DeSantis could also become the first Republican candidate for governor from Bush to win Miami-Dade, the largest county in the state, which also has the largest Hispanic population and was once considered a Democratic stronghold. With 8% of the vote still to be counted, she led there by more than 11 points.
Crist congratulated DeSantis on his victory and spoke to his supporters on Tuesday night. He also issued a lengthy statement to thank Floridians for their support and to emphasize his underdog status.
“Unfortunately, tonight didn’t turn out the way we hoped,” he said. “We were the underdogs from the moment I entered this race 18 months ago. I knew we would spend more. I knew we wouldn’t have as many TV commercials. But you know me; I’m optimistic. I love Florida.”
The red wave under DeSantis seemed so big that, for the first time since Reconstruction, Florida is on track to not have a statewide elected Democrat, further casting doubt on its swing state status.
The Legislature is controlled by the Republican Party, and all seven state Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republicans, four by DeSantis.
“A big victory in Florida is a big test point for DeSantis, a strong point to show government strength and electoral strength,” said David Kochel, a veteran Republican campaign adviser coming from the first-of-the-nation caucus in Iowa. “The fact that DeSantis won by a hair in 2018 and is now sweeping the Democrats sends a message.”
Trump, who is looking to announce his return to the presidency this month, has been closely monitoring DeSantis, sometimes obsessively, according to Republicans who have discussed the governor with the former president.
Since DeSantis’s star began to rise in the national Republican firmament in 2021, Trump has privately complained about the upstart governor as a potential challenger, calling his prominence an act of disloyalty because his endorsement helped DeSantis win his primary. 2018 Republican for Governor.
“Trump even complains that DeSantis ripped off the way he throws hats into the crowd at his rallies: ‘That’s my technique!’ It’s weird,” said a Republican who declined to speak on the record to reveal private conversations with Trump.
In an interview with foxnews published on Election Day, Trump denied having a “fall out” with DeSantis and called him a “nice guy,” but later said DeSantis “would be making a mistake” if he ran for president against him.
“I would tell you things about him that wouldn’t be very flattering, I know more about him than anyone, other than maybe his wife,” Trump said, without elaborating.
When Trump’s team announced a rally last Sunday in Miami, the DeSantis campaign let it be known that the governor, who had skipped another rally in Florida last year with Trump, would not be attending, further upsetting Trump, who he called him “Ron DeSanctimonious”. at a rally Saturday in Pennsylvania.
Trump modified his message over the weekend and, making sure to take credit for DeSantis’ victory in 2018, announced in Miami that he endorsed the governor.
“More people heard Trump criticize DeSantis than endorse him, and it probably only helped Ron, because a lot of independents and even some Republicans want Trump gone. So Trump is unknowingly making DeSantis the alternative,” said a Republican who is on good terms with both men.
Many national polls show Trump ahead of DeSantis in hypothetical matchups, with Trump boasting of getting a spike in the polls after the FBI executed a search warrant in August at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. as part of an investigation into whether he illegally took and kept confidential US documents.
Polls are more mixed in some states. A poll in the nation’s first primary state, New Hampshire, found the two statistically tied for a primary, but other poll found Trump with a lead. Some Florida Polls have also shown DeSantis leading Trump in a one-to-one primary. a recent poll of voters in the swing state of Georgia by the Republican firm Echelon Insights found that Trump lost a hypothetical primary to DeSantis, 52% to 36%.
Trump is preparing for multiple primary challengers; Aides say that could ease his path to victory in a primary because the other candidates would split the non-Trump vote in the GOP, which happened in 2016.
“If you’re Trump and you think this is a piece of cake, maybe numbers like this will give it pause,” said Patrick Ruffini, a pollster for Echelon Insight. “DeSantis, and perhaps surprisingly, is becoming almost the same as Trump. He still he is not an equal.”
Under DeSantis, the GOP this year, for the first time in Florida history, had more registered voters than Democrats, a margin of 306,000. Before DeSantis’ election in 2018, Democrats had a lead of 281,000 registered voters. Registered Democrats, however, had been losing their lead since their peak in 2008, when they outnumbered Republicans by nearly 658,000.
DeSantis rose to national fame in late 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, when he reopened businesses and schools in defiance of expert opinion. DeSantis also banned mask mandates and vaccine passports, earning him negative coverage from the mainstream media but adoration from conservatives, who began to see him as a future presidential candidate. He also helped with fundraising.
DeSantis raised a record $196 million for his reelection, spent $130 million and still has $66 million left, according to the most recent financial reports from his campaign and political committees.
The cycle of mounting criticism, rising Republican support and rising fundraising repeated itself when DeSantis took on legislation this year to ban schools from teaching young children about sexual orientation and gender identity, leading to a high-profile clash with Disney World. DeSantis also seized a week of saturation media coverage in September for flying Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to protest Democratic immigration policies, leading to litigation Y research.
Still, DeSantis’s support remained strong in the polls, including among Hispanic voters in Florida, a majority of whom said they approved of Martha’s Vineyard flights in a Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy poll Made for Telemundo/LX News. The poll also showed DeSantis could win a majority of Hispanic voters in Florida, which no Republican governor has done in 20 years.
At the same time, national Democrats barely invested in Florida after Trump led President Joe Biden in the state by 3.3 percentage points, a comparative landslide in a state where major elections had been decided by about a point for years. In 2018, a coalition of Democratic-aligned groups spent $40 million in the state, but this year it was closer to $1 million, according to the Florida Democratic Party, whose chairman, Manny Diaz, is considering resigning after Tuesday’s loss, according to an informer who was not authorized to speak on his behalf.
Crist struggled to raise funds and never got much traction in the polls. He has the unique distinction of having lost to all three top state officials: Senator Marco Rubio in 2010, Scott in 2014 and now DeSantis.
But despite all the favorable trends, DeSantis still doesn’t seem ready to commit to a White House bid.
Meanwhile, Republican financiers like the hedge fund tycoon ken griffin they are openly encouraging him to run for president.
DeSantis could turn money from his state political committee into a federal super PAC to help fuel a presidential campaign, and a source familiar with discussions in DeSantis’s political orbit said some advisers want him to transfer the money in December as a statement. that he will keep his White House options open.
The $66 million DeSantis has in the bank compares to the $70 million Trump had in his Save America committee in mid-October.
In the spring legislative session, the source said, lawmakers could change the state’s “waiver to run” law to make it easier for DeSantis to run for president and remain governor, but only if he gives a signal. Under current law, DeSantis would have to leave the Governor’s Mansion once he qualified to run for president.
A spokeswoman for DeSantis declined to comment.
Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser and vocal critic of DeSantis, said DeSantis benefited Tuesday night from a favorable political environment and the devastation of Hurricane Ian last month, allowing him to get free media coverage in the entire state while Crist had no platform.
Still, Stone said, “that’s not enough to be president or beat Donald Trump.”
“Trump is going to kill Ron if he shows up,” Stone said, criticizing DeSantis’ only debate performance against Crist last month, when he “seemed stiff and uncomfortable. … You can’t do that on the big stage with Trump.”
In the debate, DeSantis flatly refused to answer when asked if he would serve a full term as governor if re-elected.
“Why don’t you answer the question if you’re not running for president?” asked Tony Fabrizio, a Trump pollster who also polled DeSantis in his short-lived 2016 Senate bid.
Fabrizio said DeSantis should be proud of Tuesday’s results, but that Trump is better positioned to take credit for what’s happening across the country.
“If we have a great night and win the House and Senate, who do you think will get the credit for that? It’s Donald Trump, the party leader who helped all these candidates,” Fabrizio said. “In that case, Ron has a different set of issues that he has to deal with if he wants to run against Trump.”