Election Preview: Arizona And Florida Primaries

Aug 28, 2018
Originally published on August 28, 2018 7:19 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Two states are holding primaries today, and one of them is the state of Arizona. The election itself has nothing to do with Senator John McCain's seat. But you might say it has everything to do with John McCain, whose death over the weekend looms large over the politics of his state and the country. Let's bring in NPR's Sarah McCammon to talk about this.

Hi, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, there.

GREENE: So I want to start with this dust-up over how President Trump reacted to McCain's death. Flags are once again at half-staff at the White House honoring him, but that was a change from early yesterday.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. There's been some back-and-forth, some up-and-down. So just to walk through this quickly, they were initially lowered at the White House over the weekend after Senator McCain died. By Monday morning, they were back at full-staff, which led to lots of discussions and criticism. And you know, overall, the criticism has been that President Trump hadn't said enough in honor of Senator McCain. He sent out a tweet over the weekend expressing sympathy for the family but didn't say really anything about his military service until late yesterday, the White House did put out a statement, which was also criticized as too little, too late. And then last night, the president finally weighed in, made some public comments at a dinner for evangelicals honoring Senator McCain. But all of it's been criticized, again, as too little, too late. And this is all in the context of the long-standing tension, of course, between Trump and McCain that's been, you know, present for years.

GREENE: It was amazing watching - to see so many other flags at half-staff when the White House was not for a period of time yesterday.

MCCAMMON: Sure enough.

GREENE: So - OK. While this is - that's going on, we have Arizona voters preparing to choose their party's nominee - Republican nominee to replace Jeff Flake, who has the other seat. It has nothing to do with McCain's seat technically.

MCCAMMON: Right. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, also a Republican, had announced a while ago that he was stepping down, in large part because of the way that politics have shifted. He doesn't like the way the party is going. So that seat is now open, and there's going to be a vote today. A primary vote in - the Republican primary is really the big race to watch. There are three major candidates in that race. They all have earned praise from President Trump in the past, and they're all pretty conservative. Whoever wins the GOP primary is expected to face Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema in the general election in November. And this seat is a big target for Democrats to try to flip.

GREENE: OK. And then we turn to the state of Florida, which also has primary voting today. What should we be watching for there?

MCCAMMON: There, the big race is the Republican primary in the governor's race. It pits a Trump Republican, Congressman Ron DeSantis, against an establishment favorite, Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam. Desantis is running hard on his endorsement from the president. And he's best-known for this ad in which his wife says DeSantis isn't just endorsed by President Trump but he's also an amazing dad.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD, "CASEY")

CASEY DESANTIS: Ron loves playing with the kids.

RON DESANTIS: Build the wall.

C. DESANTIS: He reads stories.

R. DESANTIS: Then Mr. Trump said, you're fired. I love that part.

C. DESANTIS: He's teaching Madison to talk.

R. DESANTIS: Make America great again.

C. DESANTIS: People say...

MCCAMMON: So using his support for Trump as a teaching tool for his kids and certainly as a campaign talking point in the Florida gubernatorial primary.

GREENE: My goodness - bedtime reading infused with politics.

MCCAMMON: Indeed. And DeSantis is leading in the polls in that primary. Whoever does win is expected to face Democrat Gwen Graham in November.

GREENE: All right, lots to talk about with NPR's Sarah McCammon.

Sarah, thanks so much.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.