It should come as no surprise that Florida’s election tomorrow will be a nail-biter. Since 2010, every Florida executive election for either governor or President has been won by 1.2% or less with an average margin of 69,000 votes.
However, President Trump will win Florida because of the following factors: the energy, the turnout, and the intangibles.
As early voting ended yesterday, Democrats achieved a “ballots cast” advantage of 108,000 votes over Republicans. In 2016, Hillary had a pre-Election Day ballot advantage of about 96,000 votes. Considering how many more Democrats have registered to vote since 2016, Biden has not improved on Hillary’s pre-Election Day advantage and has actually regressed. For a further energy indicator, look no further than Biden’s lackluster crowds and events.
Since 1956, no Presidential contest in Florida has featured a total voter turnout of more than 83%, and since 2000, total Presidential turnout has never exceeded 75%. Turnout this year appears on pace to exceed 80%, another factor in Trump’s favor.
As of the October 6, 2020 book-closing, there were 14.4 million eligible voters. A 75% turnout would equal 10.8 million votes. When early voting ended yesterday, a total of 8.98 million votes had been cast. With a 75% ceiling, only 1.85 million voters will cast ballots on Election Day, or 17% of the total votes cast. That would total 1.1 million fewer Election Day ballots than 2016.
While Covid could affect attitudes about “in-person” voting, it is unlikely Election Day turnout will be so low. In the Primary election in August, Election Day voting accounted for 27% of the total votes cast, even when fears of Covid were higher than they are now.
Primary election participation was also higher than usual and may be another indicator of higher turnout in tomorrow’s general election. For instance, primary election turnout in 2012 and 2016 was 21% and 24%, respectively. This year, primary election turnout was 28% even though there was no statewide race on the ballot and even with Covid as a factor.
Republicans have dominated Election Day voting for the last three cycles in Florida. In 2016, 42% of ballots cast on Election Day were Republican. Only 34% were Democratic. If the same holds true tomorrow, with only a 75% total turnout, Republicans will overpower Democrats by about 150,000 ballots on Election Day. If there’s an 80% or greater turnout tomorrow, Republicans should be on pace to gain an Election Day advantage of 225,000+ ballots. Either way, history suggests that Republicans will overcome the early voting/vote-by-mail deficit and bank a net advantage of 40,000 to 100,000 ballots. If Democrat turnout tomorrow is flat, the margin for Republicans could be dramatically higher.
This brings us to the hope for Biden. Just over 1 million No Party Affiliation voters not living in either a Republican or a Democratic household have cast ballots in the early vote period, and they will be a force to be reckoned with on Election Day as well.
However, these voters have been proven time and again to vote for candidates based on three factors: taxes, backbone, and anti-establishment attitude. Trump beats Biden on all three, hands down.
Based on partisan participation, Trump will have the edge, for there has been no Election Day surge for Democrats in a very long time.
Considering the energy of Team Trump, the failure of the Democrats to produce pre-Election Day ballots, and the failure of Biden to win over No Party voters on the intangibles, it seems Florida is shaping up to be a reverse of Obama vs. Romney in 2012.
Republicans hated Obama, and the economy was a train wreck; but Obama’s base loved him, and Romney inspired no one.
Conversely, Trump’s base loves him, the economy is roaring back, and Biden inspires no one.
If Republicans vote tomorrow, Trump will win, bigly or small. But a win is a win.
— Brett Doster is the president and founder of Front Line Strategies.