Rick Kriseman, Baker’s Democratic opponent, had been widely considered a trainwreck as mayor, with a history of failed city projects, overspending, and mismanagement. Kriseman, however, had two not-so-secret weapons: Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. A late endorsement from Obama boosted Kriseman, and Kriseman leveraged it to the hilt.
The real burden on Baker’s campaign was Donald Trump, specifically the drag caused by the catalyzing moment of Charlottesville. Rick Baker didn’t change. He’s still the good-souled and proven leader he was before. Rick Kriseman didn’t suddenly become less of a failed mayor.
But the moment Donald Trump uttered the defining phrase “both sides,” the die was cast. African Americans (and Jews, Hispanics, Muslims, and sane people more generally) heard loud and clear that the president drew a line of moral equivalency between the Klan, the neo-Nazis, and the white separatist garbage that washed up in Charlottesville and the people protesting them.