Democrats see 'ominous signs' and are becoming worried about Florida as midterms approach: report
Florida, more and more, has become a source of frustration to Democrats as well as to some Never Trump conservatives who are critical of far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis. Never Trumper Rick Wilson, a former GOP strategist and scathing critic of the MAGA movement, has described Florida as a state where Democrats “struggle.” And liberal MSNBC host Joy Reid has argued that Florida isn’t really a swing state anymore — it has evolved into a full-fledged red state.
Democratic worries about Florida are the focus of an article written by Politico reporters Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout and published on October 27. According to Dixon and Fineout, some Democratic strategists are growing increasingly pessimistic about their prospects in the Sunshine State as the Tuesday, November 8 election draws closer.
“Florida Democrats are bracing for a very bad night on November 8,” the Politico journalists report. “Less than two weeks before the election, Democrats are signaling that key races are slipping away from them. They point to ominous signs and missed opportunities, including the party’s message on abortion rights and gun control that isn’t resonating and a lack of coordination between the campaigns of Rep. Val Demings, who is vying to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio, and Charlie Crist, who is challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis. Most worrisome for Democrats, national organizations and donors have all but abandoned their candidates — setting off fears that Florida is no longer viewed as competitive.”
Looking at polls of Florida’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, it isn’t hard to understand why Democratic strategists and organizers are worried about Florida. A long list of polls released during the second half of October show Democratic gubernatorial nominee Crist, an ex-Republican and former Florida governor, trailing DeSantis by double digits. A University of North Florida poll released on October 26 shows DeSantis ahead of Crist by 14 percent.
The University of North Florida also found Rubio with an 11 percent lead over Demings in the Senate race.
In the past, Florida was known for being quite volatile politically — Republican President George W. Bush won Florida twice, but so did centrist Democratic President Barack Obama. And former President Donald Trump won Florida twice. When President Joe Biden won Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in 2020 but lost Florida to Trump by 3 percent, it was a bad sign for Democrats in the Sunshine State.
Dixon and Fineout stress that if Democratic strategists and organizers are giving up on statewide races in Florida, there are major implications for 2024 and beyond.
Florida-based Democratic fundraiser Greg Goddard told Politico, “If Democrats follow this building national narrative and decide not to compete in Florida in 2024, it will be one of the most short-sighted decisions of the last 30 years. Where do we think the pathway to winning a future presidential election lies?”
Florida, Dixon and Fineout note, now has “nearly 300,000 more registered Republicans” than registered Democrats “statewide.”
One of the Democrats who is feeling pessimistic about his party’s prospects in the Sunshine State is Evan Ross, a Democratic consultant based in South Florida.
Ross told Politico, “I think Ron DeSantis will win Miami-Dade County. Democratic voters are not at all excited or motivated by Charlie’s campaign. Right now, I think it will be close, but I think DeSantis beats Crist here…. The only thing that might give Charlie Crist a chance of becoming governor would be DeSantis aggressively campaigning for him over the next two weeks. Translation: It’s over. And it’s going to be ugly.”
But Juan Penalosa, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, believes it is premature to give up on the Democratic Party in Florida.
Penalosa told Politico, “Conventional wisdom is that DeSantis and Rubio had this locked up, but it wasn’t long ago that conventional wisdom had Joe Biden dead in the Democratic primary and Trump losing to Hillary by double digits. Anyone who can say with certainty that they know the election results ahead of time is reading a crystal ball but not a poll.”
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