Trump Launches Re-election Campaign in a State He Can’t Win

Trump won Florida in 2016. He won’t in 2020.

Last night, Trump launched his re-election bid in Orlando, Florida. Despite the raucous crowd and having won the state in 2016, he won’t win Florida in 2020.

Yes, the same state that Ron Desantis and Rick Scott won in 2018.

Let’s review those races:

 

  • Race
  • Trump, 2016
  • DeSantis, 2018
  • Scott, 2018
  • Margin of Victory
  • 113,000
  • 33,000
  • 10,000

 

In these races, 8M-9.5M votes were cast. At most, these margins represent a separation of ~1.4%.

Most recent Presidential races in the state have been similarly close. You know the closest one. W followed that up with the widest margin of victory since his father’s win in 1988. Even that 2004 win was by fewer than 400K votes (over 7M total cast) and while his brother was serving as Governor.

So what’s different in 2020?

Amendment 4 & the Puerto Rican exodus.

 


Amendment 4

Some background, from Wikipedia:

After the abolition of slavery in the United States, Florida enacted Black Codes, which restricted freedoms for African Americans and led to mass incarceration. The 1868 Florida Constitution enacted felony disenfranchisement, a ban on voting for felons even after completing parole and probation, disproportionately impacting African Americans. Though other Jim Crow laws, such as education requirements, were repealed in successive constitutions, felon disenfranchisement continued.

In 2016, 6.1 million adults in the United States could not vote due to felony disenfranchisement laws. In 2018, Florida was one of four U.S. states that enacted permanent felony disenfranchisement, affecting 1.7 million felons. Felons must wait five to seven years after the completion of their sentence before they can apply to have their voting rights restored by the State Board of Executive Clemency, which is composed of the Governor of Florida and the Florida Cabinet, and meets four times per year at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida’s disenfranchised felons constituted 10% of the adult population, and 21.5% of the adult African American population.

In 2018, Florida voters, by a wide margin (65/35), righted this long-standing wrong by restoring voting rights to of Floridians with felony convictions, exclusive of murderers and sex offenders, after the completion of their sentence.

Effective January 8, 2019, 1.4M ex-felons – about 10% of Florida’s adult population, along with one in five black Floridians – became eligible to vote.

Naturally, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature and Trumpian Governor are doing everything they can to controvert the will of the voters and Jim Crow the shit out of the new law.

But let’s look at how Amendment 4 might impact 2020.

Vox ran the numbers and concluded that Democrats might gain ~48,000 votes, with “an additional 40,000 votes that could be cast on behalf of either party.” This doesn’t change the outcome of the state’s 2016 Presidential election, but both the recent Senate and Gubernatorial races might have gone the other way.

 


Puerto Rican Exodus

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, many thousands of Puerto Ricans fled to Florida. The New York Times breaks down the potential electoral impact of that migration, here, where they suggest Democrats might gain 40,000 votes.

 


The Numbers

48,000 + 40,000 = less than 113,000

If you read NYT or Vox articles I’ve cited, you might wonder why I chose them, since they both conclude that these forces are insufficient to flip the state. But they’re trying to close the 2016 gap of 113,000. The 2018 races suggest that the sentiment gap is much smaller.

Ron DeSantis ran as a Trump clone. He won by just 33,000 votes. Sure, it was a midterm election and turnout was down slightly from 2016 (8M vs. 9.5M). But for a midterm, that’s relatively strong and higher turnout generally favors Democrats.

With Trump essentially on the ballot, this race offers the best possible proxy for the coming 2020 race. The gap has closed, significantly.

48,000 + 40,000 = far more than 33,000

Trump is losing supporters and the broader electorate is shifting away from him.

 


As was made clear in 2016, nothing is certain and voters are unpredictable. All 2020 outcomes are still possible. Still, it’s hard to ignore Trump’s weak early polling, the evidence waning support, and some 88,000 new Democratic votes in Florida.

Trump loses Florida in 2020 and can’t win the presidency without it.

 

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