All Florida trends are coming up sunshine for continued freedom from Covidstan. Recently Republican registrations surpassed Democrats in the state for the first time. Net domestic migration to the state also increased during COVID. Many commentators attribute both to Governor Ron DeSantis’s pandemic management policies. Just how bad does 2022 look for Democrats in the state? According to the Miami Herald:
Evidence is piling up that Democrats in Florida have no clear bench of candidates willing to challenge Republican incumbents in South Florida, in what’s expected to be a daunting and expensive 2022 cycle for their party.
Two first-time candidates who made early announcements they would run for South Florida House seats have both since dropped their bids to pursue runs for state office. A rumored likely candidate for federal office, former state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, was recently nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as an assistant secretary at the Department of Labor.
The three Florida seats in question represent districts in Miami, including Reps. Carlos Giménez, Maria Elvira Salazar, and Mario Diaz-Balart. Giménez is the former mayor of Miami-Dade County and an immigrant from Cuba. Salazar defeated Clinton ally Donna Shalala in 2020, and Diaz-Balart has represented his district since 2002. The Herald called these districts competitive and said redistricting provided Democrats an opportunity.
However, the only potential candidates are a few retreads who lost in 2020. Reportedly, Shalala, who is knee-deep in Clinton ick, may be considering a rematch with Salazar. She served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Health and Human Services and as President of the Clinton Foundation from June 2015 to March 2017. Former representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who lost to Giménez in 2020, may also jump in the race. To date, neither woman has announced their intentions.
Demographic trends do not seem to be on the Democrats’ side in Miami-Dade County. The mayor of the county is a Democrat, but the mayor of the City of Miami is a registered Republican. According to Gallup, Republicans have a significant advantage in party affiliation, and Hispanic voters overall are shifting to the right. President Trump grew his share of the demographic by 8% in 2020. Polling showed that the economy, immigration, law and order, and identity politics as reasons the Democrats’ agenda did not suit them.
Miami-Dade County is over 70% Hispanic or Latino. Republicans also tend to do well with voters who have Cuban heritage, and as of 2017, the Cuban community was substantial and growing. Citizens with Cuban ethnicity made up more than a quarter of the county’s total population, and Cuban-born residents comprised 48.5% of Miami-Dade’s foreign-born. If your community memory harkens back to the Cuban revolution, the authoritarian strain growing in the Democrat Party sends off alarm bells.
If Shalala and Mucarsel-Powell decide to run, they will join another retread. Former Gov. Charlie Crist has been a member of both parties and held every position on every issue. Crist is running in the Democratic primary for governor for the second time. His big pitch appears to be legal weed:
In November, Floridians will have a chance to elect a Governor who will legalize marijuana. I will be that Governor.
— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) January 12, 2022
The other Democrat candidate for governor from the Democrats is Nikki Fried. She currently serves as the Secretary of Agriculture and presides over the lowest orange crop in 77 years. Other than referring to Gov. Ron DeSantis as Hitler, she struggles with messaging. Sensing a trainwreck, State Sen. Annette Taddeo announced her candidacy after being Crist’s running mate in his quixotic 2014 race. The governor’s race appears to be such a losing proposition that the Democratic Governors Association is deprioritizing the state. According to Politico:
The DGA, which spent more than $15 million in Florida over the past two gubernatorial election cycles, is starting to deprioritize the state and is expected to have a much smaller footprint during the midterms, said two Florida Democratic consultants who have been in contact with the DGA.
It’s a move driven, in part, by the DGA’s need to use its limited resources to protect incumbent governors elsewhere, as well as the growing sense that Democrats can’t win statewide elections in Florida, these people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to characterize the private discussions.
While no one should ever underestimate the GOP’s ability to screw things up, DeSantis and his approach to COVID and the culture war may have ended Florida’s run as an actual swing state in the near term. In late 2021, Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic political consultant and pollster, told Politico, “Right now Democrats are engaged in Powerball politics. They could get lucky, but it’s more likely to happen because of circumstances outside their control rather than their ability to change the political environment in Florida.”
Republican politicians nationwide should take note. The GOP can fight the culture war and win elections. In fact, you may lose if you don’t.