Before we launch into our weekly game of winners and losers, please take a moment of reflection and prayer for Michelle Todd Schorsch, Florida Politics founder and Publisher Peter Schorsch, and their daughter, Ella.
As many of you know, Michelle is in a hospital recovering from surgery to address a life-threatening condition. Peter has been at her side throughout the ordeal. She is the love of his life, and we at this site know you share our hope for her complete recovery.
It’s customary in times like this to say the family is in our thoughts and prayers. In this case, they’ve never left since this ordeal began.
Blessings to the Schorsch family.
OK, Peter would tell me to get on with this now. So, here we go.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis enjoys strong approval among Republicans and seems likely to win a second term, he’ll still have to navigate some potential potholes that could turn into craters.
He won’t be fully to blame for those, mind you. Since when does that matter in politics, though?
We’ll start with that pesky COVID-19 bug, who missed the memo that Florida (read: DeSantis) kicked its butt. DeSantis enjoys bragging about his success over the virus, but let’s look at the numbers. After all, he’s a data-driven guy, so he tells us.
The Delta variant of the virus spreads rapidly and leaves people just as seriously ill as its earlier versions. And man, is it spreading.
Scott Powers of Florida Politics compared the virus report from the week ending July 8 to the July 1 numbers. In the six-county greater Orlando area, there was a whopping 58% jump in cases.
Let’s be clear about one thing: this isn’t DeSantis’ fault directly. Vaccines are available for anyone willing to take them. The Governor continues to say it’s a good idea for people to get vaccinated. That’s about as far as he goes, though.
Maybe he’s afraid of offending a particular segment of the population that wouldn’t trust anyone who told them the sun rises in the east.
Those people read on krazykonspiracies.kom that the vaccines are a giant libtard plot to control their minds and bodies, and they will have none of that.
So, some of them get sick and die.
As the cases increase, though, people get edgy. Remember, DeSantis’ approval plummeted last year over his handling of the crisis. DeSantis could get splatted with the fallout if this latest bout with COVID-19 turns as ugly as some are afraid it will.
The other problem is the devastating red tide along Florida’s west-central coast. By now, you know that it’s an ecological disaster. Millions of dead fish washing up on shore is a bad look for someone who loves the image that he is the rare Republican leader concerned about the environment.
The state pumped more than 300 million gallons of polluted water from the Piney Point disaster into Tampa Bay a couple of months ago. That’s suspect No. 1 in the fish kill.
Is that DeSantis’ fault? I mean, Piney Point was a ticking time bomb before he arrived in Tallahassee.
But in the lawsuits that followed, environmental groups claim the government ignored multiple warnings about Piney Point. DeSantis has been in office for more than two years, so this happened on his watch.
Not a good look.
Democrats will feed DeSantis dead, rotting fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the campaign trail. And remember, Charlie Crist — who leads the early polls to oppose DeSantis — is from Pinellas County.
OK, on with our weekly game of Winners and Losers.
Honorable mention — Florida Democrats: This is not for what they’ve done (which isn’t much), but it’s for the golden gift that fate presented them.
The uprising in Cuba gives Dems the chance of a political lifetime to be seen as compassionate and forceful in their advocacy for the Cuban people.
“I really believe this is one of those moments, and I put it up with the moment of ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall’ because I do believe we can give the hope to the people in Cuba,” Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo said.
“It’s really about the people in Cuba who need to hear it. The words of the President of the U.S., be it Republican or Democrat, should matter.”
The President now happens to be Democrat Joe Biden. If his actions lead to a significant change in Cuba, it could help Democrats recapture the Hispanic vote that deserted them in the last election.
I know; they’re Democrats. Sigh.
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — YouTube baseball broadcast: Women have made big inroads into sports media, including Major League Baseball.
Even so, viewers of the YouTube MLB Game of the Week will see history Tuesday when five women — and no men — form the broadcast team for the game at Tropicana Field between the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles.
It is believed to be the first all-female broadcast crew for a major league game.
The team includes Orioles’ radio play-by-play announcer Melanie Newman and MLB.com writer Sarah Langs in the booth. Alanna Rizzo is the on-field reporter, while Heidi Watney and Lauren Gardner will handle the pregame and postgame shows.
This comes 34 years after Tampa’s Gayle Sierens shattered a glass ceiling and became the first woman to do play-by-play on a network NFL broadcast.
The biggest winner — Disney jobs: California’s loss is Central Florida’s gain. Disney announced it would move a regional hub from California to Orlando’s Lake Nona community. The Orlando Sentinel reported a net gain of more than 2,000 jobs for the area with an average annual salary of $120,000.
“This new project will create a dynamic environment to support our expanding business — a brand-new regional campus which will be built in the vibrant Lake Nona community of Orlando, Florida,” Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro said in a letter to employees.
“With more than 60,000 Cast Members, Imagineers, and employees, Central Florida has long been home to many of our businesses, including the Walt Disney World Resort and most of our Disney Signature Experiences team.”
Why would the company do such a thing?
Dennis Speigel, founder and CEO of International Theme Park Services, said that’s easy to figure out.
“Florida is a friendlier work environment state than California is,” Speigel told the Sentinel. “That’s what it comes down to.”
That pitter-pat pounding you just heard is the sound of DeSantis’ heart beating a little faster.
Dishonorable mention — Florida’s new anti-riot bill: OK, we have to bring DeSantis back to earth. Critics lambasted his ballyhooed anti-riot bill after protesters across the state blocked roadways and committed other mischiefs to show their support for those causing unrest in Cuba.
Although the protests were widespread, there were only two arrests.
Police arrested two men in Tampa for violating the part of the law that states people can’t “willfully obstruct the free, convenient, and normal use of a public street, highway, or road.”
Protesters blocked the Palmetto Expressway in Miami, but there were no arrests.
DeSantis rationalized the lack of arrests in that incident.
“The Cuban Americans who were out demonstrating at Versailles, they’re not violent, those aren’t riots, they’re out there being peaceful, and they’re making their voice heard, and we support them and their ability to do that,” he said.
“But it can’t be where you shut down commerce, or you shut down the ability to use these arteries.”
But …. but …. but that’s not what the law says. His stance will only solidify those who believe the law is really about squelching Black Lives Matter protests.
State Attorney Andrew Warren of Tampa released a statement following the arrests.
“These arrests just reveal that the new ‘Anti-Riot Law’ is pointless. It didn’t prevent an unlawful assembly from taking place, and it didn’t give law enforcement any important new tools to handle it as it was unfolding,” he said.
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Florida manatees: The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reported 841 manatees died from the start of this year through July 1.
That already breaks the record of 830 who died in 2013 during a red tide outbreak.
Most of the deaths occurred in Brevard County. Officials blame the deaths on vanishing seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon, leaving manatees to starve. Manatees migrated to the Lagoon during the colder months.
Speculation is that pollution is responsible for destroying seagrass.
The biggest loser — Red Tide: More than 600 tons of dead sea life have washed up on beaches, primarily in Pinellas County. Hillsborough, Manatee, and Pasco counties also were affected.
The culprit is a familiar malady for Florida waters: Red tide.
People living near the coast report the usual problems associated with this condition — awful smell, respiratory irritation, and so on.
It can’t be good for the still-recovering tourism and service industries, either, and it shows no sign of stopping.
Scientists continue to detect high levels of red tide through much of the bay, with no sign of immediate relief on the horizon.
“It’s here. It’s bad. And there’s not much we can do other than make sure we’re all communicating well,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Director Eric Sutton told the Tampa Bay Times.
Robert Weisberg, a physical oceanography professor at the University of South Florida, told the Times the toxic algae bloom could last into the fall.
“The prognosis,” he said, “is not all that good.”