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, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
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 Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR
— Rick Scott (@ScottforFlorida) September 13, 2018
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 of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes – Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018
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 is better than ever before. He is strong on Crime, Borders, and loves our Military and Vets. Vote for Rick on Tuesday!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2018
By Thursday afternoon, Trump had yet to respond to either Florida candidate’s statements, although one suspects he is likely to do so.