The most optimistic polls for the Democrats show Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis winning by 3 points if he faces Charlie Crist and by 7 points if he faces Nikki Fried. And it could be as bad for the Democrats as an 11-point win for the incumbent Governor, according to one survey.
Even more, Democratic strongholds like Miami-Dade County have voter rolls that show Democrats’ dominance is diminishing while the number of registered Republicans and those with no party affiliation keeps growing.
And, more concretely than polls and registration numbers, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) pulled in almost five times as much money in the second quarter as the Florida Democratic Party (FDP), giving the GOP a significant edge as the parties head into the General Election season following Tuesday’s Primary.
The conventional wisdom is not whether the Democrats are going to lose, but just how humiliating the losses are going to be.
Still, Andrea Mercado, Executive Director of Florida Rising, a Tampa-based statewide voting rights and grassroots organization, sees reasons to be optimistic about the Democrats’ chances of retaking the Governor’s Mansion, no matter what the outcome of today’s Primary.
And it’s not just because the prediction market Monday showed the Governor trending downward (although still with a much better chance of winning) and Crist trending upward.
Even though President Joe Biden’s path to victory did not include Florida in 2020, and President Donald Trump won the state in the 2016 election as well, Mercado said she believes the state of Florida still has the same electorate that put DeSantis in the Governor’s Mansion by just 32,463 votes out of 8.2 million votes cast.
“We know that Florida is winnable,” she said, calling Florida “the biggest battleground state in the country.”
“Our elections, time and time again, come down to 1%, or 30,000 votes in a state of 23 million people,” she said. ”I really do believe that DeSantis has been overreaching and advocating a much more extremist politics many people in Florida would disagree with.”
There were still signs of optimism for Democrats, even in 2020, she argues.
Democrats flipped Duval County for the first time since President Jimmy Carter, Seminole County went blue for the first time since 1948. Never mind that Volusia County turned from blue to red starting in 2012.
“Democrats have an uplifting narrative to tell in Florida,” Mercado said. “Counties we have flipped red to blue have passed protections for renters to make Florida more affordable, increased protections against evictions and decreased corporate landlords’ ability to price-gouge with rent increases.”
Instead of focusing on kitchen-table issues like skyrocketing rent, DeSantis has been attacking “every group in the state,” Mercado argued. For the LGBTQ population, it’s his Parental Education Rights Law, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics. For Black residents, DeSantis decreased the number of Black congressional districts. For women, DeSantis made abortion harder to obtain. And for everyone who needs a roof over their head, Mercado said DeSantis refused to do enough to address why insurance companies are leaving the state or why housing costs are becoming unaffordable.
“There’s a fatigue with the extremists — the type of extremist policies that DeSantis propagates,” Mercado argued.
Her organization’s push for the next 12 weeks until the November election will not involve convincing Republicans to flip, she said.
“I think this race is still up in the air,” she predicted. “The biggest persuasion that we need to do is not to switch someone from red to blue, but to convince them to go out and vote at all.”
Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics contributed to this report.