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Jeff Greene will participate in tonight’s Democratic gubernatorial debate

The latest debate among Florida’s Democratic candidates for governor will have a newcomer: billionaire developer Jeff Greene.

Greene is joining the other four candidates Wednesday night at Florida Gulf Coast University in his first debate since his late entry into the race.

The Palm Beach resident has already spent $10 million in ads, mostly his own money. He now hopes to shake up the race even more during the live exchange with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando-area businessman Chris King.

The winner of the Aug. 28 primary will face the Republican nominee in November. The Republican candidates are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

Outlier or not, new poll gives Ron DeSantis a 20 point lead(!) over Adam Putnam

If the Republican primary for Governor were today, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis would win in a blowout.

A new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls found the Ponte Vedra Republican pulling a full 50 percent of likely GOP primary voters while the heretofore frontrunner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, is registering at 30 percent.

About one in six Republican primary voters said they were undecided.

The new poll more than corroborates a measure from Fabrizio-Lee released earlier Tuesday that found DeSantis up 42-30 over Putnam, not to mention the many internal polls Team DeSantis has touted in recent weeks.

There is no bright spot for Putnam in this poll.

While the Bartow Republican was seen as favorable by 49 percent of those polled, his otherwise enviable plus-27 rating pales in comparison to DeSantis, who came in at 61-11 on the fave/unfave question.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the towing capacity of President Donald Trump’s endorsement, which is undoubtedly DeSantis’ biggest asset in the race to replace Gov. Rick Scott.

When asked if they would be more likely to support a candidate who was endorsed by Trump, Republican primary voters answered resoundingly in the affirmative — nearly two-thirds said yes, while only 21 percent said no and 14 percent were undecided.

DeSantis leads among every slice and subset of Republican voter.

White Republicans prefer him 50-31, and that lead expands to 50-17 among black Republicans. He leads 52-30 among Republican men and 48-30 among Republican women. By age, the youngest voters swing plus-14 for DeSantis and that’s the closest it gets — among the 70-plus crowd DeSantis laps Putnam 52-26.

Despite Putnam spending millions on TV ads since he rolled out his first in late April, DeSantis also holds a double-digit lead in every region from Pensacola to Palm Beach barring Tallahassee, which preferred Putnam 48-38.

The automated phone poll was conducted July 16 and 17 and took responses from 1,709 Republican primary voters who said they planned to vote in the Aug. 28 primary election. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Alex Sink endorses Gwen Graham

Democratic former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink – the first woman of a major political party to run for governor – endorsed Gwen Graham for that position Tuesday.

“I am supporting Gwen Graham for governor because I know she will be an outstanding leader for our state,” Sink stated in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign. “Gwen shares my commitment to investing in public education, protecting our environment and building a diverse economy for Florida.”

In 2010, Sink, the last Democrat to hold a cabinet position in Florida, ran for governor but lost to Rick Scott by less than 2 percent.

She co-founded the statewide progressive women’s group Ruth’s List, which endorsed Graham in January.

Graham is battling with four men – Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and businessmen former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Chris King of Winter Park, and Jeff Greene of Palm Beach – for the August 28 Democratic gubernatorial primary nomination.

“Now, more than ever, we need a leader who will defend Florida’s women and families,” Sink said. “Gwen is a proven dedicated public servant with strong values who I am confident will always put Floridians first.”

Women’s issues have become a top concern for Graham and her campaign, and she’s made no secret about seeking to stand out in an election battle that otherwise features six men, including Republicans U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

In the news release her campaign pointed out that Sink’s endorsement comes on the heels of President Donald Trump nominating anti-choice judge Brett Kavanaugh for the United States Supreme Court. Graham has been organizing a series of rallies, press conferences and roundtable discussions in support of safe, legal access to abortion and women’s health services.

“It’s an honor to have Alex Sink’s support. She has been a trailblazer for Florida women in business and public service — and I wish I were running today to serve as Florida’s second woman governor,” Graham said. “With Alex’s support we will end 20 years of one-party Republican rule. Then, working together, we will restore our promise to public schools, protect our environment and expand health care.

You know who looovvveeesss that Ron DeSantis is up big over Adam Putnam?

It’s way too early to declare the race for Florida’s GOP gubernatorial nomination over, but with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis leading Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam by more than two touchdowns, there are a few people who have to looovvveee that DeSantis is up big.

First among them may be these folks:

capital city consulting

These are some of the lobbyists who work at Capital City Consulting, which is already one of the most powerful governmental affairs firms in Florida.

While they are smart enough not to put all of their eggs in one basket, they have some of the deepest connections to DeSantis World, including the fact that Scott Ross‘s wife, Ashley, is DeSantis’ chief fundraiser.

More important — and this is what this blog post is really about — Capital City recently hired Justin Day, one of the top DEMOCRATIC lobbyists in Florida.

Because if there is one cohort of people who really love that the Florida GOP is gonna get behind DeSantis instead of Putnam, it’s Florida Democrats!

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo and every other donkey in the Sunshine State are salivating at the prospect at running against DeSantis, whose calling card is that he’s backed by President Donald Trump.

You’ll never read me underestimating the political strength of Trump in Florida; this site was the first in the country to show a poll with Trump beating Jeb Bush in Florida AND in 2016 my forecast had Trump winning the state’s 29 electoral votes.

BUT, and especially after yesterday when Trump was essentially accused of treason, a Trump-backed DeSantis is a much better opponent for Democrats than a Florida First, relatively moderate Putnam.

If I were setting odds on the gubernatorial race, I’d say at this point the Democrats have a 60 percent chance of winning the Governor’s Mansion. PredictIt’s market on the race gives Democrats even better odds.

That’s why, if you want to know who REALLY lllooovvveeesss the news that DeSantis is clobbering Putnam, it’s this guy:

That’s Democratic lobbyist Steve Schale.

If a Democrat does win in November, folks like Day, Schale, Ana Cruz, Screven Watson and every other lobbyist who has quietly worn Donkey-monogrammed underwear for the last twenty years will be as sought after as left-handed pitchers.

Of course, some of these same folks were in a similar position in 2014 when Charlie Crist was a lock to knock-off Rick Scott.

Poll: Donald Trump endorsement fueling Ron DeSantis’ double-digit lead

A new poll is giving Ron DeSantis a double-digit lead over Adam Putnam in the Republican gubernatorial primary, with massive support among those aware of President Donald Trump‘s endorsement of the Ponte Vedra Beach congressman.

First reported Tuesday morning in POLITICO Florida, the poll, from Tony Fabrizio‘s Republican Fabrizio-Lee polling firm, shows DeSantis garnering 42 percent overall and Agriculture Commissioner Putnam just 30 percent among likely Republican primary voters.

That reflects the enormous support DeSantis receives among Republican voters who are aware that Trump has endorsed him. Among those voters who said they were not aware, Putnam has a commanding lead; but that subgroup is swamped by those aware of Trump’s judgment in the Florida gubernatorial race.

Among voters who told Fabrizio that DeSantis has Trump’s backing, DeSantis gets 58 percent, to Putnam’s 27. Without that factor, among voters who said they were unaware, Putnam leads 58 to 35, according to details posted by Politico. The group of voters unaware of the endorsement represented only 8 percent of the overall sample, while the group that knew about it represents 54 percent of the total sample in the governor’s race question. Also, another 38 percent of voters declined to say if they knew about the endorsement, and that group also backed Putnam.

The poll was taken last week, July 8-12, before Trump’s appearance Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki a meeting that is the subject of much controversy Tuesday morning.

Politico reports that Fabrizio said the poll question was included in a much broader survey his firm did “for an unspecified political group that’s not involved in the governor’s race.”

The poll confirms other surveys released in the past two weeks that have shown a dramatic leap to the top for DeSantis since the two squared off in the nationally-televised debate in Orlando on June 28. However, Fabrizio’s polling didn’t ask any questions about the debate, but instead focused on the impacts of campaign ads and the Trump endorsement, at least among details posted by Politico.

In the seven markets broken out — Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers/Naples, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Northwest Florida — DeSantis is leading in all.

DeSantis also has most reliable support in the oldest age brackets, 65 to 74-year-olds, and those 75 or older, leading by 25 and 19 points respectively.

“DeSantis does far better with older voters who will dominate the primary vote turnout,” Fabrizio-Lee states.

The polling firm reports that the gubernatorial survey was of 349 likely Republican primary voters. A live operator conducted the poll, split evenly between landline and cell interviews, with a margin of error of 6.2 percent.

The best thing about Ron DeSantis leading Adam Putnam by double-digits is …

Florida’s political class awoke this morning to news that U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis leads Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam by twelve points among registered voters in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

The independent poll from Tony Fabrizio also shows that among likely voters — and at this point in the election, that’s who matters — DeSantis’ lead is 47 to 30 percent.

Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of hand-wringing in Bartow and Tallahassee today. Meanwhile, DeSantis campaign manager Brad Herold may be unbearable by the time he’s done crowing about these numbers.

However, if there is one small pleasure we can all take away from the poll, it’s this … Remember when the DeSantis campaign’s internal polling was made public (first on Florida Politics)? Like Fabrizio’s survey, that poll showed DeSantis up by 17 points.

Well, here was the reaction to that survey from the Tampa Bay Times’ political editor:

Actually, what’s absurd is that the Times has not made a personnel change in Smith’s department.

Of course, Smith wrote a, um, riveting blog post yesterday about how now is the time for Putnam to start worrying.

Such bold analysis!

Here’s a quick rule of thumb: if Adam Smith tells you a team is a lock to win a game, bet the other way. If he gives you a tip on a stock to buy, short it.

He is literally the Eddie Mush of Florida politics.

Joe Henderson: Has Donald Trump become liability for Florida GOP gubernatorial contenders?

I wonder if GOP gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis are feeling a little queasy.

It was a quite the global spectacle Monday, watching President Donald Trump all but genuflect to Russian “President” Vladimir Putin, but it had to be worse for Putnam and DeSantis right here in our little corner of the planet.

Both men have been unflagging in their bro-love for Trump in the lead-up to the Aug. 28 Republican primary. DeSantis has been saturating TV with ads trumpeting his endorsement by “the big man himself” while Putnam hasn’t let that little detail derail his undying allegiance to the “commander” in chief.

While that strategy may appeal to Trump’s true believers who turn out for the primary, it becomes problematic in the general election.

After the President’s inept performance Monday in his face-to-face with Putin was widely panned, even by many Republicans, close association with Trump, while always a risky election-year strategy, may be downright toxic now.

Florida voters generally approve of the president a little more than most, but it’s a stretch to think that number won’t go down after Trump sided with a dictator over his own intelligence reports regarding Russia’s covert attempt to influence the 2016 election.

That sets up a dilemma for DeSantis and Putnam.

Do they begin to distance themselves from “the big man himself” and risk the wrath of the almighty base? Or do they just pretend Monday never happened and hope so much other stuff will occur between now and November that undecided voters forget about Helsinki?

That’s not Putnam’s only problem, either.

The latest Gravis poll has him trailing DeSantis by six points. And now he may face a renewed backlash from the tweet that wouldn’t die That’s the one, almost a year ago, where he declared himself a “proud NRA sellout.”  

The Tampa Bay Times reported on a whistleblower lawsuit brought by a former supervisor at the Florida Department of Agriculture, which Putnam has headed for nearly eight years. The department is supposed to do background checks on people applying for concealed weapons permits.

The 2013 lawsuit, which was settled for $30,000, claims the supervisor, Xenia Bailey, was threatened with retaliation because office workers weren’t processing the permits quickly enough and failed to meet a daily quota. The lawsuit claimed Bailey was told she “worked for the NRA.”

Big ouch!

Putnam’s office, in a statement to the Times, denied all that.

Either way though, it’s not a good look for Putnam, who earlier faced embarrassing revelations that his department allowed 291 people to received concealed weapons permits because of a reviewing error.

Putnam once was presumed to be the GOP nominee and, by extension, Florida’s next Governor. And, this being Florida, that may yet come to pass. Or, DeSantis may be able to take advantage of Putnam’s struggles.

For victory in November to happen, though, both major Republican candidates have to ask themselves if continuing to defend some of the indefensible things Donald Trump does will cost them in the end.

Adam Putnam ad blasts Ron DeSantis on Social Security, Medicare

Adam Putnam is launching a new television spot featuring Florida seniors to denounce Republican gubernatorial primary opponent Ron DeSantis for seeking to cut Social Security and Medicare,

But there’s an added twist: Putnam’s ad attempts to divide DeSantis from his main endorser — someone very popular among Republican seniors — President Donald Trump.

“Congressman DeSantis voted to cut Social Security and Medicare … That’s not what Trump wants,” Vernon Elarth of Sun City Center states in the ad.

The 30-second spot, “Seniors First,” is the first ad Agriculture Commissioner Putnam launched directly attacking DeSantis (or even acknowledging him). It comes as the most recent polls show DeSantis surging dramatically in popularity since their nationally-televised debate in Orlando on June 28.

DeSantis came to Congress in a Tea Party surge in 2012 and has been a rock-ribbed member of the conservative Freedom Caucus since. While in Washington, he has staked out an almost quirky ultraconservative persona.

That (and his bromance support for Trump) may have won him the president’s endorsement in the Florida Governor’s race, but it also occasionally divided him from establishment state conservatives on such issues as sugar and entitlements.

In the retirement-rich Sunshine State, Putnam’s campaign is pouncing, citing three recent DeSantis budget votes, contending each could have cut Medicare or Social Security. In fact, all three measures failed.

The ad begins with Luke Amato of Sun City Center watching Trump on TV, declaring: “What we’re going to do is we’re going to save Medicare, we’re going to save Social Security.”

“Trump has got our back, but I’m not so sure about Ron DeSantis,” Amato adds.

That theme continues as Amato, Elarth and Dee Williams, also of Sun City Center, express disappointment in DeSantis, saying he wants to cut Social Security, Medicare and raise the retirement age.

“I don’t trust Ron DeSantis,” Williams declares.

Florida Democrats weighed in with a smirk, arguing that during his tenure in Congress, Putnam did the same thing, voting to gut Social Security, raise the retirement age, and “end Medicare as we know it.”

Social Security and Medicare, of course, are both federal issues outside of the reach of Florida’s next Governor.

Nevertheless, a news release from Putnam’s campaign concludes that he “is committed to putting Florida’s senior citizens first, and won’t cut benefits for seniors.”

Gwen Graham: Election could reverse Florida abortion rights

Abortion rights could be stripped away under a new-look U.S. Supreme Court, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham told a group of women Friday, and she said that as the only woman running for Florida governor she’s in the best position to preserve those rights in the state.

Graham met with more than 20 women to discuss the future of abortion in Florida, and one-by-one they told her that they were afraid rights to a safe, legal abortion could be set back decades.

Graham told them that if President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is seated on the bench, then Roe v. Wade will “probably” be overturned.

“And then the line of defense for women’s health care rights — for women to be able to determine their own rights with their own bodies — becomes the states. The states will either protect a woman’s right to choose or not,” she said. “We all know what’s on the line.”

In Florida, that could be particularly important. Republicans have held the governor’s office and both legislative branches for nearly 20 years. During that time, they’ve passed several laws making it more difficult to get an abortion. Some of those have been overturned by a liberal-leaning state Supreme Court.

Three liberal justices are retiring on the same day a new governor is sworn in. That could enable the next governor to stack the court on the issue for years to come.

The two top Republican candidates — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis — favor further restrictions on access to abortion.

Graham promised to veto any bill that in any way restricts access to abortion. She said nobody should have to worry “that we or our daughters would have to go back to the time of backroom abortions, where people were dying.”

But the women in the room did express their fear.

“If we move backward on abortion, abortions aren’t going to stop. They’re going to continue for people of means and people who have the ability to go to a different locality,” said Madelyn Skene. “They’re going to stop legal abortions for poor people, but they’re not going to stop abortion. They’ll go to the back alley.”

While Graham’s four opponents for the Democratic nomination — former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine; Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; Orlando-area businessman Chris King; and billionaire Jeff Greene — have similar positions on abortion, Graham said gender makes a difference on the issue.

“It’s time we’ve had a changed world in which women are equally represented in any conversation about our health care options,” she told reporters. “No man should ever be telling a woman whether a health care decision that she needs to make should be made thinking that government … is influencing the decision.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Mark Levin campaigns for Ron DeSantis at Trump Club in Jupiter

Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis on Saturday added Fox News personality Mark Levin to the list of conservative commentators campaigning on his behalf.

On Saturday, Levin spoke at a campaign event for DeSantis in Jupiter.

“Ron DeSantis didn’t ask me to campaign for him,” he told a crowd gathered at the Trump National Golf Club. “I asked Ron DeSantis if I could campaign for him.”

DeSantis, a Ponte Verde Republican Congressman, has appeared as a guest on Levin’s Sunday show “Life, Liberty & Levin” on Fox News, most recently June 10.

During his speech, Levin told the crowd they were lucky to have DeSantis on the ballot.

“You are very fortunate here in Florida,” he said. “And I have a home here in Florida too. This matters to me.”

DeSantis’ bid for governor has leaned strongly on his endorsement from President Donald Trump, but the arrival of other national figures has also served to energize his base. Fox News’ top-rated personality, Sean Hannity, campaigned for DeSantis in Fort Myers earlier this month. And Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, will campaign with DeSantis in Orlando on Wednesday.

“Mark is somebody who is a friend of mine,” DeSantis told supporter, “and his support for me means an awful lot.”

DeSantis and Levin were joined at the Saturday stop by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and by conservative commentator Dan Bongino.

Gaetz during his time on stage stressed the importance of having a governor closely aligned with the White House.

“If the governor in Florida has a strong and trusting relationship with the president, it really advances our opportunity to get ahead of those liberal blue states that are always wanting to raise taxes.

And DeSantis also threw barbs at primary opponent Adam Putnam, whom he labeled a “transactional Republican supported by all the good old boys and insiders in Tallahassee.”

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