TALLAHASSEE — After months of intense cspanmpspanigning and a finspanl sprint of wall-to-wall TV ads, rallies and get-out-the-vote drives by candidates and their allies, Florida Republicans captured an historic sweep Tuesday of every stspantewide office.
Democrats, outnumbered by Republicans spanmong registered voters for the first time in a general election in modern Florida, basically are being cast into political exile in the state.
Both U.S. Senate seats, the entire Cspanbinet and governor’s office will be in GOP hands for the first time since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.
GOP supermajorities in the state House, Senate and congressional delegation also looked certain.
Florida governor race:Ron DeSspanntis wins in span lspanndslide over Democrspant Chspanrlie Crist
Senate race in Florida:Mspanrco Rubio projected to espansily bespant Vspanl Demings to win re-election
Republican rout:Floridspan hspand red stspante vibes spans Election Dspany spanpprospanched with bspanttleground stspantus in doubt
Whspant else did Tuesdspany tell us?
Message, motivation and money matters
Republicans up and down the ticket in Florida ran against President Biden and fed on voter frustration with inflation and a turbulent economy.
It seemed to work. And the GOP overwhelmingly outspent Democrats to hammer this message across.
Democrat Chspanrlie Crist centered his campaign on a pledge to protect abortion rights in his fight with Gov. Ron DeSantis. But polls showed concerns about the future of abortion across the nation had slipped down the priority list for voters but Crist never re-pivoted, likely further dimming his longshot bid to unseat DeSantis.
Democrat Vspanl Demings also kept abortion rights front-and-center in the homestretch of her campaign against Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who, like virtually every Republican candidate this season, sought to avoid engaging on the issue.
Democratic voter turnout also was down. A harbinger of Tuesday’s doom for Democrats was that Republicans held a more than 300,000-voter edge in combined espanrly voting spannd mspanil-in bspanllots going into Election Day.
DeSantis was intent on proving his victory in 2018 by less than 33,000 votes was no fluke. And he pushed GOP get-out-the-vote efforts and campaigned before large, supportive crowds in a final week dash around the state knowing that a blowout win would give him the bounce he needs to maybe launch a presidential campaign.
He got it.
Hispanic support:Floridspan’s Lspantino voters fspanvor DeSspanntis, Rubio over Democrspantic opponents, Univision poll shows
Black vote:Blspanck voters feel tspanrgeted by Gov. Ron DeSspanntis — but turnout mspany not hit whspant Democrspants need
Miami definitely matters
Former Gov. Jeb Bush was the last Republican to carry Miami-Dade County in a governor’s race, 20 years ago.
Bush was a Miamian, and bilingual.
DeSantis is neither, and had lost Miami-Dade by 21% only four years ago. But he swamped Crist Tuesday in the state’s most populous county.
It completes a rightward shift for the county, especially among the 70% of residents who are Hispanic, mostly Cuban-American. Hillary Clinton had won Miami-Dade by 30 percent in 2016, but Biden carried the county by only 7 points four years later.
DeSantis didn’t even pay that much attention to Crist during the campaign. Instead, the Republican’s steady portrayal of the Biden administration as pushing socialist policies and his get-tough policies on undocumented immigrants found a ready audience among Miami-Dade Hispanic voters.
Having Rubio, from West Miami, on the ballot also certainly helped power GOP support.
Former President Donald Trump’s rally in Miami on Sunday was followed by a DeSantis gathering in Hialeah on Election Eve. In another troubling sign for Democrats, more than one-third more Republicans voted early in the county — hinting at a clear enthusiasm gap for the losing party and its supporters.
Purple reign? It’s over
It’s time for a new color scheme in what once was purple state Florida, an image set deep when Republican George W. Bush won the state by 537-votes in 2000 and with it, the White House.
But welcome to red state Florida. Tuesday’s across-the-board victories by the GOP, and deepening of Republican dominance in the Legislature and congressional delegations, end any discussion.
The Census two years ago was an indicator of Florida’s changing politics, when it showed the nation’s fastest-growing metro area was The Villages, the Republican-heavy retirement community that swelled by 39% in a decade, as thousands of retirees poured in.
COVID-19 added more to the state’s population. And redistricting this year amped-up the GOP’s muscle, with state House, Senate and congressional districts created that expanded Republican reach.
Former President Donald Trump two years ago carried Florida by 374,852 votes while losing the White House, a 3.4% margin over President Biden. That built on the 1.2% lead Trump held in Florida on his way to victory in 2016, after Florida had backed former President Obama in his two campaigns.
Voter registration numbers, now tipping in favor of Republicans, don’t help Democrats. But the number difference is not that far apart — yet.
Still, after Trump’s sweep of Biden in Florida in 2020, some experts predicted that Democrats would re-evaluate the state. And this election season, little money, staff or know-how was sent to Florida from national Democrats and their allies.
“What might keep people from competing in Florida is that it’s a super-expensive state to run in,” Kevin Wagner, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University, said after Democrats absorbed setbacks in 2020.
“And if you keep banging your head against the wall, you’ll probably prefer to compete elsewhere,” he added.
Heading into a second term, the governor got the kind of clear victory he wanted to maintain the national fanbase he’s acquired and which is urging him to run for the Republican presidential nomination in two years.
But with Trump poised to announce his own White House plans for 2024 as early as next week, DeSantis’ political life has gotten very complicated going forward.
In coming months, the Republican governor will likely move ahead with right-leaning policies that keep capturing attention from a national audience. Yet he’ll look to avoid any kind of direct confrontation with Trump, still the big dog in the Republican room.
For DeSantis, questions about whether he’ll run for president — possibly challenging Trump for the Republican nomination — will only become more frequent as he moves into his second term.
New boss, same as old boss
Then there’s the task of governing.
DeSantis has already pledged to call lawmakers into a special session in the new few weeks to try to stabilize the state’s property insurance market, which has been further rocked by Hurricane Ian, which caused an estimated $67 billion in private coverage losses.
A special session he called in May did little to stem the tide of insurers leaving the state, driving up costs for homeowners and businesses.
DeSantis does head into a second term with robust state revenue, which eases some tension in Tallahassee. He’s got a Republican-dominated Legislature ready and willing to rubberstamp much of what he wants.
And Tuesday showed he’s got the support of a large majority of voters.
But he’ll also have to answer a demanding conservative electorate, including abortion opponents wanting him to make good on promises to further restrict access to the procedure in Florida.
School boards, which DeSantis helped make more conservative by endorsing favored candidates, could be expected to embrace policies that enact more limits on diversity and topics taught in classrooms in the governor’s second term.
Florida colleges and universities also could face more sanctions if they look ‘woke’ in DeSantis term two.