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What Torpedoed Andrew Gillum? The FDP and His Lieutenant Governor

November 20, 2018 - 6:00am
Andrew Gillum on the campaign trail
Andrew Gillum on the campaign trail

You must win before you can govern.

Easier said than done, especially, it seems, for progressives.

Andrew Gillum, who exploded onto the national political scene with a meteoric victory in the 2018 Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary, was the immediate favorite to win it all on Aug. 28.

He had a clear, consistent message, an overwhelmingly favorable state press, a charismatic personality, serious momentum, and faced U. S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, easily the weaker of the two Republicans who fought for the nomination. I don’t believe anyone would have come within a parsec of beating Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who was being groomed as Florida’s chief executive for at least eight years.

The stars aligned, but only briefly.  

Gillum’s role as favorite evaporated within the first week of the general election campaign and the blame falls squarely on the candidate -- not ballot-counting snafus, not an FBI investigation, not racial innuendo employed by the opposition.

The ex-mayor of Tallahassee made two fatal decisions: choosing fifth-place primary finisher Chris King, a philosophical clone, as his running mate; and allowing the incompetent, impotent Florida Democratic Party to co-opt his campaign apparatus.

Gillum’s primary win was nothing short of spectacular. He embarked on that campaign with far less name recognition than former Miami Beach mayor Phil Levine or Gwen Graham, daughter of former U.S. senator and two-term governor Bob Graham  Worse, his effort was financially challenged at the start, so gaining name recognition appeared Herculean in scope.

But Gillum assembled a group of incredibly astute operatives who choreographed the primary effort from cramped offices on the fringe of the Florida A & M University campus. Everything, including scheduling, message, and communications, went nearly flawlessly.

While Levine and Graham relied on piles of money and a legacy name to boost their respective candidacies, Gillum issued meaningful, detailed policies and criticized the positions of Rick Scott, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and other high-profile Republicans.

Levine, in the past, allied himself with Donald Trump in criticizing the media; Graham’s voting record in Congress during her two-year stint as a public servant was undeniably abysmal. Gillum took to the offensive against the heavily favored duo, capturing valuable air time on national cable news shows.

The tide began to turn. Heavy Democratic hitters Tom Steyer and George Soros poured significant contributions into the Gillum campaign. Steyer provided a ground army of NextGen volunteers to register millennials and the coming-of-age Reform Generation.

Meanwhile, Democratic state party power brokers split their allegiances in the primary between Levine and Graham. The Tallahassee mayor was virtually ignored until he surged in the last three weeks of the campaign. Even then, he garnered virtually no support from the so-called corporate wing.

Following Gillum’s spectacular “upset,” he chose to break up the band, allowing the woefully inept Florida Democratic Party to usurp the campaign.  It was plagued with mistakes from the start.

A new communications director with no social media skills took over. Gillum’s Facebook pages that during the primary were saturated with policy positions and the documented hypocrisy of his opposition, became recruitment vehicles for street corner sign wavers and house-to-house canvassers -- all internal functions.

Worse, the army of unpaid adult volunteers was cast aside in favor of paid gunslingers that every two years go to the highest bidder. The fervor and knowhow just weren’t there.

Unfathomably, Gillum wasted time in sparsely populated rural areas where Democrats are as rare as a smooth Florida election. Dateline Gillum listed places such as Flagler County and Putnam County instead of vote-rich Republican strongholds such as Marion and Brevard.

It was reminiscent of Hillary Clinton spending the last months of her 2016 campaign in Georgia, Arizona, and Texas.

Then there is Bernie Sanders.  Bringing him into Florida during the primary to galvanize progressives boosted Gillum enormously. Campaigning alongside the country’s most recognizable socialist four days before the general election could not have been more ill-conceived when your opponent is trying to pin you with the “socialist” label.

I reached out to the Gillum campaign when I became aware that Sanders was scheduled. The response: He will energize young voters. Lame.

There’s more: The injudicious use of surrogates and the overemphasis on DeSantis’ associations. The FDP brand, true to form, crashed and burned in a statewide race, this time with the optimum candidate.

Then there’s Chris King, a fellow progressive who finished fifth and last in the Democratic primary with a dismal 2.5 percent of the vote.  Gillum named King as his running mate but King brought nothing electorally to the table except hailing from the I-4 corridor.

The DeSantis team was a lot shrewder. With the selection of state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, the GOP gained advantages in gender, ethnicity, and legislative experience.

And who the hell vetted King? After he lost a student body election in 1999, King said the Harvard Crimson newspaper unfairly made an issue of his religion and cost him the student-body election.

“I was nailed to the cross,” King told reporters at the time. “And most of the editorial staff that was so hard on me, the vast majority were Jewish.”

King admitted he made the statement and that it was wrong.  But the damage was done. Calling out DeSantis for hobnobbing with white supremacists and anti-Semites not only had no impact, but smacked of hypocrisy after the King revelation.

Jim Bleyer, a former reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, writes the Tampa Bay Beat blog.

Comments

Gillum’s Dem primary win was not “spectacular” considering he was the only black candidate among four Dems. He easily got nearly 100% of black voters, which meant he’d only need a handful of non-black Dems while the other three divided the rest. If the state primary required >50% then Gillum would have had a run-off with... let’s say Graham, and lost. Graham may have beat Desantis.

The only reason Hillary has not been prosecuted is because of the largest conspiracy ever conducted in the United States govt to protect her from prosecution...Makes you wonder what Hillary has over Obama, the FBI, the Justice Dept, The State Dept Yada.. Uranium One maybe? Democrats are delusional!

Nothing "torpedoed" Gillum's election. He lost by less than one-half-of-one percentage point. And, while a little over 8 million people actually voted, a little over 5 million registered voters didn't bother. Who knows what the outcome would have been if all 13+ million registered voters had actually voted! In any event, the Republicans certainly have no mandate; the Democrats pretty much cleaned house, nationally; and the Democratic majority in the U.S. House will at least now be able to put a significant damper on the run amok Trumpnuts. And, of course, Gillum energized Florida Democrats. Hopefully, he becomes an active leader in his party and assists it in taking this state back from the monied special interests.

Educate us voted Blue, will Andy Killum be doing all that from his cell in an orange jumpsuit?

The five million that "didn't bother" should tell you and Andrew something "Voted Blue".... (Even THEY knew that Andrew was "circling the drain"...and Democrats were "whistling into the wind"). At least Brenda Snipes "gave you hope", albeit crooked & corrupt hope...(the ONLY kind Democrats "sit up & bay at")...!!!

First of all...less than one half of a percentage point in Florida is thousands of votes! Second the Democrats did not clean house the only gained 38 seats in which the so-called Blue Wave of the Democrat Party said that they were going to get anywheres from 40 to 60 seats in the House and the Republicans picked up A ney gain of 3 seats in the Senate! I hope and pray that the Democrats all they do is investigate and do not legislate talk about impeachment and do nothing so in two years the Republicans will come back and take the house once again. LOL!

Won't happen. This election is the beginning of a national movement. The Dems are working on 39 or 40 seats in the House ... a significant swing. The Dems also contested 26 Senate seats ... and lost only four. Plus, they picked up seven governorships and took over the majority in seven statehouses ... and won out in the four states that gave Trump the 2016 electoral college win ... MI, WI, MN, PA. Besides that, on a nationwide level, the Dems outvoted the GOPs by a total of at least nine points! McConnell's total obstructionism during Obama's last six years and the absurdity of the past two years of Trumpism ... plus the classless division the GOPs are always engaging in ... have finally energized both the Democrats and the Independents. On top of it all ... demographics are going totally against the Republicans.

The author mentions Crazy Bernie campaigning for Andy Killum but avoids mentioning the 3 political kiss of deaths that also campaigned for him, Hillary , Creepy Joe Biden and Bathhouse Barry Obama. Once they came to town I knew Ron Deracist , as your house bigot Leslie Wimes calls him, was in. The state dodged a bullet here with Gillum, now if we can get a little plot of Marijuana in Tally to keep this Dope lawyer Nikki Fried busy , we might be in good shape.

Don't forget the other 'kiss of death' he made! After campaigning with Hillary he campaigned with DWS! For the love of God why isn't she locked up with HER?

I BELIEVE WHAT YOU"RE SAYING !......(to paraphrase you: ANY "schlump", "ne're do well", "criminally bent", "socialist", "lying", "duplicitous", "scheming", "self serving", "mental midget" can get elected to ANY "office in the land", provided he has the "right" campaign-wonks and the backing of "millionaires & morons"... (A sad commentary on our entire "election process".... This how the "French Revolution" started.... CAUTION: "YOU SHALL REAP WHAT YOU SOW !"

Gillum need o select Graham or an hispanic female as his running mate. He also should have concentrated on turning out the vote in Miami Dade,Broward and Palm Beach. He should have engaged former Governor Bob Graham(which would have happened had he selected his daughter as his running mate.) Good candidate..but not a strategic campaign.. Susie Wiles turned around DeSantis campaign with her usual relentless attack strategy..but it worked

This election was, unfortunately, a watershed event. Clearly, to me anyway, the worm has turned in that for a Republican candidate to ONLY win by approximately 30,000 votes against a clear set of socialist policies does not bode well for the future. Each succeeding election from this point forward will become harder and harder for Republicans to win--the Dems can thank the changed demographics for that.

Absolutely correct. The worm has turned. This election was the BEGINNING of the Democratic Party taking back this state. They'll likely take over the majority in the Florida Senate the next time out while also making some inroads in the Florida House ... and they'll likely make DeSantis a one-term governor in 2022. (Scott and Rubio will remain pretty much irrelevant in a democratically-neutered U.S. Senate.)

Well, DeSantis certainly ran a poor campaign in terms of optics. The "monkey this up" comment certainly didn't help. Despite this, the Republicans won like they always do in Florida.

Gillum no doubt was the better candidate by far. Gov. elect DeSantis who was my Congressman was stiff, aloof and pretty much ran a crappy campaign. There was no real organization and there was infighting that should have torpedoed his campaign. Gillum has way more going for him. Though blaming the FDP and King may help to contribute to a loss it does not tell the full story. The lingering FBI probe did not help. This made some voters pause in voting for him. The issue concerning his Dream Defender signature and his attitude towards law enforcement hurt him. He was suspect for being anti Jewish or anti Semitic because of his views and statements. This may have scared off some Jewish voters. Finally, his insistence that if you oppose any of his policies makes you a racist did not help either. The other key component is the first debate. No question that Gillum was leading and this was his opportunity to take DeSantis out. But, DeSantis was much more prepared and was much more credible then many thought. This debate, I believe caught him flat footed. I think he kept reading the headlines from his friends in the media and never thought he could lose. Lose he did, but not by much. There will always be what ifs. But this race I am not sure if anyone can put their finger on it.

Gillum sux

DeSatan Sucks...

Listen, the fact that this guy who managed to get out of a crowded primary with the lowest win total in recent history for a primary. Then, throw in all of the baggage, FBI, medicare for all, higher taxes, etc. On top of all of that, the fact that this kid, who just happens to also be a minority, lost by less than 1/2% should tell you how fed up people are with what is going on politically. If a moderate Graham would have won the nomination, it is likely she would have won by double digits. Even Scott won by 1/4% after spending what 100 million? If this is not a referendum on the rest of the country and the newly neutered, lame duck Legislature and President. This is a new wave of politics that is likely to gain more momentum before it slows down. 2020 is going to be interesting to say the least...especially once the Trump trials are over...

Meanwhile "agent orange " continues to stack the federal courts with conservative judges that will affect you and your children's lives for decades, but by all means keep banking on the Trump trials , fools

The Democrats could NEVER WIN anything unless they cheat. The Democrats have killed hundred's of thousands of babies thru abortion, but protect the voter base of illegals because the Democrats need the votes. When the Democrats cheat, elections always look bad for the ruling GOP. WE have to instill the laws in place? They are 1. Picture ID. 2. Voter Registration. 3. Birth Date, 4. Did their name come from the dead roles and/or did a Democrat give you fake ID and a free phone. There is no lame duck legislature or President. President Trump's next leap will be to bring the criminal Hillary Clinton to an indictment for Treason & Sedition

Tell RWoodworth - How come Trump (Cadet Bone Spur) has not locked Hilary up by now? What treason has she committed. The Uranium BS doesn't count. And just how many illegals have been caught voting? You come up with some wild statements but none are factual. If Democrats are so bad how come Republicans have to gerrymand their districts. Does that count as cheating? Bet it doesn't cause it favors your bunch. Hilary is no long in the picture - I can't wait till That Wednesday after the 2020 election day where the headlines will read "Donald Trump - You're Fired." That's the day I looking forward to. Stop drinking that Fox News Cool-Aid and think for yourself, unless you're filthy rich - the GOP has nothing for you and you know it. It much be a White thing. If it is - Hey there is nothing wrong with that - Admit it. Why don't you? Scared?

I don’t get how he got as many votes as he did. In a State noted for its abu dance of senior citizens, who the heck voted for his guy who was beating the drum for Medicare for all. Defies logic. But then all’s well that ends well! Whew!

Gillum is a socialist. He allied himself with the worst anti-Semitic and radical group in Florida, the Dream Defenders! They want to boycott Israel, support the Palestinians and their program regarding prisons and other social reforms verge on anarchy. This became a vehicle to derail his campaign. Gillum tried to say that he was a Social Progressive, but when he went on the campaign trail with Bernie Sanders he lost a lot of the older vote. His agenda was flawed. Lots of promises that cost lots of money with a limited plan of how to acquire the necessary funds. He wanted to remake Florida in the California of the South. He played the race card incessantly rather than address the valid issues raised by both his opponent and the media. Thankfully, the majority of the voters had the intelligence to see that what was lying at the end of the rainbow was NOT a pot of gold!

Crystal sounds to me that what ever plan is in place now is OK? Is it? Don't give "socialism" the rap it had during the cold war. Its not about that and you know it. To say that GOP politics is Selfish politics is an understatement. Does Isreal really cares about us here? I don't think they care a freaking blip about what goes on in Florida so Why does Gillum has to worry about that? Anarchy? Have you read the news lately? Looks like only White Supremacist are doing the killing and scaring these days. What so Bad about California? Last I check they have a budget surplus. Why? Because they are actually funding their state properly - Florida for the past 20 years has been run on the Cheap - buts its OK with you Fascist because you already have yours and the hell with those who need. Lets just hope one day you won't need. If you do you probably be no different then the rest - go to government for help. BTW - America already has socialism. Military, law enforcement, firement and those "dreaded" public schools. Is it all Socialistic in Nature?

Well said! Very astute observations!

Andrew Gillum made several important Tactical errors, after his Primary win. First. He didn't get ahead of his ghosts in the closet, right away. He waited until the DeSantis campaign made them fodder in their political ads. What he should have done, was made sure the voting public knew about them right out of the box. Instead, it became an uphill battle of explanations, which took time away from talking about his agenda and policies. Second. He should have picked a running mate with more recognition. Someone with strong ties to the Hispanic populace. One from Miami Dade area. His agenda was solid. Healthcare, water quality, education. The trifecta of Florida's woes. His opponent also made claims of fixing those issues too. But as usual, they will fall by the wayside, as money pours in to prevent any legislation. Once again, the middle class and poor voters of Florida, got bamboozled into voting Republican again, so they can get screwed again. When will they learn.

Gillum is a socialist. He allied himself with the worst anti-Semitic and radical group in Florida, the Dream Defenders! This became a vehicle to derail his campaign. He tried to say that he was a Social Progressive, but when he went on the campaign trail with Bernie Sanders he lost a lot of the older vote. His agenda was flawed. Lots of promises that cost lots of money with a limited plan of how to acquire the necessary funds. He wanted to remake Florida in the California of the South, but thankfully the majority of the voters had the intelligence to see that what was lying at the end of the rainbow was NOT a pot of gold.

Spot on!

A number of flawed premises here. The major one is that Adam Putnam would have easily won. Putnam while a nice guy was a RINOs RINO. He was AWOL during Trump Campaign and after Trump win. If he would have simply acknowledged his Trump reluctance as many now Trump supporters were early on, he would have won the nomination. Trump was the obvious deciding factor in both Scott and Desantis win. Secondly, Gillums unfair shameful race baiting began right after nomination and continued. I believe many voters regardless of Party are tried of this salacious and soft bigoted refrain.

Amen!

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