by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Florida’s transformation into a red state happened like Hemingway’s infamous bankruptcy: gradually, and then all at once.
For 30 years, Florida has been tough for the Democrats: The Sunshine State has not elected a Democratic governor since 1998; it has not elected a Democratic legislature since 1994; the last year in which a Senate or presidential candidate won here was 2012; and, in 2018, the only Democrat elected statewide was that lunatic, Nikki Fried. But, while Republicans have tended to win here, they’ve tended to win in nail-biters. Despite Republican waves in the rest of the country, the GOP prevailed in the Florida governor’s races by just 1 percent in 2014 and 1.2 percent in 2010. In 2016, Trump eked out a win by 1.2 percent. In 2020, that number was 3.4 percent. Four years ago, in races that both went to mandatory recounts, Ron DeSantis won the gubernatorial contest by 30,000 votes and Rick Scott won the Senate race by just 10,000. Between 1992 and 2016, voters in Florida filled in 48,263,173 presidential-election ballots. In that time, the difference between the Republican votes and the Democratic votes was just 17,753 — or 0.0004 percentage points of the total. Those 17,753 went to the Democrats.
Now? Something has changed. No longer can Florida be seen as a swing state. This is Republican ground. Tuesday night, Ron DeSantis blew out Charlie Crist by 19 points. . . and counting. This feat was echoed by Marco Rubio, who won by 16; by the Republican candidates for attorney general, chief financial officer, and agriculture commissioner, who all won by ten points or more; in the state legislature, which seems likely to feature Republican supermajorities in both chambers; and by the Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, who won 20 of their 27 races. For the first time in a long time, Republicans didn’t just win in Florida; they won big in Florida.