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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Florida, Florida, Florida

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Harry Enten has a good piece up on CNN about the centrality of Florida to the 2020 election. I agree. For all the attention observers–including myself–give the Rustbelt three of MI, PA and WI, the fact remains that Trump carried FL in 2016 by barely over a point; if the Democrats take it and its 29 EVs back in 2020, they’re practically done shopping, assuming they hold all their 2016 states. All they would need would be one other state–MI, PA, WI, AZ, NC–and they’re done (and so is Trump).

So what are the chances? Enter makes the argument that they’re pretty decent. He notes:

“Biden holds a three-point advantage in the Sunshine State in an average of nonpartisan probability polls that controls for pollster. That’s closer than Wisconsin (one-point Biden lead), and the same as what we see as in Pennsylvania. Biden is up four points in Arizona and five points in Michigan. (North Carolina, another close Trump won state in 2016, gives Biden a one-point edge, but the high quality polling there has been limited.)”

The RCP average has it closer, just Biden by a whisker, though they throw all the polls in the hopper without adjustment for house effects. The UCLA/Democracy Fund/Lucid Nationscape data–70,000 cases and counting since the beginning of the year–actually has Biden ahead by more in the state, around 5 points. Those data also show Biden shaving 11 points off the Democrats’ white noncollege deficit in the state in 2016. These two things are related. More Enten:

“The story of the 2016 election has often been told like this: “Donald Trump secured victory by breaking through the big blue wall in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.” It’s how you end up with all those stories about Trump voters in Midwest diners. Heading into 2020, there’s still a lot of focus on those pivotal states.

But when you look at the electoral math, it’s pretty clear that former Vice President Joe Biden would be wise to look beyond those states and make a heavy investment in Florida.

Florida was a very close state in 2016. Trump won it by just 1.2 points, which is not significantly wider than the margins he won Michigan (0.2 points), Pennsylvania (0.7 points) and Wisconsin (0.8 points). The next closest state (Arizona) featured a significantly larger Trump win (3.5 points). In fact, the presidential margin in Florida has been within 6 points in every election since 1992, including when Democrat Barack Obama won it in 2008 and 2012. No other state has been within that range for so long….

Florida diversifies the types of states Biden would be competing hard in. When you want to give yourself as many electoral pathways as possible, you want states that are demographically and geographically diverse from each other. That way, if you underperform in one state, it doesn’t mean you have in the others. Florida has more nonwhite voters than any of the other close states Trump won in 2016. And it’s a southeastern state, unlike Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. There’s really no other state like it.

Florida is the type of state where you’d expect Biden to outperform Clinton given the recent polling. It has the highest percentage of seniors in the country amongst its citizen voting age population. Right now, Biden actually leads Trump among those 65 years and older by nine points in an average of the five most recent probability national polls….

According to an analysis by the New York Times’ Nate Cohn… the southern swing state voters who didn’t cast a ballot in 2018 were much more friendly to Democrats than those in the northern swing states. In the sunbelt, a large portion were nonwhite. In the north, the clear plurality were whites without a college degree.

With presidential year turnout, Biden’s likely going to be very competitive in Florida. If he wins there, it’ll be awfully tough for Trump to beat him nationally.”

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