Adam Putnam doesn’t need to drop out, but he should pull his negative ads

Adam Putnam

You fool, Prince Geoffrey says to his brother Richard in the dungeon scene from “The Lion in Winter.” “As if the way one fell down mattered.”

“When the fall is all there is, it matters,” retorts Richard the Lionheart.

For Adam Putnam, who is just 44 years old but has already served in the Florida Legislature, the U.S House of Representatives, and on the Florida Cabinet, the fall is all there is.

In poll after damning poll of the GOP primary for Florida governor, Putnam trails U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis by numbers too great for him to overcome in the final weeks of the campaign. The dire nature of Putnam’s predicament is worse than what the polling reveals because early voters are casting their ballots now. Even if Putnam were to rise in the polls during the last days of the campaign — and there is no evidence to suggest he will — it will be too late.

(Two quick asides here: First, Team DeSantis shouldn’t act as if it has done anything particularly wonderful to put themselves in this position; remember, DeSantis was an also-run in the 2016 GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat Marco Rubio had briefly decided against running for. The only difference between then and now is Trump’s Twitter account. Second, as Putnam’s position worsens, keep in mind that 63 percent of the “insiders” surveyed JUST TWO WEEKS AGO by the Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith were still predicting Putnam would win the GOP nomination.)

The only question to be answered by the election results is whether Putnam can do better versus DeSantis than Tom Gallagher did against Charlie Crist in 2006. The margin in that race was 30.5 percentage points. It may seem ridiculous to suggest that Putnam — who in June was leading DeSantis by as much as 10 points — could lose 2-to-1, but that’s the power of a Donald Trump endorsement.

There is no clearer indication of the state of the race than the flurry of activity along Adams Street in Tallahassee, where many of the state’s most prominent lobbying shops have offices. Six months ago, these lobbyists were competing with each other over who could deliver the bigger check to Putnam’s political committee. Today, the question these same people are asking is how can they “get right” with DeSantis. The bandwagon is already crowded.

(The answer, by the way, to getting right with DeSantis is simple: Whatever the amount was on the check to Putnam needs to be doubled to DeSantis in the general election.)

Some, including Steve Hantler for RealClearPolitics, are suggesting that Putnam should immediately bow out of the race and back DeSantis.

“Putnam need not light his hair on fire and go out in a blaze of glory, fighting to the bitter end in a GOP battle that can only serve to weaken the candidate most likely to face Graham in the fall,” writes Hantler.

I disagree, albeit only partially.

Putnam should not drop out.

He has done nothing scandalous to warrant withdrawing from the race. In fact, the same polling that shows him losing to DeSantis also shows Putnam with pretty decent favorability numbers. If you look at the size of the crowds attending Putnam’s rallies, it’s evident that folks still want to hear what he has to say.

Putnam dropping out would also send a horrible message to every young person coming up in politics. It would tell them that when the going gets tough, the tough … um … quit and head back to Bartow. By sticking in the race, no matter how daunting the odds, Putnam can play the role of Don Beebe and show everyone that even when you are down 52-17 in the Super Bowl, you still try to chase down showboaters like Leon Lett.

Putnam also needs to make sure that he doesn’t spend all of his political committee’s money on this race. He should save $1 million for future endeavors and, more important, $500,000 or so to take care of the staffers who have stayed with his thus far. They may have trouble finding work immediately after this campaign, so he needs to do right by them.

Most important, Putnam needs to pull down any negative ads he’s running against DeSantis.

On Friday, Putnam launched a new salvo against DeSantis, low-lighting DeSantis’ “betrayal” of Florida. The ad ain’t pretty.

It’s a double-edged sword for Putnam. The best way for him to cut into DeSantis lead is by going negative. The worst thing Putnam can do to his reputation is attempting to tear down DeSantis.

Putnam should take a look at what happened in Georgia, where a similar situation played out in that state’s GOP primary for Governor.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein, the Putnamesque candidate, Casey Cagle let loose. He amped up his negative attacks on the Trump-backed Brian Kemp. His final ad was particularly scathing — and Cagle hoped that low voter turnout favored his campaign. But his attempts fell flat.

At one of his final campaign events, Cagle sounded a wistful tone about what could have been. He vented about the negativity that dominated the race.

“It’s always easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and look back,” he said. “I wish we had run ads telling my story, the story of where I came from, to be able to be where I am today is a story of the American dream.”

Putnam should avoid Cagle’s fate — not the part about losing to a Trump-backed opponent — but of going so negative in the final stages of the campaign that Republican voters punish you with a rout instead of a loss.

Putnam should finish his campaign by telling his story. Republicans still want to hear that.

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.


  • stickyfrog

    August 6, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Negative ads are fine as long as they are truthful. Putnam’s are not truthful. Take the sales tax ad. He claims DeSantis backed a measure to increase the sales tax by 23%. He completely leaves out that it was support of the FairTax and that the 23% sales tax is a national sales tax that would replace income, corporate and most other federal taxes. The ad is designed to leave the impression that DeSantis favors and state sales tax increase.

    I had considered Putnam up until he started doing this kind of thing which shows he is just another, self-interested, desperate politician. No thank you.

  • Spiro

    August 6, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    DeSantis and Putnam are both ridiculous right wing extremists of the worst kind who should continue to tear each other apart, as should all other gop’ers .

    • stickyfrog

      August 6, 2018 at 12:37 pm

      Surprised a troll comment that ads nothing was allowed.

  • Artwork

    August 6, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    He should pull out. He’s toast.

    And, the negative ads helped sink him. It was a real turn-off. Up until that garbage, I would have voted for Putnam. But, the ads were such blatant lies that everyone could see through them.

  • Karen

    August 7, 2018 at 8:04 am

    Why would the Putnam group think they can lie to voters and get away with it? While they like to think voters are sheep they are quickly learning that people really do pay attention. Unfortunately Putnam has some real baggage like the land deal that made his family much wealthier than they already were at taxpayers expense & lying about the Fair Tax. Being a no Trumper then jumping on the train was a big mistake. He’s an establishment darling whereas DeSantis is fresh and clean. Florida needs a swamp drainer not a swamp dweller.

Comments are closed.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn