Why Andrew Gillum’s Primary Win is So Important

The unexpected victory reflects a new paradigm in voter participation

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum during a campaign rally in Tampa, Florida, on August 17, 2018. Chris O’Meara/AP

The Florida gubernatorial primary victory is a huge win for Andrew Gillum, but it is also a significant win for Bernie Sanders and his Our Revolution organization, as well as all the other progressive groups that were supporting Gillum.

This win is also incredibly significant from an overall perspective because it proved three important things:

(1) Progressives can win in a state-wide race.

After Abdul El-Sayed lost the governor’s primary in Michigan, many were saying that a bold progressive platform could only win in very limited races in single districts, and for this reason the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was just an outlier, a blip, and all the mainstream Media outlets from CNN to Politico to the New York Times were crowing about how the Sanders Revolution was “sputtering” and how AOC did not have an impact outside her district, and so on.

The Establishment is trying to distance Gillum from Bernie. Don’t let them!

Gillum’s win flies in the face of all those faulty analyses. Gillum won against an Establishment favorite, Gwen Graham, in a statewide race that was hotly contested, a large scale primary in which over 1.5 million votes were cast.

(2) Progressives can expand the voter base.

Non-voting in America is a huge problem. While Trump-v-Clinton partisans rehash 2016 as if it were a zero-sum game, and Hillary supporters seek to pin blame on third party candidates like Jill Stein, no one is addressing the real problem: that almost HALF of all voters in 2016 chose “none of the above.”

Breakdown chart courtesy of Kevin Delin

Bernie Sanders made it a cornerstone of his campaign to encourage irregular or “unlikely” voters to come out to the polls. Indeed, Bernie defined his “Political Revolution” as nothing more or less than simply dramatically increasing voter participation. And for this, of course, he was mocked by the mainstream media.

But look who is having the last laugh now.

All the polls leading up to the Primary had Andrew Gillum trailing in 4th place. But, like all such polls, those results were based on “likely voters” — i.e., people who regularly voted. Just as what happened in the Ocasio-Cortez race, however, Andrew Gillum’s candidacy brought out the “unlikely voters”. This is a very important aspect of all these Progressive wins — they are bringing out people who normally would not have voted.

RealClearPolitics polling report for the Florida Dem Primary

Gillum came from 14 points behind to win by 2.9 points — that means the polls were off by 17 points. This is significant.

It is significant because it is part of a trend — a trend that was also reflected in the Ocasio-Cortez victory. The polls going into the Democratic Primary for NY14 showed the incumbent Joe Crowley, leading Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by 36%. AOC then went on to win by a whopping 15%. That means the polls were off by an incredible 51 percentage points. How could that be?

The answer, in a word, is turnout. In both of these “stunning upset” races, where the polls were so unbelievably wrong, the turnout among Democratic primary voters increased dramatically:

In the case of AOC, turnout increased by 68%.

In the case of Gillum, turnout increased by 79%.

So the big takeaway from both these races is that Progressives win races by getting “unlikely voters” to come out and vote. Bernie Sanders has said repeatedly, “when turnout is high, we win.” These races prove him right.

(3) Money cannot beat a popular agenda.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was famously outspent 18 to 1, yet she won a convincing victory. Indeed, ALL the progressive candidates who have won recently were outspent, and Andrew Gillum was no exception.

The Florida Gubernatorial Primary was simply awash with campaign cash — over $100 Million was spent, and here is the breakdown of who spent what:

  • Philip Levine: $37.7 million (3rd place)
  • Jeff Greene: $34.7 million (4th place)
  • Gwen Graham: $16.3 million (2nd place)
  • Chris King: $7.8 million (5th place)
  • Andrew Gillum: $6.6 million (Winner!)

So Andrew was outspent by the Establishment favorite Gwen Graham by a margin much larger than 2 to 1, and yet he prevailed.

The fact that these Progressive candidates are winning despite being massively outspent is absolutely game-changing.

As many pundits and analysts like Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky have observed, the results of US elections can almost always be predicted by simply looking at which candidate spent more on their campaign. Indeed, analyses have found that the better financed candidate in America wins well over 90% of the time.

Candidates like Gillum and AOC are showing everyone that a bold, Progressive agenda that actually addresses people’s needs can and will win — even when the candidate is outspent.

That is because Progressives give people a reason to vote, and guess what, when you give people something to vote for, they actually come out to vote.

AOC, Gillum, Bernie Sanders and other Progressives are telling us how to win elections: run an issues based campaign, stand with the working people of America, and you can win.

Democrats need to listen.


Please also check out my article:

Democrats Must Abandon Identity Politics and Run on Actual Policies

Joe is a US Ex-Pat with dual US-EU citizenship, who travels Europe extensively, commenting on trends, attitudes, politics and more.

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