Melissa Harris-Perry: This is The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry, and Tuesday was Primary Day. Two of the nations moved populous states, Florida and New York, Florida Democrats cast their ballots in key gubernatorial and Senate races. Former Florida governor and former Republican Charlie Crist won his primary race.
Speaker 2: I am so proud to have earned the support for the Democratic nomination to be the next governor of the state of Florida. We are going to defeat Ron DeSantis in November.
Melissa Harris-Perry: In a sign of just how much the Republican Party has changed over the past decade, he'll face current governor Ron DeSantis in November. DeSantis has staked his ground by attacking public health guidelines during the pandemic and limiting how teachers can discuss race and sexuality in the classroom. In the race for Senate representative, Val Demings was selected to go up against incumbent Marco Rubio in the midterm election.
Speaker 3: I stand before you tonight as the democratic nominee for the US Senate. Yes, I really like the sound of that.
Melissa Harris-Perry: In the meantime, 25-year-old Maxwell Alejandro Frost beat out stiff competition to win the primary for Demings. If he wins in November as expected, he would be one of the first members of Gen Z to serve in Congress. In New York, there were two big races for Congress. In the state's 12th congressional district incumbents and longtime allies, Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney competed against one another. Following the recent redistrict team voters chose Nadler.
Speaker 4: Carolyn Maloney and I have spent much of our adult lives working together to better both New York and our nation. I speak for everyone in this room tonight when I thank her for her decades of service to our city.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Finally, in the crowded race for New York's 10th district, moderate Dan Goldman won, beating out a very crowded field of progressive candidates, a former prosecutor who served as counsel to House Democrats during the first Trump impeachment trial, Goldman poured millions of his own money into the race.
Speaker 5: This has been an inspiring and humbling experience as a first-time candidate and to stand in front of you here today as your democratic nominee for Congress.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Here to help us understand it all is Christina Greer, associate professor of political science and American Studies at Fordham University. Always great to have you here, Chrissy.
Christina Greer: Thanks so much, Melissa.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Also with us is David Jolly, former Republican member of Congress from Florida, now an independent. He's also an NBC political analyst. David, thanks so much for being on The Takeaway.
David Jolly: Great to be with you, Melissa. Thank you.
Melissa Harris-Perry: All right, Chrissy. I want to start with you and with New York and this kind of victory that's not a victory. What's going on with Nadler and the Maloney race? What do you think happened here?
Christina Greer: Well, New York 12 which is a highly participatory district when you've got primarily the upper west side and the upper east side Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney both came in in 1992 year of the woman. There was a third party or a third candidate in the race, Suraj Patel who had run against Maloney twice before. His argument was primarily, "We need a generational change. We've got two [unintelligible 00:03:35] running in this race."
Not only did The New York Times endorse Jerry Nadler, he's been pretty solid at turning out his base whether they're in The Hamptons or away from the district in the month of August which is also not a time that New Yorkers often vote. We usually vote in June for our congressional representation, but there was a much longer story to get into about why it is that we had two elections this season one in June and one in August.
Carolyn Maloney probably lost some of her voters to Patel as well because this was the third time that the two of them had faced off. Not only did The New York Times go with Nadler many political analysts thought that Nadler would either squeak out a win especially during some of his leadership during the Trump years, Carolyn Maloney was possibly on the wrong side of some vaccination, policy issues in the past. It was a pretty decisive victory. The margin was much wider than what many people thought it might be.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I know you said it's a long story, but I think it's worth taking a quick beat here just to remind folks or to let folks know why these two were facing off. As Nadler said, they've spent most of their adult lives working together. Why were they in a single district?
Christina Greer: Well, we had some redistricting. There was quite a bit of shuffling. Many people have also talked about the New York 10 district which is lower Manhattan and Brooklyn as well. That was an open seat. We saw someone say like Mondaire Jones who's from Westchester who's a sitting member of Congress deciding to leave his newly drawn district because he didn't want to face Sean Patrick Maloney who won last night decisively to go down to Manhattan and Brooklyn and run in an open seat where there were more than 10 candidates in the race.
This redrawing put Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney against one another. Two people whose voting records had been pretty similar but not the same and they'd worked pretty closely together. Unfortunately, as we got closer to August 23rd, the mud-slinging did happen just because both of them really wanted to maintain their seat and possibly retire at some point. Carolyn Maloney also dipped into her retirement to help her finance this portion of the race. It is very clear that Jerry Nadler will be returning to Congress. There are some conversations as to whether or not he will choose to complete his term or if he'll turn it over to a candidate or to that certain names are floating around to then shore up a legacy and a successor for the 2024 election.
Melissa Harris-Perry: All right, David, I want to come to you because in some ways there are some echoes of this intraparty rivalry, these shake up the changes that have occurred, how different the American partisan landscape is in the 1990s versus what it is today 30 years later. Let's talk about Charlie Crist winning a democratic nomination for the governor position in Florida.
David Jolly: Yes Melissa, an interesting development in Florida. Politics is a passionate industry. I know Democrats this morning are excited to unite behind their gubernatorial candidate in Florida, Charlie Crist. If you approach this dispassionately, it's a fascinating storyline. Charlie Crist served as governor in the early 2000s. He last won a statewide competitive race 16 years ago and has since lost to both of the sitting Florida senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, but Florida Democrats last night decided to go with the brand they knew, one of the most recognizable figures in Florida politics, Charlie Crist, over an incumbent the only statewide elected Democrat in the state of Florida Nikki Fried the Commissioner of Agriculture.
Nikki Fried's position and campaign clearly ran on something new was her tagline, but Florida Democrats accepted Charlie Crist's theory of the case, which is to beat a very strong incumbent governor and Ron DeSantis in a deeply divided state perhaps taking a page from the Joe Biden playbook to go with someone who is seen as more moderate, someone who is going to speak about healing a divided constituency.
That ultimately was the message that resonated with Florida Democrats last night. Charlie Crist and Florida Democrats probably enter the general election a few points behind but I think they are encouraged as many Democrats are by a national trend that is starting to show us some data points that perhaps there could be a tide lifting Democrats across the country. In Florida, that tide might be just enough to make this a competitive race for Charlie Crist and Ron DeSantis
Melissa Harris-Perry: David, I always like to presume that voters are making decisions based on the messaging, the issues, the topics, but especially--
David Jolly: [unintelligible 00:08:29] a name recognition?
Melissa Harris-Perry: Yes, there you go. The simplest explanations often get us there. Help me understand those two big pieces, the money, and the name recognition, and the relatively low turnout, not that it was low but relative to a general election. Help us understand how that might have played it here.
David Jolly: Yes, Melissa, look, I hate to go down this rabbit hole because I will confess one of my greatest disappointments from my tenure in politics as someone who's a policy person and a wonk and not a natural retail politician but instead enjoys the finer points of policy. I truly learned that 90% of politics happens in a low to medium information space. That's defensible, that's okay. As voters, we wake up more concerned about our kids and our family and our civic responsibilities, and our job. We just trust that politics will take care of itself.
Yes, in the Democratic primary you had in Charlie Crist, someone who probably has one of the highest if not the highest name IDs in all of Florida politics, he is known, he is recognizable and certainly, he was able to outspend Nikki Fried. I think what you could analyze this and say, Florida Democrats made a rational choice. They departed from four years ago when they went with the progressive Andrew Gillum over the more moderate Gwen Graham and this cycle they did something differently. Perhaps Democrats did [unintelligible 00:09:59] around a centrist moderate seasoned poll in Florida because they think that's what can beat Ron DeSantis or it may just be that was the name they recognized when they pulled their democratic primary ballot yesterday.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Chrissy, I want to come to you on this question of issues versus things like name recognition. Obviously, that was part of what made the Maloney Nadler piece so interesting is that you've got two highly recognizable names. It feels like you can make maybe a somewhat more substantive argument about where that victory comes from but I'm wondering if it tells you anything about moving to the generals. Now, as you point out in a district like Nadler's, the primary is the general, but as we're looking at New York more broadly, where do you see issues like the economy, issues of perceptions of crime, and then issues like reproductive justice and abortion falling?
Christina Greer: Absolutely. Well, let's go north a little bit to the New York 19. That's where soon to be possibly Lieutenant Governor, Antonio Delgado, that was his former seat and he was chosen by Kathy Hochul, the sitting governor to serve as her Lieutenant Governor. That was an open seat, the Democrat was victorious last night and you saw some independents and weakling Republicans move over and vote for the democratic nominee largely because they argued- Roe V. Wade was a conversation that they were definitely willing to engage in and they feel as though Joe Biden is handling inflation and some of the economic issues that we have.
If we go back down to the New York 10 where it was an open seat, it looks as though Dan Goldman has been called as the winner, who's a pretty relatively moderate candidate. He was endorsed by The New York Times. His progressive challenger Yuh-Line Niou came in second place. This is the varying shades of blue within the democratic party are definitely on display in the state of New York in very substantive ways even when you pulled voters in that particular district to say, what is their main concern in this is a relatively low crime district.
Crime is a huge issue for people in that district. It's oftentimes the perception of crime, not necessarily crime that is actually happening. You also had candidates who talked a lot about housing. In New York, not just the rental market but the purchasing market has a lot of people very nervous as to whether or not they'll be able to stay in the city or stay in the state. You saw a lot of candidates talking about big picture economic issues, such as housing, and focusing a little less on possibly neighborhood issues like crime, even though the polling suggests that's primarily what's on voters' minds.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Chrissy, David, pause for a moment, we're going to have more on this week's primaries and what they mean for the midterms and the presidential election in just a moment.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Welcome back to The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. We've been talking about this week's primary elections in New York and Florida with former Florida Congressman David Jolly and political science professor, Christina Greer. The one-time Republican Governor now a Democrat, Charlie Crist is set to face Florida's current Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in November, but DeSantis is viewed by many political analysts as focusing less on this gubernatorial reelection and more on winning the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Last week, a district judge halted the Stop Woke Act whose bill DeSantis signed into law, limiting how race and discrimination can be discussed in schools and workplaces. Just a few days before the act was blocked, DeSantis gave remarks where he underscored his approach to social issues.
Ron DeSantis: We've taken on woke corporations. We've taken on ESG, obviously, in the classroom, we've battled a lot of ideologies but what I've said is that the state of Florida is the place where woke goes to die.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Just for folks who don't know, ESG refers to environmental, social, and governance activism. Back with us, our Chrissy Greer and David Jolly. All right, David, stop woke. Woke is dying in Florida. Is this about running for reelection over and against Charlie Crist or is this about eyeing higher office for DeSantis?
David Jolly: Well, I think first and foremost, it's about imposing his ideology on the state of Florida and quashing any diversity of thought or diversity of ideology. Clearly, Ron DeSantis has his eyes set on the white house. Since he and I served in Congress together almost 10 years ago and the interesting thing about Ron DeSantis, he has positioned himself as a mirror of the party. I think it's important we understand that he is leading these culture wards but he is only doing so because that's where the heartbeat of the party is. If the party was a party of say, Jeb Bush's chamber of commerce business issues, that's what Ron DeSantis would then mirror.
He has chosen a path that represents today's Republican party and in many ways, he has the hottest hand in Republican politics nationally right now. The only question is, does he enter a GOP presidential primary as the front runner or in competition against former president Donald Trump, that divide between the two of them is real. They really do not like each other. They have been doing this dance for a year now.
Ron DeSantis refusing at one point to appear at a rally with the former president. Donald Trump has some decisions to make in terms of whether he runs and what the timing of that announcement is. Inevitably, Ron DeSantis is now going to face questions about his future, both during this general election, when he has to tell Florida voters, am I with you for four years or only two, but also should Ron DeSantis be elected then I think we will immediately see the exploratory committee for the white house emerge within days, if not weeks.
Melissa Harris-Perry: David, as you make this point that he is positioning himself as a mirror of the party, I'm thinking of last week's loss for Liz Cheney in Wyoming, and it seems to me the immediate discourse afterward was she's going to run. If you end up with a- and I just like to play with these possibilities, if you end with Cheney versus DeSantis, is this like a Claymation battle for the soul of the Republican party?
David Jolly: No. There is no Cheney lane of the Republican party. Listen, every disaffected Republican takes the journey. I thought I could save the party from Trumpism, I lost the fight, but I stayed in the party and ultimately realized if I'm going to contribute, my values is going to be outside of the party. Liz Cheney has to face that journey, Adam Kinzinger does. Look, if Liz Cheney runs, she and Mike Pence will compete for about 3% of a presidential primary. That lane has done. It's a brick wall. This party belongs to Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Kari Lake, Governor Abbott in Texas, and that wing of the party is now the entire lane of today's GOP.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now, Christina, as I hear David say that, especially if it is the party of Trump in terms of policies, but it's not Mr. Trump himself, president Trump leading that party, if it isn't Ron DeSantis, does that actually bring some of these folks who became disaffected Republicans but went over to vote for Biden in part because of the force of Mr. Trump's personality that was troubling to them but who actually may have been a bit more on the side of those policies, does that bring them back into the fold do you think Christina, the voters less than the candidates?
Christina Greer: I think we're looking at two things operating at the same time because there are certain voters who liked what Trump was saying. They didn't like the style of it, but they still voted for him anyway. Then there are other, I would say, weakling Republicans and independents, who might feel as though this is an overreach. Keep in mind Republicans have abortions, too.
There are a lot of Republicans who are actually concerned about guns in their children's schools. There are some Republicans who actually do think about climate change because it's affecting where they live and their ability to work. It really does depend on the framing of these issues.
I know we're talking about 2024, but Ron DeSantis has to get through 2022 first because when we're looking at the numbers from 2018, between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis. Andrew Gillum got 4,043,723 votes. He got 49.2% of the vote. Ron DeSantis got 49.6% of the vote. Now, yes, Floridians have redistricted and restructured to make it more difficult for Democrats to vote but Florida has been a swing state in the past.
If Crist can pull in some disaffected and disappointed Republicans and mobilize independents and Democrats who've been sitting on the sidelines who realize we can't put our democracy in a frame and look at it and think that it's done, these issues, these policy points have been litigated, and we thought that they were off the table and they're now back on the table.
There is a real possibility that Ron DeSantis could be in for a real fight in November just because he won by a very small margin in 2018. There's a chance that Republicans could overplay their hand on particular policy issues that weakling Republicans and independents just don't feel comfortable with. Especially when we start talking about banning books and this proxy war that he's waging on wokism where you could substitute a lot of demographic groups and we know exactly who Ron DeSantis is talking about.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Yes, if you didn't know that woke was dead as a word among young people, I assure you that the fact that woke goes to die there. I promise you, it definitely has gone to die in public discourse at this point. Christina Greer is associate professor of political science at Fordham University. David Jolly is former Republican member of Congress from Florida now an independent and an NBC political analyst. Thank you both for joining us.
David Jolly: Thank you, Melissa.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Thank you.
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