As the goblins enjoy their trick-or-treat candy and the Halloween decorations come down, that other horror that is the 2016 political cycle enters its final week. The top two races in Florida — president and U.S. Senate — remain close, and promise to be competitive to the end. Floridians who remember 2000 and the presidential vote count that wouldn’t end are not looking forward to another photo finish. But we could have one. All of Clinton’s and Trump’s attorneys have been told to pack a bag, and stay in contact.
For the first time since mid-September, the Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Donald Trump with a lead over Hillary Clinton in Florida. A small lead, and well within the margin of error, but a lead nonetheless. The nine polls Real Clear Politics uses in this race yield Trump an average of 45.7 percent. Clinton trails with 45.2 percent. Trump leads in four polls, Clinton in five. Trump’s biggest margin in any poll is +4, Clinton’s +3.
You may be sure everyone in both campaigns, and everyone keenly interested in who haunts 1600 for the next four years (verb chosen in deference to the season), is looking at these polls closely. La Clinton has various ways to arrive at 270 electoral votes without winning Florida’s 29. But it would take a Ph.D. in arithmetic, and probably a large amount of controlled substances, for anyone to announce a way Trump could arrive at 270 without these critical 29. For Clinton, Florida would be a nice win. For Trump, it’s essential.
Real Clear averages in the not-so-distant past have shown Clinton with four point leads in the Sunshine State. As recently as Oct. 21, Clinton led in the average by 47.8 percent to 43.8. Most trying to account for this go no further than FBI Director James Comey’s recent decision to try to be an honest lawman after all. What else has there been since the 21st?
The Real Clear average now shows Marco Rubio with a little breathing room over Democrat challenger Patrick Murphy. The eight polls in this race give Rubio an average of 49 over Murphy’s 43.4. One poll shows the race a tie. The other seven show Rubio with leads between two and 10 points. Murphy had recently been within three points in the average. Comey’s attempted redemption may be having some effect in down-ballot races.
Other encouraging news for Florida Republicans includes recent numbers released by the Florida Division of Elections, showing Republicans have 304,320 more voters than they did in 2012. Democrats have gained 95,771 over the same period. The Democrats’ portion of the electorate fell from 40.1 percent to 37.9. Republicans also lost as a portion of the whole, but by less, from 35.6 percent to 35.4.
The biggest gain in Florida’s now 12,863,773 registered voters are those not affiliated with any political party. The free-lancers increased by 529,236, higher than the increase of either major party. They now represent 26.7 percent of the electorate, up from 24.4 percent in 2012. These folks will get a lot of attention in the final week.
Not long ago a Trump win in Florida, and thus a legitimate prospect of winning the White House, seemed out of reach. And the Rubio/Murphy race seemed much closer. But there’s a week left. Plenty of time for a November surprise. Stay tuned. Florida is very big political medicine. And right now it’s in play. We don’t mind being politically important hereabouts. But we know the price is that it will be hard to move about without tripping over candidates or their surrogates. It’s going to be a long week.