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« Gun Thread (3-9-2014) | Main | Gaming Thread 3/9/2014 »
March 09, 2014

AOSHQDD- The Special Congressional Election in Florida (CD13)

We are just two days away from the special election between Republican David Jolly and onetime Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. Let's go through a quick breakdown of the district, past voting results, and how I see the race as it stands two days before the final decision.

First, C. W. Bill Young served as Congressman in this increasingly-Democratic swing district for decades, easily surviving redistricting with much of his original district well contained within CD8, then CD6, back to CD8, then CD10, and most recently CD13. While he carried the seat easily in 2012, Mitt Romney lost it to President Obama by about 1.4%. Two years prior, these same precincts voted for Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio in the senate race and Alex Sink over Rick Scott in the gubernatorial one. The district has voted for a Republican Presidential candidate three times in the last 30 years: 1984, 1988, and 2004. Casting “moderate” votes and pulling in the pork, Young built off of the slight Republican registration advantage in the district and kept the seat safe for the GOP, easily winning every single re-election.
With his passing in 2013, the seat instantly became a toss-up, and, with the entrance of well-known Democrat Alex Sink, lean Democratic per most analysts. As the weeks have passed and mail-in returns have rolled in, that analysis looked solid: Republicans enjoyed high single-to-double digit advantages in the mail-in returns for the 2012 and 2010 contests, but only a 2-point edge in this special election. Early in-person voting trends Democratic, and it has, giving the Democrats a current advantage (as of Saturday night) of about 230 votes.

The spending in the race has been astronomical: over $12 million has been devoted, mostly by outside groups. A grab bag of PACs have so far spent $4.9 million for Jolly, $3.7 million for Sink, while the candidates themselves have raised $1.2 million and $2.7 million respectively, giving Sink the slight edge in this metric. Ads have gone beyond the saturation point: the average resident of the district is being bombarded to the tune of over a hundred a day.

However, there has been a late “surge” in mail-in returns that have some Republicans hopeful of an upset: the mail-ins (again, as of Saturday night) now break five points in the Republicans' favor, spreading three points in a week. If that trend can continue, it may hit the magic number needed for Jolly to squeak out a win (I peg that number at 7%, since polling has shown an unfortunate number of Republicans (1 in 6) voting for Sink).

Any considerable edge in the mail-in vote will make a big difference, because a sizable majority of the total vote will have been cast before Tuesday: the current tally of mail-ins and early votes is now over 120,000 and we are forecasting a total vote of under 200,000 (special elections for Congress have exceeded that number only twice in the last decade). Assuming another 10,000 mail-ins and early ballots are cast, that means less than a third will be on Tuesday. If Republicans enter Tuesday with a net 5-6% edge in 2/3rds of the vote, you can see how it would be hard for Sink to finish the winner.

As we have seen in other close house races, a monkey wrench has been thrown in this one, hampering Republican efforts. Senator Rand Paul is reaching out to voters to help candidate Jolly neutralize a threat from Libertarian Lucas Overby, who has been polling between 4 and 7% of the vote. Overby has no conceivable shot at winning, so he has become a spoiler in Republican efforts to hold the seat: I project Sink with a 3-5 point lead as of today (barring, again, that “surge” sustaining through Tuesday), making his “small” share of the vote substantial.

So what should you take away from all of this? If you live in FL-13 and haven't already done so, MAIL IN YOUR RETURN if you have one. If you are an outside observer, understand the fundamentals of the race (party breakdown, past electoral preference, campaign spending) favor the Democrat, Alex Sink. Again, I see her winning by 3-5 points, but keep an eye on the early vote tallies by party from Pinellas County. Lastly, we will have live coverage of the returns on Tuesday night, the first crowd-sourced demonstration of AOSHQDD since 2012, so I encourage you all to tune in as we watch the first of many head-to-head contests in midterm 2014. JohnE, after being heavily medicated, is working furiously on the site and graphics. It should make for a fun night, regardless the result.

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posted by CAC at 03:20 PM

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