The Republican Party of Florida continues to hammer away at Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.
However, the Democrats are claiming that their counterparts went too far with one image in their latest spot: a Spanish-language salvo, “Miseria,” spotlighting Gillum’s ties to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and “the extreme left.”
That image, asserts Democrats, means that Republican Ron DeSantis should apologize, and the ad should be taken down.
The ad continues the general election agitation on the right against the so-called socialism of the Democratic ticket (per the voiceover, “Andrew Gillum owes himself to Bernie Sanders. Gillum is financed by the extreme left and under a cloud of corruption.”)
Almost immediately after the spot dropped, the Gillum camp noted an unexpected image in the ad: a seeming mockery of the Democrat receiving a commemorative ribbon from the family of someone who was killed during the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.
Spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said the Republican Party of Florida was not aware of the context of that photo when they used it.
“There was no intention to be insensitive in any way. The image is being swapped out. However, we stand by the message of the ad,” Beatrice said.
By mid-afternoon, the image indeed was removed and the ad republished to YouTube. But the ad will not be pulled.
Swapping out the image wasn’t enough for Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Kevin Donohoe, however. Nor did that satisfy the surrogates who spoke up against the spot.
The FDP called for the ad to be taken down, saying DeSantis “has shamelessly exploited the Pulse tragedy by using an image of Mayor Gillum receiving a Pulse ribbon from a victim’s family. DeSantis will say or do anything to get elected — even if it means desecrating the memory of 49 angels who were murdered at Pulse.”
Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf and state Rep. Amy Mercado echoed these concerns Tuesday afternoon.
Calling for a formal apology from the Republican, Wolf called the DeSantis campaign “disgusting” and the RPOF “a gutter swamp … soulless and morally bankrupt” for running the ad, which showed Gillum receiving the ribbon from a victim’s sister.
Mercado lambasted the ad as “incendiary” and “heartless,” compelling a “reliving” of the Pulse tragedy for viewers with “fearmongering” directed to a Spanish audience.
Donohoe also asserted that Gillum is “not a socialist and to use that term to deceive and divide is an insult to the thousands of Floridians who have fled dictatorships.”
To support that premise, a number of Hispanics backed him up in messaging.
State Senator Annette Taddeo and State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez were among those who lambasted the ad as evidence of a “desperate campaign.”
“This is fear-mongering at its worst,” Taddeo (of Colombian descent) said about the socialism claim, an example of “going into the gutter on this campaign.”
Despite the furor over the spot’s use of the objectionable image, the ad can be seen as part of a larger strategy to drive up Gillum’s negatives, a strategy that Republicans note has never been tested in a campaign against the Tallahassee Mayor.
It’s any pollster’s guess where the target audience for these ads (Hispanic voters) will go.
The latest poll of the race, a survey from St. Pete Polls that was released Tuesday, showed a statistical dead heat between DeSantis and the Democrat.
Survey results have shown a wide range amongst Hispanic voters.
The NBC News/Marist poll released last month showed Gillum up 52 to 38. A Quinnipiac poll from last week showed Gillum up 18 (even as a previous Q Poll showed DeSantis up double digits with the demographic.