In a year filled with close and highly consequential elections, there may be no state where the stakes are higher than Florida.
In addition to several key House races, the Sunshine State features an unexpectedly competitive U.S. Senate race and a governor's race that will determine the makeup of the notoriously liberal state Supreme Court. The latest poll from St. Pete Polls shows both races running within one point.
Early voting begins today in some Florida counties and as late as this Saturday in others. But even before early voting, there's the mail-in vote. According to the Florida secretary of state, registered Republicans have cast 408,696 votes by mail as of 10 a.m. Monday. That's 43.91 percent of the total vote, down slightly from the 44.38 percent they cast in all of 2014.
Registered Democrats have cast 38.37 percent of the mail-in votes so far. That's up from their 37.58 percent of 2014.
So in all, we're looking at roughly a 1.2 percentage point swing toward Democrats and away from Republicans. What does that mean? Well, in 2014, Republican Gov. Rick Scott — on the ballot this year as a Senate candidate — won re-election by a mere one-point margin.
Then again, 2014 was a pretty good year for Republicans aside from that one race. Scott had climbed his way back up from near record-setting unpopularity to defeat Charlie Crist, so his race was close. But Republicans won all of the other statewide races that year, including attorney general, secretary of state, and agriculture commissioner, by more than 10 points. So an election where Republicans turn out nearly as well as in 2014 might actually be good news.
Perhaps what we can say at this early point is just that turnout isn't shockingly different for this midterm than for the last one — at least not in the vote-by-mail domain. For Republicans who had been sweating over a "blue wave," it's somewhat reassuring that at least their hard core of voters who mail in ballots early are diligently awake and aware.
Then again, don't forget: Democrats tend to push in-person early voting over mail voting. If they've made a big push there and not in mail voting this year, then we might not yet be seeing their strength.