Just hours left to early vote in Florida

Early voting ends this afternoon at 4 p.m., and then it will be left to those old-school voters who still opt to participate on Election Day to decide Florida's gubernatorial election. 

Hillsborough, Pinellas and 10 other counties are open for voting today, including the Democratic strongholds of Broward and Palm Beach Counties (where there was a request to keep the polls open past 4 p.m.) This is a huge day for the Democrats as they continue to whittle down the early lead that Republicans ran up during the voting by mail period of the voting season. 

There are over 125,00 more Republican ballots turned in or cast at early voting sites than Democrats as of Sunday morning, a 4.3 percentage lead for the GOP. The Republicans had a huge lead when early voting began on Monday, October 20, but Democrats have consistently put a dent into that margin everyday since.

Charlie Crist strategist Steve Schale notes on his blog today that black turnout (African American and Caribbean) is "well over double what if was in 2010. Black voters now make up 11.3 percent of all voters, which exceeds the total share four years ago, and some two percent higher than this point four years ago." And he notes that 55 percent of voters at this point are women. 

In his daily memo, Tim Saler, deputy campaign manager for Rick Scott, acknowledges that it's highly improbably but not impossible for Democrats to completely catch up to the Republican lead by the end of the day today, noting that Vice President Joe Biden was in Miami on Sunday to drive turnout in South Florida.

Saler again compares the Democratic turnout this year with 2012, when Barack Obama narrowly edged out Mitt Romney to win the presidency in Florida, and says the GOP is in much better shape than that close result.

But Democrats prefer to compare apples to apples, and say the results are far better so far this year than they were in 2010, when Alex Sink lost by 61,500 votes to Rick Scott.  Schale notes that at this time in 2010, Republicans had a 275,000 advantage, vs. the 125,000 mark.

The big guns continue to fly in and campaign for Rick Scott : tomorrow Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will join the governor tomorrow morning for a campaign stop at Louis Pappas Greek Salads in Clearwater at 9 a.m. (2560 2560 N McMullen Booth Rd), and in Plant City at Parkesdale Farm at 11 a.m. (3702 W. Baker St).

Charlie Crist has no scheduled appearance in the Tampa Bay area on Monday - his big event will be with Bill Clinton in Orlando Monday night on the University of Central Florida campus. 

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