With multiple polls showing him trailing Democrat Andrew Gillum in the Florida governor’s race, Republican Ron DeSantis has brought on veteran Florida operative Susie Wiles to lead his campaign with the title of campaign chairwoman.
It’s not the first time a high-profile Florida campaign has turned to Wiles for help in September of an election year. Wiles was chief Florida strategist for Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign, taking the role shortly after Labor Day that year and helping Trump win the crucial Sunshine State by 1.2 percent over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
She was also Rick Scott‘s campaign manager in 2010 when then-outsider Scott bucked the GOP establishment to defeat Attorney General Bill McCollum for the gubernatorial nomination, then won the general election over Democrat Alex Sink.
Wiles, who lives in Jacksonville, said she will be taking temporary leave from her job as a lobbyist with the powerhouse Florida-Washington Ballard Partners firm.
Brad Herold will remain as DeSantis’ campaign manager.
Since the Aug. 28 primaries, at least eight public polls have shown Gillum leading. The Democrat’s edge is within or close to the margins of error for each poll, though a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday gives Gillum a 9-point advantage. Republican insiders concede Gillum has a slight edge in his bid to become the state’s first black governor and first Democrat to win a governor’s race since 1994.
“I’m excited to have Susie join our team as Campaign Chairman. She has the knowledge, expertise and acumen to carry our message to voters all across Florida. With her winning record, Susie is the ideal person to lead our campaign efforts and help us secure a big victory come November,” said DeSantis.
“Florida’s future depends on building upon the successes of our state’s outstanding Republican leadership. Ron DeSantis is the only candidate who will lead Florida forward and help our state and its people realize their full potential. With so much at stake for our state in this election, I am honored to lead his campaign team, and look forward to working with Floridians everywhere to elect Ron as our next governor,” said Wiles.
The NBC/Marist poll, conducted Sept. 16-20 with a 4.7 percent margin of error, gives Nelson a 48-to-45 percent lead over Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the Senate race and shows Gillum holding a 48-to-43 percent lead over Republican Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race.
Quinnipiac released Senate results Tuesday showing Nelson with a 53-to-46 percent lead over Scott — a result out of line with other polls released in the last month and deemed “absurd and not even close to accurate” by Scott pollster Wes Anderson.
Quinnipiac today released more results of its Sept. 20-24 survey, this time showing Gillum opening up a 54-to-45 percent lead over DeSantis in the governor’s race. The Quinnipiac surveys, conducted Sept. 20-24, have a 4 percent margin of error.
The polls also paint different pictures of Florida voter attitudes toward President Donald Trump. In the NBC/Marist poll, 46 percent of likely voters approve of Trump’s job performance and 48 percent disapprove — essentially a tie given the poll’s margin of error. Quinnipiac, however, found 44 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval for Trump among likely Florida voters.
Chris King finished a distant fifth in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for governor, but his progressive platform impressed primary winner Andrew Gillum enough to earn King a berth on the general election ticket as Gillum’s running mate.
Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast here…
King was asked about the bullet tax Tuesday after he made an appearance in West Palm Beach to denounce Republican nominee Ron DeSantis on health care.
“Part of what happens when you lose an election and you now have a new boss is he sets the ultimate priorities,” King said. “And as we’re assimilating, it doesn’t appear that that one has moved forward into the general election.”
The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Floridians evenly divided on whether Brett Kavanaugh should be confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court, with 47 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed — a virtual tie considering the poll’s 4 percent margin of error. Men favor Kavanaugh’s confirmation, 55 percent to 40 percent; women oppose him by a 54-41 margin.
President Donald Trump‘s Florida approval rating has sunk since Quinnipiac’s last poll, with 44 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving in the new survey. Three weeks ago, Trump had 47 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval scores.
The latest poll of 888 likely voters was conducted Thursday through Monday, with live interviewers calling a mix of cell phones and land lines.
A new Florida Democratic Party ad for Andrew Gillum‘s gubernatorial bid hammers Republican Ron DeSantis on health care, noting he opposed Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid in Florida.
The ad’s narrator also says: “And when he was asked what cancer patients should do without health insurance, DeSantis said: ‘Show up at the emergency room.’ How can DeSantis lead Florida when he leaves Floridians behind?”
Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast…
Are Democrats fairly characterizing what DeSantis said?
“Ron DeSantis fully supports covering pre-existing conditions,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson. He added: “Andrew Gillum’s attacks are a desperate attempt to distract from his disastrous single-payer healthcare proposal which would cost $33 trillion dollars and take away every Floridian’s current insurance coverage.”
BURNETT: What do you say to Tiffany? I mean, she’s a Republican, but, you know, she wouldn’t be alive, she wouldn’t be here without that Medicaid expansion and Obamacare.
DESANTIS: Well, if you remember when Obamacare was enacted, there were millions of people who had their healthcare canceled. And so there are stories of people who had certain needs, cancer or whatnot who got pushed into policies that they didn’t want, and then they didn’t have the same coverage that they had because of the broken promise. So I think this law has really created a lot of different aspects.
I would say though, and people who supported Obamacare used to make this point a lot before it passed, there really is no lack of healthcare. If people really need it, if they show up at the emergency room, they do get care, it just gets passed on —
BURNETT: But not — I mean, she had $1 million in cancer treatments. You’re not going to get that by showing up in an emergency room.
DESANTIS: Well, I would say this. The bottom line with Obamacare is, a lot of the folks who were qualifying on the policies on the exchanges, more people are leaving, insurers are leaving. So that’s just not a sustainable system. You’re not going to have that going on two, three, four years into the future if nothing is done. And so that’s just the reality that we’re dealing with here with this system.
BURNETT: So when — I spoke to an expert from Standard & Poor’s yesterday, and his view was the GOP would mean 6 to 10 million people on Medicaid would lose coverage under the GOP plan because of what it would do the Medicaid expansion. When you say you wanted to go further, which I know you have said in your statement. What do you mean? You want to get rid of it altogether? What is your view of what should happen?
DESANTIS: Well, so, for example, we said we were going to repeal Obamacare. We did do a bill in January that President Obama vetoed. This bill though, for some reason, even after it were to be signed into law, actually allows more able-bodied people to sign up for Medicare for several years into the future. I think Medicaid should be focused on folks who are truly needy, poor kids, people with disabilities, seniors. I don’t think it’s a really good option for able-bodied people who are able to work and get insurance elsewhere. And what happens is, fewer and fewer physicians will even accept Medicaid, so it’s harder to get access to actual care because —
BURNETT: But what about someone again — like someone Tiffany, right? She loses her job, he’s able-bodied, but if it weren’t for Medicaid, you know, she wouldn’t have had the coverage when it turned out she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
DESANTIS: Well, I mean, I was not aware this was going to be on, so I don’t know enough about her situation, I apologize. I heard part of her story. But I would say, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that Medicaid is given block grant to the states so that the government can experiment with ways to actually get people the care that they need. And I think that we’re finding out that just having a Medicaid card is not necessarily leading to good care for a lot of those folks, both who were originally on the program and then now, obviously, with some of the able-bodied folks who have gotten on. Experiment with ways to actually get people the care that they need. And I think that we’re finding out that just having a Medicaid card is not necessarily leading to good care for a lot of those folks, both who were originally on the program and now, obviously, with some of the able-bodied folks who have gotten on.
Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson found some common ground in their nationally watched U.S. Senate race — each released an attack ad today that ends with a tight, unflattering closeup of the other.
Scott continued his efforts to brand Nelson a career politician who’s “never held a real job.” Highlighting the Senate’s frequent three-day work weeks, the narrator of Scott’s latest ad says: “It’s time to retire No-Show Nelson. Give him the rest of the week off.”
Nelson’s new ad repeatedly plays a clip of Scott saying “The results speak for themselves” while blaming the governor for the state’s toxic algae crisis, faulting him for the state not expanding Medicaid and accusing him of cutting education spending and using his position to benefit himself.
April Freeman, the Democratic nominee for Florida’s open 17th congressional district seat, died suddenly on Sunday night, the Florida Democratic Party announced this afternoon.
Freeman won the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for the seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, and was facing Republican Greg Steube in the general election. She also ran for the seat in 2016, getting 34.2 percent of the vote against Rooney.
“We are incredibly saddened by the sudden death of April Freeman. April put her heart and soul into her community – and was dedicated to making a better future for all Floridians,” said a statement from Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said. “Just last night she was in the office, making calls and working to get out the vote. Her work ethic and passion was an inspiration to all of us. It is a tremendous loss to the Democratic Party and to all who knew her. Our hearts break for her family and love ones, who are grieving her loss.”
District 17 includes portions of Sarasota and Charlotte counties on Florida’s west coast and all or part of seven other counties north and west of Lake Okeechobee.
The University of North Florida finds tight races for Florida governor and U.S. Senate in a new poll.
In a Sept. 17-20 survey with a 4 percent margin of error, UNF’s Public Opinion Research Lab finds Democrat Andrew Gillum leading Republican Ron DeSantis by a 47-to-43 percent margin in the governor’s race and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a flat-out tie in the Senate race with 45 percent each. The results are consistent with several other public polls in recent weeks.
Can we believe general election polls after the primary polls were so wrong? The Inside Florida Politics crew discusses that question in the latest podcast…
Says UNF’s Michael Binder in a release accompanying the new poll: “It’s still early in the election season and even though Gillum has a small lead, a lot can happen in the next six weeks. Nelson and Scott are currently tied, but one bit of hope for Nelson is that more Democrats are unsure who they will vote for and partisans will come home in November. With polling numbers this close, the candidates that are most successful getting their voters to the polls are the ones who are going to win. Historically, Florida has had very close statewide elections, and this year is shaping up to be no different.”
Republican Ron DeSantis‘s campaign for Florida governor has condemned a campaign donor’s recent tweet that called former President Barack Obama the N-word and pledged not to accept any more contributions from the donor.
But DeSantis is rejecting calls from Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo and others to return at least $4,000 in past contributions from Boca Raton communications executive Steven Alembik and his business.
Check out the latest Inside Florida Politics podcast here…
Alembik’s SMA Communications gave $2,000 to the DeSantis campaign in July and $2,000 to a pro-DeSantis PAC in January. Alembik also gave $2,500 in 2017 to the Fund For Florida’s Future, which is not officially connected to DeSantis but gave $2.5 million to the DeSantis PAC early this year.
“That money was donated before the primary and has been spent. He (Alembik) said something last week and we are not taking any more money,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson.
“We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: We adamantly denounce this sort of disgusting rhetoric,” Lawson said of Alembik’s tweet, which has been deleted.
Alembik told The Palm Beach Post last year: “I’m reading about these groups pulling out of Mar-a-Lago and I’m thinking, ‘This is ridiculous. Somebody needs to take a stand here and do something. My president is my president. I like what he stands for. With him as president, I don’t have to worry. He’s got Israel’s back.”
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Rizzo, who also chairs the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, called Thursday for DeSantis to return past Alembik contributions.
“Ron DeSantis’ campaign is funded by bigots — and he apparently has no problem with it. Since day one, DeSantis has run a divisive, toxic campaign, and it’s only getting worse with each passing day. If DeSantis doesn’t return the money from Steven Alembik immediately, he owns this,” Rizzo said.
Florida’s algae problem has emerged as a key issue in the U.S. Senate race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, with each seeking to place blame on the other.
Scott says the toxic blooms fouling waterways east and west of Lake Okeechobee are the result of years of dithering by the federal government on Everglades restoration. Nelson and Democrats have blamed Scott for cutting back state environmental regulations.