Yesterday’s Trump-DeSantis campaign rally has Republicans seriously worried about their general election chances if DeSantis wins the Republican nomination. For nearly a week, Trump’s intervention in the gubernatorial race has rattled and enraged Adam Putnam supporters and divided Florida Republicans. Now, DeSantis’ surging campaign is seen as a clear threat to 20 years of Republican control of Tallahassee. Republicans and commentators believe that DeSantis’ lack of policy proposals, and his hyper-focus on Donald Trump, will make him a weak nominee in the fall.
DeSantis has failed to outline any substantive plans on health care, economic development or education — leaving many wondering how he will be able to reach anyone beyond the far right Republican base:
David Jolly, Former Republican Congressman: “All of this is bad for the Republican Party. It’s not just me but others who refuse to go on record that hope there is a swift and hard correction come November. We recognize that a wipeout of congressional candidates and gubernatorial candidates like DeSantis might be an inflection point to say this has gone too far and we can no longer be a party with a governing majority that represents the broader diversity of this country.
Joe Henderson, Columnist: “DeSantis, if he is nominated, will have to do more than cuddle up to Trump in the general election. He’ll need a plan that goes beyond saying he supports the Trump agenda, whatever that means to the issues that affect everyday Floridians.”
What happens in the primaries and DeSantis’ alignment with the White House could have a profoundly different impact come the general election, Mullaney said. Mullaney said a candidate can win the Republican primary with that core Republican support, but to win the general, candidates will have to reach out to independents and broaden their demographic base.
“Independents in Florida are much more negative toward Donald Trump. Statewide in Florida, although Donald Trump carried Florida, he didn’t do it by a large margin,” Mullaney explained. “We’re a much more purple state than, say, West Virginia or Indiana; therefore, the strategy of running to the right may work in the primary, but you’re going to have to shift much more to the center if you want to be successful in the general.”
Mac Stipanovich, GOP Strategist: “It is divisive for Republicans, and the resulting bitterness may hurt the eventual nominee in the general election by dampening Republican enthusiasm and turnout,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Tallahassee-based lobbyist and Republican political strategist.
Cindy Graves, Leading Republican Leader Activist: “I am very disappointed and disillusioned in President Trump, as a Floridian. His unwelcome and uninformed meddling in our Florida gubernatorial primary is dangerous and self-serving” President Trump should understand it is not in the best interests of Floridians to elect a governor based upon a candidate’s support of Donald Trump’s federal legal challenges.”
Jon Ward, Putnam Supporter: “President Trump is rewarding Mr. DeSantis for being a loyal servant and isn’t caring about the state of Florida with his endorsement of Mr. DeSantis. President Trump has made a mistake, and we the people of Florida have to tell the president to worry about Washington and not Tallahassee.”
New York Times: “[Trump’s] intervention in Florida has irritated everyone from grass-roots activists to Republican governors, who worry that Mr. DeSantis’s close ties to the White House will make him a weaker general election candidate than Mr. Putnam. In an interview, Mr. DeSantis declined to name a single issue on which he disagreed with Mr. Trump and said he would enthusiastically welcome him to Florida this fall.”