This cycle, our firm has worked with dozens of Republican campaigns from Cabinet positions to Congress. One advantage of our workload has been an opportunity to see the results of dozens of polls and focus groups conducted by several national and Florida-based research firms.
Without sharing specifics on data, campaigns or researchers, I want to give a few of my big picture ideas and predictions about what is happening this cycle in Florida.
After I analyze an article of research, I keep notes in a document, which eventually provides an outline for the macro trends I notice across research products. The items below are extracted almost verbatim from my notes and I hope they help provide some context for the current cycle.
– Andrew Gillum is underestimated by establishment Republicans and Democrats. Democratic activists are angry about Donald Trump and want someone who shares their anger. In a crowded primary, Gillum has a built-in advantage with African-American voters and has a clear play to voters under 35 years old. He is also hurting Philip Levine and Gwen Graham by pushing them further left.
– The Democratic left flank is the single most underestimated factor of this election. Bernie Sanders was not a fluke. For the first time in a century, there is a true socialist/social justice/leftists voter group on the left with a clear guiding philosophy that pulls and energizes the rest of the party. The problem for Democrats is that their left wing is as far, if not further from center, then the Republican right.
– The Republican conservative right has replaced the role of philosophy (conservatism) with personality (Trump). There is no longer a uniting philosophy on the right outside of populist nationalism. Republican voters appear to differentiate between Trump and other Republican candidates but do want to see reflections of Trump in their candidates.
– Trump is equal parts headwind and tailwind for Republicans. Lower propensity Republican-leaning voters do appear eager to cast a proxy vote in support of him. It’s not clear the same energy exists to cast protests votes against Trump among lower propensity Democratic voters.
– College educated suburban and urban women are going to be the Achilles’ heel for Republicans. These women previously leaned Republican but dislike Trump and will vote Democrat if a good option is available. These “Whole Foods Moms” are the 2018 manifestation of the 2004 “Soccer Moms.” They still vote for security and safety, but Parkland, not 9/11, is now their marquee fear.
– Republicans have work to do on immigration. The issue is considered vital among the Republican base but general election voters think Democrats would do a better job handling the issue.
– Democrats have a real shot at Attorney General. They have decent candidates and room to use populist messaging that appeals to Republican segments on “Big Pharma,” “Big Sugar,” and “Big Insurers.” This race will be the clearest square off between an economic growth message and a populist message.
– Millennials are likely to comprise a significant portion of the electorate for the first time this year as they’ve aged into their thirties. My prediction is that men will break slight Republican and women will break hard Democratic.
– Guns won’t be the watershed issue in the general. Both sides will use the issue to drive turnout but it does not appear to be the strongest issue with moderate voters. We are likely to hear a lot about jobs and the economy come October.
– Floridians are generally optimistic about Florida’s path, which is favorable for incumbent candidates and parties, but Democrats and Republicans live in different worlds on the issue. Republicans are happy, Democrats are not happy, and NPA voters lean happy. Democrats really need the economy to slump and Republicans need it to keep growing.
Joe Clements is co-founder and CEO of Strategic Digital Services, a Tallahassee-based tech company. He is also co-founder of Bundl, a campaign contribution management app.