The Republican gubernatorial primary has revolved around one question: “Who’s the Trumpiest?” Instead of talking about education, health care and the economy, Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam are spending their time competing for the affection of Donald Trump.
DeSantis has made the president’s support the keystone of his issue-free, FOX News driven campaign. He’s so confident in the strategy that he’s decided to skip traditional elements of a gubernatorial campaign like: taking policy positions, talking to voters, or visiting the state he wants to run. Adam Putnam is trying to keep up by refashioning himself as a “mini-Trump” — sparking accusations of pandering and drawing sharp criticism from DeSantis.
No matter who wins in August, one thing is clear: the Republican gubernatorial primary isn’t about Floridians, it’s about Donald Trump.
The Most Important Man in the Republican Primary is Donald Trump
Tampa Bay Times: “The Republican Primary in the Race for Florida’s Governor Will Be a Test of President Trump’s Popularity.” According to the Tampa Bay Times, “If it wasn’t clear by now, Congressmen Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis have been making it crystal clear that the Republican primary in the race for Florida’s governor will be a test of President Trump’s popularity in the nation’s largest swing state.” [Tampa Bay Times, 6/11/18]
News Service of Florida: GOP Primary a Contest of “Who’s the Trumpiest.” According to the News Service of Florida, “For a while, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Congressman Ron DeSantis were in danger of serious elbow injuries in a ‘who’s the Trumpiest’ contest that’s part of their larger battle to capture the Republican nomination to succeed Gov. Rick Scott. But it seems that Fox News darling DeSantis has captured the heart not only of President Donald Trump but perhaps the entire First Family.” [News Service of Florida, 5/25/18]
DeSantis Campaign: We’re Trumpian Through and ThroughDeSantis Campaign Manager: “I Don’t Think the President’s Support Is Something We’ll Shy Away From, Even in the General Election.” According to HuffPost, “Brad Herold, DeSantis’ campaign manager, said he expects Trump to follow through on his commitment to help DeSantis in the primary, and that the candidate would welcome his support even after that. ‘I don’t think the president’s support is something we’ll shy away from, even in the general election,’ he said. He added that trying to run away from Trump leading into the general election would be pointless, given that Democrats will be treating every Republican as a Trump stand-in. ‘If you have an ‘R’ next to your name, they’re going to tie you to him anyway,’ he said.” [HuffPost, 5/6/18]Tampa Bay Times: “Rare” for DeSantis to Issue a Press Release on Anything Other Than an Upcoming FOX Appearance. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “The campaign of his primary rival, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, today put out a statement ripping Putnam’s record. It was a rare DeSantis news release that included anything other than a promo for an upcoming Fox News appearance.” [Tampa Bay Times, 6/12/18]Politico: DeSantis “a Frequent ‘No Comment’ in Stories About Florida Issues.” According to Politico, “Putnam’s campaign has spent more than $3 million on TV ads, but those have largely been positive and biographical, while DeSantis, who currently has less money, has relied almost exclusively on appearances on Fox News and conservative radio to get his message out. He is a frequent ‘no comment’ in stories about Florida issues, and canceled a Palm Beach County forum appearance with Putnam.” [Politico, 5/2/18]Naples Daily News: DeSantis Has Yet to Release Policy Plans, Would Not Agree to Interviews, Did Not Respond to Requests for Comment. According to the Naples Daily News, “DeSantis, who has been endorsed by Trump, has yet to release details on specific public safety policy plans. He would not agree to interview requests made through his campaign staff, and his political team did not respond to numerous requests for comment.” [Naples Daily News, 6/15/18]Ron DeSantis Has Run Facebook Ads Attacking Putnam for Waffling on Trump. According to Facebook’s political content tool, Ron DeSantis paid between $500 and $999 for an ad which read, “Our Opponent: Wouldn’t Back Trump at GOP Convention: ✅ Helped push the Dem message against Trump: ✅ Said Trump wasn’t a consistent conservative: ✅ Called Trump ‘Vile’: ✅ Slammed Trump transition: ✅” DeSantis’ ad linked to a RealClearPolitics op-ed by Steven Hantler entitled, “Trump-Bashing Will Sink GOP Establishment’s Adam Putnam.” [Facebook Political Content, Ron DeSantis ad, 5/31/18]Adam Putnam: Trump to Be “Mini-Trump”
Cerabino Column: Putnam Claiming to Be a “Mini-Trump.” According to a Palm Beach Post column by Frank Cerabino, “I told Nathan that there might not be room for another Republican candidate for governor who claims to be a mini-Trump. You’ve got Florida Secretary of Agriculture Adam Putnam who kicked off his campaign with the Trump-echoing ‘Florida First’ motto — even though it makes no sense that other candidates running for Florida’s governor would be secretly doing the bidding of Alabama, Kentucky or some other state. But Putnam’s debasement pales next to the full-time sycophancy of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the gubernatorial candidate who spares no opportunity to praise Trump directly during the president’s daily high-level briefings on Fox News.” [Palm Beach Post, Frank Cerabino column, 6/9/18]
Tampa Bay Times Headline: As Adam Putnam Acts Like Donald Trump, Some Wonder If He’s Gone Too Far. [Tampa Bay Times, 8/1/17]
Tampa Bay Times: Putnam’s “Moves Are Sparking Criticism That He’s Pandering to the Trump Wing and Dividing Floridians a Year-and-a-Half From the 2018 Elections.” According to the Tampa Bay Times, “First, Adam Putnam proudly called himself an ‘NRA sellout.’ Now the Republican candidate for governor is lighting up social media again with a tactic ripped from Donald Trump’s playbook: a petition on his Twitter feed to ‘stop CNN.’ ‘Aren’t you tired of the liberals taking fake news to new extremes? I am,’ Putnam tweeted. Even though Putnam has the Republican field all to himself, his moves are sparking criticism that he’s pandering to the Trump wing and dividing Floridians a year-and-a-half from the 2018 election.” [Tampa Bay Times, 8/1/17]