The Midterms: Florida

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Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
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It’s the end of a long journey across the US, but the series looking at the midterms ends with Florida.  There is an open gubernatorial race, 27 House seats up for grabs, and a Senate race to consider.

In that Senate race, Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson- one never shy about touting his space travel credentials- faces outgoing Governor Rick Scott for the Republicans.  In what was originally shaping up to be a somewhat crowded GOP primary field, Scott cleared it with his entry into the race thus saving the Party from a potentially contentious primary.

Recently, Nelson has been running ads and his campaign rhetoric seems to center on the fact that Scott would be a rubber stamp for President Trump and his policies.  And in a sign of possible desperation knowing he is in for a fight, Nelson has trotted out old charges against Scott for alleged Medicare fraud suggesting that Scott’s blind trust was anything but blind.  He has attacked Scott over the red algae crisis that affected many Florida communities suggesting that Scott’s environmental record makes him unworthy of a Senate seat.  That line of attack evaporated as the toxic algae bloom left the headlines.

In response, some outside groups have gone after Nelson who turns 76 suggesting that he may be too old for the job and even refers to him as an “old reliable puppet” of the Democratic Party.  Of course, charges of ageism is the response from the Left.  And one does not understand this one, but a Democrat-backed Hispanic group representing Florida’s large and growing Puerto Rican population has attacked Scott over climate change suggesting his stance against Obama’s environmental policies led to the destruction in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria.  Um…the Puerto Rican exodus from that island began way before Hurricane Maria and people leave Puerto Rico NOT because they fear the island will be under water caused by global warming.

Polling- which is extensive- indicates a very close race that will come down to the wire.  Scott leaves office with a very respectable 49% approval rating while Nelson sports a lowly 39% approval rating in Florida against 44% disapproval.  While we have seen incumbents with upside down approval ratings win races before (most notably, Mitch McConnell in Kentucky), they occur in either strong red or blue states.  Florida is a swing state.  Since the polls are so close and since Scott’s approval tops that of Nelson by a full ten points, this writer is going on a limb and predicting that Scott will win this race, by a low margin.

In the open gubernatorial race, Florida voters could not be presented with such a stark choice of candidates.  On the Democrat’s side is former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum trying to become Florida’s first black governor.  On the GOP side is conservative firebrand and Trump-supporting Congressman Ron DeSantis.  Both had tough primary campaigns and Gillum emerged a surprise winner despite being outraised.  However, he received a lot of help from organizations tied to George Soros, an endorsement from Bernie Sanders, and a ton of money from Tom Steyer.  That trio alone should give Florida voters cause for concern.

But, Gillum may have other problems as the FBI is investigating public corruption in Tallahassee city government.  Although Gillum is not a target (yet), this cannot be good news.  What this writer finds most disgusting, however, it the blatant race card being used by the Democrats.  After Gillum won the primary, DeSantis said the voters should not “monkey up” the election.  The progressives heard racist dog whistles since in their mind- and only their minds- monkey+black candidate=racism.  Never mind the fact that Obama, who happens to be half black, also has used the term about “screwing things up.”  One supposes a monkey wrench is also racist if a black person uses it.

Meanwhile, one hears crickets from the Democrats when Gillum’s running mate, Chris King, used what appears to be anti-Semitic messages in editorials when he went to Harvard.  Yet, to the Democrats, DeSantis saying that foreign nationals should not receive entitlements, that asylum seekers from the Middle east should be screened, and because he once attended a conference also attended by Steve Bannon (whom they describe as “noted racist”), DeSantis is simply missing the white hood.

Sadly, if the polls are to believed, Gillum will win this race.  If so, then hopefully a Republican-controlled legislature will be an adequate check on this potentially corrupt and obviously socialist choice for Governor.  At this late point, I’m calling it for Gillum, heading to church and lighting some candles for DeSantis.

The current House delegation favors the Republicans 16-11.  There are four open seats- all currently GOP-held: DeSantis in the 6th, Ross in the 15th, Rooney in the 17th, and Ros-Lehtinen in the 27th.  The Sixth, 15th and 17th are safe GOP territory.

In that open 6th, it narrowly went to Obama in 2008 before moving nominally to Romney in 2012 and solidly for Trump in 2016.  It includes Volusia county and takes in the suburbs of both Orlando and Jacksonville without capturing the more liberal areas of those cities.  Today, according to one poll, Trump suffers a 42% approval rating in the district against 55% disapproval.  Fortunately, the GOP candidate- Michael Waltz- actually appeared in an anti-Trump commercial in 2016.

After the 7th broke heavily for Clinton in 2016, Republicans gave up on challenging Democratic incumbent Stephanie Murphy.  In fact, the more conservative (questionable) Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the Democrat.

Dennis Ross vacates the 15th District which is in the Tampa area.  Ross Spano appears poised to keep this seat in Republican hands against Democratic challenger Kristen Carlson.  In fact, the DCCC has recently moved advertising from this race and redirected it to the 16th District race.

That money may not be well-spent in this Sarasota-based seat where David Shapiro, the Democrat’s candidate, is trying to unseat Vern Buchanan, the GOP incumbent.  Polls show the incumbent up by a comfortable margin.

Moving to the 25th District, Republican incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart seeks reelection against Democrat Mary Barzee Flores.  It recently came to light that Diaz-Balart may be under investigation for mortgage fraud.  Specifically, he allegedly used both his Miami residence and DC condo as his primary residence in order to obtain a homestead rebate and more favorable mortgage terms as a result.  This came to light so late in the campaign, probably designed as an October surprise, but is so shaky that it is not really resonating with voters.  This seat has been moving away from the GOP at the presidential level, yet is represented by a Republican who runs ahead of the presidential ticket.  A possible loss, this writer is putting it in the “R” column come Election Day.

On paper, the 26th would look like a big juicy target for Democrats.  Cook rates it a mere +1 GOP while over the past three presidential cycles it has voted for the Democratic candidate by an average of 16 points.  Additionally, the current GOP incumbent, Carlos Curbelo won reelection in 2016 by a close 3%.  The problem is he is an entrenched Republican incumbent who has distanced himself from Trump.  Coupled with the fact his Democratic opponent- Debbie Durcasel-Powell appears to be a gun control freak one-trick pony, Curbelo’s chances would appear better.  However, this writer believes the district has so turned on the GOP that he is a likely loss this year.

Finally, there is the open 27th- based in Miami- where Republican incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has decided to retire.  Democratic eyes popped when she announced her retirement and they foamed at the mouth with glee.  For the GOP, the candidate is Maria Elvira Salazar who happens to be Cuban-American in a district that is heavily Cuban-American.  On the Democratic side is Donna Shalala, a Clinton crony who most recently was president of the University of Miami.  Salazar has been critical of Shalala and has noted that she lived in a home valued at $1.9 million while university janitors were paid $7 an hour and had no benefits.

Further, local and national Democrats seem to be a little perturbed with their candidate for two reasons: her late, last minute entry into the Democratic primary, and what some perceive as running a relaxed, unfocused campaign.  It does not help that she does not speak Spanish in a heavy Hispanic district.  Being of Lebanese descent, the Democrat has been unable to connect with the district’s population estimated to be 65% Latino.  Polling shows the Republican down by two points.  So the question is whether the voters of the 27th would prefer a moderate Republican who is “one of their own,” or have they so soured on the GOP that they will bite the bullet and vote for the Democrat?  This writer is putting it in the “D” column simply based on recent trends here, although it would not be a major surprise if the GOP kept this seat.

Hence, the GOP will lose seats out of Florida.  However…

The numbers at the conclusion of this series are:

US Senate 55-45 Republican, US House 219-216 Republican, and Governors 30-20 Republican.

Tomorrow: Reconsidering some races and a final tally.