The GOP could risk losing toss-up races in Florida thanks to Trump's hateful attacks on Puerto Rico.
Two Florida Republicans who are locked in toss-up statewide races were left scrambling on Thursday after Trump made the demented claim that less than two dozen people had died in Hurricane Maria last year.
The Puerto Rican government updated its official death toll for the 2017 monster storm to nearly 3,000, after commissioning a study from George Washington University to determine an accurate death count. Previously, the official death toll was much lower (first just 64, then 1,427).
But on Tuesday morning, as the news was dominated by Hurricane Florence's approach toward the East Coast, Trump concocted a claim about Maria that sounded more like an Alex Jones conspiracy theory than anything else — that nearly 3,000 people didn't really die as a direct result of the hurricane, and that the new death toll was all just a plot by Democrats to make him look bad.
Trump's shocking outburst could represent a major campaign problem for two key Florida Republicans this election season — Gov. Rick Scott, who's running for the U.S. Senate, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, who's running for governor.
An estimated 135,000 Puerto Ricans arrived in Florida in wake of last year's killer storm, and many are now ready to vote.
"Florida has more than 1.1 million Puerto Rican residents, and as many as 500,000 could be registered to vote among the 13 million active registered voters," Politico reports.
And a significant proportion of these voters may be prepared to penalize the GOP over the Trump administration's tragically botched response to Hurricane Maria last year.
On Thursday, Scott and DeSantis both made very timid attempts to avert such a fiasco.
"I disagree with @POTUS," Scott tweeted in response to Trump.
Scott sounds like he's trying to have a rational debate about a policy dispute, but he's kidding himself. No serious person can simply "disagree" with a Puerto Rico Truther who is outright denying reality about the island's official death toll.
As for DeSantis, the most courage he could summon on Thursday was to have his campaign issue a statement insisting DeSantis "doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated."
That's like issuing a statement saying DeSantis "doesn't believe" the Apollo 11 moon landing was faked.
Even Trump's own Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) admitted that it failed Puerto Rico. The administration failed to deliver meals and supplies, wasted millions of dollars on equipment that never reached its destination, and took too long to send military aid.
All the while, Trump added insult to injury with racist attacks against the victims and vicious insults against the mayor of San Juan.
Now Trump is trying to gaslight the families of thousands of slain Puerto Ricans by claiming that their loved ones didn't really die thanks to his negligent response.
This controversy is all the more problematic for Scott and DeSantis since Trump has so publicly and effusively praised them in the past.
DeSantis in particular has staked his political brand on being an unblinking Trump loyalist.
Now Scott and DeSantis will have to reckon with Trump's disastrous actions.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.