Mike Pence to raise money for Rick Scott’s Senate bid in Orlando

Gov. Rick Scott and Vice President Mike Pence in Orlando last year. (From the @FLGovScott Twitter account)

Vice President Mike Pence will headline a fundraiser for Gov. Rick Scott‘s U.S. Senate bid in Orlando next week.

The Sept. 6 event is being hosted by Palm Beacher Darlene Jordan, a key Republican money-raiser, and by Texas investor and GOP moneyman Tom Hicks, according to invitations sent to GOP activists.

It’s a relative bargain as fundraisers go, with “suggested contribution levels” of $250 for individuals and $500 for sponsors.

Check out the latest edition of the Inside Florida Politics podcast — now with even more royalty-free music — below:

The specific location for the afternoon Pence-Scott reception hasn’t been disclosed.

Scott is challenging three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in one of the nation’s most expensive and closely watched Senate races.

President Donald Trump publicly urged Scott twice in 2017 to challenge Nelson, and the president and the two-term Florida governor have been close. But since formally launching his campaign in April, Scott has kept his distance from Trump.

 

DeSantis to Hannity: ‘Monkey this up’ remark about Gillum had ‘zero to do with race’

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis addresses his “monkey this up” remark on Sean Hannity’s show on Wednesday night.

Florida Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis on Wednesday night told Fox News that his warning to voters not to “monkey this up” by electing his black Democratic rival, Andrew Gillum, had “zero to do with race.”

DeSantis’ original remark Wednesday morning was blasted as racist by Democratic critics and called an example of “gutter” politics by Gillum, who said DeSantis was “taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump.”

After responding with only a statement from a campaign spokesman during the day, DeSantis appeared in the evening with Sean Hannitywho campaigned with DeSantis in July — to explain himself.

“Did you in any way, do you in any way think that was something that was misstated or racist in any way?” Hannity asked.

“It has zero to do with race, Sean. It has everything to do with whether we want Florida to continue to go in a good direction, building off the success or do we want to turn to left-wing, socialist policies, which will absolutely devastate our state?” DeSantis replied.

“And here’s the thing, I believe people should be judged based on their ability and character regardless of race. But it’s because of that that I know that socialism won’t work in Florida. It’s not good for any race, color or creed. So this is not about race. This is about ideas and principles. And I’m not going to let the Democrats and Andrew Gillum try to obscure a debate about whether his tax increases, his single-payer healthcare plan, his desire to abolish ICE — whether that is something that is acceptable for Florida. I don’t think it is and I don’t care what color you are.”

DeSantis didn’t express any regrets or say whether he recognized that the remark could be considered offensive, and Hannity didn’t press him on it.

“He’s following the Trump model to the Nth degree — never apologize for anything,” said University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus.

MacManus predicted DeSantis’ remark will remain an issue throughout the campaign.

“It will be a get-out-the-vote tool for Democrats from now til Nov. 6,” MacManus said.

Democrats blast DeSantis for ‘monkey this up’ quote about Gillum agenda

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis on Fox News this morning.

Democrats accused U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Republican nominee for governor, of using racist language when he used “monkey” as a verb when discussing the agenda of his black rival, Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum.

DeSantis’s campaign called the accusation “absurd.”

Appearing on Fox News the morning after he and Gillum won their primaries, DeSantis said: “We’ve got to work hard to make sure we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let’s build off the success we’ve had on Gov. (Rick) Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.”

Gillum — endorsed by Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders — was branded a “failed Socialist Mayor” in a morning tweet by President Donald Trump.

DeSantis’ use of “monkey this up” was blasted by Democrats on a conference call organized by the Florida Democratic Party.

“I’ve learned dealing with the affiliates of the Trump administration that they always find a way to add some sort of insult to African-Americans and make it racist,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, who is black.

“That was more than a dog whistle. That was absolutely a racist, disgusting statement and I don’t think there’s any other way to interpret it,” said Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.

The DeSantis campaign rejected the charge:

“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left democrat trying to stop our success,” said Stephen Lawson, the communications director for DeSantis’s campaign.

Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Michael Barnett, who is black, said DeSantis made “a poor choice of words, but harmless nonetheless…He’s not a racist. That’s what they’re getting at. He’s not a racist.”

Barnett accused Democrats of “trying to turn this campaign into an issue of race” to divert attention from the “crazy, left-wing views, socialist views” of Gillum.

 

Donald Trump calls Andrew Gillum ‘a failed Socialist Mayor’

Surprise Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum is already under attack from President Donald Trump. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump, whose endorsement of Ron DeSantis was pivotal in Florida’s Republican primary for governor, signaled this morning that he plans to get involved in the general election as well.

On Twitter, Trump crowed about DeSantis’ huge win — and took a shot at the Democratic nominee, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Listen to the talk of a potential Gillum “surge” on last week’s Inside Florida Politics podcast:

Here’s what Trump tweeted this morning about the DeSantis-Gillum race:

“Not only did Congressman Ron DeSantis easily win the Republican Primary, but his opponent in November is his biggest dream….a failed Socialist Mayor named Andrew Gillum who has allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city. This is not what Florida wants or needs!” Trump tweeted.

Gillum stunned pollsters and much of the punditocracy by defeating four rivals to win the Democratic primary with 34 percent of the vote. An endorsement from Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders was a key factor for Gillum.

Tallahassee last year was named the most dangerous city in Florida by the blog 24/7 Wall St. based on federal Uniform Crime Rate reports from 2015 that showed 767.1 violent crimes per 100,000 people, compared to a statewide rate of 461.9 per 100,000.

 

Jeff Greene: ‘I don’t think progressives like billionaires’

Jeff Greene talking to reporters after an Aug. 2 debate in Palm Beach Gardens. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene sounded genuinely excited late Tuesday night by rival Andrew Gillum‘s stunning upset victory in the Florida Democratic primary for governor.

Greene, who finished a distant fourth in the gubernatorial primary with 10 percent, said he concluded about a week and a half ago that he wasn’t going to win. But he figured former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham would take the nomination.

“I’m thrilled at the outcome…I’ve always felt that if I couldn’t be the Democratic nominee my second choice would absolutely be Andrew Gillum,” Greene told The Palm Beach Post.

“He absolutely was the best speaker among all of us, me included. And I think Gwen Graham was the worst speaker among all of us. I think she was the worst candidate,” Greene said.

Greene said he and Gillum agreed on most issues.

“I really felt that Andrew and I were the true progressives,” Greene said.

But Greene conceded that his $3.3 billion net worth made him a tough sell to the Bernie Sanders wing of the party.

“Even though I have these beliefs, it’s very hard for someone with my status today as a billionaire to get support from progressives. It was a real challenge…I don’t think progressives like billionaires,” Greene said.

Greene said his campaign never recovered from TV ads run by former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine that used a clip of Greene, the day after the 2016 election, calling Donald Trump a “great guy.” Greene said the clip was taken out of context from an interview in which he outlined differences with Trump but said he hoped his presidency would succeed.

“The mistake I made was I probably should have come out the next day talking into the camera and describing what the conversation really was,” Greene said. But, he added, “The way the election turned out, I don’t think it would have mattered.”

On the campaign trail, Greene floated the possibility of spending $200 million on the governor’s race if he were the nominee and helping other Democrats on the ticket. He has made contributions to several candidates, and said he’ll take a look at key races in the coming weeks.

“I’ll continue to support people…if I see where I can make a difference,” Greene said.

Greene ended up spending $34.8 million on his campaign.

“It was a lot of money, even for a rich guy like me,” said Greene. Still he said, “I have a great life and I don’t regret it.”

 

Jeff Greene cancels election-night party but says ground game gives hope

Jeff Greene says he’s down in the polls but not giving up hope in his Democratic primary for governor. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene has called off a planned election-night party at his Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa in Palm Beach and acknowledges his polling numbers aren’t good — but he says he remains optimistic that his campaign’s ground game can turn out the voters he needs to win the five-candidate Democratic primary for governor.

“In the polls, I’m definitely down. There’s no question about it,” Greene told PostOnPolitics on Monday as he drove north from a campaign appearance in Miami.

A Gravis Marketing poll released Monday puts Greene second in the five-candidate race, trailing Gwen Graham by 7 points, 26 percent to 19 percent. Other polls show him lower.

Greene called the Gravis poll “encouraging” and said it’s similar to his campaign’s internal polling. He said he hopes his campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts can outperform his polling numbers.

“We have a very big field operation,” said Greene, who said his campaign has identified about 350,000 potential Greene voters and has been following up with them.

“We’re working our voters pretty hard,” Greene said. “The question is, of all the people who say they’re going to vote for you, what percent are going to actually show up?”

As for election night, Greene said calling off the party is not a sign he’s conceding defeat. Greene said he’s simply “more comfortable” watching returns at home with campaign staffers and his wife and young children. The hotel plan was mainly to accommodate the media, he said, but that won’t be a problem.

“If we have a successful night, we’ll talk to all the cameras afterward. If not, we’ll put out a statement,” said Greene.

 

Trump to Republican voters: ‘I love Florida’ and endorse Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump at a Tampa rally on July 31. (Zac Anderson/The Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

After giving Ron DeSantis his “full endorsement’ in June and appearing with him at a Tampa rally in July, President Donald Trump is seeking to close the deal with voters in Tuesday’s Florida Republican primary for governor.

Trump recorded a 54-second phone message that the DeSantis campaign is sending to GOP voters across the state.

“My friend Ron DeSantis is running for governor of the great state of Florida. I love Florida. I fully endorsed Ron in tomorrow’s election,” says Trump, who goes on to call DeSantis a “solid conservative” who has supported him on a border wall with Mexico, tax cuts, military spending and veterans issues.

“He will be absolutely outstanding,” Trump concludes.

U.S. Rep. DeSantis faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the GOP primary. The winner takes on the winner of a five-candidate Democratic primary.

Will Florida’s record mail, early voting numbers mean big overall turnout?

A line outside an early voting site in 2016. This year’s early and mail-in voting totals are higher than those for the 2014 or 2016 August primaries. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Pre-election turnout for Tuesday’s Florida primaries hit record levels over the weekend. That includes big turnout in Palm Beach County, as The Palm Beach Post’s Jane Musgrave reports.

The big unanswered question: Do the high levels of mail-in ballots and in-person early voting signal big overall turnout for the primaries — or merely a shift in voter behavior toward more convenient ballot-casting?

Statistics provided by the Florida Division of Elections this morning show than 1.85 million Florida voters have cast ballots through the mail or at in-person early voting sites ahead of Tuesday’s elections — exceeding the 1.82 million who took advantage of mail and early voting before the August 2016 primaries and far surpassing the 1.2 million who cast ballots ahead of election day in August 2014.

The weekend saw a surge of Democrats showing up for in-person early voting, which ended on Sunday. About 160,000 people cast ballots at early voting sites around the state on Saturday and Sunday, including about 90,000 Democrats and about 60,000 Republicans.

The final turnout for in-person early voting in the state was 658,800. That included 317,499 Democrats and 296,585 Republicans. The GOP had a slight edge in early voting turnout before the 2014 and 2016 primaries.

As of this morning, elections offices have logged 1.2 million mail-in ballots. Those include 557,121 from Republicans and 491,810 from Democrats.

Big Tuesday suspense: Who will win Florida’s pollster primary?

With Florida’s Tuesday primaries approaching and more than 1.5 million votes already cast, four Democrats and two Republicans can point to polls released in the last two weeks that show them leading their primaries for governor or at least within striking distance.

The “pollster primary” is among the topics discussed in the latest edition of the new Inside Florida Politics podcast — click below to check it out.

In the race for the GOP nomination, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis surged to a lead over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in some polls after President Donald Trump gave his “full endorsement” to DeSantis in June and appeared with DeSantis at a Tampa rally in July.

A Gravis Marketing poll released Friday shows DeSantis leading by 15 points. But recent polls by Florida Atlantic University and SurveyUSA say the race is too close to call. A Saint Leo University poll with a sample of only 172 Republicans actually gives Putnam a lead.

In the five-candidate Democratic race, polls by Florida Atlantic University , Saint Leo  and Gravis Marketing give Gwen Graham the lead. SEA Polling gives former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine a within-the-margin-of-error edge, St. Pete Polls shows a within-the-margin-of-error lead for Graham and SurveyUSA has the race tied.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s campaign released an internal poll showing Gillum leading the Democratic field. Billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene isn’t leading any polls, but his campaign is arguing he’s a contender by pointing to the Gravis Marketing poll that shows him in second place to Graham, 7 points back. That was close enough for Greene to resume his TV advertising campaign.

He’s back! Jeff Greene re-launches TV ads ahead of Dem primary

Jeff Greene has reconsidered his decision to yank his TV ads.

A day after halting his eight-figure TV advertising campaign, billionaire Palm Beach real estate investor Jeff Greene has decided to go back on the air ahead of Tuesday’s Florida Democratic primary for governor.

Greene spent more than $20 million on TV through Aug. 10, but spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren announced a change of strategy on Thursday.

“We are really focusing on get-out-the-vote. Jeff feels like we saturated the airwaves when people were paying attention,” VanSusteren said at the time.

VanSusteren today said Greene has decided to go back on the air in South Florida, Orlando and Jacksonville.

After attacking rivals Gwen Graham and Philip Levine in some of his ads, the current Greene spot is positive.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/286361559″>&quot;The Closer&quot;</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/jeffgreeneforflorida”>Jeff Greene</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

“The Democrats for governor…all care about a lot of issues — but it’s all just talk if we don’t win the governor’s race,” says Greene, who says his $3.3 billion net worth to lift Democrats up and down the ticket if he’s the nominee.

“Democrats — just imagine what we can do together,” Greene says at the end of the ad.

The Greene campaign is touting a Gravis Marketing poll that shows Greene in second place with 19 percent behind Graham at 26 percent in the five-candidate field.

The Greene camp’s internal polls are “similar,” VanSusteren said. “They’re really showing that this is anybody’s race…Our internal polling indicates there is a path to victory.”