Dems Can Win 72. It Feels Like They're Losing.

Under The Hood

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY SEP 12, 2020

Florida House District 72 represented more than one win for Democrats two ago. When a special election arose at a low point in Donald Trump’s popularity, the nation turned to Sarasota's suburbs to see how middle America felt about politican. It felt pretty blue.

Margaret Good on Feb. 13, 2018 snagged the House seat, prevailing in a district Donald Trump won by four percentage points. In fact, Good won by seven points, an 11-point swing. Compare the Good win to retired Republican Rep. Alex Miller, who won the seat in 2016 by 16 points, and you suddenly envisioned the sea change in suburbia about which Democrats fantasized in plain view.

Sure, it always was more complicated, considering the dynamics of a special election with one race on the ballot. That became clear when Good narrowly won reelection in November by just over 1,200 votes. Still, Democrats held on.

So why’s it feel in September of 2020 like the district will soon swing red again?

There should be plenty of hope Democrats can hold the seat. Following an analysis of August returns for Where The Votes Are, I dug deeper this week and confirmed 505 more Democrats in House District 72 voted in the Aug. 18 election than Republicans. That's despite the fact Republicans as of July 20 held an edge of more than 8,200 registered voters compared to Democrats. 

Republicans also had to pick a nominee in a heated primary, where Navy vet Fiona McFarland defeated Charter Review Board member Donna Barcomb by a mere 263 votes. Democrats had no primary, even after Good took herself out of the picture to challenge Vern Buchanan for his seat in Congress. Despite a sudden vacancy, only one Democrat, Drake Buckman, filed for the seat. That means while Democrats had plenty to vote on in August, a House District 72 primary took up no space in their minds last month.

Where do things stand now? As we speak, polls show Trump possibly tied but likely losing to Democrat Joe Biden in Florida, four years after winning his adopted home state by nearly 113,000 votes over Hillary Clinton.

As for money, Buckman has a cash advantage— for now. Without any primary, Buckman was also able to sit on his money. Through Sept. 4, the Democrat had $44,339 in cash on hand. McFarland’s campaign, after being drained to $2,724 at the end of the primary, now reports $20,119 in cash on hand.

But that's just a partial telling. The young GOP candidate just spent a quarter million dollars boosting name recognition between campaign spending and political committee support. Barcomb helped raise McFarland’s profile too. Sure it was with disparaging messaging calling McFarland soft on protesters and shaky on abortion, but the sharpness of those attacks dulls in a general election and maybe even paints McFarland as a moderate as she appeals to independents for the first time.

Meanwhile, Democratic sources at the state level appeared to all write this race off the day Good declared for Congress. Florida House Victory seems to be struggling to direct mass resources into battleground, and maynot even send five figures to the Sarasota Democrat. Florida Republicans, led by local leader Joe Gruters, seem ready to deliver six figures worth of assistance.

When I argued months ago Buckman needed a primary challenge, he bristled. Democrats instead seemed sure the party was better off betting all their chips on November and skipping a divising August contest. But no one in Tallahassee seems to be buying the message. Good, meanwhile, appears in poor standing against Buchanan after abandoning a race where she almost certainly would have the upper hand right now.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA.

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