Deja vu all over again. Watching the returns coming in from Florida in 2018 was very much like watching the returns coming in from Florida in 2016. In the 8 p.m. ET hour Democrats led, with big margins of initial returns from big counties in south Florida. Democratic three-term Sen. Bill Nelson and Democratic gubnernatorial nominee Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (with help from adulatory press coverage) had led in most recent polls, and so their leads as the votes came in seemed unsurprising, as did Hillary Clinton’s early tabulated vote lead in the early returns from Florida in 2016.
But as votes kept being tabulated, in 2018 as in 2016, the Democratic leads grew smaller and then disappeared. The big counties — trends in south Florida and in the Interstate 4 corridor — turned out to be not indicative of trends in the smaller counties. By some time in the 9 p.m. ET hour (I wasn’t checking on my watch) it seemed that Trump was going to win the state’s 29 electoral votes in 2016, and similarly it seemed that Gov. Rick Scott was going to beat Nelson and that former (recently resigned) Rep. Ron DeSantis was going to beat Gillum. Which indeed is what happened. A state that voted for Barack Obama by a 1 percent margin in 2012, and voted for Donald Trump by a 1 percent margin in 2016, voted Republican for senator and governor by a 1 percent margin in 2018.