DeSan­tis looks for sup­port in sub­urbs, try­ing to mo­ti­vate base

In Florida’s most con­tentious gover­nor’s elec­tion in decades, Ron DeSan­tis is bat­tling An­drew Gil­lum by try­ing to shore up sub­ur­ban sup­port and ral­ly­ing with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY EMILY L. MA­HONEY Her­ald/Times Tal­la­has­see Bureau

With just days re­main­ing in Florida’s most con­tentious gover­nor’s elec­tion in decades, Repub­li­can Ron DeSan­tis is shoring up sub­ur­ban en­claves and re­turn­ing to his roots by ral­ly­ing with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

While some strate­gists be­lieve that a cam­paign’s last push should em­pha­size ral­lies in the state’s most pop­u­lous cities, DeSan­tis is in­stead vis­it­ing places like Lake­land, Coral Springs, Mel­bourne, Tar­pon Springs and Sun City Cen­ter — in ad­di­tion to a few quick ap­pear­ances in big ur­ban ar­eas like Jack­sonville.

Mean­while, his run­ning mate, state Rep. Jean­nette Nuñez, has been a con­stant pres­ence in Mi­ami, her home turf.

This scalpel strat­egy is based on in­ter­nal polling and mod­el­ing by the cam­paign, which re­veal ar­eas where DeSan­tis could be vul­ner­a­ble, and is work­ing to

boost turnout in those places.

Some of th­ese en­claves should al­ready be as­sumed to be Repub­li­can strongholds, a fact that could spell out con­cerns that con­ser­va­tives aren’t ready to turn out for DeSan­tis.

Democrats have used videos of some ral­lies to taunt DeSan­tis over small crowds.

But Alex Pat­ton, a Gainesville-based GOP strate­gist who is not work­ing for the DeSan­tis cam­paign, said this is a smart tac­tic to hone in on spe­cific pop­u­la­tions where can­di­dates feel they can do bet­ter.

Specif­i­cally, he said there is a “clean break” of col­lege-ed­u­cated Repub­li­can women from the rest of the base for all Repub­li­can can­di­dates, pos­si­bly be­cause of Trump.

“If you’re run­ning a base cam­paign you need the base to come home,” Pat­ton said. “I think it’s the to­tal­ity of the Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tion. It’s been two years of chaos and for what­ever rea­son col­legee­d­u­cated women don’t like it.”

While many polls show Gil­lum with a slight lead, the race is any­thing but de­cided. And the GOP has had more bal­lots cast in early vot­ing so far.

“I get the sense that [the DeSan­tis cam­paign] is fi­nally be­gin­ning to cam­paign with a lit­tle more pro­fes­sion­al­ism and is get­ting their act to­gether,” said Aubrey Jewett, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at the Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Florida. He said that DeSan­tis’ cam­paign im­me­di­ately af­ter he won the pri­mary was in clear dis­ar­ray be­cause of his con­tro­ver­sial “monkey this up” com­ment on Fox News.

Af­ter weeks of head­lines high­light­ing DeSan­tis’ as­so­ci­a­tions with rightwing fig­ures who have made racist state­ments, the cam­paign hired a new cam­paign chair, Susie Wiles, who helped Trump to vic­tory in the na­tion’s largest swing state and who has made DeSan­tis a vi­able can­di­date.

In ad­di­tion to en­er­giz­ing the base, DeSan­tis is also try­ing to cap­ture more mod­er­ates by por­tray­ing him­self as the law-an­dorder can­di­date and cham­pi­oning other pop­u­lar is­sues like lower taxes and cleaner wa­ter.

His cam­paign has seen a rush of po­lice union and sher­iff endorsements in re­cent days, amount­ing to more than 50 sher­iffs, ac­cord­ing to the cam­paign, in­clud­ing Pinel­las County’s Bob Gualtieri.

On Mon­day, the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors’ As­so­ci­a­tion re­leased a TV ad fea­tur­ing con­ser­va­tive sher­iffs say­ing they had “con­cerns” about Gil­lum.

“An­drew Gil­lum is con­nected to the most rad­i­cal forces in Florida,” Fla­gler County Sher­iff Rick Staly says in the ad.

They’re re­fer­ring to Gil­lum’s sup­port of a crim­i­nal jus­tice ac­tivism group called the Dream De­fend- ers, a group best known for its month­long protest at the state Capi­tol fol­low­ing the 2013 ac­quit­tal of Ge­orge Zim­mer­man, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an un­armed black teenager from Mi­amiDade, in 2012.

Gil­lum signed a pledge that in­cluded sup­port for the group’s “Free­dom Papers,” which con­tain lan­guage that has of­fended some in law en­force­ment.

Gil­lum has been sup­ported by some other sher­iffs, such as Rus­sell Gib­son of Osce­ola County and Walt McNeil of Leon County.

“The mayor has been a strong ally of law en­force­ment in Tal­la­has­see, in­vest­ing in ad­di­tional of­fi­cers to help re­duce crime across the city,” cam­paign spokes­woman Jo­hanna Cer­vone wrote in a pre­vi­ous state­ment. “As Mayor Gil­lum has pre­vi­ously said, he will not take money from the pri­vate prison in­dus­try and in­stead will in­vest in com­mu­nity polic­ing, smart jus­tice and strate­gies that work with com­mu­ni­ties to re­duce crime and cre­ate bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties for all Florid­i­ans.”

Against this back­drop of the back-and-forth over polic­ing comes the two Trump ral­lies in Fort My­ers and Pen­sacola, de­signed to mo­ti­vate Repub­li­cans in a state where Trump has tied his own suc­cess to a DeSan­tis win. And top ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials like Kellyanne Con­way and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence have pitched in to stump with DeSan­tis, too.

“If you guys take ac­tion and you guys join me and work hard I’m con­fi­dent we’ll be suc­cess­ful on Novem­ber 6th,” DeSan­tis told a crowd at a Wed­nes­day morn­ing event at a restau­rant in Punta Gorda, be­fore launch­ing into what’s be­come his de facto gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign slo­gan: “And to­gether we will be pro­tect­ing Florida’s fu­ture for gen­er­a­tions to come.”


Alex Pat­ton

SCOTT WHEELER Scott Wheeler | The Ledger

Ron DeSan­tis and wife, Casey, take the stage in Lake­land. Story, 6A


United States Sec­re­tary of Agri­cul­ture Sonny Per­due tells the au­di­ence to get a pic­ture of him and Ron DeSan­tis dur­ing a rally in Lake­land.

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