TALLAHASSEE – Florida Republicans, a must-see for President Donald Trump, have narrowed the Democratic voter registration gap to its lowest level in at least three decades, giving a boost to the GOP as it continues to decline in early turnout.
Republicans are just 134,242 registered voters behind Democrats, compared to 327,483 when Trump won Florida by less than 113,000 votes in 2016. The win is a by-product of the Trump campaign’s extensive direct floor game and voter registration operation that continued as Joe Biden and Florida Democrats withdrew from these traditional activities after the coronavirus pandemic erupted in March.
The shift means the two parties are almost the same statistically in terms of raw numbers, with the Democrats having a marginal 1 percent lead. Final election registration data, released Thursday by Florida election officials, shows 5.3 million Democrats, 5.1 million Republicans and 3.7 million people with no major party affiliation.
Florida Democrats mainly focused on increasing the turnout via email, which helped them garner 430,000 more votes than Republicans three weeks ahead of election day.
Democrats cannot compete with the “superior ground game and infrastructure” of the Trump campaign, Trump Victory spokeswoman Emma Vaughn said in an email. “The Sunshine State is ready to deliver.”
The Biden campaign has no regrets of pulling back traditional voting activities amid a global pandemic, even as the once-dominant advantage of the Democrats has been weakened.
“Democrats garnered an overwhelming vote on the mail advantage and stood out in historic numbers for the August primary,” Carlie Waibel, communications director for Biden Florida, said in an email. “Democrats lead the way in the metrics that drive this election and get their ballots back faster than Republicans – and we’re not slacking off.”
Trump defamed the vote by mail, telling his supporters with no evidence that they were ripe for widespread fraud. As a result, Republicans are expected to vote in large numbers on Election Day. A wave Trump is betting on to overcome the Democrats’ advantage in the early voting.
While Biden’s team remains confident, other members of the party have raised concerns that the campaign is turning away from traditional registration efforts.
“It’s late in the game now,” Senator Jason Pizzo, a Democrat from Miami, told POLITICO in late September. “There was no push back from us, which means that for 100 doors that Republicans literally knocked on, it’s not like they pissed people off and ran to the Democratic Party for being mad at them GOP are. ”
While the Biden Campaign and Florida Democratic Party have limited personal registration activities, outside groups continued to register votes. That includes Forward Florida Action, a group led until recently by Democrat Andrew Gillum that pledged to register 1 million voters after his narrow loss to Governor Ron DeSantis in 2018.
The group worked with a collection of progressive groups to submit 250,000 voter registration requests. With the coronavirus pandemic increasing in the summer, a more digital strategy was also adopted.
“As the Democrats prepared our voters to vote securely by mail in the pandemic and build an advantage of 800,000 votes via email request, the Republicans continued to compromise the public by conducting personal voter registration activities while discouraging their voters from the.” Vote by email, ”said Ryan Hurst, the group’s CEO.
In addition to their top leadership, the Democrats have also produced low-inclination voters, people who do not consistently cast a vote in election years. Of the more than 2 million votes cast in Florida to date, Democrats have received 113,000 more ballots than Republicans from people who did not vote in the 2016 presidential election.
“These are not party-affiliated voters who sit out in 2016 because they thought their vote would not matter,” Democratic adviser Kevin Cate tweeted. “Well, they changed their minds this year.”
In hopes of building a wave of personal voters on election day, Republicans continued to enroll large numbers through the final days of the Florida registration period, which ended October 5. The democratic advantage was 185,000 voters at the end of September. a number Republicans have cut by more than 50,000 in the past two weeks.
“There is clearly a strong correlation between the benefits of voter registration and the success of the Florida Democrats,” said Ryan Tyson, a Republican pollster and strategist. “That advantage seems to have dissolved.”
Florida Democrats have long enjoyed major voter registration advantages, even when Republicans dominated state elections, in part because of the North Florida Dixiecrats, registered Democrats who have elected Republicans for years.
The Democratic leadership peaked in Barack Obama’s first run in 2008 when he defeated Republican John McCain by 3 percentage points in Florida. During this cycle, the Democrats had a registration advantage of 637,777 people.
Four years later, the margin had narrowed, but the Democrats still outstripped Republicans by 535,987 voters when Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney by 2 percentage points.
Public polls have shown that Biden in Florida is up 3 or 4 percentage points near or within the margin of error for most polls, and the expectation is that this year’s presidential race will be won at a razor-thin margin, like it was in 2016, when Trump scored a one-point victory.
“At the end of the day, it will depend on whose people are most motivated,” said Evan Jenne, co-house minority leader, a Broward County Democrat who helps run the party’s statehouse races this cycle. “It always depends on energy, and it will be again this year.”