SPOTLIGHT | FL-sen

Florence and the Trump Twitter Machine

The president's Puerto Rico tweets complicate Rick Scott's campaign in Florida.

President Donald Trump listens during a briefing on Hurricane Florence in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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Kyle Trygstad
Sept. 14, 2018, 6:32 a.m.

President Trump’s defensive tweets Thursday about the death toll in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria was both terribly timed and displayed little consideration for how it could affect Republicans on the ballot in two months.

There are a pair of competitive statewide races being waged in Florida, for instance. The Puerto Rican vote could be especially critical for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, as he challenges Sen. Bill Nelson amid national GOP headwinds directly related to voters’ feelings about Trump.

Trump’s tweets gave Scott an opportunity to highlight daylight between himself and the president—the governor stated that he disagrees with Trump and noted his seven trips to the island—but also risked alienating voters Scott has spent a considerable amount of effort cultivating.

Scott is relying on voters’ willingness to separate the Republican nominee from the GOP president. It’s what GOP incumbents and candidates are banking on across the country. But the task gets trickier when the president misses opportunities to show leadership—such as when a massive hurricane descends on the East Coast—and distracts from an economy that Republican leaders would love to be the focus of the midterms.

-- Kyle Trygstad

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