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    Is Florida Headed For Another Bush v Gore?

    537 votes. That was the difference between electing president George W. Bush, and would-be president Al Gore. My family had moved to Florida that summer. During the recount we were convinced that our family alone provided the margin of victory. That’s right, the Phillips household saved America from President Gore! You’re welcome.

    As I look at the numbers for the Clinton v Trump Florida Edition, I wonder if we could be headed for another razor-thin margin. Obama beat Romney by less than 1%, making the Sunshine state the closest race in 2012 and the early voting numbers are providing clues that we may be in for another long night of counting.

    Here are the numbers so far: out of 4,077,521 votes that have been cast, there have been 15,926 more Republicans who have cast ballots than Democrats. That is a difference of 0.4%. Republicans have narrowly won the vote-by-mail count with Democrats narrowly winning early voting. On the whole, the Democrats are gaining roughly 2,200 votes per day on average, which means we are headed for a virtual tie within the next week. In fact, if you project the numbers over the next six days, a scenario emerges in which polls open on Tuesday with 5-6 million votes cast, with a Republican advantage of 2,500. That is a difference of 0.05%. In other words, recount territory.

    Can you say Bush v Gore Part 2? Are you still one of the 31,000 people in Seminole County alone with an absentee ballot on your kitchen counter? You might want to turn that in.

    It seems clear that the Florida election will be decided by independent voters and Election Day ground game. Without a discernible difference in turnout or energy in early voting, whoever gets more people to the polls on Tuesday and wins a discernible majority of independents will win Florida’s pivotal 29 electoral votes. Let’s look at these two components:

    Independents: this group represents a growing percentage of voters. The stranglehold of the two parties is lessening and forcing candidates to walk the fine line between turning out the base and winning independents. We may have seen an example of this difficulty in our Orlando Politics op-ed review of the August 30th vote in Seminole, in which we saw a surge in non-traditional voters coinciding with a bleed of historic super-voters. Trump will need these GOP super voters to come back after sitting it out on August 30th if he is going to win.

    Projecting who wins independents is difficult. Over the last year several rural counties in Florida have flipped from Democrat to Republican primarily due to Independents and Democrats switching over to the GOP. This, coupled with the fact that Trump performed better in states with open primaries bodes well for his campaign.

    On the other hand, the largest growing population in Central Florida are folks moving over from Puerto Rico due to the financial crisis. Also, the most Latino counties (Miami-Dade, Hendry, Orange and Osceola) are all exceeding the 2012 numbers for Hispanic turnout.

    Working in the GOP’s favor are some solid Hispanic state house candidates along the I-4 corridor. The wisdom of the GOP voters in choosing State Representative Bob Cortes and Rene Plasencia as well as Senator Marco Rubio might be a saving grace if Florida turns red again.

    Election Day Ground Game: the difference between the two candidates is stark. The Clinton campaign has invested in a traditional get out the vote campaign. The Trump campaign, as was his style during the primaries, has relied on earned media and large rallies. It seems difficult to determine which of these approaches is yielding a better result. If ground games are measured by their results in early and absentee voting, we would have to call it a tie so far.

    It will be the efforts of the grassroots activists at the ground level that determines this election. I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with Jeffrey Bauer, the Chairman of the Seminole County GOP. He said, “Can you imagine being the chair of a county Democrat party and waking up with $25,000 in your bank account the day after Al Gore lost by 500 votes? I don’t want to be that guy.”

    In Seminole, Bauer’s efforts seem to be paying off. We’re winning the turnout battle by 7.5%, despite a slight shift in our county toward Democrats in recent years. In 2012, Romney won Seminole by 6.5%. If all 67 counties repeat our success, Florida will turn red again.

    The moral of the story: get out and vote.