Like the former household-name “Carnac the Magnificent, and the infamous Zoltar, we take a look inside our own crystal ball and prognosticate Florida’s future with seven bold predictions we expect to see unfold in the months ahead:
The End of the Daily Drumbeat of COVID-19
By summer, except for isolated outbreak clusters, Covid-19 will cease to be front page news, thanks in part to a combination of widespread vaccinations and Floridians being outdoors in balmy weather. Schools will temporarily cease to be major transmission vectors during the summer break, while state public health officials have a chance to catch their breath and prepare for new outbreaks in the fall.
The new normal: occasional mini-outbreaks, met with breathless local media headlines and rapid response contact tracing teams working to identify and isolate infections. By the time school starts in August, masks won’t be required, but plenty of people will still choose to wear them.
Florida’s economy will boom in 2021
While things will slowly return to this new “normal,” expect the state’s business leaders to permanently adopt some of the business practices that have helped them navigate through the rough waters of the pandemic. Which ones? Follow the money. Allowing more employees to work from home requires less office overhead while technology such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx and Zoom will continue to lower travel costs in the future.
But real estate in Florida will remain strong – both commercial and residential – thanks to businesses and their teams eyeing the Sunshine State’s good weather, business-friendly regulatory environment, and the light touch of state officials who believe every business is “essential.” It’s the sort of approach that’s already paying dividends and will continue to do so throughout the new year.
We predict the tourism and hospitality industry, which got clobbered this year with double digit unemployment, to rebound faster than in other parts of the country due to year-round opportunities to be outdoors.
And while tourism and hospitality is often cited as the “backbone” of Florida’s economy, the state is more robust than people think. While some states, like California, saw absolute devastation in “leisure and hospitality” unemployment numbers, California and others saw double digit or high single-digit percentages of job losses in other sectors, too. Meanwhile, Florida saw only low single-digit percentages of job losses in other economic sectors.
Lauren Book will be lavished with media attention as a potential challenger to Ron DeSantis in 2022
She may not be the eventual nominee. She may not even run for governor in 2022. But Florida’s legacy media (Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post, Orlando Sentinel, et al) will trip over themselves throughout 2021 to report on anything and everything spilling from Book’s mouth.
Why? Long before she became a lawmaker, she’d been a media favorite due to her charitable work with her namesake organization, Lauren’s Kids. And during her first term as a state senator, Book established herself as a leader among Florida Democrats, not only pushing for key legislation, but also as a strong voice in opposition to powerful Republicans like the now-disgraced Jack Latvala. The fact that her father, Ron Book, is one of the state’s most powerful lobbyists may hurt her a little with voters, but it could also give her an early boost in fundraising, when it matters most.
State lawmakers will legalize sports betting in 2021
With the state budget under pressure because of the fading but still lingering pandemic, the Florida legislature will put aside their differences on legalized sports betting and craft an agreement that is palatable to both the Seminole Tribe and their Gaming Compact with the state. The resulting agreement will net the state tens of millions of dollars in new revenue. The rationale will be “every little bit helps.”
No serious Democrat contender will emerge as a challenger to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio before 2022
Barring some unseen controversy, ousting Rubio in 2022 will be a tall order for Democrats. Rubio’s name recognition is high enough, and the needle on his favorability ratings are comfortably in the green. All of which means most of 2021 will be spent lining up the Democrat’s chess pieces to attack the real target in 2022: Ron DeSantis. Democrats will be eager to retake an office they haven’t held for more than two decades. Meanwhile Rubio will continue to amass a sizeable campaign warchest and solidify his grip on his coveted Senate seat, secure in the knowledge that Democrats won’t be sending their best.
U.S. Senator Rick Scott will shatter fundraising records at the NRSC
Florida’s junior senator was chosen to lead the National Republican Senatorial Committee, one of the primary duties of which is to oversee fundraising efforts on a national scale. Scott will approach the job like it’s never been approached before, with aggressive goals, a daily task list for subordinates, coupled with excellence in execution and methodical follow-through. He’ll be able to tap a national Rolodex of potential contacts, and his sales pitch is unlike any potential donors have heard before.
A typical call with a big-league donor might sound something like this: “I’ve chipped in $2 milion. I need you to do the same.”
Then, it’ll be on to the next phone call. And the next. Again. And Again. Until records are shattered and Democrats are left in the dust.
Matt Gaetz will remain in Congress, but the gleaming lights of a Fox News show may beckon
The outspoken congressman from Florida’s ultraconservative panhandle will ultimately follow in the footsteps of another famous congressman from the same district: Joe Scarborough. Except Gaetz is far more popular among conservative Fox News watchers than Scarborough, as a once-token conservative, has ever been on MSNBC. Still, the timing isn’t yet right, as Gaetz, Fox News, and their audience will need most of 2021 to regain their footing in a post-Trump world.
Gaetz is smart enough that he’ll get a read on the political terrain earlier than most, and his safe congressional seat and access to Washington D.C.’s elite media will serve as the perfect springboard for his next move, whenever he grows bored of his day job (which might be never).