Latest news out of Florida today courtesy of UNF’s latest poll:
A newly released statewide poll conducted by the University of Florida finds Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson essentially tied with Republican Gov. Rick Scott, 37 percent to 36 percent, in a hypothetical matchup.
“Like most statewide races in Florida, the senate race between Nelson and Scott is going to be too close to call all the way until Election Day,” said Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF. “The one major concern for Democrats has to be the public’s lack of awareness of Nelson. When a three-term sitting U.S. senator has almost half of the sample unable to assess his job approval, you have a problem.”
Not everyone is watching, however. Pollsters found that 20 percent of voters surveyed Oct. 11 through 17 don’t know who their choice will be.
The Oct. 11 - 17 telephone survey of registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.39 percentage points. While Scott had a 59/28 approval/disapproval rating among the voters surveyed, Nelson’s was 35/15 with a whopping 49 percent saying they don’t now how he's handling his job.
Here’s some more info:
Florida is also deeply divided over the job President Donald Trump is doing.
While 59 percent of those surveyed strongly or somewhat disapprove of how Trump is handling his job, only 37 percent approve. But the divide lies between parties as the vast majority of registered Democrats — 91 percent — disapprove, while 72 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s job performance. Voters with no party affiliation, however, disapprove of the job the president is doing by 63 percent, with only 33 percent approving.
“Donald Trump is just as divisive in Florida as he is across the rest of the country, but as long as he maintains support from Republicans, I wouldn’t expect any major changes in his administration,” Binder said.
The poll of 834 registered voters was conducted Oct. 11 through Oct.17 by live callers via the telephone and in English and Spanish.
Voters were also asked to express their opinions about Confederate statues. While only 40 percent of respondents believe the statues should remain in place, the divide was greatest along party lines. Sixty-six percent of registered Republicans said they believe the statues should stay, while 76 percent of Democrats said they should be moved to museums or moved completely.
“Floridians should take note of the partisan divisions on this issue,” Binder said. “Republicans dominate the legislature, and the Republican voters don’t want the statues moved; this presents a real dilemma for legislators facing public pressure to do something about this issue.”
I find it hard to believe that Nelson has this little name recognition. But Nelson will have the opportunity to define Scott on this:
The U.S. Senate Finance Committee announced today that it is launching an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 14 residents at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills nursing home in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The investigation comes following a request from Florida’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a senior member of the committee.
The residents of the nursing home were left without power and no air conditioning in the days following the Sept. 10-11 devastation by Hurricane Irma. Two days after the storm left, two residents were found dead in their beds and others were rushed to the hospital, where 12 more would die after apparently being baked in the sweltering facility.
Florida is investigating, and has revoked the home’s license, and the owners of the home are suing the state over that revocation.
“It is my understanding that it is the state’s responsibility to certify a nursing home’s compliance with all federal emergency preparedness regulations in order to receive federal payments under the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” Nelson wrote on Sept. 29 to U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, who serve as the panel’s Chairman and Ranking Member respectively.
“Because the certification for a skilled nursing facility is subject to CMS approval, and the Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs, I urge the Committee to use its authority to conduct a complete investigation into the State of Florida’s certification of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills to determine what led to the deaths of 12 seniors there in the wake of Hurricane Irma,” Nelson’s letter continued.
Responding to Nelson’s request, Hatch and Wyden sent letters Tuesday to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, requesting information about its new nursing home emergency preparedness requirements, and to the state of Florida seeking answers to questions regarding the state’s emergency preparedness plans and response to Hurricane Irma.
The committee also requested similar information from Texas, regarding nursing homes affected there by Hurricane Harvey.
Momentum is building:
Progressive activists on Monday called for an investigation into whether Gov. Rick Scott illegally deleted voicemails left on his cell phone by the administrator of the South Florida nursing home where more than a dozen seniors died amid sweltering conditions in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The voicemails, which the administrator of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills said warned the governor that the nursing home's air conditioning had failed and that an evacuation would be needed, were transcribed by Scott's staff at the state Emergency Operations Center in the hours following Irma's landfall last month. An evacuation, however, was slow in coming, a delay that turned out to be deadly.
Standing outside Scott's Capitol office, the activists representing the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans demanded that Tallahassee-area State Attorney Jack Campbell open a probe to determine if the governor violated the Sunshine Law by destroying the voicemails.
"We need our state attorney to read the letter we sent him and to act on it and investigate the lack of transparency, the lack of heeding the call of these nursing homes," said FLARA board member Barbara DeVane.
And Nelson could have a whole new group of voters on his side:
Sen. Bill Nelson doesn’t know how many Puerto Ricans have made their way to Florida since Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean island on Sept. 20. And he doesn’t know how many plan to stay on the mainland as their home slowly recovers.
But if they plan to stick around the Sunshine State, the Florida Democrat wants them to go to the polls in 2018, when he’s up for reelection.
“If they will register to vote, which I’m certainly going to encourage, because I can tell you among the Puerto Rican community in the greater Orlando area, they have been very embracing of my public service,” he said at a San Juan news conference after Puerto Rican reporter asked him about the post-storm migration. “The question is how many will want to register, and how many will want to return.”
Standing next to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Nelson took pains to say he wasn’t encouraging Puerto Ricans to depart forever. Puerto Ricans worry an exodus of working professionals — on the heels of years of emigration during the island’s financial crisis — will only make it more difficult for the economy to get going again.
“It could be a while coming before things get back,” Nelson said, referring in particular to the island’s destroyed power grid. “I will certainly encourage our fellow citizens to return home.”
The question of how a wave of Puerto Ricans, who tend to vote Democratic, could reshape Florida politics is perhaps more urgent for Nelson than for any other statewide politician. He faces a potential challenge next year from Republican Gov. Rick Scott, whose administration has set up relief centers for Puerto Rican arrivals at Orlando and Miami airports and seaports to assist them with schooling, housing and employment.
This is going to be one tough and expensive race and Nelson is taking it seriously:
Sen. Bill Nelson went to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer this summer with an urgent plea.
Florida’s Democratic Party was in disarray after the 2016 presidential debacle, the senator said, and he needed help from D.C. to prepare for a likely challenge next year by GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who’s spent at least $86 million of his own fortune on his two gubernatorial campaigns.
Anxious about holding onto seats — and aware that a milquetoast moderate who’s been in politics for 30 years might not be ideal in the current political environment — the Senate minority leader convened a meeting of party hands. Present were Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, his aides and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee staff. They discussed reworking budgets and underwriting the Florida Democratic Party effort to help the three-term senior senator.
Nelson told the group that Democrats desperately needed to catch up on field staff in Florida, especially in the wake of the presidential and Senate race results last year that saw Republican-leaning voters flood the polls and took even plugged-in Democrats by surprise.
“The Democrats executed the 2012 playbook to perfection in 2016,” said one person who attended the meeting. Republicans “wrote a new playbook, and it was a better one. [Nelson's] point was and is that they didn’t stop organizing.”
Nelson is one of 10 Democrats up for reelection in states carried by President Donald Trump — and among the most vulnerable. A loss in Florida would all but relegate Democrats to the Senate minority for at least another two years; their hopes of winning the chamber next year are already exceedingly slim.
So Democrats have been targeting Scott as if he’s already an announced candidate. They’re airing digital ad buys against the Republican, launching early voter registration drives and coordinating sometimes-fractious progressive groups to boost Democratic voter turnout — a strategy that’s paid dividends in two local elections.
The all-hands-on-deck response to Nelson’s request speaks to the deep concerns among Democratic activists and elites worried about the three-term senator’s lagging fundraising and the difficulty of motivating Democratic voters in off-year elections. Nelson — who took a month off from fundraising amid the recent hurricanes — is redoubling his efforts to fill his campaign coffers, notably with a series of fundraisers headlined by one of the party’s rising stars, California Sen. Kamala Harris.
Democrats don’t see much of a threat to Nelson if Scott doesn’t run, and argue that the main reason the governor is a challenge is due to his deep pockets. Scott, who is termed out of office at the end of 2018, is expected to decide on a Senate bid by the end of this year or early next year.
“We’ll all need to raise at least $60 million for Bill,” said one Democrat close to Nelson, and even then the incumbent would probably “get outspent by Scott by 2-to-1.”
Due to its size and 10 media markets, Florida is so expensive to campaign in that operatives say a week’s worth of campaign television ads statewide could cost nearly $3 million next year. As of the second fundraising quarter this summer, Nelson had just $5 million in the bank. Scott has about $3 million in his political committee, but he’s allowed to raise bigger chunks of money from corporate interests under state law as long as he’s not a federal candidate.
And Nelson has been doing very well at fundraising:
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson added nearly $1.8 million in the third quarter according to a new report filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
The new numbers also show Nelson’s principal campaign committee spent about $600,000 between the first of July and the end of September, leaving the longtime Democratic lawmaker with a little over $6.31 million in the bank heading into Q4.
That amounts to a net gain of about $1.17 million for the campaign, which had about $5.14 million in the bank at the end of Q2.
The FEC had not finished processing all the contributions and expenditures in the quarterly report as of Sunday, though the big-picture numbers show $1.43 million of the Q3 money came in from individuals, while $243,550 came from political committees.
The campaign also brought in another $78,450 worth of funds transfers from other authorized committees and received $2,000 from political party committees, with rebates, refunds, dividends, interest and other miscellany making up the rest of the balance.
But of course, we need to be ready for anything in this race. Click here to donate and get involved with Nelson’s re-election campaign.