It’s Trump vs. Jimmy Buffett as Florida enters campaign push
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump attacked Democrats in one corner of Florida on Saturday, while Margaritaville king Jimmy Buffett took musical shots at him and Gov. Rick Scott in another as the state’s tight Senate and gubernatorial races reached the final weekend of campaigning.
Both sides went to strongholds, with Trump holding a rally in conservative Pensacola with Scott, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running for governor. He praised both Republicans, called Gillum a “radical socialist” and said Nelson never calls him to push programs that would benefit Florida.
Buffett performed at a Democratic campaign rally in liberal West Palm Beach for Nelson and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor, urging the audience to vote for the pair by tweaking the lyrics of two of his most popular songs.
Buffett, taking a dig at Trump, changed the wording of “Come Monday” to “Come Tuesday, things will change. Come Tuesday, we’re making a change. It’s been two insane years and it’s time to really switch gears.” The performance was 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and frequent winter hangout.
Then, using “Margaritaville,” he criticized Scott for the state’s environmental problems: “Some people say that there’s a red tide to blame, but I know that it’s all Rick Scott’s fault.” Red tide algae have killed millions of fish off the southern Florida coasts over the last several months — it occurs naturally but some scientists say pollution makes it worse. Buffett, who lives in Palm Beach, is an outspoken environmentalist, founding the charity “Save the Manatee” in 1981.
Both Scott and Gillum resumed campaigning Saturday after briefly returning to Tallahassee to visit victims and their families of Friday night’s mass shooting at a yoga studio that left two women and the gunman dead and five injured.
Gillum referenced the shooting in his West Palm Beach address, first asking the crowd to keep the victims in their prayers. He then said such mass shootings have become “too familiar” in Florida. In February, 17 died in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland. In 2017, five died at Fort Lauderdale’s airport. And in 2016, 49 died at an Orlando nightclub.
Gillum said voters need to “send an unapologetic message to the NRA that their time is up in Florida” and called for tighter gun laws, including tougher background checks and a ban on convicted domestic abusers owning guns.
“We can celebrate what it means to have the Second Amendment and celebrate safety and security in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our houses of worship at the same time,” Gillum said.
Trump takes frequent digs at Gillum in speeches and on Twitter, saying Saturday that Gillum wants open borders and runs a violent city. DeSantis won the Republican nomination after receiving Trump’s endorsement, in large part for his appearances on Fox News praising the president’s policies and denouncing the probe led by Robert Mueller into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump said if Gillum wins, “he’ll destroy Florida in one year or two years” and illegal immigrants will be camping on Floridians’ lawns.
DeSantis praised Trump, saying he kept his promises on taxes, judges and Iran, and said Gillum, who has called for banning assault rifles, will raise taxes and ban most guns. He joked that he would try to lure the Trump Organization from New York City to Florida, where there are lower taxes.
“Are we going to build on the success Florida has had or are we going to put a far-left, Bernie Sanders, anti-law enforcement, tax-raising radical in the governor’s mansion? I don’t think so,” DeSantis said.
Scott is a longtime friend of the president, entering politics in 2010 as a tea party opponent of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Polls show both races to be close and the campaigns targeted their bases Saturday. Palm Beach County is heavily Democratic, a legacy of its history attracting retirees from New York and elsewhere in the Northeast. The party has a 3-to-2 margin over Republicans and Hillary Clinton beat Trump 56 to 41 percent there in 2016.
Pensacola’s Escambia County, near the Alabama border, has a large population of active and retired military members and is heavily Republican. The party holds a 4-to-3 margin over Democrats, and Trump beat Clinton 57 to 37 percent there in 2016.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics