'A perfect storm': Obama’s 2008 Florida director explains why Democrats hit rock bottom in his state
When the election returns for the 2022 midterms came in, Democrats were pleasantly surprised by how well they performed in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and other key swing states. Far-right pundits at Fox News, confined to a MAGA bubble, spent months predicting that 2022 would bring a massive red wave; instead, Democrats increased their small majority in the U.S. Senate and narrowly lost the U.S. House of Representatives.
Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer enjoyed an 11 percent reelection victory over far-right MAGA Republican challenger Tudor Dixon. In Pennsylvania, the ultimate swing state, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro defeated GOP conspiracy theorist Doug Mastriano by 15 percent.
But there was one state where Democrats seriously underperformed in 2022: Florida. GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis ran a far-right campaign and was reelected by 19 percent, while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio defeated Democrat Val Demings by 16 percent. The news across the board was terrible for Democrats in Florida, inspiring many pundits to say that it had gone from swing state to deep red state.
Veteran Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who served as President Barack Obama's Florida director in 2008, examines his party's misfortunes in the Sunshine State in an article published by The Bulwark on June 1. Democrats have lost so much ground in Florida, Schale laments, that percentagewise, they now hold more positions in the Montana State Legislature than they do in Florida's.
"What happened in 2022 was a perfect storm," Schale explains. "A decade's worth of decisions to intentionally defund the state party had left it an empty shell. Republicans had an incumbent governor in Ron DeSantis who was incentivized to run up the score to support his presidential ambitions. An unpopular Democratic president was facing his first midterm election, and Democratic donors were both tired of Florida and focused — rightly — on maintaining a majority in the U.S. Senate and defending key governorships."
The Democratic strategist continues, "All the ingredients were in place for a wipeout, which is what Florida Democrats got."
That "wipeout," Schale observes, went way beyond "Hurricane Ron's" reelection. Most of the U.S. House and state legislature victories in Florida in 2022 went to Republicans.
Nonetheless, Schale doesn't believe that Florida has become far-right ideologically, but rather, reflects the Democratic Party's poor organizing in his state.
The Floridian writes, "I believe Florida remains today what it was when Obama won it: essentially a center-right state, where Democrats, as Obama was, have to be smart in how they talk to voters…. National Democrats can't afford to let Florida become a one-party state, not if they want any margin for error in the Electoral College. Which is why, for Democrats everywhere, the Florida Democratic problem is everyone's problem now."
Read Steve Schale's full article for The Bulwark at this link.
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