We had some interesting results from yesterday’s primary races, but few were more intriguing than the race for governor in the Sunshine State. The Florida gubernatorial race was supposed to be a fairly predictable affair. The Republicans were going to pit Adam Putnam, the state’s Agricultural Commissioner, against Democrat Gwen Graham, a candidate with congressional experience and solid name recognition, being the daughter of a former Governor and Senator. At least that’s how it was supposed to go, but 2018 happened and those campaigns simply blew up last night.
Despite starting out from a weak position in the polls, Congressman Ron DeSantis received the backing of President Donald Trump and sailed to what turned out to be a fairly clear victory. For the Democrats, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum had never polled higher than 16% and had an RCP polling average of 12% coming into the race, but he pulled 34.3% of the primary vote, edging out Graham by three points. If there was any real “loser” in that race last night it was the centrists in both parties. (Associated Press)
On the Republican side, Trump got his man, Republican congressman Ron DeSantis, who beat out the establishment favorite, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Despite Trump’s support, DeSantis was not the strongest general election candidate in the race, operatives in both parties suggest.
The three-term Republican congressman who makes frequent Fox News appearances is known as an immigration hard-liner in a state where Hispanic voters hold outsized sway. And lest there be any question about his allegiance to Trump’s divisive immigration policies, DeSantis encourages his toddler to “build the wall” with blocks in one campaign ad…
Graham, who was considered a centrist, was viewed as a more attractive general election candidate in the purple state. Gillum is more liberal, having earned the backing of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and billionaire Tom Steyer.
To win the governor’s office for the first time since 1999, Democrats will have to come together quickly.
The state parties had their own preferences, but for Florida’s voters, it seems to have wound up being a battle between President Trump and the combined forces of Bernie Sanders and billionaire donor Tom Steyer. (There’s an odd combination for you, eh? A socialist and a guy who rode capitalism to the halls of financial power.) While everything can (and likely will) change over the course of two years, this race can almost be seen as a microcosm of 2020.
For Ron DeSantis, it’s a fairly easy call. He’s relatively scandal-free, but he’s tied himself to Donald Trump like Ulysses lashing himself to the mast. The good news for DeSantis is that Trump is currently enjoying the best approval ratings he’s held in Florida since he was elected. The not-so-good news is that he’s still slightly underwater at 43/45. The demographic breakdown is essentially a wash. 77% of Democrats disapprove while 78% of Republicans approve. The independents split 39/40. It doesn’t get much closer than that.
As for Andrew Gillum, he’s a much less well-known player. But in his campaign ads, he seemed to be running the new socialist playbook. He joined the chorus calling for the abolishment of ICE and described the President as “dangerous” and “uniquely unqualified” for the job. But there are questions hanging over his head which opposition researchers will now be digging into with abandon. We learned earlier this year that the FBI has been running a corruption investigation into the Tallahassee municipal government for a couple of years. The Mayor hasn’t been named as a suspect (at least not yet) but other top officials from his party have. Expect that investigation to get a lot more national attention now.
And how far to the left is Gillum? Check out this 30-second advertisement from his campaign called “Chance.” Rather than the voiceover, pay particular attention to the block-cap worded blue screens which flash between the video clips like some form of subliminal advertising.
Here are the interesting screens in case you didn’t catch them as the video played:
BEAT THE NRA
HEALTHCARE FOR ALL
$1 BILLION FOR EDUCATION
BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS
$15 MINIMUM WAGE
ABOLISH AND REPLACE ICE
END STAND YOUR GROUND
Not exactly a moderate platform, eh? We’ll see how that plays on the Redneck Riviera.
The debates should be a treat to watch. It remains to be seen how far Gillum will stay to the left or if he’s planning a Clinton-style shift to the center for the general election. Either way, it’s basically a Trump World versus Berniecrat race for governor.