Adam Putnam in Pensacola
From Putnam campaign

Adam Putnam admits he’s not happy about President Trump’s visit to Florida Tuesday to campaign for Congressman Ron DeSantis. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wish he weren’t coming to campaign for my opponent,” Putnam told FLA News. “I can understand how they’ve built a relationship in Washington, but this is a race for Florida. It’s not a competition to see who’s going to be the apprentice, it’s about leading the state,” Putnam added, referencing Trump’s former reality TV show.

DeSantis has taken a lead in the Republican Primary – according to the most recent polls – in large part because of the Trump endorsement. Undeterred, Putnam continues his fight to be the next governor of Florida – one voter at a time.

Retail Politics

Putnam may be the best retail politican in the state. His knows Florida, has a deep understanding of the issues facing each region of the state and has a great ability to connect one-on-one with individual voters. His supporters will tell you Putnam is a stark contrast to DeSantis, who at times seem more comfortable in front of a Fox News studio camera than personally interacting with voters.

Putnam’s retail politics were on full display Friday at the Scenic 90 Diner in Pensacola. It was one of the many “Up and Adam” events Putnam has held across the state. During this stop, he intertwined his often-used stump speech with issues important to Northwest Florida – growing the economic I-10 corridor and preparing for the next base realignment and closure (BRAC) process, an issue of vital importance in the military-heavy region.

Turning Up the Heat

In the past week, Putnam has stepped up his attacks on DeSantis. He criticized the Congressman’s support of a 23% national sales tax – labeled the Fair Tax. Even with its proposed elimination of federal income taxes, Putnam believes the plan would harm Florida’s economy by placing a 23 cent sales tax for every dollar spent on items ranging from food to real estate. For example, the price of a $250,000 home would increase another $57,500 under the proposed tax plan. The Fair Tax legislation that DeSantis co-sponsored has never gone beyond the filing of a bill in Congress, and it isn’t likely to ever receive serious consideration.

Putnam also believe DeSantis is untested with Florida voters beyond his conservative Northeast Florida congressional seat. “I have a proven track record of being able to win a general election in Florida. The Congressman has run for three different offices in three years,” Putnam said. “He’s run for the U.S. House, the United States Senate and governor. I don’t think we need a governor who views this as their third choice.”

Putnam’s questioning of whether DeSantis can win a statewide general election is a valid concern, according to recent polling. A Gravis Marketing survey shows DeSantis trailing Democratic frontrunner Gwen Graham 42-38, while Putnam narrowly leads Graham 40-39.

Path to Victory

If there is any encouraging news for Putnam in recent polling it’s that 1 in 4 Republicans are still undecided in the race for governor. Putnam still has more money on hand than DeSantis in the 30-day dash to the August 28 primary.

He’ll use some of it to push a new ad featuring Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is a close confident of President Trump and has endorsed Putnam.

Putnam believes the support from Bondi and other constituency groups gives him an advantage of DeSantis. “I’m honored to have her support along with the support of almost 50 sheriffs, plus all of our law enforcement organizations and first responders, plus the homebuilders, plus the realtors. This is all about Florida,” said Putnam. “Those organizations and Attorney General Bondi have looked at the record of everybody who’s running and they’ve made a determination that I am the candidate who will put Florida first…and make Florida strong so that President Trump can make America great again.”

What remains to be seen is if the weight of Trump’s endorsement can carry DeSantis across the victory line, or if Putnam’s preferred grassroots campaigning still has a place in Florida Republican politics. With so many undecided voters it may come down to how many of those voters Putnam can individually reach in the next 30 days.

David Bishop is a native Floridian, husband and father. During his 30 year career, David has been a journalist, political operative and communications consultant.