Hello and welcome to Wednesday.
An answer— There are not many in D.C. who appear willing to praise Sen. Rick Scott these days. But it could be a tactical error to try to bury him.
The fault— Scott’s handling of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, its finances and its campaign strategy has gotten a lot of attention of late as questions have arisen over its spending decisions amid signals that Republicans may fall short in their quest to win back control of the Senate.
Ambitions — It was never 100 percent clear why Scott — a former corporate executive (with yes, a blemished track record that included getting ousted from a company that was being investigated for fraud) — decided to run for U.S. Senate in 2018. Some who knew him thought it would be an uneasy fit and that the only reason the two-term Florida governor did it was to keep an open lane to run for president in the future once Donald Trump won in 2016. (Let’s just say there were some in Scott world who at one point were dreaming of a 2020 Hillary Clinton v. Scott matchup.)
Blocks and stones— Scott apparently adjusted to his new role and then agreed to take the helm of the NRSC. It made sense because it gave him a chance to build networks nationally, which hey, could help if that bid for president ever materialized … or if there was suddenly an opening for, ahem, a new majority leader. Since then, however, there have been plenty of headlines and questions about how he’s guided that organization and whether it’s been about his own political future more than helping his fellow Republicans.
A pause— In all of this, however, there a few things to remember.
One— Rick Scott crashed into Republican politics during the tea party wave and ran for Florida governor even when the GOP establishment in the state was firmly lined up against him. Over the years, even his own staff have joked that he is like a robot. There’s a reason. Scott is methodical and sticks to a plan and a message. It’s also a risky move to underestimate someone who has been willing to spend tens of millions of dollars of his own money.
Two— Scott’s experience of everyone lining up against him in Florida is exactly why he did not want to endorse in GOP primaries even as it produced candidates in danger of losing several battleground contests.
Three— Scott can be extremely pragmatic — some may use other adjectives — when it comes to his own political future. He ran on a harsh anti-immigration platform in 2010, only to do a turnabout on the issue in 2014. His against it, then for it, then against it again stance on Medicaid expansion was another example of being able to pivot depending on the circumstances. (And before Scott world calls, yes, there were caveats. Thanks for the reminder Jackie Schutz Zeckman.)
Masters— Look, let’s make it clear. Scott does not have a ton of longtime staunch allies outside of some key staffers. There are plenty of stories about those who complained that Scott can quickly jettison someone if there is no longer any return on investment from the relationship. He miffed Florida Republicans when he stopped helping the state party amid a power struggle over its leadership. He is working to get Sen. Marco Rubio reelected, but they are not best buddies. And Scott’s relationship with Gov. Ron DeSantis? Well, what relationship?
Many times— By Washington standards, Scott has not been doing this for a long time and clearly Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is forged in the ways of D.C. But Scott — who rapidly absorbed everything his own political consultants told him during that first 2010 run — has, sorry for the sports metaphor, a “just win, baby” mentality like late Raiders owner Al Davis. He will do whatever it takes. Scott has eked narrow win after narrow win after narrow win. And a win is a win.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
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EVERYTHING IS AWESOME — GOP tries to neutralize Scott-McConnell ‘distraction’ amid battle for Senate, by POLITICO’s Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine: Senate Republicans are moving swiftly to contain potentially disastrous fallout from stubborn disagreements between Mitch McConnell and Rick Scott as the party labors to flip the Senate. Senate GOP leaders met for more than 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, their first gathering after an August break throughout which Republicans openly fretted — McConnell chief among them — about their chances of taking over the chamber. Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chaired by Scott saw its cash on hand dwindle in comparison to Democrats, thrusting an increased responsibility on the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund super PAC to financially back up the party’s Senate candidates.
— “Rick Scott says McConnell ‘absolutely not’ target of op-ed,” by NBC News’ Ali Vitali, Scott Wong and Sahil Kapur
— “‘It concerns me a lot’: Republicans anxious about cash-strapped NRSC amid Scott’s feud with McConnell,” by CNN’s Manu Raju and Alex Rogers
— “GOP Senate hopefuls look to emerge from a summer slump, but fall recriminations are already flying,” by NBC News’ Henry J. Gomez, Jonathan Allen, Natasha Korecki, Sahil Kapur and Adam Edelman
PROFILE — “The Val Demings gamble,” by The Atlantic’s Adam Harris: “If the race does break her way, the Democrats will have the convergence of two separate story lines to thank. The first is the story of Val Demings herself: a centrist Black woman with a background in law enforcement—just the profile the party has placed its bets on in recent years. It’s no coincidence, after all, that Demings joined then-Senator Kamala Harris and former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who both worked as prosecutors before seeking elected office, on Joe Biden’s shortlist for his running mate two years ago.”
FOLLOW THE MONEY— “DeSantis ’18 campaign got $25,000 from nonprofit secretly funded by FPL cash, records show,” by Miami Herald’s Nicholas Nehamas and Mary Ellen Klas: “In the run-up to the 2018 election, Broken Promises — a mysterious nonprofit group registered to a UPS box in the nation’s capital — gave $25,000 to a political committee called Consumer for Energy Fairness. It was the first donation the committee received that year. The next day, Consumers for Energy Fairness passed $25,000 to Ron DeSantis’ political committee, according to state campaign finance records. The donation raised no eyebrows. The sum was a fraction of the nearly $59 million DeSantis collected in his successful bid for governor.”
‘ONE OF THE SWINGIEST DISTRICTS’ — “In Florida’s purple 15th District, Democrat Alan Cohn sees opportunity,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Romy Ellenbogen: “Alan Cohn wants people in the 15th Congressional District — and Democrats across the state — to know one thing: A Democrat can win this Tampa Bay seat. Republicans disagree. Florida’s 15th District, an open seat created during the once-a-decade redistricting process, is the most purple of any of Tampa Bay’s congressional races. But even as Republicans and Democrats battle for control of Congress in a fiery midterm year, many national groups are already dismissing the district as an easy win for Republicans.”
BACKED— Everglades Trust endorses DeSantis, by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie: The Everglades Trust on Tuesday announced in Fort Myers that it endorsed Gov. Ron DeSantis for reelection in 2022 because of his support for Everglades restoration and resistance to the sugar industry. Anna Upton, CEO of the Everglades Trust, also cited the governor’s opposition to oil drilling near Everglades National Park and support for funding water programs. “Ron DeSantis is not like other politicians,” Upton said during the waterfront announcement. “Politicians make promises all the time. What sets Ron DeSantis apart is he delivers on those promises.”
CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP— DeSantis’ reelection campaign released another ad on Tuesday. The new one-minute spot entitled “Results” focuses heavily again on DeSantis’ Covid-19 policies, especially his push to reopen schools and oppose business lockdowns. The ad is being paid by the Republican Party of Florida. Ad tracking firm AdImpact said on Tuesday that the party had agreed to spend nearly $3 million on broadcast, cable and radio ads between Wednesday and later this month. The cable ad buys included CNN, ESPN and Fox News Channel. …
Democratic nominee for governor Rep. Charlie Crist announced Tuesday that his campaign will embark on a statewide “The Choice is Choice” tour to draw a contrast between his record on abortion rights with DeSantis. …
State Sen. Loranne Ausley is out with her second broadcast ad in her closely-watched contest for reelection against Republican and former football player Corey Simon. The ad for the Tallahassee Democrat called “Iron Will” starts off by mentioning her son — who was born prematurely — and explains why she’s emphasized education and health care in her political career.
HAPPENING TODAY— Crist will hold a press conference in Jacksonville to discuss the state’s property insurance crisis, and in the evening Crist and his running mate Karla Hernández-Mats will hold a virtual meet and greet with Unidos con Crist.
— “So far, DeSantis has agreed to just 1 debate with Crist,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Jeffrey Schweers
— “GOP has numbers district-by-district. Do Dems have winning issues?” by Palm Beach Post’s Stephany Matat and Antonio Fins
— “Charlie Crist stresses abortion rights at Gen Z event in Orlando,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello
— “Jimmy Patronis bashes Big Tech in first re-election campaign ad,” by Florida Politics’ Gray Rohrer
DETAILS — “Material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago,” by Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett and Carol D. Leonning: “A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed in the Florida property. Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them.”
‘IF THIS WAS SO SERIOUS’— GOP offers strained Trump defenses in Mar-a-Lago probe — for now, by POLITICO’s Andrew Desiderio and Nicholas Wu: It’s just a bookkeeping issue. Presidents have broad declassification authority. And if the records actually posed a national security threat, Congress would have known about it. In the days since the FBI search of Donald Trump’s home, GOP lawmakers and allies of the former president have offered increasingly strained responses when it comes to his possession of classified and top-secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
WHAT COMES NEXT — DOJ’s setback in Mar-a-Lago probe could be profound … or merely a blip, by POLITICO’s Nicholas Wu, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein: A federal judge’s order of an independent review of the materials seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home has roiled the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal probe into the matter. It’s also raised profound questions about the power of courts to intervene in Executive Branch work. “If a judge can tell a different branch of government, ‘I’m taking over your job,’ then how does the executive branch function?” said Orin Kerr, a University of California, Berkeley law professor and an expert on criminal procedure.
ON THE BENCH — Judge who sided with Trump in Mar-a-Lago case had few high profile cases, by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: The federal judge at the center of the dispute over documents taken from former President Donald Trump’s estate is a member of a prominent conservative legal society who has had brushes with other politically-sensitive cases during her short time on the bench. U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by Trump in 2020 and confirmed just days after the presidential election, had faced criticism Monday for siding with the former president and his legal team in their request for a special master to review material taken from Mar-A-Lago during the FBI’s search in early August.
— Donald Trump has at least 19 attorneys dealing with 8 investigations, by POLITICO’s Betsy Woodruff Swan, Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney
FALLOUT— Fried calls for investigation into DeSantis’ voter fraud crackdown, by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is asking for an investigation into the DeSantis administration’s arrest of 20 people with felony convictions who allegedly ineligibly voted after being told by election officials they were eligible to vote. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the arrests during a splashy press conference last month, and offered it up as the first concrete crackdown on voter fraud by his new Office of Election Crime and Security, which he got lawmakers to approve during the 2022 legislative session.
‘FOLKS ARE GOING TO BE SCARED TO VOTE’ — “‘Money talks’: DeSantis goes after small-scale voter crimes, is silent on FPL and Matrix,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas and Nicholas Nehamas: “While the governor and his new election police force have targeted people like [Leo] Grant [Jr.], most of them Black, they have not similarly condemned or taken action against complex schemes intended to manipulate Florida elections and linked to one of the state’s most powerful corporations. Over the past year, Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light — a multibillion-dollar company headquartered 43 miles east and a world away from Grant’s small home — has been the subject of a torrent of news stories revealing how its political consultants funneled money through nonprofit groups and shell companies to manipulate elections and finance attacks on the utility’s political foes.”
— “Questions grow over Gov. DeSantis’ voter fraud arrests,” by WLRN’s Gerard Albert III
— “State, school boards fire back on education law,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders
— “Florida sheriffs group supports DeSantis in ousted Tampa prosecutor’s lawsuit,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Dan Sullivan
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Florida leads nation in COVID deaths for third month in a row,” by Palm Beach Post’s Chris Persaud: “For the third month in a row, Florida logged more COVID-19 deaths than anywhere else in America. The state’s COVID death toll grew by 1,614 people in August, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows. As coronavirus omicron subvariants swept the state this summer, Florida fatalities topped the nation from June through August. It’s also the third summer in a row Florida has been No. 1 for COVID deaths. The state became the national epicenter for the disease in August 2020, after Gov. Ron DeSantis began allowing businesses and public places to reopen.”
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE— “Miami-Dade said no to coastal wall. Feds agree to look at new hurricane options,” by Miami Herald’s Alex Harris: “Miami-Dade has another shot at a government-funded solution to its storm surge flooding problem. The federal government has agreed to take another look at its $6 billion proposal to address Miami-Dade’s risk of hurricane-driven flooding after the county rejected the plan last year. The original plan involved elevating thousands of homes, flood-proofing important buildings like fire stations and hospitals and even planting more mangroves in South Dade. Miami-Dade residents and politicians were mostly on board, especially with the promise of the feds footing most of the bill.”
WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?— “Electric bills likely to increase across Florida in 2023,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders: “Florida residents and businesses likely will get hit with higher electric bills in 2023 as utilities continue to struggle with increased costs of natural gas. Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co. filed petitions Friday at the state Public Service Commission that detailed expected costs in 2023. If the commission approves the utilities’ proposals, each would result in higher monthly bills in 2023.”
PALM BEACH STORY— “Dr. Oz bought Palm Beach mega-mansion with help of man embroiled in immigration fraud scheme,” by CBS News Graham Kates: “Among Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz’s 18 known real estate investments, none is larger or more valuable than Louwana, a 10-bedroom historic beachfront mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. The 18,559-square-foot estate has been valued at more than $36 million, according to local appraisal records. In an interview with Boca Raton Magazine in 2018, the celebrity physician described the mansion as ‘our house’ and raved about Palm Beach, which he said was ‘like a playground to me in many ways.’”
— “Greenberg told investigators head of consulting firm was ‘greased off’ while on water board,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Martin E. Comas
— “Broward’s elementary schools will start publishing their list of books. Some deemed ‘objectionable’ might get tossed,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Lisa J. Huriash
— “Judge won’t restrict release of evidence in case of OnlyFans model accused of murder,” by Miami Herald’s David Ovalle
BIRTHDAYS: State Sen. Bobby Powell … Jenna Box Sarkissian with the Florida House … Chris Cate of Chris Cate Media