Florida's gubernatorial race is likely to be a doozy. Both parties yesterday nominated candidates who excite their partisan bases: Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) flaunts his sycophantic support for Donald Trump, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the first African American in Florida history to win a major party nomination, is an unapologetic progressive with a bold platform.
The first controversy arose on the first day of the general election.
Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor in Florida, faced a backlash on Wednesday for saying in a television interview that his state should not "monkey this up" by electing his Democratic rival Andrew Gillum, who is African-American.DeSantis made the comment in an interview on Fox News when speaking about Gillum, a progressive who won his party's nomination in an upset on Tuesday night.
"You know, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views and he's a charismatic candidate," DeSantis said. "The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That is not going to work. That's not going to be good for Florida."
First, "articulate" is probably word DeSantis should shy away from. Second, Gillum's platform is filled with some pretty popular ideas, and nothing about his agenda could reasonably be described as "socialism."
But it was the "monkey this up" phrase that stood out.
The Republican congressman's communications director said in a statement, "Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida's economy has been on the move for the last eight years, and the last thing we need is a far-left Democrat trying to stop our success."
I won't pretend to know the true motivations behind DeSantis' comment on Fox News. Maybe it was benign. Maybe it wasn't. Perhaps the GOP nominee intended this to be bait so he could accuse Democrats of trying turn the campaign into a fight about race.
But while the speculation continues, it's worth noting that Fox News' Sandra Smith told viewers after the DeSantis interview, "We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement."