Tuesday night in Tampa was all about Ron DeSantis, his bid for governor and President Donald Trump’s endorsement of the Florida congressman.
“I’d like to introduce a true leader. A proud veteran. My great friend,” Trump told a crowd of 10,000 supporters Tuesday night. “He’s tough. He’s smart and he loves Florida and he loves our country. And he’s going to be your next governor, Ron DeSantis.”
The man who for so long was considered to be the frontrunner — the establishment’s candidate in the race for the Republican nomination for governor — was relegated to an outsider’s role Tuesday, observing from a distance and attempting to make his campaign relevant again.
Just before Trump and DeSantis took the stage Tuesday evening, Adam Putnam was meeting with the staff at Gulf Marine Repair’s A.W. Hendry Training Center in Tampa to talk about one of his campaign issues and one of the reasons for Trump’s visit to the Tampa area — putting a new emphasis on vocational and technical training in schools.
At the same time, Trump was attending a roundtable discussion emphasizing the importance of workforce training during a visit to Tampa Bay Technical High School. Putnam attempted to tap into the president’s technical training agenda, even though he wasn’t part of Trump’s agenda.
“Unlike President Trump and Adam Putnam, D.C. DeSantis has released zero plans for the future of Florida since he first announced his gubernatorial bid 207 days ago,” said a release from Putnam’s campaign sent out a half hour before the Trump-DeSantis rally started.
“I am thrilled that President Trump has made it a priority to strengthen vocational training throughout the nation,” said Putnam, looking for ways to tie his campaign into the president’s visit. “Here in Florida, I believe that if we give Floridians greater access to skills and training, then they can find their piece of the American Dream. Like President Trump, I have a plan. My opponent, the Congressman, has released zero plans on any Florida issue since announcing his campaign.”
DeSantis appears to now have the advantage in the race, a testament to the political clout Trump carries with his base in Florida.
Since Trump announced his “full endorsement” of DeSantis in June, the momentum in the race appears to have shifted. Two polls released last week had DeSantis leading Putnamby 12-points and 9-points.
With the primary election now less than four weeks away, Putnam is facing an uphill battle in a fight that he might find hard to win.
According to a report in Wednesday’s Politico, that uphill battle is being acknowledged by Putnam supporters who appear ready to jump ship.
“In Tampa today, we met with multiple people who have been supporter of Putnam who now know the race was over,” said a GOP consultant affiliated with the DeSantis campaign. When pressed for specific names, the person responded, “all the smart ones.”