‘Florida is in play:’ Why Democrats are in damage control mode after comments

‘Florida is in play:’ Why Democrats are in damage control mode after comments

‘Florida is in play:’ Why Democrats are in damage control mode after comments

Florida Democrats and the Biden-Harris campaign are in damage control mode Tuesday. That was after the president’s reelection chair, Jen O’Malley Dillon, said Florida is not a battleground this year.

It was a contradiction to statements state and national party leaders have made for months.

The exchange occurred during the most recent episode of John Heilemann’s political podcast hosted by Puck News. It was exactly the comment Florida Democrats didn’t want to hear — from the head of the presidential campaign they’re working hard to push.

JH: “Is North Carolina a battleground state?”
JOD: “Yes.”
JH: “Florida?”
JOD: “No.”
JH: “Thank you. I was afraid you were going to lie.”
JOD: “Jesus.”
JH: “Let’s go with all our time to Florida… Okay, so it’s seven o’clock.”
JOD: “I have a point of view on Florida, but…”
JH: “But there are seven (battlefield states)—”
JOD: “Yes.”

The position appears to dismiss what the Biden campaign has said in the past: sending an April memo highlighting Biden’s “openness in Florida,” emphasizing that the state’s six-week abortion ban would help boost turnout and increase Biden’s chances. What Democrats, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Jamie Harrison, told us last week also seems like cold water.

“The stars are aligning, the planets are aligning, and Florida, Florida, Florida will be in that mix,” Harrison said during an exclusive interview. “And it will be one of the states that people across the country will be watching very closely in November.”

In a statement about the comments, Florida Democrats Chairwoman Nikki Fried sought to reaffirm that the state party was moving in the right direction.

“Florida Democrats are doing the real work needed to take back Florida,” Fried said, touting a renewed grassroots effort. “This November we are going to restore reproductive rights, legalize cannabis, defeat Rick Scott and break the Republican supermajority, and we know that Donald Trump cannot win the presidency without winning Florida. We are not naïve to the challenges ahead, but we are laying the foundation for Democratic success, not just for this cycle, but for the years and decades to come. Don’t count out Florida.”

Meanwhile, Biden-Harris campaign advisers were working hard to dispel doubts about Florida’s relevance. They highlighted at least eight ads published in the state, the recent increase in staff and said they will have 13 campaign offices in Florida by the end of the week. Although states like Wisconsin already have more than 45.

“Florida is in play,” said Biden-Harris national spokesman Kevin Muñoz. “Florida is a state that Joe Biden is investing in, that he is competing in.”

Muñoz said the campaign was “under no illusions that this would be an easy state for Democrats or Joe Biden to win.” But despite his boss’s hesitant comments, he emphasized that Florida was not going to be ruled out.

“If you had talked to me this time in 2020, you wouldn’t have heard me talk about the fact that we were going to win Georgia and Arizona,” Muñoz said. “The fact of the matter is that this is going to be a dynamic campaign, and smart, winning campaigns preserve all the means to reach 270 electoral votes.”

Florida Republicans have also relished the opportunity to take action. Gov. Ron DeSantis posted online that Florida’s battleground status was over. Florida Republican Party Chairman Evan Power said in a statement: “The Biden campaign is clearly waving the white flag in Florida.”

His comments echoed what Power told us last week about Biden’s chances here. With a margin of more than 900,000 registered voters over his rivals, the Republican encouraged Democrats to invest in Florida.

“I encourage you to spend all the money,” Power said. “I don’t think we have to spend at the level they do. Our bases are compromised. The movement toward Republicans in Florida is organic, not engineered by the media or whatever trick-of-the-day Nikki Fried is going on.”

One thing that continues to give Florida Democrats momentum is that, regardless of what experts and traders say, recent polls show that Biden and Trump appear to be within striking distance of each other. Depending on the media, Biden is down between six and four points, better than many expected in this cycle.

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