Fake it till you make it seems to be the phase the Trump campaign is in just now, with campaign spokesmen talking up a win for the Donald while every bit of hard evidence indicates a loss of historic proportions is far more likely than a win for the Mouth That Roared. It takes a pretty sensitive instrument to pick up positive Trump news along the campaign trail. But perhaps there is just a bit coming out of the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections.
Seems like Republican registration in Florida since the beginning of 2016 has enjoyed an uptick, with almost 60 percent of Florida’s 377,000 new 2016 voters signing on with the GOP. These rookie Republicans brought the Democratic voter edge down to 259,000 by July, half what it was in 2012, and the smallest margin in state history. And, as in so many states below the gnat line, there is a fraction of Florida voters who are registered Democrat while they reliably vote Republican at the top of the ticket. This number has dwindled as the remaining old-time conservative Democrats move on to the next world. (The new Dixie Democrats, like their party-mates elsewhere, are two steps left of whoopy!) But their continued presence makes predicting votes by party registration in Florida tricky.
While the new voter numbers are positive news for Trump’s Florida prospects — and it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in arithmetic to demonstrate that Trump’s prospects for making it to 1600 without Florida’s 29 electoral votes are about zero — there is no shortage of offsetting factors. The Republican advantage in registration seems to have stopped after the March 15 presidential primary here. Most of those new Republicans apparently wanted to participate in Florida’s closed Republican primary, where, sensibly, only registered Republicans get to choose which candidate the Republican Party will run.
Since March 15, both Democrats and Republicans have registered about 68,000 new voters. And voters with no interest in either major party are a yuuuge part of the Florida political picture. While Florida had 4,431,400 registered Republicans and 4,690,721 Democrats in July, it also had 3,248,609 voters registered in minor parties or having no party affiliation. This last category is the fastest growing. The younger the newbie voter, the less likely it is that he or she will have any truck with either major party.
On top of all the political free-agents, the demographic categories that are GOP-averse and very Trump-averse — Hispanics, other minorities, millennials, singles, liberal carpet baggers — are growing as a portion of the state’s population and of the state’s voter pool. When W ran his famous dead-heat with Al Gore in 2000, 78 percent of Florida’s registered voters were non-Hispanic whites. Now only 66.5 percent of voters are. And when you drill down on such polls as have been taken in Florida, one finds that Trump is doing no better among Florida’s white voters — supposedly his strength — than Mitt Romney did in 2012 while losing the state narrowly to Obama.
All these factors help explain why Mz Hillary leads Trump in Florida in all polls, usually by about five points. And why, in the absence of some earth-shaking political event or events, it’s hard to see how the Donald regains the lead here. In addition to these demographic trends, all unfavorable for the GOP, the Clinton campaign has a much larger political presence in Florida, with 14 regional offices and a large get-out-the-vote apparatus to Trump’s one office (Sarasota) and almost no get-out-the-vote function.
Clinton is getting her message out to Floridians. An NBC News tally shows Clinton spending nearly $22 million on TV ads in the state while Trump has spent about a million and a half. Trump continues to rely on the large amounts of free exposure that TV news outlets lavish on him, and on personal tweets. Another big part of his campaign are rallies, where he fires up committed supporters with the take-America-back themes that have been his strength since he joined the race last spring. But while Trump operatives announce themselves impressed when 15,000 people show up for a rally, a quick subtraction of 15,000 from the population of Florida, now north of 20 million, tells you how many Floridians did not attend.
So there you have it. No Trump presidency without Florida, out of which the red is slowly leeching. More than 80 days to go. Maybe the Big Event will happen. Perhaps the Donald’s unguided missile, stream of consciousness, lead with the chin forensic style will produce upsets in the debates. But for now, it’s a very big Advantage Hillary.
(Just think of how much tougher the Donald’s challenge would be if he weren’t running against a combination of the Wicked Witch of the West and Cruella Deville with a black belt in Marxist studies and an approval rating somewhat south of that of tooth decay.)