Maybe we won’t be “Flori-duh” this time.
It’s a lot more than “Stand Your Ground,” climate-change denial and an unenlightened approach to Cuba. “Flori-duh” is also the swing state carried by Donald Trump that allowed Ron DeSantis to “monkey up” the process. And it’s the state known for two terms of the awkward, con-jobs Governor Rick Scott–whose off-year elections were facilitated by moderate, charisma-challenged Democratic opponents and embarrassingly low voter turnouts. It has all helped reinforce Florida as red-leaning, self-defeating and clueless.
But now “Flori-duh” could become “Flori-did it!”
The nation’s media–and the Democratic National Committee and a number of wealthy activists–are taking another, longer look. Florida could become a swing-state, blue microcosm of what we might see in November. It’s all because Andrew Gillum, 39, the unapologetically progressive, African-American mayor of Tallahassee, will be the Democratic standard-bearer against the Trump-channeling DeSantis, R-Fox News.
So much for the Dems playing it safe with a centrist candidate. So much for worrying about “socialist” labels or a Bernie Sanders nexus. The Gillum campaign will not be tacking to the post-primary middle. It will double down on a liberal agenda that shows serious signs of energizing a base too used to uninspiring compromise.
“We don’t have to run this campaign as ‘Republican Lite’ to win,” affirmed Gillum.
The primary turnout underscored the upward trend: The 1.46 million Democratic votes were 650,000 more than 2014, a 70 percent increase. And among those helped by a bigger-than-usual turnout: uninspiring incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. The Dems need to retain him to keep hope alive for the U.S. Senate. So, there’s plenty of incentive for the Democratic Party and mainstream media to nationalize Florida in the fall.
And it helps that DeSantis, now out of the Fox cocoon, might further gin up the Democratic base with his cult fealty to Trump and viscerally turn off independents with unforced errors such as racist dog whistling to the president’s base. Speaking of DeSantis’ “monkey it up” reference, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough thinks it’s been understated. The former Florida Republican congressman said it wasn’t so much a “dog whistle,” but more like a “screaming, 80-foot flashing neon sign.” That’s a “dangerous curve ahead” if you’re Republicans.
Gillum is now a de facto national player and won’t have to concede network coverage to the Fox-co-opted DeSantis.
One note of particular interest–and maybe concern–was that recent Orlando Democratic rally and show of solidarity: The only no-show, gubernatorial candidate was Jeff Greene. He spent a ton of money to finish next-to-last among five candidates. He said if he had won, he would spend big on the rest of the ticket. But he didn’t come close. Will he $tep up anyhow or go back to mogul status and grumbling about Trump at Mar-a-Lago? Everything matters for “Flori-did it!”