Florida Midterms Will Determine if Florida Will Join Left Column in November
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – October 22, 2018
With just 14 days left before the midterm elections, the pre-midterm obsession with trends in close House and Senate races has become so powerful at the moment that force of narrative and emotion have taken over where facts and reason (and sanity) once stood. Most polls suggest the race is effectively tied, as is typical in Florida, the nation’s largest presidential swing state. I am confident of one thing: This election is going to be very close…
The last four major statewide elections in Florida have been decided by a single percentage point: President Donald Trump's 2016 win, Gov. Rick Scott's two victories in 2010 and 2014, and President Barack Obama's re-election victory in 2012.
The stakes in Florida's closely-watched midterm election will intensify starting Monday as the state's largest counties provide up to 14 straight days of early voting.
The size of the crowds at early voting sites will be one test of whether a blue wave exists among Florida Democrats. They have historically favored early voting more than Republicans, who usually prefer voting by mail or in person on election day.
In the last midterm election four years ago, more than 555,000 Democrats voted early compared to about 519,000 Republicans. However, so far in this election, Republicans are outpacing Democrats in returning mail ballots.
But the Democrats believe that these numbers are not indicative and are confident that they will be able to turn the situation around.
Democratic mayor of Tallahassee Andrew Gillum was the upset winner of his party’s primary, defeating heavily favored Gwen Graham on the strength of a powerful urban vote. An African-American and self-identified progressive (he was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and received major financial backing from Tom Steyer and George Soros), Gillum offers a sharp contrast to Republican nominee, Representative Ron DeSantis, one of the president’s most loyal devotees, who got an early endorsement from Donald Trump (though the president has reportedly been angry at DeSantis for failing to back up his weird claims about the Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico).
Mr. Gillum, who campaigned during the primary with the 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, plans to hold two rallies on Monday with former Vice President Joe Biden.
Both Mr. Gillum, 39, who exudes charisma and delivers uplifting speeches, and Mr. DeSantis, 40, a former Navy prosecutor who frequently appears on Fox News, proved to be confident and effective debaters in the primary. Mr. Gillum shared his life story as the fifth of seven children in a loving, working-class family. Mr. DeSantis emphasized his sterling résumé: Yale, Harvard, Iraq.
Mr. DeSantis has said at weekend campaign events that his opponent is bad for the economy, soft on crime, and keen on higher taxes. Mr. DeSantis also cast Mr. Gillum as untrustworthy, noting a continuing F.B.I. investigation into possible corruption at Tallahassee City Hall. Mr. Gillum has said that agents told him last year he is not the investigation’s target.
Mr. Gillum, who has portrayed Mr. DeSantis as a mini-Trump without a comprehensive policy vision for the state, told supporters after he returned to campaigning that he was ready for a barrage of debate attacks. The governor’s race has been embroiled in ugly racial politics starting the day after the primary, when Democrats accused Mr. DeSantis of using a racist dog whistle when he said that Mr. Gillum’s agenda would “monkey this up” for Florida. Mr. DeSantis’s campaign struggled to regain its footing for some time afterward.
The campaign was all but frozen for a couple of weeks by Hurricane Michael, which was good news for Gillum, who had opened up a narrow lead in most polls. DeSantis has tons of money remaining, and the two parties are as usual slugging it out over early voting (a huge factor in the state). It’s possible DeSantis will lose crucial votes in the storm-battered Panhandle region, though Rick Scott is using his emergency powers to provide special voting opportunities there.