Tuesday night stung on a few different levels. I took a moment for the data to start coming out and marinated a little over various bits coming out. As I’m sure we will all discuss over the next few months.
My main take-away lessons and observations:
– The fact that that while African Americans turned out better than 2010 but also also voted for Rick Scott more often is worrisome. With the fact that Progressive Choice spent months attacking Charlie Crist in predominantly black communities, it seems that this may have been an effective tactic for the Republican party. This sets a dangerous president for state-wide candidates in Florida and dangerously exposed an effective tactic to suppress turnout. While the rhetoric driven by the Nan Rich fans – and the continued use of “true democrat” – may have been valid, in the end everybody will suffer with the return of Scott and the super-majority in the house. Progressive Choice was a no show since the primary (as I wrote about here), clearly showing it was created to just attack Crist from the left. If Republicans can effectively pit progressives against mainstream Dems, we all loose and this is something that will have to be carefully avoided in the furture.
– Crist built a huge field team, the biggest of any state-wide candidate ever – but he did so in September. Because of the primary, many of his field offices did not go up until after the primary and this especially hurt in Tampa and Orlando. While South Florida was the focus, many thought that turn-out would be a problem there after the primary and turn-out in other areas could have been increased to compensate. Field takes time, which is something that both the FDP and the Crist campaign did not put in. Field should have been in place in large areas in June – most places simply started to late to be as effective as they should have been. While the “Nan Rich Factor” had a varying influence on the campaign, it seems like the attacks on creditability may have been too much for Crist to overcome.
– Democratic messaging focused on urban issues, which hurt Crist in rural areas more than it should have. His rhetoric left nothing for rural voters to connect too, which may explain his exceptionally poor numbers in the panhandle. Sink did much better in rural areas, especially in the panhandle, and messaged to rural voters in a more effective manner. Women, minimum wage, and social issues dominated the messaging and those did not resonate with rural communities. It showed. Democrats cannot rely on large urban areas alone – the numbers are simply not enough to win.
– The Democrats made headway in Southwest Florida and knocked some of the wind out of Scott’s home turf, which was surprising. Greg Para actually made a good showing, despite a small under-funded campaign and my guess would be that if Larry Aguilar had made in on the ballot and had found a little bit of support, he may have given Matt Caudwell at least a run around. While the area will not not turn purple for years, it may make sense to at least run candidates here (and get them on the ballot!) to keep a thermometer on the area.
– Issues and policy were lacking and the voters took notice. When issues dominated, candidates did better, like Dwight Dudley. Rick Scott’s message of jobs was clearly a hit with the voters, yet many state representative candidates lacked strong policy messages. This is a weakness that should be looked at in the future. Voters like policy and serious issues, but it needs to be as local as possible.
– Some groups are going to pay for this more than others. Unions and public education are my particular points that are going to really take a hit in the next two years. Watch for more sit-ins, stand-ins, and strikes over the next two years, as that will be the only way to draw attention to these issues.
– Lawsuits will dominate policy-making instead of lawmakers, which will be interesting. Environmental groups, education groups, and watchdog groups are surely going to be busy.
– Democrats have to win a state-wide election and this has to be #1 priority. Anything. With the exception of Bill Nelson for Senate, Alex Sink is the lone example in a very long time. Even though Obama carried the state twice, no other Democrat can manage. This has to change.
– The failures of the party are many. I will follow up with a post on this, but the biggest area of failure was no voter registration drives over the summer. Obama won because he increased the democratic voting base and this simply did not happen. This was one of the biggest oversights.
– In case anyone else has noticed, 2016 has already begun and Republican candidates are already declared and fund raising and while the condolences are still flowing, Florida Democrats are already falling behind. Candidate recruitment for 2016 needs to be much better than this cycle.