TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Republican Congressman David Jolly, who’s running for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2016, thinks businessman Donald Trump should step out of the presidential race. But Jolly also agrees with him on something. It just depends on which Jolly message you focus on.
On Tuesday, Jolly took to the floor of the U.S. House to call for the real-estate tycoon to drop his presidential bid after Trump proposed that Muslim immigrants and tourists should temporarily be barred from entering the country. The announcement of that policy by Trump, who currently leads the GOP field in most polls, sent shockwaves through the Republican Party and has been condemned by several party leaders.
“It should be heartbreaking to every American that we have a front-runner in the presidential race that suggests there will be a religious test for anybody who wishes to come to our shores,” Jolly said. “It is an affront to the very principles upon which our nation was founded. … It is time that my side of the aisle has one less candidate in the race for the White House.”
Following Jolly during Tuesday morning’s session — when lawmakers could speak on any topic for a few minutes at a time — Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee applauded the “courage” of Jolly’s speech.
“It needed to be said,” Cohen said.
More quietly, Jolly’s campaign sent an email to supporters Thursday with the subject line: “Trump and I Agree.”
“Trump and I each speak out honestly and with conviction, we don’t worry about the political consequence, and we call it like we see it,” Jolly wrote in the email. “We just see things differently.”
In the email, Jolly called for the nation to press the war against the Islamic State militant group; secure the borders; improve vetting for refugees and others who want visas; and bulk up surveillance. And while Jolly’s email talked about the importance of religious liberty, it didn’t reiterate his call for Trump to depart the race.
Jolly has been in a tight spot in the Senate race so far. He’s seen as perhaps the most moderate Republican in a primary field that includes Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Congressman Ron DeSantis and businessman Todd Wilcox. But conservative voters — a group that includes a fair number of Trump supporters — are likely to decide who wins the GOP nomination for the spot.
The Florida Democratic Party didn’t even wait for Thursday’s email to accuse Jolly of flip-flopping. They touted an August radio interview in which Jolly seemed to indicate he would support Trump if the businessman won the Republican presidential nomination — something Jolly insisted would not happen.
“I am confident I will be supporting the Republican nominee for president, yes,” Jolly said.
In a statement by spokesman Max Steele, the Democratic Party twisted the knife.
“Trump’s bigotry and hate are nothing new, and this clumsy grandstanding just leaves the congressman looking like a Jolly-come-lately,” Steele said.
Of course, Jolly wasn’t alone in trying to make some political hay out of Trump’s widely covered remarks. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, a former Democratic state lawmaker, jokingly tweeted that he was “barring” Trump from entering the city limits.
But Kriseman conceded Wednesday on “MSNBC Live with Jose Diaz-Balart” that he had no real ability to keep the businessman out of town if Trump was determined to come.
“In my mind, the best way to answer something that’s that ridiculous is with an equally ridiculous statement,” Kriseman said. “So that’s why I posted it.”
MORE REDISTRICTING TROUBLES COMING?
Just as Florida looks to wrap up the nearly five-year odyssey that has been the state’s redistricting process — a procedure that is supposed to take place once a decade — a U.S. Supreme Court ruling could shake things up again in a few months.
In a Texas case, Evenwel v. Abbott, the court is being asked whether states should try to have a roughly equal number of voters in each legislative district instead of a roughly equal number of people. Oral arguments were heard in the case this week.
According to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, a court ruling in favor of those challenging the Texas map would mean “(e)very state legislative map in the country would become presumptively unconstitutional under Equal Protection principles and would need to be redrawn.”
Depending on how wide the court decides the difference between districts can be — if it rules for the challengers — up to 61 percent of Florida’s state House districts and 40 percent of state Senate districts could be unconstitutional.
So even as Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds recommends a redistricting plan to the Florida Supreme Court after a hearing next week, the ongoing saga of the state’s political boundaries might have another act left.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Weak and totally conflicted people like @TheRickWilson shouldn’t be allowed on television unless given an I.Q. test. Dumb as a rock! @CNN”—Presidential candidate Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump), on Florida-based GOP consultant Rick Wilson, who has constantly hammered Trump.
“Stop hitting on me Donald. No means no.” —Wilson’s response.
The News Service of Florida’s Brandon Larrabee’s contributed to this report.