With the election now, somewhat, over, we can start looking at the results and getting an idea of what happened on Election Day. In the next few weeks, after the results are official, I will be writing an article about the Florida Vote Projection Model that we updated daily on this website. As of right now, the model is only .28% off of the actual vote total. The model also continues to favor Republicans, a projection it made in the early hours of Election Day voting.
Still, one thing is for certain, Democrats either under-performed or performed at 2016 percentage levels during this election in their targeted counties. Basically, the Florida Democrats and other progressive organizations were not that influential in changing voters’ minds. Additionally, Democrats still treat statewide elections in a matter that defies logic. “Winning a county” does not win you the state. Florida does not have an electoral college.
Improved Democratic Performance in Rural and Southwest Florida
Before getting to the counties that were targeted, let’s look at places that were not targeted. There are two type of voters that saw improved Democratic performance. The first type of voter was Democratic voters in rural Florida. While most of the voters in rural counties had margins that were similar to the 2016 presidential election, the composition of Republicans being part of the 2018 vote in these counties actually increased. That means that Democrats who had voted for Trump in 2016 came back to the Democratic Party in this race. According to the model, between 6% and 20% of registered Democrats in these counties might have swung back to the Democrats side. What does this mean? This means that a county like Taylor County, which had a projected Democratic vote of 20.6% according to the model (due to the increased amount of Republicans and NPAs voting), actually perform 8.03% strong than expected.
The second place that was not targeted was Southwest Florida. Counties like Collier, Charlotte and Hendry actually performed strong than the model projected. In this case, it is because we saw a swing in NPA voters toward the Democrats, not Republican. As was the case with rural Florida, where the amount of Republicans voting was high, a Republican candidate in Collier County should have received 70.81% of the vote, which is massive. However, the major party vote was around 65%. Now, Democrats might say that this is a loss because Trump received 63.3% of the major party vote. But again, the composition of the vote had a lot more NPAs than usual. This, in turn, signifies a shift towards the Democrats by these voters.
I will admit, the above scenarios are harder to understand when you look at the numbers at face values. One would assume that this actually shows a loss for Democrats. This is why having a strong voter model, and interpreting the result of a model, is important.
Democrats fail to dent targeted areas
Now, let’s look at places where Democrats targeted. Granted, I am still waiting for the Election Day vote composition numbers from 13 counties (some of which are very large) to complete the analysis. However, we can see that Democrats really didn’t make a dent in target areas, which means voting habits remained constant between 2016 and 2018. For example, the vote shift in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Osceola, Broward, Seminole, and Duval were basically at 2016 levels.
To understand this, let’s look at Seminole County. In 2016, Democrats made up about 34.1% of the vote, while making up about 35.5% of the vote this election, a 1.4% increase. However, NPA and minor party voters, who leaned Democratic in 2016, where around 23% of the vote in both 2016 and 2018. If NPA and Minor party voters voted the exact same way as they did in 2016, this would mean that Democrats should have in increase in vote around 2.8% in votes if party registration equals identification, as adding 1.4% to the Democratic total, in turn, takes away 1.4% from the Republicans with a major party vote model (Note: party registration doesn’t always equal party identification, but that goes more into the weeds, and that is an article for another day)*.
So, looking at 2016, Hillary had 49.2% of the major party vote. Simply adding 2.8% to Hillary’s major party total would give Democrats a hypothetical 52% result in Seminole County. However, Bill Nelson is at 51.01% of the major party vote, and Andrew Gillum is at 50.29% of the major party vote. This is an under-performance compared to the vote projection model of .99% for Nelson and 1.71% for Gillum. This explains why both Nelson and Gillum have increased the vote share in Seminole County, and are both winning in Seminole County, but are currently under-performing expected vote total. Yes, this was the simplistic explanation, but I used it to show how a candidate can under-perform yet still increase vote percentages.
With that, the differences between projected vote share and actual vote share are not too far off. However, most number do favor Republicans. This can be for a number of reasons. It can be because registered Republicans could have been a higher share of the voter composition than registered Democrats. It could also mean that NPA/Minor party voters shifted slightly to the Republican side. Regardless, the election did not show a major shift in voter attitudes when it comes to larger counties. And in places like Broward, Alachua, Pinellas and Alachua, we actually saw very slight (less than 1%) shift toward the Republicans compared to the model.
The Democratic Party and outside progressive groups
With all that being said, now it is time to talk about Florida Democrats and progressive organizations. As we can see, raw vote total doesn’t tell us the entire story. But comparing registration turnout numbers to actual vote numbers helps us understand voting attitudes. The model, so far, shows that places where Democrats targeted actually showed slight swings toward the Republicans. Simply, their persuasion universe was off, or their persuasion tactics did not work.
Another issue with the Democrats, as I mentioned previously, is that the mentality of the Florida Democratic Party is to micro-target. With stats determining electoral strategy, many think that the more data the better. And, in all honestly, that is true. But the “big data” should be used to determine overall strategy. That is where Democrats fail. Democrats look at where they can find “movable votes”, but, as a result, take their eye off the ball in other places. During this election, we saw a lot of Democrats in rural Florida come back home. But these Democrats were never targeted by the party of progressive organizations. Why? Because Democrats think you have to “win Seminole County”, when, in fact, you need to win the entire State of Florida.
Stay tuned over the coming days for more election analysis. Here is a link to the Florida Vote Model Projection map compared to the actual vote.
*These are not the exact numbers, but numbers used for demonstration purposes. However, the real numbers are similar. Model projected Seminole County vote at 51.88%