Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 8.21.22

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One of the more amusing charges of the political season is the one Republicans hurl at high-profile Democrats for being in “lockstep” with party leadership.

The Republican Party of Florida has an ad showing that Charlie Crist votes 100% of the time for President Joe Biden’s agenda. And in a simplistic attack, Marco Rubio refers to Democratic Senate opponent Val Demings as a “rubber stamp” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Well, they are Democrats, and it would be shocking if they didn’t vote for their party’s priorities.

Rather than run from a President with low approval ratings, Crist unapologetically embraced his votes for Biden’s priorities. That won’t help him with GOP voters in his race for Governor, but at least it’s honest and could win support from independents.

It’s also worth noting that Republicans in Congress were obedient followers of Donald Trump. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight showed Rubio voted with Trump 88.1% of the time — and that’s after Trump’s bullying of Rubio in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Republicans Kat Cammack (CD 3), Scott Franklin (CD 15), Byron Donalds (CD 19), Carlos Giménez (CD 26) and María Elvira Salazar (CD 27) each had 100% scores on issues Trump supported.

You know why?

That’s what voters in their districts expect them to do. Demings and Crist represented blue districts.

Besides, the way Congress works — particularly in the House — rogues frequently find themselves banished to irrelevant committees and facing Primary challenges.

But this is the silly season and we’re supposed to gasp because Democrats voted for Democratic proposals.

Color me shocked.

Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.

Winners

Honorable mention: CD 7 voters. Thanks from a grateful nation for the wisdom these voters showed in turning thumbs-down to Anthony Sabatini in the Republican Primary for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

He lost soundly to Cory Mills, thus sparing the U.S. House of Representatives from another potential clown show.

And it’s with good reason. Sabatini’s own Republican Party despised him during his lamentable time as a state Representative. He’s the mouthy guy no one liked in middle school but who kept talking anyway while rarely making sense.

Here’s an example of his “oratory” during the CD 7 campaign.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that he called Mills “sub-human trash.” Mills supporters reported receiving text messages urging them to vote for Sabatini while attacking Mills’ wife, Rana al-Saadi, a Catholic woman from Iraq, as “anti-Christian.”

Mills is a decorated combat veteran with service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. He served with the 82nd Airborne Division and won a Bronze Star.

Sabatini served himself, although not well.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Anna Paulina Luna. She turned a contentious battle with Kevin Hayslett and Amanda Makki in the GOP’s 13th Congressional District Primary into a solid victory.

Luna, an Air Force veteran, grabbed 44% of the vote to Hayslett’s 34%, while Makki got 17%.

It was an expensive and nasty fight throughout the campaign for the nomination to face Democrat Eric Lynn in November. Luna and Hayslett lobbed charges of RINO at each other, while all three candidates tried to out-Trump the others.

Luna, though, was the only one with Trump’s endorsement, and that seemed to matter a lot.

“Thank you Pinellas County! I look forward to representing you in Washington DC and delivering results for our community! President Trump… I kicked ass like you wanted me to,” Luna tweeted.

Luna lost a congressional race to Crist in 2020, but lawmakers redrew the district boundaries this year to give Republicans a much better chance of winning.

The biggest winner: Lauren Book. Speaking of contentious campaigns, Book and former Broward County Commissioner and Mayor Barbara Sharief had a donnybrook in SD 35.

Book, the Senate Democratic leader, faced a rare intraparty challenge for the nomination. That was strange enough, but it quickly disintegrated into name-calling, charges and counter-charges.

Attack ads flooded the TV airwaves, and negative mailers kept postal workers busy. The candidates accused each other of lying, and Sharief filed a bizarre lawsuit against Book over the attacks.

Noting the rancor in this race, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel endorsed Book “with little enthusiasm” because of the attacks.

Given all that, how do we proclaim Book as the biggest winner?

There are two reasons why.

First, she pulled in 60% of the vote, which is a rout in any election.

And second, her victory saved Democrats the embarrassment (and bad headline) of having their caucus leader lose a Primary.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Rick Scott. During his two terms as Florida’s Governor, Scott was generally boring, especially regarding public pronouncements. He might want to consider returning to that stealth role because it seems like every time he opens his mouth these days, it’s to insert his foot.

The latest example was Scott’s criticism of President Biden’s frequent trips to his home state of Delaware.

So?

Axios reported Scott was on a luxury yacht with his family on vacation to Italy when he made that snipe.

Optics, Senator.

It also reminded Republicans that as Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott’s mismanagement endangers their party’s chance of retaking the Senate.

Optics, Part II: With a little more than two months before the election, GOP leaders might prefer that Scott deal with their crumbling Senate chances instead of jet-setting to Italy.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Laura Loomer. The far-right flamethrower lost a reasonably close race to incumbent Daniel Webster for the Republican nomination in CD 11.

So, does she congratulate Webster after his 51%-to-44% victory?

Yeah, right.

She declared herself the winner and demanded Webster resign.

Instead, Webster’s campaign responded with a statement reading in part, “Rep. Webster is saddened to see she has lost all sight of truth and reality.”

I wonder where she came up with the “declare yourself the winner” idea?

This was after the election-night performance where Loomer started sobbing as she spoke to supporters, claiming she had won and that faceless specters stole her victory.

She, of course, had no evidence of this–and never will.

“I’m not conceding because I’m a winner, and the reality is our Republican Party is broken to its core,” Loomer said. “What we have done tonight has really honestly shocked the nation. We have further exposed the corruption within our own feckless, cowardly Republican Party.”

Actually, the nation is hardly shocked by this because people now expect wacko gibberish from Trump acolytes like Loomer.

“We are losing our country to big-tech election interference,” Loomer continued through her sobs. “And I am pleading with the Republican Party to please start taking this issue seriously because the American people deserve representation.”

The American people who voted in this election have their representation. His name is Daniel Webster, and childish antics won’t change that.

Seriously, this “stolen election” crap has gotten really tired.

Really, really, tired.

The biggest loser: University of North Florida polling. UNF’s Public Opinion Research Lab often has an accuracy problem.

However, they’ve rarely missed the mark as badly as they did with the poll that showed Nikki Fried leading Crist by 4 points a week before the Primary.

Crist defeated Fried by about 25 points.

Many observers immediately dismissed that poll as an outlier (maybe from outer space), but it forced Crist to spend some extra money in the last week. He might need money in the main event against Gov. Ron DeSantis.

It’s not the first time UNF had egg on its face after a poll.

In 2016, it had Andrew Gillum ahead of DeSantis by 5 points a few days before the election.

Demings might have a reason for concern.

UNF has her ahead of Rubio in their Senate race.

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