By GARY FINEOUT
09/24/2021 07:00 AM EDT
Hello and welcome to Friday.
Check the calendar — The 2022 election is 410 days away. Will be it a referendum on Gov. Ron DeSantis’s handling of Covid-19? Will it be about Donald Trump? Or Joe Biden?
Right now — Maybe, just maybe it might be about what’s going on in Florida at that moment in time.
Who will be blamed? — Democratic rivals such as Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Rep. Charlie Crist have consistently criticized DeSantis over his response to the deadly pandemic that has now claimed the lives of more than 50,000 Floridians. DeSantis has responded by doubling down on his anti-lockdown anti-mandate and used it to win accolades (and money) from Republicans nationwide. But if the pandemic is still in full bloom more than a year from now, will the ire of voters be directed at DeSantis … or at Biden?
Just a thought — What if, however, the 2022 campaign pivots on issues that DeSantis has paid scant attention to because he’s been fixated on the culture war items that resonate more with a potential Republican primary base?
Warnings — There are signs that Florida — much like the GOP target of California — is becoming a much more expensive state to live and work in. Florida economists late last month pointed out the gap between the national average for wages and what workers get paid in the state is as large as it has ever been in the last 20 years. One can assume that gap will shrink somewhat as the state’s minimum wage rises this fall … but ….
Warnings Part 2 — Florida’s property insurance market is in “dire” condition according to the state’s insurance commissioner. That’s important because that means ongoing rate hikes for voters across the spectrum, including those in the state’s red counties. Florida’s housing market has boomed, but it’s also sending prices soaring.
Coming attractions — Crist — who campaigned in 2006 amid a surge in property insurance bills — told POLITICO’s Matt Dixon this week that property insurance could be a “top tier” issue in 2022. He also added that “nothing will have Covid-level passion, that’s literally life or death.”
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. Ron DeSantis.
‘ALL OF US ARE PISSED’ — “‘Fix this.’ Miami officials furious over Haitian deportations, inaction from Biden,” by Miami Herald’s Bianca Padró Ocasio and Alex Daugherty: “Haitian-American activists and Democratic lawmakers in South Florida are growing increasingly frustrated at the Biden administration for increasing deportation flights to Haiti after they asked for a pause, as pressure grows for the president to improve treatment of migrants on the U.S. border with Mexico near Del Rio, Texas. But the Florida officials — many of whom have been enthusiastic backers of President Joe Biden — are now getting spurned by the Biden administration and Democratic Party establishment, their months-long demand to end the deportation of Haitians met largely with silence.”
PROTEST — “U.S. envoy to Haiti resigns over migrant deportations,” by POLITICO’s Nick Niedzwiadek and Jonathan Custodio: The U.S. special envoy for Haiti resigned on Wednesday, rebuking the Biden administration’s handling of Haitian refugees amassed along the U.S.-Mexico border. “I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti,” Daniel Foote wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken dated Wednesday.
DISPATCH FROM TEXAS — “Why 15,000 migrants ended up in one spot on the U.S-Mexico border,” by POLITICO Magazine’s Jack Herrera: When some 15,000 people crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico in the past week or so, it brought a spotlight on this Texas border town of 35,000, which has not been a historically popular crossing point (though it has seen more than 200,000 migrant encounters in the last year). It also raised the question of why and how so many migrants, particularly Haitians, arrived at the same time and the same place along the border. The answer is a mix of misinformation and desperation, exacerbated by the Biden administration’s application of draconian deterrence with seemingly random mercy.
SOMETHING TO WATCH — “Florida’s ‘dire’ property insurance market will become a 2022 political fight,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: In 2006, when he ran and won the governor’s race as a Republican, Florida had just experienced a series of hurricanes, which spiked property insurance rates and made it a dominant political issue. “It’s a mess. It’s a problem,” Crist told POLITICO in a Thursday interview about Florida’s property insurance market. “I’m already hearing from folks all over the state about getting policies canceled.” He said it will, once again, become an important campaign trail issue during Florida’s 2022 midterms.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN — “Republicans in WNY plan fundraiser for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, potential presidential candidate,” by The Buffalo News’ Robert J. McCarthy: “A group of local supporters is sponsoring a Tuesday fundraising event in Buffalo for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, considered a major figure in the 2024 field of potential Republican presidential contenders. None of those contacted who are acting as sponsors would comment on the event, which is slated for Sinatra’s Restaurant on Kenmore Avenue. But three sources familiar with the invitation said tickets are set at $5,000 each.”
SIMPSON STARTS RAISING MONEY — Senate President Wilton Simpson is having one of his first big fundraisers for his newly-minted campaign for agriculture commissioner in early November. Playbook got a copy of the invitation for the Nov. 3 event that will be held at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee. The invitation says donors can write checks for either his campaign account or his political committee (which can accept unlimited amounts.)
ALL APOLOGIES — “Miami Beach commission candidate apologizes after falsely claiming to be Hispanic,” by Miami Herald’s Carli Teproff: “Former Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez said Thursday she ‘wasn’t even conscious’ of what she was saying when she told Democratic Party leaders while seeking their campaign endorsement last week that she was Hispanic — even though she is not. ‘I have always identified politically as a Hispanic,’ Rosen Gonzalez, who is hoping voters will return her to the Miami Beach Commission this November, told the Miami Herald Editorial Board during a scheduled interview Thursday. ‘I’ve apologized and I’ve said I am obviously not Hispanic.’”
The daily rundown — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that there were 6,271 Covid-19 infections on Wednesday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 7,928 beds were being used in the state for Covid-19 patients. The Florida Hospital Association reported Thursday that 31.4 percent of adult patients in intensive care units are infected with Covid-19.
MOVE — “Florida buys Covid-19 antibody cocktails after another cut by Biden,” by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday said Florida is purchasing its own supply of monoclonal antibody treatments after the Biden administration planned another cut in Covid-19 antibody treatments. DeSantis told reporters at a news conference in Tampa that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide the state with just less than 18,000 doses of a monoclonal therapy called Regeneron. That’s almost half of the 30,000 in the last shipment sent by HHS earlier this week. DeSantis said the state has also allocated 3,000 additional doses of a similar treatment called Sotrovimab, which is made by GlaxoSmithKline, to make up for the federal cut.
COUNTER MOVE — “Biden picks up the tab for Florida school leaders fined by DeSantis,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday repaid several Florida school board members who saw their salary slashed by the DeSantis administration for requiring students to wear masks this fall. In total, the Biden administration sent school officials in Alachua County $147,719 to make up for fines from the Florida Department of Education, marking the first awards granted by the feds in the fight against Republican-led states and their Covid-19 policies. Alachua is one of 11 school districts in Florida to mandate masks for students in defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who wants parents to have the ultimate say on face coverings in schools.
MEANWHILE — “Crist lashes out at DeSantis administration’s order easing COVID rules,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Romy Ellenbogen: “Signaling that he’ll continue to make Florida’s handling of the pandemic central in his run for governor, Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on Thursday criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to ease COVID-19 safeguards in schools and called for the removal of the new surgeon general. ‘The notion that the leaders at the top of the state on this issue would be saying it’s okay to send kids with COVID into classrooms, it’s unconscionable,’ Crist said.”
LOOKING FOR CLUES — “Florida’s mysterious Covid-19 surge,” by Vox’s German Lopez: “Toward the end of the summer, Florida became the epicenter for America’s recent Covid-19 wave — reporting more hospitalizations and deaths than any other state in the country. But there was and still is surprisingly little certainty, among experts, over one question about Florida’s surge: Why did it happen?”
One is not like the other — “The most common explanation for the outbreaks in the South that we saw over the recent summer was the low vaccination rates across the region. It’s true vaccination rates are low across the South: Seven of the 10 states with the lowest vaccination rates are in the region. And lower vaccine rates do correlate with more Covid-19 cases and deaths. But Florida defies the regional trend.”