Close Trump Ally DeSantis Wins GOP Gov Nomination In Florida

on July 31, 2018 in Tampa, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America

Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis cruised to an easy victory in the GOP gubernatorial primary Tuesday evening.

DeSantis had over 55 percent of the vote at 8:31 p.m. with 65 percent of precincts reporting, compared to around 37 percent for Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam. NBC News and the AP called the race moments after polls closed at 8 p.m. ET.

The Florida congressman successfully leveraged his allegiance to President Trump—and an endorsement from him—to win over voters in the closely watched primary contest. Though his head-and-shoulders victory represents a win for the White House, Democrats have expressed hope that the founding member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus will be a weaker general election candidate.

Trump celebrated on Twitter, calling the results a win for DeSantis and “the people of the Great State of Florida.”

Hitching his wagon to the President has allowed DeSantis, who was first elected in 2012, to rise quickly through the party’s ranks. Though he offered only lukewarm support for Trump during the 2016 presidential primary, DeSantis emerged early in the President’s administration as one of his most fierce advocates.

On Fox News and on the House floor, DeSantis has gone to bat against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, becoming the first lawmaker to advance a proposal to kneecap that probe. At the same time, DeSantis has enthusiastically supported investigations into the “deep state” officials that Trump sees as everywhere out to get him.

During the gubernatorial campaign, DeSantis attacked Putnam, the establishment-friendly candidate, as insufficiently loyal for describing Trump’s boasts about groping women without their consent as “vile.”

DeSantis even released a campaign ad using his own kids as props to demonstrate his Trump support. In one clip, he reads to his infant son from “The Art of the Deal”; in another, he urges his young daughter to “build the wall” with her toy blocks.

This unabashed support for Trump helped boost his name recognition and secured admiration from the President, who repeatedly praised him as a fighter for a true conservative agenda.

But it also gives Democrats plenty of opportunity to attack him as a White House puppet as they try to appeal to the Sunshine State’s more moderate voters.

Predictions for the November general election matchup were upended on Tuesday evening. Pollsters expressed shock as returns showed frontrunner and former Rep. Gwen Graham trailing Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum by over 10,0000 votes.

This post has been updated.

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