Heading into November's midterm elections, Republican candidates face a question of whether to fully embrace President Donald Trump or to distance themselves from him. Two Florida GOP candidates decided a little distance was necessary from Trump's recent claims concerning the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico.
Trump recently rejected the updated death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit… https://t.co/6gATFkCMeH— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1536842247.0
Governor Rick Scott, who is also running for U.S. Senate this year, tweeted a pointed disagreement with Trump:
I disagree with @POTUS– an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. I've been to Puerto… https://t.co/l4vmoYeQZF— Rick Scott (@Rick Scott)1536853554.0
Scott terms out of the Governor's office this year and so challenged incumbent Senator Bill Nelson for his Senate seat. But the Puerto Rican voting bloc in Florida may be critical in achieving that goal. Scott walks a tightrope between his Florida voters and the highest ranking member of the GOP, President Trump.
Also looking to split from Trump is the man who hopes to take over from Scott in the Governor's mansion, Republican Ron DeSantis. DeSantis—a former member of the US House of Representatives—faces Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in November.
Instead of taking to Twitter, DeSantis issued a statement through his campaign which made no direct reference to the President.
The candidate's communications director—Stephen Lawson—stated:
"Ron DeSantis has always worked to help the Puerto Rican community, both on the Island and here in Florida. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated. Ron is focused on continuing to help our Puerto Rican neighbors recover and create opportunities for those who have moved to Florida succeed."
DeSantis previously received an endorsement from Trump on Twitter.
Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State… https://t.co/xEkAqrqH6R— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1529668723.0
As did Governor Rick Scott.
Rick Scott of Florida is doing a fantastic job as Governor. Jobs are pouring into the State and its economic health… https://t.co/A08RenlEwq— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1535390360.0
By Thursday afternoon, Trump had yet to respond to either Florida candidate's statements, although one suspects he is likely to do so.
The President struck back at Republicans like Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee and the late John McCain when they criticized him. Trump's supporters also attacked the Senators online.
Both Corker and Flake previously announced their retirements before splitting from Trump. Fewer GOP members actively running for office choose to openly oppose the President.
However Scott launched a new ad campaign that suggests just that without outright stating it.
In the ad—released on social media and TV—Scott vows to go to Washington DC and "Give ‘Em Hell." The them to which Hell will be given is up for individual interpretation.
Puerto Ricans may be a key voting bloc during the 2018 midterms in Florida. Following Hurricane Maria, thousands of Puerto Ricans moved to the state.
But Scott's sincerity in supporting Puerto Rico came under fire after his Twitter post.
@ScottforFlorida @POTUS Ooooh, just look at him pander. Now, about that algae, those guns, that medicaid fraud, th… https://t.co/HGDcfbCcfH— Clarence Patton (@Clarence Patton)1536856152.0
@cpattonbkny @ScottforFlorida @POTUS How about the 1.7 ex felons who have served all the terms of their sentence, t… https://t.co/9CJTeqm3MO— kyra 🌊 (@kyra 🌊)1536858855.0
@ScottforFlorida @POTUS Right.... Just like how you blamed mass shootings on Mental Health then cut funding for mental health care— David Hogg text VOTE to 954-954 (@David Hogg text VOTE to 954-954)1536854337.0
@ScottforFlorida @WalshFreedom @POTUS Thank you. You are still absolutely horrible and I can’t wait for you to lose… https://t.co/sFyQdG00fQ— Rage Donkey™️ (@Rage Donkey™️)1536855482.0
@ScottforFlorida Looks like Rick is trying to appeal to those Puerto Ricans that relocated to Florida after hurrica… https://t.co/itCvKUP2Yz— #DonTheCon (@#DonTheCon)1536854764.0
@RVLouie @BloatedPOTUS @ScottforFlorida Yes. Now that many live in Florida, they can vote in Florida. I hope that… https://t.co/zy7o1UkiYg— Adrian Tampanian (@Adrian Tampanian)1536866766.0
@ScottforFlorida @POTUS @FLGovScott did everything he could to elect his village idiot POTUS. An inconvenient truth… https://t.co/QrihdFL3yp— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@Rep. Carlos G Smith)1536854628.0
@ScottforFlorida @rusingram @POTUS uh-huh... In your mind you're thinking that you danced around like Fred Astaire… https://t.co/XeRFqaB7Ij— Chet Powell (@Chet Powell)1536856126.0
@ScottforFlorida @POTUS @ScottforFlorida This is not about “disagreement” with Trump. You should be outraged by his… https://t.co/hYWEfEqiT9— Debi Does Democracy 🌊🌊🌊 (@Debi Does Democracy 🌊🌊🌊)1536856050.0
@ScottforFlorida @POTUS It must be election time & Scott needs our votes so he comes out of the shadows. He visited… https://t.co/k6YbsrSzVP— Raj anketell (@Raj anketell)1536857199.0
@ScottforFlorida @POTUS This coming from someone who refuses to accept that global warming is real. Even refuses to… https://t.co/Fli8bBEnmo— Rob Hafner (@Rob Hafner)1536861799.0
Midterm elections are slated for Tuesday, November 6, 2018.