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Throughout 2009, one of the most common speeches Alex Sink gave to Democratic audiences was the tale of her husband's campaign.  Without skipping a beat, without hearing her own logical failures, she then told us exactly how she was going to lose the 2010 campaign.

I'll recount the tale and provide some data after the fold...

Throughout 2009, I probably heard Alex Sink speak 15 or 20 times.  Many of those appearances were at Democratic events or audiences comprised entirely of Democrats.  At many of those events, her speech was the same...she talked about how back in 2002 her husband ran against Jeb Bush, a brutal experience in which they came up a bit short.  She spoke of how just after the election they spent days and nights analyzing the data, from election returns to polls to discussions with staff and supporters.  At the end of it they were certain of one conclusion, Bill McBride lost the election by failing to motivate liberals in south Florida.  

She said those words, I was shocked the first time I heard it, I was amazed to hear a candidate make such an honest statement that demonstrated a clear understanding of campaigning.  That first time, I was thinking, "wow, we might just get a great campaign in Florida after all!"  It didn't take long to burst that bubble.  She talked a bit about the failure to energize activists and motivate volunteers and how they just didn't get the support they expected out of some of the strongest Democratic precincts.  Then she told us how she would do it better, do it right.

"We are going to focus on the I-4 corridor, that's where this campaign will be won."

I was stunned, I looked around the room to see if anyone else was shocked or confused, but everyone was just mesmerized and drinking every last drop she was selling.  I asked a friend nearby if she had said that and he motioned to 'shh' he was trying to listen to her great wisdom.

Right then, right there, her campaign surrendered the greatest strength they could have and gave away at least the hundred thousand votes she needed to win, if not 200,000 or more.  They needed to energy the base in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, they needed to engage and involve the minority communities and progressive groups that organize so well in those communities.  Historical projections show she managed to under perform even Jim Davis's lousy campaign in Broward and Palm Beach, by about 50,000 votes each.

But that isn't the only math to consider, you need to ponder how different the energy of the campaign would have been if she had engaged and energized those progressives in those strong D counties early many more volunteers would they have had?  How would early polling have tilted with that force behind her?  Would that more confidently progressive Sink for Governor campaign have benefited more from the RPOF Scandals?  Jim Greer and the Credit Cards?  Ray Sansom?  Taj Mahal?  Would that campaign have been capable of selling the Democratic message that was so poorly disseminated from the National level?  Would she have been able to use the legislature's mismanagement of stimulus funding against them - preventing Floridians from getting jobs because they are trying to steer the money in to their own pet different would that have made the outcomes across Florida?

At the end of the day, nearly exactly as many people turned out as should be expected, my projections were off by just .26% statewide, out of 5.3 Million votes.  The problem being that Republicans over performed in nearly all of their "base" counties, infused with energy and activated by engaging campaigns with consistent, solid, passionate messages, while Democrats in the most progressive counties under performed significantly.

But as Alex Sink herself said, her campaign would be focused on the I-4 corridor.  To those not familiar with Florida Geography, I-4 runs from Daytona on the southern edge of north east Florida across the state through Orlando (center of the state) to Tampa, mid state on the Gulf coast.  The big cities being Orlando and Tampa/St.Pete.  Orlando is in mostly Orange county, Tampa is Hillsborough County and St Petersburg is Pinellas County.

The Sink & OFA/FDP Coordinated campaign focused heavily on those communities with staff, media buys and appearances dialed up to 11.  Orlando paid off fairly well, with Orange County delivering roughly 20,000 more votes than historical projections while Sink exceeded the historical performance goal at 54%.  Hillsborough and Pinellas didn't fare so well, combined for roughly 20,000 less votes than historical projections, and Hillsborough coming well under the performance goal, and even under 50% at 49.95%.  This is essentially Alex Sink's home county, it her HQ for the campaign and should have been where the score got run up to offset losses in rural north Florida.  It is where she promised to focus the campaign's resources and they held true to it.  It just wasn't a winning strategy.  Pure Conventional Un-wisdom.

You can see the turnout Florida Governors racenumbers of the Florida Governors race in more detail here.

Originally posted to mp on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 04:20 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    Are you a Proud Progressive running or thinking about running for office? Visit

    by mp on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 04:20:06 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the history...Interesting yet (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billlaurelMD, mp, DavidW

    So depressing.

  •  I live in So FL (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sdf, Rosita, mp

    And I have been working the streets here campaigning for the last month. Canvassing, rallies, debates, parades. Most of the time I felt like I was just spinning my wheels. The response from people was disgust. All the negative campaigning. People shut it off and out of their minds I'm afraid. The Democratic campaign offices near me sat mostly empty until election day. The results were no surprise for me at all.

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Albert Einstein

    by DavidW on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 04:55:09 PM PDT

  •  She participated in a debate and (0+ / 0-)

    for some reason or other someone from her staff approached her with a cellphone.  She left herself wide open.

    The moderator instead of halting the debate because she gave the appearance of violating the terms of the debate, let it go on, but text messaged that she cheated.  That went viral.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 05:22:56 PM PDT

    •  And your point is? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rosita, DavidW

      Are you contending that's when she lost the campaign?

      One of many missteps along the way that were symptoms of the greater failure.  Many or even most of such lapses are avoided by having a campaign that is confident about their message, buoyed by their supporters and generally experiencing a far reduced anxiety.

      Of course, it would also have helped if Sink was more thoroughly prepared for the debate and her advisors were confident she knew the game plan inside and out - and that she would stay on message through anything thrown at her.  Since I can't discern exactly what the message was, I'm pretty sure there was no such confidence.

      The stumbling that occurred in the aftermath, where she lied about what happened and how, those are just more symptoms of a poor campaign gripping everything too tightly with out properly preparing for anything.  Arrogance and incompetence in stereo.

      Are you a Proud Progressive running or thinking about running for office? Visit

      by mp on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 05:38:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  An interesting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    analysis, mp, thank you for the professional insight.  It does not surprise me that Alachua County was a disappointment, as the Dem Office was all too quiet when I went to phone bank yesterday.  Not empty, but not even approaching the bustle of two years ago.

    I hasten to add as a sometime volunteer I hardly feel that I have a right to criticize those who work hard for the party, but I wondered what your perspective is on the state party as a whole.  Does it need new leadership?  Is it more than just the Sink campaign?  I was a bit shocked at how badly trounced Dan Gelber and the other statewide office candidates were (since as far as I know there were no widely disseminated public polls for these races).

    What does need to be done here to stimulate enthusiasm, statewide?  Especially given what promises to be a particularly grim legislative session for progressives and their allies this winter-spring in Tallahassee?

    -- Stu

    •  I'll be posting me more thorough comments... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in the coming days/weeks, but really none of our statewide campaigns had a message during the general election period.  Maddox was rock solid on his message from the kick off of his campaign early in 2009 until around late august when the statewide campaign swallowed him whole by drowning him out under their message-free crap.  He was, as you may recall, the guy against oil drilling off shore, loud and proud.  He talked about the dangers and how it would impact the way of life for every Floridian, he did it with passion and energy, and he did it relentlessly, before and after the spill in the gulf.

      We definitely need new leadership.  We need to stop allowing the same people to run the show.  A great deal of influence is given to donors and long time elected officials, regardless of them lacking any actual knowledge or experience in professional, effective campaigns.

      Most of all, we need candidates, higher quality and higher quantity.  We cannot expect to win without fielding at the bare minimum enough competitive candidates to take majorities in both the state house and senate.  We need candidates unashamed of being Democrats, unashamed of their values.  Find a good crop of those people, and we are well on our way to full recovery.

      Are you a Proud Progressive running or thinking about running for office? Visit

      by mp on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 07:18:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks, for the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        reply.  I'll look for your comments (and am now following you on Twitter).  I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and fervently hope that your ideas come to fruition.  Right now, I am trying to contain my horror at what Scott and his rubberstamp legislature are going to do starting next legislative session ...

        -- Stu

  •  And you are right on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Voter turnout in Broward County was 2nd worst in Florida at 40%, Miami Dade not much better with Palm Beach County bringing up the rear. Meanwhile places like Collier County were approaching 60% turnout.

    Yes you need to do well in the I-4 corridor. But you cannot assume, especially in an off year election, that the Democratic masses in South Florida are going to turn out for you.

    Obviously she didn't learn a thing from her husband's loss.

    A fool will lose tomorrow reaching back for yesterday.

    by kansasr on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 05:22:09 AM PDT

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