Sen. Bill Nelson sounded a little like the coach of a losing team in the locker room at half time Monday as he made the rounds in the state Capitol, delivering pep talks to House and Senate Democrats.
"I know that it has been a difficult slog," Nelson told a gathering of six Senate Democrats. "We ended up with one net plus in the Florida Senate. But the next time around is a very, very good opportunity for Democrats. I think you see the lay of the land on the national scene, and I think that's going to translate in all the races on the ballot."
The only Democrat elected statewide in Florida, Nelson is holding out hope that progressives upset about President Donald Trump's election will turn out in massive numbers to vote in 2018.
He needs that hope. He'll be on the ballot, too, defending himself first against possible primary challenges from several Democrats mulling a run and then against the winner of a Republican primary in which Gov. Rick Scott is already seen as a favorite in Tallahassee.
Nelson said he would "fight" against turning Medicaid into a block grant system "with everything I have because it's not the right thing for Florida" and called it a "double whammy" that could drain state coffers. He also decried Trump nominees, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, whom he voted against confirming.
In the House, where Democrats have even less influence than the Senate, Nelson acknowledged the difficulty of being in the majority but told lawmakers to hold out for redistricting in 2022.
"Even though we've got our hands full up in Washington, you've got your hands full right here," he said. "But if you all continue to stand up and keep fighting for Florida just like you have, everything's starting to change, and you'll start seeing that as a reflection in the next election."
Photo: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (right) speaks to Florida Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens on Monday as part of a pep-talk tour of the state Capitol. (MICHAEL AUSLEN | Times/Herald)