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How a Florida midfielder reveals the lines in Trumps America

Florida's Siesta Key is located between the well-groomed lawns and pristine white sandy beaches. The wealthy city has golf courses,…

Florida’s Siesta Key is located between the well-groomed lawns and pristine white sandy beaches. The wealthy city has golf courses, country clubs and its own reality tv show that chronicles the sun’s kissed life for some of its glamorous twentysomething residents.

For democrats, the area has long been more optional water than paradise. Sarasota County voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and has not elected a Democrat to its county commission for more than five decades.

In a normal election cycle, a progressive Democrat who tried to win the Florida Board would largely write out campaigns here and focus on less politically anchored parts of the state. But very little about this year’s electoral cycle in America is normal.

On a backcoming October day, a few hundred locals visited the heat to see Andrew Gillum, a rising democratic star who has driven a surprisingly competitive contest for the governor against his Republican counterpart, Ron DeSantis.

Even though the official announcement of the event only went up the night before, the little pavilion was packed with a crowd of mostly white retired people who had either been prepared with their own folding chairs or simply walked up from the beach in their flip-flops.

Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum hugs a supporter at a rally in Siesta Key © Rose Marie Cromwell

At 1:00 Gillum restricted the crowd of people. A middle-aged woman with bright red hair grabbed him for a handshake, but Gillum raised her and took her in for a bear bark. “Wonderfully!” Exclaimed. He was wearing his beach promotion dress – white polo shirt, navy slacks, leather sneakers.

A local party organizer left him a Sarasota Democrat’s baseball cap and Gillum – ignore Michael Dukaki’s dictation of politics – gamely put it on, sometimes squeezing it into his hands like a little grapefruit to soften the pant.

“I love it! I love it!” He said. “Yes, I have to say I’m blown away by showing you today.”

Their presence continued he was a proof of a move. He recalled how he recently traveled to The Villages, a wealthy, more than 95 percent white Florida retirement group where Trump won nearly 70 percent of the vote in 2016. “Some of you know about The Villages,” he started hopping it. “It’s the most conservative voting area in our state. And people ask me,” Gillum what do you do at in The Villages? “I said,” There are voters in The Villages. . . The way you win is to win a voice than your opponent. “” The person who won.


This Florida Governorship Contest is one of the crucial 2018 contests, which Americans are preparing to vote in next month’s midterms. It encapsulates some of the most extreme ideological parts going through the United States today: between liberal left and conservative rights; between pro-Trump, anti-migrant, “America First” policy and a progressive wing of the Democratic Party. It also raises questions about whether play in these extremes can prove a more effective campaign strategy than to cope with the familiar midfield.

Republican candidate Ron DeSantis with supporters of the Italian club in Tampa © Rose Marie Cromwell

Both men are young – Gillum is 39, DeSantis 40 – and both represent a new generation of leadership for the two parties. For Democrats, an African-American who rose from a working class background to becoming mayor in Tallahassee. For the Republicans, a Harvard and Yale-educated marine prosecutor and congress leader who rose to the top after adapting as a devoted acolyte of Trump and his policy.

Trump, after watching DeSantis on Fox News, approved him on Twitter as “a brilliant young leader” (formerly called him one of his “absolute warriors” after DeSantis repeatedly challenged the Mueller probe).

Gillum, meanwhile, is a bona fide progressive endorsed by Bernie Sanders, patron saint of that movement. His policy puts him all the way out of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party: he advocates not only Medicare for all but also supports the abolition of the ICE government’s immigration enforcement – in its present form, something like most democracy has taken place.

He also demanded Trumps attack. If he wins – and a RealClearPolitic average of votes, he will stand by 3.7 points – he would be Florida’s first black governor, potentially wearing the same state that helped Trump win the presidency just two years ago.

The race is a forerunner to the presidential election in 2020, when Trump is likely to face a progressive democratic candidate. It will also be a test of how strong the president’s support remains in Florida and whether he can win the state again. According to the online survey company Morning Consult, Trump’s approval rating remains barely over water. Ninety-five percent of the Floridians approve of the job he does, 47 percent waits.


Florida is home to more than 13 million voters and is in many ways a microcosm for the rest of the country. It is one of the few areas in the United States that can determine the presidential election and its demographic changes represent a changing America. More than 900 people move to the state every day, some of them are successful Republican seniors, other young people and families of different backgrounds. Most people under the age of 30 in the state are non-white.

Next month’s midterm will be a test of whether thousands of voters, usually appearing much lower than those over the age of 60, will make it in greater numbers for both the elections and 2020.

The governor’s contest may also affect the state senate run, where Bill Nelson, the long-standing Democratic Senate, faces Florida’s current Republican governor, Rick Scott. If Gillum wins his race, it can potentially increase the Nelson campaign, especially with young voters. Nelson, 76, is one of several vulnerable democratic senators who struggle to hold onto their seats and raise the chances that Republicans could strengthen their 51-49 Senate majority.

Gillum was not even meant to win his party’s nomination. But he was also an unlikely candidate to become mayor of Tallahassee when he entered the 2013 competition. He grew up in a low-income family on the outskirts of Miami, with a mother driving a school bus and a father who worked in construction and sometimes sold fruits and vegetables to come by. He was the fifth of seven children, and when he was a teenager, two of his older brothers had been arrested – one because of robbery, the other one for having cocaine.

Gillum supporters in Kissimmee in early October © Rose Marie Cromwell

Gillum mapped another course. An avid reader who falsified a close relationship with his grandmother and shared an appreciation for the church gospel church, highlighted Gillum at the public (state) school. When the family moved north to Gainesville, he became the first of his siblings who went out of high school.

He continued to Florida’s A & M University, a historic black black college, and quickly falsified his political career as a democratic activist. Gillum likes to say that he is proof of what a good American public education can do. “I know what it means to see the general poverty interrupted by good general education,” he told supporters in Sarasota.


Meanwhile was the primary this year behind three famous Democrats, including Gwen Graham, daughter of state-elected governor Bob Graham and a standard carrier for the democratic establishment. Graham was projected to win until the evening in the vote when Gillum pulled off one of the biggest disruptions in the United States primary season and hit her by more than three percentage points and dropped the party, both in the state and across the country.

Joe Gruters, chairman of Sarasota GOP and co-chairman of Trump’s winning Florida campaign in 2016, says the mayor has proved to be a formidable opponent. “Gillum is a good candidate. He is an articulated guy. He speaks very well … People want a better future. Why did Donald Trump win?” Because he wants to “make America Great Again.” If Gillum wins, it will not be because of his socialist policy, it’s because he’s a better campaigner. “

But many Democrats still seem skeptical about Gillum’s chances. A democratic strategist in Tallahassee says that while most of the facility has fallen in line behind him, in private many rue his win. “I think most would say Gwen Graham would be up 10 points now,” Strategen strives before speculating that if DeSanti’s moderate opponent Adam Putnam had won, he would also be up 10 points, so alienating is Gillum and DeSantis to the state’s wide turn of moderate voters.

“Florida is usually determined by independent and moderate. Where to hell are they going?” I have many Republican friends who planned to vote for Gwen when it looked like DeSantis would win, and the day after the primary they said, “What should we do? “”

Luz McNealy in a rally where Gillum received the approval of Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló © Rose Marie Cromwell

Gillum’s team knows that there is a need for a sufficiently high level of division among young people and minorities to counter the strong Republican support for Trump and it also hopes to download independently in places like Sarasota. The campaign already seems to have been successful in registering new voters.

During a conversation in Kissimmee I meet Luz McNealy, a 53-year-old grandmother who moved to Florida from Pennsylvania nine years ago. She had long been interested in politics, but said, “I had no idea how to get involved.” Somehow, the Gillum campaign found her, she says, sending a text message to her on her husband’s phone. She has been having events for him since then.

When I talk with Gillum, he puts out an ambitious plan to win the state – one that tumbles up support from democratic fortunes together with Republican places like The Villages. “I decided for the night night that I won the nomination that I would try to go everywhere and talk with everyone that we would not limit ourselves to the way democrats have looked at rural races before – mainly camping in three counties and Pray that we would hold enough votes in the other parts of the state to win, “he says.

Gillum is not upheld in his criticism of Trump. But he also takes conscious pain not to mention him too often. “I try to focus more on my plans for the state. I do not want it … to have Florida voters think I’m so worried about Washington, I do not think so much about them,” he says.

Margaret Good , a Democratic member of Florida’s Representative House © Rose Marie Cromwell

Democrats have taken their heart from a 2018 special election that fills a vacant place in Florida’s representative house. In the race, Margaret Good beat his Republican opponent with 7.5 points in Siesta Key- district, which Trump won in 2016 and has 12,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. “It was not only a really good win. We also had the highest voter participation in Florida’s modern specialty history, “Good tells me when we meet in her law firm.” Many people said I do not think this is a district you can win. “

Still, the guerrilla team has been ugly Immediately after winning the Republican nomination, DeSantis appeared on cable television and warned Floridians not to “monkey this up” and choose Gillum as governor – something immediately flagged by the Democrats as a “racist dog flute” who echoed Trumps own often racially -tended comments. DeSantis has said that the comment was “zero with race”.

At the same time, Gillum has been plagued by his own controversies: an ongoing FBI investigation of Tallahassee corruption. Gillum says he has not done anything wrong and has been told that he is not under investigation. But the probe has raised questions about his relationship with a former campaign premium, now a lobbyist. Gracious Democrats are worried that the FBI probe points to a deeper concern that Gillum, a relative political neophyte, may have turned to the wrong people.


Campaigns increasingly hostile rhetoric are symbolic of the polarized atmosphere throughout the country. At the Sarasota rally, several participants tell them that they are increasingly in contradiction with their more conservative neighbors. “I had to be very quiet when I came here,” said Faith McVey, a former teacher who moved to Delaware Florida, wearing a white cover, lavender sunglasses and hot pink manicure. She can no longer talk to her brother or her wife about politics or for most of her neighbors. “It’s completely taboo,” she says.

Barbara Luehring, another retiree, tells me she was afraid to put up some democratic signs because she thought she could lose Trump-supporting contractor’s services that help repair the climate system. “I must be quiet,” she says.

“It used to be you could have an honest and calm debate, share opinions and say you are disobedient,” says David Jones, a white-haired bear of a recent man. moved to Sarasota from Toledo, Ohio. Speaking of a national topic like the Kavanaugh hearings with the members of his primary Republican boat club, he gradually saw that it was better to just shut his mouth.

Meanwhile, Jones felt that the Washington winds pushed him further and further to the left. “I’m probably more a Hillary person than a Bernie person,” he reflects. But his anti-Trump feelings had begun convincing him that the progressives were better placed to take on the administration.

Same feelings of partisan disorder echo on the Republican side. At a rally for DeSantis, Mike Dinwiddie, an African American Uber and Lift Driver, tells him he has been attacked by Liberals because he supports Donald Trump. “I’ve been to Trump rallies … I’ve never seen a race or bigoted thing. But I’ve seen racist bigoted liberals attacking me, he says.” Look at how Kanye [West] was treated, “he said, referring to Rosie Paulsen of Latin American Conservatives in Action © Rose Marie Cromwell

Rosie Paulsen, Vice President of Latin American Conservatives in Action, says she feels a similar undercurrent in Florida’s Spanish society. ” When people come here, they are completely indoctrinated by the Spanish media, where there is only one side of the story, “she says.” The Spanish media are owned by the liberal agenda and they are completely indoctrinated. “

Paulsen, who came to Ecuador from the United States as a teenager, says she has had great success in registering conservative Latin voters in Florida’s mega churches. She acknowledges that some critics can find some of Trump’s rhetoric about some la tin groups offensive, but say that she and others look past it. “He loves his country,” she adds, and his conservative agenda has been a good recruitment tool. “There have been many more who have realized that they are actually Trump supporters because they can no longer silence.”

Gruters, Sarasota GOP Chairman, says that if DeSantis wins it will be due to a deep underlying support for Trump in Florida. “The more the president is attacked by outside groups and external factors, the more people dig the hole next to him and [are] willing to follow him over the galaxy to do what needs to be done to succeed.”


Two days after seeing Gillum in Sarasota, I travel north to see his opponent DeSantis at a lunch event at the Italian club in Tampa. An entertainer binds Frank Sinatra ballads and the smell of meatballs wafts in the air. Just as the crowd gets restless, DeSantis appears in front of a crimson velvet curtain with his wife, a glamorous former news transmitter.

On stage, DeSantis – who has the crew section and the rigid perception of an American political hero – is a bit of wood. (In his defense he fights with a cold.) But the crowd, equipped with “Make America Great Again” devices, does not seem to think. “I’m proud of standing here today as the only candidate who is a veteran of our armed forces,” he begins. “I’m proud to be standing here as the only candidate who undoubtedly says I’m for free business. And I’m the only candidate who can credibly say I’m not in the FBI investigation,” he says. “High Height Bowl.”

Echoing Trump, he continues to bashing both Democrats and the media: “Understand that there is no difference between these national media elites and the democratic party. They are joined in the hip. They do the same things and they are both lubricators who debate our public discourse more than I have ever seen! “

Afterwards, with DeSantis still in his suit and cowboy boots, we sit down to talk in a corner of a nearby restaurant. The candidate says that his support to the president is in part a response to the unfair reception he believes Trump has gotten from the political elite.

“He was elected and what I saw was the official Washington revolt against him. The press hates him. All anchored interests in DC hate him. K Street [political lobbyists] hates him. Of course, the Democrats hated him. Establishing Republicans hated him. . . “he says.” so i was, you know what? I want him to succeed. I’ll support him with all the crap he has to take. That does not mean I have agreed on everything. “

DeSantis supporter Mike Dinwiddie and Tony Reina © Rose Marie Cromwell

He can relate to that kind of hostile reception. He grew up in Florida with” Blodropsrot “and worked through Yale and Harvard Law School – two institutions who never really felt like home. “I was a child with a collar. I worked [for] six dollars an hour the summer before. I was a total hayseed, “he reminds.

DeSantis says he knew that Trump’s support would help him win the Republican primary.” Our voters care what the president thinks. I mean they really care. “He believes it will help him in the election as well.” The economy is even stronger than it was. . . We attract many people, a lot of money, a lot of business in the state. . . To go out on this wild key and try to emulate Illinois or California [in their liberal policies] I think would be a big mistake and I think most Florida voters will finally come down on that side as well. “


Gillum’s victory over Other democratic candidates in August were one of these valcykels biggest coupons for the Bernie Sanders party, even more important than 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s successful primary challenge of Joe Crowley, one of the highest ranked House Democrats, New York.

Ocasio-Cortez competed in a left-wing democratic district. While Gillum received primary support from billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros, he ultimately was elevated by his opponents. His victory was largely thanks to a microcosm of the wider democratic base: a mixture of moderate-mostly elder white voters and a new coalition that Barack Obama helped to solidify, to a large extent driven by minorities and voters under the age of 35.

“What you really see in Florida – and we are a bellwether for the country – the boomer generation is now replaced with this younger generation’s dynamics. That’s what Gillum thought early, says Susan MacManus, one of the state’s top political researchers and a senior professor at the University of South Florida.

The demographic significance of youth is particularly evident in a republican inclined area like Sarasota. “Sarasota used to be one of the most solid Republican counties in the state and it changed,” continues MacManus – in part, she says because of the influx of younger voters and partly because of increased concern about an environmental phenomenon called “red water”.

Algae, a more difficult “red water” © Rose Marie Cromwell

Enhanced by naturally occurring algae, this poisonous flower can be fatal to wild animals such as turtles, birds and fish and can cause eye, throat and skin irritation in humans. While red water has been a sporadic issue for Florida for decades, the latest outbreak is the worst for more than a decade and has been a financial disaster for the affected tourist areas. Researchers say the phenomenon has worsened by human contaminated pollution.

Democrats have blamed the problem on Rick Scott, the Republican Governor and the aspiring Senator, who noticed him “Red Tide Rick”, a moniker who proved to be surprisingly effective. The problem has become so bad that both parties now make the environment the core of their campaigns.

“I’m not a left tree hugger – do not misunderstand me,” says DeSanti’s audience in the Tampa rally before damping the economic and quality of life for clean air and water. “All of these things flow from having a nice environment,” says the republican. “So we want to make sure we do everything we can to make it go.”

An Environmental Test in Siesta Key © Rose Marie Cromwell

In Sarasota, I meet Wesley Beggs, a gregarious 26-year media marketing assistant and Democrats who run the Sarasota County Commission. While there are 37,500 more Republicans than Democrats in the district, and a Democrat has not led the city commission since 1966, Begg’s persistence, sets up campaign signs at night and collects support from some long Republicans, including fishermen trained by Red Tide Management and the algae.

She tries to clear up the national political debate. “People really want to overlap Kavanaugh or whatever the taste of the week is at national level. But that’s really not applicable.”

Later I meet two friends of Beggs who help her campaign. “From one to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, how millenny am I if I order avocado toast?” Liz Sockol joke and grabs her menu. Both she and Garrett Murto say they are recently involved in democratic politics. “I’m not a national democrat. I’m part of the Florida Democrat,” said Murto, saying that he has been more drawn to the party because of local progressive candidates like Beggs and Gillum, contrary to what the party does – or not do – in Washington. 19659002] “I think I felt a lack of motivation to get involved earlier,” says Sockol. “I think it was easy to play the middleway to – I do not like any party and I do not agree with what’s happening on both sides.” Now it’s changing, she says.


In early October, both Gillum and Bill Nelson, the Democratic candidate of the Florida Senate, were approved by the Governor of Puerto Rico – a blessing that gave the vote for the voting of the millions of Puerto Rican living in the state, including thousands who moved here after last year’s hurricane Maria.

The event was staged in a windowless Kissimmee community center with dark gray walls, but the atmosphere inside was festive, with a quartet bomb musician playing. “Florida is growing and I think people bring their progressive ideas with them.” Gail Miller, an African-American retired couple wearing paisley leggings and a periwinkle T-shirt, told me when we waited for Gillum. Miller moved to Florida from Michigan seven years ago.

A beach park in Kissimmee, Florida © Rose Marie Cromwell

On the scene Governor Ricardo Rosselló said the story of how a common friend had suggested that he met Gillum and said he had Algo Especial – something special . But nothing prepared him to meet him personally. “It was like energy just flew over the room.” While Rosselló initially said that he dismissed Gillum’s 2018 chances and believed that he was more a future leader of the Democratic Party than a current, which changed during the last week of the primary week. 19659002] “I saw this moment and that energy and I saw how his message was clicking and how much it was to introduce people with hope and enthusiasm and then of course it goes without saying … We received mayor Gillum to be the democratic candidate, “said Rossello, enlightening the crowd from the crowd.

Other Democrats may be worried that Gillum has not thanked the center enough, but the mayor and his supporters argue the opposite. In fact, they say it’s not a winning strategy all the time.

“It’s fun, I think people think of politics a lot,” says Tom Steyer, the billionth democratic donor. “If you look across the country there is a terrible mass of people trying to figure out how to play it in the middle of the fairway instead of saying what they think is the truth.”

A woman on a Gillum rally wears a florida pendant © Rose Marie Cromwell

Steyer says it was unusual for him to back a Democratic candidate during a primary – even less a fourth-place candidate. But he says that he and others were impressed by how “powerful” Gillum was about adhering to his views. “He took a powerful NRA. He was uncomplicated in education. In the healthcare sector, about pollution, he is condemning the president. He has been very clear about environmental justice and the reform of the criminal justice system. I mean he has been someone I think has been very uncomplicated. And I think people die for it. “

When I ask Gillum about it, the point eats. “If [independents and Republicans] will turn to me, it will not be because I’m milquetoast in what I think. And that’s an argument we did in the primary, he says.” We will not win those voters by try to run Republican a bit. . . What we are trying to do here is to paint a vision big enough for them to see themselves in. “

In the end, however, this race is likely to be determined by a third candidate: one who is not even on the vote. As Gruters, GOP Sarasota Chairman, says:” Politics has gotten up and down. . . Everything is determined by whether you support Trump or if you are against him. And almost nothing matters if you are a candidate. “

He continues:” In politics before, you should be able to appeal to someone’s common sense. If you knew they were interested in education, you can say that I’m the leader of the common core campaign or “I’m a charter school leader” or “I want to pay teachers 50k more a year.” Now it’s nothing The question is: Do you support the president or do you not support the president? “

Courtney Weaver is the United States Political Correspondent

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