Florida a battleground State?

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Elections sign in St. Petersburg at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office. By Seán Kinane/WMNF News (Oct., 2018).

Backroom Briefing: Weekly political notes from The News Service of Florida

By Jim Turner ©2024 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Florida isn’t a battleground state and hasn’t been in several election cycles.

But Democrats, both at the state and national level, insist they haven’t given up on Florida after Jen O’Malley Dillon, chair of President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign, made it evident she doesn’t think Florida is in the battleground class.

Democrats this week repeatedly said Florida is “in play” for Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot after O’Malley Dillon’s blunt response of “no” when asked in an interview with Puck News if Florida was a battleground state.

Dan Kanninen, the Biden campaign’s battlegrounds states director, noted in a statement that the campaign “continues to scale up our presence and investments into the state.”

And Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried told reporters Wednesday that former President Donald Trump “is losing ground here,” with an example being Trump getting just over 80 percent of the vote in the March 19 Republican primary. Florida’s primary came after Trump had already locked up the GOP nomination.

Still, O’Malley Dillon’s comment gave the party an awkward moment.

Kevin Cate, a Tallahassee consultant who has worked on various Democratic campaigns, posted that it “is not great” that O’Malley Dillon was writing off Florida while national staff members were getting their feet on the ground in the state.

And Republicans were quick to pounce on O’Malley Dillon’s comment as another sign Democrats had given up on Florida and that the state is not a battleground.

“Today, even the Biden campaign acknowledges that those days are over,” Gov. Ron DeSantis posted on the social-media platform X. “Florida is not in play in 2024.”

Republican Party of Florida Chair Evan Power in a statement said, “Another day, another Florida Democrat debacle! Despite Nikki Fried’s rhetoric, the Biden campaign is clearly waving the white flag in Florida.”

O’Malley Dillon’s response wasn’t really a surprise.

For months, Florida hasn’t been included in rounds of ad spending by national Democratic Party organizations in battleground states, primarily Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

When Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison was in Tallahassee last week, he called Florida “an important component” in Biden’s re-election effort, but sidestepped questions about national party money being directed to Florida.

Meanwhile, Florida Democratic Party leaders last week said a goal for 2024 is to erase Republican supermajorities in the Florida House and the Florida Senate. The GOP also holds every statewide elected office in Florida.

PANTHERS WIN THE CUP

DeSantis said South Florida’s streets would be much drier by the time the Florida Panthers fans celebrated the team’s first Stanley Cup victory.

Capturing the cup, not drying the streets, just took a little more time than expected.

With the Panthers up 3-0 in the Cup finals, DeSantis appeared June 14 in Hollywood to assess flooding from storms that dumped up to 20 inches of rain in parts of South Florida.

“I told everybody we definitely have to make sure on Saturday night (June 15) that the streets are good so everyone can celebrate the Florida Panthers winning the Stanley Cup,” DeSantis said during the appearance.

While expecting the Panthers to wrap up the best-of-seven series with the Edmonton Oilers on June 15, he added, “You know, these things are never over till it’s over. But you’d rather be up 3-0 than down 3-0.”

The Oilers went on to win games four, five and six, before the Panthers prevailed 2-1 on Monday to capture the Cup.

While in Umatilla on Tuesday, DeSantis joked that Florida “is basically the semi-permanent location for the Stanley Cup.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Cup in 2020 and 2021. The Lightning lost in the finals in 2022, as did the Panthers in 2023.

“So, we’re excited to be able to keep the Stanley Cup in the most tropical state in the United States,” DeSantis said.

FROM LEE GREENWOOD TO JOHN HANCOCK

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., on Monday recommended his reading list for June.

In a news release, Diaz said the recommendations “highlight the values of freedom that our country was built on.”

Diaz recommended “What is America?” by Michelle Medlock Adams for children in pre-kindergarten; “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Peter Spier for kindergarten through second grade; “Proud to Be an American” by Lee Greenwood for grades 3 through 5; “Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?” by Jean Fritz for grades 6 to 8; and “Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson” for high-school students.

SOCIAL MEDIA POST OF THE WEEK

“Good veto. This bill would have let law enforcement pull anyone over for driving in the left lane, basically adopting basketball’s rule against loitering in the paint for more than three seconds —- except the refs have guns.” — Former state Sen. Jeff Brandes (@JeffreyBrandes) on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto of a bill (HB 317) that would have prohibited cruising in the left lanes of highways.

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