(The Hill) – Florida is looking more like a red state than ever.
The nation’s one-time premier swing state was the site on Tuesday of a series of Republican victories that appear likely to raise questions about whether the Sunshine State remains competitive for Democrats.
The two Republicans at the top of the ballot, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, routed their Democratic opponents, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) and former Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), early Tuesday evening.
Most striking were the Republican victories in Miami-Dade County, a traditional Democratic stronghold in South Florida.
Florida’s rightward trend has been years in the making. In 2016, for instance, then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won Miami-Dade County by more than 29 percent of the vote. In 2020, President Biden carried it by just a little more than 7 points.
In both years, former President Donald Trump carried the state overall.
Since then, things have only gotten bleaker for Democrats. About a year ago, Republicans surpassed Democrats in voter registrations for the first time in the state’s modern political history. That advantage has grown to more than 300,000.
At the same time, Florida saw itself stripped of several competitive congressional districts this year after the Republican-controlled state legislature approved a new political map pushed by DeSantis that created four new GOP-leaning seats.
Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) on Tuesday soundly defeated state Sen. Annette Taddeo in Florida’s Miami-based 27th District, the most competitive House district in the state. Democrats also lost in Florida’s 13th District, which was previously represented by Crist. That district was made less competitive for Democrats under the new congressional map.
Florida Democrats, meanwhile, have been roiled by internal disputes and fundraising woes for years. The state party found itself in a financial crisis two years ago that ultimately resulted in it allowing its employees’ health insurance to lapse.
Florida Democrats elected their current party chair Manny Diaz early last year, hoping the former Miami mayor could leverage his political ties to rebuild the struggling party. But despite his efforts, national donors and outside groups were reluctant to invest in Florida, given the state’s trend toward Republicans.
Some Florida Democrats have long complained about the state party’s organizing efforts. Thomas Kennedy, a Democratic National Committee member from Florida, acknowledged that it would take years to rebuild the Florida Democratic Party, but accused the current leadership of neglecting to even try.
“A lot of us are realistic,” he said. “We didn’t expect all the problems to be fixed in two years and we all know how midterm elections go for the party in power. But it’s the lack of trying and lack of energy that’s bothering a lot of us.”
In a pre-election night memo to party leaders, even Diaz himself appeared to acknowledge the lack of interest in Florida’s midterm elections from national Democrats, saying “every pundit, prognosticator and many Democratic leaders counted Florida out.”
But Republicans also spent years building up their political muscle in Florida through year-round voter registration efforts and outreach programs. The state also became something of an epicenter for Republican politics in recent years; Trump now lives in the state, while DeSantis actively branded it as a refuge from pandemic-related restrictions during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Even before the election results were called on Tuesday, some Florida Democrats were already expressing dismay about their party’s prospects in the state. Kevin Cate, a longtime Democratic strategist and ad-maker in Florida, predicted that in just a few years, an independent gubernatorial candidate might have better odds of winning an election than a Democrat.
“At the rate Florida is going, an NPA candidate for governor may have a better shot than a Democrat in 2026,” Cate tweeted. “It’s that bad. Complete collapse.”
“We either reset or go extinct,” he wrote.