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Donald Trump plays ‘Cousin Eddie’ in Florida’s gubernatorial race

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, that modern holiday classic featuring the Griswold family, does not really get going — even with Chevy Chase‘s Clark putting up 250 strands of lights — until Randy Quaid‘s Cousin Eddie shows up on the front lawn, dressed in a robe, his trailer in the driveway.

Florida’s all-important gubernatorial race did not really get going — even with six announced candidates and John Morgan looming over the race — until Donald Trump, the Cousin Eddie of American politics, showed up on Twitter to “endorse” U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis as his choice in 2018.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!,” Trump tweeted the Friday before Christmas.

Of course, Santis‘ campaign team declared the president’s tweet an endorsement. Never mind that DeSantis, who has a campaign account open with the Federal Elections Commission to run again for his U.S. House seat, hasn’t opened an account to run for governor.

Trump’s tweet, like a membership in the Jelly of the Month, is the gift that keeps on giving throughout an entire election cycle.

For DeSantis, it instantly propels him to the top tier of Republican aspirants for the Governor’s Mansion, despite his lackluster performance on the campaign trail for Marco Rubio‘s U.S. Senate seat before the incumbent decided he would run again.

But Trump’s tweet is also a gift for almost every other candidate, too.

First of all, as Democratic political consultant Steve Schale noted, after Roy Moore’s defeat on Dec. 12 to Democrat Doug Jones in a special election for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat, Trump’s support may not be all that valuable.

“Based on Trump recent success in picking candidates, this might be the kiss of death,” Schale tweeted.

The tweet should also serve as a wake-up call to Florida Democrats that the stakes involved in this contest could not be higher. If that means making hard choices about the electoral viability of some candidates, so be it. After all, the 2020 presidential race will again run through the Sunshine State; do Democrats really want a Gov. DeSantis in charge of the state’s elections?

Trump’s support of DeSantis is also a blessing in disguise for Adam Putnam, who has been running for governor for most of this year, and Richard Corcoran, who is expected to enter the field after the 2018 Legislative Session.

Even with that, Putnam began December with more than $2.5 million in his campaign account and had more $12.8 million on hand in his Florida Grown political committee, he’s perceived to be “Jeb 2.0” by many red meat Republicans. To counter that, Putnam has tacked hard to the right, declaring himself a “sellout” to the National Rifle Association, among other gyrations.

Enough of that, Putnam should tell his campaign staff. The Trumpers are either going to accept you as who you are — a sensible Republican with arguably the best sense among the announced candidates of what Florida truly is — or they’re going to Make Florida Great Again via DeSantis.

Kissing up to POTUS for the presidential seal of approval is no longer necessary or needed.

As for Corcoran, DeSantis’ rise most likely comes at his expense, so it’s time to shake up the plans and the timeline. Perhaps he shouldn’t wait until late March to enter the race. Maybe he should make official what everyone expects. Or not. But Corcoran must do something to make sure he’s not outmaneuvered by DeSantis, especially since Corcoran’s team was hoping to face Putnam mano a mano and do to the career pol what other insurgents have done to establishment candidates in previous primaries (read: Rubio vs. Charlie Crist).

As for everyone else following Florida’s gubernatorial race, Trump’s tweet has to remind you of the scene from Christmas Vacation when Eddie drains the toilet from his RV into the sewer drain. It’s really the last visual you want to see, just as Trump getting involved in Florida politics is the last thing most Floridians want to see happen.

“Merry Christmas,” Eddie says, “Sh*tter’s full.”

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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