In Florida, Not All Politics Are Local, as Trump Shapes Governor’s Race

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“I have no idea where DeSantis stands on education in Florida, the homeowner’s insurance crisis, on flood insurance,” stated Mike Fasano, a former Republican state legislator from north of Tampa who’s now a county tax collector, and who’s leaning towards supporting Mr. Putnam. “Every time I hear anything about him it’s about Trump.”

A stroll via the G.O.P.’s completely Trumpified candidate bazaar in Sarasota on Saturday made it simple to know why state-based appeals could show ineffectual.

Asked about an important concern going through Florida this 12 months, Gladys Green, a neighborhood Republican activist working with one of many cubicles, rapidly answered: “the illegals.” She added that “it’s not immigration, it’s an invasion” and argued that migrants are “absolutely ruining Europe.”

This shouldn’t be the form of marketing campaign Mr. Putnam was doubtless anticipating when he entered politics whereas nonetheless an undergraduate in 1996. At the time, credentials like these presently on his resume — a University of Florida diploma, and membership within the college’s Blue Key leadership society; service within the state legislature; a stint within the congressional management; and two phrases as agriculture commissioner — meant one thing right here.

“Here’s a guy who has done everything right, who would be a phenomenal governor, who’s a wonderful person and what do you do?” stated Joe Gruters, a Republican state lawmaker and pal of Mr. Putnam. He recommended that Mr. Putnam take down his unfavorable adverts and think about “a comeback in eight years.”

Mr. Putnam, who’s at his most passionate when extolling Florida’s splendors and recounting life on his household’s citrus groves,.is not going to give up so simply. Yet he additionally shouldn’t be blind to the second.

In an interview earlier than he plunged into the Sarasota gathering, he famous that Mr. DeSantis’s bid for governor was approaching the heels of an aborted 2016 Senate run, and argued that voters would come to see his rival as “someone who’s more interested in whatever the open higher office is at that moment than in making a difference in that office itself.”

That distinction would develop clearer, Mr. Putnam insisted. “But,” he allowed with an audible faucet of his cowboy boot, “these are interesting times.”

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