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Ron DeSantis says nothing has changed with Donald Trump

With reports that his political benefactor President Donald Trump considers him disloyal because of their differences on Puerto Rico death tolls, Ron DeSantis insisted Wednesday that nothing has changed between the two.

“I don’t think anything has changed. I think we’re good,” the Republican nominee for Governor said when asked for comment on reports Trump was upset with him.

DeSantis, in Ocoee Wednesday to discuss his education platform at a private Christian school, said he still expects Trump to campaign for him in Florida, though a POLITICO story Tuesday reported that insiders say the president was furious with the congressman, calling him disloyal for backing Trump’s claims that his political enemies are exaggerating Hurricane Maria death tolls.

Last week, DeSantis tweeted he saw no reason to dismiss estimates that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the massive hurricane one year ago Thursday, as well as during the long recovery for much of the year in which parts of the island were without power, clean running water and health care services.

When asked if he thought Trump would still campaign for him, DeSantis replied with one word:

“Sure.”

He did not elaborate. And he was not asked and did not clarify from what point nothing had changed.

Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis, and his campaign event with him in Tampa in July propelled the Ponte Vedra Beach congressman far ahead of his Republican primary rival, Adam Putnam, and the agriculture commissioner never recovered. Throughout the primary campaign, DeSantis made a strong case that he and Trump stood together, touting that relationship as a central part of his campaign advertising.

In recent weeks, however, DeSantis toned down (if not turned off) discussion of his connection with Trump. For example, he selected Jeanette Nunez, once a fervent #NeverTrump Republican, as his running mate. And at the Republican Party’s big fall campaign kickoff rally two weeks ago in Orlando, DeSantis never mentioned Trump in his speech.

On Wednesday DeSantis also declined to say whether he recently spoke with Trump.

“That’s private,” he said.

Personnel note: Beau Beaubien joins Ron DeSantis campaign

Beau Beaubien has left the Attorney General’s Office to become political director for Republican former Congressman Ron DeSantis‘ campaign for Governor.

From DeSantis adviser Brad Herold: “From grassroots advocacy to election law to legislative affairs, Beau is an effective and proven operative.

“Beau’s extensive relationships in Tallahassee and throughout our state will prove immensely valuable, and we are excited to have him onboard.”

Beaubien had been Special Counsel for Attorney General Pam Bondi since January. Before that, he was an associate at the Coates Law Firm in Tallahassee, focusing on ethics and elections law.

He’s been a Legislative intern at the Florida House of Representatives and a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Beaubien got his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 2005, and a law degree from Florida State University in 2012.

Something very weird is happening in Florida politics …

If you pay close attention to the national political reporters, a blue wave the size of the one that capsized the Poseidon is about to usher in Democratic control of the U.S. House and possibly the Senate.

The significant forecasters, including Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight, the Cook Political Report, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball basically give the Democrats a 3-in-4 chance of retaking the House in November.

Of course, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast gave Hillary Clinton a 7-in-10 chance of winning the presidential election in 2016, but where the election cycle stands now, it just feels like a wave election, at least nationally.

In Florida, however, something very weird is happening.

With less than fifty days before the general election, Florida voters, in typical Florida voter fashion, are poised to send a very mixed message to Tallahassee and Washington.

Inexplicably, there is both a blue wave developing at the top of the ballot, but there is also a very definitive red wall forming down ballot.

Consider:

Andrew Gillum is inarguably leading the race for Florida Governor. He’s led in every public poll since winning the primary election on August 28. The latest number, via a Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics poll released Wednesday, gives the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee a six-point lead over Republican Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis isn’t floundering, but he is, as some in his own campaign said, “sucking wind.”

Despite knowing since late June that he would be the GOP nominee, he has struggled to put forth a compelling policy platform (although he rolled out some education proposals on Tuesday) and can’t seem to go a day without running into a racially charged backstory.

Tuesday may have been the worst day yet for his campaign as POLITICO reported that DeSantis had angered the one election god he’s prayed to since entering the race: Donald Trump. The President has been privately criticizing DeSantis and accusing him of disloyalty after the former congressman publicly broke with him over the official death toll in Puerto Rico.

Like LBJ and Walter Cronkite, if DeSantis loses Trump, well …

There’s more than enough time for DeSantis to right the ship, especially since there are so many lines of criticism by which to attack Gillum. But three weeks after the primary, DeSantis still seems to be getting his sea legs.

It’s really not unfair to say that he appears to be the least-ready-for-primetime gubernatorial candidate since Bill McBride‘s run in 1998.

Yet while Gillum has an early lead over DeSantis, it would appear Gillum’s fellow Democrat, Bill Nelson, is about to be bounced from office.

Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is out with a new ranking of incumbent Democratic Senators’ re-election odds, and Nelson is the “most vulnerable” of the two dozen Dems seeking another term in November

“It might seem surprising that the fundamentals calculation regards Florida’s Bill Nelson as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent since Florida is quite purple and there are Democrats up for re-election in some genuinely red states” … “Nelson has a very good challenger in Florida Gov. Rick Scott; one way our model accounts for candidate quality is by looking at the highest elected office the opponent has held, with races against current or former governors or senators falling into the top category.”

FiveThirtyEight also notes the fundraising advantage Scott has given himself by whipping out his checkbook and states that despite the “fundamentals” of the race — non-polling indicators such as fundraising totals, past margins of victory and incumbency — showing Nelson up 7 points over Scott, only focusing on the polls tells a different story.

FiveThirtyEight’s current polls-only estimate predicts Nelson will lose by a tenth of a point on Election Day.

Gillum wins. Zig.

Scott wins. Zag.

The back-and-forth between Democrats and Republican continues through the rest of the statewide races. Republican Ashley Moody leads Democrat Sean Shaw in the Attorney General race. But Democrat Nikki Fried looks ready to “upset” Republican Matt Caldwell in the Agriculture Commissioner contest. Meanwhile, Republican Jimmy Patronis is favored to defeat Democrat Jeremy Ring.

Zig. Zag. Zig.

Perhaps more interesting — or is it confounding? — is what is taking place down the ballot.

Despite all of the talk of a blue wave crashing into congressional politics, Florida’s delegation looks like it will, on a partisan level, remain the same (even if there are some new faces).

In battleground CD 26, which Axios just labeled as one of 8 races that will determine if this really is a wave election, Republican Carlos Curbelo holds a three-point lead over Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell according to a new poll by The New York Times. New polling in CD 27, which Clinton carried by nearly 20 points two years ago, shows that Republican Maria Elvira Salazar has caught Donna Shalala, the Democratic nominee, “sleeping.” According to Marc Caputo of POLITICO, Salazar leads the former Clinton Foundation head by 7 points in a poll conducted for the Republican’s campaign that was completed Thursday.

In a poll from Shalala’s campaign, completed Sept. 1, the Democrat leads Salazar by four percentage points.

If Republicans hold on to CD 26 and, miraculously, CD 27, there will be no way to define this year as a wave election. Period.

But just as CD 26 and CD 27 zig and zag, other congressional seats which shouldn’t be in play are precisely that. There’s polling in CD 7 (held by Democrat Stephanie Murphy) showing that race close. There’s also interesting numbers coming out of red meat CD 15. And national Democrats will bet the money in their PredictIt accounts that Republican incumbents Gus Bilirakis and Vern Buchanan are vulnerable.

So maybe a wave IS gonna strike, just not in the places the experts expect.

If the congressional races are scattershot, the five or six races that will determine control of the Florida Senate should provide some comfort for Florida Republicans. According to new surveys from St. Pete Polls, the baselines in SD 8, 16, 18, and 22, all indicate that the Republican red wall may bend, but is not ready to break.

Take a look at the numbers in SD 8, where incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry has a big lead over Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking in the race for the Gainesville-based seat. If you look at the sample behind that poll, you’ll see that it skews to Democrats and independents. Yet Perry is eleven points ahead.

It’s difficult to make heads and tails out of numbers like those.

So put all of the numbers into one perspective.

There you’ll see that Florida voters are poised to elect a Democratic governor to succeed a Republican one; that GOP governor is likely to upset the Democratic U.S. Senator. Republican congressional candidates are holding tight in places they should be losing, but Democrats are competitive in places they sometimes don’t even field a candidate. Meanwhile, the Republican state legislators who so often draw the ire of the editorial boards are in strong positions against the best crop of Democratic state Senate candidates seen in some time.

Sure the polls are very likely to change between now and Nov. 6. But as it stands right now … blue wave … red wall … whatever … something weird is happening in Florida politics.

Andrew Gillum leading Ron DeSantis for Governor, latest poll says

A new survey from Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics shows Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum with a six-point lead over his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis.

The poll captured numbers in several competitive races nationwide. The results showed Gillum earning 50 percent of the vote, with DeSantis sitting at 44 percent.

What should worry the GOP: That lead is outside the survey’s four-point “credibility interval,” indicating Gillum’s lead is legitimate.

The overall survey was conducted online Sept. 5-17 and surveyed 1,000 likely voters.

The group also showed Gov. Rick Scott with a one-point lead over incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Reuters’ poll showing Gillum ahead is in line with other measures of the race giving Gillum the lead.

The newest results also come as President Donald Trump is apparently upset with DeSantis. Trump’s anger reportedly stems from the former congressman’s rebuke of President Trump’s remarks regarding the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

DeSantis’ primary win over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was largely seen as a result of Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis.

According to POLITICO, Trump feels DeSantis owes him loyalty and he saw DeSantis’ public criticism as a betrayal.

Whether those feelings will linger and lead to a tamping down of support from the President remains to be seen.

Given recent poll numbers and Trump’s grip on the Republican Party base, DeSantis likely needs that Trump bump come Nov. 6.

Ron DeSantis education proposals spotlight workforce training, school choice

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis rolled out a raft of education proposals on Tuesday, fleshing out his platform as the general election season continues.

His timing was no accident. His Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum held a press conference at noon talking about his own proposals.

DeSantis’ plan has considerable overlap in at least one area with that of his dispatched primary opponent, Adam Putnam, who enthused about the need for vocational and trade education.

Vowing to “work with leaders from K-12 schools, postsecondary education, and the business community to better support career and technical education and apprenticeships, and to make sure Florida’s education is meeting the needs of our students and economy,” DeSantis’ words hearken back to the appeals of Putnam on the stump during the summer.

DeSantis also proposes that 80 percent of education spending go into the classroom, with an operational and financial audit of the Department of Education to highlight opportunities for improvement.

School choice is also a priority for much of the Republican’s financial base, and the nominee allays any potential qualms from the donor class. DeSantis “will support school choice options such as public magnet schools, district and non-district managed public charter schools, Florida Virtual School, home education, and the various other choice options.”

He also vows to incentivize teacher retention in high-need areas, such as special needs students, and to tweak performance incentives to have merit pay based on classroom performance.

DeSantis also promises a “complete review” of curriculum standards, including a renewed emphasis on civics education and the United States Constitution in those classes.

Regarding Florida’s higher education system, DeSantis vows to increase performance funding — a model that has been criticized for perceived inefficiencies by universities that have gotten short shrift in the formula.

DeSantis’ proposals got a cool reception from Florida Education Association (FEA) President Joanne McCall.

In a statement, McCall noted that the plan wouldn’t increase education funding, including raising funding levels to assist in recruiting and retaining teachers.

“The bottom line is DeSantis’ education plan will continue to drain more dollars from the system that educates the great majority of our state’s students, and will send that money to unaccountable private schools. It’s a raw deal for Florida’s students, teachers and education staff professionals, and our public schools,” McCall warned.

In Yom Kippur statement, Andrew Gillum vows to protect Israeli ‘safety and security’

Facing criticisms from Republicans of not being sufficiently pro-Israel, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum sought to clarify his position and allay concerns Tuesday.

Gillum’s platform: A statement from his campaign for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, in which Gillum asserted “ensuring lasting safety and security for Israel is an unquestionable priority and that building peace is one of the great causes of our time.”

The candidate notes that the restorative concept of “tikkun olam” is “important and necessary in Israel, where the deadly cycle of violence incited by Hamas continued for yet another year.”

The Democratic nominee describes his own visit to Israel, where he “met Israeli and Palestinian children, who looked at me with the same hope in their eyes,” before again clarifying his position that Israel is besieged.

“I saw first hand how the threat of Katyusha rockets affected the everyday lives of Israelis — no one could deny that ensuring lasting safety and security for Israel is an unquestionable priority and that building peace is one of the great causes of our time,” Gillum asserted.

“Let us work together to fight the scourge of anti-Semitism. Let us look forward to the day when Israeli and Palestinian boys and girls will grow up with peace, security, and prosperity. Let us work together in the cause of peace, to stand with Israel and with all people yearning to be free from violence,” Gillum added.

As the Tampa Bay Times reported this week, Gillum has had to clarify his position on Israel.

While he supports the “two-state solution,” Gillum does not support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, despite having gotten money from the BDS-linked Dream Defenders.

He also has gone on record saying he did not support the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Money comes from near and far in Governor’s race

With money streaming in from across the country, Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum raised more than $2.7 million during the first week in September in their clash to become Florida Governor.

The contributions went to the candidates and their closely aligned political committees, with DeSantis having an edge. The Republican pulled in $1.4 million from Sept. 1 through Sept. 7, while Gillum raised nearly $1.32 million, according to newly filed reports with the state Division of Elections.

The fundraising period represented the first full week after DeSantis, a former Northeast Florida congressman, and Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, dispatched their opponents in the Aug. 28 primary elections. The totals are a hint of what is to come this fall as DeSantis and Gillum compete in one of the biggest Governor’s races in the country — and also don’t reflect the millions of dollars that the political parties and outside groups have already started pouring into the campaign.

DeSantis raised $380,951 for his campaign account and $1.023 million for the committee Friends of Ron DeSantis during the week, the reports show. DeSantis had a combined total of nearly $2.57 million in cash on hand as Sept. 7.

Gillum, meanwhile, raised $874,285 for his campaign account and $445,500 for the committee known as Forward Florida, according to the reports. Gillum had a combined total of about $5.17 million in cash on hand at the end of the period.

As a sign of the high-profile nature of the campaign, both candidates hauled in contributions from across the country — often from small donors.

Among the nearly 2,000 separate contributions that came into DeSantis’ campaign account during the first week of September, about 1,800 were for $250 or less. Contributions came from 49 states, only missing Alaska.

Gillum’s campaign account, meanwhile, received more than 14,000 separate contributions from all 50 states during the week. Of those, Gillum received 13,661 contributions of $250 or less.

Individual contributions to the candidates’ campaign accounts are limited to $3,000, but the closely aligned political committees do not face such limits. As a result, while the candidates’ campaigns received thousands of small contributions, the committees reeled in large checks.

The more than $1 million that the DeSantis committee raised in early September came from 43 donors, according to the Division of Elections website. As examples of the contributions were $250,000 from Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus and $50,000 from Conservative Principles for Florida, a political committee headed by incoming state House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican.

The $445,000 raised during the week by Gillum’s committee, meanwhile, came in seven contributions. Among them was a $200,000 contribution from West Palm Beach attorney Chris Searcy, according to the committee’s report.

Florida GOP says it raised $7.6M in two weeks

Republican Party of Florida Chair Blaise Ingoglia put out a statement Monday claiming the party has raised more than $7.6 million for the 17-day stretch ending Sept. 14.

“Since the Primary Election, the Republican Party of Florida has raised more than $7.6 million,” Ingoglia said.

“The financial strength of the party is a direct reflection of the enthusiasm for the strong bench of conservative candidates on the ballot. This significant total also symbolizes the growing momentum for Ron DeSantis as Florida’s next governor and his plan to keep our economy strong, invest in education and solve our water issues.”

The release, however, did not specify whether those funds came in through true fundraising or were pass-through contributions from other political committees.

It included a disclaimer stating that “specific amounts will be submitted in the next quarterly report due to the Florida Division of Elections on Nov. 2, 2018.” That reporting deadline comes just four days ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

A search of the Florida Division of Elections’ expenditure data for accounts with stricter reporting requirements shows $1.15 million in contributions to RPOF from a handful of political committees, with about half that sum coming from DeSantis’ soft money account, Friends of Ron DeSantis.

Florida Prosperity Fund, a political committee tied to business group Associated Industries of Florida, chipped in $250,000 on Aug. 29, while Palm Harbor Rep. Chris Sprowls’ committee, Floridians For Economic Freedom, cut a $150,000 check and the Florida Phosphate Political Committee gave $125,000.

The fundraising announcement comes just a few weeks after RPOF announced $7.46 million in fundraising for the reporting period covering April 1 through Aug. 23. Heading into the primary election, the party executive committee had a little over $16 million in the bank.

By comparison, the Florida Democratic Party raised $7.33 million during the same reporting period and had $9.64 million banked on Aug. 23.

The RPOF funds are in addition to the major haul reported by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano.

That committee posted $7.2 million in receipts in its April through August report while the Democratic equivalent, the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, brought in a little over $867,000.

Two debates planned between Ron DeSantis, Andrew Gillum

The gubernatorial nominees have agreed to two debates ahead of Election Day.

Republican nominee Ron DeSantis accepted a Leadership Florida debate and CNN town hall on Monday, a few days after Democrat Andrew Gillum said he also would attend the forums. 

The Leadership Florida debate, according to the Gillum campaign, will take place Oct. 24 at Broward College. The CNN debate will be in Tampa, but the date is not yet set. 

DeSantis, in accepting debate invitations, opened the door for three more: Fox News, CBS Miami with Jim DeFede and Telemundo in Orlando.

“I’ll debate [Andrew Gillum] whenever possible—because his high-tax, far-left policies would be a disaster for Florida,” DeSantis tweeted.

But DeSantis left unanswered a third forum Gillum accepted: Univision 23 in Miami.

That sort of silence has proved to be fodder for both parties in multiple races.

The Gillum campaign and the Florida Democratic Party spent the weekend hammering DeSantis for not having immediately accepted the same debates that Gillum accepted on Saturday. 

When the Gillum campaign announced on Sunday that the Tallahassee mayor also would attend a CNN town hall, campaign adviser Scott Arceneaux said: “DeSantis is refusing to accept any debates because he has no real plans for moving Florida forward.”

A spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party in a statement earlier on Monday said: “In a major break with tradition, Ron DeSantis is refusing to debate Andrew Gillum.”

But now, there are three pending forums the Gillum campaign must answer to. As of publishing, Gillum’s team has yet to indicate whether it will attend the additional debates DeSantis announced earlier on Monday.

“Florida voters deserve to hear from both Mayor Gillum and Congressman DeSantis about their plans for the Sunshine State, and we’re proud to move forward accordingly,” said Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s communications director.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate race the Republican candidate has made a campaign issue of incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson’s delay of response to live forums.

Per Republican challenger Rick Scott’s count, he’s accepted four debates ahead of Nov. 6.

Nelson’s RSVP’d to just one.

In a dig at the sitting senator, Scott suggested on Twitter earlier on Monday that Nelson accept more debates.

Ron DeSantis, Andrew Gillum pile up matching funds

Gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum continue to be the biggest beneficiaries of Florida’s matching-funds program, which has doled out $5.36 million to statewide candidates this year.

DeSantis, the Republican nominee, received $96,938 from the program Friday, while Democratic candidate Gillum got $62,390, according to figures posted online by the state Division of Elections.

DeSantis has received an overall total of more than $1.152 million from the program, which matches individual contributions of $250 or less. Since winning the Aug. 28 Republican primary, DeSantis has received $176,426 from the state. Among the nearly 2,000 separate contributions that came into DeSantis’ campaign from across the country during the first week in September, about 1,800 were of $250 or less.

Gillum has now received $620,631 through the matching-funds program, including $125,567 since the Aug. 28 primary. In September’s first seven days, Gillum received 13,661 contributions of $250 or less. Gillum, DeSantis and three other statewide candidates are taking part in the matching-funds program. The governor’s race has accounted for just over $4 million of the overall total, with two candidates who lost in the primaries — Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican Adam Putnam — also tapping into it.

Among the candidates for attorney general, Republican nominee Ashley Moody received $760 in matching funds on Friday and has received $380,935 from the state. Democratic candidate Sean Shaw got a check for $10,391 on Friday and has received $233,093 from the program.

In the race for state chief financial officer, incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis received a check for $4,200 on Friday. Patronis has received $309,305 through the state program. Democratic candidate Jeremy Ring has not taken part in the voluntary program.

The amount of matching funds in this year’s elections appears likely to dwarf the amount in the 2014 midterm elections. In 2014, two candidates for governor and four candidates seeking Cabinet positions drew $4.1 million from the matching-funds program during the primary and general elections.

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