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Fried continues to slam the Governor.

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Joe Henderson: Nikki Fried could feel the heat if Bernie Sanders is the nominee

Fried could face the same treatment Republicans receive for supporting Donald Trump

Imagine for a moment that you’re Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat to win a Florida statewide election since Alex Sink in 2006.

As the most visible member of her party in Florida, Fried has an enormous responsibility in the months before this year’s election. Down-ballot Democratic candidates across the state will want her support, but it won’t stop there.

Florida’s 29 electoral votes could be critical to the outcome of the presidential election. Fried’s position demands that she champion the Democratic nominee.

But what if that person is Bernie Sanders?

Sanders is leading most of the statewide polls. FiveThirtyEight.com gives him a 48% chance of winning the nomination, although it’s interesting that “No One” comes in second at 42%.

No other active candidate, according to that projection, has more than a 9% chance. Michael Bloomberg has a 3% chance. Yikes!

Yes, things can change. Many voters remain undecided, and Bloomberg’s checks haven’t bounced yet.

Also, Fried has been careful not to endorse anyone in the race so far.

Let’s assume, though, that Sanders pulls it off. Every Republican candidate faces questions about Donald Trump’s often-incomprehensible ramblings, and Fried could get the same treatment about Sanders’ ideas.

Medicare For All? No private health insurance?

SAY WHAT?

Obamacare wasn’t even close to that concept, but Sarah Palin screamed it included death panels that wanted to kill grandma. That was fake news before fake news was news. But it succeeded in scaring a lot of voters.

Speaking of fake news, there’s a doozie going around about Sanders. It’s about his tax plan. Actor James Woods spread an absolute whopper that Sanders’ health care plan would impose a 52% income tax on anyone making at least $29,000.

Sanders did float the idea of a 52% tax on incomes of $10 million or more, but those making $29,000? Sanders proposed they pay NO tax. Of course, though, in this day where facts are whatever someone wishes them to be, Fried might have to address that malarkey.

Ooops, sorry. Joe Biden owns the copyright on the word “malarkey.”

And we haven’t even brought up the whole “Democratic Socialist” thing. Imagine the field day the Trump crowd and Russian bots can have with that one. And Republicans would love nothing more than to tie Fried to the most controversial figure they can find.

This doesn’t mean that Fried can’t handle herself on the trail. She proved that in the 2018 election.

And there is no doubt Republicans can come up with a lot of stuff to throw at another candidate should Bernie stumble. Let’s be honest, though. No one in the Democratic field stokes GOP hysteria like Sanders, although Elizabeth Warren probably comes close.

And Sanders sure knows how to hand them a lot of material, too.

On Sunday night, he ignited a firestorm on “60 Minutes.” He said, sure, Fidel Castro was a bad guy, and he should have stopped there.

But he didn’t.

“But you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders told host Anderson Cooper. “When Fidel Castro came to office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

Mark that one down, folks. That was Bernie’s “very fine people on both sides” moment. And if he is the nominee, it’s the moment he lost Florida’s electoral votes. If he has a rally in South Florida between now and November, Fried might need an unavoidable scheduling conflict.

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I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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