Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email about final weeks of the 2020 campaign — 10.4.20

Today is National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day; don't forget those firefighters who sacrifice for the common good.

Good morning and welcome to the latest edition of “Brunch,” our pop-up email delivered on Sundays during the final weeks of the 2020 campaign.

Obviously, events at the national level are dominating the news and social media. And this email leads off with a rundown of the latest developments. Yet, I am hard-pressed to see how the earth-shattering developments involving the health of the President of the United States will change the course of the campaign. My opinion is the race is not close, neither nationally nor in almost all of the battleground states, yet the President’s base of support has a floor that is so high that he remains competitive in the places he needs to win to squeeze out a victory in the Electoral College.

How much will Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis affect the campaign, if at all? Image via AP.

— I also don’t see how #COVID45 changes the trajectory of the down-ballot races in Florida. The races for Congressional District 26 or Senate District 9 are worlds away from Walter Reed hospital. If I were the consultant to any of the candidates running in any of the competitive races, I would tell them to stay focused on what they can impact and not worry about the Kellyanne Conways of the world testing positive for coronavirus.

If there is one thing we can be sure of right now, it’s this — voters are voting. Tens of thousands of them. Democratic consultant Kevin Cate tweeted out the latest numbers:


I know, I know the GOP’s attitude about EAV has shifted because of Trump’s attacks, but at what point do the alarms go off at RPOF HQ?

What happens if GOP voters wait until Election Day to cast their ballot, and there is a major #COVID19 surge in late October and early November, thereby making it more difficult to cast an in-person ballot? What if there is a late-season hurricane?

If I’m a #MAGA voter now, I’m still gonna be a #MAGA voter in November. There’s no sense waiting to cast my ballot, no matter what the President, currently hospitalized, says about EAV.

Today is Election Day. Tomorrow is Election Day. This week is Election Day. Go vote.

>>>Click here to read who Joe Henderson and I selected as the Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics.

I’m 3-1 in this early NFL season with my picks. Let’s see if we can go on a heater: I like the Dolphins plus 5.5 against the Seahawks (1 p.m.); I think the O/U (42.5) in the Chargers vs. Bucs game is a trap because the weather could be horrible by the time the game kicks-off at 1 p.m. Also, I wouldn’t say I like the Chargers getting seven because I feel the Bucs are due for a course correction. And sorry, Duuuvvval, I’m taking the Bengals and giving just 2.5 as they welcome the Jags.

Today is National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day. Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Sunday at state and local buildings in observance the day. Take a moment to thank the dedicated men and women who devote their lives to protecting our loved ones and us.

Don’t forget to thank a firefighter for their sacrifice for the common good.

What we know about POTUS’ health

It had been October for only 25 hours when President Donald Trump announced he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19. Now the nation is waiting and watching as Trump’s illness raises national security concerns, questions about the 2020 election less than one month away, and whether a transition of power is in the cards.

Here’s what we know (and what we don’t) about COVID-19 in the White House.

Trump announced he tested positive at 1 a.m. Friday — But there are questions about when he actually knew he had contracted the illness. Dr. Sean Conley said during a briefing Saturday that the President had the virus for 72-hours. That would have put his diagnosis sometime Wednesday, about two days before Trump said he had tested positive. Conley later confirmed he meant Trump was on the third day, noting the diagnosis came down Thursday evening.

Donald Trump shares a video clip from Walter Reed Hospital, giving America an update on his fight with COVID-19.

But there are still questions about how long the President may have had the virus before his diagnosis — Trump was abruptly admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center Friday evening, an unusual move considering the vast medical resources at the President’s disposal in the White House and a step back from earlier indications the President would weather the virus from his residence.

If Trump only recently contracted the virus, he could have a severe case — Health officials note COVID-19 patients begin displaying the most severe symptoms 7-10 days after they contract the virus. Trump’s symptoms escalated quickly. It’s impossible to say what that means, but it could indicate he either contracted the virus sooner than estimated or that his rapid progression suggests a more severe case.

Trump’s health is concerning — Dr. Conley told reporters Saturday the President had not required oxygen, but he said so through ambiguous language, raising questions about whether that was true. An anonymous source later told reporters Trump had received supplemental oxygen before being transported to the hospital Friday.

Trump is being treated with experimental drugs — He’s received two, a Regeneron antibody cocktail not yet approved by the FDA for use in COVID-19 patients and remdesivir, an antiviral medication that has shown success in reducing the time patients suffer from COVID-19.

Trump’s prognosis — It’s impossible to say to what extent the President will suffer. At age 74 and medically obese, Trump falls into a particularly vulnerable demographic. However, as President, he will have access to the highest quality medical care available, which could make a big difference in his health outcomes.

Who else is infected — Several people within Trump’s inner circle and U.S. Senators have also tested positive. Trump senior adviser Hope Hicks was the first to announce a positive test publicly. Former adviser Kellyanne Conway, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins, and Sens. Mike Lee, Thom Tillis, and Ron Johnson.

What it means for the election — Almost everything is hypothetical, but it is causing a political stir, to say the least. What’s immediately apparent is Trump’s diagnosis will keep him from physically campaigning, though Trump ads, both negative and positive, are still running. Former Vice President Joe Biden has suspended negative ads while the President is sick. Should Trump’s health worsen, there’s a chance there could be a presidential transfer of power to Vice President Mike Pence, who has so far tested negative.

What it means for the Supreme Court nominee — With three U.S. Senators positive for COVID-19, the Senate’s plan to rush through the confirmation process could be in jeopardy. Sen. Lindsay Graham has called for the process to begin Oct. 12, which would be exactly 10 days from two of the Senators’ diagnosis. Should they require a more extended quarantine, the Senate may have to slow down or take the controversial track, using a remote confirmation process.

There are more questions than answers — Transparency has been called into question, with the President’s personal doctor making vague and contradictory statements about the President’s health. Few details have been shared about the President’s status. Officials have not provided details about tests taken, and the outcomes thereof, details that could shed light on the seriousness of Trump’s illness. It raises questions about whether the President is as well as he let on in a brief video Friday and in comments reported by his administration and medical team.

— Pandemic push —

As the Governor and Legislature pick issues to chew on until spring, Florida voters have one unsurprising topic on their mind. A poll released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce asked likely voters to rank priorities for state leaders, and the pandemic still tops the list.

Survey says: About 29% of voters list COVID-19 issues as their chief concern. That’s nearly double the percentage of votes for the next highest item on the list.

Job mob: The not entirely unrelated choice of jobs and the economy came in second, with 15% thinking of pocketbook issues.

COVID-19 is top-of-mind for many Floridians, a new Chamber survey shows.

Blue and white: Support for police and attention to health care tied in the poll at 8%.

Book smarts: The eternal issue of education rounds out the list as the top concern of 7% of voters.

— Referendum routes —

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has made no bones about its concerns around several proposed Constitutional Amendments on the ballot, particularly a minimum wage hike. It tested public opinion a month out on Election Day regarding ballot measures — and checked if voters can be swayed with the right info diet.

Meeting minimums: If the election were held today, about 66% of voters would approve Amendment 2, which would raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 over five years. That’s enough to pass. But voters heard of consequences, including $700 million in lost revenue, support dwindled to just 39%.

The constitutional Amendment for a $15 minimum wage in Florida appears likely to pass.

Jungle out there: The Chamber also opposes Amendment 3, the All Voters Vote measure to remake Florida primaries into Top Two runoffs. But 61% of voters like it, just barely enough to meet a 60% threshold for passage.

Cleaning time: Amendment 4, requiring two votes to approve future constitutional amendments, boasts identical support. The Chamber, which supports this change, found 61% of voters supporting the change. 

— Amendment 2’s new opponent — 

Americans for Prosperity Florida will go on the offensive this week against the $15 minimum wage initiative proposed for 2020.

The attack plan: With only weeks before Election Day, the campaign against Amendment 2 will be launched online and by mail. The ad will also play over radio waves. 

What they’re saying: “Amendment 2 would cut the rungs off the economic ladder, making it harder for people to get to work,” said AFP-FL Director Skylar Zander. “Rejecting this misguided ballot initiative will protect Florida workers, families, and small businesses.”

What if?: If Amendment 2 were to pass with 60% voter approval, the minimum wage would climb to $10 per hour in 2021 and increase by $1 each year till it reached $15. Florida’s current minimum wage is $8.56 an hour.

State of play: As Election Day draws near, more and more players have joined the fray to support or oppose the amendment. 

The matter in recent weeks has drawn critics such as Sen. Joe Gruters and Chris Sprowls, the future house leader. It also has attracted fanfare from Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and a spirited defense from John Morgan, the amendment’s sponsor. 

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

— Loomer losing big —

Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel is nearly doubling the support of Republican challenger Laura Loomer in a fresh survey from St. Pete Polls on the race for Florida’s 21st Congressional District.

The results: Frankel is earning 61% support compared to just 33% for Loomer. Nonparty affiliated candidate Charleston Malkemus pulled in only 2% support, while the remaining 5% of voters are undecided.

Lois Frankel has double the support compared to Laura Loomer, a new survey shows.

No surprise: Frankel won reelection in 2016 by more than 25 percentage points and ran unopposed in 2018. Democrats have a 17.5-point advantage over Republicans in terms of voter registration inside the district, giving Frankel a huge edge this Nov. 3.

Why the attention? Loomer has made several bigoted comments in her past, including calling Islam a “cancer” and accusing Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota of being anti-Jewish and supporting female genital mutilation. Several social media companies have blocked Loomer from their respective platforms. Uber and Lyft banned Loomer as well after she complained about the number of Muslim drivers.

Big-name support: “Great going Laura,” Trump tweeted after Loomer emerged from a six-person contest to secure the GOP nomination. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz and GOP operative Roger Stone are also supporting Loomer.

Money game: Loomer has outraised Frankel, though she’s paid big bucks in online fundraising fees to attract that cash. That’s allowed Frankel to maintain a cash-on-hand advantage. As of July 29, Frankel holds more than $1.25 million compared to nearly $238,000 for Loomer.

The survey sampled 1,015 likely voters and ran on Oct. 2. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

— Murphy spreading money, favor —

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy created a new political action committee to support Democrats running in state races, and the Democratic Party.

The new DANG PAC transforms Murphy’s maiden name into an acronym for the Developing A New Generation PAC.

The effort also may be transforming Murphy’s profile in local politics, by providing more than $30,000 in total to House and Senate candidates, the Orange and Seminole County Democratic parties, and the Florida Democratic Party, for the Nov. 3 election. 

Stephanie Murphy’s new DANG PAC is supporting state-level Democratic candidates.

Except for an occasional endorsement, Murphy hasn’t been very visible in involvement in state or local campaigns until now. Unlike her Central Florida Democratic colleagues Reps. Darren Soto and Val Demings, Murphy hasn’t often rubbed shoulders with local Democrats running for offices.

The 2022 election season is only five weeks away. Assuming Murphy wins a third term in the Nov. 3 election, speculation will ramp up swiftly about her prospects for higher office, perhaps challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in 2020. Nothing says “You and me, right?” like a $1,000 check a month before a close election.

The first checks went recently to Senate candidate Patricia Sigman and House candidates Kayser Enneking, Patrick Henry, Pasha Baker, Tracey Kagan, Joy Goff-Marcil, Barbara Cady, Nina Yoakum, Julie Jenkins, Dawn Douglas, Jim Bonfiglio, Linda Thompson Gonzales, Maureen Porras, Annette Collazo, Francesca Cesti-Browne, Ricky Junquera, and Clint Barras.

—Deutch, Díaz-Balart talk COVID-19 —

Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch and Republican Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart join a virtual town hall Monday to talk about America’s global leadership role amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Townhall details: The two will join Liz Schrayer of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition to discuss what the outbreak means for U.S. national security and Florida’s economy. The virtual town hall will run from noon until 1 p.m. Monday.

Democrat Ted Deutch and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart are participating in a town hall on the COVID-19 crisis.

Close to home: The issue is personal for Díaz-Balart, as he contracted the virus early this past April. Díaz-Balart eventually recovered and donated his plasma to OneBlood.

President’s diagnosis: The conversation comes as Trump is being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center after being infected by the novel coronavirus. The effect on Trump and what that means for America’s security interests, is sure to come up during Monday’s talk.

— Must-see TV —

The cash is still flowing to TV stations, with numerous six-figure ad buys getting the green light this week. Here’s a preview of what you can expect to see while channel surfing this week.

CD 4: Democratic nominee Donna Deegan expanded her broadcast buy with another $14K through Oct. 12. So far, she’s spent $277K on ads with $140K of them yet to air. Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Rutherford has spent $232K, but all of his flights have landed.

CD 13: Republican Anna Paulina Luna spent $21K on a cable buy that started Saturday and ends Wednesday. She also bought $34K on Facebook and Google ads. She has now spent $505K this cycle, while incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has spent $1.74M.

To watch the latest ad, click on the image below:

CD 16: Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan spent a combined $133K for a broadcast buy through Oct. 11 and a cable buy through Oct. 12. He also placed $4K into Facebook and Google ads. He’s spent $773K on ads so far this cycle. Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good added $11K added to her broadcast buy ending Tuesday. She also spent $6K on Facebook and Google ads. This brings her total for the election to $1.07M.

CD 18: Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast spent $171K on a broadcast buy running through Oct. 11 and $20K on a cable buy ending the same date. He also spent $11K on Facebook and Google ads. He’s now spent $818K on ads this cycle, while Democratic challenger Pam Keith has spent $446K.

CD 26: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez bought another $372K in ad time for his congressional campaign — $369K went to a broadcast buy, and $3K went to Facebook ads. The NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund, both backing him, spent a combined $7K on digital ads. Also, Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell put $17K into digital ads while the DCCC spent $216K on a broadcast and cable buy that runs through Oct. 12. So far, DMP and her backers have put $8.7M into ads while Gimenez and GOP groups have spent $7.5M.

CD 27: Democratic U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala added 40K to a broadcast buy ending Wednesday while Republican Maria Salazar spent $6K on Facebook and Google ads. Shalala and House Majority PAC have now spent a combined $2.9M while Salazar and the NRCC have spent $1.5M.

Miami-Dade Mayor: The Miami-Dade Democratic Party and political committee A Better Miami-Dade made a combined $286K in ad buys this week in support of Daniella Levina Cava’s bid for county mayor. The party buy was for broadcast and cable through Oct. 11. The committee buy was for broadcast. Meanwhile, Republican Estaban “Steve” Bovo put $80K into a broadcast flight that runs through Oct. 12. A committee supporting him, Citizens for Ethical and Effective Leadership, launched a $106K cable flight that will last through Oct. 23.

— Proud Boy —

Former GOP House candidate Gabriel Garcia, who lost his House District 116 primary bid this cycle, is a member of the Proud Boys. The Miami Herald’s David Smiley uncovered the connection between the controversial right-wing militia group and Garcia, a GOP candidate who garnered indirect support from House Speaker José Oliva.

Presidential shoutout: When asked at Tuesday’s debate to condemn White supremacy generally — and to condemn the violent right-wing Proud Boys specifically — Trump told the group to “stand back and stand by.” After two full days of criticism, Trump finally condemned the group in a Thursday evening interview with Sean Hannity.

Garcia’s response: “I’m upset we were called a hate group when you have antifa beating up on elderly people coming out of Trump rallies, burning down police cars,” he told Smiley. “You’ll never see any of us do that.”

Record of violence: The Proud Boys have repeatedly exhibited violence on the streets, however. Two Proud Boys members were sentenced to four-year prison terms after a 2018 New York City incident where they assaulted multiple people protesting a speech by their leader, Gavin McInnes. They have also fought members of antifa in demonstrations elsewhere.

House Speaker’s support: A political action committee with ties to outgoing House Speaker Oliva released attack ads hammering Republican Rep. Daniel Perez before Perez defeated Garcia in the August primary. Oliva said he sent money to that PAC, Citizens for Ethical and Effective Leadership, to go after Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Alex Penelas, not Perez. But Oliva declined to say whether he supported the attacks on Perez. 

— Summit goes virtual — 

 The 2020 Human Trafficking Summit chaired by Attorney General Ashley Moody will be held Tuesday virtually amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The deets: The free event will launch at 9 a.m. on Oct. 6, 2020, and is open to the public.

Special guests: The Summit will bring together leaders of all backgrounds. Among them, Tim Tebow, a Heisman Trophy winner and human trafficking activist who will be the Summit’s keynote speaker.

Ashley Moody’s Human Trafficking Summit is all virtual for 2020.

Breakout: The Summit will feature breakout sessions ranging from law enforcement and health care to policy and research.

The Background: Florida’s Human Trafficking Council was created in 2014. They are tasked with combating human trafficking and holding an annual statewide summit.

The Summit will be available online for 18 months.

Ready for Action?!

The film industry largely shuttered when the pandemic struck in the U.S. Florida was no exception, but Film Florida since enjoyed some success in turning the floodlights back on. The trade association released its “recommendations for clean and healthy production sets,” one of the only such sets of guidelines in the nation. Some choice rules?

Temp checks: It continues to be a good year for thermometer manufacturers. The recommendations include daily temperature checks for cast and crew, suggesting tracking daily changes if you run a multiday shoot.

Film Florida is working on getting the cameras rolling again safely.

Teaming up: Film Florida suggests dividing production areas and assignment crew to teams, limiting exposure between departments. Have someone assigned to wiping surfaces as part of each team.

Tents over trailers: Forget the mobile home set up for stars. The guidelines suggest tents with portable A/C prove safer when it comes to stopping the virus. Limit trailer occupancy to five people or less at all times and keep windows open if you must use structures.

Toss the script: Literally. With concern overexposure, there’s no reason to use paper scripts when a digital copy will do. Film Florida also suggests FaceTime casting sessions and canceling any open calls.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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