Republicans are doubtful that Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s (R) entrance into the 2024 primary will have much of an effect as he looks to take on two leading candidates who also hail from his state: former President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
Suarez’s announcement earlier this week did not come as a big surprise, as he had been teasing a campaign for weeks. But his relatively low profile, not to mention his more moderate political record, has left his party confused.
Even Suarez’s hometown paper, The Miami Herald, called his candidacy “a head-scratcher.”
“Is he the hip moderate or the right-wing Biden baiter? If the latter, he’ll be fighting for ground to which Trump and DeSantis already have staked a huge claim,” the paper’s editorial board wrote on Thursday.
Some Republicans have suggested he could be angling for vice president, especially since he’s a Latino politician at a time when the party is determined to court more voters in that demographic. Whatever the case, most observers are skeptical of his candidacy, while others are outright hostile.
One of the loudest GOP voices criticizing Suarez’s entrance into the race is former Miami-Dade County Mayor and current Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), who has referred to the mayor as “a complete fraud.”
“I know that he weaves a really good tale, but believe me, I know Francis Suarez very well. I will never, ever support him for president,” Gimenez told Fox News this week.
Others are more generous, suggesting the Miami mayor could be one of several candidates, including former New Jersey Mayor Chris Christie, who are trying to chip away at the frontrunners’ support.
“…They could act as battering rams on a wall and little by little they’re taking shots,” said Daniel Garza, president of the LIBRE Initiative, which is an advocacy group that promotes free-market ideas among U.S. Hispanics.
“The idea for Mayor Suarez is to showcase his record, his ideas, and whatever else he can bring to the table,” Garza said. “And then take shots at the other candidates.”
Suarez told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos on Thursday that he was running for president because he has “a different message than what other candidates have.”
“People want someone who can unify them,” Suarez said in the interview. “I was elected by 85 percent of and reelected by 80 percent. And as I’ve traveled the United States, from states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, [and] Nevada, what people want is for someone to bring them together. They want to know more. They want to hear more about my track record.”
Suarez, who’s the son of former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, has since launched a media blitz and delivered an address at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
The younger Suarez was first elected as a Miami city commissioner in 2009 and later became mayor in 2017. He’s well-known for his interest in cryptocurrency and has said he wants to make Miami “a crypto hub.”
Suarez notably did not vote for Trump in 2016. He told Real Clear Politics in an interview published Friday that he wrote in Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) instead. Four years later, he said he wrote in former Vice President Mike Pence instead of voting for Trump. In the same interview, Suarez denied reports that he voted for Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum over DeSantis in 2018.
Suarez will also likely face questions over being under investigation by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust for his work for property developer Rishi Kapoor. The Miami Herald reported last month that Kapoor paid Suarez $170,000 to push a project. According to the publication, Suarez’s office denied that a meeting between the two took place and Kapoor’s attorney has said Kapoor has “no record or recollection of any such meeting.”
Despite being a well-known face in Florida politics, Suarez has a lot of work to do to build his name ID nationally.
This will be especially imperative over the next two months, as Republicans gear up for the first presidential primary debate in August. In order to qualify, Suarez will need to poll at a minimum of 1 percent in three national polls and garner a minimum of 40,000 unique donors and at least 200 unique donors from 20 or more states and territories.
On Wednesday, a pro-Suarez super PAC, SOS America, launched a six-figure digital ad buy in the early contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Chapin Fay, a spokesperson for SOS America PAC. “That’s why the super PAC jumped in this week and we are going to be working with laser light focus on getting him qualified for the debates at the end of the summer. That’s really our goal.”
Suarez is notably the third Floridian to jump into the race, joining Trump and DeSantis, who has been polling in second place.
“For many of our members, there’s sort of this political love triangle with all of these Florida candidates that are running,” said Armando Ibarra, president of the Miami Young Republicans.
All three candidates have laid claim to success in the Sunshine State. Trump had a big political presence in Florida before permanently relocating there after his presidency. DeSantis has touted the state’s economic growth during the pandemic after he kept the state open throughout much of the pandemic.
Suarez, meanwhile, has highlighted Miami’s impact as the largest city in the state.
“Miami is the economic engine driving all of Florida’s economic success, so we’re going to highlight that,” Fay said.
The digital ad buy the pro-Suarez PAC released highlights Suarez’s “Miami Model” in an effort to draw a contrast between him and President Biden.
“We’re going to be focusing on Joe Biden’s America versus Francis Suarez’s Miami,” Fay said. “In our view, the country is totally out of control, and when you compare it to how well Miami is doing, especially since coming out of pandemic, the record and the differences couldn’t be starker.”
Source : The Hill