Voter registration between Republicans and Democrats is now virtually even, as Politico previously reported.
Given how the GOP dominated state politics for more than 20 years, some who haven’t paid attention might think Democrats are signing up thousands of new voters and are about to turn the state blue. But no, not even close.
Republicans won all three branches of state government despite having about 700,000 fewer registered voters as late as 2008. By the end of 2012, that number shrank by nearly 140,000.
Dems still held a margin of about 100,000 in the 2020 election (not that it helped them much).
As of Aug. 31, that number was down to 23,551.
If Democrats managed to lose with that decisive edge in registered voters consistently, what would happen now? There’s a bad moon rising unless they get their act together.
Politico reporter Matt Dixon called it “a five-alarm political fire headed into the 2022 midterms.”
I have some theories about what happened, but first, let me offer this snippet from Democratic consultant Steve Schale’s blog.
“We have to start meeting voters where they are. Too many Democrats assume some ‘modeling score’ is concrete evidence some voters either absolutely will or won’t vote for us, and we ignore them,” he wrote.
“Guess what, we prove the model, and they don’t vote for us, or they don’t show up because we assume they will vote. Republicans do not operate that way. They go after ‘our voters’ aggressively, and the results speak for themselves.”
Democrats, once the party of working people, allowed themselves to be labeled socialist, elitist, taxoholic, and, worse, unpatriotic. Meanwhile, Republicans kept a consistent message: jobs, the economy, security, guns, law and order, and — did we mention — jobs.
And Schale is correct when he says that Democrats tend to write off large segments of voters.
Two words: The Villages.
They allowed Republicans to create a narrative that the teachers’ union ruined public education.
Democrats stammered and stuttered during the riots in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder.
Republicans — looking at you, Gov. Ron DeSantis — managed to flip the story from one of police reform to the need for cracking heads against unruly mobs.
When Republicans fought against a $15 per hour minimum wage, Democrats should have countered that sky-high rentals and wage inequality created major problems for millions of Floridians.
But they did not.
Republicans keep it simple. You know where they stand on the issues, and they march in lockstep in Tallahassee. And when their mistakes hurt people — as we’ve seen during the pandemic — they blame the media for its reporting.
Like it or not, the strategy is political genius. The latest registration numbers prove that.
As we inch closer to the 2022 election, polls show DeSantis’ approval numbers dropping. I don’t think it matters, though.
His campaign chest will have more money than Fort Knox. That will be more than enough to label his Democratic challenger — Charlie Crist or Nikki Fried — a socialist who wants to indoctrinate your kids with critical race theory and teach them to hate America.
The Democrats’ best (and maybe only) hope is to convince the state’s nearly 3.8 million independent voters that they have the best vision.
Of course, it would help to first articulate that vision and keep repeating it until the words sink in. And Dems better hope it’s more than “DeSantis. Bad. Us. Good.”
That didn’t work against Rick Scott or Marco Rubio, and it didn’t work here last year against Donald Trump.
It might be time for a new game plan.
Oh, and registering more voters, too. That might help.