For once, it’s hard to argue with one of his tweets:
Florida looking good!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2020
It is looking good for him. I don’t know why anyone would bet against Trump there right now in light of recent history given the state of the polling. FiveThirtyEight has had Biden as a steady ~60 percent favorite to win the state, but consider:
— Trump has gained more than seven points on Biden in Florida since late July, reducing his lead to 1.3 points today;
— pollsters have repeatedly underrated Republican candidates there, first Trump himself in 2016 and then Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott in 2018;
— various surveys have showed Trump cutting into Democrats’ margins with Latinos, with at least one showing him leading among that group statewide;
— one of America’s best pollsters, ABC/WaPo, dropped a bombshell yesterday finding Trump leading in the state, 51/47, the first time he’s led in any non-Republican poll since March;
— if things are verrrrry close on Election Day a la 2000, Trump has a Republican governor and a Republican state legislature in his corner in the ensuing battle plus a state supreme court composed entirely of Republican appointees (although three were named by Charlie Crist);
— Trump’s stalled deal with pharmaceutical companies to lower prescription drug prices could still come together before the election, giving him a boost with Florida’s large senior population;
— maybe most significantly, per this new Politico story, the GOP ground game there is cutting into Democrats’ traditional registration advantage. Democrats were shocked by Trump’s ability to turn out working-class white voters in 2016, nullifying Hillary’s steep leads with nonwhites. Politico’s report leads you to wonder if his campaign might do an even better job this time.
In August, Republicans added a party record of almost 58,000 new voters — a 91 percent increase compared to August 2016, the Florida election data show. The number of new Republicans added in August is 41 percent more than the number of new Democrats who registered. Democratic registration, meanwhile, was 6 percent lower than the total racked up in August 2016…
In 2016, Democrats had a 327,000 voter-registration edge over Republicans, when Trump won the state by a little more than a point. Now the GOP has reduced that Democratic advantage by 44 percent. Recent polls show Florida is essentially tied between Biden and Trump…
Ryan Tyson, a Republican pollster and strategist, said that an electorate with more Republicans could have an effect on polls, some of which model a far-higher Democratic voter base than exists and therefore run the risk of making Trump appear to be farther behind Biden. In an analysis, Tyson’s data analytics team found that 119,000 more Democratic voters have switched their registration to Republican or independent than Republicans Party switchers since 2016.
The registration gap between the parties has now shrunk to 1.3 points. Which makes you wonder if Tyson is right about the polls’ turnout models — except maybe ABC/WaPo’s — being wildly wrong.
Biden’s team insists that they have a huge advantage in voting by mail, which should offset some of the GOP’s registration gains, but there’s a conspicuous amount of early “Who lost Florida?” fingerpointing on their side in the quotes given to Politico for this piece. Dems on the ground in the state say the campaign made a major, possibly fatal mistake: They chose not to do traditional door-knocking because of the pandemic whereas Republicans have been full speed ahead, something I’ve flagged before as an error that might end up costing Biden the presidency. What’s especially weird about that, added one Democrat, is that Team Biden encouraged people to go out and protest during this summer’s BLM demonstrations. If that’s important enough to risk infection, you would think basic GOTV efforts involving personal contact would be important enough too.
It’s striking to read today’s story in light of the story a few days ago about Mike Bloomberg raising money to re-enfranchise felons who still owe fines and court fees in Florida. Democrats thought the constitutional amendment that passed in Florida in 2018 re-enfranchising everyone except murderers and sex offenders was their ticket to a decisive advantage in Florida. The GOP thwarted that attempt, though, by passing a statute that required payment of outstanding debts before a felon would be eligible to vote again. That statute was recently upheld by Barbara Lagoa’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and it’s certainly too late now for SCOTUS to intervene before the registration deadline passes. Had that decision gone the other way, or if the state legislature had lacked the votes to pass the statute about debts in the first place, the posture in Florida might look very different today. Because it doesn’t, Democrats will complain loudly about voter suppression even if Trump wins the state semi-comfortably.
As it is, I wonder if Team Biden might consider giving up on Florida in an alternate universe where Trump still retains a huge fundraising advantage. It’s a *very* expensive state to campaign in; given that voters seem to be trending Trump’s way there and that the GOP has made major inroads on registering people, a Democratic operation strapped for cash might decide that they’re better off spending the money earmarked for Florida in the Rust Belt and Arizona instead. Trump needs Florida to win, Biden doesn’t. In this universe, though, Biden and his party are drowning in donations from anti-Trump Democrats, especially since Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. He’ll contest Florida aggressively all the way to November 3 because why shouldn’t he? He has a forest of money trees bearing fruit for him every hour. Money’s no object.
By the way, voter-registration groups are also reporting a surge in registrations nationally since Ginsburg’s death last Friday. Whether that’s enough to matter in Florida, we’ll see.