With the political backing of President Trump, Florida congressman Ron DeSantis of Jacksonville won the Republican nomination for governor over longtime Florida politician Adam Putnam.
DeSantis, a Navy veteran and frequent FOX News guest, was able to mobilize the far-right wing of the Florida GOP. Trump initially tipped his hand for DeSantis in a tweet late last December, and then solidified that by appearing personally with DeSantis at a raucous right-wing rally in Tampa on July 31.
Early on, political analysts had predicted Putnam as the front-runner and heir apparent to the party’s nomination this year. But DeSantis was a surprise, and Trump’s backing sent him over the top.
“Everything changed with the Trump endorsement of DeSantis, along with the backing of DeSantis by the conservative establishment,” says emeritus professor of government Darryl Paulson at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg. “Putnam became the candidate of the establishment and, for Republicans, that is the kiss of death.”
VOTE FOR RON! https://t.co/80NShvQ73u
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2018
Tampa conservative radio talk-show host Chris Ingram added:
“DeSantis is appealing to the anti-political class voter that got Rick Scott elected 8 years ago, and (got) Donald Trump elected president,”
DeSantis has few assets and the lowest net worth of the major governor candidates, both Democrats and Republicans — about $311,000, his state financial disclosure form states.
In terms of campaign spending, Adam Putnam outspent DeSantis by millions of dollars, but it ultimately didn’t matter.
Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson released the following statement on Congressman Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial nomination in Florida:
“Ron DeSantis would bring the worst of Washington, D.C.’s broken policies to Florida. DeSantis bear-hugged Donald Trump to win the primary, adopting the same harmful Washington policies and rhetoric that is hurting Florida’s families.
“Whether it is removing protections for pre-existing conditions, failing to address climate change as it destroys Florida’s environment, or undermining public education, Ron DeSantis is lock-step with the President. In fact, he refuses to publicly name one issue where he disagrees with Donald Trump. The callous dismissal of how these extreme-right policies hurt Floridians makes Ron DeSantis unqualified to be Florida’s next governor. Floridians deserve a governor who will put Florida families first, not a governor who’ll be a lapdog to Washington Republicans.”
Diane Rado contributed to this report