Standing between the American and Cuban flags and surrounded by faded black-and-white photos of anti-Communist combatants, Ron DeSantis did on Monday what many a Florida politician has done before: pay homage to the Cuban exiles who have remained faithful to the Republican Party for generations, the rare Latinos who vote reliably conservative.
But unlike his predecessors, Mr. DeSantis was not interested in talking much about Fidel Castro, who died in 2016. Instead, he warned of a new scourge in American politics: socialism, in the form of Andrew Gillum, his opponent in the state’s closely watched governor’s race.
“In this campaign, I think we have a chance to make Florida even better,” Mr. DeSantis said. “We’ve got our issues. We’ve got to tackle them. But we’re never going to deal with the issues if we’re embracing this far-left ideology.”
Never mind that Mr. Gillum has rejected the socialist label, or that his campaign platform reflects policies espoused by many mainstream Democrats, such as raising the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid. Even before Mr. Gillum’s surprise victory in the late-August primary, Republicans were portraying him as a far-left candidate out of touch with Florida, the nation’s biggest swing state.
Since Mr. Gillum’s unexpected win, the Republican Party has only intensified its message, with President Trump himself posting on Twitter that Mr. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, is a “failed Socialist Mayor.”
Republicans across the country have accused their Democratic opponents of being anti-capitalist in the wake of the successful campaigns waged by candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the self-described democratic socialist who defeated a longtime Democratic incumbent in New York.