Delegation for 10.18.22: Reddening — Midterms — doo wop — dead end

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
Is Joe Biden helping turn Florida a bit redder?

Turning red

After a red wave looked briefly stalled in September, a new poll shows a shift rightward.

A New York Times-Siena poll of registered voters nationwide shows Republicans gaining ground in ballot tests, with President Joe Biden still suffering low approval ratings.

With 89% of voters saying they are at least somewhat likely to vote in the Midterms, the poll shows about 43% of voters intend to vote for a Republican to represent them in Congress, while 42% favor a Democrat.

When undecideds are pushed to offer an answer, pollsters find both parties tied at 46%. But it’s a shift from September when Democrats held a 46% to 44% edge on Republicans and optimism swirled on the left.

Joe Biden’s popularity numbers may help fuel a red wave in Florida.

At the time, many believed anger over the overturning of Roe v. Wade may allow Democrats to keep control of Congress.

Right now, 62% of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, up from 60% last month. Additionally, 57% disapprove of Biden’s job performance while just 38% approve. That’s also a shift in a direction Democrats don’t want to see.

The poll also shows Republican Donald Trump leading Biden 43% to 42% in a hypothetical 2024 matchup.

What’s all this mean in Florida?

A number of races in the state fall broadly into the category of “competitive.” The major prognosticators, though, classify pretty much all of those as Republican-favored contests.

Both The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball have dropped Florida’s 7th Congressional District off watch lists and now count it as an almost guaranteed Republican pickup. The same goes for Florida’s 4th Congressional District, which Democratic Rep. Al Lawson abandoned after redistricting to challenge GOP Rep. Neal Dunn in a race no out-of-state observers have bothered to watch.

Cook’s Amy Walter lists Florida’s 13th Congressional District, formerly held by Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, and the new seat in Florida’s 15th Congressional District as likely Republican wins. She lists GOP Rep. María Elvira Salazar’s re-election effort in Florida’s 27th Congressional District against Democrat Annette Taddeo as Florida’s most competitive race, but still pencils it in the lean Republican column. Sabato’s team puts all three of those races in the likely Republican column.

The latest national mood polling will be greeted warmly by Republicans in the state, where efforts are already underway to seize on increasingly red national trends.

Taking it back?

How high a priority is Florida for national Republicans in the Midterms?

The Republican National Committee announced its “Take Back Our Country Tour” will hold one of its first stops in the Sunshine State.

Sen. Rick Scott, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), announced the tour with Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chair Tom Emmer. Immediately, an event was announced in Doral, where Scott and McDaniel will stump with Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez and Salazar, as well as Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel is announcing the Take Back Our Country Tour, with prominent stops in Florida.

Salazar is widely considered to be in Florida’s most competitive race at this stage of the election. Giménez faces a nationally backed opponent but hasn’t been marked by any major prognosticator as at-risk.

That Miami stop comes after Scott and McDaniel held another get-out-the-vote rally in Tampa early Tuesday with GOP congressional hopefuls Anna Paulina Luna, James Judge and Laurel Lee, who are running respectively in Florida’s 13th, 14th and 15th Congressional Districts.

While Judge may be in a futile race against Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in Tampa, Luna and Lee are favored to give Republicans a lift in their effort to retake the House. Luna is running against Democrat Eric Lynn for Crist’s old seat after new congressional lines shifted it from a district won by Biden to one that would have been carried by Trump. Lee runs in a newly drawn seat against Democrat Alan Cohn, which is divided nearly even in voter registration but where Trump won the majority of votes in 2020.

Republicans hope the new tour rallies voters in Florida and nationwide.

“Republicans are more united than ever to elect Republicans up and down the ballot and take back the House and Senate,” read a joint statement from Scott, Emmer and McDaniel. “This election is a referendum on Joe Biden and Democrats’ clear record of failure: rising costs, out-of-control crime, and an open border. Voters have nominated an incredible slate of Republican candidates that offer a clear alternative to Democrats’ disastrous one-party rule. The choice is clear this November and Republicans have common sense solutions to take back our country.”

Ag disaster

Sen. Marco Rubio and Scott led a bipartisan, bicameral letter from Florida lawmakers asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to declare a farming disaster in counties affected by Hurricane Ian.

The letter notes a level of damage to crops that could impact the nation’s food supply.

“Florida’s growers have a unique role in the American food economy, as Florida is one of the only locations in the United States where major agricultural production can occur in the winter and spring months,” the letter reads. “Florida’s agriculture industry feeds more than one hundred million Americans who live along the Eastern Seaboard when they otherwise do not have access to domestically grown fresh food. To support the growers who were affected by Hurricane Ian, and to ensure that they can recover from losses and continue their important service of feeding America, the expeditious approval of a disaster declaration is warranted and necessary in order to have a successful winter and spring harvest season.”

Marco Rubio pushes for an emergency declaration for farmers hit by Hurricane Ian.

Other disaster declarations have opened Federal Emergency Management Agency aid to residents in 26 counties where Hurricane Ian wrought destruction. A USDA declaration would open more help specifically for growers of crops.

House co-signatories on the letter include Republicans Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Val Demings, Díaz-Balart, Byron Donalds, Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Salazar, Greg Steube and Mike Waltz, and Democrats Castor, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Lois Frankel, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Doo-wop Demings

The hand jive may come more naturally in The Villages than voting Democrat, but Demings, the Senate Democratic nominee, aims to motivate a good level of support within America’s largest retirement community to get out and vote. She hopes Jon ‘Bowzer’ Bauman, singer for Sha Na Na, can swing Demings’ backers into action.

She appeared Monday with the doo-wop titan in the retiree haven.

Bowzer also holds some post-Woodstock sway with senior voters as the president of Social Security Works.

At The Villages event, he swooned with particularly high praise for Demings.

“I probably shouldn’t play favorites among our many endorsees at Social Security Works,” he tweeted. “But there is no better candidate for any office anywhere in America than The Chief, Val Demings. I got to intro her today at a spectacular event in The Villages, FL, of all places!”

Dead end?

An increasing number of sources tied to the federal investigation of Panhandle Republican Gaetz told national media outlets there’s just no case.

The Congressman has been stalked by scandal since investigators seized a cellphone, with the New York Times reporting in March 2021 that Gaetz was the target of a sex trafficking investigation.

But last week, NBC News reporter Marc Caputo said seven attorneys representing witnesses in the case believe the investigation stalled.

“At a federal level, I could not ever imagine prosecuting a case where you have a documented liar like (Joel) Greenberg and this other person as your top witnesses,” said Richard Hornsby, an attorney for Gaetz associate Chris Dorworth.

Greenberg, a former Seminole County Tax Collector who pleaded guilty to trafficking a minor and other charges, has continuously seen sentencing delayed as he cooperates with investigators. He also has provided testimony in other cases, including a Central Florida “ghost candidate” scandal.

And other figures, including Gaetz associate Joe Ellicott, have pleaded guilty to fraud charges and have been sentenced to prison.

But the latest NBC report follows one from The Washington Post, which last month cited veteran prosecutors with the Justice Department who internally recommended against charging Gaetz. A source close to the investigation suggested the same outcome to CNN.

Veteran fighter

The Wounded Warrior Program counts Gus Bilirakis among Congress’ top fighters.

The organization is naming the Palm Harbor Republican as one of its Legislators of the Year.

“This wonderful organization does a tremendous job advocating for our nation’s heroes who have already sacrificed so much for our country and with providing direct support to those in need,” Bilirakis said in a statement. “I have had the great honor of employing three wounded warrior fellows in my Congressional office and the experience has been outstanding for my team, my constituents, and I believe for the fellows themselves. In fact, I am currently seeking to hire another Veteran who has recently separated from the military.”

He was the only Floridian honored, with Wounded Warriors also celebrating Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, and Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz of California.

Gus Bilirakis is the only Floridian to get a leadership award from the Wounded Warriors.

“Sens. Tester and Ernst and Reps. Ruiz and Bilirakis have helped improve the lives of millions of veterans and their families by helping champion and advance vital legislation this past year,” said WWP CEO and retired Lt. Gen. Mike Linnington.

Bilirakis said veteran issues remain a priority. In particular, he worked with the Wounded Warrior Program to advance the Major Richard Star Act, which would expand Veterans Affairs benefits to 50,000 veterans who were medically retired.

“We are optimistic that our tireless efforts, which have yielded more than 319 co-sponsors, will catapult the bill across the finish line by the end of the year,” he said. “I think our chances of getting the bill in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act look very promising. You can be assured that I won’t stop fighting until this issue is fixed for all Veterans. Continued advocacy on behalf of our nation’s heroes will always be my top priority in Congress.”

Cheap living

Castor on Tuesday morning touted an affordability housing success that resulted from the passage of the American Rescue Plan. The Tampa Democrat announced a new project at Armature Place Apartments, with federal funding going toward rehabilitation for the 96-acre property on Busch Boulevard in Hillsborough County.

She made the announcement alongside Hillsborough County Commission Chair Kimberly Overman and Community Development Corporation of Tampa CEO Ernest Coney.

Kathy Castor touts affordable housing as part of the American Rescue Plan.

About $16.2 million in American Rescue Plan dollars will go toward the plan. Hillsborough County Commissioners approved the plan about a month ago and say the units will supply affordable housing opportunities for low-income residents for at least the next 30 years.

The rehabilitation work should be complete by March 2024; the units will be rented at below-market rates to residents making at or below 80% of the area median income.

Make some noise

A new Food and Drug Administration rule should bring medical news that Florida seniors will be happy to hear.

The federal agency authorized over-the-counter hearing aids, in line with an executive order from Biden encouraging more competition in the medical supplies marketplace. In 2017, Congress also approved bipartisan legislation requiring the creation of a hearing aids category that did not require a prescription.

Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat, said this change will be especially important in areas of Florida like her own in Florida’s 21st Congressional District.

Over-the-counter hearing aids come as a godsend to Florida seniors.

“Hearing loss can be isolating and dangerous, and it’s a common problem in the United States, especially among seniors,” Frankel said. “Thanks to legislation passed by Congress, and recent actions by the Biden administration, individuals will now be able to purchase over-the-counter hearing aids from retail and drugstores starting today. This will help lower the costs of these devices, making them more accessible to everyone.”

She said only 16% of the estimated 29 million Americans who would benefit from hearing aids employ the devices, largely because Medicare and most insurers won’t cover the expense. The average cost of aids sits around $4,600, but the new category should allow for cheaper devices to hit the market.

First Lady tour

Wasserman Schultz joined First Lady Jill Biden on a visit to the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center branch in Plantation on Saturday, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

It was an official visit, not a campaign stop. Biden was there to talk up the federal “cancer moonshot” aimed at making cancer a rare thing.

But she was also there to urge women to do what they can now for themselves: Get screened.

“Mammography can save lives, and nothing on your to-do list is more important than that,” Biden told the assembled, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Wasserman Schultz can attest to that personally. She was 40 when a mammogram detected a tumor in her breast. But the treatment was just the start of surviving the disease. Ensuring women have the insurance coverage they need for screenings has been a hallmark of her congressional career.

“To save lives every woman must have access to the screenings she needs,” Wasserman Schultz said.

After the tour, Biden and Wasserman Schultz spoke to about 30 cancer patients, and some notable names in South Florida politics: Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre; Broward County School Board member Debbi Hixon, whose husband, Chris, was killed in the attack; Broward County Commissioners Steve Geller and Nan Rich; and state Reps. Christine Hunschofsky and Robin Bartleman, both Broward Democrats.

Leadership battle

Díaz-Balart has been traveling the country working to ensure Republicans secure a majority in the House. But he’s also speaking with steering committee members about an important leadership race that could boost Florida’s prestige in a GOP-controlled chamber.

He wants Buchanan, the Longboat Key conservative in line to be the senior-most House Ways & Means Republican, to chair Congress’ most powerful committee.

“Vern has the upper hand in a big way,” Díaz-Balart, dean of the Florida delegation, told Florida Politics. “He’s been working his tail off for years.”

Mario Díaz-Balart is all-in for Vern Buchanan to Chair the Ways and Means Committee.

But there’s been speculation as to whether Buchanan has the race in the bag to snag a gavel. POLITICO earlier this month reported both Republicans Adrian Smith of Nebraska and Jason Smith of Missouri have made the contest competitive.

Díaz-Balart just took a campaign trip with Buchanan through California and much of the Pacific Coast fundraising for incumbents and challengers in close House races. That journey alone shows Buchanan is playing a role in making sure Republicans gain a majority, giving them the power to name chairs of committees in the chamber in the next Congress. Ultimately, it will be the GOP House Steering Committee that votes on who wields the most power in the caucus.

But Díaz-Balart said Florida members should certainly see an opportunity to gain influence for the state. The Sunshine State is still the second-largest majority Republican delegation, behind only Texas. “And we might be picking up four additional seats for Republicans after this election,” Díaz-Balart said.

Yet, no full committees in Congress fall under the jurisdiction of a Florida lawmaker right now. That should change if the GOP regains power. “Florida is unified,” Díaz-Balart said. “This is hugely important to us. We have a big job to do.”

On this day

Oct. 18, 2017 — “Donald Trump, Democratic Congresswoman feud over remains to widow” via CNN — Trump engaged in a public feud with Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, over her claim he told the widow of a U.S. servicemember killed in an ambush in Niger that “he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.” In denying Wilson’s account of a condolence telephone call, the President created a fresh political controversy over his response to the Niger attack and his willingness to inject politics into an issue that is typically regarded as sacred by past commanders in chief.

Oct. 18, 1867 — “U.S. takes possession of Alaska” via — The U.S. formally took possession of Alaska after buying the territory from Russia for $7.2 million, or less than two cents an acre. Indigenous peoples settled the unforgiving territory thousands of years earlier. The Alaska purchase included 586,412 square miles, about twice the size of Texas, and was championed by William Henry Seward, the enthusiastically expansionist Secretary of State under President Andrew Johnson. Russia wanted to sell its Alaska territory, which was remote and difficult to defend, to the U.S. rather than risk losing it in battle with a rival such as Great Britain.


Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by Anne Geggis and Kelly Hayes.

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