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DeSantis win in Florida midterm election undercuts swing-state status

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Once considered the nation’s biggest swing state, Florida is looking more and more like a Republican stronghold.

The Sunshine State delivered Republicans some of their strongest wins in the 2022 midterm elections – even as the party fell broadly short of expectations in most other battlegrounds.

The state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, and Sen. Marco Rubio both glided to victory against their respective Democratic opponents. DeSantis, whose star has shot up in the Republican Party, easily won another four-year term even as he is widely expected to be considering a presidential run in 2024.

Democrats underperformed in key demographics, especially younger voters, ceding ground up and down the ballot. They even failed to hold onto Miami-Dade County, the largest in the state and a longtime blue refuge, in the Senate and gubernatorial races.

“It was a mess, honestly,” said Susan MacManus, a veteran Florida political analyst and professor emerita at the University of South Florida, in an interview.

Democrats fell short on multiple fronts in Florida, MacManus said. They faced a drought in national funding, a failure to address a growing registration gap and a major misread on which issues would resonate with key voters.

“One size fits all absolutely never works in Florida,” she said.

Boasting 30 Electoral College votes and 28 House seats, Florida is bound to hold major influence over the national election map in 2024. Its population is the third largest of any U.S. state, and growing – but Democratic voter registration isn’t keeping up.

In fact, it’s going down, according to data from the Florida secretary of state’s office. While total registered voters in the state rose by nearly 200,000 to 14.46 million between September 2021 and October 2022, the number of active registered Democrats fell by more than 164,000 to 4,966,873, the data shows. The number of active registered Republican voters, meanwhile, rose to 5,259,406 in the same period — a gain of more than 150,000.

That shift comes as older Americans, who vote more heavily Republican, have in recent years flocked to Florida to retire more than any other state. Some reports also suggest that more Americans were spurred to move to Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, when DeSantis’ highly public opposition to federal social distancing guidelines endeared him to many conservatives.

In this month’s midterms, older Florida voters came out in droves, while young voters stayed home, NBC’s exit polls show. In the governor’s race, 70% of total turnout came from voters age 45 or older. Those voters sided with DeSantis over Democratic former Gov. and Rep. Charlie Crist by well over 20 percentage points. The liberal-leaning 18- to-29-year-old demographic, meanwhile, made up just 11% of the vote.

Florida’s swing-state status was cemented in the 2000 presidential election, in which Republican George W. Bush beat Democrat Al Gore only after extensive, highly controversial recounts in Florida that took more than a month to complete.

In more recent history, Florida’s major elections have often been decided by slim margins. Four years earlier, for instance, DeSantis beat Democrat Andrew Gillum by a margin of less than half a percentage point. That was the state’s third gubernatorial election in a row to end with a margin of victory under 2 percentage points.

Not so in last week’s midterms. DeSantis trounced Crist by nearly 20 percentage points in the gubernatorial contest. On the Senate side, Rubio beat his Democratic rival, Rep. Val Demings, by more than 16 points.

The state’s delegation to the U.S. House will include 20 Republicans in the next Congress, a gain of four seats. And the GOP extended its gains in the Florida state Legislature, clinching supermajorities in both chambers.

To be sure, Florida has long been a tough environment for Democrats. The state has gone red in eight of the last 11 presidential elections. Its last four governors have been Republicans and its House delegation has leaned toward the GOP since 1988.

But the most recent midterms marked an unambiguous rout for Florida Democrats, especially when compared with the party’s stronger-than-expected performance almost everywhere else.

“I think Democrats might be better off looking harder at Mississippi than Florida,” veteran Democratic strategist James Carville told MSNBC in the wake of the midterms.

Potentially accelerating Florida’s political shift is former President Donald Trump, the de facto leader of the GOP, who made Florida his permanent residence before leaving the White House in 2021. 

In the 2020 race, Trump lost the national popular vote by a wider margin than he did in 2016 (when he also lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College). But in Florida, his margin of victory increased.

Trump, who in 2015 announced his presidential bid from Trump Tower in New York City, on Tuesday night launched his third campaign from Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort home.

Nationally, the Democratic Party apparatus and its biggest donors appeared to lose hope of turning the tide in Florida, reportedly spending small fractions of what they had invested in previous cycles.

The state is also home to a demographic phenomenon that benefits Republicans. Unlike in much of the rest of the country, Latino voters in Florida break for the GOP. 

In NBC’s national exit polls, Latino voters across age and gender lines voted more for Democrats. But in Florida’s elections for Senate and governor, more Latinos voted for DeSantis and Rubio, exit polls show.

Analysts often point to Florida’s high population of Cuban Americans, a group that consistently trends more conservative than other Latinos, to explain the trend.

But MacManus noted that more Florida voters of Puerto Rican descent sided with Republicans, as well.

Whether or not Florida is destined to become a competitive state once again, it may not happen by the 2024 cycle.

“Everybody I talk to says it’s going to take a while,” MacManus said.



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Ford CEO says 65% of U.S. dealers agree to sell EVs

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Ford F-150 Lightning trucks manufactured at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn Michigan.

Courtesy: Ford Motor Co.

DETROIT – About 65% of Ford Motor’s dealers have agreed to sell electric vehicles as the company invests billions to expand production and sales of the battery-powered cars and trucks, CEO Jim Farley said Monday.

About 1,920 of Ford’s nearly 3,000 dealers in the U.S. agreed to sell EVs, according to Farley. He said roughly 80% of those dealers opted for the higher level of investment for EVs.

Ford offered its dealers the option to become “EV-certified” under one of two programs — with expected investments of $500,000 or $1.2 million. Dealers in the higher tier, which carries upfront costs of $900,000, receive “elite” certification and be allocated more EVs.

Ford, unlike crosstown rival General Motors, is allowing dealers to opt out of selling EVs and continue to sell the company’s cars. GM has offered buyouts to Buick and Cadillac dealers that don’t want to invest to sell EVs.

Dealers who decided not to invest in EVs may do so when Ford reopens the certification process in 2027.

“We think that the EV adoption in the U.S. will take time, so we wanted to give dealers a chance to come back,” Farley said during an Automotive News conference.

Ford’s plans to sell EVs have been a point of contention since the company split off its all-electric vehicle business earlier this year into a separate division known as Model e. Farley said the automaker and its dealers needed to lower costs, increase profits and deliver better, more consistent customer sales experiences.

Farley on Monday also reiterated that a direct-sales model is estimated to be thousands of dollars cheaper for the automaker than the auto industry’s traditional franchised system.

Wall Street analysts have largely viewed direct-to-consumer sales as a benefit to optimize profit. However, there have been growing pains for Tesla, which uses the sales model, when it comes to servicing its vehicles.

Ford’s current lineup of all-electric vehicles includes the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup, Mustang Mach-E crossover and e-Transit van. The automaker is expected to release a litany of other EVs globally under a plan to invest tens of billion of dollars in the technologies by 2026.



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Tim Draper predicts bitcoin will reach $250,000 despite FTX collapse

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Tim Draper, founder of Draper Associates, onstage at the Web Summit 2022 tech conference.

Ben McShane | Sportsfile via Getty Images

Venture capitalist Tim Draper thinks bitcoin will hit $250,000 a coin by the middle of 2023, even after a bruising year for the cryptocurrency marked by industry failures and sinking prices.

Draper previously predicted that bitcoin would top $250,000 by the end of 2022, but in early November, at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, he said it would take until June 2023 for this to materialize.

He reaffirmed this position Saturday when asked how he felt about his price call following the collapse of FTX.

“I have extended my prediction by six months. $250k is still my number,” Draper told CNBC via email.

Bitcoin would need to rally nearly 1,400% from its current price of around $17,000 for Draper’s prediction to come true. The cryptocurrency has plunged over 60% since the start of the year.

Digital currencies are in the doldrums as tighter monetary policy from the Fed and a chain reaction of bankruptcies at major industry firms including Terra, Celsius and FTX have put intense pressure on prices.

FTX’s demise has also worsened an already severe liquidity crisis in the industry. Crypto exchange Gemini and lender Genesis are among the firms said to be impacted by the fallout from FTX’s insolvency.

Last week, veteran investor Mark Mobius told CNBC that bitcoin could crash to $10,000 next year, a more than 40% plunge from current prices. The co-founder of Mobius Capital Partners correctly called the drop to $20,000 this year.

Nevertheless, Draper is convinced that bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, is set to rise in the new year.

“I expect a flight to quality and decentralized crypto like bitcoin, and for some of the weaker coins to become relics,” he told CNBC.

What is DeFi, and could it upend finance as we know it?

Draper, the founder of Draper Associates, is one of Silicon Valley’s best-known investors. He made successful bets on tech companies including Tesla, Skype and Baidu.

In 2014, Draper purchased 29,656 bitcoins confiscated by U.S. Marshals from the Silk Road dark web marketplace for $18.7 million. That year, he predicted the price of bitcoin would go to $10,000 in three years. Bitcoin went on to climb close to $20,000 in 2017.

Some of Draper’s other bets have soured, however. He invested in Theranos, a health startup that falsely claimed it was able to detect diseases with a few drops of blood. Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’ founder, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for fraud.

‘The dam is about to break’

Draper’s rationale for bitcoin’s breakout next year is that there remains a massive untapped demographic for bitcoin: women.

“My assumption is that, since women control 80% of retail spending and only 1 in 7 bitcoin wallets are currently held by women, the dam is about to break,” Draper said.

Crypto has long had a gender disparity problem. According to a survey conducted for CNBC and Acorns by Momentive, twice as many men as women invest in digital assets (16% of men vs. 7% of women).

“Retailers will save roughly 2% on every purchase made in bitcoin vs dollars,” Draper added. “Once retailers realize that that 2% can double their profits, bitcoin will be ubiquitous.”

Payment middlemen such as Visa and Mastercard currently charge fees as high as 2% each time credit cardholders use their card to pay for something. Bitcoin offers a way for people to bypass the middlemen.

However, using the digital coin for everyday spending is tough, since its price is very volatile and the coin is not widely accepted as currency.

“When people can buy their food, clothing and shelter all in bitcoin, they will have no use for centralized banking fiat dollars,” Draper said.

“Management of fiat is centralized and erratic. When a politician decides to spend $10 trillion, your dollars become worth about 82 cents. Then the Fed needs to raise rates to make up for the spend, and those arbitrary centralized decisions create an inconsistent economy,” he added. Fiat currencies derive their worth from their issuing government, unlike cryptocurrencies.

Meanwhile, the next so-called bitcoin halving — which cuts the bitcoin rewards to bitcoin miners — in 2024 will also boost the cryptocurrency, according to Draper, as it chokes the supply over time. The total number of bitcoins that will ever be mined is capped at 21 million.



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Three pharmaceutical stocks were top performers last week

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