Opinion

Why Florida is no longer a swing state

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

Given the ease with which GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) won re-election in the 2022 midterms, pundits, journalists, and casual politicos are all wondering: Is Florida still a swing state? Well, it seems the general consensus is no … but the exact reason for and proof of the GOP tilt has generated plenty of discussion:

It's gone red — because look at DeSantis' landslide victory

Even when Florida flipped red in the past, its resulting hue was more of a light pink than a deep burgundy. Republicans would win, but they would win "in nail-biters" — more often narrow victories than major blowouts, mused Charles C. W. Cooke for The National Review. But after DeSantis on Tuesday annihilated his Democratic challenger Charlie Crist by a whopping 19 points, "no longer can Florida be seen as a swing state. This is Republican ground," Cooke declared. "For the first time in a long time, Republicans didn't just win in Florida; they won big in Florida." And Rubio's simultaneous blowout of Democratic Rep. Val Demings — who both outraised and outspent her opponent — is just further evidence of a shift.

Plus, it's not as though Crist or Demings were particularly progressive Democrats; in fact, Crist used to be a Republican, and Demings "was literally a cop," added Mother Jones' Abigail Weinberg. But even so, both were trounced, further illustrating how "Florida, a state once so closely divided that a 0.009 percent vote differential dictated a presidential election, is a swing state no longer."

It's gone red – because Democrats have gone about it all wrong

One thing's for sure — Democrats will absolutely have to "rethink their campaigns" in Florida, noted The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. Yes, Florida has been trending Republican for some time, but the latest midterm results are incredibly affirming. 

So what did the party do wrong? Well, in one misstep, national Democratic donors "all but abandoned [Florida] this year, spending their money in states where they could get more bang for their buck, like Georgia or Arizona," posited the Editorial Board of the Miami Herald. While such a triage-like strategy may have seemed most efficient, it neglected to cater to Florida's coveted 30 electoral votes and their monumental importance in every presidential election. Instead of sticking with the state, the Democratic party "picked up and left, returning only when it needed votes and often too late." But Republicans "played the long game" — and it paid off. If Democrats' big failure can "teach us anything, it's that you snooze, you lose."

It's gone red — because Democrats lost Latino voters 

In another telling indication of his success, DeSantis managed to carry Florida's heavily-Latino Miami-Dade County — something no Republican has done since former state Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002 — by double digits. In 2016, Hillary Clinton took the county by 29 points; In 2020, President Biden won it by seven. DeSantis himself lost it back in 2018. But it went red on Tuesday. Why? Well, at least in part because Democrats lost Latino voters, Michael Grunwald argued for The Atlantic.

Unlike their counterparts, "Republicans actually show up in Latino communities," Grunwald said. The party understood it needed to make inroads with the Florida demographic, especially after losing the White House in 2012, and has been "on the ground" ever since, Democratic strategist Fernand Amandi told Grunwald. But in abandoning the state, Democrats have allowed Republicans to control the Latino voter-facing narrative. For instance, while Spanish-language radio in Florida is "full of right-wing misinformation portraying Democrats as socialists and Communists," those attacks might pack less of a punch if liberal "surrogates" actually showed up to fight back. All in all, Dems "can't win Florida if they can't win around Miami, and they can't win around Miami if they keep hemorrhaging Latino votes."

Of course, any future party successes depend on whether Democrats care about their southern demise and actually want to change. But Biden won the election without taking Florida, "and his team seems to be planning to try that again," Grunwald added. So "for the foreseeable future, the ultimate swing state will be just another red state."

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