Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Democrats have outvoted Republicans in Florida in vote-by-mail ballots by a margin of over 400,000 as of 11am on Wednesday, according to state election data.
Why it matters: This is the first time Democrats have led over Republicans during this stage of an election, though states are expecting an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic. Typically, Republicans are ahead by a slight margin in absentee ballot returns, according to Politico.
Yes, but: Republican officials say they are confident they can catch up by Election Day.
- “Voting in Florida is a marathon. And what you’re seeing is a bit of a sprint from the Democrats,” the director of Trump's campaign in Florida, Susie Wiles, told Politico.
- "But we have far more high-propensity voters on our side. That should be noted in all the hype about the Democrats’ lead. We’re not finished. We’re turning our sights to early in-person voting and to Election Day.”
The big picture: President Trump has publicly attacked mail-in-voting, calling it fraudulent and baselessly claiming the election will be "rigged" because states that don't usually conduct vote-by-mail elections have adopted new pandemic-era systems.
- In Florida, however, Trump has encouraged his supporters to vote by mail because "they’ve been doing this over many years, and they’ve made it really terrific."
- House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told Axios that Republicans "could lose" as a result of Trump's war on mail-in voting, saying that he's spent hours telling the president that this preoccupation will hurt his own re-election chances.
The bottom line: Florida, which Trump won in 2016 but looks to be a competitive race in 2020, is crucial to his re-election chances. Since 1996, every presidential candidate that has won Florida has won the election.