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Biden Postpones Florida Rally That Demings Was Ditching

With a strengthening Hurricane Ian churning north through the Gulf of Mexico, the White House has postponed President Joe Biden’s Tuesday trip to Florida.

Biden was scheduled to pitch his proposals to lower health care costs and protect Medicare and Social Security at a Fort Lauderdale gathering before heading to Orlando for a Democratic National Committee rally Sept. 27 on behalf of Democratic candidates.

While Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), the former GOP governor running against incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, was among candidates set to attend the Orlando rally, several announced plans to be elsewhere. Biden’s approval rating among Florida voters was 43 percent, according to a Sept. 8 Insider Advantage FOX 35 Orlando poll. He lost in 2020 by roughly 3 percentage points to former President Donald Trump.

Most conspicuously otherwise occupied was Orlando’s former police chief, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who is seeking to unseat two-term U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (D-Fla.) in their Nov. 8 election.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks during the “Keep Florida Free Tour” at Pepin’s Hospitality Center, in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 24, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Demings’ campaign last week said she could not attend the Orlando rally, citing “commitments in Congress” that require her to be in Washington, D.C. this week where both chambers are in session.

The House, however, is in a two-day recess until Sept. 28 in celebration of Rosh Hashanah.

Demings on Sept. 22 presided over the House when it adopted her proposed “Violent Incident Clearance and Technological Investigative Methods (VICTIM) Act” in a 250-178 tally that garnered approval from 30 Republicans.

The bill provides federal funding for local police departments to hire victim support staff and more investigators. It is one of four bills that boost funding for law enforcement agencies either introduced or co-sponsored since 2021 by Demings, a three-term representative and 27-year career police officer who rose through the ranks to lead the Orlando Police Department.

In campaign ads where she identifies herself as “the chief,” Demings touts her law enforcement background and support for police to counter Republican claims that Democrats are soft on crime.

Rubio campaign ads feature his own support from law enforcement, including endorsements from 55 of Florida’s 67 sheriffs, while inaccurately claiming Demings praised calls to defund the police. She did not do so.

He has hammered Demings as a “Pelosi puppet” who served as one of the Democratic House managers in Trump’s 2020 Senate impeachment trial.

Rubio maintains that Demings supports policies that have fostered inflation, allowed crime to increase, exacerbated the border crisis, and would allow abortion “up to the moment of birth.”

“Val Demings would be the most liberal Senator from Florida EVER,” Rubio said in a Twitter statement. “But she isn’t just liberal, she is dangerously radical.”

With crime emerging as a pivotal issue in campaigns across the board in Florida, the Rubio-Demings race is among the most-watched of the 34 U.S. Senate elections on the Nov. 8 ballot nationwide.

Rubio is the favorite, but the race is expected to be close. With 5.2 million registered Republican voters, the GOP has a 300,000 advantage over Democrats in Florida but 3.9 million state residents are registered as unaffiliated with a political party.

According to a RealClearPolitics’ synthesis of combined surveys, including one by AARP, Rubio is polling 2 to 3 percentage points ahead of Demings.

Spending in the campaign is expected to exceed $100 million.

In her campaign’s Aug. 3 Federal Elections Commission (FEC) filing, Demings reported raising $47.2 million, spending $39 million, and having $8.8 million in cash on hand.

In his campaign’s Aug. 3 FEC filing, Rubio reported raising nearly $36.5 million, spending $21.6 million, and having $15 million in cash on hand.


John Haughey has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government, state legislatures, and growth and development. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he is a Navy veteran who fought fires at sea during three deployments aboard USS Constellation. He’s been a reporter for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida; a staff writer for Manhattan-based business trade publications.

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