Joe Henderson: Attacking Ron DeSantis is risky move for Florida Democrats
Democrats might regret tying popular Governor Ron DeSantis to a campaign to defeat Donald Trump.

Linking a popular Governor to the President is not the way to beat Donald Trump in 2020

Memo to Florida Democrats, especially their leaders: Rethink your strategy for turning the state blue in 2020.

That was my first thought after reading the story by Scott Powers in Florida Politics about the Democratic convention in Orlando. He reported that party Chair Terrie Rizzo tried to expand the party’s disdain for President Donald Trump by tying every top Republican in the state to Trump’s oily coattails.

Included in that pairing is Gov. Ron DeSantis, and that’s where I went “whoa.” Yes, DeSantis’ cozy relationship with the President helped him greatly in his campaign for Governor. Normally that would be something to exploit in what could be a close election. This isn’t a normal situation, though.

Less than two months ago, St. Pete Polls reported that DeSantis enjoys a 58 percent approval rating. That number includes a healthy 36 percent of Democrats. Hispanics gave him a 56 percent thumbs-up.

A Morning Consult poll in July reported DeSantis is among the ten most popular governors in the country. DeSantis’ popularity also is not limited to Republicans.

If Democrats want to attach Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio to Trump, that could work. But, like it not, a solid majority of Floridians approve of how the Governor does his job. That makes tying a well-liked Governor to what Rizzo called an “axis of corruption” a dubious strategy. That is, of course, unless Democrats have something juicy they plan to spring during the campaign.

Right now, though, Rizzo’s rant seems to be one of two things.

It could just be red meat to fire up the party faithful at a convention. Or it could signal what could be a significant campaign miscalculation.

Remember the campaign ad where DeSantis worked with his young daughter to “build that wall” out of toy blocks? Then he read to his infant son from Trump’s book “Art of the Deal.”

Critics widely mocked the ad.

And. It. Didn’t. Matter.

DeSantis won anyway.

Since then, DeSantis has kept Trump at a distance and his popularity rose. Move ahead to 2020. If  Trump struggles in Florida, DeSantis could put even more distance between himself and the, ahem, stable genius.

Trump is the gift that keeps giving to Democrats. His erratic and occasionally unhinged policy moves could tilt highly valued independent voters against him. There’s another red flag for Dems there, though.

Independents make up about 25 percent of Florida’s voter pool, and more than half of them approve of DeSantis.

Add it up.

In a close race, directly attacking Trump could help Florida Democrats turn the state blue.

They’d be smart to leave it there, though, because adding DeSantis to the mix could get them beat.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Sonja Fitch

    October 14, 2019 at 5:18 am

    Desantis is a racist goptrumper cult member! He ain’t got no good and decent souls!

  • Adam

    October 14, 2019 at 8:40 am

    Independents are leaning toward Trump already.

    The Democrats have NOTHING except higher taxes, open the border, and socialism.

  • Wbp

    October 14, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    I agree however desantis has done nothing yet except talk about what he’s going to do. Another yr will tell.

  • Edward Freeman

    October 16, 2019 at 2:26 am

    DeSantis certainly has the extreme good fortune to follow Rick Scott into the Governor’s Mansion. Compared to Scott, Pol Pot would look like a breath of fresh air. However, as much as he might like to ignore that he owes he political life to Donald Trump, that doesn’t obfuscate the fact that DeSantis is neck deep in Trump’s corruption and white nationalism. He had major fundraisers hosted by Lev Parnas, Trump’s arrested Ukrainian fixer and illegal campaign cash conduit from Putin. At least $50,000 of that illegal cash went to DeSantis and as much time as Parnas and Furman seem to have spent with DeSantis that is likely just the tip of a very large iceberg. Even worse may be DeSantis’ ongoing ties to white nationalist. In the end you may be correct that the Democrats needn’t attack DeSantis, but not because he doesn’t deserve it. No, it may just be that the Federal Bureau of Prisons will get DeSantis long before the voters ever will.

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