By Rod Thomson
No less a non-conservative authority than Politico has labeled the Florida Democratic Party in “post-election meltdown” after a complete beatdown by the Florida GOP in the Nov. 3 election. It’s so bad that Democrats are seriously worried that Florida has become a permanently red state.
Politico led their story this way:
“It wasn’t just one bad cycle. For Democrats in Florida, Election Day 2020 was a tipping point in a long, painful buildup to irrelevancy. After suffering crushing losses from the top of the ballot down, the state party now is mired in a civil war that could have profound consequences for future elections.”
That does not overstate it. In a year when Democrats had hoped to pick up 5-10 seats in the Florida House and three seats in the Senate and maybe flip the Florida statehouse for the first time in 20 years with the help of tens of millions of dollars poured in from outside Florida, the exact opposite happened. Florida Republicans expanded their state Senate majority by one seat and our state House majority by five seats while also flipping two Congressional seats and giving President Trump a four times larger margin of victory than he had in 2016.
Tellingly, Miami-Dade County led the dramatic flip. Hillary Clinton won the county by almost 300,000 votes in 2016, Joe Biden won it by only 85,000 — just 7 percent compared to Clinton’s 29 percent margin. That’s also where the two Congressional seats were located. But all of this is only continuing the reddening of Florida.
Florida Democrats in the 1980s had a nearly one-million voter registration lead. When Barack Obama won Florida in 2008, their voter registration lead was still nearly 500,000. When President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, Democrats’ lead had narrowed to 327,000. During the 2018 midterms, the Democrat gap was down to 263,000 and by the Nov. 3 election this year, Republicans had narrowed that gap to 134,000 registered voters.
The gains have not been just the red areas getting redder than the blue areas got blue. It’s all areas getting redder. In most major urban counties, Republicans continue to close the gap, albeit slowly. Pinellas County, where St. Pete is located and the Tampa Bay Rays play, flipped to a GOP-majority county three years ago and now has an 11,000-voter registration advantage. Gaps were closed in Hillsborough (Tampa), Seminole Orange (Orlando) Miami-Dade and West Palm Beach, also. And more than 20 mostly rural counties have flipped from blue to red in the past decade.
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters has successfully made voter registration one of his top priorities. It continues to pay off as most observers give the Florida GOP the chance to finally and for the first time ever become the majority party in the state by voter registration. Given Republicans’ higher voter turnout rates, that’s an even bigger problem for Democrats.
The idea that Florida could become — or has become — a huge, electoral-rich red state like Texas to counterbalance California and New York in that column for team blue, gives national Democrats heartburn. If Florida is not a 50-50 swing state, that increases the must-win states for Democrats, narrowing the path each election cycle.
For Florida Democrats, staring down the barrel of permanent minority status, it is a near-existential crisis in which they now enter a fight for identity. It’s worth watching because the Democrat Party in Florida mirrors Democrats nationally — in large part because Florida attracts people from all over the U.S. and — for better or worse — they bring their politics to the Sunshine State.
From the AOC-Socialist wing to the moderate wing represented by state Sen. Jason Pizzo, who said in frustration after the election, “I’m not a f—ing socialist.” The angst is palpable as recriminations for Nov. 3 fly and there is no clear Democratic leader in the state. Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo is dead in the water, but interestingly, until just Tuesday when former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz jumped in with Michael Bloomberg’s support, no one had thrown their hat in the ring. That no one was itching to do so, simply reveals more of the disarray.
All of which continues to strengthen Florida Republicans. Gruters and Governor Ron DeSantis will push to overtake the Democrats in registration in time for DeSantis’ re-election in 2022.
Rod Thomson is an author, former journalist, past Salem radio host, ABC TV commentator and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. Like Rod on Facebook.