Democratic governors are looking at the reality of the Republican stranglehold on the state of Florida are looking to take extraordinary measures in order to try and rescue other vulnerable governors. The Democrats are contemplating forgoing supporting a candidate for governor.
Note: The strategy they are contemplating rarely works. In a wave election, no Democrat at any level will be safe.
The move by the Democratic governors reflects the growing realization that DeSantis — poised to run for president in 2024 with or without Donald Trump’s support — is so strong in the state that the Democrats are losing viability in Florida.
It’s not just DeSantis. As recently as 2012, Florida was seen as the largest “swing state.” But Donald Trump’s races in 2016 and 2020 turned Florida a deep shade of red, making the state unfriendly territory for all Democrats.
Despite the criticism he’s received from Democrats and many in the media for his management of the pandemic, DeSantis has achieved superstar status in the GOP for his proactive approach to policymaking, and resistance to federal overreach. As a result, DeSantis has already gained traction as a potential contender in the 2024 Republican presidential primary..
“Let me tell you how the DGA [Democratic Governors Association] works,” an anonymous DGA staffer told Politico. “First, it’s incumbent protection, and there is a bunch of that this year. Then they look at open seats, then they look at challenging incumbents, and DeSantis isn’t the easiest incumbent to challenge.”
Nobody would be surprised if the Democrats flip the Massachusetts or Maryland governorships. But Democrats are just as likely to lose Wisconsin and Michigan, leaving them with a net gain of zero seats.
Another big problem for Democratic governors is that their fundraising is lagging compared to the Republicans.
“National donors and organizations are worried about protecting the Midwest. Fair enough,” said Ray Paultre, executive director of the Florida Alliance, a loosely aligned coalition of progressive donor groups. “What they are not realizing is that if Florida is not competitive, where do you think a good chunk of that Republican spending is going? Straight to the Midwest and Georgia.”
Democrats have not held the governor’s mansion in Florida in more than two decades, but have come close in recent years. In 2014, Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor who is running for governor as a Democrat in 2022, lost to Republican Rick Scott by one point after Scott put $15 million of his own money in the race late. That year, DGA spent nearly $7 million backing Crist. In 2018, Democrat Andrew Gillum lost to DeSantis by just 40,000 votes after a recount. That cycle, DGA spent $7.6 million supporting Gillum.
Democrats are likely to get a boost if Biden’s Spendapalooza plans are passed by Congress. But that’s by no means certain. And failure to do so will force the Democrats to circle the wagons and pull in their horns even further.
Even if the Biden BBB and infrastructure plans are passed, the bump in support is likely to be temporary. Unlike tax cuts — a political gift that keeps on giving — massive government spending worries as many people as those who might be grateful.
If there is one major takeaway from the 2021 elections it’s that people are angry and unsettled. And like voters everywhere, they’re blaming the people that got them into this mess.