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5 major lessons from Andrew Gillum's shocking win in Florida

The last major primary night before the November election packed a major surprise: ...

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 5:10 PM
Updated: Aug 29, 2018 5:10 PM

The last major primary night before the November election packed a major surprise: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum edged out former Rep. Gwen Graham to capture the Florida Democratic gubernatorial nomination, taking a major step toward being Florida's first black governor.

Gillum's victory -- particularly in a state as crucial to the presidential primary and general election process -- has lessons in it for any ambitious Democrat trying to understand the mentality and beliefs of the party base heading into 2020. Here are five.

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1. You can't be too liberal

Gillum was, without question, the choice of liberals in this race. Wealthy California businessman Tom Steyer, who has run ads nationally calling for President Donald Trump to be impeached, was an early supporter of Gillum's. So, too, were George Soros and Vermont democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. Gillum ran as an unapologetic progressive, advocating for single-payer health insurance and calling for Trump's impeachment.

Gillum's win proved -- in truth it re-proved -- that the energy within the Democratic Party is all on its left. Graham, the daughter of Florida political legend Bob Graham, ran as a sensible centrist who gave the party the best chance to hold the seat in the fall. That "head" message couldn't come close to competing with Gillum's "heart" one.

2. Younger is better

The Democratic Party base badly wants fresh faces. Its top three House leaders are all in their mid- to late-70s. The two most recognizable names in the 2020 sweepstakes at the moment -- Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden -- are 76 and 75, respectively. At 39, Gillum represents a younger generation of leaders, willing to go bold rather than bland on policy and unbound by the conventional wisdom of "how to win" that hold back many older politicians. While the 2020 top tier may begin as Biden, Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (age 69), there appears to be significant room for younger candidates to emerge.

3. Black candidates are winning

Gillum's victory is the third major victory for a black Democrat in a Democratic gubernatorial primary field in 2018, following on the heels of wins by former NAACP president Ben Jealous in Maryland earlier this year and state Rep. Stacey Abrams in Georgia. Gillum and Jealous both emerged from crowded primaries, while Abrams crushed fellow state legislator Stacey Evans, a white woman, in a one-on-one primary race.

None of that winning trio ran expressly as the "black" candidate in the field. (In Jealous' case, his leading opponent -- Rushern Baker -- was also black.) And all three demonstrated an ability to win votes outside of the African-American base within the Democratic Party. But their victories serve as a reminder of how potent the black vote is within the current incarnation of the Democratic Party. And how the likes of Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) or former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick could benefit from that fact come 2020.

4. Voters still love a powerful personal story

Gillum's background was compelling to voters, and he spoke of it often on the campaign trail. Here's the New Yorker's Benjamin Wallace-Wells on Gillum's life story:

"Last Sunday, Gillum spoke at St. Ruth Missionary Baptist Church, in Dania Beach, Florida. I was in a pew near the back. Over six feet tall, with a shaved head and handsome, Gillum took the pulpit and told the congregation about his life. He was born poor, in Miami. His mother was a school-bus driver and his father was a construction laborer. He was the fifth of seven children, and the first to graduate from high school."

In one of his only campaign ads, Gillum turns to the camera and asks: "What's impossible? The son of a bus driver becoming mayor of the capital city? Is it impossible to come from nothing, be outspent 10-to-1 and win?" (In a longer digital-only ad, Gillum tells his personal story in a deeply compelling way.)

Time after time after time, voters remind us that they reward candidates who have powerful personal narratives that they tell in ways that touch people. Voters vote for a person much more than they vote for a series of policy positions.

5. Money matters less than you think

One of the last vestiges of the old way of thinking about and analyzing politics is that fundraising power is determinative. It isn't. Gillum was drastically outspent by not only Graham but several self-funded candidates in the Florida race -- and still won. (Worth noting: Gillum did have financial support from both Steyer and Soros, which helped narrow the campaign spending gap somewhat.)

Money doesn't make up for message. Money isn't a stand-in for genuine grassroots energy -- and can't purchase it either. There remains a fundraising threshold below which a candidate can't possibly hope to be competitive -- people need to know who you are before they go into the voting booth -- but that threshold is far lower than many establishment types believe it to be.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 473413

Reported Deaths: 9214
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32339474
Hinds30703575
DeSoto29814346
Jackson23263336
Rankin21111358
Lee14600217
Madison14043265
Jones13165218
Forrest12953233
Lauderdale11418297
Lowndes10249175
Lamar10048128
Pearl River8737209
Lafayette8078136
Hancock7324111
Washington6837147
Oktibbeha6820118
Neshoba6404201
Monroe6372158
Warren6326161
Pontotoc610393
Panola6071124
Bolivar6016143
Marshall5972118
Union564086
Pike5491133
Lincoln5232130
Alcorn520888
George457868
Scott451993
Leflore4401140
Prentiss437276
Itawamba436198
Tippah436180
Simpson4268111
Copiah425586
Wayne424863
Tate4234100
Adams4219114
Yazoo415886
Sunflower4088104
Covington407391
Marion4032100
Leake393185
Coahoma388198
Newton364474
Grenada3517101
Stone345657
Tishomingo324888
Attala321185
Jasper310262
Winston300391
Clay288273
Chickasaw282164
Clarke277487
Calhoun259739
Holmes259485
Smith243947
Yalobusha216747
Tallahatchie215649
Walthall205557
Greene204045
Lawrence203831
Perry196453
Amite193751
Webster191941
Noxubee174538
Montgomery169853
Jefferson Davis165541
Carroll159937
Tunica148434
Benton139433
Kemper137439
Claiborne125634
Choctaw124925
Humphreys123337
Franklin115227
Quitman101825
Wilkinson99835
Jefferson86632
Sharkey62120
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 768301

Reported Deaths: 13209
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1093481727
Mobile699891179
Madison48418589
Baldwin35707452
Shelby35193291
Tuscaloosa33029512
Montgomery32582664
Lee21908204
Calhoun20140377
Morgan19351318
Etowah18583433
Marshall17272259
Houston16139353
St. Clair14956276
Limestone14129180
Cullman14069235
Elmore14010245
Lauderdale13128272
Talladega12399215
DeKalb11890229
Walker10231312
Autauga9493127
Blount9418149
Jackson9115136
Coffee8646161
Colbert8324169
Dale8284159
Escambia6456106
Tallapoosa6394168
Covington6313157
Chilton6243133
Russell591654
Franklin563597
Chambers5240132
Marion4628115
Dallas4626178
Clarke451471
Pike450091
Geneva4252106
Winston407987
Lawrence4046102
Bibb396177
Barbour338968
Marengo320981
Monroe311547
Butler309783
Pickens298769
Randolph294055
Henry293856
Hale286081
Cherokee279850
Fayette272271
Washington243545
Crenshaw232265
Clay221561
Macon214454
Cleburne209748
Lamar187839
Conecuh177139
Lowndes169056
Coosa163631
Wilcox154335
Bullock147142
Perry134235
Sumter123335
Greene119241
Choctaw72325
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