Florida: A bellwether race for governor
The fate of Donald Trump will be the big story of November’s midterm elections, said David Leonhardt in The New York Times. But “one of the most fascinating subplots” is the race to be Florida’s next governor. In this perennial swing state, Republicans have nominated Ron DeSantis, 39, a telegenic right-winger so outlandishly pro-Trump that one campaign ad has him reading aloud to his 4-month-old son from Trump’s Art of the Deal. Democrats, meanwhile, have nominated Andrew Gillum, also 39, the Bernie Sanders–endorsed progressive mayor of Tallahassee who wants to replace ICE with a more humane agency, raise taxes on corporations, and institute Medicare for All. Gillum achieved his shock victory—he was polling fourth on primary day—by mobilizing African-American and Millennial voters, said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com, especially those who rallied behind Sanders in 2016. If Gillum can pull off this trick again, and win in November, Democrats will likely conclude that unapologetic progressivism is the “secret sauce” they need to take back the White House in 2020.
Not only is Gillum too far left for most Florida voters, said NationalReview.com in an editorial, his record as Tallahassee’s mayor is “far from sparkling.” There are troubling questions swirling about his involvement in a corruption scandal involving shady lobbyists and real estate deals. DeSantis has his own, more recent problems, said Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post. In an interview last week with Fox News, he urged Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by electing the black Gillum. The racial subtext of DeSantis’ remarks was so overt that even Fox issued a mild condemnation. If DeSantis builds his campaign around “this kind of Trumpian race-baiting,” it will cost him the moderates he needs to win.
Republicans underestimate Gillum at their peril, said Greg Sargent in WashingtonPost.com. Unlike Sanders, Gillum avoids the rhetoric of “great ideological battles,” and sells his policies on health care, taxes, and education as “pragmatic and solutions-oriented.” DeSantis, similarly, isn’t quite the wild-eyed Trumper he plays on Fox News, said WashingtonExaminer.com. He’s a Trumpian populist, yes, but also a true believer in the “free-market, small-government philosophy” of the pre-Trump GOP. The matchup of these two young candidates, who each offer blueprints for their party’s future, makes the Florida governor’s race “the most important contest to watch in 2018.”