TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As they grapple for frontrunner status in primaries for statewide and legislative offices, Florida Republicans who have aligned themselves with President Donald Trump, aren't just touting their loyalty to the commander-in-chief.
The Republicans are calling out their opponents for not showing the same unabashed allegiance.
- Fla. GOP members calling out opponents
- They want them to show Trump allegiance
- Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis vocal about Trump support
The strategy has become an underpinning of the gubernatorial campaign of Ron DeSantis, a three-term congressman from Palm Coast who has won the president's endorsement in the race.
In stump speeches and at a nationally-televised primary debate, DeSantis has accused his opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, of all but disowning Trump during his controversy-filled 2016 campaign.
"When Donald Trump was trying to win Florida in 2016, Adam Putnam did not attend a single rally for him," DeSantis said during the debate. "You couldn't find Adam Putnam if you had a search warrant!"
Like many high-level Republicans, Putnam had been reticent to thoroughly embrace Trump's candidacy, particularly in the wake of a wave of sexual harassment allegations that shook the Trump campaign in its final weeks.
He did, however, resolve to vote for his party's presidential nominee and now says he supports the president's agenda.
But what Republican candidates who were once conflicted about Trump think about him now is largely beside the point in the increasingly heated GOP primary campaigns being waged up and down Florida's ballot.
In the race for the Republican nomination for attorney general, State Rep. Frank White has begun running television ads proclaiming that he "stood with President Trump, voting to outlaw sanctuary cities in Florida."
And behind the scenes, his allies are drawing attention to a real estate fraud lawsuit filed eight years ago by Ashley Moody, the frontrunner in the primary contest. The defendant in the suit: the Trump Organization.
The strategy also reflects a peculiar dynamic given a midterm election environment history suggests shouldn't favor the prospects of an incumbent president's political party: polls indicate the president is wildly popular among Republicans and is even enjoying rising approval among independents.
The president's coattails, then, have become a popular commodity on the GOP campaign trail, and Trump loyalists are determined not to let them fall into the hands of their opponents.