Now that the first presidential debate has concluded, we can move on to the next event on the calendar — voting. Yes, even though Election Day is weeks away, early voting has already begun in a few states, and more will join soon. The biggest prize in the early-voting sweepstakes is Florida, and Republicans so far seem to have an advantage. Via NewsAlert, this morning’s official tally from Florida’s Division of Elections shows that 2.246 million absentee ballots have been requested so far, and Republicans have a 140,000-ballot lead.
Roughly, this works out to a 44/37 advantage for the GOP, with outsiders getting about 19% of the vote. Many of the latter will split between Republicans and Democrats, of course, but this year more of them might opt to go with Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, and even Democrats have begun to figure out that such choices drain support from Hillary Clinton more than they do from Donald Trump. In a state that usually gets won or lost by a single point in presidential elections, a seven-point lead in absentee ballot requests is a pretty good sign.
However, looks could be deceiving in this case. Florida will get won or lost in the I-4 Corridor, a series of counties that stretch across the middle of the state from the Gulf to the Atlantic. How do the absentee request figures look in those counties? Not all that bright for the GOP:
- Pinellas – Republicans +5,869
- Hillsborough – Democrats +1,058
- Polk – Republicans +6,694
- Osceola – Democrats +6,635
- Orange – Democrats +21,267
- Seminole – Republicans +2,300
- Volusia – Republicans +6,729
Thanks to the big gaps in Orange and Osceola, Democrats have an I-4 advantage of 7,368 ballots, or about a 40.2/39.3 percentage advantage. Worth noting: George W. Bush handily won Osceola in 2004 52.5/47, Hillsborough by 53/46.2, and came within 800 votes of winning Orange while taking the state 52/47. These seven counties account for over a third of all absentee ballot requests in the state of Florida.
If the I-4 Corridor still holds the key to the Sunshine State — and it’s almost certain to be won or lost in these seven counties — then Republicans might be at a serious disadvantage already, and better hope to win big among independents.