There’s been chatter in Florida about how the nominees for each party’s Governor might have impacts on their party’s U.S. Senate candidates and other down-ballot races. For example, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D. FL) sounds way more excited about having Andrew Gillum (D. FL) as his party’s nominee:
In an interview with the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times published on Tuesday, Nelson acknowledged that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for Gillum that could help other Democrats on the ballot.
“He’s bringing a lot of new energy to the table and I think it’s going to produce more African-Americans, I think it’s going to produce more young people,” Nelson told the paper. “And hopefully I might have some value that I bring to the ballot as well.” (Yeah, dude. Hopefully!)
Nelson might have a point. In the two polls released by Quinnipiac and Gravis since his upset victory in August, Gillum polled slightly ahead of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, his Trump-endorsed, white nationalist-sympathizingRepublican opponent; in the same two polls, Nelson and Scott were tied. Out of six polls taken since June that were compiled by RealClearPolitics, Nelson has only led the race once.
But on the Republican sides, both the nominees for Governor and U.S. Senate have taken two different paths. In the Governor’s race, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R. FL) has grossly bearhugged Trump:
Prepare to be shocked: One of the Trumpiest candidates in the country repeatedly spoke at a conference whose organizer believes that the “only serious race war” in this country right now is the one targeting white people.
The Post reports that Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee in the nationally watched Florida gubernatorial race, has spoken four times at conferences organized by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The group’s conferences have featured a parade of alt-right, white nationalist and Islamophobic heroes, as well as speakers who claim that refugees and immigrants are destroying European culture and that diversity is dumbing down America.
Horowitz himself has said that “American blacks are richer, more privileged, freer than blacks anywhere in the world, including all black run countries.” He responded to the news that a man was arrested after vowing to kill “all white police” at the White House by saying: “Meanwhile, the country’s only serious race war — against whites — continues.” DeSantis is running against Democrat Andrew Gillum, the African American mayor of Tallahassee.
These revelations need to be read alongside one of the big revelations in Bob Woodward’s book: that Trump privately insisted he did nothing whatsoever wrong in blaming white-supremacist violence and murder on “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” and raged at his advisers for making him backtrack from this, which he called a huge “mistake.”
DeSantis’s spokesperson is stressing that DeSantis is not “responsible for the views and speeches of others.” But in 2015, DeSantis praised Horowitz for doing “great work” and said his organization “tells the American people the truth and is standing up for the right thing.” And DeSantis’s spokesperson did not disavow any of these views, which presumably means, at a minimum, that DeSantis does not see the claim that there is an ongoing race war against white people as worthy of condemnation.
But on the U.S. Senate side, outgoing Governor Rick Scott (R. FL), who was an early supporter of Trump, is now trying to run away from him:
Florida Republican Rick Scott is as close as any governor with Donald Trump.
Yet it’s former President George W. Bush, no friend to Trump, who will join Scott at two fundraisers for a super PAC backing Scott’s Senate campaign Friday. It’s the latest instance of the Florida governor visibly tying his political fortunes to a prominent Republican other than the current president.
Scott — who was frequently by Trump’s side at the White House and at his resorts in Palm Beach and Bedminster, New Jersey, in 2017 — began putting more distance between himself and the unpopular president this year as he geared up for a Senate run that Trump himself had repeatedly urged him to make. Scott also chaired the super PAC backing Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.
Now Scott seldom mentions the president and won’t commit to having an event with him specifically.
“I want everybody that believes in what I'm going to do to come help me win,” Scott told a Tampa Bay Times reporter last week when asked if he would like having Trump campaign for him.
Scott made the remarks in advance of a fundraiser headlined for him by Vice President Mike Pence. Scott skipped a July 31 Trump rally for GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis’ campaign for governor. In April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also fundraised for Scott.
Scott isn’t completely snubbing the president. He flew down from Washington on Air Force One to Tampa with Trump in July and then accompanied Trump to an official presidential visit to Tampa Technical High School — an event where their exposure to TV cameras was limited.
In contrast to his closeness to Trump in 2017, Scott’s distance from the president this year as the midterm election comes into focus provides a glimpse into Trump’s standing in the nation’s largest swing state, which he won by just 1.2 percentage points.
Compared to his underwater national polling average, Trump is more popular in Florida — but that’s not saying much. His net favorability rating is still a negative 4 points in Florida (and negative 16 points nationally) according to Quinnipiac University’s polling.
Quinnipiac’s poll showed Scott is tied with Sen. Bill Nelson at 49 percent each.
In the past week or so, President Donald Trump‘s presence in statewide Florida Republican election politics may have all but vanished, leading Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday to essentially say that his opponent Gov. Rick Scott might run but can’t hide from his past with Trump.
“My opponent is acting as if Trump has the plague. You can’t turn away from being a creature of Trump, which is exactly what he is,” Nelson said.
Nelson was responding to a question about whether he expected his campaign would push the message that Scott and Trump have been close now that polls show Trump with a low popularity among independent voters, and that Republican candidates such as Scott do not seem to be highlighting their relationships in recent events. In particular, at a campaign kickoff for state candidates last week in Orlando, there was only one fleeting reference to Trump during an hour of speeches, and it did not come from Scott.
Thursday night in Montana President Donald J. Trump predicted Andrew Gillum as Florida governor would be a disaster for “one of the most successful states in our union.”
Gillum responded with a tweet in which he questioned the president’s courage and used the incident in a campaign fundraising letter to supporters.
The Tallahassee mayor is riding a fundraising surge since winning the Democratic nomination to be governor.
In the first days of the general election, he raised more than $4 million through both his campaign for governor and Forward Florida, a political action committee that has no contribution limits. Those numbers mark the highest amount he has ever raised since he announced his bid for governor.
His opponent Republican Ron DeSantis has had trouble keeping up in the same time period, which covers contributions through Aug. 31. He has raised a total of $521,879 through his PAC, Friends of Ron DeSantis, and his campaign. According to the latest campaign finance reports, Gillum has $4 million compared to DeSantis’ $1.5 million.
So let’s keep up the momentum and have the Blue Wave hit Florida hard. Click below to donate and get involved with Nelson and Gillum’s campaigns:
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