Florida & Michigan in the tug-of-war race for U.S. president; FBI investigation helps Donald Trump

Posted at 6:43 AM, Nov 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-06 12:08:49-05

Hello from Florida, the swing state that is the epicenter of the U.S. race for president tug-of-war.  With more than 12 million active registered voters and 29 Electoral College votes up for grabs here, both candidates want to desperately win the Sunshine State. 

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are virtually tied in Florida’s latest political polls.  Clinton campaigned in Miami on Saturday.  Entertainer Cher will perform for her there today.  In Kissimmee, the headliners will be Stevie Wonder and President Barack Obama.  Trump attended a rally with his supporters in Tampa over the weekend and is scheduled to appear in Sarasota  on Monday.  In between those stops, Clinton, Trump and their surrogates are pressing the flesh in the battleground states of Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and New Hampshire.

For the past few days, I’ve been teaching a seminar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.  In talking with a very diverse group of journalists from across the nation, you can feel the tension of this presidential race.  You can also see it on the local television stations in the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg area.  Practically every commercial break features a national,  state or local political spot.

But what is noticeably absent the past week, are accusations that pollsters “are wrong” and this year’s “election is rigged.”  Why?   I asked the man who has been crunching numbers for WXYZ-TV/Channel 7 for years.  “Now that the race between Trump and Clinton has tightened across the country, including our latest survey, not nearly as many Trump supporters believe this contest for the White House is rigged., “ says Bernie Porn, president of Lansing, Michigan ‘s EPIC MRA polling firm.

Porn conducted Friday’s exclusive Detroit Free Press survey of 600 likely Michigan voters where Clinton’s lead in the Great Lakes State has now shrunk to 4 points, the margin of error. 

The poll also asked respondents if FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress about Clinton’s e-mail investigation has significantly impacted the race.  Sixty-seven percent of absentee voters said it has “had no influence” one way or the other.  Seventy-two percent of those who haven’t voted yet, also said the investigation has not influenced them.  The survey showed virtually no change among Clinton loyalists.  Twenty-six percent of Trump absentee supporters said it made them more likely to vote for the businessman from New York, 22% of non=absentee voters say it will “more likely” make them cast their ballot for Trump.

“The impact of the FBI investigation is that it has firmed up Trump supporters, who have traditionally voted more against Clinton than for their party nominee,” says Porn.  “It has also hurt third party candidate Gary Johnson.  Porn says his support has slipped from 9 points to 5, “and all of that has gone directly to Trump.”

When asked how important is Michigan as America heads into its final two days before people head to the polls, Channel 7’s pollster declared:  “Michigan is in the eye of the storm as to who becomes the next president.   And Hillary Clinton’s ability to maintain her narrow lead in Michigan will depend on the success or failure of Detroit and African Americans turning out to vote the way they did 4 years ago for President Barack Obama.”   Clinton will campaign in Grand Rapids, the home of Michigan Democratic Party State Chair Brandon Dillon, on Monday.  Trump is in Sterling Heights today and possibly Grand Rapids on Monday.  

Meanwhile, down here in Florida, the battle is largely between the state’s fast growing Hispanic vote which leans toward Clinton and many white voters in Central Florida who tend to side with Trump.  The largest new group of Florida Hispanic residents is Puerto Rican who can immediately vote in the state election because they are already U.S. citizens.  About 46% of voters here have already cast their ballots in the state’s early voting system that ends on Monday. 

Fasten your seatbelts.  It looks like the 2016 race for U.S. president will end with all the thrills of an amusement park roller coaster ride!