ORLANDO — In his final push in the campaign for governor, former Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis told supporters on Monday that he can win the race if the GOP dominates election-day voting.
“I think if Republicans vote and vote in big numbers on Tuesday, we will win all of these races,” he said at a rally outside the Freedom Pharmacy on the east side of Orlando.
He was joined by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., state Rep. Matt Caldwell, the Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, and Ashley Moody, a former judge who is the GOP nominee for attorney general.
DeSantis told reporters that he is entering election day “roughly at parity” with Democrat Andrew Gillum after the early voting period, which gave the Democrats a slight edge based on calculations through Monday.
But DeSantis, who stepped down from his Northeast Florida congressional seat in September, said “a lot of our super voters have yet to vote,” referring to loyal Republicans who have voted in the last three or four elections.
“We just have a lot of our voters who want to vote on election day. That’s just the way they are. We’re definitely going to win election day, so I’m looking forward to that,” DeSantis said.
Rubio sounded a similar theme in his remarks.
“This sounds like an oxymoron, but hear me out. This election is going to be decided on election day, not just by the counting of the (votes) but by who votes,” Rubio said. “I know a lot of people are waiting until tomorrow. But we have to make sure they vote.”
Another theme struck by DeSantis and his supporters on Monday was an appeal to Hispanic voters. His rally was held in Orange County, which has the third largest bloc of GOP Hispanic voters in the state, although its 28,000 voters are overshadowed by 275,000 Hispanic Republicans in Miami-Dade County.
DeSantis said his economic message of low taxes and limited government will appeal to many voters, including Hispanics, in contrast to his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who wants to raise corporate income taxes by $1 billion to pay for teacher raises.
DeSantis called Gillum a “committed leftist ideologue.”
“That’s just who he is. If he gets in there, Florida’ trajectory is going to change dramatically. I don’t think we want to stop our economic momentum,” DeSantis said.
Rep. Jeanette Nunez, a Miami Republican who is running for lieutenant governor with DeSantis, slammed Gillum for Tallahassee’s crime rate, which is above the state average based on population.
“We understand that a good economy is important, but if your communities are not safe, all of that is for naught. That is something our opponent has a terrible track record in,” Nunez said. “If he can’t keep the city of Tallahassee safe, he can’t keep the citizens of the state of Florida safe.”
The Orlando rally was one of five campaign stops scheduled for DeSantis on Monday, with similar appearances in Jacksonville, Vero Beach, Pinellas County and Fort Walton Beach.
He was joined at two of the rallies by Lara Trump, a daughter-in-law of President Donald Trump. The president himself held two campaign rallies in support of DeSantis in the last week, including a Saturday night event in Pensacola.
DeSantis used Trump’s backing to make the case that if he is elected, the state will be in a better position to receive support from Washington, D.C., in contrast to Gillum who has called for the impeachment of the president.
“You should have a governor who can work constructively with the administration in Washington to make sure Florida is getting what it needs,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis along with his wife, Casey DeSantis, a Jacksonville television personality, will vote Tuesday morning in Ponte Vedra Beach. They will watch the election results at a campaign party Tuesday night in Orlando.