Hello and welcome to Friday.
The daily rundown — Between Wednesday and Thursday, the number of Florida coronavirus cases increased by 3,356 (nearly 0.5 percent), to 744,988; active hospitalizations went down 28 (1.3 percent), to 2,122; deaths rose by 141 (0.9 percent), to 15,736.
Stop me if you have heard this one before — The presidential race remains effectively tied in Florida, according to the latest poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy released early Friday.
Tight — Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a narrow lead of 48 percent to 45 percent over President Donald Trump, which is within the poll’s margin of error of plus/minus four percent. The poll was taken from Oct. 8 through Oct. 12, coming right after Trump’s bout with the coronavirus.
A few key takeaways — Biden has a large lead among female voters, beating Trump 55 percent to 39 percent. Trump leads Biden with white voters 56 percent to 37 percent, while Biden has a 57 percent to 37 percent edge with Hispanic voters. Biden’s advantage with Black voters is overwhelming: 86 percent to 7 percent. Among older voters (65 and older) — a demographic crucial to Trump winning Florida — the president is up 50 percent to 41 percent over Biden.
Region by region — The poll also reflects Florida’s diverse electorate by geography: Trump is doing well in north Florida and southwest Florida, but he only has a slim lead (47 percent to 45 percent) in central Florida and Biden is ahead narrowly in the Tampa Bay area (47 percent to 44 percent). Biden has a commanding lead in southeast Florida (63 percent to 30 percent.)
Put it all together — So this poll reinforces the true constant in Florida. Every vote matters. The race will be decided in the margins.
— WHERE’S RON? — Gov. DeSantis is scheduled to be in Fort Myers and Ocala with President Donald Trump.
ELECTIONLAND: POLITICO is partnering with Electionland, a ProPublica project that works with newsrooms to track voting issues around the country. The Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. We’re part of a coalition of newsrooms around the country that are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more. Tell us here if you’re having trouble voting.
Small businesses continue to be left behind by Congress, which brings a cost of inaction. 30% of all small business owners will exhaust their cash reserves by the end of the year and 43% of Black small business owners will completely deplete their cash reserves by the end of the year. Learn more
DUAL REALITY — “Trump gets grilled as Biden coasts: Takeaways from dueling town halls,” by POLITICO’s David Siders and Anita Kumar: It came off less like a split screen than a breach in the political universe — “Die Hard” versus “It’s a Wonderful Life.” At the edge of his seat at his town hall in Miami, Donald Trump refused to disavow QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory, and sidestepped questions about his coronavirus tests. On a more sober, distant stage in Philadelphia, Biden criticized Trump’s response to the pandemic and discussed the intricacies of racial injustice. Each candidate played to type. Biden put in a workmanlike performance — steady, low-key, sometimes meandering. Trump was his usual combative self — occasionally to his own detriment, but hard to turn away from. In the end, nothing happened that’s likely to change the race. So, advantage Biden.”
— “Trump town hall sparks behind-the-scenes fury at NBC,” by POLITICO’s Marc Caputo
President Donald Trump speaks during an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
HERE WE GO — “Florida acts to remove felons from voter rolls as election looms,” by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout: Florida will seek to push former felons from voter rolls if they have outstanding court debts, a surprise, late-hour move that comes after more than 2 million people already have voted in the presidential battleground. The announcement, which was distributed to local election officials but not the wider public, drew immediate pushback from county election supervisors and suspicion from Democrats who say it could be used to challenge the eventual election results. Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews, in an email to the state’s 67 local election supervisors late Tuesday, said they would “begin to see” files on registered voters “whose potential ineligibility is based on not having satisfied the legal financial obligations of their sentence.”
ONE WAY TO WIN — “Florida Republicans cut Democrats’ registration edge to historic low,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Republicans in Florida, a must-win state for President Donald Trump, have narrowed the voter registration gap with Democrats to the lowest level in at least three decades, giving the GOP a shot of momentum as they continue to trail in early turnout. Republicans now lag Democrats by just 134,242 registered voters, down from 327,483 when Trump won Florida by fewer than 113,000 votes in 2016. The gain is a byproduct of the Trump campaign’s extensive face-to-face ground game and voter registration operation, which continued as Joe Biden and Florida Democrats pulled back from those traditional activities after the coronavirus pandemic erupted in March.
— Podcast: “Inside the weirdest, wildest, tightest state in politics,” by POLITICO’s Scott Bland, Marc Caputo, Adrienne Hurst, Jenny Ament and Irene Noguchi
JUMPING IN — “Bloomberg teams up with top Latino group for Florida ad buy,” by POLITICO’s Sabrina Rodriguez: Latino Victory Fund and billionaire Mike Bloomberg are launching a $2.4 million digital ad campaign to get Florida Latinos out to the polls to defeat President Donald Trump in his must-win state. Democrats have been scrambling in recent days to increase their neighborhood canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts amid concerns from party strategists and officials in Florida about the absence of a Joe Biden ground game due to the pandemic. Against that backdrop, Florida Republicans have managed to cut into Democrats’ longtime statewide voter registration advantage this year.
KEY DEMOGRAPHIC — “Trump courts Florida seniors as polls show him lagging with key voting block,” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson: “Mike Loewenstein voted for President Trump in 2016 and believes he has done some good things in his first term, but Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has the Ocala retiree wavering on whether to cast his ballot for the president again this year. ‘I believe he mishandled the coronavirus thing terribly and I think he even made it worse when he actually got it and the way he dealt with it,’ said Loewenstein, an independent voter who has two friends who died of COVID-19.”
THE STATE THAT MATTERS — “‘God has his hands in this election.’ From boat parades to prayers, Trump campaign blitzes South Florida to prove pollsters wrong,” by Sun Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher, Ben Crandell and Andrew Boryga: “With the battle for Florida intensifying and votes already being cast in record numbers, President Donald Trump’s campaign fired up South Florida supporters Thursday with prayers, a boat parade and a vice presidential promise to fight for freedom in Venezuela and Cuba. Vice President Mike Pence proclaimed ‘que viva Cuba libre’ (long live free Cuba) to about 200 supporters at the Memorial Cubano, a monument in Miami-Dade County honoring Cubans who died under Fidel Castro’s dictatorship.”
RUN IT UNTIL THEY STOP IT — “Trump targets Ocala and other Florida exurbs, hoping to repeat his 2016 winning strategy,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello: “President Trump’s fly-in campaign rally in Ocala on Friday is targeting rural and exurban voters, a bloc that in 2016 helped put him over the top in Florida. But this year, Democrats are hoping to eat into his margins there, doing just well enough to help former Vice President Joe Biden take the state. Both campaigns view a victory in Florida as crucial to winning the White House.”
2020 BY THE NUMBERS — So far, 2,092,131 vote-by-mail ballots have been cast for the November election, according to the latest information on the state Division of Elections website. Of those, 1,043,514 have come from Democrats and 623,395 have come from registered Republicans. Overall, there are more than 3.6 million mail ballots requested but not yet returned. Of those, nearly 1.53 million are held by Democrats and more than 1.15 million are with Republicans.
UM, WHAT? — “Broward voters will face the cops if they become unruly — or refuse to wear masks,” by Sun Sentinel’s Lisa J. Huriash: “People without masks won’t be able to vote in Broward County after all. Police across the county will be able to remove troublemakers from the polls, whether they’re making a stink about masks or trying to intimidate other voters, Broward’s election chief says. Broward County Supervisor of Elections Pete Antonacci signed paperwork Thursday that grants the Broward Sheriff’s Office the authority to remove any ‘disruptive and unruly’ people from polling sites. Antonacci’s move is aimed at trying to ensure a smooth election as early voting begins Monday. The cops won’t be stationed at the polls: They’ll show up only if someone from the elections office calls for their help.
‘TIMES ARE VERY DIFFERENT NOW’ — “The push for a $15 minimum wage in Florida was winning. Can it survive COVID-19?” by Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Contorno and Helen Freund: “Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat elected statewide in Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times in August that she remained on the fence. A spokeswoman declined to say this week if Fried had picked a side. But like Republicans, Fried was worried a minimum wage hike would hurt state businesses. Before the pandemic, Fried would’ve been more inclined to support it, she said. ‘But times are very different now.’ Orlando attorney John Morgan, who funded the effort to get the minimum wage amendment on the ballot, called Fried’s position ‘very disappointing’ and ‘so out of line with Democrats.’”
— “Pence rallies Hispanics with Trump’s anti-socialist record,” by Associated Press’ Adriana Gomez Licon
— “Trump Friday visit to Fort Myers confirmed by White House; focus will be seniors,” by Fort Myers News-Press Frank Gluck
— “Biden’s new Spanish ads target Puerto Rican voters in Florida, Pennsylvania,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Ingrid Cotto
— “DNC chief Tom Perez hands out signs, urges voters in Palm Beach County,” by Palm Beach Post’s Wendy Rhodes and Antonio Fins
LOOKING FOR A MIRACLE — “A deadline, then a viral surge and Florida hospitals miss out on pandemic aid,” by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: Federal rules governing coronavirus aid have shortchanged Florida hospitals, where cash reserves at two of the state’s biggest safety-net facilities were wiped out by the summer surge of Covid-19 cases, company executives said. Top executives at Jackson Health System and the University of Florida Shands Hospital said only $4 billion of the $175 billion in CARES Act aid to health care providers has found its way to Florida, which has recorded the third-highest number of infections in the country. ‘It’s going to be a miracle if we end up breaking even this year, but I think we will,’ Jackson President and CEO Carlos Migoya said in an interview.
FALLOUT — “Mask wars bring tears, anger and lawsuits to Florida school boards,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: After fielding some 700 public comments over two meetings that spanned 11 hours, the Indian River County School Board declined to vote on a proposal to make masks optional for teachers and students. Dozens of parents had lined up in person to weigh in on the idea and hundreds more sent emails to the board, the latest example of a public health debate deteriorating into a political and civil rights battle in counties across Florida. Parents have threatened lawsuits and some meetings have been reduced to anger and tears. Confronted by a divided and hostile community, Indian River School Board member Tiffany Justice withdrew the mask proposal on Thursday just before a scheduled vote. The county on Florida’s Treasure Coast, where President Donald Trump won 61 percent of the vote in 2016, would have been the first school district in Florida to walk back mask rules during the Covid-19 pandemic.
GOOD QUESTION — “How are Florida’s high school seniors going to go to college if they can’t take SAT?” by Miami Herald’s Ana Ceballos and Tampa Bay Times Jeffrey S. Solochek: “Many high school seniors are facing a pandemic-induced hurdle as they prepare to apply to college: They’ve not been able to take the required standardized tests. The virus forced many schools to cancel SAT and ACT tests, and Florida public universities require those test scores for admissions. Unlike most other states, Florida has refused to back away from that requirement. As a result, parents and students have been anxious as the Nov. 1 deadline to apply approaches.”
— “Florida universities getting fewer applications for 2021,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Annie Martin
— “Weekly jobless claims up in Florida, nation,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner
— “Pace High School has highest COVID-19 rate in Florida, but no plans to make changes,” by Pensacola News Journal’s Annie Blanks:
— “Bobby Bowden leaves hospital after COVID-19 treatment,” by Associated Press’ Ralph D. Russo
— “Florida recreational hockey game spread COVID-19,” by News Service of Florida’s Christine Sexton
PUSHING BACK — “Disney fires back at Elizabeth Warren’s letter blasting the company’s 28,000 layoffs,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Gabrielle Russon: “Walt Disney Co. is fighting back after Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a scathing open letter this week that slammed the company for reinstating pay for senior executives who had taken salary cuts during the coronavirus pandemic and other financial decisions benefiting shareholders before the company revealed massive layoffs. The company said in a statement, ‘Senator Warren’s misinformed letter contains a number of inaccuracies.’”
BACKLOG — “36,000 immigrants in Florida won’t get their citizenship in time to vote, data shows,” by Miami Herald’s Monique O. Madan: “Up to 300,000 lawful permanent residents nationwide – about 36,000 of them in Florida – will be prevented from completing their naturalization process in time to vote in the upcoming November election, data shows. The staggering government data – analyzed by by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Boundless Immigration, a non-partisan tech company that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship – shows that immigration policies implemented by the Trump administration since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis slowed down naturalization applications, creating a record backlog in a time when naturalization applications have skyrocketed. The desire to vote in November’s election, along with the fact that the administration will soon nearly double the naturalization application fee, has also pushed people to submit sooner than later, experts say.”
— “Matt Gaetz tweets out entire Hunter Biden story line by line to evade Twitter block,” by Washington Times’ Valerie Richardson
‘GROSSLY FAILED’ — “Sheriff fires two jail administrators after inmate gives birth in cell,” by Sun Sentinel’s Rafael Olmeda: “A Broward inmate screaming for help in her jail cell was forced to give birth there, ignored by jail staff standing outside her cell until just before her son was born, according to the Broward Public Defender’s Office. Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony fired two top-level jail administrators Thursday, barely 24 hours after learning of the incident.”
WHO NEEDS TEACHERS? — “USF will close its College of Education due to budget cuts,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Divya Kumar and Jeffrey S. Solochek: “The University of South Florida said Thursday it will phase out undergraduate programs in its College of Education and restructure it to become a graduate school. The move, attributed to budget cuts, sent shock waves across local education circles as USF’s College of Education has traditionally been a major training ground for teachers in the region’s K-12 schools.”
‘OPERATION PARK CLEANUP’ — “Hillsborough’s sheriff publicized a sex sting. Did it target gay men?” by Tampa Bay Times’ Jack Evans: “But these men weren’t accused of high-level felonies. They faced low-level misdemeanors on par with trespassing. Each of them, according to arrest reports, had gone to a local park and struck up a conversation with another man on a trail or in a parking lot. Eventually, deputies alleged, both men would agree to have sex. One man turned out to be an undercover deputy. The other went to jail. The undercover sting dubbed “Operation Park Cleanup” did not target anyone attempting to pay for sex. The men are not accused of human trafficking, or forcing themselves on anyone, or crimes involving children.”
— “Many Florida teachers are too lenient with grading, business group report says,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Jeffrey S. Solochek
— “Pinellas group home workers terrorized, restrained disabled boy, lawsuit says,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Christopher O’Donnell
Small businesses are in dire need of support. As Congress continues to leave the small business community behind, their inaction comes at a tough cost. 30% of all small business owners will exhaust their cash reserves by the end of the year and 43% of Black small business owners will completely deplete their cash reserves by the end of the year. The federal government hasn’t done enough. Congress and the Administration must work together, regardless of party lines, to provide relief for the American people. Small businesses can’t wait. Learn more
— “Bomb squad blows up pumpkin filled with explosives found near Florida business,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Garfield Hylton: “First responders in north-central Florida discovered an explosive pumpkin behind a local business, and the bomb squad came out to detonate the gourd. On Wednesday, the Starke Police Department posted on Facebook they received a phone call about the pumpkin bomb located behind the Tractor Supply company in town under some power lines.”
— “Florida man gets 2 years in prison for ‘Shark Tank’ investment-turned-fraud,” by Fox Business’ James Leggate: “A former New York wine distributor who hawked a single-serving wine glass that appeared on ‘Shark Tank’ was sentenced to two years in prison Friday for wire fraud. Joseph Falcone, 60, previously pleaded guilty to stealing more than $500,000 from investors, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced. Falcone used the money for a home in Florida, where he now lives, and to fund his online securities trading account.”
BIRTHDAYS: State Rep. Loranne Ausley … Beth Switzer, executive director at WFSU-TV/The Florida Channel … Mark Maxwell, partner SCG Governmental Affairs
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