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Down in the polls, Adam Putnam doubles down on breakfast and BBQs before primary

On Thursday, he's in Lake City to meet with supporters as part of state-wide tour of Florida.
Adam Putnam talks with Republican supporters at a rally hosted by the Sun City Republican Club on Saturday. (Steve Contorno | Times)
Adam Putnam talks with Republican supporters at a rally hosted by the Sun City Republican Club on Saturday. (Steve Contorno | Times)
Published Aug. 17, 2018
Updated Aug. 17, 2018

With less than two weeks until primary day, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is doubling down on the campaign strategy that has gotten him this far: breakfast and barbecues, served with a side of law enforcement.

Putnam on Friday will meet with supporters at a restaurant in Winter Park. It's part of a 10-day, last-ditch push to tour every region of the state before the Aug. 28 primary .

The stop is just the kind of hyper-local event that Putnam has staked his campaign on. Since he announced his bid for governor last year, he has held dozens of similar gatherings in small towns and near large cities. Sometimes he meets just a few dozen Republicans at a time for breakfast or barbecue at community centers and greasy spoons.

MORE: Adam Putnam goes hyper-local. Is this any way to win the Florida governor's race?

It is a strategy intended to emphasize Putnam's knowledge of the state and his willingness to meet with any voters, no matter how small the crowd or remote the area. On Wednesday evening he met supporters at a Panama City grill. Thursday, breakfast was again on the menu in Lake City, a north Florida city with a population of about 12,000.

Often, Putnam is joined by law enforcement, whose leaders he has relied on to stump for him, appear in campaign commercials and promote Putnam's law-and-order agenda. That's the case for Thursday's event, which featured Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter, Union County Sheriff Brad Whitehead and Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith.

PUTNAM ON THE FARM: How Adam Putnam turned his agriculture roots into a political machine

"There's nothing we can accomplish in Florida if our kids and our families don't feel safe," Putnam said in Panama City on Wednesday, surrounded by uniformed officers. "That's why we've got to put public safety first. That's why I will always stand with law enforcement."

For weeks, it appeared his opponent, Rep. Ron DeSantis, had momentum in his favor. President Donald Trump visited Tampa to endorse DeSantis, and most polls have shown him with a comfortable lead since.

On Wednesday, Putnam's campaign publicized a poll that showed the race much closer, though, he's still down and the margin of error in that survey was a disconcerting +/- 5.2 percentage points.

Whether Putnam's grassroots-style campaign (and $38 million to pay for constant television ads) can out-last an opponent boosted by Trump's megaphone, will soon be determined.

Meanwhile, DeSantis on Thursday is on the second day of his tour of communities affected by blue green algae blooms. He is meeting with Melbourne community and business leaders about the impact of the environmental crisis.

DeSantis has blamed the sugar industry, an ally and backer of Putnam's campaign, for the crisis.

READ MORE: After condemning U.S. Sugar's influence, Ron DeSantis to visit toxic green algae