Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 10.31.21

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At a news conference described as more of a campaign rally in West Palm Beach, Gov. Ron DeSantis came out swinging after the crowd began chanting, “Let’s go Brandon.”

The phrase began making the rounds in October after a race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. As NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast tried to interview NASCAR driver Brandon Brown, the crowd behind him chanted something heard clearly.

Stavast suggested the crowd was saying, “Let’s go, Brandon!” The crowd was actually shouting, “F**k Joe Biden.”

“You have a reporter from NBC,” DeSantis said. “She’s trying to cover for Biden, so she says they’re chanting ‘Let’s go Brandon.’ It was a lie.”

Yes, if you listen to the tape, it’s easy to hear what people were chanting. In a split second on live TV, Stavast — in my opinion — tried to bring a little levity to a vulgar moment while doing her job.

But “covering for Biden?” C’mon, Governor.

Republicans hate Biden in the same way Democrats hated Donald Trump. Dems frequently used equally “colorful” language to express their feelings when the Lord of Mar-a-Lago was the President.

That’s where we are, though. DeSantis will make his reelection campaign about an unpopular President, connecting Biden to everything his followers loathe. And the more they shout “Brandon,” the more DeSantis will egg them on. He needs his supporters to stay angry, and they clearly are.

Democrats already understand that beating DeSantis is the Mount Everest of political challenges. He is swimming in cash, with about $50 million already in the bank, and he has positioned himself as a fighter against the boogeyman in the White House.

Assuming COVID-19 doesn’t return with fangs and claws in 2022, Democrats will have trouble connecting their “DeSantis is the devil” message with enough voters to make a difference. And despite a series of controversies by the Governor, nothing seems to stick, at least not to a level that would put his reelection chances in serious jeopardy.

And as POLITICO reported, the Democratic Governors Association might not pour much money into this race, although the group itself denies that’s the case. Still, It will direct resources into other states where the DGA believes Democrats have a better chance to win.

The D.G.A. later denied the POLITICO report and said it believes Florida is still in play.

We’ll see.

OK, on to our weekly game of winners and losers.

Winners

Honorable mention — Florida’s restaurant reputation: Our state is known for its beaches, burger joints, chain restaurants, and maybe a segment of the population that considers take-home dinner from Wawa their special treat of the week. However, the Sunshine State just received some sunny love from the Michelin Guide. If your restaurant gets a thumbs-up from those guys, you’re in the big leagues.

Tampa, Miami, and Orlando will join the traditional Michelin U.S. cities of New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Michelin said, “inspectors will begin discovering and celebrating culinary gems across the state next year.”

That will lead to the inaugural Michelin Guide for Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.

Yum!

This came about through a partnership with VISIT FLORIDA. That’s a huge win for this agency that always seems to have a target on its back from lawmakers who want to shut it down.

“VISIT FLORIDA, along with our destination partners, Visit OrlandoVisit Tampa Bay, and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, are thrilled to partner with Michelin to develop a Michelin Guide to further establish Florida as a world-renowned culinary destination,” VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young said. “This gives Florida the opportunity to highlight the dynamic and unexpected culinary adventures the Sunshine State has to offer from locally-grown produce and fresh seafood to unique fusions from cultures around the world.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner— Val Demings: Wait a minute; her party got rolled in Tuesday’s elections — perception, after all, is everything in politics. So, how is the beating Dems took in the court of public opinion good for someone who wants to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio?

Because as Democrats regroup and try to hold onto power, Demings offers the best way forward. Her campaign thus far has been confined almost exclusively to social media sites such as Facebook.

As POLITICO recently reported, Demings raised a whopping $8.5 million in the most recent quarter. That’s the most of any Senate candidate in the country and $2.4 million more than Rubio in the same quarter.

The bulk of that came in small dollar amounts from Facebook users, where she has connected with thousands of people who want to see her oust Rubio. The strategy keeps her under the radar and out of sight and mind for the cable news squawkers about Washington’s dysfunction while cultivating followers and raising cash all the while.

Demings’ personal story is relatable for millions of Floridians. She was born in a two-room house in Jacksonville, and her father was a janitor, her mother a maid. Demings went on to graduate from Florida State University.

She joined the Orlando Police Department, eventually becoming the city’s first female police chief.

Oh, and she rides motorcycles.

That’s a story she can sell easily on social media, and she has.

Obviously, Demings must resort to more traditional campaigning in the coming months, and that’s a given. But her social media strategy helped her build a solid foundation as she moves forward.

The biggest winner — Sports betting in Florida (for now, anyway): After hearing arguments in two lawsuits opposing the Florida gaming compact that allows online sports betting in the Sunshine State, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered the Department of Interior attorneys to beef up their written arguments opposing the plaintiffs.

They have until Tuesday to do so.

”It’s hard to think that the government’s whole litigation strategy seems to be to delay this court from ruling,” the judge said.

The Interior Department gave the final go-ahead to the Compact in August, giving the Seminole Tribe of Florida control over sports wagering in Florida.

West Flagler Associates, which owns Magic City Casino in Miami and Bonita Springs Poker Room, brought one of the D.C. lawsuits. They claim sports betting under the Compact will harm their business. The other suit was filed by a group that includes “No Casinos,” which helped pass Amendment 3 in 2018. They argue the law bans the expansion of gambling in the state without 60% voter approval.

Despite the ongoing litigation, Seminole Hard Rock Sportsbook unveiled an app last week that allows players to place bets on pro football, hockey, and other sports.

For now, it’s still legal.

After Tuesday, um, we’ll see.

Losers

Dishonorable mention — Texas-style abortion law: It’s early, but the sound of crickets from Florida lawmakers about bringing something similar to the Sunshine State is telling. The Florida Phoenix reported a bill filed in September by Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby that essentially copycats the Texas law has gained no traction.

HB 167 has no companion bill in the Senate and no co-sponsor in the House.

Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls don’t appear to be on board. And  Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, who chairs her chamber’s rules committee, already voiced opposition.

Translation: This bill is toast.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Donald Trump’s influence: Sure, why not?

In Virginia’s gubernatorial election, Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated incumbent Terry McAuliffe largely over schools and hot-button social issues like transgender rights. He promised to ban critical race theory in Virginia schools. That shouldn’t be a problem since schools already don’t teach CRT.

Trump endorsed Youngkin but did not campaign for him.

McAuliffe tried to paint Youngkin as a Trump acolyte, but Youngkin ignored that, and apparently voters did too. This happened in a state Biden won by 10 points just a year ago.

The Washington Post described Youngkin as “an approachable suburban dad” who would pick your kids up from soccer practice if need be.

The keyword: relatability.

Did voters in this largely blue state send a message that while they may be tired of Trump’s antics, they like some of the things he did?

It’s possible, and Youngkin’s strategy could become the blueprint for other GOP candidates in 2022. It also could mean more time at Mar-a-Lago for Trump.

The biggest loser — The University of Florida: It was a rough week for Gator Nation, and not just because its football team got mowed by Georgia.

The university’s decision to bar three professors from testifying as expert witnesses in a lawsuit to overturn the state’s new voting restrictions ignited a firestorm that now threatens UF’s accreditation.

University leaders reasoned that because the professors work at a state school, testifying “is adverse to UF’s interests.”

Um, the First Amendment and academic freedom are adverse to UF’s interests?

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, which accredits UF, said it will investigate possible violations against “undue political influence” and “academic freedom.”

After that story broke, five other professors came forward to say the university muzzled them, too, in other cases.

UF President Kent Fuchs finally blinked. He asked the school’s Conflict of Interest Office to reverse its position that barred the professors from testifying against the state in this issue.

Good thing. The university’s position was indefensible anyway.

On top of that hot mess, there is the case of Board of Trustees Chair Mori Hosseini. He’s a rich guy and gives a lot of money to Gov. Ron DeSantis, which means he has a lot of influence.

An investigation of emails by the Gainesville Sun revealed Hosseini sent Joseph Ladapo’s resume to the president of UF health. That triggered an unusually rapid hiring process that led to Ladapo landing a position with the university, in time to coincide with the announcement that DeSantis named him Florida’s new Surgeon General.

Not long after that, Ladapo made headlines when he refused to wear a mask in the office of Democratic state Sen. Tina Polsky, who is being treated for breast cancer. She asked him to leave.

Joe Henderson

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.


7 comments

  • Frookes

    November 7, 2021 at 6:24 am

    Start making more money weekly… This is a valuable part time work for everyone… The best part ,work from comfort of your house and get paid from $10k-$20k each week … Start today and have your first cash at the end of this week…

  • Tom

    November 7, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Good morning Joe.

    So much to cover, so little time to do so.

    It’s not difficult to imagine the reporter was covering up. I would not doubt she was told by the producers to say that. We will never know, but she set off a push back the Corp and political left will regret. It’s a battle cry now.

    I forewarned that this inept WH team had mistakenly decided to challenge Gov Ron and in doing so, built him up as a dominating force in the conservative movement and Repub. party. Careful what you ask for.

    POTUS’s disapproval is upside down in 38 states or more. His Florida numbers abysmal. Can you say Jen Psaki, Jen Psaki. Of course America’s Gov will hold a spotlight to his record. Especially, with illegals being secretly escorted at night time to Jacksonville.

    The elections Tuesday show the GOP has a lot to run on, as he has accomplished a great deal. Total wipeout across the country.

    America’s Governor, Governor Ron had a great week. Covid has diminished to the lowest infected in country. Go imagine.

    Florida’s economy, (its the economy stupid) is on fire. Jobs, earnings, schools, liberty, freedom are all being maximized. Shipping ports are producing great revenue due to Gov Ron.

    F GOP has equaled the dysfunctional Dems on party registration and will likely surpass them.

    So many accomplishments, so little time to share. Enjoy

    • Ron Ogden

      November 7, 2021 at 7:51 am

      A good comprehensive view of who the real winner was this week. Ron DeSantis has navigated his state through CoVid better than any other governor and better than quite a few national leaders on the global stage. Not that Joe H (Sleepy II) would ever admit it. It is hard to have such a monocular view of politics when all the evidence goes against it. Sleepy II, your politics were outdated thirty years ago! I guess that goes for Sleepy the First, as well.

  • Charles

    November 7, 2021 at 9:34 am

    Jackassery Joe Henderson promoting more political slandering and conclusions that defy reality. But that’s what Jackassery Joe does and yellow journalism is what’s he’s paid for. Yes, it can be idiotic, misleading, laughable, disgusting and on rare occasions truthful. Past time for this curmudgeon to hang it up.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    November 7, 2021 at 10:16 am

    Joe, did you forget that Marco Rubio’s background is almost identical to Val Demmings’? You just can’t help yourself. LOL
    “U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was born in Miami, Florida, one of the four children of Cuban immigrants who came to America in 1956. Both of his parents earned their way to the middle class by working humble jobs — his father as a bartender in hotels and his mother as a maid, cashier, and stock clerk.”

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    November 7, 2021 at 10:17 am

    And please get the spammers off the comments.

  • Tom

    November 7, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    And all the Manchurian tom a tons sucked thumbs in quiet reverence.

Comments are closed.


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