For the Ron DeSantis gubernatorial campaign it was a pretty big deal: He scheduled a campaign rally in Ybor City's Italian Club Thursday and nearly filled the auditorium with boisterous supporters.
Not only that, but several prominent local pols showed up to warm up the crowd before his entrance — state Reps. Richard Corcoran, Chris Sprowls, Jackie Toledo. And, cherry on top, the Republican nominee seemed warm and funny as he told the crowd about his toddler messing with his toothpaste.
This is basic stuff for a county commission candidate, let alone a candidate in one of the most closely watched races in America. But handling the most basic blocking and tackling of campaigns is new to the DeSantis campaign that actually used to scoff at Republican rival Adam Putnam's countless picnics, meet-and-greets, and rallies.
Lately, it's the Democratic campaign of Andrew Gillum ridiculing DeSantis for organizing appearances with lousy attendance.
So, yes, DeSantis' Ybor City appearance practically looked like a roaring Trump rally compared to what the campaign had been doing.
One of the more jarring traits of this campaign cycle is watching Florida Democrats mount a considerably more muscular coordinated campaign than Florida Republicans. The Florida Democratic Party seems to be running a powerful machine backing up Gillum and the Democratic ticket, while the Florida GOP behind DeSantis has seemed almost invisible but for the occasional press release.
In some cases, Democrats have sent as many protesters to show up at a DeSantis event as supporters and potential supporters showing up to hear the candidate.
The Rick Scott U.S. Senate campaign, as usual, is a mighty and efficient operation day in and day out, but that's run mostly apart from the Florida GOP. The DeSantis campaign seems just to be finding its footing.
Here are surrogates and fellow Democratic leaders who have appeared with or on behalf of Gillum in the past week: Actor Alyssa Milano: former White House economic adviser Gene Sperling; businessmen Harold Mills, Ken LaRoe*, and Bob Poe; I-4 mayors Rick Kriseman, Bob Buckhorn, Buddy Dyer; U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor; state Rep. Janet Cruz; Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil; Congressional Candidate Donna Shalala; State Rep. Nick Duran; State Rep. Javier Fernandez; Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf ; state Rep. Amy Mercado; State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez; State Sen. Annette Taddeo; former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas; State Rep Margaret Good, State Rep. Keith Fitzgerald; state Rep. John Cortes; U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy; state Rep. Joe Geller; Aventura Vice Mayor Gladys Mezrah; Miami Commissioner Ken Russell; actor Kendrick Sampson.
And here's are the surrogates and/or Republican leaders who appeared publicly with or on behalf of DeSantis in the last week: State Reps. Bob Cortes, David Santiago, Randy Fine, Corcoran, Sprowls, and Toledo.
Republicans will never draw the kind of Hollywood star power that Gillum can, but couldn't they at least make a token effort? Send out a surrogate with the sex appeal of Joe Negron or Dennis Baxley, for Pete's sake.
Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Chris King has been all over the place campaigning for Gillum. Republican lieutenant governor candidate Jeanette Nunez seems to be keeping a much lower profile, often or usually campaigning side by side with DeSantis.
None of this is to suggest that DeSantis is blowing the race. Based on history, he probably has a slightly better than even chance of winning, no matter what most Florida Insider think.
But at least until DeSantis' Tampa appearance yesterday, it sure seemed like Gillum and the Democrats are working harder and more effectively.
*Ok, not so helpful when your surrogate calls Florida a "s—hole."