First an apology. I had intended to write this piece on Tuesday night, but the amount of time the George Sheldon Campaign is taking up for me delayed me by 36 hours in analyzing this poll. Much has been made of the Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/ UF Graham Center poll that was released the other day. The poll showed a growing lead for Governor Scott, and significant negatives for Governor Crist. Many of our readers and other bloggers have already taken the pollsters to task for methodology. I would do the same, but it is all too easy. My views correspond with pollster Matt Florell’s thoughts posted on Saint Petersblog.
But let’s assume for a minute that the thoughts of Florell, myself and many of our readers are not relevant and this poll was a perfect snapshot of the electorate as it is assumed. The assumptions of course being based on 2010, when Alex Sink did little to fire up the Democratic base and still came within a hair of becoming the first female to be elected Governor in Florida. Now consider that Sink spent much of the campaign positioning herself as a “moderate” or even “Republican lite” candidate who spent very little time and effort on field. The turnout model if it can be defended that the Times/Bay New 9/Graham Center poll took is likely based on 2010.
Charlie Crist has spent the last several months building a ground game that already dwarfs what Sink had on Election Day 2010. Additionally, Crist has chosen to focus on the heaviest Democratic turnout counties in the state with a strong GOTV effort and a populist message. This contrasts with Sink’s milk toast moderate message and her desire to win over middle-of-the-road voters in areas outside the large metropolitan counties. By Election Day, it is possible Crist and his allies will have spent four time as much in the way of resources than Sink did on the ground game in the most important counties in the state for Democrats. In off-year elections, and even in Presidential cycles winning on the ground matters. As we saw from many pollsters in 2006 and 2012 potential spikes in turnout are not always picked up as polling is often based on similarly constructed past elections.
Governor Crist knows what he must do to win this election. This battle is going to be a turnout war. Sure persuasion matters, but Crist’s campaign is already demonstrating that grassroots energy and messaging for your party base matters more. That is how you win modern elections. In the 1990’s “swing voters” and moderates were the name of the game. In 2014, as President’s Bush and Obama showed us in the last three Presidential cycles, working your base is really what matters.
I am not in a position to predict whether Governor Crist crosses the finish line in this campaign as the victor. But I guarantee you he is not going to lose by five or six points as the Times poll indicates and I can assure our readers that he is going to turn out more Democrats then were brought out in 2010.