Hello and welcome to Thursday.
The daily rundown — Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the number of Florida coronavirus cases increased by 1,948 (nearly 0.3 percent), to 706,516; total hospitalizations went up 253 (nearly 0.6 percent), to 44,108; deaths rose by 172 (1.2 percent), to 14,315.
Race to the finish — The ads are everywhere. And they won’t stop. Next up: The candidates and their surrogates.
Titleholder — The 2020 presidential election may very well be decided in Rust Belt states like Wisconsin and Michigan. And months ago, there was some whispers that Democrats were going to bypass the Florida and concentrate their efforts elsewhere. But just as it was four years ago — the Sunshine state is king and commands outsized attention — even during a pandemic.
All in the family — President Donald Trump was here last week and is returning this Friday to central Florida. Ivanka Trump was in Central Florida on Wednesday. Donald Trump Jr. will participate in a bus tour across the state on Saturday. One Trump campaign operative said they are trying to have either the president or a member of his family in the state nearly every day between now and Election Day. The president himself could be back four or five times. Gov. Ron DeSantis — who was at Trump’s Jacksonville rally last week — is also expected to ramp up his participation.
Biden coming back — Democratic nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, makes his second visit to Florida next Monday when he will participate in a town hall with NBC in Miami. Biden and Trump are also scheduled to debate each other in the city on Oct. 5. The two rivals, due to the realities of coronavirus, probably won’t match the furious pace of the 2016 presidential race, when there seemed to be dueling rallies every day. But as polls show an ever-tightening race, it’s clear that Florida is still the number one battleground state.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official scheduled for Gov. DeSantis.
THE FIFTY: Governors and mayors have never mattered more to the future of the nation, and The Fifty, a new series from POLITICO, takes you inside the role they’re playing in the pandemic and more.
COUNTING TIME — “Florida might not know on election night whether Trump or Biden won (and that’s OK),” by Miami Herald’s David Smiley: “A mail voting surge in Florida — a must-win battleground state for President Donald Trump — could lead to tense days after the Nov. 3 election, during which thousands of ballots may remain uncounted and the outcome of the presidential race unknown. And that’s OK. While Election Day is often treated like the Super Bowl, as if the winner will certainly emerge before bedtime, Florida law gives local elections officials several days to submit unofficial results.”
‘THAT WAS HARD’ — “Trump’s Proud Boys moment sparks Black outrage in Florida,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: President Donald Trump’s shoutout to the far-fight hate group Proud Boys is energizing black voters to turn out against him in the must-win state of Florida. “His call to the white supremacist group Proud Boys to ‘stand by,’ and telling his followers to go to the polls and watch them, that is straight up voter suppression,” said incoming state Minority Leader Bobby DuBose, a Black Broward County Democrat.
— “South Florida Proud Boys leader reacts with pride to President Trump’s debate-night call to ‘stand by,’” by Sun Sentinel’s Andrew Boryga
GONE FOR THE ‘IMMEDIATE FUTURE’ — “Parscale steps away from Trump campaign as wife denies physical abuse,” by POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt and Gary Fineout: Brad Parscale, a senior adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign who was involuntarily detained by police this weekend, said he is stepping away from the reelection effort and seeking help for what he called “overwhelming stress” on him and his family. In a statement provided to POLITICO on Wednesday, Parscale’s wife, Candice, also denied that Parscale physically abused her, despite a police report which said she told authorities the contrary. “The statements I made on Sunday have been misconstrued, let it be clear my husband was not violent towards me that day or any day prior,” she said.
YES WE DO — “Remember when President Trump claimed fraud in Florida?” by New York Times’ Patricia Mazzei: “Investigate they did. And earlier this year, at the end of their nearly 18-month inquiry, the investigators found no evidence of widespread fraud. No, there was nothing sinister about vote totals being updated slowly overnight. No, Republicans were not illegally barred from observing the recount. No, Democrats did not act unlawfully when they tried to help voters fix problems on their mailed-in ballots.”
HITTING OVER HEALTH CARE — Mike Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC on Wednesday started to air a statewide ad that goes after President Donald Trump over his administration’s continued legal efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and his nomination to the Supreme Court of Judge Amy Comey Barrett. Barrett criticized a previous Supreme Court ruling that upheld the law. “Trump wants a justice who will strike down the Affordable Care Act,” the ad states. This latest ad is part of a previously announced $40 million splurge in Bloomberg’s pledge to spend $100 million in Florida. “There’s only one candidate in this race who wants to uphold the Affordable Care Act and the protections it provides for those with pre-existing conditions — and that’s Joe Biden,” Bloomberg said in a statement about the ad. “We’re going to make sure every voter in Florida knows that when they cast their ballot this fall.”
CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP — The Trump campaign announced it is holding a “Fighters Against Socialism” bus tour this Saturday that will have stops in Tampa, Kissimmee and Coconut Creek. The Saturday events will be hosted by Donald Trump Jr. along with UFC star Jorge Masvidal and Maximo Alvarez, the South Florida businessman who gave an impassioned speech at the Republican National Convention… The Florida campaign of Democratic nominee Joe Biden will host a virtual press conference on Thursday with Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel — three Jewish members of Congress — to go after Trump’s Tuesday night comments on white supremacy and the Proud Boys.
2020 BY THE NUMBERS — So far, 132,194 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, 70,497 have come from Democrats and 36,196 have come from registered Republicans. Overall, there are 5.05 million mail ballots requested but not yet returned. Of those, more than 2.31 million are held by Democrats and nearly 1.6 million are with Republicans.
— “Ivanka Trump visits Asian American campaign volunteers in Orlando,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello
— “Second lady Karen Pence makes 3 veteran-themed stops in Jacksonville area,” by Florida Times-Union’s Matt Soergel
— “Florida Constitution amendments on Nov. 3 ballot: What they do, pro and con,” by Orlando Sentinel
— “In FL House race, Republican Anthony Sabatini banks on sound and fury in reelection,” by Florida Phoenix’s Laura Cassels
ON YOUR OWN — “DeSantis will let Florida’s eviction and foreclosure moratorium expire,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Emily Mahoney: “For the first time since Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a moratorium in April, Florida will be without its own statewide protections against evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis announced Wednesday evening that he would be allowing the state moratorium to expire at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. In a news release, his office cited the federal order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that freezes some evictions. For that order to apply, tenants must submit a specific declaration form to their landlords, saying, among other things, that they have experienced a “substantial loss of household income” and have made best efforts to seek government assistance.”
THE TOLL — “Disney World layoffs: 6,700 non-union employees are losing their jobs,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Gabrielle Russon: “About 6,700 Walt Disney World non-union employees are losing their jobs because of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, according to an alert the Walt Disney Co. sent to the state. The notice is the first indication of how many Orlando employees are part of the massive layoffs the company announced Tuesday after the market closed. The layoffs will begin Dec. 4.”
Trump hit over layoffs — Democrats in Central Florida are blaming the Disney layoffs on President Trump and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “Donald Trump’s economy wasn’t working for Central Floridians before COVID-19 hit, and now — thanks to Trump’s failure to take this pandemic seriously — our economy is spiraling,” said State Rep. Anna Eskamani. Added State Rep. Geraldine Thompson: “The news of another several thousands of workers losing their livelihoods is heartbreaking, but for my constituents in Orlando, this is tragically another blow to the gut in this seemingly endless stream of layoffs.”
PORT OF CALL — “White House blocked CDC order to keep cruise ships docked,” by New York Times’ Sheila Kaplan: “The White House has blocked a new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep cruise ships docked until mid-February, a step that would have displeased the politically powerful tourism industry in the crucial swing state of Florida…Republican politicians in Florida and cruise industry lobbyists have called for ending the no-sail order. ‘I urge the C.D.C. not to extend or renew the “No Sail Order,”’ Carlos A. Gimenez, the Republican mayor of Miami-Dade County, said in a statement on Saturday. On Sept. 16, Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, both Republicans, proposed the Set Sail Safely Act, which would create a maritime task force to work on the logistical changes needed for the industry to resume operations safely.”
ONE MORE MONTH — “CDC ‘No-sail’ order extension official: Cruise ships will not sail in U.S. waters until Nov. 1,” by USA Today’s Morgan Hines: “Two hours before its ‘no-sail’ order was set to expire, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced late Wednesday it is extending its ‘no-sail’ order for the U.S. cruise industry through Oct. 31. The CDC’s previous order had been scheduled to end Wednesday after extensions to the original mid-March order were issued in April and again in July.”
BREAKTHROUGH? — “Scripps Jupiter scientists find possible COVID-19 drug strategy in new study,” by Palm Beach Post’s Sam Howard: “Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute say they’ve found a possible way for drugs to treat COVID-19. Led by Matthew Disney, a chemistry professor at Scripps’ Jupiter campus, the researchers did this by offering a roadmap for how to complicate the coronavirus’ ability to replicate. Their findings from the proof-of-concept study were published Wednesday in ACS Central Science, an open-access peer-reviewed scientific journal.”
WALKING AWAY — “‘It’s going to be on them’: Florida businesses have to adapt to no COVID rules,” by Miami Herald’s Ana Ceballos and Tampa Bay Times Kirby Wilson: “Halsey Beshears, the DeSantis administration official charged with regulating state bars and restaurants, said he ‘absolutely’ thinks the state will see a split in business models as owners adjust to operating amid a pandemic. ‘I think you’re going to see people that start going, ‘Hey, I’m not comfortable with this as an owner. I don’t want the liability or I’m just not happy with it.’ And I think you’ll have others that want to open up, blowing it wide open,’ Beshears said. The governor’s order means state officials will no longer enforce social-distancing violations at businesses, or threaten to revoke liquor licenses for violating those rules like the state did this summer. Beshears said enforcing capacity levels and guidelines now falls on local government and business owners.”
KEEP ON ZOOMING — “Cities scrambled to prepare to meet in person. DeSantis is letting them stay virtual,” by Miami Herald’s Samantha J. Gross, Aaron Leibowitz, Douglas Hanks and Martin Vassolo: “City managers across Miami-Dade County scurried to put up Plexiglas dividers, space out chairs and even scout larger locations for local government officials to meet amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The clock was ticking until an emergency order allowing local government officials to meet and vote virtually was set to expire at 12:01 a.m., October 1. But hours before his order was set to run out, Gov. Ron DeSantis further extended a March 20 executive order that permitted local governments to use technology like Zoom or Webex to hold public meetings online.”
ON THEIR OWN — “Nursing homes, firm plan staff COVID-19 testing,” by News Service of Florida’s Christine Sexton: “Florida canceled a contract this month with the company Curative to provide COVID-19 test kits to nursing homes, arguing that it wasn’t necessary because the federal government has sent kits and supplies to the facilities. But a majority of the state’s 694 nursing homes have signed their own agreements with the company to resume staff testing and to allow resident testing, according to Curative CEO Fred Turner.”
— “Publix keeping mask requirement as Florida moves into Phase 3 of reopening,” by 10 Tampa Bay
— “Court eyes COVID-19 delays in criminal cases,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders
WORKAROUND — “Trump taxes: Deal behind Mar-a-Lago seven-figure tax break veiled from IRS review,” by Palm Beach Post’s Christine Stapleton: “Among the tax avoidance revealed in a New York Times investigation of two decades worth of President Donald Trump’s tax returns are acts of ‘charity’ — one involving Mar-a-Lago — that have saved the president over $100 million and sparked an investigation by the New York attorney general. The maneuver, called a conservation easement, can potentially provide massive reductions on taxes if the property is donated to a non-profit in the name of historic preservation or conservation. In the case of Mar-a-Lago, the deduction had another important goal: It provided Trump with the bargaining chip he needed to leverage permission from the Palm Beach town council to convert Mar-a-Lago from an opulent private residence into a money-making private club.”
GAETZ VOTES NO — “House in near-unanimous vote affirms peaceful transfer of power,” by The Hill’s Cristina Marcos: “The House adopted a resolution on Tuesday to affirm the chamber’s support for a peaceful transfer of power after President Trump last week declined to commit to it if he loses reelection. Lawmakers adopted the measure in a bipartisan 397-5 vote, with all of the votes in opposition coming from Republicans… ‘This resolution is a way for Democrats to attack the president and disguise the fact that they will refuse to accept the election results unless they win,’ said Gaetz, a top Trump ally. ‘Professional loser Hillary Clinton has told Joe Biden that he should not concede, and I’m quoting, ‘under any circumstances.’’”
ROAD TO NOWHERE — “Galvano defends controversial toll road plans,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner: “Senate President Bill Galvano defended controversial toll-road plans he’s pushed for nearly two years, after task forces released draft reports Tuesday indicating they were unable to determine if there is a need for the projects. Critics hope the draft reports are a sign the brakes will be put on the three projects, which would stretch from Collier County in Southwest Florida to Jefferson County near the Georgia border. The task forces said – in somewhat similar language — they couldn’t reach conclusions on specific needs for the projects because of the information available and displayed a preference for first improving or expanding existing highways and utility corridors.”
PROBLEMS — “Audit finds flaws with Florida’s safe schools office,” by Associated Press’s Brendan Farrington: “Florida’s Office of Safe Schools, which was created after a mass shooting at a Parkland high school, hasn’t been carrying out all of its statutory responsibilities, according to a report by the state’s auditor general. The report examined the office’s operations during 2019 and determined it was understaffed and not fully carrying out responsibilities lawmakers assigned it when they passed a bill to address school safety after 17 people were fatally shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. The office is part of the Department of Education.”
— “‘So lucky and blessed’: Former WCTV reporter to appear on ‘The Bachelorette’ Season 6,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s TaMaryn Waters: “Tallahassee residents may remember Garin Flowers for his coverage during a brief stint as a WCTV reporter covering local government and the surrounding rural counties. Now, Flowers has gone from chasing leads to chasing love. He’s slated to compete in Season 16 of ABC’s ‘The Bachelorette,’ starring franchise alum Clare Crawley as the leading lady. It airs 8 pm. EST on Oct. 13.”
— “Feds: 2 men breached NFL, NBA players’ social media accounts,” by Associated Press’ David Porter: “A Louisiana man and a Florida man allegedly gained access to professional athletes’ social media accounts and either sold the information or used it to extort payments, according to federal criminal complaints released Wednesday.”
— “Georgia county could ban booze on beach around football game,” by Associated Press: “A coastal Georgia county is considering banning alcohol from a popular beach on the weekend of the Florida-Georgia football game in nearby Jacksonville, Florida.
BIRTHDAYS: Jennifer Storipan, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (h/t Jess Vaughn) … Ryan Banfill, communications director for Florida Justice Association
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