(Weekly political notes from The News Service of Florida)
By BRANDON LARRABEE AND JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Just in time for the final two months of the campaign, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is headed in the right direction to clinch Florida’s 29 electoral votes, according to state GOP chairman Blaise Ingoglia.
“I think he’s doing much better now than he was a month or so ago,” Ingoglia said Thursday during an interview in downtown Tallahassee. “He’s been staying on message, and he’s been getting that message out.”
August was an eventful month for Trump, a real-estate mogul in his first serious run for political office. The nominee feuded with the family of a fallen Muslim soldier and suggested that supporters of the Second Amendment would take unspecified action to stop Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton from appointing liberal Supreme Court justices.
Trump eventually shook up his campaign and has recently taken steps to soften his tone, if not necessarily his policy proposals, on issues like illegal immigration. He hastily arranged a meeting with the president of Mexico, a nation that Trump has frequently criticized on the campaign trail.
All that came shortly before Labor Day, which traditionally marks the start of the general election, as voters return from their vacations and pay more attention to political news.
Ingoglia said Trump’s support might be understated in many polls, which show a tight race in Florida and across the country. The idea of a “shadow Trump vote” has been hotly disputed, but Ingoglia stood by the idea that 150,000 Floridians who probably won’t show up in polls of likely voters turned out for the Republican presidential primary in March.
How much would that swing the polls? By as much as a percentage point or even a point and a half, Ingoglia estimated, an amount that could prove critical in a state like Florida.
The party chairman also shrugged off the idea that Clinton’s ground game is necessarily superior to Trump’s in Florida. Democrats point to the fact that Clinton has far more offices and employees than Trump in the state, something that could help her mobilize supporters in November — and before, in a state with as much early voting as Florida.
It’s actually the opposite, Ingoglia contended. He said Clinton’s campaign is trying to catch up to the state and national GOP operations that have been gearing up for almost two years now. It’s better to rely on that than to try to build an organization in the short period before the voting, Ingoglia said.
“We have learned from the past two elections that just parachuting in four months before an election really doesn’t cut it,” he said.
Trump, who will campaign Friday night in Pensacola, likely needs Florida more than Clinton does. The former secretary of state has several paths to 270 electoral voters that don’t involve winning Florida — President Barack Obama clinched re-election in 2012 before the results here were announced — but it’s hard to see a Trump victory without the Sunshine State in his column.
Of course, it’s not unusual for the chair of either major party to talk up his or her nominee in the run-up to a general election, or to downplay any major organizational weaknesses. The results in November could show which approach worked better this time around.
INSURERS CAN EXPECT ‘MODEST IMPACT’ FROM HERMINE
It could take a couple of weeks before a picture of the financial impact from Hurricane Hermine is available.
But Fitch Ratings, one of the nation’s credit-rating giants, anticipates a “modest impact” on the property-casualty insurance industry and on catastrophe bond markets.
Analysts predict the storm, which hit Northwest Florida last Friday, will result in losses approaching $500 million, with economic damage around $1 billion. But those numbers include Georgia, the Carolinas and other states along the East Coast that felt the impact from the storm.
The bigger hit from the storm may be on third-quarter earnings for insurers, particularly many new firms that have sprung up in Florida since the punishing 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons.
“The limited history for most new primary companies means that their balance sheets and operating infrastructures are untested by any large loss experience,” Fitch Ratings said in a release Wednesday. “Also, the ability for these companies to quickly and effectively assess and pay losses during a substantial increase in claims from a large hurricane landfall is uncertain. Loss experience from Hermine will provide insight into the preparedness of the Florida specialist companies for the next significant storm that hits the state.”
Don Griffin, vice president of personal lines for Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said Tuesday it could be two weeks to a month before any initial damage number is released.
SOCCER GROWING, BUT NFL REMAINS KING
Naples resident Shahid “Shad” Khan, armed with a new $1.25 million contract from Florida’s tourism agency Visit Florida to sponsor his London-based Fulham Football Club, wants to bring more people to Florida and to grow soccer in the Sunshine State.
“Our goal is to turn Jacksonville into a soccer center,” Khan said Thursday while addressing the Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Hilton Orlando.
Just don’t expect soccer to become as big as anything the NFL offers, he added.
“Let’s be real, nothing matches up to the NFL,” said Khan, who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Khan said he expects one day Fulham will play a match at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. He noted the Jaguars’ annual trip to London had built that team’s brand outside the U.S.
The United Kingdom, with nearly 1.7 million tourists to Florida last year, is the largest overseas source of travelers to the Sunshine State.
As for the prospects of the Jaguars, who open the 2016 season at home on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, Khan is hoping for similar earlier success as his Fulham club, which is in second place in the English Football League Championship division.
“If you believe the national media, this is the time I want to believe them, they say we’re going to have a great year. Who am I to argue?” Khan said.
Actually, many sports prognosticators are putting the team’s potential record for 2016 around .500, which would still be an uptick. Since Khan purchased the club in 2012, the Jags haven’t won more than five games in a season — 5-11 last year.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Just hold out for 9 more weeks America. That’s it until this dumpster fire election is finally over! 9 weeks.” — Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain), political commentator and daughter of Arizona Sen. John McCain.
“8 weeks, 4 days and 8 hours â¦ but who’s counting?” — political strategist and commentator Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) in response.