Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam has drawn thousands of Republican activists to rallies and barbecues across the state and held dozens of well-attended “Up and Adam” breakfast talks with likely primary voters.
The Agriculture Commissioner and longtime darling of party activists has blown away all Florida money raising records. He led Republican rival Ron DeSantis by 15 to 17 percentage points — a blowout — in the last three public polls conducted by experienced Florida pollsters, in June for Fox News, NBC News, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
On the ground, however, it feels like the race is shifting decidedly toward DeSantis.
“I’m also torn between Ron DeSantis and Adam, because I know Adam so well,” Robin Lester of Tampa told me last week, echoing several other women at her table during a Florida Federation of Republican Women dinner.
These should be rock solid Putnam voters, women who have been active in the GOP long before the Tea Party and Trump acolytes came to dominate the grass roots. Many have known Putnam personally for years.
Putnam surely has spent more time speaking at and eating rubber chicken at Republican Executive Committee dinners than any living Republican politician in Florida.
But over coffee in Ybor City Friday, Hillsborough GOP chairman Jim Waurishuk said he also sees considerable support for DeSantis.
“Going by the people I talk to, most of the people in the party seem to be leaning DeSantis,” said Waurishuk, who is neutral and gives DeSantis a “slight edge” to win the nomination.
Hard data is more reliable than anecdotes and gut instincts, of course, but we have had no highly regarded public polls released in weeks.
The DeSantis campaign released its own internal, July 2 poll of 800 Republican voters across Florida that showed DeSantis leading Putnam by 19 percentage points, 47 percent to 28 percent.
That would suggest the race had shifted at least thirty points in a few weeks, which defies credulity.
What happened since those polls showing Putnam running away with the race? Donald Trump threw his “full Endorsement!” to DeSantis. The two Republicans debated on Fox News, where DeSantis reminded viewers that Putnam had supported “the Obama-Schumer Gang of Eight immigration amnesty” bill. DeSantis began airing TV ads touting his ties to Trump, and anti-DeSantis ads run by a group with ties to the sugar industry ceased. Putnam received a bunch of bad publicity over failures with how his office reviewed background checks for concealed weapons permits.
DeSantis way ahead? Best to be skeptical. Putnam’s big lead gone? We’re not so skeptical.