Donald Trump’s tweets denying the Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico may have been the last straw.
For years he has been tweeting outrageous things and he has seemingly paid no political consequences for his actions.
But that may be about to change.
After the devastation caused by Maria last year in the island territory, over 200,000 Puerto Ricans relocated to the U.S. mainland. The majority moved to Florida where they already had relatives. A high percentage of them immediately registered to vote (which they could do as U.S. citizens) and they will be voting on November 6th.
Although Trump himself is not on the ballot, the two most high profile (and nationally important) state races in Florida involve two Republicans who have closely aligned themselves with the president and his policies. They are current governor Rick Scott (running for the U.S. Senate) and current congressman Ron DeSantis (running for governor).
Both of them are facing tough battles in Florida which some people call “the swingiest of swing states.” Florida is the classic purple state but in recent years Republicans have won most statewide races, primarily because of lack of turnout among Democrats.
In the 2016 presidential election Trump won by about 110,000 votes which is just 1% of the over 10 million votes cast.
In 2018 things may be different as the voter enthusiasm among Trump’s base has waned, and the voter enthusiasm among Democrats has never been higher.
Andrew Gillum won the Democratic primary for governor and he is leading DeSantis in the polls, which is surprising for the 39 year-old African American mayor of Tallahassee. Already he has inspired and energized both minority voters and young voters and record turnouts among those groups are expected in November. Many experts think that Gillum’s presence on the ballot will help Bill Nelson, the current Democratic U.S. Senator who has trailed Scott slightly in some recent polls.
So now let’s talk about the difference that the Puerto Rican vote might make, and why Scott and DeSantis — and all other Florida Republicans — are not happy about Trump’s latest offensive tweets.
First, we have to make very clear that all Puerto Ricans blame Trump for the slow government response and the lack of help for Puerto Rico after Maria hit. They all know that millions of people have suffered because of this, and thousands of people died.
Almost every Puerto Rican voter in the United States has at least one family member who either died or was severely harmed by Trump’s lack of response. Almost every Puerto Rican voter now despises Donald Trump and every politician associated with him.
And that was before the horrific tweets Trump sent out this week, denying that thousands of people died because of Maria.
Trump tweeted on Thursday that “3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico” in September 2017, and that the figure was a made-up figure invented “by the Democrats to make me look as bad as possible.” He claimed that the actual death toll had not gone up “by much” after the initial count of six to 18 deaths from the storm.
A recent article in the Miami Herald makes clear that Trump’s actions have hurt Florida Republicans. It says:
“The best indication that Trump’s callous statements about Hurricane Maria may cost him precious votes in November is how fast Trump-backed candidates are running away from the U.S. president’s claims.”
“Shortly after Trump’s tweets, Florida Gov. Rick Scott — one of Trump’s biggest loyalists, who is now running for a Senate seat — felt forced to tweet, “I disagree with POTUS (Trump.)” Likewise, a spokesman for Ron De Santis, the Trump-backed Republican running for Florida governor, said that the candidate “doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”
“When even militant Trump supporters who are running for office in November feel compelled to criticize the president’s claim that Hurricane Maria’s death toll was concocted by “the Democrats,” it means that they smell trouble in the polls.”
People were amazed when Trump, instead of apologizing after all of the outrage, doubled down and repeated his claims again yesterday.
“Trump doubles down, claims there’s “no way” 3,000 people died from Puerto Rico hurricane”
— The Hill (@thehill) September 15, 2018
Trump’s racist tendencies have caused him to deeply insult Puerto Ricans (and all other Hispanic groups as well). He has denied and mocked their pain and suffering, and implied it was their own fault.
Because Donald Trump has no empathy, and has shown no sympathy for the Puerto Ricans who are citizens of the United States, it is very likely that they will in turn show him — and his fellow Republicans — no support in the polls on election day.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Trump‘s tweets — by energizing the Hispanic vote — may cause both of Trump‘s favored candidates — Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis — to suffer crushing defeats in November.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.