If you’re a Republican looking to be Florida’s next governor, you’ve got to get Trumpy.
But good luck finding a way to wrestle that title from the other contenders.
Things tightened up recently when candidate Bruce Nathan, a Palm City physical therapist, branded himself “Florida’s Donald Trump.”
“That’s what people tell me,” Nathan said. “They call me ‘Florida’s Donald Trump.’”
Nathan’s done his homework. He has even mastered the Trump rhetorical tactic of repackaging his own horn-tooting as the word on the street.
I told Nathan that there might not be room for another Republican candidate for governor who claims to be a mini-Trump.
You’ve got Florida Secretary of Agriculture Adam Putnam who kicked off his campaign with the Trump-echoing “Florida First” motto — even though it makes no sense that other candidates running for Florida’s governor would be secretly doing the bidding of Alabama, Kentucky or some other state.
But Putnam’s debasement pales next to the full-time sycophancy of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the gubernatorial candidate who spares no opportunity to praise Trump directly during the president’s daily high-level briefings on Fox News.
So much so, that Trump returned the praise on Twitter after one of DeSantis’ TV performances.
Trump called DeSantis a “brilliant young leader,” adding that he would make “a GREAT Governor of Florida.”
If this were a bullfight, DeSantis would have been awarded both ears and the tail with that one. But Nathan’s not giving up.
“It wasn’t an endorsement,” Nathan said. “It was just a tweet of encouragement.”
So Nathan’s still clinging to his “Florida’s Donald Trump” title, using “Make Florida Great Again” on his campaign material, and disparaging DeSantis as “a swamp immigrant.”
Now, that is Trumpian. If you can work the word “immigrant” into an attack, you’ve got a key building block of Trumpiness right there.
Nathan calls DeSantis a swamp immigrant because the congressman would bring the metaphorical swamp of political corruption from Washington to Florida. Or so he says. But Nathan’s probably just bashing immigrants because it’s a blatant appeal to low-information, high-indignation Republican primary voters.
“I don’t want your vote if you are immigrant-before-citizen,” Nathan’s website (https://brucenathan2018.com) says.
And under a Gov. Nathan, immigrants who get to stay will be herded into “Conservative Assimilation Centers” where they will be taught “conservative American values,” he claims.
OK, Nathan has mastered the ugly bigotry of his muse. But there are other elements to be considered for somebody aspiring to the title of Florida’s Donald Trump.
“How are you on telling the truth?” I asked Nathan.
“I don’t lie,” he said. “People tell me I’m way too honest.”
OK, you’re not helping yourself there, Bruce.
“You do know that Trump lies a lot,” I told him.
“But how much of Trump’s lies are really, really proven?” he asked.
Uh, well since you’ve asked, thousands of them. Trump hit the 3,000 milestone in May for false or misleading claims during his presidency, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker database.
“I don’t watch any shows or read any papers,” Nathan said.
Good Trump answer there, Bruce. Stick to that. Fake news. It’s not true if you don’t want it to be.
Now, let’s move on to the category of complicated marital history.
“Any divorces?” I asked.
“One,” he said. “You get through one crazy one and I was reluctant in marrying again. But with my second wife, we are going on two years now.”
OK, I’m dinging you for a lack of porn-star payoffs. But let’s move on to bankruptcies.
“I have never declared bankruptcies, but I’m in debt,” Nathan said. “It’s because of my divorce, and I haven’t gotten myself out of it.”
Not a problem. I think it won’t be long before Trump’s financial empire will be revealed as a house of cards leveraged on a mountain of foreign debt.
Speaking of foreign debts …
“You have any Russians backing your campaign?” I asked.
“I’m looking for some,” Nathan said. “Do you know any?”
Um, I think you’re supposed to say something about a “witch hunt” here.
Finally, there’s the Trump endorsement. You’re going to need that for a Trump bump.
“Have you ever spoken to Donald Trump?” I asked.
“I haven’t,” Nathan said. “But in offbeat ways I’m trying to do it. But I don’t think I can.
“There are too many people surrounding him.”