Democrats in Florida haven’t been in the governor’s house for 20 years and the state just keeps getting redder and redder. Now, to make matters worse, the party is all but admitting that the candidates they’re putting forward to challenge the incumbent governor and probable GOP 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis aren’t anywhere near up to the task.
“DeSantis seems unstoppable. He has $100 million in the bank, and we have three Tier B candidates I think a lot of people lack confidence in,” one prominent Democratic fundraiser told Politico.
Related: DeSantis Just Keeps Winning
DeSantis is on an upswing that any politician of either party would envy. In the space of a few weeks, he dispatched woke Disney, challenged the state’s textbook companies to eliminate anti-American bias, and reshaped politics in Florida by pushing his own hand-drawn district map that is expected to give Florida Republicans a 20-8 advantage in Congress.
All of those moves made him hugely popular with conservatives and the right in Florida and raised his national profile substantially.
Best of all, he has engendered paralyzing fear in Democrats in his home state and across the country.
The Democratic primary between Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) is just four months away, but some operatives and the party faithful say they don’t believe any can realistically take on DeSantis. The perceived weak slate of candidates, combined with DeSantis’ brand of bully politics, has even led national donors to shy away from the state.
It’s a problem exacerbated by newly drawn congressional maps championed by DeSantis that give Republicans a 20-8 majority, providing national Democrats even less of a reason to send money and resources to Florida.
“It is becoming serious [for Democrats],” said Alex Berrios, who served as Palm Beach County regional field director for President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. “It’s not unsalvageable, but the situation is becoming critical.”
National donors for the Democrats have made themselves scarce and unavailable for calls from Florida politicians. Most Democratic whales on the east and west coasts don’t see the upside in investing in what amounts to a sure loser.
And there is little hope on the horizon either.
“If you look at the three candidates, the polling has not changed much at all, Charlie Crist has been in the lead there and in fundraising, and most recently endorsements,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s unions and one of the biggest remaining groups backing Democrats in the state. “Fried has proven she can win statewide and has done a great job hitting DeSantis, but there has been a consistency with Crist leading of late.”
When asked about the enthusiasm-gap of the current Democratic slate, a spokesperson for Crist said his message is resonating with Democrats, Independent and Republicans who are tired of DeSantis.
“Charlie is not only way ahead of the Democratic field, he is mounting the strongest campaign to beat DeSantis in November,” Samantha Ramirez, his spokesperson, said. “Florida Democrats are mounting the first real coordinated campaign in modern state history, taking to heart lessons learned from past cycles.”
Charlie Crist, a recycled Republican, is the best that the Democrats can do? He said during the candidate forum, “It is amazing to me that any elected official in Florida would attack Mickey Mouse, that’s incredible to me. But that’s where we are at.”
He was serious.
DeSantis was never going to be unseated, anyway. He has firmly established himself as the most popular politician in Florida and the number one alternative to Donald Trump. But the national media has yet to really concentrate their fire on DeSantis. When they do, it will say a lot about DeSantis’s staying power going into 2024.