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Florida GOP Candidates Surging: Keep The Pedal To The Metal

As we’ve said in the past, the Florida gubernatorial race is the most important campaign for governor in 2018.

And we’ve been concerned about the top of the GOP ticket in Florida, as both Republican candidate for governor Congressman Ron DeSantis and senate candidate Governor Rick Scott were behind in the polls and seemed stuck in smallball campaigns.

DeSantis and Rick ScottBut things in Florida are turning around and both the DeSantis and Scott campaigns have shown incredible energy in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

First, senate candidate Governor Rick Scott has been extremely effective in marshalling the state’s resources to provide disaster assistance to the hurricane-affected counties. And, while competence by itself rarely wins you many votes, his campaign has also been relentlessly hammering Democrat Bill Nelson for his ineffectiveness in the Senate – the contrast, even if unintended, could not be more stark.

Nelson, just yesterday said, I “have done everything I can do,” while Governor Scott works day and night to get help the Florida Panhandle back on its feet.

Throwing his hands up in the face of disaster tells Florida voters everything they need to know about Senator Bill Nelson.

In the governor’s race Congressman Ron DeSantis has found his voice in the law and order message we urged upon him after he won the nomination.

DeSantis has started hitting Far Left Democratic candidate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum on crime, pointing out that “after four years of having the highest crime and murder rates in the state, Tallahassee is ranked as one of the least safe cities in the entire country.”

DeSantis has also rolled out a series of endorsements from Florida law enforcement officials, including Sheriffs from across the state and even heavily Democrat Broward County, where the Sheriff’s Deputies Association endorsed him.

“Ron has consistently stood with law enforcement and supported us in our mission to keep communities safe,” said Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, in a statement. “His opponent, Andrew Gillum, is hostile toward law enforcement.”

The statement cited Gillum’s signing of the “Freedom Pledge” drafted by a Florida race-based activist group, the Dream Defenders. The pledge includes support for the group’s “Freedom Papers,” which the union says includes anti-law enforcement language, such as saying “police and prisons have no place in ‘justice.’” The papers also state that police “were never meant to protect and serve me and you,” and “they started as slave catchers hired by wealthy plantation owners.”

DeSantis also pulled off a major coup when the well-respected non-partisan Everglades Trust endorsed him for governor, saying the Republican nominee is a champion for the Everglades and a candidate who has "walked the walk" when it comes to standing up to special interests, namely the sugar industry.

This is a big deal for DeSantis, since Democrats usually try to cast themselves as the strongest advocates for the environment. Amid the algae blooms and red tide devastating coastal Florida, the environment is more important in this election than it has been in many, and the big endorsement should help DeSantis appeal to moderate voters who may know him only as a top cheerleader for Donald Trump.

This Everglades Trust endorsement is an important factor in Republican turnout in the heavily populated coastal counties, where environmentally-conscious “Green Republicans” in wealthy coastal enclaves often diverge on environmental policy from the inland agricultural-oriented grassroots.

The final bit of good news for Scott and DeSantis is that absentee ballots are beginning to come in and the trend is very much in their favor.

As decidedly anti-conservative Capitol Hill news site POLITICO reported after the Florida primary, “While it’s notched four consecutive wins in local bellwether races, Florida’s Democratic Party has lost a share of its registered voters in Florida since 2016 and the percentage of Democrats casting vote-by-mail absentee ballots this month trails those mailed in by Republicans, according to new figures from the state’s elections division.”

Now the early absentee ballots are starting to come in and as, The Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Bousquet reported, “It's still early, but there's no sign of a blue wave in the initial wave of mail ballot returns in Florida. Figures filed Wednesday with the state show that more Republicans than Democrats are returning their mail ballots, 20 days before Election Day. Nearly 2.6 million voters have been sent mail ballots — what used to be called absentee ballots — and 554,000 arrived through Tuesday.”

The surprise leader in early mail ballot returns is Lee County, a solidly-Republican part of southwest Florida, where 49,557 mail ballots were returned through Tuesday.

Mr. Bousquet reports Republicans have consistently outperformed Democrats in voter turnout in recent midterm elections in Florida. The stakes are especially high in 2018, with an open race for governor and all three Cabinet offices, a tight contest for U.S. Senate, several highly competitive congressional races and a dozen proposed constitutional amendments.

Returns are updated daily. But if this trend continues, says Bousquet, it means Democrats must outperform Republicans in early voting and on election day if any of the party's major candidates are to prevail on Nov. 6. Democrats are banking on technology paid for by Far Left billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer to make up the difference, meaning Republicans must not take anything for granted and keep the pedal to the metal to sustain the surge the early returns portend.

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