Florida has made a right turn since 2020. These four factors explain the change
In the last week before election day, the two most recent presidents of the United States will hold rallies in Florida, where a seismic political shift currently underway may change the national political map in the coming years.
President Joe Biden lands in South Florida on Tuesday to campaign for the Democrats. Donald Trump will host its own event for Republican Senator Marco Rubio on Sunday in Miami.
The circumstances of their arrivals brought their own intrigue. With Democrats reluctant to welcome Biden and his approval ratings sinking elsewhere, the president will spend one of the last days before the election in a state that has been an afterthought for his party for most of the mid-term cycle. Meanwhile, Republicans speculate that Trump is in court in the Sunshine State two days before the election in part to target Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 rival who was not invited to the campaign finale. weekend
In most election years, a visit by a high-profile politician to the Sunshine State would be the norm, if not expected. Trump and Biden had several stops in Florida two years ago – including two days of rallies before the 2020 election separated by a few hours and only 10 miles of Tampa roads. And four years ago, the races for governor and US Senate in Florida were decided in a recount.
But now, Republicans and Democrats are on opposite trajectories. Republicans believe they are headed for their most successful election night in a generation, buoyed by DeSantis’ record fundraising and a surge in enthusiasm. Democrats, trailing in the polls and lagging behind in excitement, are hoping for an unexpected change in political winds or they could be left without a single elected official in the state in Florida for the first time since at least Reconstruction.
Here are four factors driving the state’s right turn.
When Barack Obama won Florida in 2008, his historic campaign brought in a wave of new Democratic voters. Registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans in Florida by nearly 700,000, their largest lead since 1990.
That gap has narrowed in the following years. But after the 2020 election, the reversal accelerated and touched almost every part of the state, from the urban cores and their suburbs, to the rural communities that stretch the Panhandle and the point of Central Florida . Republicans have increased their numbers in 52 of the state’s 67 counties since Biden and Trump were on the ballot. Meanwhile, there are fewer registered Democrats in all but one county than two years ago — a net loss of 331,000 voters overall.
As of last month, there were 5.3 million registered Republicans and just under 5 million Democrats in Florida, marking the first time in state history that the GOP will carry a voter advantage on Election Day.
“Voter registration has been a disaster,” said Thomas Kennedy, a member of the Democratic National Committee in Florida. “Our messaging sucks.”
Kennedy called for the removal of Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz.
One joker remains. The fastest growing category of voters in the state are not Republicans or Democrats, but people who choose neither party when they sign up to vote. There are 240,000 more Floridans who registered as “no party affiliation” than there were in 2020.
Trump’s surprisingly strong performance among Latino voters helped fuel his 3.5-point victory in the Sunshine State in 2020. Perhaps nowhere was that dynamic more pronounced than in Miami-Dade County, where Trump lost by only 7 points to Biden after trailing Hillary Clinton. 30 points in 2016.
Republicans have picked up where Trump left off. More than half of his gains in registered voters can be attributed to the 58,000 new Hispanic voters who checked “Republican” on their forms. Democrats, however, are bleeding support from these communities. The party saw a net loss of more than 46,000 Hispanic voters.
The reversal is made all the more surprising because the Democrats entered the election cycle firmly aware of the trend and prepared to face it, promising that they would have dedicated staff and outreach focused on the disparate Hispanic communities that are scattered in the whole state. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist chose as his running mate Karla Hernandez, an educator born to Honduran immigrants, and led the ticket’s Spanish-language outreach.
Those efforts did not materialize until new broad support, and going into the election, Republicans believe they are poised to win Miami-Dade County for the first time since Jeb Bush was governor in 2002. Republicans have gained nearly 11,000 voters; Democrats lost nearly 58,000.
“Let’s not make it all about identity politics. Hispanics buy groceries too,” tweeted Christina Pushaw, who runs rapid response for the DeSantis campaign. “Less so today, like everyone else, because of Bidenflation.”
It’s also worth noting that Republicans have seen a slight but sizable increase in Black registered voters over the past two years, while Democrats have lost more than 71,000, a quarter of which came from Miami-Dade.
In the final months of the 2020 election, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged $100 million to help Biden win Florida. The sum was remarkable, but outsiders have long been drawn to spend huge sums to transform what had been the country’s biggest battlefield. The 2018 election drew tens of millions in outside spending from both parties and their wealthy allies.
This cycle, most of that money went to one party, Republicans, and a lot of it went to one person, DeSantis. The GOP leader is breaking fundraising records on his way to approaching a $200 million campaign for governor. The Republican Governors Association has invested heavily in helping DeSantis, donating more than $20 million this campaign cycle, and his political committee has collected more than 250 six-figure checks, as well as small donations from each state.
Most of the big blue benefactors, meanwhile, stayed on the sidelines, leaving Democrats struggling to advertise in the final weeks of the race. Democrats here are concerned that two decades of narrow defeats have soured donors in Florida for the foreseeable future.
There are Democrats who, in retrospect, regret not using Bloomberg’s investment and other past donations to build a more sustainable party and register more voters instead of being dragged into a winner-take-all dogfight every year with few wins to spare. show
“The other side of the coin, with Donald Trump on the ballot, how do you not throw everything to stop him? The stakes were so high that if there was a dollar in your bank account, you didn’t try hard enough ” said a state party operative in Florida who asked to speak anonymously about the party. “But going forward, we spend too much money on TV and direct mail. It just doesn’t get you that much. We don’t do deep canvassing throughout the year. We parachute in two months before the election. We advertise instead of doing the hard work.” .
Florida’s population growth over the past decade has given the state an additional seat in the US House after the results of the 2020 US Census. The effects of this will be felt as soon as this week next DeSantis has pushed an aggressively partisan redrawing of state congressional districts there that could give Republicans an edge in as many as 20 of 28 districts. Republicans currently hold a 16-11 advantage in Florida’s US House delegation.
The additional congressional seat also means that Florida gets another vote in the Electoral College, bringing the total to 30. Already, Democrats worried about their electoral viability in Florida have some concerns that the party will not compete for the presidency here in two years.
Republicans have publicly stated that is the outcome they are working for.
“We have no excuses except to get the biggest election win we’ve ever had,” DeSantis said at a rally Sunday, before adding, “I really believe the red wave is starting in the state of Florida.”
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