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Joe Henderson: Welcome to Tampa, Mr. President and Mr. Biden

Here’s some advice from a local.

Well, aren’t we special? Those living in Tampa and Hillsborough County will be at the epicenter of national politics on Thursday when President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden hold dueling rallies in our beautiful city.

Because we like to be neighborly, here are a few suggestions offered free of charge.

Trump, aka Mr. Law & Order, might be tempted to mention the riots in Tampa and Hillsborough in late May after George Floyd’s murder. Well, it was in the news and there’s no sense hiding from it.

He might not want to trot his familiar talking point about Democrat mayors taking blame for Every Bad Thing, though. Tampa’s Jane Castor is a former Police Chief and quite popular. City residents seem to really like her and, yes, she believes that wearing masks is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Going after Castor won’t win Trump any votes here, at least none that he doesn’t already have.

The schtick about saving the suburbs is risky, too.

As the Washington Post noted, “The Tampa Bay counties of Hillsborough and Pinellas also break for Democrats in close races and have added tens of thousands of new voters since 2016.”

In the 2018 Governor’s race, Hillsborough voters preferred Democrat Andrew Gillum over Trump’s Mini-Me Ron DeSantis by about 9%. They chose Democrats in two countywide Commission races.

The Biden drive-in rally will stress that face-coverings should be mandatory. I’ll take a wild guess that most attendees at Trump’s rally will have forgotten or misplaced their masks.

That will be a stark visual in a county where COVID-19 cases are increasing again. There have been more than 47,000 cases and 762 deaths in the county since the pandemic began.

Biden will say that’s way too many, and Trump will laud himself and DeSantis over the great, fabulous, awesome job they’re doing. But then those pesky media outlets will make a show of masks at one rally and bare faces at another.

Trump might lose that argument, just saying.

Now, Tampa unquestionably is a city on the move. We have a diversified economy that adapted to 21st-century market demands. Downtown transformed into an entertainment and dining center as well as business.

Oh, our hockey team is pretty good too. If you want to consider our friends in St. Petersburg as part of this scene, then our baseball is also special – their final two games notwithstanding.

Hey, we’ve also got Tom Brady!

He’s a Trumper, which can’t hurt the President. I promise you, though, that if Brady contracts the virus because some twit without a mask got too close to him, even Trump’s supporters will turn on him with a vengeance. Word to the wise.

Our citizens cross the demographic spectrum, which means we are DIVERSE. Most of us seem to like it that way.

The county population is 29.7% Hispanic and 18% Black.

Most of the time, we manage to get along.

According to census data though, 14.7% of Hillsborough residents don’t have health insurance. The same percentage of people in the county live in poverty. That number is 19.5% in the city.

So, yeah, everyone will be really interested in two topics: health insurance, and jobs that pay a living wage. Pssst….Mr. President, this isn’t a good time to remind people here that you want to get rid of their health coverage. Oh, and Mr. Biden? Maybe you want to remind everyone that Trump wants to get rid of their health coverage.

For the record, the county’s vote-by-mail system works just fine.

It has proven trustworthy. Leave it alone.

So, welcome to Tampa. It’s not always this hot in late October but, you know, climate change. If only some experts had warned us about that.

We like our town and it’s getting better all the time. If either of the two candidates has ideas on how to keep that going, we’re all ears.

Written By

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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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, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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