When the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr. appears on an Orlando stage today with Ron DeSantis, it’ll be a new role for the Northeast Florida Congressman – the Republican frontrunner to be Florida’s next governor.
DeSantis has trailed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam since he jumped into the race in January. Outspent and outworked, the DeSantis campaign was clearly biding it’s time until voters were more engaged in an election that’s now just six weeks away. Besides solely relying on live interviews on Fox News, the DeSantis campaign is spending $12 million on television advertising. It’s a new level of engagement for the Navy veteran.
Just a few weeks ago, Putnam had double digit leads in the polls. But now that’s all gone. Three new polls released this week show the stunning turnaround in the race. DeSantis clearly leads Putnam. The shift in the race can be attributed to one person – President Donald Trump who has endorsed DeSantis.
Gravis Marketing released a poll Monday showing DeSantis with a six point lead (35-29) over Putnam. “DeSantis’ TV advertising is clearly working,” said Gravis Marketing managing partner, Doug Kaplan. “Politics is about momentum. Putnam is the establishment candidate, and once the establishment candidate loses the lead it’s hard to regain.”
The Gravis poll is the only survey showing the race in single digits. Fabrizio-Lee, Governor Rick Scott’s pollster, shows DeSantis leading Putnam by 12% among register GOP voters and 17% among Republicans more likely to vote in August. The Fabrizio-Lee poll was first reported by Politico Florida. A third survey conducted by St. Pete Polls on behalf of FloridaPolitics.com had the widest margin of all – DeSantis leading Putnam by 20%.
While DeSantis appears at the high profile Orlando event with Don Jr. and Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro, Commissioner Putnam will appear at a candidate forum about an hour north in The Villages, the mega-retirement community in Sumter County. Polling shows Putnam’s steepest decline in support comes from Republican voters 65 and older. The Villages’ event coincides with a new commercial hitting DeSantis for Congressional votes that would cut benefits to seniors. Putnam will have the stage all to himself in The Villages, but knows DeSantis declined to attend the candidate forum because of his Trump Jr. event.
At this point, Putnam is trying to stop the bleeding from self inflicted wounds – the ongoing controversy over his department’s handling of concealed weapons permits, and DeSantis’ endless supply of rock star endorsements from the President and multiple Fox News celebrities.
With the August 28 primary looming and military and overseas absentee ballots going out in just days, look for Putnam to go into attack mode hoping to knock the Congressman off his game while DeSantis embraces his new frontrunner status.