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In GOP, Trump bump has become a tsunami

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By Jack Kingston, CNN

First South Carolina, then Alabama and Georgia. Now Florida and Arizona. The "Trump Bump" is better described as a tsunami.

A month ago, Florida gubernatorial candidate Congressman Ron DeSantis ran a corny but humorous ad about his support of Donald Trump. The ad started with his Emmy-winning TV personality wife, Casey, cheerfully stating, "Everyone knows my husband Ron is endorsed by President Trump...but he's also an amazing dad." As she speaks, we see Congressman DeSantis teaching his toddler to build a wall, reading Trump bedtime stories and their infant son wearing a MAGA shirt.

The left-leaning pundits on "Morning Joe" bemoaned the ad and seemed baffled by it. The panelists were so disturbed by the ad that not even safe zones on Ivy League campuses could have helped them.

But if their thinly veiled disdain for Trump could have been put on hold, they would not have been baffled. For instance, they could have looked at the South Carolina race between Mark Sanford and Katie Arrington.

Mark Sanford said he didn't see it coming. He was a seasoned campaigner who knew the challenges of retail politics, but three hours before the polls closed on Election Day, President Trump endorsed Arrington and it was all but over. Similarly, Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama was in a competitive run-off against a former colleague when a Trump endorsement settled the matter. She won with 68% of the vote.

If these races couldn't convince the critics, there was the gubernatorial run-off in Georgia. Two well-known, savvy politicians fought their way through a five-way race to a face-off in the final round.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp both had name ID, years of experience, sufficient funding and statewide organizations. Each had spent over a decade preparing for this contest.

Eight days before the election, Cagle won the coveted endorsement of popular incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal. With Deal's endorsement, his lead jumped in the polls to 2-4% -- a solid position for the home stretch.

But campaign trails run on roller coaster tracks, not the flat ovals of horse races. His time on top lasted three days.

Then it happened:


Six days later, Brian Kemp won 157 out of Georgia's 159 counties. It was the biggest landslide between two viable candidates in Georgia's history.

In Florida, DeSantis didn't have to be convinced, he simply put the pedal to the metal. In Arizona, the successful GOP Senate candidate, Rep. Martha McSally moved from being distant to Trump in 2016 to asking him to jump in the cockpit with her.

"President Trump has a 90% approval rating with Republican primary voters and two thirds are in the 'strong approve category'" says pollster John McLaughlin. "After five hundred days into his administration only George HW Bush achieved such numbers. His was short-lived in the wake of Desert Storm. To win a Republican primary you have be the Trump candidate".

However, what's good in July may be disaster in November. A recent CNN poll shows Democrat base voters have just as much passion - but in the opposite direction. This of course drives them to the polls but as we saw in the Florida and Arizona gubernatorial races, the most fervent Democratic voters are the Bernie Sanders disciples.

This year, candidates in swing districts and statewide races know the age-old dilemma is worse than ever: To win their respective primaries, their politics must move further to the left for Democrats and further to the right for Republicans than their opponents. But in November their fate is not in the hands of Democrats or Republicans, but with elusive independents.

Among Independents, McLaughlin says one third like Trump and his policies and will vote Republican. Another third dislike Trump. It outweighs their support of his policies and they will vote Democratic. The remaining third is the toughest candidate challenge. They like Trump's accomplishments but are consumed with negative news and remain undecided.

To get these mercurial voters, Chris D'Aniello of Axiom Strategies advises clients not to try to run to the middle but to bring the middle to them by focusing conversations around issues.

"You win elections by rallying and growing your base," D'Aniello says. "Focus on winning issues and the radicalization of the opposition. For Republicans -- Does your opponent really think abolishing ICE will make streets safe?"

D'Aniello suggests asking if the Democrat they're opposing agrees with his party's chairman, Tom Perez, that candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a socialist, are the future of their party?"

"Be bold. Own tax cuts. Talk about jobs." D'Aniello added. "Trump won the presidency with a 38% favorable rating. Today it's 42%."

Practically a landslide in the making...Maybe a "Morning Joe" panelist would join the bandwagon!

Jack Kingston, a CNN political commentator, is a Republican from Georgia who served in Congress from 1993 to 2015. He has been a senior adviser to the Trump campaign since 2016 and is a lobbyist in Washington. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.

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Politics - U.S. Daily News: In GOP, Trump bump has become a tsunami
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