Four More Days: The "Sporadic Voter Effect" in Florida
By Al Giordano
TAMPA, FLORIDA; HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY; OCTOBER 31, 2008: First, some potentially bad news for Obama supporters: despite the schlepping of the vote and evident efforts by adult children and grandchildren to get their Jewish-American grandparents here in the Sunshine State to vote for their candidate, it is the anecdotal sense of my reporting that Obama may under-perform among that demographic compared to Kerry '04 (and especially Gore-Lieberman ‘00) along Florida's upscale eastern seaboard.
In Jewish-American retirement beehives like Boca Raton and West Palm Beach - visited by The Field in recent days - there are a surprising number of white voters exiting early vote locations who are more than willing to chat with a mustachioed reporter about how long it took them to vote (an average of 90 minutes), the weather, or anything else trivial. But when the conversation turns to who they supported for president, too many get silent and look down at their shoes. "That's private," many say.
This is strictly anecdotal (so, caveat emptor): younger Jews, locally, tell The Field that "undecided" or "won't tell" is the new credo of a hidden GOP vote. They can't admit to their own children or grandchildren that they're going for the old guy. In fact, they're somewhat embarrassed about it. But that's what some of them are doing nonetheless.
This is not exactly a "Bradley effect" (that possibly mythical story from the 1980s when white voters supposedly told pollsters they would vote for a black candidate but did not; a phenomenon that hasn't been demonstrable in contests since then), but it may be "the Schmendrick Effect," in which instead of outright lying to pollsters some pockets of McCain voters are simply saying they're undecided or refusing to respond.
McCain (and particularly the Republican National Committee) appears to be outspending Obama on the TV and radio airwaves in greater Miami, too, at least on programs and stations that The Field consumes. (And, wow, are they sinking a fortune into trying to save the hides of the two Diaz-Balart brothers in Congress.)
The Boston Globe reports:
In the final week, McCain and the RNC will outspend Obama's campaign in the battlegrounds of Ohio, Florida, and Missouri, the report shows. The RNC made its heaviest last-minute purchases of airtime in Florida ($4.2 million) and Ohio ($3.4 million), two Bush states in which Obama is even or slightly ahead in the polls...
In the first two weeks of October, the RNC also meted out $11 million to Republican state committee efforts in 21 states to be used to support the GOP ticket and get-out-the-vote efforts, according to its filing with the Federal Election Commission. The Republican Party of Florida was the chief beneficiary ($3.2 million), followed by Pennsylvania ($1.5 million) and Ohio ($1.3 million).
That out of the way (because I'm a believer in being the first in the door with any bad news), here's some good news for Obama supporters looking nervously at the Sunshine State:
That McCain has to spend $7.6 million of his final $18 million (42 percent of his entire media budget) in two Republican states - Ohio and Florida - means that he's going to be greatly outspent in the final stretch on the airwaves in Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada and - suddenly, announced today - Obama is now on the airwaves in Georgia, North Dakota and in McCain's home state of Arizona.
In effect, John McCain 2008 has become, tactically, a carbon copy of John Kerry in 2004, dumping widely disproportionate resources into Ohio and Florida - over 5,000 gross TV ratings points here in the Tampa market alone this week - while the Democrats' fifty-state strategy is laying upon him the political death of a thousand cuts elsewhere. He's now spending 42 percent of his ad dollars on saving eight percent of the Electoral College vote in two states won by George Bush. That indicates a huge worry that even Florida and Ohio could slip out of his grasp.
And, speaking of cuts: That College Republicans staffer that utilized her nail file to scrape a backwards B onto her pumpkin face in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania television market ("Yes. She. Carved!") and blamed it on a fictional African-American Obama supporter has, in The Field's analysis, definitively closed the door on any chances McCain thought he had in Pennsylvania.
Among so many of the Appalachian voters there that were tempted to vote against their own economic interests and let the race card get the better of them, she made them cringe in disgust, upstaging even the Jack Murtha comedy hour. It was a huge local TV news story - a police story and a political story rolled into one, complete with a mental health sideshow - for days on end, in the very region where McCain had based his comeback hopes. The Pittsburgh Cutter story is probably second to the "real vs. fake Virginia" meme in terms of a single story's impact on an important swing state. And so now all the money and candidate time and race-card messaging that McCain-Palin have dumped into Pennsylvania is now, in Wasilla-speak, "for naught."
Now, back to Florida:
Even if Obama under-performs among elderly Jewish voters (and again, my sense is not based on hard data but on gumshoe reporting), there are whole swathes of what the Obama campaign calls "sporadic" Democratic voters - people that are newly registered or have not voted in a recent election - that are turning out in record numbers for early voting.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says that 30 percent of all the voters expected to vote in Florida have already cast their ballots, and Obama's "sporadics" are over-performing. (Florida's massive early vote is exceeded by those in three other swing states: 33 percent have voted in New Mexico, 39 percent in North Carolina, and 40 percent of the eventual turnout has cast ballots in Nevada: It's been a good couple of weeks for Obama in states that begin with the letter N or F.)
The Field witnessed that phenomenon at the Boynton Beach City Hall the other day, a city that according to the 2000 census was 67 percent white. But at the early voting location, two-thirds of the people on the long line were black, mainly Haitian-Americans.
Plouffe led a conference call this morning where he offered some extremely impressive claims. At first I thought some of them might have been over-stated, until I remembered that during the primaries he typically understated Obama's support during those conference calls (and kept some of it hidden from the press and, thus, the rival camp, too): this is not a campaign manager prone to over-promising spin.
Plouffe said that in Florida, according to the campaign's internal data, Obama is surpassing Kerry and Gore percentages among Puerto Ricans, Colombian-Americans and younger Cuban-Americans, and that Latinos are early voting at higher numbers in Florida than they did four years ago, and African-American early voters have already outpaced 2004 by 20 percent.
"In Florida," Plouffe said, "1.6 million Obama voters did not vote in 2004. Florida probably has the biggest pool of sporadic-voting Democrats."
So that's the ball game here: pulling, pushing and dragging those 1.6 million "sporadics" to the polls: to early voting locations through Sunday and then the remainder on Tuesday.
The pollster.com average of all polls has Florida at 47.8 percent for Obama to 45.2 for McCain. Political consultant Dick Morris - staffing the last firewall of TV pundits still arguing McCain can come from behind and win the presidency - says that Obama could be in trouble anywhere he's not at 48 percent in the polls (as we showed the other day, Obama is at 50 percent or better in states with 286 Electoral Votes; that alone would mean his victory). I'm keeping my own "safe" number at 50 percent, but confess that it's probably closer to 49 since Nader and Barr and McKinney will probably get a combined two percent this year.
So Florida's right here on the edge of that threshold. More than three million voters have already cast ballots. The headline on today's Tampa Tribune is: "More Early Voting Draws Boos." (That is, from Republican operatives who fear that the governor's extension of early voting hours may be inexorably extinguishing their firewall here.)
Dennis Baxley, responsible for the Christian Coalition's GOTV efforts, told the Tribune: ""The format we have seen in the Obama campaign has been to rile up emotions and get everybody to the polls to vote before they change their mind."
And if lines are long at one early voting location, the Obama campaign is trucking voters to another where there is less of a wait. This has led to some racially-charged panic from at least one Republican party leader, who sent out a Chicken Little email to his troops (hat tip to FlaDem at DKos):
HERE IN TEMPLE TERRACE, FL OUR REPUBLICAN HQ IS ONE BLOCK AWAY FROM OUR LIBRARY, WHICH IS AN EARLY VOTING SITE.
I SEE CARLOADS OF BLACK OBAMA SUPPORTERS COMING FROM THE INNER CITY TO CAST THEIR VOTES FOR OBAMA. THIS IS THEIR CHANCE TO GET A BLACK PRESIDENT AND THEY SEEM TO CARE LITTLE THAT HE IS AT MINIMUM, SOCIALIST, AND PROBABLY MARXIST IN HIS CORE BELIEFS. AFTER ALL, HE IS BLACK--NO EXPERIENCE OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS--BUT HE IS BLACK.
I ALSO SEE YOUNG COLLEGE STUDENTS AND THEIR PROFESSORS FROM USF PARKING THEIR CARS WITH THE PROMINENT 'OBAMA' BUMPER STICKERS. THE STUDENTS ARE ENTHUSIASTIC TO BE VOTING IN A HISTORIC ELECTION WHERE THERE MAY BE THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT.
Mind you, that's not Plouffe's spin. That's what the rival camp is seeing.
It's so close here in the Sunshine State, that something like a half-hour piece of roadblock advertising might shift the balance and cause, instead of a tightening, a widening, of the polls. (Too bad nobody thought of doing that this week. Oh, wait. Never mind.)
And it's all about field, field, field to locate and turn out the rest.
Meanwhile, some folks might find this the appropriate hour to pick up the telephone and heap some old fashioned guilt on some bubbies and zaddies down here and warn them not to be schmendricks.