Florida Democrats, still reeling from their defeat, continue to lag in fundraising efforts, self-reported party affiliation and raw voter registration. With only $400,000 in cash through the end of May, the Florida Democratic Party held their big annual fundraiser on Saturday night.
The Leadership Blue Gala, which featured Vice President Joe Biden as the keynote speaker, was plagued by racial remarks made by the party chairman, Stephen Bittel. Democratic lawmakers at the event were furious after he said “these black lawmakers” were “like children” and “just don’t get it.”
State Senate Democratic leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens and House Democratic leader Janet Cruz of Tampa wanted to present the members of their respective caucuses. But Mr. Bittel bumped the presentation so that Mr. Biden, who said the speech was keeping him from his wife on the night of their 40th wedding anniversary, could give the keynote.
State Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation, confronted Mr. Bittel about the bump after dinner, which drew his response about African-American lawmakers. Worth noting, Rep. Cruz is Hispanic and other caucus members are caucasian.
“He said, ‘They’re like children, these black lawmakers. They just don’t get it,’” Mr. Braynon said as he recounted what Sen. Book told him. “‘I raised more money in this amount of time than they ever could.’”
Mr. Bittel has apologized for the remarks.
But it’s not a good start for either the chairman or a party that was defeated up-and-down ballot. Hillary Clinton lost the Sunshine State to President Donald Trump, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., went on to comfortably defeat Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy.
Mr. Bittel, a longtime donor and Miami Beach real estate developer, only secured the chair by vowing to put his national fundraising network to work to raise money for the besieged party. Instead, during his first quarter as chairman, he raised only $843,386 juxtaposed to the $1.1 million his predecessor Allison Tant raised.
Republicans raised $2.46 million during those same months and Florida Democrats have already been forced to take out a $200,000 line of credit to allegedly increase digital advertising.
“FDP received central committee approval to take out a one year, $200,000 line of credit to give us the opportunity and flexibility to invest in additional digital and messaging opportunities,” Johanna Cervone, the party’s press secretary said in a statement.
She did not provide an exact time the party got the line of credit or from which financial institution.
Democrats argue that the numbers aren’t comparable because fundraising for state Senate campaigns is no longer included in the overall total. But that’s also the result of Mr. Bittel’s inability to resolve disagreements they have with him.
There’s little way to spin the dire financial straits the party has been in since the loss in November. From January 1 to the end of April, the Florida Democratic Party had spent $162,000 more than it had raised and only had $5,316 cash on hand.
On voter registration, with all the demographics in their favor Democrats are clearly still headed in the wrong direction after three cycles. Since 2008, Democrats have only registered about 100,000 additional voters to their ranks, while Republicans have added more than 400,000. Independents, which switched from backing Mr. Obama to President Trump, have increased by nearly 1 million.
Meanwhile, even as his national numbers have fallen, President Trump remains popular in the Sunshine State and self-reported party affiliation has trended more favorable to Republicans.
The PPD Battleground State Likely Voter Profiles have shown a slight 1.5-point swing to Republicans, who now hold a 0.4% edge. That’s a shift from when Democrats held a slight 1.1% edge.
“President Trump won Florida because he flipped independent voters in the I-4 corridor, ran up enormous margins in the Panhandle and won the Cuban-American vote in South Florida by a substantial margin,” said Richard D. Baris, PPD’s editor-in-chief and head of the PPD Poll. “When independents are added to the mix, Republicans have slightly expanded their edge in this state.”
Unlike other oft-cited surveys, PPD Battleground State Polls pegged President Trump’s victories on the statewide level in all but two states we identified as battlegrounds within tens of percentage points, including Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Our final PPD Sunshine State Battleground Poll released on Nov. 6 found him leading Hillary Clinton by 1.6%, rounded up to two points.
He won by 1.2%.