In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It’s a matchup that no one expected.

Running on a bold progressive platform, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum coasted to an 11th-hour victory in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, edging out the expected nominee Gwen Graham by more than 40,000 votes. Gillum will face off against the GOP nominee who mounted a late charge to win but seen as a divisive general election prospect: Trump acolyte Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Both nominees won by activating their base. The run-up to November will be a bloody battle for independent voters in which race and the President will be major factors, Sunshine State political observers tell TPM.

“The results are further evidence—if any evidence was needed—that the center in American politics and in Florida politics is continuing to disintegrate at a very rapid pace,” veteran Florida GOP strategist Mac Stipanovich told TPM.

“It’s a very stark choice between the two candidates,” added University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald. “That bodes well for interest among voters and turnout in the general.”

With the exception of one recent Tampa Bay Times poll, Gillum consistently trailed in surveys of the primary, and he lacked the deep pockets of his rivals. Graham had a built-in fundraising network as a former congresswoman and the daughter of a popular Florida governor and senator, while two other top candidates were self-funded.

But the young, African-American candidate was strong on the stump and drew similarly young, diverse crowds to his events. In speeches and primary debates, Gillum expressed unapologetic support for a progressive platform of a $15 minimum wage, abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency “in its current form,” Medicare for All, and repealing the state’s Stand Your Ground law.

Final breakdowns of the vote are not yet available, but it appears that young voters and people of color came out for Gillum in droves. He won big in the heavily-populated urban centers of Orlando, Tampa, Tallahassee, and Jacksonville, as well as Alachua County, where the University of Florida is located, and certain predominantly African-American areas along the Georgia border.

An endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) helped push Gillum over the finish line, and the Florida Democratic Party, including his primary rivals, quickly came together behind him after his Tuesday victory.

Gillum sounded a note of unity at his victory party, saying the campaign was “about every single last one of us.”

That message couldn’t be more different than that of his Republican rival. DeSantis campaigned as a Trump acolyte, pledging to support the White House’s agenda as governor and protect Trump from investigations into Russia’s election interference. DeSantis thanked Trump from the stage of his own victory party in Orlando, promising to always take conservative “principled positions.”

Trump returned the love, officially endorsing DeSantis in a June tweet and campaigning by his side in Tampa. That backing changed the dynamics of the race, according to University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett. At that point, establishment favorite, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, went from leading in the polls to trailing DeSantis. Putnam never closed the gap.

DeSantis also benefited from some $9 million worth of earned media from his frequent Fox News hits.

Returns show huge turnout among both Democratic and Republican voters—1,508,658 to 1,618,372, respectively. But Florida is a closed primary state, meaning there are tens of thousands of unaffiliated or independents left to be won over. What message resonates better with these voters is an open question.

DeSantis’ bear hug of Trump may have won him the nomination but could cost him in the general, according to Stipanovich, a Never Trump Republican. GOPers who supported Putnam are smarting that a few tweets from the President lost their man the race, and Republicans face more of a challenge than Democrats in uniting their party around DeSantis.

Stipanovich described the GOP nominee as “a Trump clone who if he has any original ideas about governing Florida has carefully concealed them.”

But Gillum faces challenges of his own. As Stipanovich and the University of Florida’s McDonald noted, he was able to fly under the radar during the primary, leaving him less “tested” for the fierceness of a general election campaign.

Republicans are likely to make hay of an ongoing FBI investigation into Tallahassee’s city government. Though Gillum has not personally been named in any subpoenas, it will be easy for his detractors to smear him with a broad brush as caught up in a murky corruption probe.

There’s also the race factor. Gillum, if elected, would become the state’s first black governor. That is a source of inspiration and motivating factor for some Florida voters, and a turnoff for others who may harbor racial resentments.

The sensitivities of the issue surfaced only hours after the candidates accepted their nominations. DeSantis cautioned on Fox News on Wednesday morning that his opponent would “monkey everything up” as governor. The Florida Democratic Party pounced, calling his comment a “racist dog whistle.” DeSantis’ campaign then played cleanup, saying it was “absurd” to characterize his comment as anything other than a repudiation of Gillum’s “socialist policies.”

These early fireworks indicate a fiery, no-holds-barred general election campaign. At the end of it, Florida will be governed either by one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress or by the most progressive Democrat ever to lay claim to the state’s top office.

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Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) easily defeated her two right-wing opponents to win her state’s Senate nomination Tuesday, setting up a marquee matchup against fellow Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

McSally led former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R) and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio by wide margins, with 51 percent of the vote to 29 percent for Ward and 20 percent for Arpaio, when the Associated Press called the race shortly before midnight EST.

McSally’s comfortable win comes after she and her allies spent millions in ads to destroy Ward in the race’s closing weeks, a sign McSally’s campaign wasn’t comfortable with where the race stood until right before Election Day. McSally also bear-hugged President Trump, featuring him in ads, a decision that played well in the primary but may come back to haunt her in the fall in the purple-trending state.

The result is a big relief for establishment Republicans who believed the other two candidates would take the race off the map if Ward or Arpaio won the primary.

McSally’s opponents helped her plenty as well. Arpaio’s decision to run split the hardline anti-immigrant, Trump-aligned and fringe vote, giving McSally a much easier path to the nomination. He didn’t run a real race, never once airing campaign ads. And Ward spent the home stretch of the race insulting the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the final days before his death and warring with staffers she’d fired who then went to work for Arpaio.

While McSally has had to spend months fending off her gadfly challengers, Sinema has spent that time burnishing her centrist credentials with voters.

She kept that up Tuesday night, leading her victory statement by paying homage to McCain and “the lifetime of service and the example he has set for us.”

“It’s up to all of us to follow his lead of always putting country over party,” she said. “Tonight, we look ahead and continue fighting to uphold the values we all share: a fair shot at the American Dream and an unwavering commitment to the Arizona we love.”

McSally, likewise, paid homage to McCain in her victory speech, calling him an “American hero” who “paid an unfathomable price for our freedom.”

Sinema began her career as a much more liberal activist, working for Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign and leading Iraq War protests in the state. While she’s cultivated a centrist voting record since reaching Congress six years ago, it remains to be seen whether her independent bona fides will hold up under an onslaught of ad spending from McSally and her allies.

Strategists in both parties predict a close and expensive race — but both Democrats and Republicans told TPM that they’d rather be Sinema than McSally in recent weeks. Sinema has led McSally by single digits in almost every public and private poll of the race so far. And while McSally will likely consolidate some of the GOP base now that she has the nomination, she’ll have to make sure to keep them happy as she tries to pivot back to her previous centrist image — a tough dance when early voting in the race begins in just over a month.

The race is one of Democrats’ two best pickup opportunities this fall, alongside Nevada, and is a must-win for them if they hope to avoid losing ground in the Senate and keeping their very slim hopes alive of winning Senate control this November.

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Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward (R) isn’t ready to let bygones be bygones with the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Ward, on the eve of her Senate primary and just two days after McCain’s death, made a number of veiled swipes at the man she ran against in 2016.

Ward at first denied during a Monday press conference that she’d called for McCain to step down right after he announced his cancer diagnosis last year (she’d also suggested she get appointed to the seat). When a reporter confronted her with the exact quote, she doubled down on her earlier remarks, saying that McCain should have stepped aside earlier if his disease meant he couldn’t do his job well.

She then compared McCain’s illness to Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) corruption trial, and argued that politicians like them should step aside more often.

“The power of that incumbency is so sweet for them, the millions of dollars in special interest money that flows into those coffers across the board,” she said. “I think must be irresistible for them, because very few, too few, put the country in front of themselves and their ambitions.”

And when she was asked about the new bipartisan Senate push to rename the Senate Russell Office Building after McCain, she shrugged, saying: “I have to fly out of the McCain terminal sometimes here,” and just wanted to be senator.

The comments are the latest swipes against McCain in recent days.

Over the weekend, Ward suggested that McCain announced he was discontinuing his cancer treatment on Friday as a way to undercut her Senate campaign in the closing days of the primary.

She then tweeted this on Monday, though she later denied it was about McCain:

Ward, a conspiracy theorist-loving hardline conservative who lost a primary to McCain in 2016, is running against Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R) for retiring Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) seat. McSally is expected to win their Tuesday primary comfortably.

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has died, snuffing out one of the Senate’s most singular voices and removing one of President Trump’s fiercest Republican critics from the national arena.

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As of last week, 565 migrant children who were separated from their parents by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy remained separated and in U.S. custody. Late Thursday, the Trump administration told a federal court in San Diego that that number has barely budged, dropping to 528 nearly a month after the court’s deadline to reunite all of the separated children. Of the still-separated group, 23 are younger than 5 years old.

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