This blog has moved.

Please visit our new page here

« It's still tight: Rick Scott 47%, Bill Nelson 44% in new poll | Main | San Juan's mayor backs Levine for governor »

Jeff Greene praised Trump as a "great guy" after 2016 election

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Palm Beach billionaire developer Jeff Greene, speaks during a debate held at Florida Gulf Coast University's Cohen Center on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Billionaire Jeff Greene is doubling down on the anti-Trump rhetoric this week by parking a campaign bus emblazoned with "Trump's worst nightmare" outside of Trump's rally in Tampa today.

It's not quite the same message he gave 20 months ago.

Unlike his Democratic opponents in the governor's race, Greene praised Donald Trump on national television and in a magazine interview in the days after the 2016 election, calling for Democrats to unite around the president-elect, whom he called a "great guy."

"I supported Hilliary Clinton as a Democrat. I’m delighted Donald Trump is the alternative," Greene said on Fox Business on Nov. 9, the day after the election. "He’s a great guy. I know Donald Trump."

He continued, "I only hope that the Democrats do the exact opposite of what the Republicans did when Mitch McConnell and John Boehner said we want Barack Obama to be a one term president.

"Let’s hope that Donald Trump succeeds for all of us."

And in an interview with Forbes that published the next day, he again repeated that he wanted the Democrats to rally around Trump.

"At this point, my neighbor has won and I am behind him 100% as we all should be," he said.

That rhetoric wasn't unusual in the days after the election. While many Democrats were horrified and despondent at Trump's unlikely victory, some did wish for Trump's success. Even President Barack Obama said, "We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country."

But those types of statements are toxic in the 2018 Democratic primaries, where liberals despise Trump and are appear fired up to vote against Republicans.

And of all the Democrats running for governor this year, Greene has the closest ties to the president. Greene lives down the street from Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club, where he's a member. And he's also spoken of Trump in more personal terms, noting at various times how Trump is a "gracious guy," and a "personable guy."

Apparently realizing the vulnerability, Greene has billed himself recently as the anti-Trump candidate, even featuring an apparent confrontation with Trump in one of his commercials.

(His opponent, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, has also been criticized for not being strong enough against Trump.)

Greene's spokeswoman, Claire VanSusteren, said Monday that he's had an extreme change of heart about the president since the election.

"Like many Americans, I’d say, (Greene) wanted to give Trump a chance, hoping the rhetoric he gave on the campaign was something to grab attention and grab headlines and clinch the vote," she said. "He very, very quickly realized that was not the case."

She said he doesn't regret his statements because "everyone should hope for the success of our president and our country."

"I think he stands by wishing and hoping for the success of our president, but he’s clearly become the bully in chief," VanSusteren said. "Jeff will say he rules with humiliation and provocation, and that’s not within the value system of the United States of America."