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Republican strategist Rick Wilson

2020

Rick Wilson compares Donald Trump’s presidency to a ‘coke party’

The Never Trumper also says Bernie Sanders is a turd in the punch bowl.

Republican strategist and avowed Never Trumper Rick Wilson swung by the Tallahassee Tiger Bay Club Friday to discuss his new book and the 2020 presidential race.

Wilson pitches “Running Against the Devil” as a roadmap to defeating President Donald Trump in November. He argues that, as a conservative, Trump is a proximate threat to the country, despite aspects of his presidency that appeal to Republicans.

“It’s kind of like that big coke party,” he said. “Friday night it sounds great and you’re having a ball, and Saturday there’s a dead hooker in the trunk of the car.”

Wilson says Trump is beatable, but Democrats are doing more to get him reelected than not. He says Democrats are racing headlong into nominating independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, which he predicts will be reelection insurance for Trump.

“I recognized there was one thing about the 2020 election and that it was Donald Trump could not win, but the Democrats could absolutely set themselves on fire, hit themselves in the head with a hammer, leap off the cliff and lose,” he said. “They could do every possible thing in the world to blow a layup.”

He adds that while he’s not trying to pick the Democratic nominee, “there’s one turd in the punch bowl.” 

“As my grandmother used to say, if there’s a turd in the punch bowl, it’s not punch anymore.”

Wilson tears into Democrats, laying out an indictment of what he says are massive flaws in their candidates. He says many of their candidates are unelectable — other than “superstar” nominees like Presidents John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama

He says there are pathways for Mike Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. Wilson believes Sen. Elizabeth Warren won’t be able to continue in the race much longer.

Wilson says Democrats have a particularly high hill to climb in Florida because the Republican Party is very good at winning elections. He says they’ve been putting the infrastructure into place since they were in the minority in the 1990s.

“They have to do the things Hillary Clinton didn’t do in ’16, like, I don’t know, registering and turning out Puerto Rican voters who moved to the state in large numbers,” he said. “They have to not disqualify themselves north of the I-4 corridor by running on things that will kill them, like gun control.”   

The strategist took former Tallahassee Mayor and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum to task, saying that while Gillum “left some money on the table,” he also made the critical error of talking gun control in north Florida during the last three weeks of the campaign. Wilson says 35% of registered Democrats have concealed carry licenses.

“They don’t even understand their own audience,” he said. “They don’t get their own base.”

Wilson had more advice for Democrats trying to win Florida.

“They have to do a much heavier lift than an ordinary campaign. You can’t rely on winning Broward, Dade and Palm Beach County and dusting your hands off and walking away anymore,” he said. “Because the growth in southwest Florida, the growth in the Tampa-Orlando corridor has been so extraordinary that there is not a pool of ready-made Democrats that give you 50% of the votes in those three counties anymore.”

Wilson says Democratic candidates have to appeal to moderate Democrats in swing states like Florida. They also shouldn’t put out policies, because Republicans will find poison pills in them.

Wilson is part of the Lincoln Project, which is working to defeat Trump and those who they say are failing to hold him accountable. They are targeting vulnerable Republican Senators in this year’s election, such as Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and Arizona Sen. Martha McSally. They all voted to acquit the President earlier this month in the impeachment trial.  

He predicts the Republican Party will end up splintering into two groups, one more nationalist and the other housing the more traditional Republicans. He says a lot of members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz are hustlers and con men. He calls Gaetz a nihilist.

“Matt Gaetz doesn’t believe in anything,” he said. “That guy is a hustler who is conning a con man and he realizes it. When he got in trouble with Trump, they took him off Fox (News) for two weeks and all of a sudden his email donations went (gasping sound) sucking wind. Well, now he’s like ‘Mr. Trump is so tall, he’s so handsome, I just want to love him.'”

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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