The morning after President Donald Trump rallied supporters in Tampa on behalf of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam tried to refocus the governor's race on Florida.
In a Fox News appearance Wednesday, Putnam said that he remains the best candidate to help the administration achieve its agenda in Florida despite Trump's endorsement of his opponent.
"If we're going to make America great again, we have to make sure our third largest state is doing our part," Putnam said, adding that he has the "knowledge of Florida to be able to implement a conservative pro-business agenda."
Meanwhile, Putnam continued to cast DeSantis as a creature of Washington, D.C., focused on federal issues. The DeSantis campaign hasn't issued any policy proposals, didn't respond to a Tampa Bay Times candidate questionnaire and often ducks Florida-specific questions; Putnam has put out several detailed plans for how he'd lead the state and has weighed in on issues ranging from sports betting to the recent controversy over the state's Stand Your Ground law.
"We don't want to import Washington dysfunction into the state of Florida," Putnam said. "They're just not able to roll up their sleeves and solve its many problems."
(DeSantis has served three terms in Congress. Putnam spent 10 years there, where he quickly rose up the ranks of GOP leadership in the House of Representatives.)
DeSantis has been content to run as the Trump candidate and little else. Indeed, his campaign recently began airing a tongue-in-cheek ad in which his wife, Casey DeSantis, says her husband is "so much more" than Trump — right after footage of DeSantis reading "The Art of the Deal" and building a wall out of blocks with his infant son.
"I appreciate your support, Mr. President," DeSantis said in his brief remarks before Trump stepped to the microphone in Tampa. "But I appreciate more the leadership you're showing for our great country."
Putnam came into the race with the backing of many long-time party leaders and with a significant fundraising advantage over DeSantis. A month ago, he led DeSantis by double digits.
But Trump's endorsement via Twitter turned the race on its head. DeSantis now leads by as much as 12 percentage points, according to the latest poll, with a quarter of voters still undecided.
Asked about that reversal on Fox News, Putnam said,"It certainly says that the president is well liked in the state of Florida."
Still, Putnam was adamant that voters are going to make up their own minds when they go to the ballot box on Aug. 28. And while he doesn't have Trump's endorsement, he has run a campaign closely aligned with the president and has the backing of one of Trump's most vocal Florida supporters, Attorney General Pam Bondi, as well as two-thirds of the state's county sheriffs.
Putnam's campaign continues to hold the kind of grassroots events that he believes demonstrates he's more in touch with Floridians than DeSantis. As Tampa prepped for Trump, Putnam met with veterans in the Villages. On Wednesday, he is holding a meet and greet in Lee County. He'll be at the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association Museum in Miami on Thursday.
"There's no doubt in my mind," Putnam said, "that an awful lot of people at the Trump rally last night were Trump-Putnam voters."