Real Interesting Primary Results In Florida With Profound National Implications
Trumpiest And Most Progressive Candidates Will Square Off For Governor
The New York Times puts it well: saying the results set the stage for a “ferocious general election”. But they also reflect major and ongoing shifts in voter loyalties already creating massive tremors for both Democrats and Republicans.
Florida Democrats nominated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, backed firmly by Bernie Sanders, while Republicans went for U.S. Congressman Ron DeSantis, backed firmly by Trump.
Here’s a handy and colorful snapshot from the New York Times:
DeSantis won easily. Gillum’s margin was narrower and by far the biggest surprise, as the candidate had generally placed no better than third or fourth in polls. Pollsters apparently making the same type of mistake they did when they underestimated Trump: they focused on “likely voters” and die-hard Democrats when it was unlikely, more occasional voters and young people with loose party affiliation who rocketed Gillum to victory.
And should the Democrat win in November, that victory could completely reshape party strategy and messaging ahead of the 2020 Presidential campaign. Which might or might not work out on a national stage. As we’ve said before, while we don’t fully agree with the so-called “progressive agenda”, we do cheer for it because it’s a sure-fire way to attract younger voters, and it at least it gives Democrats some things to run on other than the God-awful “vote against Trump” which has not worked for them yet, and yet inexplicably they’re sticking with for now.
On the Republican side, the winner ran on little more than “I support Trump the most”. Rather than getting out and “pressing the flesh”, he made unceasing appearances on Fox News, to defend even the most unsavory actions by Trump — particularly the President’s attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. According to the Washington Post, DeSantis appeared on Fox 121 times since Trump endorsed him right before last Christmas! That paid off.
His opponent, Adam Putnam, long touted as the heir to Florida’s statehouse, also supported Trump but diverged from the President a bit on immigration. DeSantis diverged from the President on nothing. Leading the Tampa Bay Times to call him one of “the country’s most vocal and high-profile Trump cheerleaders”. So it was DeSantis who won and benefited from Trump’s endorsement and Fox’s boosterism.
The broader implication here: Trump is scarily popular among Republicans, and any Republican in any office at any level who doesn’t utterly demonstrate their fealty to the President is more or less signing their own death warrant.
We’re seeing this in no less of a hallowed body than the U.S. Senate, which is supposed to be above it all. Where it’s Republicans who are putting the kibosh on renaming the Russell Senate office building after recently deceased Republican Senator John McCain, because it might get Trump mad at them. Even though they’d absolutely, definitely be doing it with any other President in office (and Democratic leadership is good with it too).
More ominously, that same sudden fear of the Republican electorate if they don’t support Trump has helped shift the loyalty of Republicans in the Senate from their former colleague, Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Trump. Making it far less politically risky for Trump to fire Sessions. (Even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a point of saying he has “total confidence in the Attorney General).
And even more ominously, should Trump nominate someone truly outlandish to replace Sessions, who’s gonna have the guts to stand up to the President in the current climate? Lame duck Senators like Corker and Flake? All they’ve proven is they talk a good game, but in the end have almost always voted with Trump. And that’s only if Trump makes the move before the end of the year. Next year, unless Democrats win those seats in the Senate, there won’t be any chance of opposition to the President from the newly minted Republican Senators from Tennessee and Arizona, especially if he works hard for them to lift them over the top, as he’s indicated he will. And we’ve learned never to bet against the President’s stamina.
That in turn could leave Trump free and clear of his “Saturday Night Massacre” moment, because in that case he wouldn’t have to fire Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein in order to slam the brakes on the Mueller investigation. Not if the next Attorney General — who wouldn’t be recused from the Russia investigation — is also so beholden to Trump that he won’t hesitate to rein Robert Mueller in, or suppress his findings, or shut him down altogether.