OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Increasingly popular Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made it official: The Sunshine State is now a red state under his leadership.
“Republicans now hold a slight voter registration edge over Democrats, just another sign that the state is moving away from its two-decade-old reputation as the nation’s largest battleground state. It’s also more bad news for Democrats as they try to knock off rising national GOP star Gov. Ron DeSantis next year,” Politico reported Wednesday.
An analysis of voter registration data by Politico found that there are 6,035 more registered Republicans in the state than Democrats, noting further that each party has more than 5.1 million registered voters out of a total of 14.3 million.
“This is a milestone moment in Florida’s history,” noted Helen Aguirre Ferré, executive director of the Republican Party of Florida.
The political news outlet continued:
Democrats — who once had solid control at all levels of elected office until Republicans won the Legislature and governor’s mansion in the ‘90s — held a substantial edge in voter registration just a few years ago.
During the 2010 midterms, amid the tea party wave and the election of Rick Scott to governor, Democrats had a nearly 568,000 voter advantage. That fell to 264,000 in 2018 when DeSantis barely defeated former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by more than 32,000 votes to become the state’s 46th governor. Democrats also were ahead of Republicans by more than 134,000 registered voters last year when President Donald Trump comfortably defeated Joe Biden in the state.
DeSantis, who has pushed the Republican Party of Florida to expand its registration efforts and even contributed $2 million to the effort, correctly predicted earlier this month that his party had overtaken Democrats, a factor he attributed in part to people migrating to Florida due to anti-lockdown, anti-mandate policies he pushed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“You are seeing people move to states that value freedom,” DeSantis said during a breakfast speech at the National Conference of State Legislatures on Nov. 5, going on to joke that if so many Republicans had not moved to his state from New Jersey, the GOP gubernatorial candidate there may have defeated incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this month instead of losing a much closer than expected race.
Democrats have been monitoring the situation for months and are well aware of the Republican rise under DeSantis.
“It feels a little bit like we’re kind of set up to fail,” an unnamed Florida Democratic official told The Hill in September. “It’s not any one person’s fault. A lot of these problems have existed for years. But for a party that has been decimated in the last few elections and especially the last one, I’m not seeing a sense of urgency yet.”
In 2008, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 700,000 voters; as of September, that gap had closed to about 23,000.
Other Democratic leaders in the state are making excuses, however.
“At the end of the day all eligible voters can walk into a polling place and vote, not just active voters, and Democrats still hold the lead in eligible voters,” Jose Parra, a spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party, told Politico on Wednesday.
“Republicans have been playing shell games with our voters by disproportionately moving massive numbers of people who can still vote to inactive status and have purged many others from the list altogether,” he added.
But the fact is, Republicans have dominated the state for a number of election cycles now, and with an increase in registered voters, then it doesn’t seem likely that Democratic prospects moving forward are good.
Steve Schale, a longtime Florida Democratic strategist, told Democrats earlier this fall that they could be in huge trouble going forward.
“Without a full-frontal, professional and accountable partisan effort to turn it around, sometime before the end of this year, there will be more Republicans registered in Florida than Democrats,” he wrote on his blog.