With an eye on next year’s hoped-for takeover of the White House, the Democrats are feeling a surge of pride and excitement. Many are convinced by their own press complex that Donald Trump is the most hated president since Frank Underwood, so defeating him should be a walkover. Which may be why a stampede has formed for the blue-party nomination.
And, yet, just as Leadership Blue 2019, the state’s biggest liberal event of the 2020 campaign season so far is taking place, no candidates will RSVP. Not a one.
This should be an exciting time for the Democratic Party of Florida. Riding a blue wave that saw their party flip the federal House of Representatives, (though not much success in the state itself) and combating a supposedly unpopular president, there's a fertile field of prospects for the White House. The 2020 campaign is sure to be contentious and as usual, Florida is primed to serve as the biggest swing state in a general election.
With a swollen field of about two dozen prospects, the Florida Democrat Party is rubbing its hands, gearing up for the big summer conference. While normally held in South Florida, in Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s district at the opulent Diplomat Hotel in Hallandale Beach, Dem leaders thought this year's Leadership Blue called for a more public presence.
So on the weekend of June 7 the conference kicks off at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club. A number of significant donors as well as leaders for various special interest advocacy groups will be arriving to ramp up excitement for the coming election season. What is significant is who will be missing from the conference:
All of the presidential candidates.
Instead of at Disney, the entire field will be in Cedar Rapids that very same weekend. Why? Because Iowa got in there first. The whole Democratic candidate-entourage is spoken for in Iowa that weekend, to show up at that state’s Democratic Party forum. Florida can wait.
The Iowa caucus is the first official nomination event in the country, meaning getting early traction in that state is vital to launching a lengthy campaign. The Iowa Caucus will be held Feb. 3, 2020. Florida’s primary is more than a month later, on March 17.
So, how did this happen?
Apparently what we've got here is a scene straight out of "Cool Hand Luke" -- as the prison warden tells Luke, "a failure to communicate." Somewhere down the line, somebody didn't check with somebody else and before you know it, we've got a scheduling conflict of epic proportions.
The organizers of Leadership Blue were anticipating at least some of the declared candidates to make an appearance. “With such a broad and talented field of Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination, proclaims the copy on the conference web page, “this year’s Leadership Blue program is sure to be one of the most exciting in years!
Exciting, maybe -- but minus headliners.
A sign of the muted energy the conflict has provided is that the event has, as of presstime, not announced a keynote speaker for its gala dinner, on Saturday June 8 -- less than 10 days away. Looking over the schedule of events, there's no lineup of speakers on its agenda, a possible sign that slots were held open for the expected arrival of real-live candidates. The only names that appear are Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, as well as Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. All four are only scheduled for Friday Welcome Reception appearances.
Despite upbeat messaging and pro-party spin, there is a certain reality that can't be ignored. As one consultant told Politico, “It’s a missed opportunity for sure because we need to energize Democrats ahead of 2020.” Energy in the form of political donations. That lack of face time with the money people could lead to a delay in the campaign efforts within the state.
The party could use some investing, in order to afford calendars.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.