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Why the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago can’t escape the divided politics in Florida

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Steve Helber
/
AP
This is an aerial view of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach. The FBI searched Mar-a-Lago as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence, people familiar with the matter said Monday.

Reactions to the FBI search of former President Trump’s home in Palm Beach came fast. And for top Republicans in Florida, it was fury.

"The way our federal government has gone — it's like what we thought about the Gestapo or people like that," Republican Sen. Rick Scott told Fox Business on Tuesday. "What we thought about (the) Soviet Union. Look at Latin America. We have got to say to ourselves, 'This cannot be our country.' We have got to say we're a country of laws, not people that are attacking their political opponent and get away with it."

Gov. Ron DeSantis called the FBI search "another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies."

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News Channel on Tuesday night: "The next step in this process is going to be that people who are supporters of Donald Trump's, or just conservatives complaining about this, are going to be labeled as potential insurrectionists and are going to begin to get harassed by law enforcement. That's the next step in this playbook, sadly."

The responses from Florida's top Republican officeholders are at odds with American principles, said Democratic strategist Fernand Amandi of Miami. "I think what we've seen take place here is further evidence of a Republican Party today that has gone far outside of the mainstream and really distanced itself from its origins as a law-and-order party in the defense of Donald Trump," he said.

While Attorney General Merrick Garland and the former president both supported releasing the search warrant for public review, the response has been decidedly different to news of the first known search warrant served on a former president's residence.

"While most Americans are not lawyers, they don't really understand the fine details of legal process," said Tampa GOP strategist Adam Goodman. "So obviously, partisanship is what is fanning the flames of rhetoric and debate among all Americans right now over this move by the FBI."

Registered Florida Republican voters now outpace Democrats by almost a quarter of a million voters. That represents a swing of about half a million voters since the last mid-term election cycle. In 2018, registered Florida Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans by 260,000.

Over the same four years, NPA voter registrations in Florida have grown by 350,000.

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"The real numbers suggest that in Florida, people feel it's going very, very well on most measures," said Goodman. And that bodes well for DeSantis as his name is circulated as a possible 2024 White House candidate.

In his criticism of the FBI and Department of Justice's actions, DeSantis ended his tweet with this: "Banana Republic," a derogatory term usually referring to a national government whose leader uses misuses government institutions for profit or to stay in power. Both Scott and Rubio spoke about Latin America's dictatorial regimes in their criticism of the search.

Democratic strategist Amandi finds such comparisons irresponsible.

"You can just imagine Vladimir Putin and America's enemies rubbing their hands with glee around the world as they watch this spectacle," he said.

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