What are the biggest questions Florida’s top political journalists are asking in the final stretch of the presidential campaign?
“What’s going to happen with the pandemic in late October,” asked David Smiley of the Miami Herald in the latest episode of Political Party with Adam Smith.
Whether Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to remove Covid-related restrictions on businesses and schools leads to a surge in positive cases in parts of the state could be a key factor in which way Florida tilts, agreed Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times. A spike in cases could scare people from voting or change the narrative of the race.
Well over half a million Floridians have already cast votes by mail four weeks before Election Day, and it is likely far more votes will have been cast by registered Democrats than by Republicans. In a dramatic shift from prior elections, Republicans are increasingly waiting until election day to cast their votes.
Politico senior reporter Matt Dixon said a key question is how the trend of Republicans voting later plays out as Democrats bank a big lead heading into election day.
“When you need to turn out the way they’re going to need to turn out, your margin of error gets smaller,” Dixon said of Florida Republicans. “It will be interesting to see how that plays out.”
Coronavirus has not only dramatically altered campaigning, but also political journalism.
“Usually at this time in the cycle, I’m sick of rubber chicken dinners somewhere on the I-4 Corridor listening to speeches in hotel ballrooms,” Dixon noted via Zoom from his Tallahassee living room.
“It’s much more of a phone sport than following campaigns around and zig-zagging the state,” Dixon said.
Contorno and Smiley noted that in the aftermath of the 2016 election where so many people were shocked by the Trump victory, their respective newsrooms had plans to do things differently this year.
“We had a lot of plans for how we wanted to cover 2020 differently, and a big part of that was talking to people and getting out into communities that we hadn’t covered in the past, either in our back yard or across the state,” Contorno said. “Obviously, that hasn’t been possible for most of this election season.”
“I do think the coverage has suffered,” Smiley said of the difficulty reporters had talking to people face to face for much of the year.
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