Not long before New York special election Tuesday, polls showed the Republican incumbent winning by double digits.  Yet Pat Ryan won.

Could something like that happen in Florida ten weeks from now?

Might women and young people and democracy lovers turn out to unseat Ron DeSantis and Marco Rubio?

Might some formerly-moderate Republicans, like Florida’s current Lieutenant Governor — who called Trump a ‘con-man,’ and KKK supporter — vote for a moderate like Charlie Crist?  After all, Crist enjoyed a 72% approval rating when he was Florida’s Republican governor?  (He has since switched parties.)

Well, no, she won’t — she’s running for re-election with DeSantis (and has long since deleted her anti-Trump tweet).

But ordinary Republicans, who’ve had enough of the Trump cult?

If you have six minutes, watch Charlie’s pitch

It’s compelling.

Even if moderate Republicans won’t vote for him, might they at least stay home out of dismay over what their party has become?

Might law-and-order Republicans decide that Police Chief Val Demings’ message resonates?  (True, Rubio has received millions from the NRA — but has he helped keep Floridians safe by working to keep weapons of war in the hands of 18-year-olds?)

I don’t know.

I do know that, like so many Republicans seeking to remain in power, Rubio caved to Trump.

Here’s what he told the Guardian six years ago.

Honest and spot on:

. . . If we’re the party of fear, with a candidate who basically is trying to prey upon people’s fears to get them to vote for them, I think we’re going to pay a big price in November and beyond.” [Sure enough, Trump lost the popular vote by 7 million votes and Republicans lost control of the House and Senate. — A.T.]

If elected, Trump would not have the respect of allies around the globe, Rubio warned.

“I think he’s already an embarrassment,” Rubio said. “People around the world are watching this debate and this campaign and wondering what’s happening here, because the things he says are nonsensical. . . .

Of traditional Republicans and conservatives who had cast their lot with Trump, Rubio went on to say:

“These are people that – whether it’s now or five years from now or two years from now or six months from now – are going to be explaining for a long time how they fell into this.

And then he, too, “fell into this.”

But back in 2016 he saw things clearly:

“Leadership is not inciting people to get angrier. That’s not leadership. You know what it is? That’s called demagoguery.”

He referred at times to the violent clashes that erupted at recent Trump rallies over the weekend, likening them to “third world images” that posed a threat to the republic. The impact of the scenes was such that Rubio, for the first time, said in a press conference on Saturday he no longer knew if he could commit to backing Trump as the Republican nominee.

Turns out, he could.

Rubio told the Guardian he believed Trump was pursuing a strategy employed by strongman leaders that defied America’s founding values.

“He’s arguing that he himself is the singular figure that’s going to do these amazing things for the country. He’s asking us to basically make it a nation of a man instead of a nation of laws,” Rubio said.

“Our founders chose a very different form of government … We don’t have political messiahs in America and every nation that’s tried to find one has ended up finding that those people are fallible and make terrible mistakes.”

. . .

“I don’t know how this is all going to end. This is uncharted territory,” he said. “But from my mind, the Republican party has a very important decision to make: Are we going to be the party of fear or the party of optimism?”

That Rubio twice voted to acquit Trump and to block the January 6 investigation tells us where he came out on this.  Solidly pro-Trump.

He may win, as may DeSantis — but Val Demings and Charlie Crist have the better stories — and are for all the things most Floridians want, that Republicans consistently vote to block: affordable health care (click that link for Florida-specific details!) . . . a sensible Roe-like middle-ground on women’s reproductive rights . . . sensible gun safety measures . . .  IRS enforcement of the tax laws on the ultra-rich and corporations, not just the little guy . . . attention to the climate change that threatens to submerge much of their state . . . and more.

My money’s on Val.  (Specifically, $5,800.)  And on Charlie, via the Florida Democratic Party.

Speaking of which — and acknowledging the challenge Democrats have retaining the support of the disparate Hispanic communities — here is what Manny Diaz, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party, had to say in reaction to controversial comments by the aforementioned Lieutenant Governor:

Sixty-one years ago, my mother and I walked through the halls of this historic building…Miami’s Ellis Island, to be welcomed into America.

We had to leave my father behind in Cuba, a political prisoner Castro’s jail.

Many other Cubans have followed a similar fate, those who came on the freedom flights, Camarioca, Mariel, the Balseros, from third countries and those who continue to come today.

Millions of us, who share much in common.

To be clear — we are all exiles.

We have fled and continue to flee a communist government that continues to tyrannize its people, jail, beat and kill its people.

A country that cannot even provide for the most basic needs to its people — food, medicine, a roof over their head — even electricity.

Adding to the desperation, for the last six years Cubans have been cut off from legal migration.

There are backlogs of approximately 100,000 visas and over 20,000 applications under the family reunification program, both programs canceled by President Trump.

These are Cubans desperately trying to unite with their families. Who speaks for them?

Governor DeSantis, my parents and the Lieutenant Governor’s family did not voluntarily choose to leave their country.

They had no other choice if they wanted their children to grow up free.

We left one at a time, we left however we could, forced to separate from our families.

Leaving behind parents and grandparents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives — many of us with just the clothes on our back….many of us risking death.

We left out of desperation and the dreams of parents, like the Lt. Governor’s and mine, who dreamed of raising us in a free and democratic country.

And we chose to come to the greatest country in the world because Americans have always been a kind, humane and generous people, many of whom also chose America for similar reasons.

America chose and found ways to let us in.

It could just as easily have chosen not to, and for that, we will always be grateful.

We came to America to give back, not to take.

We came to have an opportunity to work and fight for the American dream

Sadly, the Cuban model spread throughout the Americas — in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua.

They, like us, have also come to America in search of freedom and the American dream.

Together, we have helped build a city where 60% of our residents are foreign born.

We have helped build a city with one of the most recognized brands in the world, and where people around the world choose to live, invest, simply visit or play.

Just look at the group standing with me today. We hail from Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Trinidad…

That is Miami. That is what truly makes America great.

So what is the problem?

I take no pleasure standing here today.

I have known Lt. Governor Nuñez for decades. This is not the Jeannette Nuñez I used to know.

Rather than remembering where she and her family came from….of our struggles.

Rather than following her heart, her moral compass, her sense of human dignity.

She has chosen to be an instrument in her boss Governor DeSantis’ campaign to dehumanize everything and everyone within arm’s length.

I can see Desantis’ xenophobia.

We are all too familiar with his political pandering, his obsession with power and ambition.

It is clear that he cares about no one other himself and his political agenda.

But, Lt. Governor, you should know better. or have you too become so driven by power that you have left your heart, your compassion and your principles at the door.

Why do you allow yourself to be a useful tool to promote DeSantis’ hatred?

We do not need proxies from the Governor or you to explain to us what your words mean.

We did not misinterpret your statements. We clearly understood them.

There are many in our community who believe you deny your roots (arrepentida). Sadly, I join them today.

What a shame (que pena).  It seems unreal (parece mentira).

But, it’s not too late.

Repudiate this law, this policy, and honor, not betray, the memories of so many immigrants in American history, including our Cuban families.

It is clear that Governor DeSantis, Lt. Governor Nuñez, their proxies and the Florida Legislature are clueless as to the inhumane, un-American, immoral and illegal nature of this law and policy.

But now that you know, tells us you will not watch in silence as Cuban, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, Haitian and other families in Miami and Florida are ripped apart and separated.

Tell us you will not join governor Desantis in turning into “coyotes” busing migrant families from one place to another.

Tell us that, at least this once, you will not honor and serve your master’s contempt for human dignity and respect.

Call me crazy, but I think we have a shot to pick up that Senate seat and Governorship.

Have a great week-end!



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