The elections in Florida are coming down to who has the better ground game to bring out their voters.
Republicans are bragging about how they see much better absentee and early voting turnout now than they did four years ago when Barack Obama carried Florida. But, while the Republican numbers are up, that doesn't necessarily translate into the GOP carrying the Sunshine State. For example, in 2008, mail-in ballots gave the Republicans the advantage over the Democrats with a 49 percent to 32 percent edge in the absentee vote. But, when the smoke cleared on Election Day, Obama beat John McCain 51-48 percent.
In 2012, Republicans again had the upper hand over Democrats when it came to absentee requests. It didn’t matter. Obama carried Florida over Mitt Romney by 74,000 votes.
As of Sunday, Democrats had a 0.5 percent lead when it came to the early vote, just the opposite of what took place over the last two presidential elections.
Republicans note the African-American turnout is down so far from where it was four years ago. In 2012, 13 percent of Florida voters were African-American. So far, it’s 10 percent. But back in 2008, African-Americans voted heavily on election day. The long lines at the polls prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend voting hours into the later evening hours.
Donald Trump’s team insists their voters will come out in full force on Election Day and aren’t captured in the polls. They say something like that happened in 1980 for Ronald Reagan in 1980. The Trump team often cites events where 15,000-20,000 supporters rally for their candidate.
But that doesn’t always tell the full story. Back in 2000, Al Gore pulled 30,000-40,000 supporters for events in the Sunshine State. We all know what happened in Florida between Gore and George W. Bush.
All this being the case, grassroots efforts will be important in Florida. Hillary Clinton’s team has 80 offices across the state while Trump has 30. The Obama team is lending Clinton a hand, of course, while some Republicans are already complaining that the Trump campaign hasn’t invested in enough of a ground game. There are some parts of the state where the Trump campaign has pulled out the stops -- Duval County comes to mind. But, in other areas throughout the state, the Trump ground game simply hasn’t materialized.
Still, Trump might be able to take advantage of an enthusiasm gap. His supporters are far more passionate than Clinton backers are for their candidate. The flip side is Trump’s opponents might have just as much passion, which could have produced the high Hispanic turnout in early voting.
There’s a lot of questions on how things will go in Florida and polls show a close contest. Those questions will be answered Tuesday night. Whoever gets their voters to the polls in Florida will be well positioned to be the next president.
Reach Ed Dean, senior editor at Sunshine State News, at EdDean29@yahoo.com.