November 2, 2018


Ron DeSantis, a Trump Ally, Struggles in Florida as Racial Flare-Ups Come to Fore (Patricia Mazzei and Stephanie Saul, Nov. 1, 2018, NY Times)

What seemed a winnable race for Republicans against Mr. Gillum, an outspoken progressive who supports impeaching Mr. Trump, has instead become neck-and-neck, with the charismatic Democrat drawing far larger crowds than Mr. DeSantis, a telegenic Fox News regular who has proved uneven on the trail.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, what has separated the two candidates most is how each has dealt with issues of race and identity. Mr. Gillum, who would become Florida's first African-American governor, has talked about both matters at length; Mr. DeSantis, who is white, has struggled to address questions about his past political associations with racists and xenophobes. [...]

One reason Mr. DeSantis may have stumbled is where he had come from: the conservative cocoon of the political right, where his rise to national prominence -- lifted by stoking fears of terrorism -- went little noticed because Mr. DeSantis was only a congressman in a reliably Republican seat. (He resigned after winning the August primary.)

Over nearly three terms in office, Mr. DeSantis, a 40-year-old Yale and Harvard graduate and former Navy prosecutor, became a familiar face on Fox, doing hits from Capitol Hill and flying to New York to appear from the network's flagship studio. He attended conferences billed as conservative gatherings where he made his name known in political circles that mattered.

Thrust into a marquee race in a purple state, however, Mr. DeSantis floundered.

In a Fox interview the day after the Aug. 28 primary, he said electing Mr. Gillum, 39, could "monkey this up," which Democrats denounced as a racist dog whistle. (Mr. DeSantis denied that.) News reports exposed how far-right extremists were among the organizers and attendees of some of the conferences he frequented. A white supremacist group targeted Mr. Gillum with offensive robocalls. A campaign contributor apologized for referring to former President Barack Obama with a racist slur, but Mr. DeSantis declined to return his donation.

Mr. DeSantis managed to regroup from that rough start. But the controversies have cast a shadow over his campaign.

During the candidates' last debate, Mr. DeSantis angrily rejected a question about his ties to a conservative author, David Horowitz, who has made incendiary statements.

"Are you going to play the McCarthy-ite game?" Mr. DeSantis asked, suggesting he was being found guilty by association. "How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement someone makes?"

Mr. Gillum spied his opening and pounced.

"I'm not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I'm simply saying the racists believe he's a racist," he said. 

Posted by at November 2, 2018 4:10 AM