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Putnam, DeSantis step up their presence in South Florida head of primary


Ferocious chants of “USA! USA! USA!” erupted inside an elegant ballroom in Hialeah as Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam prepared to address a crowd that — even if its feelings about him were unclear — supported President Donald Trump to the fullest.

Florida’s commissioner of agriculture flashed a smile, but knew this fit of patriotism wasn’t for him. In fact, much of the crowd had turned its back on him, rubbernecking to see city cops remove a group of protesters clamoring for free college, and against child separations and private prison contributions.

But for Putnam, who spent his birthday in a north Florida retirement community this week while Trump whipped his MAGA fanatics into a frenzy for primary opponent U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, standing on stage Thursday night with the wind of Miami’s Republican base at his back might have felt empowering.

“Hasta la vista, baby,” Putnam hollered, to laughter and cheers. “Anybody else?”

Still an ardent supporter of the president, Putnam trails DeSantis in polls. But he maintains that he sees a path to victory on the back of effective economic policies, his deep ties to Florida and his willingness to campaign in “every corner” of the state. That includes Miami, even if voters down south might wonder where the Republican candidates have been the last six months.

“We’ve run a grassroots campaign, a Florida-first campaign, and I’m everywhere. I’m in cities as big as Hialeah and I’m in small towns that you’ve probably never heard of,” he told a reporter before the event began. “That’s what the next governor of Florida should do. You should be willing to campaign in every corner of the state, not just buzz in and buzz out with an entourage of celebrities.”

Trump’s pick to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott did not attend Thursday’s marathon event, which featured 27 Republican candidates running for state and national office in the upcoming midterm elections. In fact, public campaign visits by the two GOP governor candidates to Miami, where the cost of advertising is high and the share of Republican voters less so, have seemed few and far between this year.

“I just don’t see a presence,” a veteran Republican strategist told the Herald.

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