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Jeff Solomon

Internal poll shows HD 115 race could come down to the wire

The race to succeed term-limited Republican Rep. Michael Bileca in House District 115 is shaping up to be closer than expected, according to a new poll commissioned by allies of Democratic nominee Jeff Solomon.

The Kitchens Group poll found voters in the district the heretofore GOP-leaning district are split down the middle, 45-45 percent, over whether they want a Republican or Democrat to represent them in the state House next year. Another 8 percent of voters said they didn’t see a difference between the two major parties while 2 percent said they were unsure which they preferred.

When Solomon and Republican nominee Vance Aloupis were pitted against each other by name, Solomon came out on top 47-42 percent with 11 percent undecided.

In both instances, independent voters made the key difference. Nine in 10 Republicans said they plan to tow the party line on Election Day, and nearly as many Democrats said the same. Among unaffiliated and third-party voters, however, Solomon leads 46-30 percent.

Further down the poll were measurements of each candidate’s favorability.

Aloupis, an attorney who works as the CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida, was seen as “very favorable” by 18 percent of voters and “somewhat favorable” by another 8 percent. A combined 10 percent of voters said they found the University of Miami alumnus unfavorable to some degree, giving him a plus-16 favorability rating.

While the results aren’t too bad for the first-time candidate, 47 percent of voters said they didn’t know who Aloupis was, while Solomon was an unknown quantity to 37 percent of those polled.

For his part, the South Florida chiropractor earned a 27-15 percent score on the fave/unfave question, putting him at a 4-point disadvantage compared to his Republican rival. Solomon’s name-ID advantage can likely be attributed to this being his third go around as the Democratic nominee in HD 115. He lost to Bileca 54-46 percent two years ago, and back in 2012, he fell short by about 5 percentage points.

Like other majority-Hispanic districts, Republicans fared well at the bottom of the ballot while voters soundly rejected President Donald Trump. MCI Maps’ data on the 2016 elections shows Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried the district by 10 points.

The Kitchens Group poll also indicates HD 115 voters are leaning toward Democrat Andrew Gillum rather than former Republican Ron DeSantis by a 5-point margin in the race for Governor, possibly due to the latter’s well-known embrace of Trump, who endorsed him early on in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Missing from the poll, however, are breakdowns on how each candidate scored among different demographics of voters and how many of the interviews were conducted via cell phone. The poll also notes that 90 percent of the interviews in conducted in the majority-Hispanic district were in English, which could skew the results toward Solomon.

HD 115 covers an inland strip of Miami-Dade County, including parts of Pinecrest, South Miami and Palmetto Bay. Bileca’s largest margin of victory came was his 18-point thrashing of Democrat Kristopher Decossard in 2014, a wave year for Republicans.

The Kitchens Group poll was conducted Oct. 5 through Oct. 7 via live telephone interviews, including to cell phones. It received responses from 316 likely voters in the district. The margin of error is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

The poll is below.

FL HD 115 Poll – The Kitchens Group by Andrew Wilson on Scribd

Ted Deutch stands up for LGBTQ diplomat spouses after visa policy reversal

After a reversal on U.S. visa policy for same-sex partners of diplomats, Rep. Ted Deutch led congressional pushback on the discriminatory shift.

“This Administration has an offensive record when it comes to equal rights for the American LGBTQ community, and now it appears they’re set to endanger the lives of LGBTQ foreign diplomats and U.N. employees working in the United States,” said Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat.

Deutch and five other Democratic congressmen co-led a letter asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reconsider the policy change.

The State Department last week announced spousal visas would only be available to legally married partners of U.S.-based employees of international organizations and foreign missions such as the United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund.

But The Advocate notes many diplomats come from countries that don’t legally recognize same-sex unions.

The reversal means spouses of diplomats already holding G-4 visas must provide evidence of a marriage by the end of the year or face deportation. No new visas will be handed out except to legally married spouses.

“This policy discriminates against gay and lesbian international civil servants, many of whom are citizens of countries that outlaw same-sex marriage,” reads the congressional letter, which bears the signature of 119 congressmen.

The move by Pompeo reversed a 2009 policy put in place by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It’s particularly offensive that they would dare announce this policy in the name of equality,” says Deutch. “Progress has been made in this country despite, not because of, this Administration. Secretary Pompeo should swiftly reverse this decision and lift the burden on partners of foreign diplomats coming from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal.”

Other signatories for the letter including Florida representatives Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings, Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel, and Frederica Wilson.

Only Democrats signed the letter. Three Florida Democratic members of Congress — Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, and Val Demings — did not.

New PPP survey shows Janet Cruz with 3-point lead over Dana Young

A new poll shows Democrat Janet Cruz defeating Republican incumbent state Sen. Dana Young in a Tampa Bay district that historically leans right.

A Public Policy Polling survey of voters in state Senate District 18 shows Cruz winning 42 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent who favor Young.

Partisanship in the district plays heavily in Cruz’s favor, according to PPP.

The poll found half of voters would vote Democrat in state senate races without specifying the candidates, while only 39 percent of voters said they would vote for the Republican. The poll found respondents had a 54 percent disapproval rating for President Donald Trump’s job performance with a 43 percent approval rating for the Republican leader.

But the negative tone of the race takes a toll on both candidates, who hold low favorability ratings in the survey. Cruz holds a 29 percent unfavorable from respondents with a 26 percent favorability rating. Young’s favorability is 28 percent with a 32 percent unfavorable rating.

Voters show enthusiasm to weigh in at the polls. According to the poll, 68 percent of respondents indicate being “very excited” to vote in this November’s mid-term election. Only 14 percent said they weren’t that excited while 14 percent said they weren’t sure.

Young in 2016 won this district with 48 percent of the vote to Democrat Bob Buesing’s 41 percent, with independent Joe Redner, a prominent strip club owner in Tampa, pulling in almost 10 percent of the vote.

But district in many ways already showed problems for Republicans then. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the district with 51 percent of the vote to Trump’s 45 percent, even as Trump went on to win Florida statewide.

Clinton voters made up 49 percent of those surveyed in the PPP poll, with Trump voters making up 43 percent.

Trump remains underwater in terms of voter approval within the district. Some 54 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the president’s job performance, and just 43 percent approve.

The sample included women as 53 percent of respondents and men 47 percent.

That said, PPP is a Democratic polling outlet, and there’s some reason for skepticism. Democrats make up 41 percent of the poll sample and Republicans make up just 38 percent, but Republicans had a 1-percentage point edge in turnout in 2016 within the district and 6-percent advantage in 2014, a solid Republican year.

poll results – sd18

PPP poll shows Jeremy Ring with 6-point lead on Jimmy Patronis

A new poll shows Democrat Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring holding a 6-percent lead over Republican incumbent Jimmy Patronis.

The survey by Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling finds 40 percent of voters supporting Ring, compared to 34 backing Patronis, with 26 percent of voters still undecided.

More striking, the polling sample included a plurality of voters who supported Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Of those surveyed, 46 percent voted for Trump compared to 45 percent who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. The remaining 9 percent voted for another candidate in the race or did not vote.

While PPP advertises itself as a Democratic polling outfit, FiveThirtyEight gives the outlet decent marks. The poll aggregating site issued PPP a grade of “B” and says the pollsters historically call races correctly 80 percent of the time.

Patronis, appointed to his position by Gov. Rick Scott, stands as the only incumbent running for a Cabinet post this year. He’s raised $1.9 million in contributions to his campaign, compared to less than $400,000 raised by Ring.

In recent days, the candidates largely attacked one another.

Patronis last week launched a website attacking the criminal history of many Ring donors and highlighting a recent incident of a Ring consultant allegedly impersonating Patronis to access personal records.

Ring returned volley days later with a website attacking Patronis donors and alleging favoritism on the part of the CFO.

The new PPP survey included an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, with each party’s voters making up 41 percent of those surveyed.

As far as gender, women make up 53 percent of the sample, men the other 47 percent. In terms of race, 68 percent identified as white, 15 percent as African-American and 13 percent Hispanic or Latino. About 45 percent of voters fell between age 45 and 65, with 35 percent older than that and 20 percent between age 18 and 45.

The poll found a high level of energy among voters. A full 68 percent of voters said they were very excited to cast ballots and another 15 percent were somewhat excited, with another 15 percent not excited and 2 percent unsure.

Hillary Clinton to campaign alongside Andrew Gillum

Hillary Clinton will stump with Andrew Gillum on Oct. 23 in South Florida, the Gillum campaign announced Thursday.

The former First Lady and former Secretary of State has a history with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gillum. In 2016, the Tallahassee Mayor spoke on stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. It was rumored then that Clinton considered Gillum a potential running mate.

“I’m honored to have Secretary Clinton join me in Florida next month,” Gillum said in a statement. “Hillary knows just what’s at stake in this election — affordable healthcare, a brighter future for our children — and that the choice in this election could not be clearer.”

With Clinton’s support, Gillum will have corralled behind his campaign the top-two Democratic presidential candidates from 2016. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders traveled to the Sunshine State for two rallies alongside Gillum before the primary election.

Sanders and Clinton faced off in Florida in 2016, and Clinton took nearly two-thirds of the vote. In the general election in Florida that year, President Donald Trump beat Clinton by just more than a percentage point.

Trump has fully endorsed Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis and orchestrated a Tampa campaign rally for the former congressman ahead of the Aug. 28 primary.

Stephen Lawson, DeSantis’ communications director, drew a parallel between the FBI examination into Clinton’s use of a private email server for official business and the ongoing FBI investigation in Tallahassee.

The two “are the perfect corruption combination,” Lawson said. He cited developments in the FBI investigation, including Gillum’s boat ride with undercover FBI agents and the more than $2 million approved by the city for Adam Corey, a lobbyist and former friend of Gillum’s at the center of the investigation.

“I’m sure they’ll have lots to talk about when it comes to criminal investigations and dealings with the FBI,” quipped Lawson.

Taryn Fenske, spokeswoman for the Florida chapter of Republican National Committee, suggested that bringing in Clinton could “alienate” Gillum’s “far-left base.”

“Clinton’s sudden reemergence and fundraising tour will do far more to hurt Gillum’s cause than help it,” Fenske said. “Gillum’s socialist base isn’t going to like him aligning with Clinton who is tainted by decades of controversy and failed policies.”

Bill Nelson ‘died three years ago,’ Roger Stone quips to Palm Beach Trump supporters

Longtime Donald Trump ally Roger Stone was his usual self in remarks to Trump Club 45 PBC Monday night, spouting several attention-grabbing comments to the audience of Trump die-hards.

Stone dropped several eyebrow-raising one-liners (mostly in jest) during his speech at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, one of which concerning a prominent Florida contest.

“You have a U.S. Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott and Bill Nelson,” Stone started. “Bill Nelson died three years ago. Somebody forgot to tell him about it.”

As for Stone’s famous tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back: “I’m the only guy you know that has a dick on the front and the back.”

In addition to punchlines, Stone offered the Trump-loving crowd plenty of red meat.

First, there was media bashing: “I don’t get my news from CNN for the same reason I don’t eat out of the toilet.”

Next, about The New York Times, Stone harped on the fact that the paper’s top shareholder is Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who made hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Clintons.

“Why would we believe a single word that is printed in The New York Times?” Stone charged.

He then moved into the realm of the conspiratorial. On the recent anonymous op-ed printed by the Times, Stone argued it was all a fabrication.

“Folks, I can tell you right now who wrote that editorial. No one. It’s a fraud. It’s a MacGuffin. It’s a con job on the American people.”

He once again called into question whether Russia even hacked the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election.

“There’s more forensic evidence that would indicate that the DNC was never hacked at all by anyone.”

Stone also touched upon the recent abuse allegations lobbied against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Stone framed the “dastardly accusations” as a “smear” against Kavanaugh, shredding the media for even reporting on them given the lack of a corroborating witness.

Stone, rumored to be a potential target of the Robert Mueller investigation, further elaborated on his current legal situation.

While describing claims of any sort of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign utter “bullshit,” Stone maintained: “I will never roll on Donald Trump. Michael Cohen, I am not.”

Toward the end of his remarks, Stone injected a minutes-long pitch for his legal defense fund.

“Everything you can send will be a godsend. This threatens to bankrupt my family. They have systematically attempted to ruin my business.”

Stone saved some of his most fiery comments for Republicans 2018 midterms strategy. He parroted the notion that the real wrongdoing of the 2016 election was the Barack Obama administration’s investigation into Russian collusion, rather than any potential collusion itself.

Midterm voters need reminding of that fact, Stone said, calling for some high-profile arrests.

“We need to expose the constitutional abuses, far worse than Watergate, of the administration of Barack Obama. And we have to demand the prosecution of Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

Of course, that elicited chants of “lock her up” from the audience, with one member suggesting Hillary be sent “to Guantánamo.”

With a closing shot, Stone clarified there’s no love lost between him and the Clintons.

“Bill and Hillary Clinton are the penicillin-resistant syphilis of the American body politic.”

Shawn Harrison

Frank Reddick crosses the aisle to back Shawn Harrison’s re-election bid in HD 63

Tampa City Council Chairman Frank Reddick has endorsed state Rep. Shawn Harrison in his re-election bid for Hillsborough County’s House District 63.

Tampa City Councilors are chosen in non-partisan elections, though Reddick is a Democrat and Harrison is a Republican. HD 63 is a swing seat that Harrison has held for three non-consecutive terms. In 2018, he faces Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell.

“I have known and worked along-side Shawn Harrison for 12 years. Representative Harrison is a true bipartisan leader. He doesn’t just talk the talk. When Shawn was Chairman Pro-Tem of the Tampa City Council, he supported my efforts to make East Tampa a stronger community. When we asked for help to stop the evictions from Tampa Park Apartments, Shawn contacted HUD on our behalf and together we were successful,” Reddick said.

“He was the only Republican in the State to support my efforts for a special session on Stand your Ground. And when needy families had an opportunity for expanded Medicaid, Shawn once again crossed party lines to support the people back home. As a Representative in Tallahassee, he has shown the courage to stand up for what’s right for his constituents, even if it meant voting against his party,” he continued.

“For decades, Shawn has proven to not only me, but the thousands of constituents he’s represented over the years, that he is willing to tackle big problems and fight for what is right and fair for our community, regardless of political party,” Reddick said.

“Shawn Harrison fought to make sure our children have access to better schools and a brighter future with his support of Hope Scholarships. And Shawn even went so far as to donate hundreds of family books to the kids at Kimbell Elementary with his ‘Read Little Cougars’ challenge. Representative Harrison is there for us when we need him most and I’m excited to endorse him and continue my work with him to move our community forward and create better opportunities for all,” Reddick concluded.

Harrison was grateful for the resounding endorsement from the influential Democrat and former colleague.

“Chairman Reddick is a friend and former colleague on the Tampa City Council. He is one of the true statesmen of our region. He has been a leading voice in our community for decades. I welcome the chance to support Frank whenever I can, and I’m truly humbled to have his support,” Harrison said.

This isn’t the first time Reddick has endorsed Harrison in a state House election. Two years ago, when the Tampa Republican was up against Tampa City Councilor Lisa Montelione, Reddick was in Harrison’s corner. Other endorsements for Harrison have come in from the Florida Realtors, the Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Associated Industries of Florida.

To date, Harrison has raised $180,511 in hard money and has $106,890 of that cash in the bank. He also has another $130,410 on hand in his affiliated political committee, Committee for an Innovative Florida, for a total war chest of $237,300 at the end of August.

Driskell, meanwhile, has raised $146,650 for her campaign account and had $100,525 left to spend on Aug. 31. Her backers include Ruth’s List, an organization that helps Democratic women get elected.

HD 63 covers part of Hillsborough County, including portions of northern Tampa and the communities of Lutz, Pebble Creek, Lake Magdalene and Carrollwood. Democrats make up about 39 percent of the swing seat’s electorate, while Republicans hold a 32 percent share.

Harrison served in the House from 2010 to 2012, when former Democratic Rep. Mark Danish beat him by about 700 votes to flip the newly redrawn HD 63 despite raising less than $20,000 for his campaign compared to nearly $300,000 for Harrison.

Harrison reclaimed the seat in the 2014 cycle with a 5-point win over Danish, and in 2016 he emerged victorious in a tough re-election battle over Montelione. His sub 2-point victory came as Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the seat by double digits.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Sean Pittman: Far-left labels don’t apply to Andrew Gillum

If you believe the conventional wisdom of the Florida Governor’s race, voters have a stark choice between a Bernie Sanders Democrat and a Donald Trump Republican.

Andrew Gillum, who recently chose his primary opponent Chris King as his running mate, is indeed running against Republican Congressman and presidential acolyte, Ron DeSantis, with Jeanette Nunez for Lieutenant Governor.

It is indeed a glaring political contrast, but not in the way the DeSantis camp would have you believe.

I can’t speak for the Republicans — and won’t. However, the far-out description doesn’t fit Gillum, and it shouldn’t fly as campaign fodder in the November election.

Yes, Sanders did come to Florida and endorse Gillum. But, Gillum was a Hillary Clinton surrogate during the 2016 campaign and made her short list for running mate. Gillum was part of a four-member effort in Tallahassee that raised $500,000 for Obama’s first run as president in 2008.

Now, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is with Gillum as brother-in-arms; his primary opponent, Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, told Gillum to “go out and win the d— thing” as part of her endorsement. State Sen. Lauren Book, the daughter of one of the capitol’s most influential lawyer/lobbyists, also made the shortlist for Gillum’s running mate.

If you know Florida politics, this is not exactly the makings of a leftist cabal.

Besides those who support him, Gillum’s record as Tallahassee Mayor doesn’t suggest a socialist ideology either. In fact, the mayor-turned-gubernatorial candidate has pushed sensible policies that have fostered growth and development in the state’s capital city.

As Mayor, Gillum got rid of business license fees, revised the permitting process to make it more timely and refunded utility deposits to businesses in good standing. The changes made Tallahassee a better place for business and home to Florida’s fastest growing economy.

But, what about all that support from George Soros and Tom Steyer, the two billionaires most identified with progressive causes? Gillum may share political beliefs with the two, but he also appreciates the support from them and the full range of Floridians backing his campaign.

The reality is that many of these so-called progressive issues are becoming more mainstream by the day. Poll after poll shows a majority of Americans favor “Medicare-for-All.” People actually want affordable and accessible health care, including many Republicans who see the value in Medicare and Medicaid expansion as a way to improve medical services and lower drug prices.

Raising the minimum wage in Florida fails the radical-left standard, too.

You don’t need a poll, although several do show Floridians think the current state minimum wage of $8.25 needs to be raised, given our low-wage economy makes it difficult to make ends meet with only one job.

So, while it may be easy to mischaracterize Gillum as a member of the radical fringe, it’s just not true. Facts suggest otherwise.

As the campaign goes on, more and more Floridians will see Gillum for who for who use he is — a pragmatic candidate whose common-sense ideas are welcome by the voters and much more mainstream than many pundits think.


Sean Pittman is the senior partner of the Pittman Law Group, a Tallahassee-based law firm and co-host of Sunday morning television talk show “The Usual Suspects.”

Analysis: ‘Blue wave’ could sweep up HD 89, boost Jim Bonfiglio

Now that the general election matchups are set in stone, Democrats have their eyes on several GOP U.S. House seats come November.

But some state races are showing signs they could flip as well, including House District 89 in Palm Beach County.

The contest is open as current state Rep. Bill Hager is term-limited. Last month, Ocean Ridge Mayor Jim Bonfiglio earned the Democratic nomination, while accountant Mike Caruso won the GOP nod.

Caruso embraced Donald Trump “bigly” in his primary race against Matt Spritz. The two traded barbs throughout the contest over who was the bigger Trump supporter.

Spritz hit Caruso for accepting money from a lawyer who had filed a lawsuit seeking to declare President Trump “incompetent.” Caruso fired back at Spritz after an old quote from Spritz resurfaced where he essentially declared himself a “never Trumper” during the 2016 campaign.

With Caruso the last (Republican) man standing, will his support of Trump help him turn out voters on Nov. 6? Or will it be a classic example of pushing to win the primary at the expense of the general election?

The enthusiasm gap is always given a hefty amount of attention leading up to the midterms. If Caruso’s goal is to motivate the Republican base to show up on Election Day, his strong showing of support for the President could do the trick.

While Trump has had historically low approval ratings throughout most of his time in office, his support among Republicans has hovered close to 90 percent for a while now.

Trump’s overall ratings are dragged down by disapproval from Democrats and Independents, and Democrats’ dislike of Trump is surely a factor in their high enthusiasm levels ahead of the midterms. It may be difficult for Caruso to win over those voters, so tying himself to Trump could help Caruso combat Democrats’ enthusiasm by compelling GOP voters to turn out on his behalf.

Or, it could push Democrats to turn out at even higher levels.

HD 89 was one of only six districts in the entire state to flip from voting for Mitt Romney in 2012 to supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to an analysis by MCI Maps. If that aversion to Trump has strengthened in the ensuing two years, that could spell trouble for Caruso.

However, Caruso does have the advantage of running to replace Hager, a Republican who ran unopposed in 2016. Hager has represented the district since 2010. That shows there is enough of a base of GOP support to push Caruso into the legislature into November.

But there’s a catch as well. While Hager did not face opposition in 2016, he survived tough challenges in both 2012 and 2014.

Hager won by just 5.4 percentage points in 2012. That margin dropped to 5 percentage points in 2014. If the political winds have shifted in favor of the Democrats in 2018, that gap could be closed, with or without Caruso’s strong defense of Trump.

Bonfiglio also maintains a lead in cash on hand, according to the most recent filings with the Florida Division of Elections. Bonfiglio holds just under $90,000, with Caruso sitting at just under $80,000.

Caruso has raised more money overall, earning more than $72,000 in outside donations. That nearly doubles Bonfiglio’s mark of $36,500. Both candidates have also loaned their campaigns about $200,000. But Caruso’s sizable expenditures during the primary have left him with slightly less cash for the general as it stands right now.

Democrats also turned out more voters in last month’s primary elections, beating out Republicans 12,437 to 12,028. Though there’s no guarantee that pattern will repeat on Nov. 6, it’s certainly not a bad sign for Democrats’ chances.

There’s still more than two months to go before the vote, meaning plenty could change between now and Nov. 6. But HD 89 is a race to keep an eye on, as it looks to be one of the more competitive state House elections in 2018.

Prediction: Mike Miller defeats Stephanie Murphy in CD 7

While most stories this week will focus on Florida’s high-profile races for Governor and U.S. Senate, the most exciting contest might well be for Congressional District 7 in Orlando. This race pits freshman Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy against state Rep. Mike Miller.

Miller just squashed businessman Scott Sturgill by 24 percent in the GOP primary — despite Sturgill’s spending advantage and the fact that two-thirds of the district’s Republicans live in Sturgill’s home county of Seminole.

In 2016 Murphy shocked political observers by defeating longtime Congressman John Mica. However, the feat seems somewhat less impressive when considered in context: Mica was a 24 -year incumbent who, by many accounts, failed to take Murphy seriously in a district that voted for Hillary Clinton by 7 points.

While District 7 is Democratic in a presidential year, Rick Scott won it by two points in 2010 and 2014. It’s well known that Democrats perform better in presidential years because of higher minority and youth turnout — however, the swing is stronger in District 7 because thousands of UCF students vote in presidential years but can’t be bothered to show up in gubernatorial years. Moreover, Miller has a history of outpacing the top of the ticket in his races.

Of course, money matters. In that respect, Murphy looks strong with over $2 million in the bank and more promised by Nancy Pelosi.

This is where I diverge somewhat from the metric-driven analysis so single-mindedly favored by D.C.’s chattering class. They seem to believe candidates are merely instruments controlled by talented consultants and whose only ability is to raise money. Those same data-driven experts would have never put money behind the Democrats gubernatorial nominee, Andrew Gillum, for instance. Nor did they put any credence behind Donald Trump in 2016.

Call me crazy, but I believe candidates matter.

If I was a betting man — wait, I am a betting man, so here’s goes nothing — I’m pushing all my chips in on Miller.

In his 2014 primary, Miller won 74 percent of the vote to the early favorite who ran a well-funded campaign. He then went on to defeat the incumbent, a popular former two-term Orange County Commissioner and now-state Senator, Linda Stewart. In 2016, in a district that voted for Clinton by 12 percent, Miller defeated Beth Tuura by 6 percent — a whopping 18-point swing.

Miller — a former Division 1 scholarship athlete — is a fierce competitor. He pitched for the North Carolina Tar Heels championship team in 1989 and later played for the Gators. Even if you don’t like baseball, it’s hard not to respect a guy who played for two elite teams. Campaigns are competitions — don’t underestimate a candidate whose desire to win has been tested in the ACC and SEC.

Lastly, as much as it pains this Seminole to praise a Gator, Miller is the real deal. I know his slogan sounds simple, but just ask yourself, do you actually know anyone who’s met Mike and doesn’t like him? “I Like Mike,” will be something you hear a lot in the coming weeks and — simple or sublime — it accurately reflects most folks’ feelings about Mike.

Here’s my prediction: The first poll will show well-known, incumbent Congresswoman Murphy up, but what won’t be reflected in the poll will be the fact that in this almost evenly divided district Republicans will come home and like in previous off-year elections, they will turn out in larger numbers than Democrats.

Why? Well, because people like Mike.

Here’s how I see the race breaking down.

First, look at how much better Scott is doing against Bill Nelson with Hispanics and particularly, Puerto Ricans, who dominate the Hispanic voter rolls in Central Florida. Miller is a favorite of Scott’s and since his race will be right under the U.S. Senate on the ballot, he will benefit from the Governor’s savvy and hard work with local Puerto Ricans.

Second, the national Democrats supporting Murphy will almost certainly overplay their hand by trying to compare Miller to Trump. These inevitable (but implausible) attacks will invite the more accurate comparison between Murphy and Pelosi, in response. In every poll I’ve ever seen, Trump beats Pelosi, so Democrats nationalize this race at their peril. In watching news interviews like the one Murphy gave to WESH’s Greg Fox or the League of Women Voter’s candidate forum she is not a particularly effusive candidate.

Third, this district is a siren song to Democrats. Seduced by Clinton’s strong numbers in 2016, their hopes are likely to be dashed unless national Republicans are fooled by the same deceptive numbers. In 2016, Trump lost college-educated Republican women. Trump has consolidated the Republican vote and is now much more popular among Republicans than he was in 2016, which would help any Republican nominee in this race. Moreover, no one will be able to credibly turn Mike Miller into Donald Trump and make college-educated women despise him.

Another positive is fellow college baseball star Ron DeSantis who will be able to turn out those so-called Trump voters like no other Republican.

It’s easy to use a simplistic system like rating congressional districts based on generic Republicans and generic Democrats. But this district doesn’t have a generic Republican or a generic Democrat — this district has an unsure Democrat and a likable Republican.

That’s why for Congressional District 7, the Schorsch rating would be: Leans Mike Miller.

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