If Donald Trump loses Florida, he loses the election. If he wins Florida, he's got a chance.
In other words, the result in Florida is critical, as always. And it appears to be giving us a taste of just how weird election night 2016 could be.
We knew coming into Election Day that there had been a spike in early voting among Hispanic voters. This suggested that Trump would be playing catch-up on the actual day of the election, given that polling consistently showed him doing poorly with that demographic. Hillary Clinton hoped that nonwhite voters would surge to the polls in support of her candidacy, and that appeared to be happening.
But it seems that the white voters Trump was banking on — the voting bloc that he'd always insisted would push him to victory — is voting heavily, too.
As I write, with about 80 percent reporting, in counties where Clinton is outperforming President Obama in 2012, she's doing about 1.4 points better. Where she's doing worse than Obama, she's doing about 4.9 points worse. In counties where Trump is outperforming Mitt Romney, he's doing 4.3 points better, on average. Where he's doing worse, he's doing about 2.4 percentage points worse. Part of this is because where the Democrats lose is often in smaller, more rural counties where there can be bigger percentage-point swings.
And part of it is Trump overperforming. There are 51 counties (as I write) where Trump is getting a higher percentage than Romney got. There are only seven counties where Clinton is doing better than Obama.
The good news for Clinton is that most of Trump's counties are fairly small in terms of population. It's the now-familiar pattern: Democrats get a ton of votes in big, populous areas; Republicans make up margins in more rural areas.
The bad news is that some of them aren't fairly small. Trump is currently doing better than Romney did in the area around Tampa, for example.
I-4 Corridor may deliver FL to Trump. He's doing 4 pts better than Romney in Pasco, 7 bettr in Pinellas, 12 better volusia
— Adam Smith (@adamsmithtimes) November 9, 2016
The area around Tampa tells a lot of the story. In 2012, Obama won Hillsborough County with 52.7 percent of the vote and nearby Pinellas County with 52.1 percent. With about 90 percent of the vote in, Clinton lead in Hillsborough with 51.4 percent of the vote — but trailed in Pinellas with 47.4 percent. About half of the population of Hillsborough County in 2013 was non-Hispanic white. About three-quarters of Pinellas County falls into that category.
The other bad news for Clinton is that polls closed later in the more conservative western panhandle of the state. As I write, more votes have come in from heavily Clinton areas than heavily Trump ones — and Trump leads in the state.
Another factor is that there is a bigger third-party vote so far this year than there was in 2012. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are getting about 2.9 percent of the vote in the state. Four years ago, third-party candidates only got about 1 percent of the vote. That additional margin has to come from somewhere, and it looks like it’s coming a bit more from Clinton.
Gary Johnson and Jill Stein combined have so far amassed twice the total of votes won by Ralph Nader in 2000.
— Paul Lewis (@PaulLewis) November 9, 2016
The question coming into tonight could be summarized fairly easily: Whose vision of the electorate was right, Clinton's or Trump's? So far, it seems like they both were, with both seeing big boosts in turnout. Meaning that the new question is: Whose electorate will pull someone across the finish line?