The coming Andrew Gillum vs. Ron DeSantis general election

Gillum DeSantis

Anyone else have the sinking feeling that Florida political pundits will wake up the day after the primary election and be forced to offer their best impressions of Vizzini from “The Princess Bride”?

“Inconceivable,” they will all exclaim, just as the Sicilian criminal mastermind did after the hero Westley bested Vizzini’s giant (lovingly played by Andre the Giant) and his Spanish swordsman (Mandy Patinkin before he got all serious for “Homeland”).

The pundits will double-check the headlines, slap their foreheads, and say it again and again: “Inconceivable.”

How did DeSantis, the derpish, one-trick pony upend the $50 million machine of Adam Putnam?

How did Gillum, the scandalized, cash-strapped not-strong mayor finish ahead of a billionaire (Jeff Greene), a mega-millionaire (Philip Levine), a multi-multi millionaire (Chris King), and the scion of the Graham family (Gwen Graham)?

If the election were today, no, DeSantis would probably not beat Putnam, nor would Gillum finish first in the five-way Democratic primary. Right now, the cone of certainty projects a Putnam vs. Gra’m-vine general election.

And while it’s possible that DeSantis will edge out Putnam or Gillum will win the Democratic nomination, the prospect of both of these upsets occurring is, well, inconceivable. 

Except the idea of DeSantis and Gillum emerging from the primaries is much less inconceivable than it was only a month ago.

On the Republican side of the aisle, it feels like the last quarter of a football game and Putnam is ahead by more than a touchdown. Can DeSantis close the gap while Putnam barrages him with television and digital ads?

For its part, Team DeSantis feels very confident. It believes it handily won the first debate between the two candidates, which was broadcast on Fox News.

President Donald Trump, who is as popular with Republicans as Pope Francis is with Jesuit priests, has doubled-down on his endorsement of the Ponte Vedra Republican.

Over the weekend, two polls, including internal numbers from the DeSantis campaign, provided shocking results. A survey from Remingtion Research Group on behalf of the Tenth Amendment Project has DeSantis up 17 points over Putnam. The internal poll pegged DeSantis at +19.

“Same poll shows the U.S. up by 2 goals in the World Cup finals,” tweeted Democratic strategist Steve Schale.

Certainly both surveys should be taken with shakers of salt, but they will drive the narrative that the race has turned in DeSantis’ favor.

All DeSantis has to do now is hope that POTUS schedules a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds for about the same time as when early voters begin to receive their ballots.

Gillum’s path to victory is steeper, albeit simpler, than DeSantis’. He just needs black voters to turn out at their traditional performance levels and hold on to 80 percent of them. Add to them some of the Bernie Bro crowd and that should be just enough to hold off Graham in this cycle of the female candidate.

To his credit, Gillum’s not just playing the race card. In fact, the hand he’s playing from is filled with progressive trump cards. On issue after issue, Gillum seemingly barrels over his opponents to stake out the most progressive policy position.

He’s also heads-and-shoulders the best retail pol in the Democratic bunch. He has outshined his opponents at the candidate forums and debates and all the other places on the campaign trail. As the Miami Herald’s David Smiley noted during Gillum’s speech at the Florida Democratic Party’s annual gathering, “If elections were decided by applause, Gillum would be in good shape.”

Until recently, Gillum didn’t have the money to communicate to black voters that he was a black candidate. But that was before billionaire Tom Steyer and his Next Gen America organization stepped in with its commitment of at least a $1 million for Gillum’s campaign. That’s on top of however much George Soros has given and will give to Gillum.

And that’s what Gillum and DeSantis have in common: They are both heavily depending on figures perceived as bogeymen by the opposing party.

DeSantis has Trump.

Gillum has Steyer, the most prominent progressive calling for Trump’s impeachment.

DeSantis’ second home is a set on Fox News. Gillum has probably made more appearances on MSNBC than the rest of the Democratic field combined.

DeSantis wants to spread the message of #MAGA to Florida.

Gillum wants to make the state ground zero for #Resist.

If DeSantis and Gillum emerge from the primaries to square off against each other, it will be the basest of general elections the Sunshine State has likely ever seen.

But if DeSantis and Gillum have something in common it is that both candidates are who the opposing party wants to run against.

Increasingly, it looks like each side will get their wish.

Peter Schorsch

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 Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the 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.


  • Domino

    July 8, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Gillum’s dark money attack on Graham make Levine the heavy favorite.

  • Sister Sandy

    July 8, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    What about Gillum supposedly being backed by the Fanjuls of Big Sugar?

    • Paul

      July 9, 2018 at 8:46 am

      Putnam is the Fanjuls man.

  • Robbin Bray

    July 9, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Dark money? Oh you mean the PAC that is supporting minority candidates? Well, in that case, we are dark (pun intended). And there is definitely no sugar involved. Let’s not deal in alternate facts. There is a whole party of people already doing that.

    • Jay

      July 9, 2018 at 9:15 am

      The “Dark Money” was not referring to race, but rather the fact that the PAC won’t disclose where the money came from. Please know facts before claiming they are alternative.

      • Robbin Bray

        July 9, 2018 at 6:28 pm

        “Dark” was a pun. But it just so happens that the Collective PAC is dark in color also.

    • Domino

      July 9, 2018 at 9:31 am

      No darker than me. Jump to conclusions much?

      • Robbin Bray

        July 9, 2018 at 6:27 pm

        The Collective Pac is the “dark money” that you are referring that is supporting Gillum. “That’s where The Collective PAC comes in. It’s a Black-run, innovative political action committee, gaining national attention for training Black candidates to fundraise, run for office and win big.” I knew exactly what I was saying. So no, I wasn’t just jumping to conclusions, just stating the facts.

  • Robert

    July 9, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Can we retire the tired and inaccurate misnomer “Bernie Bro” from political discourse?

  • Cinderella

    July 9, 2018 at 9:35 am

    This fairy tale belongs with the one Peter wrote about Jack Latvala surviving sexual harassment claims.

    • Peter Schorsch

      July 9, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Normally I would not include this kind of comment, because it’s untrue. I never wrote that Latvala would survive or not survive.

  • Spiro

    July 9, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    A bit of false equivalence here–Gillum is no where near the dangerous extremist that DeSantis is (or Putnam is)….

    • Jay

      July 10, 2018 at 7:19 am

      Gillum is nothing but a headline baiting politician. He only talks about the big headlines at the time and jumps on every Liberal bandwagon there is. Besides education, his campaign is nothing but what is the media covering today.
      I live in Tallahassee, and he has done very little to help our community. He won’t even campaign here because he knows he won’t get votes here. So why would anyone want to vote for someone who can’t even run a city? Floridians won’t even donate money to his campaign. He has to go outside of the state to get the majority of his campaign funding.

  • Dan Liftman

    July 9, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    Not going to happen. Chris King will be the Democratic nominee and our next governor. Soros and Steyer should take their money and go home.

    • Robbin Bray

      July 9, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      I like Chris King too. He just seems really far behind in the polls-if they are anywhere near accurate. He definitely seems like a great candidate.

  • Richard Paul Dembinsky

    July 14, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    Ladies and Gentlemen, posting comments…YOU all may be correct…but unless I get a call or email from Jeff Greene or his campaign…I have today decided to go with Andrew Gillum. I will be voting absentee from our Michigan Summer Home….There just is something about Jeff Greene…getting rich at the main place in Florida that limits access or view of the ocean….The Breakers….

    Unless, Jeff Greene contacts me….Andrew Gillum….NOT Gwen…this is not the year of the women…even though someone is pushing Gwen by email. (California New Yorker) Zee Cohen?

Comments are closed.


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