Less than a week into the Florida gubernatorial contest between Trump-loving GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis and Democratic Mayor of Tallahassee Andrew Gillum, who would be Florida's first black governor, and we've now had three "Southern Strategy" moments that would have made Lee Atwater proud.
On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the winning in Florida's Tuesday primaries, DeSantis called Gillum "articulate" and warned Florida voters not to "monkey this up" by voting for his opponent.
DeSantis, whose rise to national prominence was bolstered by his frequent appearances on the network, praised Gillum on Fox News on Wednesday as “an articulate spokesman” for those holding “far-left views” but warned that he would be damaging to the state.
“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state,” DeSantis said. “That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”
The use of language seen as containing coded racism prompted an extraordinary rebuke from the network.
DeSantis pulled a "who, me?" and walked the comments back, sort of, but then on Thursday white supremacists bought robocalls in Florida with an unmistakably racist message.
Racist robocalls targeting Andrew Gillum, the first black nominee for Florida governor from a major party, have been placed to residents from an out-of-state white supremacist entity.
Mr. Gillum, 39, the Tallahassee mayor and a progressive candidate who won an upset victory in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, will face Representative Ron DeSantis, 39, a Republican who embraced the style and policies of President Trump, in the November election.
In the audio of one robocall placed on Friday and obtained by The New York Times, a man pretending to be Mr. Gillum can be heard talking in the exaggerated accent of a minstrel performer. “Well hello there,” it begins, “I is Andrew Gillum.” He then talks for a little over a minute about mud huts and unfair policing practices, and asks repeatedly for the listener’s vote. In the background are the sounds of drums and monkeys.
The recording, reported on Friday by The Tallahassee Democrat, ends with a man saying that the message was paid for by the Road to Power, an Idaho-based website and podcast with white supremacist and anti-Semitic content.
It is unclear how many people received the robocalls, but Mr. Gillum’s campaign spokesman, Geoff Burgan, said that multiple people had reported them to the campaign. He called the message “reprehensible” and said it “could only have come from someone with intentions to fuel hatred and seek publicity.”
Now DeSantis, in an interview today, wasted no time going after Gillum again, accusing Gillum of being a "far-left fringe socialist" who will "turn Florida into Venezuela".
DeSantis told host John Catsimatidis in an interview airing Sunday on AM 970 in New York that Gillum, who is backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and advocates for more left-leaning proposals such as "Medicare for all" and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is an "untraditional" opponent.
"I would say it's very untraditional for Florida, [though] not anything to do with me, I'm a solid conservative in the Reagan tradition and I've been supportive of the president's agenda," DeSantis said.
"This Andrew Gillum, he's on the far-left socialist fringe," DeSantis continued. "He's a Bernie Sanders, [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez type candidate."
"If you have a guy like this enacting a socialist agenda it's going to absolutely destroy all the progress that Florida has made," he added. "He wants to turn Florida in to Venezuela."
It hasn't even been a week yet, and we already have three ear-splitting racist dog-whistles in the race, one from actual card-carrying white supremacists in support of Ron DeSantis, a race which is now 100% about Gillum being black.
And we still have two months to go.