In 2002, Jeb Bush was a runaway political freight train.
His first four years in the Governor’s Mansion resulted in a string of policy victories that earned him the complete devotion of Florida Republicans and the scorn of most on the left.
In 2002, Bush beat Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride by 13 points in his re-election campaign. As far as Florida politics go, that is a Reagan-Mondale-level blowout.
Fast forward 20 years to 2022. Ron DeSantis is the most dominant figure in Florida politics since Bush, and he’s poised to repeat Bush’s historic reelection performance.
DeSantis’ “freedom first” response to the coronavirus has made him a darling of the rank-and-file GOP party members in Florida, while also catapulting him into a major national figure. He consistently polls second amongst Republicans nationwide, behind Trump, in a hypothetical 2024 presidential primary.
DeSantis’ approach to the coronavirus also appeals to independent voters. He has a strong lead against his potential Democratic challengers among this group of “free agent” voters. A November StPetePolls.org poll showed DeSantis with a double-digit lead among independents over two of his current Democratic challengers, Congressman Charlie Crist and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
Perhaps the best evidence of DeSantis’ strong position, and by extension Florida Republicans’ in general, is found in the behavior of Florida Democrats. The Democrats have put forth no credible candidates to compete for the other three statewide cabinet positions: attorney general, chief financial officer and commissioner of agriculture. Republicans are poised to dominate those three races as in 2024, even though the Democrats actually won the Commissioner of Agriculture seat in 2020.
And while DeSantis has raised around $70 million for his reelection campaign, his three Democratic opponents, Crist, Fried and Miami state Sen. Annette Taddeo, have collectively raised less than $10 million, and they will use those dollars to tear each other up in a Democratic primary.
It has all the makings of a rout when the November 2022 election comes around.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that on election night in 2018, most pundits predicted a Democratic governor (Andrew Gillum), and many believed the Democrats were going to take over the Florida Senate. Of course, that never happened.
Now there are more registered Republicans in Florida than Democrats for the first time in modern history, and the Democrats, through deed and fundraising, are acting like they know what’s coming.
Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” 2022 is 2002 all over again. Complete Republican domination in Florida.