The Capitolist Newsroom, Brian Burgess, Jordan Kirkland, and Caden DeLisa, kicked around a few predictions of what we’ll be talking about during Christmas season 2022. We posted the best predictions so everyone can see the internal deliberations and calculations that resulted in our flawless prognostications.
Who wins the Democratic Party Nomination?
Brian: I, being of sound mind and sound body, do hereby declare that I’m taking a flyer on Annette Taddeo. My rationale is underpinned by the brilliant under-the-radar performance of Andrew Gillum in 2018, when he was considered an “also ran” until the final days of the primary. Aside from her third place status, Taddeo has less in common with Gillum than Nikki Fried. But Fried doesn’t have a natural base like Taddeo, and she’s steeped in scandal that will only be highlighted in greater detail by Charlie Crist as 2022 starts to heat up. Which brings me to my dismissal of Charlie Crist, a man who squandered everything to embrace his personal ambition, and repeatedly exposed himself as a feckless opportunist rather than a leader. My calculations show Fried fizzling, Crist cratering, and Taddeo tasting victory in August.
Jordan: With a prediction like that, I’m thinking it’s time for your afternoon nap, Brian. While Fried does share similarities with the previous Democratic gubernatorial candidate — right down to unforced errors and hotel fiascos — she has more “outs” than Crist (Taddeo won’t make the Final Table) that will help catapult her to the nomination. In an era where progressivism sells, Fried checks all the boxes that make modern-day Democrats salivate. She’s an accomplished female in her own right. She’s overcome odds, defeating a Republican in 2018 to become the only Democratic cabinet member. She’s elevated that elected position and increased her political stock by using it as a pulpit to appear on mainstream media outlets. And she’s carried the torch for Democrats during the pandemic, becoming her party’s de facto leader in the fight against DeSantis. Fried will earn her party’s nomination, but usurping DeSantis will be a Sisyphean task.
Caden: I disagree with you both on this one. I think we’re going to see the state Democratic primary shake out similarly to how it did nationally in the last Presidential election. Crist has out-fundraised Fried throughout the early campaign and I think that will go a long way in forcing other outer candidates like Taddeo to drop out. Prominent Democrat Representatives like Al Lawson already endorsed Crist, which I believe is a continuing trend we’ll see throughout the coming months. Crist’s prior experience as Governor gives him the upper hand with moderate and older voters less likely to buy in on Fried’s policy and wins the primary by 3 points.
The Capitolist Conclusion: Either somebody in our office will have bragging rights in October, or a dark horse Democrat candidate will emerge and stun everyone.
Who wins the Governor’s race next November?
Brian: Some predictions aren’t really even newsworthy. Like the U.S. banking system circa 2008, DeSantis has grown “too big to fail.” From Miami to Washington D.C., from Jacksonville to Los Angeles, DeSantis has started to build out a national network of supporters who believe he can win the White House in 2024. But he can’t do that if he can’t even win the Florida governor’s mansion in 2022. Monied interests far and wide will ensure he has more than enough cash to suffocate the eventual Democratic nominee.
Jordan: We all know the two certainties in life: death and taxes. I, however, will add DeSantis easily dispatching the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2022 to that adage. While Crist and Fried jockey for their party’s ticket, DeSantis continues to build upon his solid foundation, broadening his appeal, both across the state and the nation, while simultaneously strengthening his war chest to the tune of nearly $70 million. DeSantis also retains the good of Trumpism — but in a way that is more measured and palatable — which allows him to tap into different sectors of the conservative voter base. Fried and Crist have notable name recognition, but it pales in comparison to DeSantis who continues to top the list of potential Republican presidential candidates in 2024.
Caden: Barring any unforseen surprises, I don’t see a scenario where DeSantis isn’t being sworn in as Governor for the second time. His popularity with voters in the state is simply too high for the current crop of Democrats to overcome.
The Capitolist Conclusion: It’s hard to imagine what it would take to derail DeSantis at this point. But Florida is a big state filled with surprises. Maybe one is lurking out there.
What’s next for Florida with the COVID-19 pandemic?
Brian: None other than Joe Biden himself has now thrown up his hands and declared that the pandemic must be fought and won at the state level. He’s wrong, though, and Ron DeSantis knows it. Coronavirus news fatigue is real and people are wary of competing headlines and contradicting information. DeSantis, more than most leaders, has a fundamental understanding of where to apply government leadership and where to allow individuals to make their own decisions. I predict most states leaders (and even other countries) will eventually start to follow his lead, even if they “brand” their approach as something different and more cautious. Look under the hood at the actual policies and you’ll likely find things very similar to what Florida has been doing for the last 18 months. Meanwhile, DeSantis will be blazing a new trail of personal freedom and Florida will start managing coronavirus like it’s just a really, really bad case of seasonal flu. In other words, protect yourself, and don’t rely on government intervention because governments the world over have proven utterly incapable of managing the pandemic effectively.
Jordan: Despite there not being a how-to manual on dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime mass contagion, DeSantis successfully navigated the state through the pandemic. Detractors will argue that the Republican is a “pro-covid” governor — even going as far to push conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated claims — but you can’t argue that Florida was the last bastion of freedom in 2020 and 2021 that served as a blueprint on how to delicately balance lives and livelihoods. Don’t expect that to change in 2022. People are fed up with “pandemic politics” and the virtue-signaling that comes with it. And with a looming election (and a potential 2024 presidential bid), expect DeSantis to fortify Florida’s defenses and hold the line.
Caden: No disagreements here. I think Florida will continue its efforts to remain open to the fullest capabilities that they’re able to. Recent economic tourism numbers have been encouraging on behalf of Disney, beach resorts, and sporting events, and it seems that other states are vying to emulate Florida’s formula of returning to normalcy. Of course, there’s the inherent risk of higher COVID-19 case counts, though with a weakened Omicron variant accounting for much of the registered cases within the state, residents and lawmakers may have a bit more flexibility to work with.
The Capitolist Conclusion: Freedom! In such heavy doses that it spills over into other states, even progressive ones.
Will Anthony Sabatini win a seat in Congress and become the next firebrand, supplanting Matt Gaetz?
Brian: In a word: yes. And I think he makes Matt Gaetz look like an elder statesman by contrast, for the simple reason that Gaetz had a bit of a centrist streak in him. As Caden pointed out in a recent article, Gaetz actually voted with Biden something like 15 percent of the time this year. I think that number will be exactly zero point zero percent with Sabatini, and he’s got the skills to be the same conservative “red meat firebrand” as Gaetz, without the, um, let’s call it “seasoning.”
Jordan: While Sabatini’s path to victory in CD-7 is open thanks to Stephanie Murphy‘s exit, becoming the next firebrand in a post-Trump presidency is easier said than done. Gaetz, like many right-wing officials, was elevated by 45’s Midas touch. With Trump no longer at the helm, candidates won’t be able to just copy/paste the MAGA playbook to their persona and expect to be a hit. But if Trump decides to make a comeback, he could enlist a new wave of America First Republicans.
Caden: I think this could become a reality, but not just yet. Sabatini needs to focus on winning Congressional District 7, and with Stephanie Murphy announcing that she isn’t seeking reelection, the race is going to be crowded. Given his current relationship with House leaders in Florida, he’s not likely to receive any favors from the party. His firebrand actions make him popular with his voters, but that won’t necessarily get his policies passed. Even at a state level, he’s had a hard time gaining traction with his bills, which may hurt him in the long run. If he wins a seat in D.C., then he has the wiggle room to go out guns blazing, but until then, I think we might see a more subdued version of him, at least until midterms are finished.
The Capitolist Conclusion: Sabatini goes to Congress. After that, the picture is clouded. Hopefully not because of smoke from a fire.
Who wins the U.S. Senate Race in November?
Brian: There’s a lot of chatter out there, but I think Marco Rubio crushes Val Demmings and it’s not even close. I’ll be the first to admit that in a sane world, Demmings could be fashioned into a winning candidate, but we don’t live in a sane world. Demmings has to navigate the gnarly minefield of her political party getting so many things wrong over the last couple of years, and that just means it’s a very bad year for her to unseat an incumbent. Democrats are playing defense in too many places, and she’s going to be trampled underfoot in the process.
Jordan: The budding Florida Senate race is a must-watch heading into 2022. While some polls have Rubio out in front, I expect this to be a close race. Demings certainly has a lot going for her — like being the first woman and African American to head the Orlando Police — but I believe 2022 will be a red wave for Republicans that will trickle down to benefit Rubio. Any other campaign year and Rubio may have been defeated.
Caden: Part of me says that a Rubio win is the most likely outcome in the Senate race, however, I keep coming back to the idea that this race is going to come down to the wire. I do think that Rubio will win his seat back. He has a good but not great 49% approval rating per a recent Quinnipiac poll, and will always have support in crucial areas of south Florida and Miami-Dade County, but Demings has hit the campaign trail hard, and I can easily see the Democrats pouring money into her fundraising efforts in an attempt to have a Senator with a ‘D’ next to their name. If I had to give a precise guess, I’d give Rubio the victory by a margin of 1.5 points.
The Capitolist Conclusion: Rubio wins, but he’s gonna have to work for it.
Will name, image and likeness (NIL) deals ruin Florida’s college sports?
Brian: A good number of Florida lawmakers are Seminoles, Gators, and Hurricanes. All of them want their alma maters to succeed in college sports. But there’s a wave of changes coming with the widespread adoption of financial deals that pay college athletes. To bring up a phrase I used in an earlier prediction, I believe college sports are “too big to fail,” but we’re currently in the Wild West of paying amateur athletes and we’re going to see some interesting developments in the coming year – perhaps even from state lawmakers who will push legislation to help their schools remain competitive with out-of-state schools.
Jordan: Being a college athlete and graduate of the University of Georgia, there are several ways I could dissect the uncertainty surrounding NIL deals. To be clear, I’m a fan of NIL deals. I consider myself a capitalist (pun intended) who believes players should be able to profit off their image. That said, the NIL structure was haphazardly thrown together with little oversight, turning college sports into the Wild West. While it’s one thing for a market to offer business deals to athletes, it’s another for boosters to set up potential slush funds to lure blue-chip recruits under the guise of name, image, and likeness. As some have pointed out, boosters at schools like the University of Texas are creating funds that will give players under scholarship $50,000 to perform charity work. While this is admirable and establishes quid pro quo, it is a perfect vehicle to avoid reproach (who doesn’t like charities?). Schools like BYU and Miami are already under investigation by the NCAA for such payments. And while the uncertainty surrounding boosters using NIL as a pay-for-play is its own can of worms, the lid on Pandora’s Box is blown off the hinges when you add in the sticky element of the transfer portal. Something that hasn’t been discussed enough is how the combination of NIL money and unrestricted free agency runs the risk of drastically changing college sports. With the relaxing of the transfer portal in 2021 — D-1 now grants all players the ability to transfer once in their careers and be immediately eligible — what’s stopping a top recruit from taking big NIL bucks from their initial college, only to put their services back on the market after a successful season to garner more NIL money? I don’t believe people have considered this seasonal double-dipping, and how the introduction of NIL deals is a breeding ground for the emergence of a college-style free agency with no cap restriction. Where are the regulations? Checks and balances? What’s to stop the unsavory elements — such as a breach of contract and subsequent lawsuits — from rearing its ugly head. Florida’s amended NIL deal will only open the floodgates more. Pundits will argue that these deals add parity to recruiting — pointing to Jackson State flipping Rivals No. 1 recruit/cornerback Travis Hunter. But Hunter’s shocking commitment isn’t an example of leveling the playing field. It’s an anomaly that I argue wouldn’t have happened had Deion Sanders not been the head coach of JSU. Despite an HBCU earning the services of the nation’s top recruit, this year’s top recruiting classes were still compromised of teams from the Power Five conferences. In particular, the SEC’s schools boasted the top three classes (Texas A&M, Alabama, and Georgia), with that number increasing to five out of the top 10 when you add incoming SEC schools Texas and Oklahoma. My alma mater, in particular, landed eight out of the top 50 recruits in the entire 2022 class. What do these top programs have in common? A large endowment that can be misused to attract big names. I could go on and on, but questions still remain surrounding how NIL will impact the college realm. I anticipate year two of deals will erode the veneer of NIL and show cracks that need patching.
Caden: Football makes money. Look no farther than Florida State University and the University of Florida. Despite being in stretches of relative down years, the two football programs bring in hundreds of millions of dollars per year. We’re already seeing instances of NIL contracts being enacted to go towards entire teams like with the University of Texas. Top teams make top money, and the state isn’t going to want to miss out on that. Despite the cash cows that FSU and UF athletics are, their attendance numbers are depressed over the last few years. If you could bring the top talents to the state, why wouldn’t you? We’re still in the wild west of NIL endorsements for athletes, and I can guarantee NCAA regulation is to be implemented in the coming years. In the meantime, though, NIL is proving to be the best way to sway recruits. Just ask FSU about Travis Hunter.
The Capitolist Conclusion: Things are about to get crazy in college sports, and Florida schools will be on the leading edge.