Post # 202, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary
"If You Vote for Me, This Is What You Get."
It is still a little early to drill down too deep into the campaigns of those who appear to be candidates for Governor of Florida. But for students of politics like me, it is not too soon to just take the temperature of the major campaigns. An age old way of judging the essence of the campaigns, even at this early stage, is to look at their "Signature Issues." Examples are best described by the campaign tag line. Here are examples of the tag lines representing the candidate's "Signature Issue." President Bill Clinton, "It is the Economy Stupid;" President George H.W. Bush, "A More Compassionate Government;" Florida Governor Rueben Askew, "Tax Fairness;" and of course President Donald Trump, "Make America Great Again." The idea is a vital part of branding--this is what you will get if you vote for me.
Some might confuse Campaign Tag Lines or Slogans with Signature Issues. The issues will become the policies of the Administration, while the slogan usually describes the effect of the policies. There are exceptions, of course. Now, there are failures of the candidates to honor their signature issue sometimes, like President George H.W. Bush saying we should "Read his Lips, no New Taxes." Yes, he was elected and we got new taxes from him.
But let's look at what may be the major candidates for Florida Governor Signature Issues at this stage of their campaign:
Incumbent Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, "Freedom from Government Control." That would normally be a very sensible signature issue, especially for a conservative Republican. It is also is consistent with DeSantis's mentor President Trump. But there is a problem. This is the same Governor who spent our hard earned public money on lawsuits against the federal government over vaccinations to protect us from the deadly Covid-19 Pandemic. He said he wanted to protect our freedoms against government control. The result--DeSantis was at least partially responsible for 3.6 Covid-19 cases in Florida and almost 60,000 dead on the Governor's watch.
Former Florida Governor (now a Democrat) Charlie Crist, "Experience Counts." Again, first reaction is positive. Then we got to thinking about Crist's career as a conservative Republican, then a liberal Republican, then an Independent, and now a moderate Democrat. Crist is well known for qualifying for the John Kerry slogan, "I was for it before I was against it." His latest flip flop is on marijuania--he was always against against it and now is wildly for it. No coincidence that his opponent is in that business. Crist would best change his brand to "Do what I say, not what I do."
Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, "Anybody but Trump." That is a signature issue that any of the Democratic candidates can use, so it is a little obvious, and therefore not very effective. Perhaps Crist slogan is really addressed directly at Fried--other than being for legalized marijuana, she had never won another office, and even that office she barely won. Maybe it will be an experiment for Democrats to take a candidate and mold them as needed in the general election.
Democratic State Senator Annette Taddeo, "If you want the South Florida Women's Hispanic Vote Again, Vote for Me." She is right, in 2020 Donald Trump hammered Joe Biden in voter rich Miami-Dade County, especially in the Hispanic precincts. That was a complete reversal for four years earlier when Hillary Clinton won those votes easily. Democrats are hammered by some Democrats mentioning socialism while campaigning in South Florida. Republicans saw that as red meat and still do. But Florida is much larger than one or even two or three South Florida counties. The Senator has a somewhat undistinguished (back bencher) record in the Upper Chamber, but perhaps that should be expected with a heavy partisan grip on the Senate by the GOP. Maybe Senator Taddeo is getting ready for a run in 2024, as she has run statewide before and lost.