Saying “He’s going to be your next governor. And his name is Ron DeSantis,” President Trump may have effectively ended the Republican Primary for governor with those two sentences spoken at his MAGA rally in Tampa.
For Congressman DeSantis, standing on stage with President Trump is the defining moment of the campaign. And considering the President’s popularity with Florida Republicans, in the low to mid 80s, the moment likely wrapped up the GOP primary for DeSantis, a remarkable achievement considering he was down by double-digits in the polls just a month ago.
Though Trump had twice endorsed DeSantis via Twitter, Tuesday’s rally was the cherry on top of the cake. Speaking to a packed house of 10,000 people at the Florida State Fairgrounds, the President said, “I wanted to be here to formally endorse Ron.” And adding, “He’s a great great guy and he’s going to be a great governor.”
The imagery of standing behind a podium with the Presidential seal attached to it likely wasn’t lost on DeSantis. Speaking to the President, DeSantis said “I appreciate your support. But I appreciate more the leadership you are showing.” Florida “is going in the right direction” but can continue to improve on “economic opportunities,” and “we can fight illegal immigration.” The mention of illegal immigration drew the biggest applause of the night. Polls show it’s the top issue for Florida Republicans heading into the 2018 midterm elections.
Not mentioned during the hour-long rally was Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who’s support has wained in the past month. The former frontrunner and considered the establishment candidate in the race, Putnam spent the day in The Villages, the Central Florida, Republican-heavy retirement community.
Putnam spent his 44th birthday meeting with veterans and continuing to make his pitch that as governor he’ll work with President Trump to further strengthen Florida’s economy. “I know Florida better than any of the other candidates running,” Putnam said “I’m confident that there’s an awful lot of Trump-Putnam voters out there who want a governor who actually understands the challenges facing them and puts them first.”
Putnam continues to push his Florida First agenda, but one thing is very clear from the MAGA rally in Tampa, it’s hard to compete against the President’s bully pulpit. Even with 28 days before votes are counted in the Republican Primary for governor, Tuesday’s Presidential endorsement seems like the beginning of the end of this race. Trumps knows it. DeSantis knows it. And Putnam knows it.