Andrew Gillum, Democrat running for governor in Florida, joined Chuck Todd today, who was there with an audience who'd submitted questions for Gillum. Todd picked several to discuss, including who paid for Gillum's tickets when he went to see "Hamilton," and how coordination of relief went during Hurricane Michael in the middle of a heated political campaign. Gillum was forthright and relaxed with his answers, even when he had pointed criticism for his opponent, Ron DeSantis.
Todd's final question to Gillum, though, had to do with the racism Gillum has faced, not just from DeSantis, but from Republicans in general. Today, he was targeted with a new racist robocall ad, wherein someone pretending to be a minstrelized version of Gillum spoke about him in the most racist and derogatory terms. The DeSantis campaign claimed no connection to it, and denounced it like it knew it had to. Yet, this wasn't even the FIRST time Mayor Gillum was targeted with a robocall like this - that time it was found a white supremacist group was responsible for the calls. Republicans don't exactly repudiate white supremacists...the Proud Boys joined Republicans in their mob-like attack on Nancy Pelosi this weekend in Florida, and just last night, the "president" called for normalizing the use of the word "Nationalist" again.
Despite DeSantis' disavowals from these robocalls, he has blown plenty of his own dogwhistles about race in this campaign, and Gillum was not shy about addressing them with Chuck Todd. At several points throughout his answers, the crowd behind Todd erupted in applause, and at the end, some were even shouting, "Bring it home!" to Gillum (who was answering from a remote location...) It was gratifying, and we can only hope his confidence in the people of Florida to reject this racism is not misplaced. Like he said: when we vote, we win.
TODD: I want to ask you, speaking of some nastiness out there, and we're not going to play some of these but there's pretty nasty robo, radio ads, phone calls that are out, very, very racist in its intention, some gross stereotypes. Look, race is popping up in this campaign. The first time you and I talked on air on the day you were the nominee, the issue of race popped up with a phrase that your opponent had used. What would you like to see, the Republican party has distanced itself from this. In fact they all denounced this ad. Is there more you think the Republican party can do to help eradicate this style of politicking?
GILLUM: Well, I have to tell you, leadership starts at the top. When Mr. DeSantis became his party's nominee, he went on Fox News and told people not to "monkey up" the state by electing me, a phrase that's not commonly used so as far as I know. Certainly not amongst any of the circles that I'm in. Quite frankly, I think people have taken their cues there. What I think they ought to do quite frankly is stop the dog whistles, stop the bull horns. The attacks on me, the false ads that have been running, are all intended quite frankly to further a stereotype about Black men, "illegal," "unethical," "take things for free," "monkey it up," "jungle animals." Those kinds of things. It's not hard to understand why Neo-Nazis would take an extension of that and take it to the next level of extremity. But what I think they're doing is grossly underestimating and misestimating the people of this state. The people of Florida are going to dismiss, they're going to in fact reject that brand of divisive, destructive rhetoric. We're one of the most richly diverse states in all of America. We're going to show them on November 6th that they have played their hand the wrong way. Voters will want to hear what we're going to do.
TODD: Do you think that's why we had two polls in a row that have shown you up substantially, frankly, a lead that I don't believe. It's a surprising lead. Do you think you're that far ahead?
GILLUM: Listen, you don't want to ask me about polls. There wasn't a single poll showing me winning the Democratic nomination at all. Even the day before the election, I think the poll had me seven points behind my closest opponent. As I told a lot of supporters, forget the polls. The only poll that matters is election day November 6th. Early voting already started in this state and I'm encouraging everybody to get out there and vote. When we vote, we win. When our voters organize and get out there and vote, we win. And so forget the polls. I don't care about them. I want people to get out there and let their voices be heard at the ballot box. That's how we're going to win this race.
TODD: Andrew Gillum, Mayor of Tallahassee, thank you for coming on and sharing your views. They're even saying "Bring it home." Your message has gotten through to these folks. Thanks for coming on, I much appreciate it. I would like to note, we have reached out to the Republican gubernatorial nominee, Ron DeSantis, invited him on the show, many times. So far his campaign has not yet responded.