The electability lesson Florida Democrats learned in 2018: Biden-bashing Dems should be sure to study Gillum-DeSantis

Motivating your base only works if you don’t motivate the other side more

When I spelled out the reasons last week why Joe Biden was leading Democrats’ electability conversations, it elicited some impassioned responses from progressive readers who believe the party needs to go in a different direction if it doesn’t want a repeat of the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2020.

“You win by getting Democrats to the polls,” one reader commented on the column.  “You don’t get them to the polls by picking a cringeworthy candidate people don’t want.”

“I will NOT support another politician owned by corporations. Screw you Pransky,” wrote another follower.

But something tells me those individuals will be voting blue in 2020 regardless of the presidential candidate.

I explained Democrats – who will have their hands full in toss-up swing states – need a nominee who increases their enthusiasm levels more than he or she increases that of Republicans’. And right now, that bar is pretty high for liberals who are hell-bent on replacing President Trump with anyone from the left.

Just ask Florida’s former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, whose far-left platform seemed to motivate Republicans more than it did Democrats. 

Despite 2018’s Blue Wave that flipped a pair of Florida congressional seats, put a Democrat in the Cabinet for the first time in decades, and nearly carried a lackluster-at-best Bill Nelson past a well-organized Rick Scott, Gillum still lost to a Republican who couldn’t seem to relate on the campaign trail to independents, minorities, or women.

So how did the GOP beat Gillum? They made him a villian that Republicans would be scared of, and used that fear to turn out the vote.  

It doesn’t matter if those fears were exaggerated, misinformed, or even potentially racist…because they worked. The only huge turnout numbers in November 2018 came from conservative, mostly-white counties.

Gillum wound up being be a better campaigner for Ron DeSantis than DeSantis was.  Democrats overestimated the strength of the Blue Wave and will be paying for it for years.

As I wrote this week, Democrats across the country run a similar risk of mobilizing Republicans in 2020 if they choose a liberal nominee President Trump can skewer and successfully paint as as a socialist Satan.

Sure, Joe Biden may be boring and moderate to Democrats; but if he’s boring and moderate to Republicans too, it could keep some tepid Trump supporters at home on Election Day.

The lesson: motivating your base only works if you don’t motivate the other side more.

Noah Pransky

Noah Pransky is a multiple award-winning investigative reporter, most recently with the CBS affiliate in Tampa. He’s uncovered major stories such as uncovering backroom deals in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium and other political investigations. Pransky also ran a blog called Shadow of the Stadium, giving readers a deep dive into the details of potential financial deals and other happenings involving the Tampa Bay- area sports business.


  • James Donelon

    August 25, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    You are right on. Although I am not a Biden supporter- like Beto -if we nominate a far left candidate we will lose the great middle INDEPENDENTS and the idiot will have another 4 years to screw America.

    • Nina Tatlock

      August 26, 2019 at 9:56 am

      According to polls I’ve seen, there are very few independents that are in the true middle. I think you could find this if you search for it.

    • Antonio

      August 27, 2019 at 12:11 am

      This is exactly why people should start taking Andrew Yang seriously. Read his ideas. He actually uses data and proposes real doable solutions. More importantly though is he could help heal America right now. His supporters are from both sides of threw isle.

      I am 45, voted for Democrats all my life, and we’re not going to win this with Warren, Biden or Sanders. Mark my words, we whil loose with any of them. Sanders and Warren will rally the opposition, Biden will have some huge gaff and not get many to cross party lines.

      Yang will not only get independents, but also disaffected previous Trump voters.

      The 4 states that lost so many jobs, due to robots, AI, and automation, addres threw battleground states that gave Trump the victory last time. They lost those jobs during and before obama’s time and they won’t come new back for Biden. Yang can get their votes.

  • Mary Pezzi

    August 25, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    I dropped out of the Democratic Party when it began it’s downward spiral to represent the 1% global manufacturing and defense investments crowd. I hate both parties a lot! I am registered in Florida because I want a VOTE in the primaries, and chances are that I will be interested in the Democrats vs the Republicans — but NOT the corporate-wing like Clinton and Biden. I hope that one day, the Democrats will make a U-turn from their addition to the easy donor money of the East and West Coast professional CEO bunch! Until then, count me #StopTPP, #MedicareForALL, and #FightFor15 and BAN war-zone-styled assault weapons. If your candidate is not onboard on these issues, as an Independent, I will be looking elsewhere and in hopes that a new party organizes.

    “You win by getting Democrats to the polls,” one reader commented on the column. “You don’t get them to the polls by picking a cringeworthy candidate people don’t want.” — Totally AGREE!

    • Nina

      August 26, 2019 at 10:00 am

      Nice reply.

    • Antonio

      August 27, 2019 at 12:14 am

      Take a look at Andrew Yang.

  • MJ Pa

    August 25, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    I didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 I voted for a clownish blowhard against a shameless self serving war-hag. And I would’ve gladly (gladly) voted for Biden instead of Trump in 2016

    • Tesseract

      August 26, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      Wow, I feel sorry for you as a voter that you had such a one-dimensional, caricature-ish view of the Democratic candidate as a “war-hag.” Your sexism is showing.

      Also, do you think Hillary Clinton would be locking kids up in cages and cozying up to dictators? I doubt she’d be embarrassing us at the G7 the way your orange hero would be now. Congratulations, jerkoff.

      • gary

        August 27, 2019 at 1:10 pm

        You Democrats are vile little ugly creatures.

        MAGA 2020

  • CindyP

    August 26, 2019 at 9:21 am

    I vehemently but respectfully disagree with this article. We have not had a Democratic governor in over 20 years in Florida. Andrew Gillum got us within 1% of winning. This was with being outspent and without an endorsement from President Obama, which I think would have pushed him over the steep climb. This was also with the voter suppression that continues to plague this state. We need candidates who provide us hope and promise and not candidates who just want to maintain a status quo without pushing the entire system toward more equality and justice

    • Michelle

      August 26, 2019 at 1:22 pm

      Agreed with CindyP above. The writer also contradicts himself in the article somewhat, in that he urges Democratic candidates to be more moderate, yet he sidesteps Bill Nelson’s Senate loss when, according to the writer’s logic, moderate candidates would have a better chance of winning in Florida. Nelson was as moderate and milquetoast a politician as they come, yet he lost with similar margins to Gillum.

      Cindy is exactly right that our state’s voter disenfranchisement tactics (which, I might point out, tend to favor Republicans) as well as Democratic candidates being constantly outspent are part of the problems Democratic candidates face during elections. What Cindy points out speaks to larger issues of voting rights and campaign finance corruption, both issues of which we in Florida need to address if we truly want a free and democratic (small “d”) state in which everyone has a voice and a vote.

      Trying to appeal to “moderates” (whatever that is) isn’t the issue here. Despite the obstacles against him (which Cindy already helpfully listed), Gillum had broad appeal and attracted a myriad of passionate, young, and energized voters who found his bold, courageous progressive message refreshing and full of vision. Too many “moderate” Democrats run as weak-sauce, fairweather-friend candidates who like to play it safe and parrot the same old tired political rhetoric that they think voters will respond to rather than what they believe to be true and just–and voters are smart enough to see through that nose. Gillum was different. Gillum wasn’t afraid to run as a strong, courageous leader who had big dreams for Florida and a passion to fight for what he believed was true and just–and he was willing to take risks politically to fight for that vision. As a voter, I have a lot of respect for him.

      Voters reward vision and courage, not mealy-mouthed fence-straddling. Were it not for Florida’s built-in hurdles against free and fair elections, we very well have been calling Andrew Gillum Governor today. More of this, please. I do hope he runs for office again in the future.

  • Jan

    August 27, 2019 at 10:54 am

    A three-year FBI investigation into the activities of a redevelopment agency and Tallahassee City Hall dogged Gillum the whole campaign–which never came up in the democratic primaries. The high crime rate in Tallahassee was also a major factor. Primarily, Andrew Gillum was considered by many to be a socialist.

  • gary

    August 27, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    Gillum is/was a criminal. His city crime rate soared under his mayorship as most all Democrat ran cities and states. More & more people are waking up to the fact that Democratic leadership leads to failure 100% of the time for the last 20 years.

Comments are closed.


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