Trump calls Gillum a "radical socialist," says Abrams is unqualified

Trump said Abrams was unqualified to lead Georgia and called Gillum "a radical socialist" who would hurt Florida

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 4, 2018 2:30PM (EST)

Andrew Gillum (AP/Chris O'Meara)
Andrew Gillum (AP/Chris O'Meara)

President Donald Trump took the low road in recent attacks against two of the most promising Democrats running in high profile governor's races, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in Florida and former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams in Georgia.

On Saturday night the president told a crowd at a rally in Pensacola that Gillum is "a radical socialist ... who will not do good things for Florida," according to CBS News. He also referred to Tallahassee as "one of the biggest problem cities in America" and warned the audience that "when you people camping out on your front lawn, remember Gillum."

Gillum, who is running against Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, has consistently held a small lead in recent polls analyzing the race. Looking at the surveys released since Oct. 22, Gillum has had anywhere from a 5 point to 6 point lead (all in polls where that gap was outside their margin of error) to a 1 point to 2 point lead (in polls where that gap was within the margin of error). In other words, although Gillum can be safely regarded as the frontrunner in Florida, an upset in favor of DeSantis is not inconceivable — and if Trump's presence can inspire Republican voters to turn out in large numbers, it could be a decisive factor against Gillum.

There are also high moral stakes in the Florida election. When Gillum won the Democratic primary, DeSantis infamously warned Florida voters not to "monkey this up," a comment that was widely interpreted as a racist dogwhistle. Later during a debate, after Gillum drew attention to DeSantis' far right supporters and the fact that one of his campaign contributors had used a racial slur against the Tallahassee mayor, Gillum claimed that "I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist."

Gillum isn't the only African American Democrat running for governor in a southern state who has been attacked by Trump. During a news conference on immigration on Thursday, the president dismissed Oprah Winfrey's support for Abrams by arguing that "the woman that she’s supporting is not qualified," according to The Washington Post. On Sunday, Abrams told NBC News' "Meet the Press" that she was not rattled by Trump's insult.

"I find his assessments to be vapid and shallow," Abrams told "Meet the Press." "I am the most qualified candidate. I am a business owner. I am a tax attorney who was trained at Yale Law School. I am a civic leader who helped register more than 200,000 Georgians."

She also told CNN on Sunday that Republicans are frightened because of her strong polling numbers, pointing out that "I think they’re getting scared, and I think desperation tends to lead to comments that aren’t necessarily grounded in reality."

Recent polls in Georgia have veered from showing Kemp with a slight lead of up to 2 points to Abrams being ahead by 1 point. These figures have all fallen within the polls' margin of error.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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