Our friends at Saint Petersblog citing data from a polling firm we think highly of, St Pete Polls have run a succession of articles showing a strong Republican tide in State House races. They even theorize the GOP should be able to jump above 80 seats in the House (a majority they enjoyed from 2004 to 2006 and again from 2010 to 2o12) if current trends hold and thus will have a veto-proof majority in 2015. I am not pretending this cycle is not filled with risk for House Democrats, with the numerous pick up opportunities that are on the map having been ceded before qualifying and the general national mood which is anti-Obama to say the least. But the Democrats have done a better job than some folks might think in doubling-down on incumbent protection and have some other external factors that will help several sitting members who are in danger of losing their seats.
But let’s establish something right now: Polling in many of these races will not give a true picture of what is happening because the ground effort of Florida Democrats in the three largest MSA’s in the state this campaign cycle is unprecedented the party’s history. Polling models based on 2010 turnout are quite possibly going to be off the mark in the largest urban areas of the state.
Per Saint Petersblog:
The Republican incumbents appear safe: Keith Perry, Ross Spano, Kathleen Peters, and Michael Bileca hold comfortable leads according to surveys by St. Pete Polls commissioned by SaintPetersBlog. Perry leads Democrat Jon Uman by 16; Spano leads Democrat Donna Forre by 13; Peters leads Democrat Scott Orsini by 11; and Bileca leads his Democrat Kristopher Decossard by 15. Democrat incumbent Amanda Murphy is up 7 on Republican Chris Gregg.
The Democrat incumbents are in trouble: Mike Clelland, Karen Castor-Dentel, Linda Stewart, Mark Danish, and Jose Javier Rodriguez all trail their Republican challengers. Clelland trails Scott Plakon by 19; Castor-Dentel is behind Bob Cortes by 15 (!); Stewart is down six to Mike Miller; Danish trails Shawn Harrison by 3; and JJR is down seven to Daniel Diaz Leyva.
The Democrats are playing all defense: There is not one single House seat on the board where a Democrat is poised to knock off a Republican incumbent.
No argument on the Republican incumbents. Candidate recruitment this cycle for the Democrats just wasn’t good enough and many of these GOP-held seats are now simply 2016 dry runs when Democratic turnout in non-base areas will without question be higher. I won’t quarrel with the third point either. But it is the second where I have problems.
Rep. Clelland is in a difficult seat and is likely to lose. But I am not convinced he is going to lose by a 20 point margin or something resembling it. We’ve seen unlikely legislative victors in previous elections hang on in tough circumstances. Former Rep. Plakon is no doubt the favorite but Clelland has raised money effectively and will be competitive. Rep. Castor-Dentel’s seat is being worked extensively by progressive groups and I remain confident she will be competitive. Rep. Stewart has residual name ID and a history of over preforming in local elections. When combined with the field efforts of the Crist campaign and other local entities Stewart in my mind remains a slight favorite. Rep. Danish is no doubt in a dogfight with former Rep. Harrison which could go either way. Rep. JJR fell behind in a period when Governor Scott was inundating the airwaves with ads in Spanish and Governor Crist made multiple mistakes on the Cuban Embargo issues. However, Miami-Dade is seeing an unprecedented amount of attention for a Democratic campaign for Governor from Charlie Crist- the most the county has seen since 1978. I have no doubt that Crist’s efforts will push JJR into a more competitive situation. Will this be enough to save him? It is too early to tell, but in my mind the race is still a toss up.
Polling is underway from the firm in HD-65 (Rep. Zimmerman) and HD-68 (Rep. Dudley), both in Pinellas County. I am anxious to see those results because my sense is both Zimmerman and Dudley are over-performing currently. While national trends are an issue, but Rep. Dudley’s strong and firm stand on the anti-consumer behavior of Duke Energy has motivated activists and voters on his behalf. Rep. Zimmerman over performed in his losing 2006 and 2008 races as well as his victorious 2012 one. Republican Chris Sprowls has been too busy playing Tallahassee politics and thus an opening exists for Zimmerman to claim victory in a minor upset.
Certainly some ominous signs exist in the polling done by St Pete Polls but I am convinced Democrats remain in a stronger position today then those polls represent. When coupled with the coming massive field effort the Coordinated Campaign is undertaking, Democrats will be highly competitive in every seat Saint Petersblog discussed with the potential exception of the Plakon-Clelland race.