Philip Levine believes his primary bid for Governor will come down to the wire on Tuesday, and the winner will undoubtedly face Republican candidate Ron DeSantis.
Levine spoke briefly with reporters Wednesday in the capital city, where he’ll reside if he’s victorious in the Aug. 28 primary and the following general election. Tallahassee is home to Democratic opponent Gwen Graham, who’s slightly ahead and in some cases behind Levine in most public polls. It’s also the stomping grounds of the city’s Mayor, Andrew Gillum.
“I understand myself and Gwen are right at the top,” Levine said shortly before a new poll gave him a one-point lead over the former Congresswoman. He’s aware the race could be a photo finish but believes his enormous investment in ground efforts — including 14 satellite campaign offices peppered across the state — will help him prevail. He spoke to supporters at Florida State University earlier on Wednesday and plans to hit the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida before the day’s end.
While confident but ultimately uncertain in his own race, Levine offered no wiggle room in the Republican primary: DeSantis, the Donald Trump-backed Ponte Vedra Congressman, will be the nominee.
A matchup against DeSantis, Levine said, means a fight against the President.
“I believe I’m the right one to go toe-to-toe,” the former Mayor of Miami Beach said. “This is going to be a fight between the Democratic nominee and the White House.”
He was asked whether his anti-Trump messaging was influenced by Democratic opponent Jeff Greene’s self-depiction of being Trump’s adversary, especially through television ads.
Not so. He said he began to bring up Trump “when the Donald got more involved in Florida.”
The President intervened in late June when he formally backed DeSantis on Twitter. Trump followed that endorsement with a campaign rally alongside DeSantis in late July.
Levine, who has had recent beef with Greene via battling television ads, also took a shot at the Palm Beach billionaire’s latest dip in the polls.
“We don’t have to worry about him too much anymore,” Levine said. “Based on the recent polls, I don’t think he’s too relevant anymore.”
Greene on Monday pledged to spend $5 million to get Democrats elected down the ballot, including those in hotly contested races to take back the state Senate.
Levine dismissed that as a political strategy and questioned whether Greene would still spend big on the party if he doesn’t get past the primary. He also contrasted himself with Greene, saying that before the race he spent “millions” to get Democrats elected.
“People talk about all of the things they’re going to do in the future,” Levine said. “They never talk about the things they’ve actually done.”
We asked Levine what he thinks of the Gillum campaign’s claim that their candidate is surging. Most recent polls have Gillum at third, an indubious jump that followed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ recent endorsement of and two rallies alongside Gillum. And Gillum’s campaign released results of an internal survey on Tuesday showing the Tallahassee Mayor leading both Graham and Levine by 10 points.
“I can’t comment on someone’s internal poll,” Levine said. But noted the results are an outlier from his constant internal polling and public polls.
He added: “We’ll know Tuesday night how accurate they are.”