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'The race is breaking towards Charlie Crist'

Adam C. Smith, Times Political Editor

Thursday, October 2, 2014 2:32pm

So says Democratic consultant and Charlie Crist adviser Steve Schale:

To: Interested Parties, Political Friends and Enemies (joking) Alike, and all who are just Florida Junkies

From: Steve Schale

Re: State of the Florida Governor's Race

We heard for months that Governor Scott was putting away Charlie Crist.

We heard that Charlie Crist couldn't withstand Governor Scott's attacks.

We heard that Charlie Crist couldn't raise the money to compete.

We heard that Charlie Crist had collapsed and couldn't recover.

We heard that Governor Scott would win by 5 – 6 – 7 points. That he was a sure bet. That it was over.

So where does the race stand on October 2, 2014?

Governor Scott has spent over $41 million on television yet he's stuck at 42 percent.

The media blitz was supposed to kill of Crist, yet according to the Miami Herald, new polls show the trend "favoring" Crist, including the Real Clear Politics Average which shows Crist with an average 1.4 point lead.

Charlie Crist clearly has the momentum and Governor Rick Scott is stuck.

Rick Scott's campaign and his allies have now spent north of $41 million on television, compared to roughly $19 million by the Crist campaign and the Florida Democratic Party, and the race is tied. Not just essentially tied, but actually tied.

According to the Huffington Post pollster track, the average of the public polling conducted during the month of September shows a dead even race. This is a change from August, when Scott held a 2.8 point advantage in the public polling conducted during the month.

In August, the website listed Scott as a strong favorite for re-election. Today, they call it a 50-50 race. This is a very real shift towards Crist.

The Real Clear Politics Average more accurately measures this shift. Today, Crist has a 1.4 point advantage lead among recent public polling, a change from a Governor Scott 2 point lead earlier in September.

And most importantly, just like the Huffington Post Pollster average, Governor Scott is stuck at 42 in the Real Clear Politics Average, the same place he was in April, when his TV blitz began in earnest.

Moreover, the reality on the ground is not lining up with the GOP narrative of a 2010 GOP enthusiasm wave.

In the one true metric available, absentee ballot requests, Democrats have significantly closed the gap. In 2010, Republicans at this point in the election held a 12 point advantage in absentee ballot requests (48 R -36 D), today that gap is two points (41 R – 39 D).

The growth in these requests comes largely from non-Gubernatorial year voters.

Furthermore, the Crist ground operation is far superior to the 2010 effort, in part because Governor Crist is committed to investing in the effort to chase those absentee ballots and turn out voters. To date, there are 35 Crist offices open, in addition to local Democratic Party offices, housing over 120 staffers, who with a volunteer army driven by the campaign's over 60,000 contributions, has reached out to more than 1.4 million Florida voters.

And the Electorate Will Look Different

One of the main reasons why the GOP so badly misread the electorate in 2012 was they failed to recognize the changing nature of the election. And just like 2012 was different than 2008, 2014 is different than 2010.

In 2010, roughly 70 percent of all registered voters were white, leading to an electorate that was roughly 75% white on Election Day. However, the growth in the electorate since 2010 has almost exclusively been made up of voters of ethnic descent. Since 2010, the number of registered voters in Florida has grown by roughly 590,000, with 71% of the growth coming from Hispanic, African American or Caribbean American voters, and another 10% coming from other ethnic groups. Only 19% of the growth has been among white voters.

This means one thing: even if the turnout is as bad for Democrats as it was in 2010 (which it won't be) it won't be as bad of an outcome, as the election will be more diverse than it was in 2010. And a more diverse electorate benefits Governor Crist.

So what does all this mean?

We were told that Crist would crumble under the weight of Governor Scott's attacks. Well, that didn't happen.

We were told that Governor Scott had put the race away. Well, clearly that didn't happen.

But here is what we do know:

Governor Scott started the year receiving an average of 42 percent of the vote in the public polling. After nine months and $41 million on television, he is still receiving 42 percent in the public polling. He is an incumbent stuck.

Simply, if $41 million didn't bury Charlie Crist, why does anyone think the next $25 million will?

To date, none of the GOP predictions on the race have held true, and what we have is a dog fight, with an incumbent Governor who is stuck in the polls after out-spending his opponent 2:1, the same Governor who won in 2010 in perfect storm conditions that do not apply to this year.

Undoubtedly, it is going to be an exceptionally close race, as I've argued all along. Florida's last three major top of the ticket fights were all decided by less than 3 points, and there is nothing to demonstrate that this will be different.

Yes it is close, but what we have today is a race that is breaking towards Governor Crist.

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