By Carlo Versano
The president's denying the deaths of an estimated 3,000 Americans from a hurricane ー just as millions more seek shelter from another storm ー hasn't sat well, even with members of his own party.
Republicans running in competitive races in Florida found themselves rebuking Donald Trump's false claim Thursday that Puerto Rico's death toll from Hurricane Maria was fabricated by Democrats to make the president look bad.
There are major implications for the party, said GOP consultant Rick Wilson, author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies".
Trump "just put a bullet in Rick Scott's Senate campaign," he said Thursday in an interview on Cheddar.
Scott, the Florida Governor now vying for Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson's seat, wasted no time distancing himself from Trump on this issue, tweeting on Thursday, "I disagree with @POTUS," adding that he's seen the devastation first hand.
Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis, Florida's Republican nominee for Governor and one of the most unabashedly pro-Trump candidates in the country ー he recently ran an ad showing him reading "The Art of the Deal" to his infant son ー released a statement saying he “doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”
Florida is home to thousands of Maria evacuees and a large Puerto Rican population that might take issue with the president insisting their friends and relatives didn't actually die, said Wilson.
Trump's inability to project empathy ー whether it's for storm victims or a Senator he disagrees with ー is one issue behind the latest erosion in his poll numbers and an "ever shrinking base," Wilson added.
Indeed, Thursday's comments, which FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver unequivocally called "the worst thing he's ever tweeted," appears to be a bridge too far to cross for even some of Trump's most ardent backers ー two months before a crucial election, at that.
Projecting empathy and leadership ahead of a hurricane "is a lay-up," Wilson said.
"You can never rely on Donald Trump to get out of his own way."
For full interview click here.