Florida Governor Ron DeSantis won big in his reelection bid. DeSantis trounced challenger (and former mayor) Charlie Crist. The margin of victory was a massive 20-points.
But some observers have suggested that DeSantis’s victory numbers are skewed; that a wave of conservative transplants to Florida, people seeking conservative leadership during the COVID pandemic, boosted DeSantis’s performance – and that his victory should be taken with a grain of salt. I’m not so sure.
Trump carried Florida two years ago with just a 5-point margin. Ron DeSantis just beat that margin by four hundred percent. Could DeSantis have benefited from a flood of conservative voters seeking conservative leadership?
But DeSantis is that conservative leadership. Many of the transplants may have been seeking DeSantis, or the political environment he crafted, specifically. In that case, DeSantis’s victory is more significant – he actually had people uprooting their lives to come live under his leadership. In that case, DeSantis’s acceptance speech, in which he called Florida a “promised land,” may have merit in the eyes of conservatives.
Even if DeSantis did benefit from an influx of conservative voters to Florida, he had previously established a national platform as one of the GOP’s leading figures. No doubt, he has done so intentionally – picking high profile fights over COVID policy and gender ideology, taking on Disney, and chartering a flight of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis has purposefully raised his profile and his impressive margin was more likely a result of DeSantis’s political maneuvering than any sort of voter influx.
So, DeSantis’s victory, in my view, was not just a one-off, flash-in-the-pan. His victory is likely indicative of national appeal. If so, he will be a viable candidate for the GOP ticket in 2024.
To win the GOP ticket, Ron DeSantis will need to unseat former President Donald Trump as the de facto leader of the Republican party.
The timing has never been better. Trump was labelled the Republican’s “biggest loser” following the elections, standing in stark contrast to DeSantis’s triumph.
“If Trump was the Republican loser of the US midterms – despite not being on the ballot paper – it was DeSantis who emerged the party’s big winner,” The Guardian reported. “Before Tuesday’s election night, when the beaming Republican governor took to the stage in Tampa with his wife Casey and children to claim victory over ‘woke ideology,’ Trump had looked like the probably 2024 presidential Republican candidate.”
“But after DeSantis’s highly convincing re-election against Democrat Charlie Crist, in which the governor took 59.4% of the vote with 99% reporting, the relative political newcomer is being tipped as a potential GOP frontrunner.”
Consider this: Rupert Murdoch owns the New York Post, a newspaper that has typically endorsed Donald Trump, put DeSantis on their cover the morning after the election with the headline: “DeFUTURE.”
If the mainstream conservative media gets behind the DeSantis bandwagon – which seems to have already happened thanks to DeSantis’s high-profile “stunts” like that charter plane to Martha’s Vineyard – then DeSantis will only become more and more viable.
Before the midterm results were tallied, Trump was already worried about DeSantis, suggesting that DeSantis is a real threat, not just a one-off beneficiary of transplanted Florida conservatives.
“I think if [DeSantis] runs he could hurt himself very badly,” Trump said. “I think the base would not like it – I don’t think it would be good for the party.” Well, it looks like the base of the party may be getting in line behind DeSantis. Trump won’t go quietly into the night, of course.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.