Express Lane: VBM numbers indicate that Florida Democrats up against it on multiple fronts

Note: The Express Lane will run early today, as we have a space on Twitter at 3pm to discuss everything that is happening

Facing an increasingly popular incumbent governor in Ron DeSantis, Florida Democrats have to be alarmed looking at VBM return numbers thus far from across the state, outside of Palm Beach, Leon and Alachua counties. Not only has the Democrats advantages in VBM from 2020 virtually disappeared, but the return rates in the core Democratic urban counties has been pathetic thus far. In Orange County, the clear issue is Ian recovery, and much can be said about the governor’s unwillingness to permit emergency voting provisions for Central Florida. But how exactly do we explain the low return rates in Broward, Hillsborough and Miami-Dade, as well Duval numbers that resemble 2014/16 more than 2018/20?

The bottom line is two-fold:

1- Despite how lathered up political insiders and operatives get about DeSantis authoritarian ways, enthusiasm for this election is visibly low among rank-in-file Democrats.

2- The GOP has had a mini-surge the last three weeks nationally and that’s been augmented by DeSantis’ being on TV constantly doing Hurricane recovery in Florida. Couple that with a meandering communications strategy from the Crist campaign, and you arrive where we sit on October 16.

Again, let’s caution, it is early and things can change on a dime. And when turnout is this low, any small surge can change the composition of the electorate completely. But time is clearly running out of the Democrats.

President Joe Biden had to cancel a trip to stump for Charlie Crist in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale as Hurricane Ian approached the state. However, the President now plans a trip to south Florida the week before the election to help raise funds for the ailing Crist campaign per The Miami Herald. No word on whether Val Demings, the Democrats US Senate nominee will appear with Biden.

Demings, despite the strong headwinds Democrats face in Florida, is holding her own, and still has an outside chance of winning her race. But alas, despite her strengths, she probably picked the wrong year to run – and seemingly Marco Rubio’s charmed life of political luck, which began in an odd Special Election for the State House in early 2000 is poised to continue.

The low VBM return numbers in core Democratic urban counties has to create serious concern for the party down-ballot. Not simply for endangered incumbents like Janet Cruz or strong challengers like Annette Taddeo, but also Democrats running in what have been considered safe seats like Darren Soto, Jared Moskowitz and Tina Polsky. While none of the aforementioned three will lose, the numbers might become tight enough (under 10 points) to tempt the GOP to take a whack at them in the future, as Florida continues to drift from being a purple state toward being a solid red one.

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