Weekly Roundup: ‘People Have Delivered Their Verdict’

TALLAHASSEE — Republicans nationally went into Tuesday’s elections hoping for a red wave.

It didn’t happen.

But in Florida, Republicans didn’t simply deliver a red wave. They obliterated Democrats up and down the ballot, putting to rest any notion that Florida is a purple state.

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It wasn’t a surprise that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis dispatched Democrat Charlie Crist. But by more than 19 percentage points? Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., crushed Democrat Val Demings by more than 16 points.

Most of the attention in the aftermath focused on DeSantis, who has long been coy about speculation he will run for president in 2024. But the way DeSantis — and, by extension, Florida Republicans — won Tuesday will only cause the speculation to build.

Look no further than former President Donald Trump for evidence. Before the election, he tagged DeSantis with the nickname “Ron DeSanctimonious” and released a screed Thursday criticizing DeSantis.

Hmm. Think Trump sees DeSantis as a threat to his hopes of returning to the White House?

With First Lady Casey DeSantis at his side, DeSantis appeared on election night before a boisterous crowd at the Tampa Convention Center and said, “I have fought the good fight.”

“And so today, after four years, the people have delivered their verdict: Freedom is here to stay,” DeSantis said to a roar of cheers.

Maybe even more remarkable was Rubio’s margin of victory over Demings, an Orlando congresswoman who appeared to be Florida Democrats’ best hope this year. Rubio won in 61 of the 67 counties, almost duplicating DeSantis’ wins in 62 counties.

“After tonight, the Republican Party will never be the same, and that’s a great thing for America, because this is a party made up of people from every color, every race, every ethnicity, men, women — yes men and women, that exists,” Rubio said, making a reference to transgender people. “You know what we call people who are Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, men, women, come from other countries? You know what we call them in Florida? We call them Americans.”

NO REPUBLICAN LEFT BEHIND

DeSantis has pretty much had his way with the state Cabinet and Legislature during the past few years.

But the Cabinet, House and Senate became even more Republican in Tuesday’s elections, with the GOP easily winning races for attorney general, agriculture commissioner and state chief financial officer and grabbing “supermajorities” in the Senate and House.

With Republican Wilton Simpson set to replace outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in January, Democrats will not have a statewide elected official for the first time in modern history. On the Cabinet, Simpson, who won by almost 19 percentage points, will join Attorney General Ashley Moody, who won by 21 points, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who won by 19 points.

The supermajorities that Republicans won in Senate and House races are important for procedural reasons. Without getting into the weeds, the supermajorities will basically close off ways that Democrats might be able to block or slow down Republican plans.

The GOP won almost every battleground legislative race Tuesday. The highest-profile races were in the Senate, where Democrats focused on five seats in North Florida, Central Florida, Hillsborough County and Miami-Dade County. Republicans won all of those seats by at least six points.

Thanks, at least in part, to a controversial redistricting plan that DeSantis pushed through the Legislature in April, the GOP also added four U.S. House seats Tuesday. Those wins could be critical if, as expected, Republicans wind up with a slim majority in the U.S. House.

For Florida Democrats, the across-the-board losses put an exclamation point on how far they have fallen since the 1990s. Republicans have won every gubernatorial race since 1998 and have fully controlled the Legislature since 1996.

State Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, released a statement Wednesday that said Republicans have “played the long game: prioritizing and investing in a statewide infrastructure with real depth and breadth, drawing favorable maps, implementing consistent, concise messaging — and it’s paid off as they have gained control at every level of government.”

“Meanwhile, Democrats have taken large swaths of the electorate for granted, chased the ‘shiny object’ of the day from a messaging standpoint — oftentimes landing on disjointed, tone-deaf themes — empowered the same few consultants despite loss after loss, and failed to build a sustained presence and organization in communities across the state,” Jones said.

PLEASE, MAKE THEM STOP

Just when you thought it was safe to put away the generator, Hurricane Nicole delivered a late-season message about Florida’s vulnerability to storms.

Nicole made landfall early Thursday south of Vero Beach and moved up the state as a tropical storm. DeSantis pointed out that the Category 1 hurricane wasn’t anywhere near as destructive as Category 4 Hurricane Ian, which made landfall Sept. 28 in Southwest Florida before barreling across the state.

But that doesn’t mean Nicole wasn’t dangerous, with images beamed across the country of beachfront buildings in parts of Volusia County crumbling into the ocean.

“This is obviously not as significant a storm as Hurricane Ian was, but coming on the heels of that, you’re seeing communities, particularly in the Volusia County area, that had a lot of that erosion on the coastline,” DeSantis said Thursday morning. “This has put some of those structures in jeopardy, and they’ve been working very hard to make sure everybody’s safe.”

The six-month hurricane season will end Nov. 30. Hopefully.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Gov. Ron DeSantis cruised to re-election, leading a parade of Republican candidates to wins.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “There is always going to be, in a time as disrupted as ours, a sort of sensationalist tendency to take whatever an angriest moment is and pretend that it’s a representative moment. Those are not the representative moments.” — Nebraska U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, who was confirmed this week to become president of the University of Florida amid opposition from students and faculty members.


Additional stories you may want to read:

Leading Florida Republicans Express Discontent with McConnell, Want to Delay Leadership Vote

We Ask Marina Hofman of Mom’s for America – Did the Mom Vote Matter?

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