Inside the numbers in Jolly vs Sink – Was the targeting flawed?

We have heard various theories as to why Democrat Alex Sink was defeated by Republican David Jolly in a high-profile nationally watched Congressional special election last month. We’ve written extensively about the failures of the Sink campaign, who blew double-digit lead to lose on Election Day. The role of the Florida Democratic Party and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the defeat have been examined in detail multiple times on this site.

One factor that has seemingly escaped serious discussion is the failure of the Democrats to turnout younger voters. Pinellas County has a reputation of being senior heavy and the Democrats seem to have failed to “hunt where the duck were,” in targeting younger voters by trying to spike turnout among more independent minded people aged between 31-50.

The failure to work closely with local operatives that know Pinellas County well might account for part of the disconnect on the part of the Democrats to properly understand the likely turnout model in the race.

Let’s look closely at the numbers put together for TFS by local St Pete-Clearwater area Democratic activist leader and numbers cruncher Hal Alterman.

First off, lets look at the turnout percentage by age group.

   18-30        10.7%
    31-40        16.7%
    41-50        28.3%
    51-60        43.9%
    61 +          62.3%
    CD-13       39.9%
Now let’s look at a breakdown of voters over 61.
David Jolly won the election by a total of 3,494 votes.  The spread between registered GOP and Dem. senior voters was 8,689.  Had Democratic senior voters turned out in the same percentage numbers as Republicans, Sink would have gained approximately 2,900 more votes putting her within 500 votes of victory. Had the turnout for the Democrats been let’s say 71% among seniors, slightly higher than the GOP percentage, Sink would be sitting in Congress today.
                    Total Voters        Turnout Pct
All 61+           106, 105               62.3%
Dems 61+        39,277                63.6%
Reps  61+        47.966                68.8%
The post-mortem’s on the failings of the Democrats to win a Special Election that appeared to be lined up for the party have been extensive and ugly. A month on from the crushing defeat, we now have another piece of data to ponder.


  1. So, let’s see. The FDP doesn’t know how to do fundraising? They do not know how to target? They do not know how to look at demographics (besides stating the obvious)? Honestly, a chimpanzee aimlessly throwing darts at a dart board would probably do a better job of running the start party!


  2. This is also due to the over-reliance on “Obamacrats,” Obama voters who are casual ones under the age of 30.


  3. If she had totally banged on the fact that her opponent lobbied for privatizing social security…she would have had those seniors out and voting.


  4. Honestly, here on the Florida Squeeze, we have talked about all of the “problems” of the FDP. Yet, the FDP never, ever tells us what they have done “right” (with the exception of a few new Twitter followers). I would love to hear them talk about what they have “done” so far under Tant’s leadership. It is interesting that they cannot back up their record.


    1. Not respecting Nan Rich will be the straw that breaks the donkeys back. The only chance the party leaders have is to back debates. Without debates lack of voter turnout will destroy the Florida Democratic Party. I am a lifelong Democrat whose principles and values are not for sale.


      1. Joe, the problem with the Florida Democratic Party doesn’t start or end with the treatment of Nan Rich. There is a lot more beside Nan Rich. Personally, I think the Rich incident will come and go. There is a systemic problem with the FDP which has been around long before Nan Rich was even elected to the Legislature.


  5. Dems in 14 · ·

    I work closely with the state party and several elected officials in the party. This website has become a thorn in the side of all whom are working hard to elect Democrats. While it is obvious we have some common ground, this blog has become a repository for all of the malcontents in our party, a hub for all those who mean harm to our party and a deterrent to the fundraising, candidate recruitment and messaging you and your writers keep lecturing us about. We are having a harder time accomplishing our goals because we have people in our camp who write for this blog helping the Republicans perhaps without intent but helping them nonetheless. If you were just screwing around with a blog for your friends it would be one thing, but the problem is too many people are reading this site everyday and getting the absolute wrong and colored impression about our party.

    The personal vendettas of the writers here and the anger of the people reading are helping Rick Scott. Also helping Rick Scott are these constant calls for meaningless primary debates while protecting the Governor by siding with dissident Democrats in the House caucus who themselves deserve to fight in a primary defending their own records of pro-Scott votes.

    I also still await a response to this comment I left the other day on your post regarding the House elections.

    While we all know the author of this piece has a clear agenda a lot of the details in this article I must admit are accurate. We are behind in the house races for 2014 and have to chase things late. Why is that?

    The reasons are crystal-clear but are not articulated in this slanted article.

    1- We had a House Democratic leader designate that misled members and didn’t build up the party infrastructure properly. He was canned for good reason. In the time he was leader we lost months and months of potential planning. He failed to work well with the party in a way that it needed to be worked with.

    2- We have malcontents on all the party committees creating problems and impeding fundraising.

    3- We have local DECs that do nothing. They are the ones that should be recruiting candidate s and they are the ones that should be working the local angle. After all these are really local races.

    4- We have a lot of self absorbed Democratic members of the house most of whom supported the ousted leader. These members rather than playing as a team believe they know more than those strategists that have devised a plan. That’s why the plan is not being implemented. Now you say there is no plan but it’s because from the outside you cannot see the plan because the plan has been abandoned due to the negligence of certain members some of whom you might be talking to you.


    1. But seriously, your remarks embody the problems with the Florida Democratic Party. All of the reasons you have listed puts the blame on someone else and not the state party. It is the DECs fault, or Darryl Rouson’s fault, or committee member’s fault, or someone else’s fault. Always pointing the finger at someone else. And now it is “our” fault for making the Democratic candidates weak against Rick Scott? If that is the case, I need to seriously talk to Kartik about putting high-priced advertising on this site.

      This is where I say Allison Tant lacks the leadership qualities needed to run the FDP. If it is “everybody else’s fault”, then she is doing a poor job at motivating those who need to be motivated to do better. On the other hand, I hear others saying that those who work for the party in Tallahassee are “going over her head” and “controlling her”. Again, if that is the case, it shows poor leadership qualities, as she cannot take control of her own house.

      I think you lack a fundamental understanding as to the reason behind the articles by me, Kartik, Justin and others. It isn’t that we want to sabotage the FDP, but we want it to be successful. Just like a football team…if your coach sucks and you have been one of the worst teams in the nation for nearly 20 years, you need to change the team, not just the coach. The problem is that while the coaches change, the team remains the same. We need a coach that will change the team and rebuild. There is no rebuilding process.

      Also, I think you lack the fundamental understand of how party politics works. You talk about the DECs not bucking up for candidate recruitment. DECs have to recruit for county commission, county constitutional officers, school boards, municipal races, and a host of other races at the local level. Recruiting for legislative races (in any state, really) is usually the responsibility of the state party AND (not or) the party leader of the legislative body.


    2. the old guy sitting on the green bench · ·

      After the parade has come and gone the memory lingers. From my vantage point sitting here on the bench WE have a couple of real problems that a lot of folks want to talk around. Our message is shot gun blast, it is not defined or clear. Successful movements have a simple clear defined message. What is ours?

      What I hear all to often is one person or group beating up on another person or group. Its your fault is the battle cry. We must purge our soul of outlanders and others who are not a part of the our circle. Whatever happened to the party of the “Big Tent”?

      If this website and/or the comments posted are “a thorn in the side of all whom are working hard to elect Democrats.” IF that be the case you have demonstrated that the “leadership” is out of touch with us little grunts. And IF that be the case then you should wonder why the results that the leadership delivers continues to be failures?

      I think those are questions that need to be discussed publicly?

      Anyway – here comes the parade and I want to enjoy pipe and the shade of the old tree here.


    3. Maybe if you spent more of your energy trying to elect Democrats and less trying to tear down this excellent blog site with idiotic comments, this site wouldn’t be quite as popular. Sadly all the posts on this site ring the truth. As a Democrat it makes me sad to read this, but it is necessary to know. For without information we have no power to make the change that must happen within our Democrat ranks.


    4. Demodaysi · ·

      Where is the new House democratic Leader andwhat is he doing that the ousted one did not do? I hear there is nothing being done by him either. I have heard that he is a nice guy, but nice guys finish last.


  6. Cry me a river.


  7. Do you have a breakout of Jolly vs Sink statistics for NPA and minor party voters by age group? The combined total of that voter pool is around 26%. Does the Democratic Party ever pay attention to these voters?

    Contrary to stories of how gerrymandering affects Democrats, a significant number of races can be won via Democrats appealing to NPA and minor party voters, never mind the Republican numbers. If the right message and problem solving candidates are on the ballot, things can change.


    1. There is a huge problem with this issue. You cannot target NPA voters. Why is that? Because NPA and Moderate are not synonyms. Most people think that they are. But Bernie Sanders is a great example of someone who is an NPA but far from being moderate. Many NPAs lean one way or another, and their vote choice is usually based on that leaning. ANES data has shown this to be the case in recent times (idea for an article, actually).

      Now, time to use my favorite statistic. In the 2010 Governor’s race, Alex Sink won the “moderate vote” (according to the CNN exit poll) 60%-37%. As far as the “independent” vote, Scott won it 52% to 44%. Ideology and Party identification are not the same. Almost every academic who has studied the issue can tell you that.

      So, this exposes the problem. How do you target NPAs? One person might be a NPA but leans right, but his neighbor to the north is a NPA who leans hard left and is a Bernie Sanders supporter, and his neighbor to the south is a NPA who is claims to be moderate but has a lack of understanding the issues. This is the problem.

      But there is also a problem with targeting “moderates”. That problem is “what exactly is a moderate”? Someone might say they are a moderate because they are liberal on the gun issue but conservative on abortion, and thus is balances them out to be “moderate”. The person next to them might also say they are a “moderate” because they are liberal on abortion and conservative on the gun issue. Both of these voters are moderate, but have entirely different positions. Therefore, targeting moderates is extremely difficult because you don’t know where they really stand on issues. As for those who identify as liberals or conservatives, we know what they think of the issues, and can formulate a campaign message around those issues because there is a higher rate of success.


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