I’ve refrained from covering Election 2020 as I found myself in an unexpected and important local South Florida role with the Biden/Harris Campaign. Sometimes when everything you value as a human being is on the line in a single election, you have to suspend convenience and comfort to try and do a job, which is what happened for me this cycle.
It was my first active General Election since 2014 and has given me some important perspectives. The last article of note I penned before jumping into the election effort was on the problems among Latinos for Biden. Unfortunately, that article was prophetic.
Here is a top line post-mortem, with a deeper dive coming in the next week or two:
Outlined in my early September article linked above, the Democrats never effectively countered the GOP narrative. The Republicans used propaganda and Spanish-language media to scare voters. This led to a bloodbath in Miami-Dade County. No place in America shifted more toward Trump in 2020 vs 2016 than Miami-Dade. We can talk about how to fix this later, but for now I want to commiserate about the loss or potential loss (recounts pending) of several good Democrats in the county and thank our lucky stars, Daniella Levine-Cava won. She will move the county forward in a way no Mayor of Miami-Dade previously has.
Also worth noting the Latino problem was not limited to Miami-Dade. We saw limited bleed in the Latino support for the Democrats in Broward and Osceola. Limited by Miami-Dade standards.
Orange, Osceola and Seminole County are representing a new Democratic stronghold. Seminole County supported a Democrat for President for the first time since 1948. Orange County is voting like a mature urban area, something local leaders can be proud of.
However, the margins for Biden here demonstrate the I-4 corridor is no longer a reliable bellwether to judge Florida by. More critical would be to look at counties like St Lucie and Sarasota where the Democrats are clearly losing ground relative to where we thought we’d be today.
Democrats are sinking in Pinellas County. A lack of emphasis on environmental issues while pushing identity politics seems to be hurting here.
Additionally, northern Pinellas County seems to be looking more like Pasco and Hernando Counties than it does St Petersburg. Long-term that’s bad for the Democrats.
Loss of “swing” progressives AND moderates
Somehow the Democrats have pulled this remarkable feat off in Florida. Alienating both the left and center.
This is what happens when a party isn’t defined by any set of values but strictly political goals. Values-based voters be they centrists or leftists simply aren’t going to support you.
This has had a corrosive impact on close legislative races where it feels like 4 times out of 5, Democrats are coming up short in defiance of the basic law of averages.
While the Democrats have a national messaging issue, it’s more striking a problem in Florida, a state the national party and aligned groups has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into with little to no positive return.
My simple advice would be to talk more about the environment and climate change and less about, well, everything else. At least relative to the environment, few other issues are of critical timely importance in this state and local voters will tell you this.
More on this in the future.
Duval victory lifts a major psychological hurdle
Biden’s victory in Duval, the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter from near neighbor South Georgia in 1976 to carry the county is a positive for Democrats. It should be noted however, this may have been impacted by some local anger over the JEA scandal, but nonetheless the county has been shifting toward the Democrats for a while.
The Rick Scott McJobs effect: Florida has shifted demographically toward the Republicans.
Unlike Georgia and Texas also governed Republicans, but those who sought to attract high-end, white-collar jobs and enhanced cultural trappings that attract young professionals, Florida is a state that thanks to Rick Scott’s economic policies attracts a different type of demographic while driving off young talent.
The result is an increasingly conservative electorate and one that is unlikely to support Democrats without some sort of massive national wave. The effect of McJobs has not only been to create a brain drain in Florida, it has been to make the state more elusive for Democrats.
Polling way off for 4th straight cycle
Consistently now in Florida, polls over-represent the vote for statewide Democrats. At the local level, I saw some alarming trends as well in this regard.
Polling is a science, an art that seems to be losing its reliability. Particularly in this state. Modeling based on real-time votes and recent historical trends like that developed by my colleague Dave Trotter seems much more reliable.
Florida got it right in terms of counting
In hindsight, the decisions of Republican Governors to “clean up” elections offices in South Florida were well-founded. Representing the Biden campaign, I found the Supervisor of Elections office in Broward exceedingly professional, transparent and efficient. The Palm Beach County Election office was the same.
The national media loves to beat up on Florida, but with few exceptions the county SOE’s performed admirably and the state reported quickly and efficiently.
The state, the butt of so many jokes through the years got it right. Maybe Georgia and North Carolina should be taking notes.
Florida won’t get the same sort of national attention again for the foreseeable future
Nor should it. A state that is more expensive than all but California to run an effective media campaign in, it’s a waste of resources for a party that has more pressing targets and states that need to be defended. Florida should get some attention but not the obsessive attention it has gotten in the future.
As noted above we will dive deeper into these topics in the near future.