You might wonder why some of Florida’s best known Republican political consultants are way out on a limb in support of Democrats in the 2020 presidential race.
It’s a long and interesting story.
At its root is complete frustration with President Donald J. Trump. Two of these consultants live in Tallahassee, where they’ve made a good living working for Republican politicians and lobbying those who get elected.
J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich and Rick Wilson have independently come to the conclusion that it’s far more important to vote against Trump’s re-election than anything else.
Former Republican Congressman turned political pundit David Jolly of St. Petersburg is singing from the same hymnbook, so to speak. He left the Republican Party in 2018.
“These are, in today’s Republican Party, spineless politicians rotten to the core without virtue,’’ Jolly said in a recent interview with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace.
“And one day maybe they will have the recognition of how they failed the country and themselves in this moment.’’
Interestingly, Wallace also has a Florida connection. She handled communications for Republican Gov. Jeb Bush before moving to Washington, D.C., to work for his brother, President George W. Bush.
Consultant Wilson has written two books: “Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever,’’ and “Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump – and Democrats from Themselves.’’
In a piece written recently for the New York Daily News, Wilson urged former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a Democratic presidential candidate, to use his billions to “kill off Bernie Sanders’’ before he fights Trump.
Following the Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada primary contests, Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, had become the front-runner in the Democratic race for president, championing left-leaning policies such as Medicare for All.
But former Vice President Joe Biden swept the South Carolina primary on Saturday, taking on Sanders as presidential candidates head into delegate-rich Super Tuesday.
“Sanders is racing ahead of the field right now borne on a tidal wave of stupid, short-term thinking on the part of the Democratic electorate,’’ Wilson wrote earlier for the Daily News. “You know – as do most sane people – that Trump is salivating to run against Red Bernie.’’
Looking back at the 2016 election, Wilson noted that former Gov. Bush, and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, all thought they would take on Trump by waiting for Trump to take out some of their opponents. “In the end, none of them survived because they failed to go after the main enemy right away.’’
The stance of these widely known lobbyists is in sharp contrast to elected officials in Florida who, for the most part, remain loyal to Trump in public.
Privately, some say they live in fear of serious retribution if they give voice to any critical thought against Trump.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, has mostly avoided making comments of any kind to reporters lately, carefully staging his schedule so he doesn’t have to answer any questions.
Do you suppose the governor is fearful of provoking a storm of Trump Tweets out of Washington, D.C.?
It never occurred to me that any president would find a way to weaponize Twitter and successfully pursue his enemies, but Trump has done it. It’s pretty amazing to see a bunch of grown men and women afraid of a few Tweets.
Late last week, consultant Wilson spoke to a huge crowd at Tallahassee’s Tiger Bay Club, where he labeled Trump “a threat to this country.’’
Consultant Stipanovich, in a weekly column he writes for the Tampa Bay Times, called on Floridians to “spare no effort in trying to exorcise the demon that has possessed the soul of the GOP.’’
Stipanovich, now a registered Democrat, began his Tallahassee life as chief of staff for former Republican Gov. Bob Martinez and strongly supported former Gov. Bush.
He says he is waiting for Super Tuesday results before deciding which Democrat will get his vote, but he expects that person to be Biden.
“He is flawed in many ways and older than I am, but he would be the most experienced man elected president since Richard Nixon,” Stipanovich said.
“Moreover, he has the temperament we desperately need at this moment, measured, kind, empathetic, and affable. He is fundamentally decent man of sound values and decency. … What we need now more than anything.’’
Stipanovich said his animus toward Trump has nothing to do with the way Trump trashed Jeb Bush four years ago, when Bush was a presidential candidate.
“I find Trump to be reprehensible,’’ Stipanovich said. “I sincerely believe that Trump and what he stands for poses an existential threat to the republic. His attacks on the very idea of objective truth and an independent press, on the very legitimacy of government, whether in terms of the integrity of our elections or the Deep State narrative, and on our credal values, are dangerous.’’
All together some pretty damning words from men who have long made their living serving Republicans.
The Phoenix asked Jeb Bush about who he’d vote for in the 2020 race.