Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who lost the governor’s race by less than half a percentage point, has put any speculation that he’d run for president to rest. He’s not.
Gillum announced Wednesday that he’s focusing on Florida, launching a voter registration group to help Democrats win Florida in 2020 and defeat President Donald Trump.
It’s a notable choice. Gillum was among three 2018 Democrats who lost statewide races but were rumored to be possible presidential candidates. One, Texas’s Beto O’Rourke, who lost to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) by just shy of 3 points, announced his candidacy for president last week, saying he felt he was “born” to run. Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, who lost the governor’s race by 2 points, still hasn’t decided. Abrams met privately with Joe Biden, another possible 2020 contender, fueling speculation that she was under consideration as a possible vice presidential pick.
Why O’Rourke, the one white man of the trio — who, among the three, lost by the biggest margin — and not Gillum or Abrams?
“Listen, man, we’re used to working,” Gillum told the New York Times’s Astead Herndon.
“There’s no doubt that O’Rourke enjoys a set of privileges in his decision making that other candidates don’t,” Gillum told the Times. He continued:
Can you imagine it for any of the women that are in the race for president or considering a run? They probably could not muse out loud, or in the recesses of their mind have these sorts of conversations and then say them out loud, and think it would be taken seriously or they would be taken seriously.
That said, there’s good reason for Gillum’s new project; in 2018, Republicans won both major statewide races by less than half a percentage point — races that ended in bitter recounts. Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, has decided presidential elections with less than 2-point margins of victory.
And Trump has endured in the state; currently, more people disapprove of him than approve of him in every single swing state that proved crucial to his 2016 victory. But in Florida, Trump’s approval numbers have topped his disapproval numbers in the state more often than not.
Trump’s base — the older white retirees — is also growing in Florida. As Michael Grunwald wrote for Politico, the “economically secure retirement meccas” that delivered Trump his presidential victory were why Republicans were so optimistic they could win in 2018.
But Democrats have a lot of hope in the state. Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans fled to Florida after the devastating Hurricane Maria hit — a new group of potential Democratic voters. And the state also approved an amendment aimed at restoring voting rights to 1.4 million Florida residents with felony convictions (although new Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration has made moves to weaken the impact of this amendment).
Gillum’s PAC, Forward Florida, has almost $4 million in the bank, according to Politico. And he intends to focus on solidifying the Democratic base in Florida.
“Given the migration patterns in our state, and given the challenges we have around producing an electorate that’s favorable to Democrats to get out and vote — we’ve got to put more people in the game,” Gillum told the Times.