It looks like the media has found their new messiah in Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida. Gillum, the Bernie Sanders-backed Mayor of Tallahasse. Gillum pulled an upset by beating out establishment favorite Gwen Graham in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Should he manage to win the general election, Gillum would become the first African-American Governor in the Sunshine State’s history.
During Tuesday’s CNN Tonight With Don Lemon, political analyst and Whtie House briefing room agitator April Ryan reacted enthusiastically to Gillum’s victory by also invoking Democrat Stacey Abrams's victory in the Georgia gubernatorial race (who would also, if she wins in November, also be the first African-American Governor there) as evidence that “the south shall rise again for some.”
She also asserted: “For all intense and purposes, in this Trump era, this should not be. Two African-Americans in red states, the reddest of states rising to the top and could possibly wind up getting the governorship of these states.”
Apparently, Ryan forgot that Florida voted for President Obama twice and Republicans have only won Georgia by single-digit margins in the most recent presidential elections. So much for “facts first.”
Ryan went on to cite the defeat of Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama, specifically mentioning “those people in the black belt,” as a reason why she remains optimistic about Gillum’s prospects in the general election.
Senior politics writer Harry Enten seconded Ryan’s reference to Alabama: “The one example of this past cycle in which African-American turnout was very high, was in the Alabama special Senate election. And if Gillum can double down on that and repeat what occurred in Alabama, I think that is a very good sign for him going forward.”
The comparison to Alabama comes across as faulty at best, considering the fact that many Republicans, including Senator Richard Shelby, supported write-in candidates in the wake of sexual assault allegations against Moore and thus Democrat Doug Jones scooted to victory.
In Florida, whatever Democratic enthusiasm exists will have to go up against Republican enthusiasm for their gubernatorial nominee and outspoken Trump supporter Ron DeSantis. As an aside, Republican turnout exceeded Democratic turnout in Tuesday’s primary in a state with more registered Democrats than Republicans.
The love fest for Gillum continued into Wednesday’s New Day with co-hosts John Berman and Alisyn Camerota plus chief political correspondent Dana Bash and New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear.
Bash praised Gillum as “dynamic” and “exciting when he talks,” if she were Chris Matthews. She gave a less flattering analysis of DeSantis, whom she described as “Trump Jr,” adding that President Trump “couldn’t probably create a better candidate...in his liking...than Desantis.”
Bash expressed her excitement for the general election, where “we are going to see finally a real debate between...two characters and two individuals who represent very, very different ideals.”
Based on Ryan’s and Bash’s statements on CNN, in addition to Joe Scarborough and friends’ softball interview with Gillum, it looks like the media have put their thumbs on the scale for Gillum.
A transcript of the relevant portion of CNN Tonight With Don Lemon is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN Tonight With Don Lemon
DON LEMON: But then there is a breaking news, Andrew Gillum wins the Democratic, Florida Democratic primary for Governor, first African-American. There he is. It is an upset. No one, this is surprising, no one thought that this would happen pretty much. But I guess he did, because he was in the race and also those who were supporting him, as well. One of them was Senator Bernie Sanders who was, who actually campaigned for him and endorsed him, putting out a statement. Let me read the statement before I bring in some folks to talk about it. Bernie Sanders said “congratulations to Andrew Gillum on his victory tonight. What has made Andrew’s campaign so powerful is that he is not just working hard to win an election, he says. He has laid out a vision for a new course for the state of Florida and our country. No person can take on the economic and political elites on their own. Tonight, Floridians join Andrew in standing up and demanding change in their community. That’s what the political revolution is all about, and Andrew Gillum is helping to lead it.” That said, CNN Political Analyst April Ryan is here, and CNN Politics Senior Writer and Analyst, Harry Enten. Both are here as well. Good evening to both of you. April, I just, I want to get to you. Harry, you know, I saw you earlier speaking about this. But April, I want to get to you. You know, we got…you have got Stacey Abrams, right, right across the border in Georgia.
APRIL RYAN: Yes. Yes. Georgia.
LEMON: And now you have in Florida, you’ve got Andrew Gillum, as well. What does this say to you?
RYAN: The south shall rise again for some. It’s very interesting. For all intense and purposes, in this Trump era, this should not be. Two African-Americans in red states, the reddest of states, rising to the top and could possibly wind up getting the governorship of these states. And not just…you don’t just have them there. You also have Ben Jealous in Maryland. You have, you have so many minorities running for office now for, once again, a time such as this. I think back to when George W. Bush and Al Gore were fighting over who was going to be President. Florida was pivotal, it went to George W. Bush. I think about Florida for Donald Trump. Now look at it. Is it going to be purple? Well, and I talked to Stacey Abrams a few weeks ago during the summer at the Essence, at the Essence Festival. And she said, you know, she doesn’t look at Georgia as necessarily red. She looks at it as purple. So for a time such as this as this President is trying to hold on to his base, there is this quiet movement of going to the polls, of people going to the polls, saying this is what we want. We want change, too. So let’s see who wins out in this fight. But once again, I find it so interesting, you know, how we talk about the south. But some have said the south shall rise again but in a different way.
LEMON: Yeah. Harry, let’s bring Harry Enten in. Harry, you have a Trump supporter now, Desantis, versus a black progressive of the Bernie Sanders ilk, right, unapologetic. How does that play out in Florida of all places?
ENTEN: I mean, look. I don’t know if there is a greater contrast in the nation between candidates than in the Florida gubernatorial race. Now I mean arguably, perhaps up in Georgia maybe there is. But I think that both sides got the candidate that they wanted the other side to get. So we are going to have to wait and see. But I think in this Trump era, you are dealing with a black progressive candidate on the left and you are dealing with a Trump supporter on the right. And it’s not clear in a midterm election with the national environment’s on the Democratic side, whether or not the Democrat could get that extra little point or plus that Trump won by in Florida to overcome that Republican advantage. But keep this in mind. In Florida, they have not elected a Democratic Governor since 1994. So that’s the uphill battle that Gillum is facing. But also keep in mind that they really haven’t nominated a true progressive on the Democratic side since long before 1994. So this is a different tact that the Florida Democratic electorate is taking. They decided to go to the left. They decided to go with an African-American candidate. And I will say if you get the turnout among African-Americans and young progressives that Gillum got tonight down in Florida, it will make for a very interesting general election campaign.
LEMON: You set me up for my next question…
LEMON: …Really well, April, because Florida is always super competitive. I’m going to let you get in here because this is along the lines, I’m sure, of what you’re talking about. There is huge electoral play in Florida, national implications here. Go on, April.
RYAN: You know I…this is a different time, you know. We didn’t expect many people, you know, the internal the polls for Donald Trump. He felt that he was going to win and he did win. A lot of the pollsters did not think that it was going to happen and it happened. This is a different day. And I am going to go back to those people in that black belt that told Roy Moore we didn’t want him. They said we don’t want you. And I think that was a telltale sign. What happened in Alabama, and people are saying, you know, we don’t want this, or some people are saying we want this. There is a quiet movement going on in this nation in the churches, in the HBCU community, historically black colleges and universities community, and many of the black Greek organizations and the links and other organizations that are getting people to the polls to vote. And they are saying, you know, there are things on the table like the NAACP, they are saying, you know, vote against hate. That is their theme. So they are getting people to the polls. And I understand, you know, the black vote is not as large as the mainstream vote. But those numbers are coming out and showing that they are a force. And you, once again, you have something that we have never seen before happening in Florida, and possibly it could change the dynamic of Florida politics and national politics and what is happening in Georgia. So there is a quiet movement, Don, to go up against what this President is doing.
LEMON: Yeah. You know what is interesting to me is…and I just want to read something here, Harry, because he talked about…he’s been giving interviews obviously lately, saying that he decided to run for Governor this year after Trump’s Presidential win and said that he thought it was important that Democrats offered am unequivocal contrast to the President’s political message. And what he said he says it has become…this is a quote, “very clear that something was seriously wrong, and we couldn’t take the risk in Florida of putting another Republican-like Democrat who would lose for Governor the sixth consecutive time.” He said in a recent interview, “Democrats narrowly lost those races, he said, because of black, brown, and poor voters who feel they don’t have a reason to show up with the nominees that they have put before us.” And I am reading that from The Washington Post. This is a Washington PostW write up there. What is interesting to me is I think in…obviously, in 2008 and 2012, the African-American turnout was really strong for Barack Obama, not as much for Hillary Clinton. And maybe African-Americans, people of color, feel at this point that they have a reason to go to the polls now, not just because of what Gillum is offering, but also because of what Donald Trump has done and this administration has done as well.
ENTEN: I think that’s definitely true. I will point out in the Democratic primary season so far, in fact, African-American turnout has been down relative to say where other portions of the Democratic electorate have been. But the one example of this past cycle in which African-American turnout was very high, was in the Alabama special Senate election. And if Gillum can double down on that and repeat what occurred in Alabama, I think that is a very good sign for him going forward. But again, in order to get African-American turnout up, you have to offer them something unique, something different. Obviously, Barack Obama did that in both 2008 and 2012. In 2016, Hillary Clinton wasn’t able to duplicate that and you saw the results in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and down in Florida. If Gillum can get that African-American turnout up, he in fact could conceivably sort of cross that finish line that Hillary Clinton wasn’t able to down in Florida. And remember, Hillary Clinton only lost that state by a little more than a percentage point. And if you go back four years ago, that is about the same margin that Rick Scott won, the Republican incumbent Governor, won that gubernatorial race. So if Gillum is just able to get a little more support, that could make all the difference in the world. And as my mama once told me, winning by one vote is just as good as winning by 100,000.
LEMON: Let me ask you one more thing, because, you know, he doubled his percentage, Harry, within just a couple of weeks just before the election. I am wondering how he made up that ground, especially, you know, he’s Gwen Graham, who is, you know, Senator Graham’s daughter, a former Congresswoman. I mean that’s, that was a tough road hoe and he did it.
ENTEN: He absolutely did it. I would point out of course, that Bob Graham hasn’t been a Senator from that state for a very long period of time. In fact, although I am a relatively young guy, I am not that young before I was able to vote. So the Graham name in the state is not perhaps as good as it once was. I will say he got that late endorsement from Bernie Sanders. He was able to put a lot of money in his social media. And I think those two things really were able to help him. He was able to pick up momentum. And one other thing I point out was the three leading candidates besides Gillum who were running for Governor on the Democratic side, they all went negative against each other, and they were afraid of going negative against Gillum, because they thought that they could not afford to lose the African-American vote in the general. So it was sort of this perfect storm that Gillum was able to ride and clearly worked out for him in the end.
LEMON: Wow, making history tonight, first African-American in a major party.
LEMON: Running in Florida right now. He has got November. He’s got to go up, you know, against a Trump supporter. But we shall see. It’s going to be an interesting time.
A transcript of the relevant portion of CNN's New Day is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN New Day
07:06 a.m. Eastern
JOHN BERMAN: Let’s discuss more of the fallout from last night’s races with CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Michael Shear. Dana, let me start with you, because what we saw play out last night, overnight, first of all, this was a big surprise and an upset. Andrew Gillum was outspent by big numbers and Gwen Graham, to an extent, was the type of Democrat that traditionally national Democrats would want to see prevail in a state like Florida. But now they’re looking at this, saying Andrew Gillum’s got some energy behind him. Do you have the sense the National Democratic Party is happy? What’s the challenge?
DANA BASH: Look, I mean, I probably, I think you’re right, I know you’re right that on paper, somebody like Graham who is a, for lack of a better way to say it, Bill Clinton in the early 90s Democrat, more of a moderate Democrat, which, again, on paper should work better than somebody more to the left in a, in a state like Florida but, you know what, this is, these times, you just kind of throw everything up and see where it lands. And I think the thing to keep, really keep in mind also is that candidates really do matter. It’s cliché but I think it’s cliché for a reason and Andrew Gillum is dynamic. He is, he is exciting when he talks, obviously he has a tremendous personal story of, you know, coming up from nothing and talking about his, his desire to help other people who has, who have similar life stories and then on the other side of the aisle, you have somebody who is, who is kind of Trump Jr. I mean Donald Trump couldn’t probably create a better candidate in his, in his, in his liking, you know, than, than Desantis. I mean, a little bit different in some ways but very similar in other ways, and so we are going to see, look, as a political reporter, I’m doing this because we are going to see finally a real debate between these two ideals, but also between two characters and two individuals who represent very, very different ideals.
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Michael Shear, how do you see it?
MICHAEL SHEAR: Look, I think Dana is totally right, I think this is the ultimate test in this midterm election of the question of whether or not the winning formula for American politics now has shifted away from what Bill Clinton tried to put in place several decades ago, which was a kind of move to the center. And what we have seen if you look at some of the big national political figures who have adopted the kind of centrist approach, look at Hillary Clinton, she, you know, was not the candidate of the sort of left of her party and frankly John McCain was not the candidate of the fringe right in his party. And both of them struggled, ultimately, as politics shifted over the last couple of decades; they struggled and neither won the presidency. And so, you know, here is a test, admittedly just on a state level, not the national level of, you know, can, in a state that is very diverse and, you know, can one, can one candidate from both extreme wings of the two parties, can they successfully compete for the middle of the, of Florida and if so, what does that say about 2020 when Donald Trump and some Democrat are going to have to win Florida in order to win the presidency? You know, it shakes up this whole idea that, you know, that, you know, politicians and political reporters have been assuming for the past several decades, which is that that middle is always the most important, and that may not be the case if one of these, you know, when one these candidates wins.
BERMAN: And really, more than anything this will be a preview and a really telling preview, I think, of 2020.
CAMEROTA: That’s what Jeff Weaver believes.
BERMAN: I think you’re going to see whether or not these sides can turn out the vote and I also think it will be a preview to see what the President himself will do. I don’t think he’s going to be able to stay out of this race in any way. I’m surprised he hasn’t written about it…
BASH: He doesn’t want to.
BERMAN: …at length, I mean, I think he will be there physically.
BERMAN: I think he will go there, he will want to, at least, go and campaign for Desantis as much as he humanly can.
BASH: I think you’re right because he obviously likes him. I mean, you showed the Republican primary results there. Remember, Adam Putnam, he was a Former Congressman, he is a local state official, he was the guy that was going to run away with this and look how it ended up, I mean, it wasn’t even close. It was a 20-point race for the guy that the President put his, not just his thumb on the scale, he stepped on the scale for Ron Desantis. And so he saw his power in Florida, he knows his popularity among the base and so it is going to be a question of getting the bases out, but the last question that we’re all going to be watching is what happens with the middle. What happens with those who don’t always vote Republican, who don’t always vote Democratic? And that is going to be what we who observe politics and are wondering what Michael so eloquently just framed, if the middle, running to the middle doesn’t matter anymore, how that plays out with candidates like we’re going to see in Florida.