Opinion | Florida is a clear warning sign for Democrats

Opinion | Florida is a clear warning sign for Democrats

This raises some questions: if a large, politically respected country, which is one of the most important in the Union, has alleged extremists everywhere, are they really that extreme? And if Democrats do poorly in Florida next week, as seems likely, what does that say about the party?

Every party heading for the midterms has a moment of wishful despair towards the end of the campaign, and this is clearly one of those moments.

Anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to campaign against a forward-thinking, ethnically diverse state where the Democratic Party is short is spending too much time reading White House press releases or Ron Klein’s Twitter account.

Besides Donald Trump, who is sui generis and not an elected official in the state, Florida’s main bogeyman is Ron DeSantis. He earned much of his notoriety for the left during the pandemic, when he was a vocal opponent of lockdowns, school closures and mandates. His critics will never admit he was right, but at the very least, it’s hard to reignite the righteous anger directed at him during the height of the pandemic.

Indeed, his response is one of his calling cards in a re-election campaign that seems poised to throw off his opponents.

DeSantis is so extreme that he leads his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist by double digits RealClearPolitics averageand leads by double digits in the last four polls in average.

It is worth dwelling on this fact. Florida is not Utah or Alabama. It has been an unstable country for most of the last 100 years. One of the most reliable indicators that a candidate will become President of the United States is if they win the Sunshine State. George W. Bush did it twice, as did Barack Obama. And not by a large margin. Trump also won it twice, by 1 point in 2016 and, heralding the state’s shift to the right, by 3 points in 2020.

At the state level, it was the same picture. DeSantis won the governorship by 0.4 points in 2018. Rick Scott was re-elected governor in 2014 by 1 point, and he narrowly won his first race, defeating his Democratic opponent by 1.2 points in 2010. Neither DeSantis nor Scott won over 50 percent in these elections.

DeSantis has cultivated a reputation as a Trump-style culture warrior, so it’s easy to miss his practical side. He has championed environmental protection in Florida and has been a competent steward of his state, as underscored by his response to Hurricane Ian. A Florida Atlantic University Poll found that 63 percent approved of his handling of the hurricane, including 41 percent of Democrats.

It is not clear who is the more marginal figure in Florida, Biden or DeSantis. According to a Data for the Progress survey, Biden is underwater 42-58, and 52 percent have a very unfavorable view. DeSantis has majority support, 55-43, with 48 percent very favorable.

Biden uses another pole of Florida, now Sen. Rick Scott, as a reason for trying to attack the GOP, that is, that he wants to reduce rights. This is a question of where it’s actually the case, as Biden likes to say, that it’s no longer your father’s Republican Party. Trump has turned the GOP against austerity economics and party leaders have largely resisted returning to entitlement reform as a major cause. When he laid out his agenda earlier this year, Scott proposed voting to reauthorize entitlements every five years instead of running on autopilot. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave the cold shoulder, and the chances of Republicans accepting the proposal if they win a majority in Congress are zero. At this point, there’s no way Biden will make significant progress with it in the midterms.

Florida’s overall political message is not that Republicans are fading into mega-MAGA irrelevance, but that Democrats are losing ground in a vital part of the country.

As The Economist recently wrote: “Florida has become symbolic of much of America and central to all of it. The country is on the rise.” Its economy has doubled since 2002, and if it were a sovereign country, it would have the 15th largest economy in the world. “Between 2010 and 2020,” the magazine says, “its population grew at twice the national rate. Florida has overtaken New York to become the third most populous US state after California and Texas, with a dynamic and diverse demographic, including a rapidly growing Hispanic population.”

This should make the Democratic fade in the state even more worried about the party. As of 2020, there are roughly 330,000 fewer registered Democrats in Florida. Republicans now lead Democrats in registration for the first time, taking a 5.3 million to 5 million lead. Unlike 2008, when, thanks to an Obama-era influx, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 700,000.

Like CNN report It noted that Republicans picked up nearly 60,000 new registrations among Hispanics, while Democrats lost 46,000 — another indication of Democratic erosion with this key demographic. Such is the slide that Republicans could conceivably win in a distinctly Hispanic language Miami-Dade Countythe most populous county in the state that has traditionally been a pillar of the Democratic presidential coalition in Florida.

If the Democrats want to attribute all this to extremism, they are mistaken. Florida is a GOP success story and a cautionary tale for Democrats, not the key to preventing a midterm defeat.

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