Throughout the past 12 months, the Tampa Bay Times has asked the Florida Insiders to weigh in on all the twists and turns of one of the most unexpected, unprecedented election years in modern history.
This week, we surveyed 170 of the Florida’s most plugged-in campaign operatives, fundraisers, activists, political scientists, lobbyists and other politicos and asked them to put their expertise to the test: What is going to happen on Election Night (and beyond)?
Here are the results.
- More than two-thirds of the Insiders think that former Vice President Joe Biden will win the White House. This includes 35 of the 82 Republicans polled.
- But, most don’t think the Democratic nominee’s path to victory will run through Florida, depriving Biden of a first-round knockout. About 54 percent said President Donald Trump will carry his home state of Florida.
- Nine in 10 believe that Biden will win the national popular vote, regardless of the result. But they’re split on how tight the race will be in the Electoral College. About half said neither candidate will surpass 300 electors.
- The Insiders think concerns about a long, drawn-out process to decide the winner are overblown. Three in four respondents don’t expect a recount in Florida, and they said the country will know who will be the next president on Election Night, by the next morning or within a few days. Only 6 percent think the election will be contested beyond November (which, given the infrequency of that outcome, is still probably a lot).
- All but seven respondents think Democrats will maintain control of the U.S. House. And most aren’t expecting either party will pick up any seats in Florida, though more give Democrats a better shot at flipping at least one District.
- The U.S. Senate is a little harder to figure out. Slightly more people said Democrats will net the four seats needed to wrest back control, but it was pretty divided. And 34 people said that it will be a 50-50 split, meaning whoever wins the White House will send the vice president to break the tie for power.
- The overwhelming majority don’t see Republicans losing control of either chamber in the state Legislature, but more people — still just 1 in 10 — thought it would be the state House. Just three lonely Insiders say the state Senate will become a Democratic institution. As one Democratic Insider put it: “If the House Democrats had a real program, they could win a ton of seats. They still might, but I suspect it will be a lost opportunity.”
The results of the poll aren’t scientific. Rather, they reflect the generally held beliefs of Florida’s political class. And they have been wrong in the past — they thought Hillary Clinton would win the Sunshine State and the White House four years ago (but then again, so did Trump).
Just like in 2016, most suggested the race the will be tight. One Republican thinks Trump will win reelection, but added: “Wish Gary Johnson was on the ballot again," referencing the Libertarian Party candidate who was a popular selection of anti-Clinton protest voters.
Another Republican who predicted a Trump win in Florida but a Biden presidency said: “If only Trump had the temperament and leadership skills to handle the COVID-19 crisis, he might have won reelection. But, even until the bitter end, he proved he did not.” Trump’s coronavirus response will especially hurt him with seniors, said another Republican, “and that will help carry Biden and the Democrats to a win at the national level and for the presidency in Florida.”
“The large increase in early voting and vote by mail is only partly an artifact of COVID,” said one respondent who isn’t affiliated with a party. “It also signals a restless America seeking change. It does not signal confidence in Biden, but does signal massive disappointment in Trump’s policies and personality.”
Said one Democrat: “2020 will be the second consecutive Democratic wave election throughout the country, but not in Florida. Democrats will be fortunate to eek out a narrow win for Biden, and gain a few seats in the Legislature.”
Among those who think Trump will be sworn in for a second term on Jan. 21, 2021, many suggested pundits and pollsters are making the same mistake as 2016.
“The polls are off by about 4 percent because they are undercounting first-time voters for Trump,” said one Republican.
Participants in our Insider Polls are allowed to weigh in anonymously to encourage honest assessments. Participants included 74 Democrats, 83 Republicans and 13 people registered to neither major party. This month they are:
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