Joe Henderson: For Ron DeSantis, it’s all over but the celebratory balloon drop

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DeSantis' transformation into a political juggernaut has been amazing, even if his "Free State of Florida" schtick drips with irony.

It shouldn’t take long on Election Night to declare that Floridians re-elected Gov. Ron DeSantis. I give it 30 minutes max after the polls close. Barring the greatest upset maybe ever, DeSantis figures to revel in the love his supporters have for him.

I have frequently disagreed with his approach to governing, but I also must concede that his campaign was brilliant. Sure, he had more money than he could spend on ten campaigns, which helped.

But his message was consistent, for the most part. He tied everything to his “Free State of Florida” schtick, which was marketing genius — even if it sometimes resembled a fairy tale.

Many have pointed out the irony of that slogan, given his restrictions on what teachers can say in the classroom. Also, it’s not exactly freedom when the Governor tells private businesses what employee policies they can have.

His “Stop WOKE Act” was silly political theater.

The LGBTQ+ community would also have significant issues with the suggestion that the Governor trumpets freedom. Blacks would correctly ask why exercising their First Amendment right to protest could land them in jail.

Suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would like to cross-examine the Governor about freedom.

And, of course, many women would dispute how free they are to control their bodies.

DeSantis knew his audience, though.

Today’s Florida has shown indifference to the issues that Democrats (and media pundits) hold dear. You pick each of those issues I just noted, and moderate Republicans — yes, they exist — might agree with those who say DeSantis went too far.

However, those people also tend to look at what for them is the big picture. They like living in Florida and believe the issues are no different here than in any other state. And they seem to believe that nothing DeSantis did (or didn’t do) would give them enough reason to vote for Charlie Crist.

They also don’t pay much attention to the minutiae of political policy because they’re busy working and raising a family. Many of them probably couldn’t name their state Senators or Representatives, and they tune out the noise when Democratic activists scream that the Governor illegally gerrymandered the voting districts to rig the election.

DeSantis also has a keenly developed sense of what works politically. He smartly stayed away from the dystopian rhetoric from many in his party that cheats and liars stole the 2020 election.

He largely ignored Crist but blamed President Joe Biden for, well, everything. But he also knew after Hurricane Ian that it was time to put politics aside and work with the President to bring aid and comfort to those affected by a catastrophe.

DeSantis’ transformation from a squeaky close win four years ago into a juggernaut today is something I haven’t seen in a half-century of living in this state.

This election is a transformation of sorts. The DeSantis-Donald Trump high noon showdown is nearly certain to happen. That’ll be entertaining.

But Democrats need to study what DeSantis did if they want to be more than just bit players going forward. They need to find their own populist messengers who can do more than complain that Republican policies are bad. They need to learn how to prove they’re on the same page with everyday Floridians.

Democrats never got that memo this time.

That is why DeSantis and probably Marco Rubio will celebrate tonight. It shouldn’t take long for the parties to start.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • ScienceBLVR

    November 7, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    We sure are gonna miss your witty prose and insight, Joe. Leave it to you to know when it’s time to leave the celebrating for those of us who pay attention, and know who DeSantis is and what his re-election means, however

    • Tom

      November 8, 2022 at 7:59 am

      America’s Gov is the new generation leader, youngest chief executive at 44.
      If he seeks presidency, it will be a call for new generation, a insurgency against the status quo, for the blue collar, middle class and bottom up.

      America’s Gov is for the peeps, anti communist, and socialists,
      domestic and foreign.

      No illegal invasions, strong national defense, on behalf of workers and people’s.

      Gov Ron and Casey are Camelot, the whiz kid Gov who successfully met the challenges.

      More strategy to follow.

    • Tom

      November 8, 2022 at 10:14 am

      The day of reckoning Joe H is here, I forewarned all the Govs haters 3 years ago. The vitriol has been horrendous.
      Amazing how their voices have run for cover.

      Joe, we are watching history in play. Gov Ron is on a mission to save America! All the 5% haters who have populated FP with pollution get the lifetime political beat down tonight!

      Far reaching, will Gov carry Miami Dade? Will he top 10% of Dems vote, 15%? State wide. How deep will it run. How deep Hispanic vote?

      Regardless Joe H., Gov gives you a lot more to cover. You may want to google Lou Cannon, he covered Reagan in Cali and at the WH for the Wash Post. Just saying.

  • David in Shoreline

    November 7, 2022 at 8:58 pm

    I’m so proud of Governor DeSantis. He never stopped fighting for the average citizens of Florida. And bring on President Trump. He’s got nothing on DeSantis. DeSantis absolutely has the momentum to propel himself straight into the White House in Jan ’25.

    • Charlie Crist

      November 8, 2022 at 7:09 am

      He doesn’t have the votes nationwide. Overall, people reject neo fascism. Only dumb dumbs support orange Hitler and mini Hitler.

  • Tom

    November 8, 2022 at 8:14 am

    Tallahassee, Govs mansion to WH Oval.
    Amazing Governor, incredible four years.
    Has demonstrated great leadership, ability with many accomplishments.

    New generation leader, with service to the peeps commitment. Independents like him. He and Casey will win hearts.

    America’s Governor for all.

    • Charlie Crist

      November 8, 2022 at 8:18 am

      How much more can you swing off another man’s nuts? You’ve lost all coherency!

      • Tom

        November 8, 2022 at 9:34 am

        Facts are funny things!
        Amazing leader, much to still to offer!

        Coming from a alias political whore, prostitute that you are on behalf of the most pathetic pol in Florida history.

        This moron will have distinct honor of losing to Marco, Scott and Gov Ron!

        You corsin are the dog manure on the curb?

Comments are closed.


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