UF political science professor Beth Rosenson analyzed the results of the 2018 midterm election, including the odds for possible recounts. Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What were your predictions for the gubernatorial and Senate races? Did you expect them to be this close?
A: I was a little bit surprised. I thought Andrew Gillum would win, although it is worth noting that all of the polls that put him ahead within the margin of error. It seemed like Gillum had tremendous momentum and DeSantis was sort of chugging along more silently. Based on what I saw in the media – like a lot of people – had a false sense of where the momentum was. Like everyone else, I'm trying to understand why DeSantis won when a lot of people thought Gillum was going to win. I didn't look extensively at all the data, but I did note that Polk County, which is a white county that largely votes Republican, voter turnout was I believe 70 percent. It's tremendously high. As far as the senate race, that one didn't have any clear prediction.
Q: What are the odds that Nelson can beat Scott?
A: It's certainly possible. If you're talking about 10, 20, 30 thousand votes, anything is possible. If you're talking about a county like Broward County that leans Democratic, I think it's certainly possible.
Q: Why were so many of the races on the ballot so close this year?
A: We have a very polarized country in terms of partisanship and Florida reflects that. You have a pretty stark choice. You had a very progressive Democratic candidate, you had a conservative Republican candidate who was tied very closely to Trump. And in some ways, it was definitely a referendum on Trump. He did win the state of Florida but it was fairly close.
Q: Gillum conceded, but that's not legally binding. So if there's a governor recount, what would happen?
A: If there's a recount and he can ask for a recount, but I don't think by virtue of a giving a concession speech does he give up his right to a recount.
Q: What does a Democratic House and Republican Senate mean for the future of politics?
A: At the most simple level it means more gridlock. It’s going to be harder to get things done. They may try work together over party lines, but obviously it's going to be hard to get things done. I'd say that a lot of policies are going to stall and it just means the status quo. Even with a unified government, the president may pass executive orders as a way to get around Congress. As far as the implications of the Democratic House – it’s likely that they’re going to do more investigations of the president.
Q: Incumbents Ted Yoho, Keith Perry and Chuck Clemons were re-elected. What does this mean?
A: You have to keep in mind if you look on a map, Gainesville is a little blue island within a much redder sea. Ted Yoho's district include districts that are reliably Republican. It's not really surprising that he won reelection in the overall congressional district. That being said, Keith Perry who also represents a conservative district – he did face a tough challenge. It shows that's it's possible for Democrats – it's a little more effort and maybe in the future they could win the state.
Q: What does this midterm election tell us about the future of Florida politics?
A: Florida is influx and it's up for grabs. You can't take anything for granted. If you look at how close the Senate and the House races were, it could have gone either way and it can still go either way. It shows how important voter turnout is. Whether you're a Democrat or Republican, it shows your vote matters. If it's so close, everybody's vote can tip the scale one way or another.