Florida Republican leaders who gathered this weekend in Tampa believe they can hold back a Democratic wave in November to keep the “[Donald] Trump agenda alive.”
But to retain congressional and legislative majorities and to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, that means ramping up messaging about economic growth, boosting turnout, particularly among voters who request absentee ballots, and countering what the GOP describes as “mainstream media” narratives of looming Democratic victories.
It also means allowing Democrats to celebrate some high-profile special election victories across the nation as speculation continues that Democrats will capitalize on a traditional mid-term surge by the party out of the White House.
“It’s going to be very hard for them to keep that energy up,” Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said during a party quarterly meeting at a DoubleTree hotel.
Ingoglia also said Democrats will have to spread resources to campaigns across the country, unlike during their recent special-election victories for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama and a congressional seat in Pennsylvania.
“They’re very good at winning one race at a time,” Ingoglia, a state House member from Spring Hill, said.
Peter Feaman, a member of the Republican National Committee, called GOP candidates who will be on the ballot this year “proxies for keeping the Trump agenda alive,” with the agenda exemplified by tax cuts and secure borders.
“You know the other side is as enthused as we were two years ago,” Feaman said, referring to the 2016 elections, when Trump defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “So, the enthusiasm gap has been reversed. And now it’s us that has to get back into the game.”
The Republican Party of Florida has 56 paid employees scattered across the state. But Democrats are using the phrase “blue wave” to symbolize efforts to capture the governor’s mansion and Republican seats in Congress and the state Legislature.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham said in a news release this week that women standing up to gun violence and as part of the #MeToo movement “are the driving force behind the 2018 blue wave.”
Meanwhile, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat also running for Governor, was slated to attend a “blue wave” dinner Saturday night in Plant City.
The 2018 elections will ratchet up Monday, when Gov. Rick Scott is expected to formally announce that he is challenging Nelson for the U.S. Senate seat. Nelson is the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, and the outcome of his battle with Scott could help determine which party wins control of the Senate in November.
A driving force behind Democratic optimism in this year’s races has been the policies and personality of Trump.
But Trump’s actions — rather than his words and tweets — are also why Republicans contend they can hold on to the Florida governor’s office, the three state Cabinet seats, maintain majorities in the Legislature and congressional delegation and capture Nelson’s seat.
“You can’t argue with results,” said Kathleen King, a member of the Republican National Committee. “Thanks to a tax cut signed into law … more than 470 companies have announced pay raises, bonuses, utility rate cuts, 401(k) (investment plan) hikes or other expanded benefits.”
Feaman said, “Pay little attention to what the man (Trump) says — but watch very carefully what the man does.”