&6 are good for Florida, I also hope they restrain their role to unofficial – cheerleaders and counter weights to the attacks lobbed by their Republican counterparts. Let people unaffiliated with the party take up the defense, in a vigorous manner, with minimized detriment to the Democratic Party.
Those in the media, the opposition party and supporters thereof, will do their best to take full advantage of the situation. Images that reflect poorly on our party will be easy to find, emphasizing racial and class based rifts, ignoring the much larger chasms of the same regard within the Republican party. Discussions of the failures of Democrats to correct or even understand issues within minority communities will be given center stage for the duration of the process, re-hashed with each new development, however insignificant. The Republicans know that they just need to suppress minority turnout for Democrats a small percentage to secure victory the Republican Presidential nominee and the nominee for Bill Nelson’s Senate seat (George Lemuix?), not to mention down ticket pickups at all levels.
We must make the 2012 election one of expansion and growth, not retraction. We must have a full time party chair, dedicated to recruiting candidates, developing and disseminating a message, overseeing strategy, training and execution, on a much higher level than the FDP has been operating at in recent years. We need contested primaries and we need candidates that will be proud of their Democratic values.
One attribute being peddled as “key to being a successful chairman” I have seen repeated often is that the next chair must be able to raise money. Indicating there is a talent or history required to show this – in most situations, this is valid, though less of a priority then one might think – more important is the willingness and time to do the work needed to fund raise, the institution and success/competence thereof will drive fundraising, regardless of the talent level of the chairmen. In other words, it is like gym class, the effort is what is graded, not the talent. This is more true than ever in the 2012 election cycle. As in 2008, a guy from Chicago will be on the ballot. President Barack Obama will be seeking re-election, Florida is a crucial swing state and fund raising will not be a challenge for the Presidential campaign, DNC or state parties. It only takes effort. A part time chairman is NOT ACCEPTABLE – this is a full time job that needs a full time commitment. Anyone not willing to give that, and more (40 hours/week doesn’t get the job done) should not apply.
For candidates, the talent of fund raising is more important, but also it is incumbent on the FDP to do more to ensure that all our candidates are better trained at fund raising and all other aspects of campaigning. We left a lot of votes on the table due to inadequate or non-existent training in 2008 and 2010, we must do better in 2012.
Show me… a chairman who will dedicate themselves to improving the way the FDP operates, increasing the talent level of staff and county DEC members through training where possible and replacement where necessary. A chair that will not only recruit candidates themselves, but will provide the resources for staff (current or new) that will systematically work to fill as many races in all 67 counties with viable candidates that can inspire and disseminate the Democratic message. A chair that will encourage primaries rather than compromise the values of the party to avoid them. A chair that will do more to involve young people, minorities and technology. A chair that will act with independence from establishment figures, putting the party as a whole above the election or re-election of any one individual. Show me that chair and I’ll get excited in a hurry…
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.
Starting 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.
On 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%.
In 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.
On Sunday, I posted my turnout projections for the Florida Governor’s race, let’s see how I did…
First, the ugly – counties where I was off by 10% or more either direction:
Nine of 67 counties had projections off by 10%, all experience greater than 10% more turnout than expected. No counties showed >10% less turnout than projected. Sumter was the worst with 9,021 more people showing up than were projected, a whopping 27.5% difference. Nearly all of these nine counties are Republican base counties, with Democratic performance goals at or under 40%, the exceptions are Gadsden (65% Democratic performance) and Calhoun (45% performance).
Next, let’s look at the counties that fell between 5% and 10% difference from projections:
Twenty four of Florida’s 67 counties fall in this category, of all types and sizes. The surprises in this category include Duval (Jacksonville), where local activists, media, etc were decrying the horrifically low turnout during early voting, particularly among Democrats and minorities. In the end, Duval exceeded historical projections by 5.5%, roughly 13,000 votes – and Alex Sink significantly over performed in the county at around 45% as well.
Orange county was more than 20,000 votes over projection but was more than offset by under performance in Democratic strongholds Broward (42,000 voters short) and Palm Beach (24,000 voters under). Some of these may see some upward correction with full canvasses of absentee and provisional ballots, and Broward is still reporting a couple precincts unreported — but it wont erase a deficit of 42,000.
Lee county saw 10,000 more voters than expected with slightly better than expected performance for Sink (.85%) — I’ll give the credit to the Lee County Young Democrats for that. On the other side, it looks like another county where the Republicans were able to turnout a large number of “unlikely voters” for Rick Scott. This is the demonstration of a campaign with unlimited funding that puts the money to good use. Seminole, Lake,, Collier and Marion are all strong Republican counties as well. St. Lucie, 7,388 votes under projection is a Democratic county, joining Broward and Palm Beach.
The sheer win:
These are counties where turnout performance was within 5% of projections, 34 of Florida’s 67 counties. Ten within 1% – more counties were within 1% than were off by 10% or greater.
This is the largest segment and has a wide range of counties, spanning the spectrum. Miami-Dade saw nearly 12,000 more voters than expected, probably due to the significant effort put up there by Kendrick Meek and Dan Gelber. Hillsborough and Pinellas, homes of Tampa and St. Petersburg were key focus points for the Alex Sink and FDP/OFA coordinated campaign – both under performed in turnout by roughly 10,000 votes each. I was pretty shocked by that, clearly the quality of the campaigns and particularly their GOTV efforts need to be looked at with great scrutiny. Just throwing bodies at it doesn’t work, you need training and focus to deliver results. Having a campaign/candidate with a message and appeal would probably help as well.
At nearly 5% under turnout projections, Alachua was a huge let down – home of Rod Smith and one of the most progressive counties in the state, we needed those 3800 voters to show up. Volusia was a strong performer for Obama in 2008, 2010 was a different story, 7,000 voters under projections and they voted slightly more Republican than we needed.
Overall, I nailed it. 13,510 move votes were cast than projected, a difference of 0.26%. I’m generally happy with anything inside of 3.5%, though I prefer to be over rather than under, but inside of 1%, it shouldn’t matter either way. I do wish more of the people that had shown up were Democrats or voted for Democrats, but that is the fault of the campaigns and candidates, not the voters.
UPDATE @ 3:20AM — With additional numbers in from Hillsborough showing VERY POOR (sub 50%) performance by the Sink/Smith campaign, this one looks over pending recount. Very disturbing results and tragic for the people of Florida if this isn’t overcome by massive turnout in the remaining outstanding precincts/absentees/provisionals tilted heavily in Sink’s favor or a successful recount flipping it over.
…when Palm Beach and the rest of South Florida is fully counted, we should have a victory for Alex Sink.
I previously posted turnout projections and vote/% goals for Sink’s campaign, here are some comparisons, NOTE!! these numbers are unofficial and incomplete, we are still waiting on additional votes to be counted in several counties. Additionally it appears the Florida Division of Elections lops off Write-in votes in the election night process, so there are a few additional votes in every county not included in these totals.
If you focus on Palm Beach and Broward you will note they are under projections while the adjacent large Democratic County of Miami-Dade is over projections. This is where the Bulk of Sink’s votes need to come from to close the gap. Significant over performance in Duval, Leon, Orange and Seminole counties bodes well for Sink, under performance in Palm Beach is dragging her down, if that is corrected with the remaining precincts, we should see the race flip over to a narrow Sink victory.
The negative side is that turnout exceeded expectations in many of the smaller counties, and it was purely “unlikely voters” who pulled the lever for Scott, the impact of outspending your opponent 6 to 1. Santa Rosa is a good example of this, and you can also see significant under performance in turnout and slightly less than the goal percentage in the strong progressive county of Alachua, home of Sink’s running mate, Rod Smith.
The under performance currently reflected in Hillsborough is the most striking, home of the Sink HQ and basically her home community, the focus of her campaign’s efforts and home to a number of fantastic activists. Maybe there are more votes to be counted there as well that could impact the outcome significantly. One has to wonder how much the ‘Charlie Crist’ factor contributed to the outcome in the greater Tampa area, where he performed well and Democrats underperformed.
ALL NUMBERS ARE UNOFFICIAL!!! INCOMPLETE RESULTS!!! ENTIRE POST MAY BE INVALIDATED BY DATA RELEASE DURING POSTING!
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.